Three local artists will bring messages of healing, welcome and reconciliation to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
Cochranite Wendy Walker, who is Metis, and Calgarian Dawn von Arnim, a non- indigenous American-Canadian originally from South Carolina, make up the music group Reconciliation, which performs songs in Cree and Ojibwa.
Walker said she was delightfully surprised to hear her duo along with First Nation hoop dancer Dallas Arcand Jr., will be headed to South Korea as part of Alberta’s cultural delegation at the Games.
“A year or so ago Dallas (Arcand Jr.) did a performance for the South Koreans … they loved him so they asked him and then Dawn and I later. I certainly didn’t know we had a shot to go (to the Olympics) and then the call came last October. We had to sit on the news, but we knew then that we were going,” Walker said.
“It was only a couple weeks ago that we could actually inform people that we were going. We’re very excited; we put together a new show that will run for 30 minutes.
“What reconciliation looks like is an Indigenous person would lead that process, with a non-Indigenous person always supporting that process because we need each other to get through that.”
“We have rehearsals every day for this and we know when we get to South Korea that we will be at our very best. Everybody in Alberta will be very proud that we’re representing our province. We’ve been working very hard and we’ve had some great support from the surrounding communities.”
The group will open with a welcome song, and will bring medicine pouches, which is a traditional Aboriginal gift.
“As people, we love to give gifts, so for us, in my own research about the culture of South Korea they are very giving people. Very kind, very gentle, very generous,” Walker said.
“I wanted to bring something from Canada that truly symbolizes First Nations people. Whether you’re from Morley, Siksika or Six Nations in Ontario, it wouldn’t matter, people would recognize this gift as something that’s very aboriginal.”
Walker plans to give away 150 pouches which have been designed in Olympic colours.
She added that they’d like to leave a lasting impression on not only the people in Korea, but the rest of the world as well.
“What I would hope they would take away is that their connection to their land is no different than our connection to our land here in Canada … that our culture means as much to us as their culture means to them,” Walker said.
“Here we like to use the word diversity and I’ve never been a fan of that word, and the reason is because diversity keeps us looking at one another and how we’re different. When you start looking at differences, that doesn’t always mean those different traits that certain people may have are always accepted.”
“For me, what’s always important is how are we the same? I do believe that people share common humanity. We’re on the world stage, so I don’t just want the people of Korea to take that away from our performance, I want the entire world to see that we all share common goals and humanness.”
The group will perform on Feb. 10 and 11.