“Fisher River Cree Nation has a history of maintaining community life with teachings about respect and sharing. The isolation created by Covid 19 has been a challenge to our way life and has meant we are unable to feast and share our stories. The recognition of the trauma created by residential and day schools has heightened our frustration and anger. I have learned from Fisher River that we can survive these major challenges by acting in positive ways that create hope for our youth. Our work together in Fisher River will enable us to engage in reconciliation.”
The Reconciliation project team has been meeting with Elders to ask for their support and guidance since 2018. The meetings were in-person until Covid 19 restrictions then they became virtual sessions. They are also a time for the Elders to express their concerns. They are especially worried about the youth and family wellness. The Elders strongly believe children need to learn about who they are as Indigenous people and as a member of Fisher River Cree Nation. By learning about their history, they will have a stronger foundation to grow upon.
Journey from Fisher River is one of the valuable resources that will assist in the education for youth and promotion of Fisher River Cree Nation history. There are other resources by community authors that will also be utilized which will allow children the opportunity to learn about who they are. The reprint of Journey from Fisher River is also very appropriate given the tragic discoveries at Indian Residential Schools. It will serve as a reminder for the Churches to be better at educating others within and to ensure this devastating history is never forgotten. An essential component to understanding as stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Call to Action 59.
Journey from Fisher River will be reprinted in the fall of 2021. Please take some time to read the “Foreword” that will be included in the book.
Journey from Fisher River Foreword
A wi mis ka mack mino pi ma ti si win
Searching for the Good Life
Children need to hear about the powerful histories of Fisher River Cree Nation community members such as Stanley McKay who chose to create his own path. Role models who will guide them as they discover their roots and provide a strong foundation for growth. This book will serve as one of the learning tools that will allow children to reclaim their sense of identity. It is imperative the children understand the strength they carry as Indigenous people and as a member of Fisher River Cree Nation. By learning their history, they will be armed with the knowledge that their ancestors fought hard to be here. Then one day should they decide to leave, they will have a greater chance of success because they will do so with confidence in themselves and pride in their ties to the community. They will stand proud as an Indigenous person in a society that may present them with many obstacles.
Our history is a powerful reminder of the dedication and resilience of our ancestors. The community was built upon their hard work. This is the history the children must learn. This is their legacy too. It is of the utmost importance they understand the sacrifices and challenges Fisher River people faced as they made the journey by boat from Norway House. A trip that would take two months. Upon their arrival in their new home, the people endured many hardships as they cleared the trees, cultivated the land and built homes in order to survive and make this place habitable for their families. Educating the younger generations is key to ensuring Fisher River’s history is preserved. They will be the ones to carry on the memories and the stories of who we are.
The stories of Fisher River tell us of a time when the community was strong and worked together to ensure everyone was looked after. It was their commitment that helped them overcome the greatest struggles and hardships imaginable. When they left Norway House for their new home, they left behind family members and friends. It could not have been easy to leave loved ones behind. But they did so for the chance at a better life. What started with 43 families has grown to be 4000+. Today, our community is one to be proud of.
Although the community has made great strides, there are continued challenges. Not only has Fisher River been affected by the marginalization which has occurred economically and politically but many of the community members were sent to residential schools. The harsh reality and impacts of the suffering they endured while in these schools continues to haunt them. Multigenerational trauma needs to be addressed for the well-being of present and future generations.
The discovery of the mass grave for the 215 students at Kamloops Indian Residential School was devastating for the community. In response, a memorial was held as a show of support and also as an opportunity for members to publicly grieve for the lives lost. Although our spirit is wounded, we continue to fight to move forward. We know the children are too important and we work hard to prepare them for what is ahead. There are many good things happening in the community which bring hope for their future.
On December 7, 2018 Fisher River and Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Advancing Reconciliation. Under the MOU, the parties are to work together to advance Fisher River’s vision of self-determination. The Memorandum of Understanding outlines the next steps in the process and topics for discussions between the parties with a focus on self-government and strengthening the treaty relationship.
“The signing of the MOU is viewed by our First Nation, and particularly our elders who’ve guided us through the process of reconciliation and self-determination, as the means to strengthen our government based on the guiding principles of the treaty with the spirit and intent which our forefathers envisioned. This signing is a show of commitment by the Federal Government that recognizes our commitment to implement fiscal and jurisdictional principles of self-government, and we are committed to moving forward in the implementation of the MOU in partnership with Canada. It is our hope that this provides a mechanism in fostering a meaningful relationship with the Province and other levels of government as that inclusive relationship would be critical in providing the opportunities to address longstanding issues in our community as we move forward. We are committed to engage future development on this partnership ensuring fair, predictable, and consistent practices, in the interests of our people today and tomorrow.”
Chief David Crate
Fisher River Cree Nation
As time went by and discussions proceeded, it became evident that there were many outstanding issues with Canada which needed to be addressed before we could develop our community plan. Under the direction and with the guidance of FRCN Leadership, the Reconciliation Project allows for the discussions needed between FRCN and Canada to resolve these issues. The Reconciliation Project has facilitated initiatives in the community such as strengthening our governance structure by developing FRCN’s own custom election code, constitution and governance code; securing FRCN’s own CFS Mandate and working towards developing FRCN’s Child and Family Law.
The pandemic has disrupted some of the work in the community but meetings with Knowledge Keepers and community entities has continued with the use of technology. Focus groups have also taken place with members. It is crucial to the reconciliation process that everyone has an opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns. The goal of the Reconciliation Project is to ensure everyone is informed and trust is developed to enable our cooperative work on a community plan. This work of reconciliation will be of great benefit to us and will promote community wellness.
The plan includes establishing a community historical archives that will benefit everyone. Journey from Fisher River will become one of the valuable resources to be shared to promote Fisher River history. It is very important all members not only the children have the opportunity to learn about who they are.
The reprint of Journey from Fisher River is very appropriate given the tragic discoveries at Canadian Residential Schools. It will serve as a reminder of the need to be better at educating others and how the church must work to decolonize within and work towards reconciliation. Today, we find ourselves faced with the tragic and devastating reality of the aftermath of residential schools. It is vital to the healing journey of Indigenous people that the church ensures this history is never forgotten. An essential component to understanding as stated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action
Church Apologies and Reconciliation
- We call upon church parties to the settlement agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.
The Reconciliation Project Team