Thunder Bay’s Indigenous Knowledge Conference

By Lindsay Campbell

This month, people will have a unique opportunity in Thunder Bay to increase their cultural awareness at the very first Indigenous Knowledge Conference. This event will provide our first peoples with a platform to pass on their history, knowledge, and experiences to others in Thunder Bay and across the country.

Organizer Michelle Richmond-Saravia says there’s a need for an event that can promote growth in the understanding of Indigenous people. The primary purpose of the conference is to provide individuals from various disciplines with material that they can apply to their everyday practice.

“There’s a lot of history here and people are not informed about the history and how it impacts current social reality,” she says. “Thunder Bay has been through so many struggles, especially with the Indigenous community… I guess this is my way of saying ‘hello, let’s start thinking about government and about leadership in a different way, through knowledge building.’”

Dr. Leroy Little Bear

The speaker line-up will include Dr. Leroy Little Bear, Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Kelvin Redsky, Lorna McCue, Peter Moses, Jana-Rae Yerxa, Stephanie MacLaurin, Aleksa Sherman, and Richmond-Saravia herself. Headliner Dr. Little Bear is an elder, a residential school survivor, and member of the Blackfoot Confederacy. He has been instrumental in both national change and governance.

Richmond-Saravia says conference-goers should expect an atmosphere that is interactive with discussions covering a wide range of themes. As the founder of beSuperior Consulting, Richmond-Saravia has dedicated the past three years to creating spaces for the Indigenous population. She says the event will be an extension of her company’s mandate.

“We [Indigenous people] come from a different background, we don’t have that privilege. We don’t have that voice a lot of times. We’re silenced,” she explains. “When we remain in these fears of silence and not talking, and being second rate, we put ourselves in a dehumanizing mentality as well. You really have to use your skills and your strengths.”

Richmond-Saravia, a second-generation residential school survivor, says this event is also a step in the right direction for decolonization. “We like to think in terms of building the next seven generations,” she says. “I’m doing this work as a way to set a kind of precedent for change for how we think.”

The conference will run at the Airlane Hotel from the evening of November 14 until November 16. Learn more at