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Better housing is one step toward Truth and Reconciliation say Indigenous leaders

Indigenous songs rang out at Wampum Learning Lodge on the Western University campus Friday, honouring the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR).

“The historical relationship between Canada and First Nation people, you know it’s not always been a good story,” said Grand Chief Joel Abram of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians. “But that doesn’t mean the story’s over, you know? That we can change things for the better.”

Chief Abram was among panelists at the ReconciliACTION Speaker Series: Beyond NDTR, hosted by Atlohsa Family Healing Services. A full house was on hand as Indigenous leaders discussed Truth and Reconciliation.

One of the themes that garnered a lot of attention was housing and homelessness.

Chief Abram called the situation in First Nation communities a “crisis.” But he added that the crisis now reaches far beyond First Nations.

“We have overcrowding, homes that aren’t in the best of shape, lack of new housing starts. A lot of these things are spreading out from Indigenous communities, and municipalities are dealing with many of the same things,” he said.

It’s estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of the overall homeless population is made up of Indigenous people.

The ReconciliACTION Speaker Series at Wampum Learning Lodge at Western University was held on Sept. 29, 2023. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)

A program at the Oneida First Nation, called ‘Imagine Build,’ is taking steps to improve housing in the community. Through philanthropy and fundraising, the community is building a series of homes for families who need them, said Oneida Coun. Alizabeth George-Antone, also one of the panelists.

“Homes are accessible for somebody who has accessibility issues. So we’re just working with them right now, and we’re fundraising for more homes,” she explained.

The ReconciliACTION Speaker series was just one of a number of events planned to mark the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Atlohsa, along with Chippewa of the Thames First Nation, is inviting the greater community to events at Western Fair Agriplex beginning Friday, said Atlohsa Gift Shop manager April White.

“Indigenous artisan market and vendor market from four till nine,” said White. “On September 30, the doors will be open at Western Fair Agriplex at ten o’ clock, and there’s going to be programming from Atlosa Family Healing Services from 12:00 until 3:30, and then in the evening there’s a paid concert put on by Chippewa of the Thames First Nation.” Top Stories

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