Indigenous Cultural Programming at Britannia – Building a safe, comfortable place, cultivating Identity, belonging and respect for all

As we move forward to a new season, the Fall 2023 Program Guide is out for the Britannia Community Services Centre in the Grandview-Woodland area of Vancouver. The centre is a space aiming to promote values of fostering identity and belonging, diversity, social justice, reconciliation and sustainability for residents of its locale and the larger Metro Vancouver region.

This season, those values are apparent through a wide range of Indigenous cultural programming like the Weaving Community Together cedar weaving program or other programs focused on practises such as traditional regalia-making, beading, weaving and dance and drums.

Leading the goal of cultivating accessible and inclusive programming is Ms. Annie Danilko of the Haida Nation, President of the Britannia Board of Management. Being of the Haida Nation and growing up in Masset and Haida Gwaii, Danilko identifies coming to Vancouver and finding a home at Britannia as a pivotal point in her life. When moving to Commercial Drive when her mother was ill, the neighbourhood and Britannia were important to her as it was like a small village.

“I became involved at Britannia and found the atmosphere to be so welcoming, so many dedicated volunteers, with staff so incredible and helpful. It made a really good first impression, as a who to go to in the community,” says Danilko.

Today, some of the Indigenous programming on offer this fall even holds a special connection for Danilko. She shares that Cedar Weaving is one her favourite events, having had the opportunity to make cedar hats with her mom before she passed away.

“Cedar, a part of our being grounded, part of our culture, the culture of calm and getting back to our ancestors. Or carving, the mind cleansed and bringing good intentions to the work,” she says.

Community Partnerships as a Britannia ethos

Britannia also looks to foster partnerships, like its Carving Centre partnership with the Vancouver School Board which helps students connect with Master Carvers, allowing them the opportunity to ask questions, build contacts and learn. But it is not just youth and students that are learning and connecting with their culture.

The Britannia Centre offers a range of Indigenous cultural programming this fall. | Photo courtesy of the Britannia Centre

“We have workshops and people in their mid-life, [in their] 30s and 40s, and also those in the Senior Centre, connecting with their culture,” says Danilko. “Their comments are ‘I’m so grateful to connect with my culture. I didn’t know I was missing my culture so much.’”

For Danilko, the way the programming is created is just as important as the programming itself. When it comes to communication with others at the centre, whether they are master carvers, instructors or Indigenous program assistants, community-building and equity is always front of mind for Danilko.

“It’s organic how we develop [programming]: ‘The community wants that. How do we make it happen, and how do we advocate for that?’ It’s very community-driven,” she says.

According to Danilko, Britannia’s committees and partnerships give the centre a voice from the community, where people can bring their ideas and advocate for new initiatives and new programs together, including an Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Committee.

“It really is organic growth: how do you get there, where do you meet those people, how to find those mentors? How we can get back to our culture, how can we help each other?” says Danilko. ”It is a working machine, not siloed. There is an interconnectedness.”

Overall, Danilko says it’s an ongoing process, that the Centre has to work hard to realize this dream everyday through challenges, through reconciliation.

“It’s a journey, we want to have inclusion. We are a space all the time for Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” says Danilko. “Britannia is like a family, with a positive attitude that asks if someone is having a bad day. They care enough to ask. There is a very human aspect. Getting along, making space, using our humanity to come together as a group and enjoy.”

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