The Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) Indigenous Leadership Circle was inspired by an ACU employee’s experience at Children of the Earth High School. There, she was part of a council whose main vision was to plan events, build morale and a sense of togetherness. She wanted there to be a place to support Indigenous employees while providing educational opportunities for all employees.
Every morning at the school, the students started their day with a traditional sharing circle, which is a safe space that builds on peer learning, support and encouragement, and is designed to help learn from each other’s experiences. In 2016, after a lot of hard work and planning, these ideas became the foundation of the Indigenous Leadership Circle (ILC).
Joining the ILC
The only two requirements to join the circle are that members self-identify as Indigenous to Turtle Island (the Indigenous name for North America) and that they have a desire and willingness to create opportunities to learn. As a starting point, the members knew it was important for the ILC to provide opportunities to learn with a balance of grassroots education and corporate events.
The ILC currently consists of seven members from varying backgrounds rooted in Indigenous cultures and experiences, and are also representative of cross-functional business units from across ACU.
The mission and purpose
The focus of the ILC is to build better relationships as envisioned by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As a credit union with a mission and vision to support a sustainable future for all, we have a responsibility to engage in reconciliation.
The ILC recognizes this in their mission “… to use our collective knowledge and experience to provide leadership in the area of Reconciliation” with a goal “to engage, inform and empower employees so that the relations envisioned by the Truth and Reconciliation report become a reality here at ACU.”
ILC initiatives and events
Since 2017, the ILC has provided opportunities for all employees to participate in numerous learning activities and experiences including, but not limited to, KAIROS Blanket Exercise, Mikinak-Keya Spirit Tour at the Canadian Human Rights Museum, Treaty 1 Tour at the Manitoba Museum, as well as arranging for Elders to speak to ACU employees through sessions the ILC has named “Feast and Teach.”
Additional initiatives include donation drives for fire evacuees, participation in Bear Clan walks, support of Orange Shirt Day, and the creation of a lending library, which offers resources for employees to engage in education and self-reflection in relation to Indigenous topics.
Joining the Bear Clan Walk has been a life-changing opportunity for me. I became aware of how we can have a big impact in the community in our small little ways. We visited homeless people in the street, checking if they are okay, asking what they need, if we could provide warm clothes and fruits. People that we met in the streets and the neighbourhood are grateful with our presence. They felt safe because of what we do and I’m happy to continue volunteering.” — Renato
I attended the Treaty 1 Tour – ILC Fall Event on Nov 14, 2018. I realized there is a lot to be learned. Interesting how a person thinks they have a grasp on the issues until you attend a session like this. I didn’t realize that Indigenous people never felt they owned the land, they just share it and wanted to do the same with the newcomers. There is so much more to do and to learn, but it’s small steps. Assiniboine gave me the opportunity for one step via this ILC event. I’m very grateful fellow staff volunteer on this committee. It’s another example of talking the talk and walking the walk. The event also gave me the opportunity to visit the gem we have with our own Manitoba Museum and the gems we have in this organization who volunteer on the Indigenous Leadership Circle.”
Providing members with an equal voice
The leadership of the ILC speaks for itself. ACU has created an environment where employees can take the initiative to organize activities that showcase their passion for reconciliation and relationship building.
The ILC is an employee-led and driven group that provides each of its members with an equal voice, and these ILC voices lead ACU on its journey of reconciliation. As an employee group that offers every member to have an equal voice, it enables the passion to shine through in each activity. This allows employees to lead ACU through a journey of reconciliation that is an experience like no other.