Telling the tale of the city’s collective story Edmonton Heritage Council initiative helps Edmontonians find hope and belonging

On March 15, a diverse group of community members gathered in a sharing circle to tell their story of how they came to Edmonton.

Organized by the Edmonton Heritage Council (EHC), Weaving City Narratives was held at Ben Calf Robe – St. Clare School. The event was created to help people to find a sense of hope and belonging in Edmonton.

Before the conversation began, a gift of tobacco was given to the host, elder Betty Letendre, member of the Council of Elders with Edmonton Catholic Schools. Letendre opened the circle with a prayer and a stone referred to as “grandfather” was passed around.

The grandfather stone represented all of the ancestors and their stories carried with you. When everyone received the grandfather stone, it was their turn to share a story about how they came to be in Edmonton. Many people had come to Edmonton through birth or had migrated to the city from outlying communities. Other people came to Edmonton on their own like Kevin Wong, who migrated from Macau. Even though Wong came alone, he still brought with him the stories of his ancestors.

“Remembering where I came from gives me the courage to explore where I am about to go,” said Wong.

Because participants shared stories about their journey here with each other, they were able to better understand and appreciate each person’s story and how it has helped to shape the collective story of the city.

David Ridley, the executive director of EHC said, “We are a city with lots of new people, lots of people that have been here for generations.” Ridley continued, “This is kind of the meshing, the mesh work, of how to bring those stories together, not because there is going to be one big story but [because there will be] a better appreciation of how these things fit together.”

Edmonton is a very diverse city with an ever-expanding list of cultures, religions and ethnic origins, though sometimes we get stuck in our own bubble.

“In our own communities sometimes, when we don’t know where people come from, we become afraid. This [event] has opened up a whole new conversation about who we are,” said Letendre.

The turnout was smaller than expected, and it may lead to some changes in the format of future conversations.

“We will go back to the office and ask what did we get out of that? We expected this to be larger; maybe a large format isn’t workable. Could we do this more nimbly in smaller ways but still get the same kind of connection with people to talk about the kinds of questions we talked about tonight?” said Ridley.

If you are interested in participating in future Weaving Narratives conversations, get in touch with EHC through their website: edmontonheritage.ca

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