A group of educators from St. Theresa Point First Nation showed their appreciation for a longtime ally with a custom-made tikanagan and ribbon shirt on Tuesday.
Stephanie Wood, the advocacy team lead for the First Nation’s school, and other educators from St. Theresa Point, met Strini Reddy for lunch in Winnipeg to honour the retired educator turned volunteer and Order of Canada recipient.
“He’s a very selfless person,” she said.
“It’s nice to give something to somebody that has given so much to everyone else.”
Wood and her colleagues gave Reddy the tikinagan, a traditional tool used by First Nations mothers to carry infants on their backs, and the shirt as appreciation for more than a decade’s worth of behind the scenes work that he has done for St. Theresa Point, which is about 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Over the years, Reddy, 83, has helped the Anishininew (Oji-Cree) community with summer literacy programs, winter clothing and boots, sports equipment and a number of book drives. The most recent resulted in 129 boxes of children’s books for the community.
“I have never met anyone that has such an impact on people,” said Wood.
“We want the spirit of the work that he does to to be part of our school system, for our children to appreciate themselves and one another, and to volunteer to do things, to volunteer their time, to be giving individuals, to be giving people of society.”
‘Being supportive in any way that I can’
Before he retired, Reddy was the first superintendent for the Frontier School Division, which operates 44 schools across the province, and made connections in northern Manitoba.
He grew up in South Africa during the apartheid era and said he was shocked when he witnessed racism and discrimination toward Indigenous people in Canada.
“I got very involved with working with Indigenous communities right from the time I was here,” said Reddy.
“When I retired, I decided this is what I wanted to do — spend most of my time trying to do some positive things, being supportive in any way that I can, because I have learned so much from my Indigenous friends and I’ve grown and developed with them.”
Reddy is the director of International Services for the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, and said Rotary Clubs across Canada are committing to reconciliation work.
Reddy said his work with Indigenous communities is not about getting gifts or recognition, but said it was meaningful for him to be appreciated by the people of St. Theresa Point.
Lyle Wood, principal for the early years school in St. Theresa Point, said books go a long way in helping with the community’s literacy but the relationship with Reddy is also important.
“We need different perspectives from different people and how like he has his own culture, we have our own culture,” said the principal.
“So it’s like those two cultures are meeting and we have to build bridges, not burn bridges.”