'Last-minute' UFCW donation saves Indigenous cultural camp

A last-minute donation from a union may have saved a university student's Indigenous ‘cultural camp.’

Workshop to promote reconciliation almost didn't happen, says Kaella Marie Earle

Kaella Marie-Earle said all of the attendees of her cultural camp were invited to Wikwemikong's Cultural Festival. (Queenie Earle/Supplied)

A last-minute donation from a union may have saved a university student's Indigenous 'cultural camp.'

Kaella Marie Earle's attempt at organizing the Manitoulin Island event —  a camp to build relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people —  hit a snag. A few days before the event, they had only raised $500 through Kickstarter.

The Laurentian University student had planned on welcoming people for traditional teachings from elders, workshops and cultural events.

"Last Friday, I couldn't get the funding for it," Earle said. "So I was cancelling it that morning."

That's when she received some welcome news.

"Five minutes [after I decided to cancel] the UFCW 175 from Thunder Bay emails me and says 'we're going to fund this whole thing.'"

Earle said she was nearly bawling when she asked the donor why.

"He said it's because your story has touched our hearts, and we're horrified by the racism happening in our community of Thunder Bay."

Laurentian University student Kaella-Marie Earle of Wikwemikong, Ont. organized a cultural camp for non-Indigenous people. (supplied)

An example of reconciliation

Earle said the donation is an example of people working together for reconciliation.  

"Senator Murray Sinclair said in the past few months...that reconciliation isn't just about bringing justice for Indigenous people," Earle said.

"But about fostering relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, which is part of the purpose of the camp."

Earle said they drew 10 participants, mostly non-Indigenous. She said there was also a visitor whose family suffered from the Sixties Scoop, and felt out of touch with his identity.

The attendees learned about medicine teachings, made medicine pouches and discussed Indigenous governance. At the end of the workshop, all participants were welcomed to the Wikwemikong Cultural Festival.

"One of the most beautiful parts was on Saturday night, where there was a round dance, where everyone holds hands," Earle said.

"I think it was at that point when I saw in their faces they were understanding the essence of what our people are. We're culture based in community and the land, and my heart was happy to see that."