Community Difference-Maker: Erin Dixon and the Gojijing Roundtable
Three thousand years ago, Orillia was populated by the Wendat or Huron people, whose settlement extended all around Lake Couchiching, which they called Gojijing. As colonizers arrived, the lives of the indigenous populations of Canada were forever changed. Four hundred years of change and trauma ensued, with residential schools, the 60’s scoop, Indian day schools, and profound racism.
Local Truth and Reconciliation Efforts
Truth and Reconciliation efforts are in motion all across the country, but what’s going on locally? In 2018 Erin Dixon was working at the Banff Centre on integrating Wise Practices into the study of the Bow bio region (Wise Practices are the infusion of traditional wisdom into modern work, be that healing, education, etc.). Erin was approached by Senator Gwen Boniface about developing a local circle to support community leaders in Truth and Reconciliation efforts.
Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable
The Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable gathered under Erin’s organization for the first time in the fall of 2019, bringing together indigenous community leaders, students, educators, and community members. The Gojijing Dialogues have discussed themes of belonging, history, healing and hope in positive, open conversation. The driving force from the start has been education. Erin was an ideal choice for this initiative, with a background in Indigenous education at the Banff Centre and the OPP as an Indigenous awareness trainer. Erin herself grew up on Skeleton Lake and identifies as Otipemisiwak, “the free people who define themselves,” and is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario.
The Roundtable met a couple of times before COVID struck and forced the discussions onto Zoom. This turned out to be in some ways a benefit as the Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable has been able to reach a wider audience than before.
What is Reconciliation?
But what actually is reconciliation? It’s a huge question which comes with many varied answers. Erin says that it all comes back to the spirit of truth, or “Debwewin.” In order for a person to achieve reconciliation with past trauma and traumatizers they must first be able to comprehend the truth of what happened. So many of us are inclined to push painful feelings and emotions aside and forget them, but in order to move toward reconciliation, it is essential to realize the truth. Reconciliation needs to be understood in relation to everything that makes up a person, which makes the concept different for every individual.
The goal of the Gojijing Circle is to create a space where the truth can be discussed freely, thereby drawing toward reconciliation. This is an enormous undertaking, but the desired outcome is meaningful and everlasting change. Erin adds that one of her personal goals is a revitalization of language driven by the youth of the community. She feels that in order to truly understand a culture and a history, you must be able to understand the very words with which that community speaks. Through Erin’s efforts in coordinating and moderating the roundtables, and the generosity of community leaders who have given their time and expertise to the Gojijing Dialogues, the goals of the Roundtable have never been more attainable.
How Can Others Become Involved?
At OMAH we wanted to know how we could be involved in furthering the goals of the commission. For Erin, it’s all about education, and creating a safe space for deep conversation. As a museum, OMAH has the platform to help educate the community, and ourselves in the process. This will be one of our personal goals going forward.
Erin says that anyone and everyone is welcome to participate. The Roundtable has a website with more information on their efforts and upcoming events which you can visit HERE to learn more.
In 1994 Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard from thousands of victims of the Residential Schools system, and made recommendations to begin attempting to heal the communities harmed. Earlier this year in May, news broke of the 215 children found buried on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which operated from 1890 until 1978. This proves once again just how important and relevant the work of the Truth and Reconciliation committees all across Canada is.
In this article we wanted to highlight Erin and the work of the Gojijing Roundtable, who are striving to heal and educate our local community. It is a massive undertaking, which has encountered tension between remembering the pain of the past, and the need to do right by the generations to come. Erin’s work is important and impactful, and she is making a difference daily.
Erin Dixon Interview, conducted by Lindsay Earle. 2021.
Dixon, Erin. “Speaker Bio.” Coming Down to Earth Conflict Transformation Online Summit. 2021.
Gojijing Truth and Reconciliation Roundtable Website: https://www.gojijingtruthandreconciliationgathering.earth/
Nabigon, Herbert C., MSW and Annie Wenger-Nabigon, MSW. ““Wise Practices”: Integrating Traditional Teachings with Mainstream Treatment Approaches.” Native Social Work Journal Vol. 8, pages 43-55. Published by Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario. 2012. ISSN 1206-5323.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.” 2012.