Indigenous Peoples Day 2022
Indigenous team members share their stories and experiences growing up in Alberta
By Indigenous Team Members 21 June 2022 7 min read
Patrick Twinn, Senior Manager, Indigenous Relations, ATB Business
My name is Patrick Twinn - I joined ATB in December of 2020 and I am a citizen of the Sawridge First Nation (SFN), which is located in Treaty 8 territory on the Eastern side of Lesser Slave Lake. Our community boarders the town of Slave Lake.
I grew up in my home community, SFN, until I was 13, which was one-year after my father, Chief Walter Patrick Twinn passed away. Like many other communities, our community was deeply impacted by colonialism evident by contemporary symptoms of addictions, violence & lateral violence, mental health, diabetes, mistrust and secrecy.
Colonialism, prejudice, systemic racism and oppression has caused suffering within many of our shared communities, themes that are not necessarily exclusive of Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island.
My great-grandfather, Paul Neesotasis, along with Moostoos, Felix Giroux, Weecheewayis and Chief Kinosayoo were the five original Indigenous signatories to Treaty 8. I believe that it was their intention to sign Treaty 8 for reasons of Peace and Friendship - for what they thought would be a partnership between Indigenous nations and European settlers to share the resources and benefits of the land, and ultimately prosper as a collective community.
I think we are at the point where many of us now understand the authentic truth of Canada’s colonial history with Indigenous Peoples. We know that the federal government’s goal was the assimilation of Indigenous Peoples.
Where do we go from here?
Indigenous communities are healing, through resilience and determination of generations Indigenous leaders and matriarchs. Their advocacy has led to a societal movement of allies and advocates that are now championing Indigenous inclusion on a daily basis. I am constantly blown away by the leadership, engagement and commitment of these advocates of Indigenous inclusion. These folks are truly champions of belonging and leading a movement of Reconcili-ACTION.
Reconciliation goes hand in hand with Truth. You cannot have one without the other - especially when we are talking about National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD). I think that the solution to this equation will be a better world for all of our communities and for future generations.
As a nehiyaw napew (Cree man), I would like to take the month of June to recognize my Indigenous and non-Indigenous brothers and sisters that are advancing Indigenous inclusion, and economic reconciliation.
Hiy hiy. Kinanaskomitinawaw - thank you.
Levi Kiriachuk, Client Portfolio Specialist, ATB Business
My name is Levi Kiriachuk and if you know me, you know me to be a glutton for punishment and doing things the hard way (like betting on the Calgary Flames). Being my true authentic self means that of a mixed race, Indigenous bisexual male (say that ten times really fast).
Belonging to so many groups, it’s sometimes hard to feel like I fit in, but my family has long made a habit of dismantling the normal way of doing things.
My grandma is from the Kainai (Blood Tribe) First Nation, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy that encompasses much of what is now southern Alberta. She started a family with my grandpa who arrived as an immigrant, fleeing from the communist Hungary in the 1950’s. Mixed race couples are not as taboo nowadays, but in those days they were rare, and I would certainly consider my grandparents to be trailblazers. English was a second language for both of them, and moving to Calgary was completely different from the small towns each of them grew up in.
Growing up, I remember learning why my grandparents didn’t share the same last name. In those days, a First Nations woman would lose her Treaty status rights if she married someone who was not considered an Indian under the Indian Act. This discriminative stipulation would not be amended until 1985; by then my grandparents saw little reason to legally marry.
For myself, this has led to a compound resistance to the entire idea of marriage; even with same-sex marriage being legal in Canada since 2005. I fully recognize that my feelings on marriage stem from emotional trauma, and I am trying to heal from that. I hope one day the idea of marriage will be less triggering to me.
Authenticity takes bravery
At ATB, we encourage each other to bring our true authentic selves to work every day. This isn’t always easy and I consider myself very fortunate to have the support of my teammates here, and that I can freely share that I am Indigenous, and also identify with the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Unfortunately, having these intersecting identities can make you feel more vulnerable and out of place. For all the barriers my grandparents broke, they were not perfect, and I never felt that I could truly be myself around my grandpa; he had his preconceived biases just as a lot of us do.
My grandma calls me ómahkapi'si — which means wolf in Blackfoot. Well, we all know that a wolf on its own can survive quite well, but when it’s in a pack it can achieve so much more. My ATB family is like my wolfpack, they have made me stronger, and helped me be my true authentic self - which is certainly easier said than done.
In all honesty, I could quite easily pass as a typical straight, white male, keep my head down and fly under the radar. Which might seem like the easier thing to do, but we all know that doing things the easy way doesn’t reap the best rewards.
Denise Barber, Branch Manager, ATB
Tansi Everyone! I thought I would share a bit of the history of the Métis People.
The term, Métis, describes descendants of both Europeans and First Nations people (the Canadian government did not formally recognize the term until the Act of 1982). In the narrower sense, Métis refers only to the descendants of First Nations people and French settlers and merchants who settled along the Red River in Manitoba.
In 1932, five Métis men created the Métis Association of Alberta: Malcolm Norris, Jim Brady, Peter Tomkins, Joseph Dion and Felix Calliou. They became “The Famous Five” and are considered the founding fathers of the Alberta Metis Settlements. Felix was my great Uncle.
When I was growing up there was a lot of racism. People always made fun of Indigenous people and because of that, I shamefully admit that I didn’t stand up to that nor did I willingly let people know of my background. If kids found out, they would ask if my father was an alcoholic, if I lived in a tipi, etc. I didn’t have the confidence to stand up to them.
As an adult, I have spent a lot of time and energy teaching my kids about our family history, to be proud of it and never to back down from a racist comment. One of my proudest moments was when my eldest daughter graduated from the University of Alberta and she was given a sash from one of the Elders. That is when I knew I had done a good job of ensuring that my kids grew up feeling pride and not shame.
Connecting and educating
I have regained some of our heritage by learning how to jig, my grandma did teach me but honestly didn’t keep it up. The MNA held sessions on the many different steps/dances to jigging. I was happy that my daughter joined me, and by the way — jigging is hard work!
Part of my commitment as an Indigenous Team Member at ATB is to strive to educate other team members, being a positive advocate for Indigenous people and to be a trailblazer within ATB to grow the Indigenous Team Member Network by hiring Indigenous people.
I am working on breaking down barriers and learning how to attract Indigenous talent to ATB as part of the strategy that was implemented in 2017. I have had the opportunity to attend Inclusivity as well as the Work Force Forward Summit to learn how to be more inclusive as an employer and what we could do differently as an organization in order to be the place for “Indigenous People to Want to Work''. While far from perfect, I am so honoured to work for an organization that gives me the ability to do this and authentically cares and strives to be a leader.
Indigenous People's Day and Indigenous People's Month are important opportunities for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate Indigenous heritage and culture, and learn about the legacy and ongoing contributions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
Some actions to consider:
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action
- Consider enrolling, participating and engaging in the next U of A Indigenous Canada course.
- Read the ATB and MNP joint report on economic contributions in Alberta — Opening the Door to Opportunity: Reporting on the Economic Contribution of Indigenous Peoples in Alberta
- Consider participating in one of the many Indigenous Culture & Heritge Experiences in Alberta