Building trust in a community that once trusted

Author: Jack Locke, community trainer


Toonie Pot tonight! Cool.


When I first heard that Fort Albany had Toonie Pot, my puritanical mind speculated that they should not be advertising that on social media. Little did I know that the Toonie Pot referred to a prize associated with Bingo playing.


That’s just one more example of how I try to understand the intricacies of living on the Fort Albany First Nation while teaching journalism to residents.


I might add that two dollar pot, of either variety, is not something that particularly interests me.


Clearly, my journalist’s experience of asking questions comes in valuable for a non-Indigenous outsider living on a reserve.


Now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has wrapped up its investigation and our nation focuses on reconciliation and repairing the harm done by more than a century of cultural genocide instigated by government, I have been thrust into a community that had amongst the worst of the criminal behaviour inflicted. How do I build trust?


The big event here a few weeks back was a Youth Summit titled #Lovelife. But the purpose of the 4-day activity was to encourage suicide prevention. I still have difficulty comprehending why there is a need for holding such an event. But as I live here, I learn there is a need.


Beneath the surface here, there is an undercurrent that flows like the water beneath the muskeg, an unseen force that with the wrong impetus might result in a wellspring of self-harm. And yet, there is also a foundation of Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, Wisdom, Truth – the seven Grandfather Teachings.


So where does journalism fit within this melange? That’s the question.


In a community that had to hide its cultural traditions, language, and ceremonies from being crushed by Christian religious authorities, the introduction of my journalism philosophy–a perspective based on exposure–runs up against certain suspicion. My goal to share information, to raise awareness, of wanting to encourage the expression of their world view, is fraught with suspicion. Justifiably so.


My strategy is to build trust. Making fresh, homemade pizza for about 60 young people at the #Lovelife summit was one of my efforts at building trust. It was not really a strategy, but a contribution to the community in a way the tummy understands.


And if that doesn’t help, I may try the Toonie Pot.

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