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This Indigenous Leader Finds Power in Telling Her Own Story

Posted on June 16, 2015

Bonnie Harvey, a participant in the Banff Indigenous Leadership Program, received the Certificate of Indigenous Leadership, Governance & Management Excellence. The following is the speech she gave upon receiving that certificate.  

On my way up here, Elder Tom told me to quit shaking. “Breathe!” he said.

But before I speak to all of you gathered here today, I want to share this drum with you. I made it here in Banff last year, at the Indigenous Strategic Planning course.

And I want to share this handkerchief with you, too. It represents my dad’s coastal people. Except, when my mom gave it to me a few years ago, I didn’t know what to do with it. Every time I used it, the handkerchief wouldn’t do what I thought it should do.

And so when I found this drum, my husband said, “Oh that would fit your drum.”

So this handkerchief is now my drum carrier. Its colours represent our medicine and our beliefs and the four colours of the people of Mother Earth and Father Sky. The values of our community and the fire that burns within.

Banff, my week in this community, has been a beautiful and inspirational journey. I don’t know how it first came about that I would come to The Banff Centre, but I’m glad the creator opened up this opportunity. From that first course I was hooked and I needed to keep coming back.

What I got from that first leadership course—the Negotiations Skills training that Troy shared with us—is that we must act sovereign; we can’t ask for sovereignty. We must listen twice as much as we talk. If you find yourself walking away from the negotiating table or anything in life, well, that’s a failure or the symptom of other failures.

For me, I haven’t even graduated high school. For me, this is huge that I completed this. I actually completed something.

Last year’s program Indigenous Women in Leadership (December 2013) totally pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was very uncomfortable that week, but it made me stronger. I appreciated that week. That week was all about me and I thought, “Oh what can I do to help fix my community and make my nation better?”

But then I realized, “Okay, it starts within. It starts at home.” That’s what I took home from that program.

Next was the Indigenous Strategic Planning program (April 2014), where Don reminded us that we need to tell our story.

The empowerment of us telling our own story.

I appreciate the corporations and industry that sponsored me to be here today. And I challenge them to go home and encourage their partners to support more Indigenous people to come here. I’m going to go home and challenge those industries that have business in my constitutional lands to help people to come here.

In closing I would like to thank housekeeping. You guys are awesome. Thank you for helping us to come home to a clean room after a hard day. Thank you for our nutrient breaks and for making sure we re-nourish ourselves.

To everybody else, good luck and if you come to Cranbrook, look me up.

A resident of the Ktunaxa Nation [pronounced ‘K-too-nah-ha’] near Cranbrook, British Columbia, Bonnie received support to attend Banff from Ktunaxa, Suncor Energy, Enbridge, RBC, Shell and Teck Resources. All were allocated to her through The Banff Centre granting process.