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Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day 2022

Community News

Amber Hall is the co-founder of Equator Coffee. She recently had the opportunity to visit two Indigenous communities – a Ngäbe-Buglé settlement in Costa Rica for the inauguration of their first female chief, and the Anishinaabe nation in Northwestern Ontario (Treaty 3) as part of her work with SchoolBOX.

In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day, Amber is sharing a few of her travel memories as well as her learnings and takeaways from these experiences.


Alto Comte Burica, Costa Rica

In late April 2022, Idalia Andrade Degracia was inaugurated as the first-ever female Indigenous chief (cacique) in Costa Rica. Equator Coffee sponsored the inauguration celebration and Amber, Craig, and their son Sam took part in the festivities. Idalia is pictured below with Kenny Blacksmith, an honorary Canadian Chief from the Cree Nation in northern Quebec.

This trip was made possible through Craig’s friendship with the Panek family (Timothy Panek is Craig’s partner in their business venture, Bripe). The Paneks have been working with Costa Rican Indigenous communities for many years in partnership with an organization called Fundeico. Bripe sponsored the memorial for Idalia’s father Don Miguel Andrade, the previous cacique, who passed away two years ago. Idalia was selected as the next cacique at the memorial ceremony. The council felt that her proven leadership capacity and commitment to preserving her culture’s language, customs, and traditions made her the perfect choice for the role.

The Canadian delegation put together an array of protocol gifts for Idalia’s inauguration. They included pieces by Canadian Indigenous artists from many tribes – Cree, Algonquin, Mohawk, Standing Buffalo, Métis, Tsimshian, Saulteaux, Anishinaabe, Iroquois, and more. The team had the opportunity to learn about a few aspects of Indigenous protocol, including:

  • Acknowledging traditional lands
  • Proper introduction
  • Asking permission
  • Honouring the elders
  • Respecting traditions
  • Giving of gifts

One of the gifts was a special headdress earpiece created by a local feather artist named Ru-tee. Idalia’s headdress included a scarlet macaw feather, which is traditional  for a cacique in the local Indigenous culture.

Amber and her group felt extremely privileged to bear witness to this historic event.


Treaty 3, Northwestern Ontario

In May 2022, Amber joined SchoolBOX for a trip to Treaty 3, located in Northwestern Ontario in the Kenora region.

SchoolBOX partners with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth leaders to help make education possible for kids in Indigenous communities across Canada.

The SchoolBOX team visited the Gaagagekiizhik and Bimose High School (Kiizhik School), where they held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate their library project, which is nearly complete. Amber and other members of the team helped unload and assemble furniture for the space. The school was also celebrating Spring Feast during this time, and school officials invited the SchoolBOX team to participate in the festivities as special guests. Amber and the team were able to observe the protocol involved in the feast and connect with different aspects of Anishinabemowen culture.

From there, the team visited the memorial to the victims and survivors of Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School, which operated in Kenora from 1929 to 1976. They spent time remembering the lives that were lost at this site, honoring its survivors, and reflecting on how to carry their allyship and reconciliation work forward. 

Finally, the group visited the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation (NAN) Library and Learning Centre, which SchoolBOX helped establish in 2019. The library has been approved for a reciprocal exchange with the Kenora Public Library, which will grant the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation access to a wider selection of literature while also making cultural works accessible to the Kenora community. SchoolBOX is helping digitize the library’s children and youth catalogues to make this exchange possible. There, they met Bernice Major, NAN’s passionate and energetic full-time librarian. The combined efforts of community members and the SchoolBOX team have transformed this small library into a multi-purpose community space that also includes a long-distance learning centre, art installations, a family well-being program, a drop-in centre, and emergency housing capacity if needed.

    

Takeaways

Amber was inspired by the resilience she witnessed in Costa Rica and Kenora. “I would say that I have a much greater appreciation for Indigenous cultures and traditions, as well as value and respect for the land, and I plan to incorporate these learnings into my life and business.” She is looking forward to introducing some takeaways from her travels into her own life, work, and traditions, and to continue her work with Indigenous communities to help create a brighter future for everyone.

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