Every few months, service providers on the Foundry Virtual BC team gather to host a workshop for youth across BC who are curious about exploring Indigenous learnings, culture, and art in a safe and supportive environment. This workshop is an opportunity for youth who identify as Indigenous and those who do not, to come together and connect with others by participating in activities such as medicine bag workshops, holiday feasts, teachings of the medicine wheel, and smudging ceremonies. With an elder or Indigenous facilitator present virtually, youth are supported and encouraged to ask questions they may have and get curious about aspects of Indigenous identity that they may not have known.
We had the opportunity to chat with Kayla (she/her/they) a young person living in BC who attended Foundry Virtual BC’s most recent Indigenous Cultural Connections workshop and learn about what made it a well-worth attending event!
1) How did you learn about Foundry Virtual BC’s Cultural Connections Workshop? What made you interested in signing up?
I started out signing up for Foundry Virtual BC’s YMIND anxiety group and was introduced to another group called Queer Cafe. While I only attended one Queer Cafe meeting, I had a blast. Since my name was on the groups mailing list, I learned about the upcoming Indigenous Cultural Connections Workshop and signed up out of interest and curiosity.
2) Did you have any concerns or worries about signing up for the group?
If I had heard about the workshop on my own, I may have had a little anxiety about not knowing enough to be able to participate respectfully, as a non-indigenous person wanting to learn. But having heard about the workshop from the email list for Queer Cafe, a very accepting group, I was confident that the medicine bag workshop was meant for anyone who was interested in participating. I’m really glad that I got to share in that learning experience with others and educate myself more about local Indigenous cultures in a way that I may not have been confident to participate freely with on my own.
3) Tell me a bit about how you felt during the group. What were the highlights? What did you learn? What did you do? How did it feel?
We were sent small kits in the mail with materials and instructions to be guided through making our own medicine bag, and we’re taught Anishinaabe teachings about the medicine wheel. We were also taught what it means to culturally appropriate versus appreciate, and the TRC 94 calls to action. I loved the openness that the instructor had with any questions we had, both about making our medicine bag and about his personal cultural heritage and experiences. He was super nice, and I feel like I absorbed the teachings better by having a related activity to do with my hands, rather than just sitting still in a presentation. I really value the handmade medicine bag I have now, and I’m really thankful for having had the opportunity to participate in an online workshop that felt lower barrier and easier to access.
4) What are you taking away from this group? Would you sign up for another one?
I would definitely sign up for another Cultural Connections Workshop! I am much more confident in what I know to be cultural appreciation, and how to avoid appropriating indigenous peoples. I learned that sourcing your information and resources directly from Indigenous people is important, as is ensuring your good intent shines through in a respectful way. The small medicine bag I have now- knowing it was sourced in Canada and directly supported an iIndigenous individual-is precious. It’s a piece of someone’s livelihood and knowledge that was gifted to me to make with my own hands.
5) Do you have any words of encouragement for other young people who are interested in signing up for a group with Foundry Virtual BC?
I’ve done a small handful of different Foundry Virtual BC workshops and programs now, and I have only had good experiences with all of their services. They are a team of people who really care about the youth across British Columbia, and it shows through the inclusive programming and empathy they continuously show across the board. Foundry’s counselors, peer support workers, program support assistants, and the guest speakers/creators they bring on – even the other young people who participate too – everyone is such a welcoming bunch. Each group has had its own unique, positive experience.
If you’re at all interested, as scary as it can be to try something new, I’d suggest just giving it a try. Download the app and make an account as a first step. From there, you can scroll through the different programs available, and register for any that interest you! It is such a rewarding feeling to do something for yourself and your well-being. I promise you, everyone you’ll meet in this little virtual community is in a similar boat, wanting to support each other and be supported too.
6) Anything else you want to share?
Again, I’m so grateful for these opportunities and workshops available from my own home, where I feel more comfortable. I’m also grateful that I can learn among kindhearted leaders and professionals, and also alongside other youth who want to learn and grow too.
Recognizing our donors
Foundry Virtual BC would like to thank donors to Foundry’s Wellness Program Fund at St. Paul’s Foundation for generously supporting this activity.”
Are you interested in signing up for a group or workshop with Foundry Virtual BC? Click here to see a list of our current groups!