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Women United hosts panel discussion on local Indigenous programming

Drumming Circle by youth from One Roof Kingston at the Manidoo Ogitigan (Spirit Garden) at Lake Ontario Park on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. Photo by Zoha Khalid.

The United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Women United hosted its third event of the year — the first one to be held in-person this year — on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, attended by 60+ participants from different spheres of the Kingston community. 

Women United “brings together like-minded women who want to use their skills, talents and resources to contribute to their community in a significant way,” through the United Way internationally. Here in KFL&A, Women United Panel Discussions focus on different topics that are important to highlight within the community. The topic for the third event of the year was Indigenous programs in KFL&A. 

The event was organized at Manidoo Ogitigan (Spirit Garden), a landscape installation by Terence Radford for the Alderville First Nation Commemoration Project, a partnership between Alderville First Nation and the City of Kingston. It commemorates the historical and cultural ties between the Indigenous nation and the Kingston region. 

Maureen Buchanan of Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest (KILN) started the event with Indigenous opening prayers and presentations that signified the event’s overall theme. After the prayers, Jessica Bayne-Hogan, Volunteer Co-Chair from Women United KFL&A, presented the land acknowledgment and explained how important it is to have these events on different issues affecting our community. 

“This was just something that was very important to everybody. That’s part of Women United, to have a better understanding of the Indigenous in our community and to come together and be able to learn from them and their experience,” said Jane Lapointe, Volunteer Co-Chair of Women United KFL&A.

The youth group from the One Roof Indigenous program team presented the Drumming Circle and sang in Indigenous language that connected everyone in attendance with Indigenous culture and Mother Earth. 

Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Kingston, Kathryn Londry, was also present. She elaborated on their organization’s Indigenous programs, such as support for education, housing, community kitchens, and gardens. 

“Our goal is to increase awareness and generate the funds that will help with [Indigenous] programming and the gaps that exist. An event like today shows us how much we are working together collaboratively, but also how much we still have to accomplish,” said Bayne-Hogan.

The United Way KFL&A also prepared a comprehensive resource pamphlet that had a list of the Indigenous programming and resources available within KFL&A. The resources are arranged in categories such as Indigenous education, employment, health, mental health services, housing, online groups, community and safety.  

“Our speakers talked about the generosity of people and sharing their stories and sharing the learnings. It was very humbling to be a part of such an important learning [experience] for all of us and I really felt privileged to be here,” Bhavana Varma,President & CEO of the United Way KFL&A.

Buchanan also shared her excitement about having a physical space to hold activities for the Indigenous community. She discussed how Kingston City Council’s decision earlier this month of providing funding to KILN will be pivotal the community. According to Council’s decision to move forward with a Service Level Agreement, KILN will use the City-owned building at 610 Montreal Street as their center for cultural and language learning.  

Kingston Indigenous Languages Nest, a group, started in 2014, is a large community working to revitalize Indigenous language and culture in urban settings. KILN honors the rights of all Indigenous people to be fulfilled intellectually, physically, spiritually, and emotionally on this land. Supporting language and cultural activities is one way of doing that. 

“So that can be a real game-changer for us. And I think it will be a great, a little bit of infrastructure for our community so that there’s a small program space that we can use. And we’re hoping to do some ecological restoration on the outside of the building and the landscape there. I think it’s really promising,” said Buchanan. 

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