Over 600 people from around the world attended the opening ceremony of the Community Foundations of Canada national conference in Winnipeg on June 5. The ceremony focused on Aboriginal partnerships.
With the opening prayer, traditional dancers, Grass and Fang dancers, Buffalo Red Thunder drummers, Thunderbird jingle dress dancers, and the friendship line dance, the ceremony honoured First Nations while upholding the conference theme, ‘Inspiring Smart and Caring Communities.’
Indigenous dancers joined hands with conference attendees to form a long dance line that weaved its way through the audience to the drumbeat of the Buffalo Red Thunder drummers.
Rob Cardinal, a First Nations member from the Blackfoot tribe, an astrophysicist with the University of Calgary and a philanthropist, shared his moving story. At the age of 17, Rob nearly died from drug abuse and depression. His life turned around through community foundation funding that provided a social safety net, giving him a glimmer of hope for a brighter future. His climb from despair came from learning gratitude, forgiveness and compassion, and from seeing the integral treads of community and his traditional culture weaved through his life. Today he inspires young people on Alberta reserves to stay in school by funding programs that teach astronomy, allowing the kids to broaden their view of their world through the lens of a telescope.
National chief Shawn Atleo followed with a call to action to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities to join together in a partnership that re-ignites the dreams of all of our ancestors for a better community. He stated that in the past, philanthropic action has proven to be a means to make change, and that First Nations are willing to and must play an integral part in the vision of a better future. We all have a stake in seeing our dream become reality.