Fifth Annual VIU Indigenous Speaker Series with CBC's Ideas is a Search For Freedom, Prosperity and #Landback for Indigenous Peoples

November 7, 2019 - 3:45pm

VIU’s Indigenous Speakers Series launched in 2015 to mark the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which includes strong calls to action for educational institutions. With a deep commitment to engagement with and respect for all Indigenous peoples, VIU saw the series, which focuses on topics related to reconciliation and engagement with Canada’s Indigenous peoples, as an important initiative in line with the TRC’s Calls to Action. Past speakers have included Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, former VIU Chancellor and former Chief of the Assembly of First Nations; academic and author Dr. Tracey Lindberg; Indigenous entrepreneur, activist, speaker and writer Gabrielle Scrimshaw; and Douglas White III, Director of VIU’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation. Read on to learn more about this year’s speaker, Max FineDay.

When Max FineDay graduated from university in 2015, his grandmother sat him down and told him he had a duty to explain Indigenous peoples to the rest of Canada by telling the kinds of stories that change people’s hearts and minds.

“She said I had been raised and prepared to do this work and when the time came, I needed to accept that opportunity,” says FineDay, a nêhiyaw napew from the Sweetgrass First Nation in Saskatchewan, Treaty 6 Territory. “When your grandmother tells you to do something, you really have no choice, and that set me up for what I do now. I tell stories to people who haven’t seen what I’ve seen so that they can be called to do something, called to learn, called to change their behaviour or learn a new skill.”

FineDay will be sharing some of these stories during Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) fifth annual Indigenous Speakers Series on Monday, November 25. The annual event, a partnership between VIU and CBC Radio One’s Ideas, aims to further the dialogue on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

“People treat reconciliation as if it’s an inevitability,” says FineDay. “I’m not sure that it is. It’s contingent on the actions of Canada and Canadians – it’s not a ‘when’ but ‘if’ we get there.”

FineDay has a unique perspective to share on this topic, growing up immersed in two different Prairie communities – the Sweetgrass First Nation on his father’s side, and Norwegian farmers who settled in southern Saskatchewan on his mother’s side. 

“Both sides of my family aren’t as different as politics or media might suggest and it’s set me on the path to the work I’m doing – the repair of the relationships, reckoning with reconciliation,” he says. “I think this background has given me patience and understanding and hope.”

As Executive Director of the Canadian Roots Exchange, an organization that delivers reconciliation programs to Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth across the country, FineDay’s goal is to instill youth with pride in who they are and help them gain the skills, knowledge and education they need to pursue their dreams.

“Indigenous youth are the fastest-growing population in Canada, but they are so often let down by our country – they fill the jails at a disproportionate rate and their health outcomes are poorer,” he says. “After hearing stories from young people who have gone into the corporate sector who have felt tokenized, used, disrespected and misunderstood, I wonder where the place of young Indigenous people is in Canada’s 2019 economy. Are Canadians ready to debunk the image of a young native person who doesn’t want to work? Is Canada ready to imagine a young Indigenous person ready to lead economic opportunities using the stories and traditions of their ancestors in tandem with a modern education?”

Dr. Deb Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor, says through his work with the Canadian Roots Exchange, FineDay is inspiring the next generation of young leaders to embrace their culture rather than leave it at the door when they enter the workforce.

“Max’s true power lies in his ability to tell the kinds of stories that help people see Indigenous people as people,” she says. “Much like Max does in his teachings, VIU also strives to ensure Indigenous ways of knowing and being are recognized and celebrated on the same level as Western ways of knowing and being.”

FineDay’s keynote lecture – The Promised Land: In Search of Freedom, Prosperity and #LandBack for Indigenous Peoples – takes place in VIU’s Malaspina Theatre (Building 310 at VIU’s Nanaimo campus) on Monday, November 25 from 7-9 pm. The keynote talk will be followed by a question and answer session hosted by Nahlah Ayed, host of CBC Radio’s Ideas. It will be recorded for national broadcast. To register for this free event, please visit Eventbrite.

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