This is the final article in a three-part series about a community project to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda in Peterborough and the Kawarthas.
In part one, we explained what the SDGs are and how the Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC) and GreenUP are working together to advance them locally. In part two, we interviewed members of the project’s Indigenous Leadership Action Team to discuss why Indigenous leadership is necessary for guiding our local process.
In part three below, we share the experience and outcome of a recent SDG community collaboration event.
In February, KWIC and GreenUP hosted a two-day virtual community forum entitled ‘Centering Indigenous Leadership and Diverse Perspectives to Advance the Sustainable Development Goals in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough’.
This event was designed to build upon the work of community members who came together two years prior, to identify five 2030 Agenda action areas for our region to focus on: Prioritizing Indigenous Leadership, No Poverty (SDG #1), Quality Education (SDG #4), Clean Water and Sanitization (SDG #6), and Climate Action (SDG #13).
For this latest gathering, community members assembled to deepen their understanding of how to advance the SDGs in a way that leaves no one behind and prioritizes Indigenous leadership. Collectively, Indigenous leadership was identified as critical to our local success.
As forum hosts, KWIC and GreenUP welcomed over 200 participants from near and far to work with the Nogojiwanong/Peterborough community in three interconnected workshops.
Each session began with an introduction to the Seven Grandfather Teachings, principles to guide the forum and how we would work together. These teachings are at the heart of local Indigenous ways of life — they are our blueprint on how to live a good, healthy life. They include wisdom, love, respect, bravery, honesty, humility, and truth.
“I especially appreciated the fact that the event was guided by the Seven Grandfather Teachings,” explains Anca Pascalau, coordinator of Sustainable Peterborough and a forum participant. “Respect, kindness, and inclusivity were evident throughout the three sessions, even in the Zoom chat section.”
In addition, workshops were framed by words offered by Michi Saagiig Elders and knowledge keepers. The intention of this gift was to ground the sessions in a good way, ensuring we worked together in a meaningful, grateful, and present mindset.
Each workshop had a distinct focus. The first session contained a presentation by Indigenous consultants and the local SDG project Elder Advisor on looking at the past to guide the future. This was followed by a workshop in which participants worked together to identify groups that had not yet been included in the development of the local initiative.
In the second session, which opened with the Hiawatha drum group Michi Saagiig Manoomin, attendees heard from three speakers who spoke about why Indigenous leadership and an intersectional approach are central to leaving no one behind.
The first speaker of the evening was S.S. Ahmad, founder and CEO of Green Beacon, a social enterprise with the mission of localizing SDGs. Ahmad shared why empathy and a human-rights based focus is essential to advancing the SDGs.
Next we heard from Jaida Ponce, a Kichi Siibi Anishinabe-Kwe from Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. Ponce, who works with the Oshkwazin Indigenous Youth Leadership Program, shared stories that explained the need for strong and open relationships and communication between settler institutions and Indigenous communities.
The third speaker was Dr. Alan Corbiere, a well-respected Anishinaabe historian and teacher from M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Dr. Corbiere explained how Indigenous knowledge and language can help us to better understand and advance our sustainability goals.
The final session of the forum featured the local ‘No Poverty’, ‘Quality Education’, ‘Clean Water and Sanitization’, and ‘Climate Action’ action teams. Team chairs shared how the focus areas are being localized to ensure outcomes relevant to Nogojiwanong/Peterborough.
Throughout the forum, presentations and discussions underscored the interconnectedness of the local SDGs.
“In my community, our biggest conversation is about clean water,” explained Chief Emily Whetung of Curve Lake First Nation, in her opening welcome. “It has become a struggle in the last hundred years and has been amplified by the pandemic.”
“Long term, we have a goal to protect and preserve lands where our traditions, ceremonies and relationships can be practised; where we can exercise our ability to be caretakers of our land and remove the paternalistic system imposed upon us.”
Chief Whetung’s powerful words infer how clean water (SDG #6) is inseparable from climate change (SDG #13), and the historic and ongoing injustices that have pushed many Indigenous communities into poverty (SDG #1). In the presentations that followed, it became clear that quality education (SDG #4) is central to the fulfillment of the other local SDGs.
Interconnectedness is a recurring theme in this project. The action teams are aware of how the local SDGs and all 17 UN SDGs are related; one cannot be achieved without the others. Locally, we believe that the steps we take in our community will ripple out into the world in a good way.
By the end of the forum, the urgent need to reach our goals was evident. We have nine years remaining to achieve the 2030 Agenda — there is much important work to be done.
The project team would like to offer our sincerest thank you to the organizers, partners, team members, volunteers, speakers, funders, leaders, and event participants who helped bring this memorable event together. We look forward to seeing what comes next!