The O’Kaadenigan Wiingashk Collective’s Beats & Braids Festival is a unique event that has weaved together artists, community members, and local and visiting Indigenous talent from across Turtle Island. While this festival is a celebration of music, there was a deeper theme to the programming this year: the concept of reconciliation.

A free workshop titled “Reconciliation 101 for Settlers” was held on October 14 at the Monocle Centre for the Arts in Downtown Peterborough. The comedian and writer Ryan McMahon facilitated conversation centered around reconciliation and Indigenous- and settler relations.

His open bundle was on a table in the center of the room. He passed along and shared stories and the meaning of his different belongings. Ryan created a space and opportunity for people to educate and engage on the conversation about reconciliation. This event brought together more than 35 students, activist, artist and community members that wanted to learn more about reconciliation. The large group was then divided in smaller groups to answer two questions: Why are were they there? And what does reconciliation mean for them?

During the workshop everyone sat in a circle as Ryan McMahon shared stories and his personal views on reconciliation. Smudging was part of the workshop, however, the land was not acknowledged. McMahon said that every time he hears settlers acknowledging the land he is reminded of what he lost. For Ryan land should be in at the center of reconciliation. “The land question doesn’t come up… The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 calls for action do not mention returning land to the Indigenous people” McMahon added.

“I used to think that recognizing the land we are on is great… that the settlers are acknowledging the system that only advantages and favors them greatly. That sounds awesome until… ‘now what?’ The system still favors settlers… what’s next? I see acknowledgement differently now.” Sylvie, an Indigenous and Environmental Science student, expressed.

“We can’t talk about reconciliation being abstract… it is about relationships” McMahon said. Ryan believes in connecting community with community. He also acknowledged that reconciliation should be more centered in women as they play a very important role in the community.

McMahon encouraged everyone to be critical, to educate and to take action. At the end of the workshop he asked every group to come up with an idea to take action. Other participants also took the opportunity to shared events, groups and initiatives that they had been working on. Sara Affleck, a workshop participant, invited everyone in the workshop to joining the The Nogojiwanong Aspiring Allies Action Group (NAAAG) that aims to raise awareness among settler communities about the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Nogojiwanong region and how settlers can help ensure those rights are upheld. E-mails and contact information were exchanged. At the end of the workshop everyone left with something, be itthat be, more questions, answers, resources or more events and groups to join.

Everyone was welcomed and food was provided provided by Grandfather’s Kitchen, a restaurant and caterer on Townsend Street that serves Indigenous fare. The event took place due to the generous sponsorship and support of CUPE 3908, OPIRG Peterborough and Gzowski College Cabinet.

Ryan McMahon is an Anishinaabe comedian, writer, media maker and community activator based out of Treaty #1 territory (Winnipeg, MB).
With a degree in Theatre and as a graduate of the prestigious Second City Conservatory (Toronto), Ryan’s comedic storytelling style is fast paced, loose and irreverent as he explores the good, the bad & the ugly between Indian Country and the mainstream.

Check out his website for podcasts, workshop materials and videos.