Alanna Jones.

Alanna Jones.

By Rick Garrick

Garden River’s Alanna Jones enjoyed the opportunity to enhance her leadership skills at the COADY Institute of St. Francis Xavier University’s Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program.

“It is challenging and enlightening at the same time,” says Jones, Garden River’s trust manager. “I find it insightful, not only with leadership as a whole, but it is the individual self-reflection that I like the most about it. It’s actually the hardest thing for me to do.”

Jones says the program enhances the participants’ leadership skills through the development of an Indigenous perspective on leadership skills.

“It’s leadership skills, and it’s marketing, it’s finance, it’s communication,” Jones says. “It’s getting in touch with the community again through self-reflection on how your leadership style is and how it can affect others and motivate others to become involved in the community.”

Jones plans to develop a comprehensive course encompassing the treaties, history and language of her community for her IWCL community project.

“It would encompass the beautiful gardens we once had down here, the people who are all related here and how we are all related,” Jones says. “And bring out our language again and revive that. If people really understand what is being said through the language, then there is more of a connection to the language.”

Jones is currently involved with the Garden River Historical Society, which is collecting stories about how people used to live in the Robinson Huron community in the past.

“Garden River was known for their beautiful gardens,” Jones says. “With the (community’s) food security network, we are trying to revive our culture, our heritage of living off the land.”

Jones also wants to focus on incorporating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s findings into a healing process at the community level.

“(We need to) incorporate those recommendations at the First Nation level so that we as a nation can heal as well as the rest of Canada,” Jones says. “As we move forward into the future then, hopefully our band members will be that much more prepared to succeed.”

Jones began the program in May with 20 other women from across Canada, including two others from Anishinabek Nation communities: Wikwemikong’s Lynda Trudeau and Aamjiwnaang’s Lareina Rising. After completing three weeks of studies at the COADY Institute campus in Nova Scotia, the women returned back to their home territories to work on their projects.

“When we go back again in the middle two weeks of August, I believe there are classes again in the first week and in the second week we present our community projects,” Jones says. “Everybody brings their own ideas, their skills and abilities and their own perspectives. But by the same token we all have our same challenges.”

The Indigenous Women in Community Leadership program is an award-winning program that supports First Nations, Métis and Inuit women in building their capacities to be strong leaders and agents of change capable of strengthening and contributing to the development of their communities.