A “campfire” is a process created by SUILC to bring people together for a facilitated session that is grounded in traditional Indigenous practices and values. Cultural practices are embedded into the day and guide a respectful and reciprocal engagement process with the participants. A campfire is designed to build positive relations and community connections through engagement. This approach counters the common experience for many Indigenous people where engagement is extractive and, in some cases, harmful. The focus of the campfire is to create a culturally safe and welcoming environment where people are respected and heard. Ceremony and cultural teachings guide a campfire to honour the people attending and give back in the spirit of reciprocity.
The Community Campfire was designed for youth voices to be heard by a range of government agencies, educational institutions, and non-government organizations who have the will or capacity to support Indigenous youth in Surrey in some way. Participants were asked to think about how their learnings from the day could be brought back to their respective workplaces and bring positive change for Indigenous youth in Surrey.
Eleven Indigenous youth from Surrey attended the campfire, along with two Indigenous Child and Youth Care Workers, four Indigenous Elders, and the Skookum Surrey team of young Indigenous facilitators who are the engagement team that support SUILC’s work. The Skookum Surrey team included Indigenous Ambassadors who are part of a Skookum Surrey – Simon Fraser University initiative to build leadership skills for Indigenous women. The Ambassadors role for the day was to be the “aunties” for the youth and provide them support. They also provided support to the Elders.
Invited guests who attended included employees from Surrey Schools, Ministry of Children and Family Development, City of Surrey, Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytech University, Surrey Libraries, Fortis BC, Central City Foundation, Fraser Health Authority, and Indigenous Services Canada.
Past SUILC campfires have had success in inspiring participants to initiate change. One example is when an employee of the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction attended a SUILC campfire and was struct by the stigma and barriers Indigenous people face when seeking to access income assistance. He returned from the campfire driven to make change. He brought information forward to senior management and garnered support for a pilot project to have income assistance delivered through an Indigenous organization in Surrey. The pilot was successful, and this model is now used by the province across BC.
It was this kind of action that our Community Campfire was seeking to inspire.Download PDF