Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF): local partners gather to reflect on funded projects and their impact

At a recent partnership gathering focused on the impact of the diocesan Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, Shelly Tootoosis, co-founder and director of the YXE Cree Speakers Society, spoke about the pimācīhitatān nēhiyawēwin (Keep Our Language Alive) Conference held May 13-14, 2024. (Submitted photo)

By Myron Rogal, Office of Justice and Peace, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon

The Indigenous Reconciliation Fund Discernment Circle in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon hosted its first annual spring partnership gathering May 24, 2024 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

In a casual Friday afternoon style, a diverse group of reconciliation supporters gathered in order to draw attention to funded projects from the year one of the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF), to facilitate networking opportunities, and to hear from the grant recipients how the diocese can further support reconciliation efforts in the wider community.

Four funded partners were present at the event including YXE Cree Speakers Society, Haven Indigenous Family Connections, People Bridge Advocacy, and the Central Urban Metis Federation (on behalf of Reconciliation Saskatoon). Also present at the event were parish reconciliation committee members, other individuals with an interest in the project, as well as members of the diocesan IRF committees.

The partnership gathering is one of four annual events held by the diocesan Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) Discernment Circle. (Submitted photo)

After a brief welcome, Dr. Gordon Martell, co-chair of the IRF Discernment Circle in the diocese of Saskatoon, began the event by inviting Elder Irene Sharp of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish to lead the opening prayer.

Martell then went on to express gratitude to the many stakeholders who make the fund successful, and to describe the unique features and mandate of the fund.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen presented information on the national IRF structure and impact of the fund, as well as providing a brief genesis of its evolution.

One organization was invited to share an in-depth impact presentation. Shelly Tootoosis who is co-founder and director of the YXE Cree Speakers Society spoke at length the impact of the recent 2024 pimācīhitatān nēhiyawēwin (Keep Our Language Alive) Conference held May 13-14, 2024. She shared the necessity of the conference, its development, learnings and growth projections.  Some of the unique pieces added this year were a youth stream and sessions that taught participants how to speak through signing in Plains Cree.  Participants were then challenged to become advocates for the preservation and growth of Indigenous languages.

Following the impact presentation, Martell invited each group to share how their organization has an impact on the local environment and how the various stakeholders present can further contribute to advancing reconciliation in the local context.

Partners present at the gathering shared information about projeccts and the impact of funding. (Submitted photo)

A rich time of sharing and awareness raising demonstrated the deep impact that the IRF fund investments have had in the community.

For example, Reconciliation Saskatoon shared how a significant part of their annual Rock Your Roots event honouring survivors would not be possible without the support of the fund.

Haven Indigenous Family Connections also offered an overview of their programming that brings families together through their spirituality and culture as well as offering practical life skills such as sewing and financial management.

Representatives of parish truth and reconciliation committees were among those attending the annual partnership gathering. (Submitted photo)

The next partnership gathering will occur in the spring of 2025, as one of four Discernment Circle annual events rooted in its covenant statement.

As Martell described “this is more than distributing funds, it is a work of covenant, based on relationships and sacred teachings.”

An annual public information event launched earlier this year will again be held in mid-winter as an annual opportunity for parishes and donors to learn about the fund.

In addition to these two annual events for partners and members of the public, members of the IRF Discernment Circle and Granting Committee also hold an annual spiritual gathering in the summer and a retreat each fall.


Myron Rogal is the Coordinator of the Office of Justice and Peace in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and a member of the Diocesan Council for Truth and Reconciliation (DCTR) and of the diocesan Indigenous Reconciliation Fund Discernment Circle.