A free two-day conference explores the stories of diverse people belonging and living together
How can people from different cultures learn to live together so that everyone can flourish?
This is one of the questions addressed by a diverse group of people, including artists, writers, musicians and scholars, at the free two-day conference, Threads: Cultural Conversations.
The virtual event takes place on Wednesday and Thursday and is hosted by the Saskatoon Open Door Society (SODS). CBC Saskatoon is a sponsor of the event.
Threads: Cultural Conversations uncovers the many issues, challenges and desires facing newcomer, Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures in Canada, according to the SODS website.
“It’s a very important thing to engage with other people because no man or woman is an island,” Anita Ogurlu, one of the organizers of Threads: Cultural Conversations, told CBC. Saskatchewan Weekend.
“By opening up to someone new, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the world, the other and yourself.”
Residential School Survivor to Give Keynote Address
One of the speakers at the symposium will be Judy Pelly, an Anishinaabe residential school survivor.
On Wednesday, the Knowledge Keeper, who was born and raised in Cote First Nation, will deliver the keynote address for the two-day event.
“The cultural conversation is very important right now and in a time of truth and reconciliation in Canada,” Pelly said in an interview on Saskatchewan Weekend.
There are “a lot of newcomers coming into the country and we need to share our communities and our space with each other.”
It’s important to understand that we’re all similar, but also culturally different, and to have respect for everyone around us, Pelly said.
Pelly is a Cultural Advisor with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and works extensively with vulnerable people in Saskatoon.
“These historic injustices have really had a big impact on our Indigenous community,” Pelly said.
“People didn’t learn this. I myself didn’t learn about colonization until I was in college. It was the very first time I realized the true picture of what happened to us. .”
Pelly was born in 1951 to a family of residential school survivors, many of whom struggled with alcoholism.
As a child, she had to attend St Philip’s Catholic boarding school near Yorkton. Around the age of seven or eight, she was sexually abused, Pelly said.
“Everything, my whole life has changed,” she said.
“In the early years of your life, you live in a community where there’s still that traditional upbringing. You grow up with all that love and then all of a sudden it’s all taken away from you.”
The abuse she suffered at boarding school led to a life of alcoholism. Pelly started drinking when she was 12 or 13, she said. Today, the septuagenarian has been sober for 20 years.
“I was healed when I was around 50 in my culture,” she said.
“Now I use that lived experience working with our vulnerable population. I work with a lot of at-risk women and I get confidence, immediate confidence.”
Saskatchewan Weekend11:18Knowledge Keeper Judy Pelly shares her healing story
At Threads: Cultural Conversations, Pelly hopes to encourage people to show respect, love, humility, wisdom and courage to speak out, she said.
“It’s very important that we encourage each other to be proud of who we are,” she said.
Pelly said it was also important “never to forget where we come from, that our cultures and our languages make us who we are”.
The story of a transracial and international adoptee
Many Threads: Cultural Conversations speakers started their lives outside of Canada in different parts of the world, like Shelley Rottenberg.
The Saskatchewan woman is a transracial and international adoptee who was born in China during the era of the one-child policy.
When she was eight months old, Rottenberg’s parents adopted her and brought her to Canada.
“When I was younger I knew I was adopted,” she said on Saskatchewan Weekend. “But I haven’t thought about it too much. So I feel like I had a very normal Canadian childhood.”
As a child, she accompanied her mother to China to adopt her younger sister. Other than that, she didn’t have many ties to her country of birth.
Saskatchewan Weekend12:00The story of an international Chinese adoptee
Growing up, Rottenberg bonded with other adoptees from China who lived in the area, she said. Back then, the experience didn’t mean as much to her as it does now.
“Now that I’m getting older and connecting more with my adoptee identity, it becomes more valuable as an adult connecting with others who have similar experiences to me.”
One of Rottenberg’s two presentations at the online symposium will focus on his experiences reconciling diverse identities. Connecting with other Chinese adoptees as a grown woman made her realize that she was not alone with some of her feelings.
“Growing up, I had issues, I think, with accepting who I am.”