Interweaving Indigenous perspectives
A tobacco offering on the shore of Lake Huron, in the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, was used as part of an Indigenous ceremony during the 2021 Environmental Review Group meeting. (Photo credit: Jessica Perritt)
Reconciliation and Indigenous Knowledge
At the NWMO, we recognize the importance of building good relationships with the Indigenous peoples on the lands where we work, including the traditional territories of Saugeen Ojibway Nation and Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, which are also home to the Métis. As part of establishing a solid foundation for working with Indigenous peoples, we have embarked on a Reconciliation journey.
Reconciliation helps the NWMO to build meaningful relationships with all communities involved in the siting process. We seek to ground all relationships in the virtues of the seven sacred teachings – love, trust, honesty, humility, bravery, respect and wisdom.
In advancing that journey, we recognize that Reconciliation is more than an acknowledgment of injustice. Although that is an essential part of the process, Reconciliation also means taking action to co-create a better future built on rights, equity and well-being.
In 2021, we worked towards that future by continuing to implement the Reconciliation Policy (www.nwmo.ca/reconciliationpolicy) that we adopted in 2019. Our Reconciliation Policy provides a foundation to put our words into action. We have enhanced how we will evaluate our work on Reconciliation and created an annual Reconciliation report to ensure we meet the commitments outlined in our policy.
We also continue to build a culture of Reconciliation. We provide ongoing training and education opportunities to staff and have extended these opportunities to contractors and external partners.
We strive to interweave Indigenous Knowledge into all our work, which includes integrating ceremony with the guidance of Elders and other Knowledge Keepers where appropriate. In 2021, this included hosting several workshops on the application of Indigenous Knowledge, including our 4th Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science Workshop, which was hosted online with over 50 people attending.
In travelling this path together with Indigenous peoples, we believe it is important to consider different world views and how aspects of Indigenous Knowledge systems can be incorporated into the project moving forward.
NWMO Reconciliation Strategy
2021 and beyond
- Develop an Indigenous youth strategy that includes a scholarship program and recruitment strategy
- Continue to enhance Reconciliation training to include unconscious bias training
- Include Indigenous Knowledge in water protection plans
- Apply the Reconciliation assessment tool to regional engagement strategies
- Embed Reconciliation within corporate culture
- Enhanced policies and procedures to address Reconciliation
- Enhanced procurement program to include an Indigenous strategy
- Assessed corporate Reconciliation baseline and developed a Reconciliation measurement matrix
- Published Reconciliation Policy
- Developed and delivered Reconciliation training program
- Developed a corporate Reconciliation baseline assessment tool
- Enhanced sponsorships and donations program to include a focus on Reconciliation
- Continued to communicate the NWMO’s Reconciliation program with communities involved in the site selection process
- Began assessment of NWMO policies and procedures against Reconciliation assessment tool
- 85 per cent of NWMO staff received cultural awareness training
- Reconciliation Statement finalized through Indigenous ceremony
Implementing the NWMO’s Reconciliation Policy
Through our Reconciliation Policy (2019) (www.nwmo.ca/reconciliationpolicy), the NWMO is committed to measuring our progress using qualitative and quantitative approaches, and publicly reporting on our progress as an organization. The NWMO has developed a Reconciliation baseline and has been using assessment tools to evaluate where we are in our contributions to Reconciliation, and how we should move forward as an organization.
This past year, the Indigenous Relations team worked with Reciprocal Consulting – an Indigenous-owned firm specializing in Indigenous evaluation and monitoring – to create our first annual Reconciliation report and an Indigenous Relations dashboard that will be evaluated against the baseline to ensure we meet the commitments outlined in the Reconciliation Policy.
In 2021, we applied our Reconciliation assessment tool to 10 of the NWMO’s policies, procedures and standards, and two regional engagement strategies. The Reconciliation assessment tool was created in 2019 to look at our governing documents through a Reconciliation lens, to ensure we are operationalizing Reconciliation internally. This is a dialogue-driven process to identify opportunities to implement Reconciliation in meaningful and actionable ways.
We have also taken the assessment tool outside the organization to use it with some of our partner universities to apply this lens as they expand their research programs related to our work.
As part of our team’s learning, we identified areas of improvement for the assessment tool and have revised it to become more user-friendly, provide more clarity, and ensure it is more accessible and offers deeper dialogue.
Creating a Reconciliation culture
Lyndon J. Linklater is a Traditional Knowledge Keeper and Storyteller from Thunderchild First Nation (Plains Cree) in Saskatchewan. He leads cultural awareness training for NWMO staff and communities in our potential siting areas. (Photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
This year, a significant focus of our Reconciliation work has been on training. We rolled out Reconciliation training (Part II), which includes learning about identity, privilege and the relationship of Indigenous peoples to land. By the end of 2021, we had held nine staff training sessions, with more than 85 per cent of our staff participating in the training. This training will continue in 2022.
The first module focuses on identity and how that impacts our individual and collective actions, how identity relates to privilege, and how we can spend our privilege contributing to our Reconciliation journeys. The second module focuses on land and Indigenous peoples’ sacred relationship with the land. It helps make connections to how individual identity and world view can impact one’s relationship to the land.
We are currently developing Reconciliation training (Part III), which will focus on treaties. The program will touch on treaties’ history and modern-day context, and how treaties connect to identity, privilege and relationship to the land. The training was piloted in the fall of 2021 and will be rolled out more broadly to staff in 2022.
The NWMO continues to provide virtual cultural awareness training sessions for contractors, and presentations on the topic of Reconciliation to internal and external partners. In 2021, the Indigenous Relations and Indigenous Engagement teams supported more than 15 cultural awareness training sessions for contractors. A highlight from the sessions was the opportunity to work in partnership with Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation and co-deliver the training to ensure that community voice is incorporated respectfully in northwestern Ontario.
We also continued to participate virtually in events to enhance learning and promote discussion about Indigenous worldview and history. We recognized Red Dress Day, National Indigenous History Month, National Indigenous Peoples Day, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day.
As part of our commitment to Reconciliation, we also enhanced our sponsorships of Indigenous programs. We continued our sponsorship agreements with the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund to support the Legacy Schools and Legacy Spaces programs for five years. We also continued our annual support to Right To Play’s Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth program in Ontario.
Interweaving Indigenous Knowledge into our work
The NWMO is committed to interweaving Indigenous Knowledge into our work. We learn from and incorporate traditional teachings such as the role of spirit and ceremony, understanding natural laws and respecting Mother Earth.
In 2021, we worked with Elder Michael Thrasher to host a four-part workshop series on the application of Indigenous Knowledge. These workshops were developed in collaboration with our Indigenous Knowledge and western science working team, and focused on applying Indigenous Knowledge into our work in meaningful and effective ways.
We again hosted two Indigenous Knowledge and western science workshops in 2021, which provided an opportunity to explore the intersections between Indigenous Knowledge and western science. Workshop discussions explored the sacred relationship and stewardship role that Indigenous Knowledge Keepers have with water and the commonalities with the perspective of western science.
Participants at these workshops included Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders, scientists, industry professionals and NWMO employees. We explored why water governance is important, and the roles of sustainability, climate change and environmental stewardship within water governance initiatives, from both Indigenous worldview and non-Indigenous perspectives. We learned that water governance needs to be inclusive of water protection and restore the wrongs that have been done to water.
We also learned that water has a story to tell and that it is our responsibility to listen and learn from that story. Water has life-giving forces, which include certain duties and responsibilities to ensure that it is respected, protected, and nurtured. All attendees were encouraged to start to build a personal relationship with water.
These workshops continue to be a forum where diverse voices talk about interweaving Indigenous Knowledge and western science.