Indigenous Awareness Committee at Rotary Club of Guelph
2012 does not seem very long ago, and yet the changes and accomplishments of this committee have been significant.
It all began with former Rotarian Anne Dance.  While doing volunteer work in Ghana, a man stopped her to ask about her work and inquired why she wasn’t helping the Aboriginal communities that were struggling in her own country.  “It was an eye-opener for me,” said Anne. It got her thinking and consequently motivated to speak with her Rotarian colleagues back in Guelph, Marva Wisdom and Joanne McAuley, from the Africa Committee. With funding and support from the International Avenue of Service,  an event was planned to shed some light on the issues facing Canada’s First Nations communities.
With the assistance of Frank Valeriote, MP, this small study group organized  “A Dialogue on the First Nations of Canada:  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” on January 21, 2012.  It featured talks by Cynthia Wesley-Exquimaux and Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic MP Carolyn Bennett and offered a chance for people to ask questions. As Anne explained, “We just wanted to try to understand all sides of the issue, to bring more understanding. We were blown away by the numbers (in attendance) and the concerns highlighted.”   
The half day Dialogue was followed up by Dr. Cara Wehkamp addressing our club in March 2012.  Dr. Wehkamp gave a very thorough and extremely useful overview to the club, summed up by President Norris Hoag in his thank you: “We knew we should be doing something at home,” he stated, “but rather than rushing in and doing what we thought would be the right thing, let’s start by building relationships and asking the aboriginal communities how we can work with them.”
And that has continued to be a focus of Rotary’s Indigenous Awareness Committee work to the present day.
Pictured above left to right are,  Rotarian Marva Wisdom, Frank Valeriote, MP, Cynthia Wesley-Exquimaux, Carolyn Bennett MP, Rotarian Anne Dance & Rotary Club of Guelph President Norris Hoag.
Barb Holmes
“Public dialogue takes on issues facing First Nations”,  The Guelph Mercury,  January 2012.
“News Bulletin” The Rotary Club of Guelph, March 16, 2012.
Anne Dance, Former Rotary Club of Guelph Rotarian