Brandon University, Assiniboine Community College and Campus Manitoba have collaborated with Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, community members and organizations to create a new open-learning tool that can be accessed by the entire Westman community.
The new resource "Pulling Together: Manitoba Foundations Guide (Brandon Edition)" serves as a starting point for those who want to learn more about Indigenous peoples in the prairie region of Canada and better understand the nation’s colonial legacy, said Carley McDougall, Campus Manitoba special projects co-ordinator.
"We all came together with this open heart and desire to create a Manitoba-based resource that could accurately reflect the history," she said.
While it was first geared toward academic post-secondary use, the book evolved to become a source that can be used broadly in the community.
McDougall described "Pulling Together" as a self-reflective learning tool designed to be a starting place for readers to learn and grow through engagement, continuing conversations and taking actions toward reconciliation.
"This is something that is going to continue to be built upon," McDougall said.
"Pulling Together" is free to use, adapt and access.
"It’s something that you can continue to add to and contribute to. Whilst we wanted to come at this in a good way, we were also aware there are so many different nations," McDougall said.
The ultimate goal is the group will one day connect with other institutions and organizations across Manitoba so "Pulling Together" can continue to grow and expand the knowledge base offered.
"Pulling Together" came about under serendipitous circumstances — Campus Manitoba was looking at ways to engage and support Indigenous community members, when a staff member came across a creation by the BC Campus Indigenization series, McDougall said.
The series was tailored toward British Columbia, she said, but they thought it would be a great jumping-off point to create a similar resource for people in Manitoba.
At the same time, BU and ACC were looking for a post-secondary resource that could be used to teach faculty, staff and students more about the history of Indigenous peoples.
The organizations came together in the fall of 2020 and created "Pulling Together" with an approach centred on decolonization.
McDougall said it was a slow and respectful process writing the book. A major focus was building relationships with the community, elders and organizations providing the information needed for its creation.
"Pulling Together" includes a glossary of terms to help ensure everyone can understand terms used in the book. As a whole it is broken into three sections discussing First Nations, Métis and Inuit in the Brandon region.
The first section serves as an introduction to Indigenous peoples, the second section is centred on colonization, and the third section explores the process of decolonization.
"For me, the decolonized approach is just taking the lead of the folks in the group — we really had to respect the input and the time of the folks who were contributing to this," McDougall said. "It was really just recognizing the time and space that people needed to have to be able to appropriately contribute to this."
She added this process also included following the lead of Indigenous collaborators.
Manitoba Campus worked with the Louis Riel Institute, Manitoba Inuit Association, Manitoba Metis Federation and the Brandon Friendship Centre to bring the current edition of the book to life, and the front and back cover was created by Indigenous artist Emery Knight.
"We all need to pull the load together. The time has come to recognize differences, acknowledge them and accept that we are stronger together. We are a blend. We have heard it so many ways. Think of the blades of sweetgrass braided together and how strong it becomes," said MMF vice-president Leah LaPlante in a press release.
"We want to share our stories and get everyone thinking about how we live, how we interact and how we could strengthen our communities if we are all pulling the load. We can do better."
The resource is available at Pressbooks.OpenedMB.ca/pullingtogethermanitoba.
» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp