Powerful workshop strengthens understanding and culture

Items are displayed on the village cloth. Photos: CFB Esquimalt Public Affairs.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer 

The CFB Esquimalt Defence Team explored a pre-colonial Indigenous Village to understand First Nations’ heritage at the beginning of June.

Members immersed themselves in the value systems and interactions of First Nations communities during an interactive The Village Workshop Series titled Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village©. This unique experience aimed to deepen their understanding of cultural heritage and acknowledge the erosion of these vital traditions over time.

Facilitator Kathi Camilleri says it takes a village of likeminded individuals to interact, learn, heal and move forward from a traumatic past. The day-long seminar was designed as ground zero in the process of truth and reconciliation for CFB Esquimalt members.

“Participants wholeheartedly interact and deeply engage in the experience,” said Camilleri. “It’s about hands-on learning as there is no Power Point or extensive lecture.”

Camilleri says the first-hand learning experience offers insights into the love, respect, kindness and generosity that existed in pre-contact times. Participants build a village together and learn about how these values contributed to a collaborative community. Role-playing helped participants gain a fundamental understanding of how life and relationships in Indigenous villages worked.

Captain (Navy) Alex Kooiman says the workshop was one of the most powerful learning experiences he has ever had.

“It’s hard to describe the connections you make with the lessons until you become part of the story and thereby develop an understanding to the plight of Indigenous People and their communities,” said Capt(N) Kooiman, Commanding Officer of the Canadian Submarine Force.

Andrea Lam, a Health Promotion Specialist of Personnel Support Programs (PSP), said the workshop creates a non-judgmental space for participants to engage at their comfort levels.

“The workshop was an incredibly impactful learning experience to be involved in,” said Lam. “People came with an understanding of the topic on a cognitive level, but many said they left with a deeper emotional understanding.”

Camilleri says Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village© falls in line with the responsibility of all federal departments to educate their employees on the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, including their cultural and treaty rights.

“Meeting these calls requires that people be aware of our country’s history with Indigenous Peoples and how it is all still impacting them today,” said Camilleri.

The workshop was an initiative of MARPAC Health and Wellness Strategy’s Mental & Social Wellness Working Group in support of the National Indigenous People’s Day on June 21. The Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village© was in its second iteration at the Base.

The next workshop is planned for September and will be in support of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

Follow @pspesquimalt_hp on Instagram and the MARPAC noticeboard for updates and information on how to register.
Participants in Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village© listen to facilitator Kathi Camilleri as she speaks.

Participants in Building Bridges: Through Understanding the Village© listen to facilitator Kathi Camilleri as she speaks.

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