Reconcilation Ally: Carrie Catherine
- Julia Peterson | January 30, 2021
As Carrie Catherine describes it, her commitment to reconciliation is rooted in her love for her community. This has led her to bring her skills as a creative producer, event coordinator and educator to work with Reconciliation Saskatoon.
Working with the community development-focused company she and her husband founded, Catherine remembers thinking about how the principles of justice and reconciliation would affect their role in the neighbourhood.
“We were really committed to developing something that would give back to the community and not displace people, especially Indigenous people,” she said. “In Riversdale, there is real inequality. So how can we help foster change?”
But at the time, Catherine said she wasn’t sure how to achieve those goals. So she kept looking for ways to learn and get involved.
“I didn’t know how to foster that kind of change - we didn’t have the right connections or mentors,” she said. “So we tried a number of different things, but it wasn’t until I sat around this Reconciliation Saskatoon table that I was able to work with Elders and learn from Elders.”
“And that started me down the path of doing some training that made me more aware of my own white privilege, and what I need to do to dismantle that privilege. It’s a constant, lifelong journey.”
Since then, Catherine has volunteered for a variety of Reconciliation Saskatoon projects, including serving on the communications committee for the “Rock Your Roots” Walk for Reconciliation.
Rhett Sangster, director of reconciliation and community partnerships at the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, admires Catherine’s positivity and commitment to relationship building.
“I’ve watched her make a lot of effort into connecting with Elders and survivors and building those relationships; talking to them, bringing tobacco to them, asking for advice and trying to learn from them,” he said. “I’ve seen how much value she puts into those relationships and the wisdom of our old people.”
Catherine was also the project manager for ConnectR, a website that helps people find calls to action and ideas for things they can do to move towards reconciliation.
This summer, ConnectR launched a “reconciliation challenge,” inviting people to find and respond to a call to action every week for eight weeks. Over three hundred people signed up.
“As the Black Lives Matter movement erupted down south, it brought people’s attention to the need for better allyship, better training and change,” said Catherine. “And, at the same time, everyone was at home.
“So both at Reconciliation Saskatoon and with ConnectR, we just saw an incredible growth of the community of people who wanted to be more committed to reconciliation.”
And while Catherine is excited about these large-scale projects, for her, some of the most important work towards reconciliation happens on the personal level.
“I do think there’s always tension when people with different backgrounds, different knowledge and different assumptions work together,” she said. “And I think the most amazing thing is to feel that tension and work through it.
“When I feel we’ve had real success is when I’ve had a simple conversation and been able to work through tension, and come to - in a sense - a small, small form of reconciliation in the process of the work. That’s when I have hope.”