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National Gathering of Indigenous Steelworkers makes spiritual and solidarity connections

July 19, 2023
Image: a young woman in traditional Indigenous clothing sings at a microphone. Behind her is a stand-up banner with text: Recognize Reconnaître, Accept Accepter, Support Appuyer as well as an Indigenous medicine wheel symbol

The third National Gathering of Indigenous Steelworkers drew more than 120 USW members and guests to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in October 2022, to reinforce our union’s commitment to advancing the rights of Indigenous workers and communities.

Steelworkers were honoured to be welcomed by Chief Dean Sayers of the Batchewana First Nation and Chief Andy Rickard of the Garden River First Nation.

Participants discussed steps to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse persons, and learned about the efforts of local unions to engage with their Indigenous members and their Indigenous neighbours.

The gathering was a meaningful experience for delegates including Chelsea Olar, a Métis woman, NextGen Steelworker and activist with USW Local 2251 in Sault Ste. Marie. It provided a safe space that allowed her to share her story of traumatic personal experiences and how those events were connected with her Indigenous identity, Olar said.

“It was a warm, welcoming environment,” she said. “The experience was spiritually overwhelming.”

USW National Director Marty Warren said the National Gathering was “one of the most inspiring events I’ve experienced in my role as National Director.

“It demonstrated the important work the National Indigenous Committee is doing to engage and educate our members, staff and leadership, and to build relationships outside of our organization.”

This article appears in the Summer 2023 issue of USW@Work magazine.

USW@Work magazine Summer 2023

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