Jeffrey Turner and Elder Verna McGregor stand in front of the mural in the DARE District. Photo credit: Kate Playfair

A gap is left in the circle, facing east, toward the rising sun. A new day, a new beginning, as Elder Verna McGregor sets the learning and sharing circle of the DARE6 partnership into motion.

The Weaving Our Way event was an intimate conversation to share experiences and build connections among the community regarding the DARE6 Initiative.

TD Bank sponsored this event as its first on-campus collaboration in the DARE6 Initiative, welcoming partners Nokia and PCL Construction in Algonquin College’s Nawapon on March 14.

“This was really an opportunity for us to engage as partners,” said Lee Rose, the manager of community engagement for TD Bank. “In, I like to call it a learning journey, in the spirit of reconciliation and decolonization. How can we relate differently to our communities and to each other.”

The DARE6 Initiative is a partnership inspired by traditional Indigenous governance where six like-minded organizations can come together in a unique collaboration central to open communication and unity. DARE6 is related to the DARE District, built to increase representation of Indigenous culture, teachings and history.

“DARE6 is a very unique and specific partnership opportunity at the college,” said Jeffrey Turner, the partnership development specialist of the DARE6 Initiative.

“The ultimate goal is to have six partners, right now we have PCL Construction, TD and Nokia.”

McGregor, a member of the Algonquin community of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, started the circle by welcoming everyone onto the traditional unceded land the circle presided on, introducing herself and explaining some of the histories of the treaties between the Indigenous people of Canada and the settlers who came to the country hundreds of years ago.

“I’d like to welcome you here today to our traditional unceded lands, and what does unceded mean?” said McGregor. “It means that amazingly enough we never signed treaty, similar to the treaties out West when they wanted to bring the railway over in expansion.”

“Our ancestors always talked about in 1763 the Royal Proclamation with King George, and the significance of that is that only development of Indian lands will be done through treaty, and of course, he ignored that.”

McGregor’s first job was working at Algonquin College’s bookstore, which has since been removed from campus, and later received her real estate license from the college. She worked in real estate for six years before moving on to work with TD Bank and the First Nations Bank of Canada. Now, she works at the Minwaashin Lodge, the Aboriginal Women’s Support Centre in Ottawa and is part of the group of traditional Grandmothers (Kokomisag) and Elders.

A feather, used as a talking piece, was passed around the circle where the members of the DARE6 partnership received the opportunity to speak and introduce themselves.

“The importance of a circle is that we all have our own journey,” said McGregor. “Our own learnings, our own understandings, our own history. In the circle, nobody’s above anybody and nobody’s below anybody.”

“We have everyone from senior executives to front-line staff, people who work at other places coming together,” said Rose. “And we’re all on equal footing here in the circle. So, I think an outcome is just connecting as humans, as people first, an opportunity to reflect and bring out humanity into the circle and into our work.”

The circle closed with McGregor singing a traditional warrior song and and touching elbows with the members of the circle, creating a train of people and ending the conversation.

“It brings a new perspective, and it widens the horizons. And sometimes too when it widens your horizons also sometimes it brings in new ideas and new concepts,” said McGregor about the event. “And I think it’s also raising a different understanding to conflict and conflict resolution sometimes because we all experience conflict and it’s how conflict is angled.”

A lunch spread featuring soup and fresh trout with brown rice was served at the end of the event, allowing the members of the partnership to converse and eat together to finalize the Weaving Our Way event.

To learn more about the DARE6 Initiative and the DARE District, visit the DARE District web page. For more information about the Minwaashin Lodge, visit