“This is where the true magic happens.” 

University of Regina graduate student Jenna Tickell has a history with working for justice;in fact, she’s the person the Regina Industrial Indian School (RIIS) Commemoration Association approached when they were garnering support to pressure Regina City Council to grant Municipal Heritage Rights for the RIIS. Once Project of Heart created the change.org petition with the assistance of David Owens, class member, there was no turning back.

Recently, with the support of her Masters Supervisor Dr. Brenda Anderson, Tickell organized a gathering of Regina community members ages 7 to 70 who volunteered to participate in a workshop held at Luther College at The University of Regina called “Justice for Indigenous Women.” 

 Asked why the U of R’s Luther College hosted J4IW this year, Tickell explained: “it is important to break the ignorance around present-day intergenerational issues stemming from our colonial history, specifically as a result of the Indian Residential Schools.” She added “because Justice for Indigenous Women’s focus is on the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, it’s important to discuss what factors contribute to this and to link it back to the Indian Residential Schools and the Government’s attempt to destroy family structures.” 

 Tickell says that the workshop was a direct extension of Project of Heart, where participants engage in a more profound way with the direct impacts of the Indian Residential Schools. She doesn’t mince her words, claiming that “J4IW is an imperative addition to Project of Heart. The destruction of family ties, of Indigenous Canadians’ family structures and the devaluation of our women are all inextricably bound to Canada’s policies and practices of cultural genocide.”

 Talking about how the workshop was facilitated, Jenna explained that “there are plenty of resources on the J4IW website. Through using some of these as well as my own, I presented the material to the learners. We’d then share our knowledge through small and large group discussion – we’d learn from each other. Misconceptions and stereotypes invariably surfaced, but were addressed in a manner where we all learned from each other.”

 Workshop participant Gary Edwards gave his view when he added: “The most outstanding qualities I am taking away from this are those surrounding a matriarchal (re)approach to nationhood and what the reparations following 4 to 500 years of disconnection and erasure will begin to look like.” 

 Calvin Racette, another workshop participant, spoke about the family aspect of the learning, saying “workshops of this type are very helpful to support community healing. It would be very beneficial to encourage a focus on family and have parents and children do many activities that build family relationships.”

 The group’s work culminated in creating commemorative “witness pieces” where each person makes a necklace from a small decorated wooden tile. Tickell noted “they create one for themselves, and one for another to pass on to a friend or family member whom they think will appreciate receiving the knowledge.” She reinforced the notion that with each witness-piece offering comes the responsibility of sharing what you learned in the class  – with both the person you gift the necklace to and the people who ask you about your necklace.

 “This is where the true magic happens. When people ask about your necklace, this is an invitation for you to share your learned knowledge specific to missing and murdered Indigenous women, and with that, their ignorance to the issue can be broken,” Tickell said. “In order for true change to happen, people need to know about the issue. By breaking the ignorance they then are left with an opportunity to seek more knowledge, if they wish.”

Tickell’s group  collected over $300.00 in donations from making the witness pieces. They are grateful the monies will be going to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, who continue to pressure Canada to stop discriminating against First Nations children and to fully implement the Human Rights Tribunal order – issued almost 2 years ago.

 A huge thank you to Jenna Tickell, Luther College at The University of Regina, and J4IW participants for working together on Treaty 4 territory, helping to make justice for the MMIWG a reality. 

Project of Heart (Regina) would also like to acknowledge Rachel Mielke, CEO from Hillberg & Berk https://www.hillbergandberk.com/  who donated two jewelry sets to the cause; one for Tickell for her facilitation and one to act as a door-prize for a lucky participant.