At last week’s Canada event, organised by micebook in partnership with Destination Canada, we were privileged to experience a cultural performance and talk by Matricia Brown, who is First Nations Cree, a singer, songwriter, musician, drummer and artist, and founder of Warrior Women.
Through Warrior Women, Matricia and her daughter offer education and experiences for travellers, schools and corporate groups aimed at bringing a better understanding of both the Cree culture and Canada’s Indigenous people.
Her personal story is both powerful and emotive. As a Sixties Scoop survivor – she was one of thousands of Indigenous children taken from their families and fostered or adopted out primarily to white middle-class families – Matricia shared how she suffered an existential crisis in her twenties.
Growing up she says she wasn’t proud to be indigenous and spent much of her life decolonising herself. “When I became a parent I made a conscious choice. I wanted to be a trauma breaker. I wanted to change things for my children and show them all the beautiful things about my culture. While I was reclaiming my culture, I was raising my children within I and I established Warrior Women to get my story out there through education and Indigenous experiences.”
Her business has grown from a “summer gig” to an Indigenous company that hosts an array of Indigenous cultural experiences, from weekly fireside chats in Jasper, to artistic experiences led across Turtle Island. Matricia teaches drum making and leather binding, makes moccasins, traditional fur mittens, and other traditional workshops. She has her own jewellery line infusing First Nations culture into modern jewellery designs and provides education and Indigenous awareness training through schools and conferences.
She believes that corporate travel can play a big role in supporting cultural sustainability and heritage conservation by featuring Indigenous experiences and communities in conference and incentive programmes. “There are thousands of Indigenous experiences – you just have to be open in your hearts and minds to include them, because they do matter, and we want our beliefs, traditions and culture to exist in the future.”
After performing a song and sharing her story, Matricia took questions from the room, and the conversation turned to how Indigenous experiences can be incorporated in an authentic way, so it doesn’t feel like a “tick box” CSR exercise.
“There are lots of different ways you can involve Indigenous people in your events. For example, you could hire an Indigenous photographer – they will take photos from a different perspective. You could work with an Indigenous catering service, or include Indigenous music or cultural performances,” she explains. “Don’t make us a check box, we are a people, not a check box.”
She adds that it’s important to follow protocol when meeting with elders, and to make any Indigenous speakers or performers feel like an important part of an event.
“I often find I am not listed in the programme. Make sure they have a bio and a headshot and are listed in the programme. Ask them how they want to be addressed or introduced, and what you can do to make them feel comfortable. You could consider setting up a booth for them after so people can come up and talk to them, invite them to join you for supper, or organise a helper for them. Make sure they are looked after from beginning to end and treat them like the special guest that they are.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Baz Seal