Reflecting on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

It has been over a month since the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, on September 30, 2021. Recognized as a statutory holiday at Business Link, our offices were closed and all staff had the day off to reflect. It was not a typical holiday off for our staff; every staff member committed to re-learn or unlearn the history of Residential Schools. We gathered as a group the following week and came together to share what we did, what we learned, re-learned, unlearned, how it impacted our views and beliefs and highlighted that each of us can make a difference every day by speaking the truth regarding Residential Schools. I want to share with you all a few of the ways our staff spent their day on September 30, 2021:

One of our teammates took their child for a walk in Prince’s Island Park in downtown Calgary and used the app Indigenous Vision to explore the locally famous park through a traditional Indigenous lens. Many of our team watched the films We Were Children and Where the Spirit Lives either by themselves or with their family and their own children, others read entirely through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, with one team member positing the question “How can I contribute to each of these calls to action?”. Other Business Link staff started the phenomenal University of Alberta – Indigenous Canada Course, and I am beaming with pride to say that the majority of the staff at Business Link has already, or is currently completing this course. Another member of the Business Link team shared a PowerPoint presentation with us on how they spent the day with their child at Elk Island National Park and how they dedicated the day to honouring and remembering the Indigenous footsteps that have marked the space since time immemorial.

A Few Words From Some of Our Team:

“Acknowledging the land and rich heritage of the Indigenous people is important to pass onto our children to heal and honour our relationship.”

“It was great hearing and learning about the story behind the orange shirt from the person who started the movement. One person truly can make a difference!”

“There is so much to re-learn. But for me, I think it is important that we all remember that the residential schools didn’t close all that long ago. These wounds are still so raw and I think we need to remember that and be a part of the healing process. Reconciliation is so much more than just one day.”

“With this day, we are slowly, but surely, moving in the right direction.”

One team member summed up the day incredibly eloquently with only four words “History, empathy, resilience, and hope.” I will echo this sentiment and say that the day was a good start. We have a long way still to go, but one main reoccurring statement is that the determination and drive toward reconciliation cannot end on October 1st of each year but must be practiced every day.

Supporting Indigenous Business in Alberta

One question within Business Link Indigenous Services that we get quite often is ‘how can I contribute or support’, one of the many ways that anyone can support Indigenous people, communities and economies is buying Indigenous! With Christmas right around the corner, now is the perfect time to support our Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Check out Native Diva Creations where you can purchase “Authentic, handmade, Culturally Appropriate and accessible beaded jewelry and accessories”; If you are in Calgary or area, make the trip to Moonstone Creation or shop their online store to purchase authentically Indigenous, one of a kind and extraordinary art, clothing, moccasins and jewelry ; Pop into Boy Chief Trading Post on the beautiful Siksika Nation and be sure to admire their authentically Indigenous made and designed woolen blankets; If you’re in the market for a more experiential gift for your loved ones, be sure to check out Talking Rock Tours located out of Edmonton; Have a foodie in your life? Reach out to Fat Man Little Kitchen for all your hot sauce and spice needs; Qiviut Inc. provides one of a kind, “Luxurious 100% qiviut yarn, blends and knitwear”; Owning an Inuit sculpture or carving is truly a remarkable feeling! Be sure to check out Inuvialuit Carvers to give a gift that every art lover deserves! Of course, you can check out all of those listed here and more Indigenous small businesses to support all year long in our Support Local AB Directory.

Indigenous Made

We’re also thrilled to be launching our Indigenous Made campaign this month. This is an important campaign for us; we are committed to helping Indigenous entrepreneurs grow their businesses and succeed in the local marketplace and this campaign helps us accomplish that. The Indigenous Made campaign will help Indigenous businesses showcase their products and services to the general public and celebrates the cultures and various contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. You can learn more about the campaign and download the decal for your small business here.

About the author: Holly Atjecoutay

Holly is Cree and Saulteaux from Cowessess First Nation in Treaty 4 Saskatchewan, but calls Treaty 7 and Mohkinstsis (Calgary) her home. As the Director of Indigenous Services at Business Link Alberta, she relies heavily on her fabulous team to provide assistance to Indigenous entrepreneurs in Alberta regarding the startup and expansion of their small businesses, connecting them to helpful resources while also providing guidance.

The Indigenous Services team facilitates workshops, hosts Indigenous-focused events, provides specific programming for Indigenous entrepreneurs and small businesses, and builds meaningful relationships in both rural and urban Indigenous communities. Holly guides the team to success, maintains important relationships and collaboration with partners, and ensures that every First Nations and Metis community in Alberta is aware of the services that we offer.

In her spare time Holly enjoys reading, writing, and collecting books, watching murder mysteries and going to the movie theater, is a fashion enthusiast, and also authors a blog on the Indigenous Woman’s Identity. Holly believes the art of storytelling and communication is one of the key factors in building a strong business. Holly is a mother to a young daughter, and reinforces the importance of pride and resilience in her First Nations heritage and culture.