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New nonprofit aims to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous people

Written By Paula Brown

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two Dufferin County residents have teamed up to introduce a new not-for-profit organization aimed at joining the local Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together. 

Sharon Rigby and Julie Elsdon-Height have launched The Brave Canoe, a community-based not-for-profit organization that looks to bring the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities of Dufferin County together to learn, grow and heal. 

“Our mission is to bridge communities, enrich lives, and promote wellbeing within Dufferin County by revitalizing and understanding Indigenous history, culture and traditions,” said co-founder Rigby. 

Rigby and Elsdon-Height began the development 

for The Brave Canoe in 2022 after meeting at various community engagements and striking up conversations surrounding local Indigenous representation. 

Rigby is an Indigenous community leader, who works as an educator with the Peel District School Board's Maawnjiding Wiingushkeng Indigenous Centre in Caledon. Elsdon-Height, who is non-Indigenous, is an experienced figure in community development and a soon-to-be graduate of Laurentian University's Indigenous Social Work program. 

After more than a year of work, the duo announced the official launch of The Brave Canoe last Thursday (Feb. 1). 

The overall goal of The Brave Canoe is to be a leader in Indigenous cultural resurgence and community healing in Dufferin County by fostering a space that promotes Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching and approaches that enhance the cultural fabric of the community. 

The foundation of The Brave Canoe is grounded in the Two-Eyed Seeing approach, a term coined by Mi'kmaq Elders which utilizes both Western and Indigenous knowledge. 

Speaking with the Free Press, Rigby noted the importance of providing a space for Indigenous voices. 

“We have Indigenous [peoples] in the community of Dufferin County that possess a wealth of knowledge and skills. We really would like to have the opportunity to pass on the knowledge of the Indigenous ways of knowing that would help the County,” said Rigby. “Right now, we're taking reconciliation and making it reconcili-‘action'. 

Elsdon-Height added the importance of having a space from a non-Indigenous perspective, particularly in addressing reconciliation. 

“It's important to understand how colonization has affected our understating of the Indigenous experience in Canada. The action of opening such as place in Dufferin aims to decolonize the thinking and perspective of all people here,” she continued. “As a non-Indigenous person, we've become more informed and may of us seek to be effective allies. In order to do so, we have to decolonize our thinking and embrace diversity, which The Brave Canoe allows us to do.” 

Throughout 2024, The Brave Canoe will be offering a range of educational, cultural and wellbeing services to Dufferin County residents, including Indigenous history education, workshops, ceremonies, community educational sessions, community events, and therapeutic healing services. 

Educational programs will consist of drumming, beading, and sewing classes for youth circles as well as workshops for seniors. 

Upcoming events the not-for-profit plans to host include an evening vigil on May 5 in recognition of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirited, a celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day on June 15 and Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30.  

The Brave Canoe is governed by an Indigenous Board of Directors, which consists of three members – Kristi Bhogal, Monica Caleta, and Maryam Ismail – as well as an Indigenous Elder advisor, Shelley Charles. 

“There's an absence, often of a feeling of community and The Brave Canoe seeks to create a community as a whole; between nations and cultures. This is an invitation to participate, to be heard, to be seen, and to be included all while being there to learn,” said Elsdon-Height. 

To learn more about the Brave Canoe visit their website at or Instagram @thebravecanoe. The local not-for-profit can be contacted by emailing 

Post date: 2024-02-08 12:44:13
Post date GMT: 2024-02-08 17:44:13
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