During one lunch hour at TRU, we welcomed Indigenous women at TRU to join us for bannock tacos, dialogue, and mapping. With a dozen women from various programs, backgrounds, and nations, we spent a few hours sharing our reflections about the local area, our favourite places to visit and some of the services we rely on. With a TRU Elder present, the lunch hour served also a time for her to pass on insight and connection. Many of the students heard about the event through Cplul’kw’ten, the Aboriginal Gathering Centre at Thompson Rivers University, or through the Knowledge Makers Network, a TRU Indigenous Research Program. The success of our lunch hour can in part be attributed to these centres which offer community, connection, learning, and guidance to Indigenous students as they navigate the institution. Many of these services made it on the map directly, the TRU Elder in the House program being an area of beauty and Cplul’kw’ten being an important service.
With a drop-in structure and lunch provided, students were able to carve time out of their busy days and relax with us and share. Providing lunch can ease some worries for busy students, and there were even leftovers for some to take home! At this workshop (one of our last ones conducted), the insights and reflections brought to the mapping exercise were still new. This reflects the potentials of this methodology to keep uncovering diverse standpoints and experiences. Some services were noted, such as the Aboriginal Training and Employment Services, that had not yet been noted.
We encouraged women to work with the materials provided: markers, stickers, pencils, and pens, to capture their sense of the Kamloops/Tk’kemlups area. Community and safety came out in various ways. One woman began noting areas of beauty at peoples home - her friends, family, and her own. Another began to mark places of beauty at the same spot as places of safety, noting that she could only appreciate a place when she felt safe. Interestingly, there seemed to be a larger focus on beauty in particular organizations. Many participants noted social aspects of beauty, remarking that friends are beautiful, or natural aspects, such as the mountains that surround our community, but in this workshop precise cultural centers appeared as well - the Kamloops Symphony for example, or the Kamloops Art Gallery.
The workshop highlighted the importance of services and centres for Indigenous communities. These spaces are communities of connection, safety, and support. Hosting this event also served to foster these relationships among women and peers, as much needed conversations about current personal concerns were able to be discussed in a safe and supportive environment.