Looking back, moving forward: Evolution of AME’s Gathering Place

A diverse crowd of close to 300 people filled The Gathering Place at Roundup on 21 January 2020 to listen to Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government, and Jerry Asp, Tahltan leader and recent inductee to the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame. Together, they shared the history of the Tahltan people and the modern resource business they have built to support Tahltan families in northwest British Columbia.

The record number of attendees who crowded into the space at the end of the Roundup Exhibition Hall was a reflection of how much The Gathering Place has grown in size and impact since its humble beginning in a noisy tent outside the Westin Bayshore in 2013.

“We had two very loud years in the tent outside the Bayshore,” recalls Lana Eagle, recently re-elected to the AME Board for a second three-year term and past-chair of the Aboriginal Relations Committee who created the Gathering Place, “There were big fan heaters to keep us warm and constant noise with the rain on the roof and float planes taking off nearby.”

Eagle remembers standing in the tent, a piece of infrastructure left-over from the AME 100th year anniversary celebrations in 2012, wondering if the important conversations about engagement and shared decision making taking place would ever make it to the mainstream program at Roundup.

“It did,” says Eagle, “There is more openness to share now, from both Indigenous people and industry.”

In the early years, says Eagle, up to 100 people attended the Gathering Place over the course of the conference, and most were already working on engagement or were Indigenous themselves. In 2020, at least 70 to 80 people attended each of the ten sessions, with the Opening Ceremony, the Tahltan story, and the UNDRIP session attracting over 150 people each.

“People want to hear these stories because it guides them,” Eagle says.

The setting has changed, too. After two years under canvas, the Gathering Place moved into a conference room in the Westin Bayshore. Then, when the conference relocated to the Vancouver Convention Centre in 2015 and more space became available, it moved into the exhibit hall. By 2018, it occupied a prime position at the entry of the exhibit hall and was featured prominently in the program. The distinctive backdrop to the Gathering Place is supplied by Hummingbird Events and features Coast Salish artwork.

The Gathering Place has also travelled beyond the Roundup conference in downtown Vancouver. In 2018, AME took the show on the road and set up the Gathering Place at the Minerals North conference in Houston, to reach a wider audience. The session was well attended, and Eagle would like to see the Gathering Place travel to more places around the province.

During one session at the 2020 Gathering Place, the Indigenous relations and reconciliation (IRR) committee introduced the new AME Early Engagement Planning tool, developed by AME with help from members of the IRR committee, and guidance from Robin Sydneysmith of Hatfield Consultants.

“The online early engagement planning tool helps junior explorers and prospectors navigate the complexities of early engagement,” says Sydneysmith.

The tool, explains Sydneysmith, helps explorers and junior miners understand the need for meaningful and effective engagement; understand some of the required skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to achieve that; and guidance on how to go about developing a practical engagement plan. It also includes links to additional sources of information and guidance.

The summary report produced by the tool helps to inform the development of an engagement plan and provides guidance on potential next steps, including more research, cultural training and relationship building.

Sydneysmith and volunteers from the IRR committee invited Gathering Place attendees to step through the newly created tool and gathered feedback on the tool. The tool is live on the AME website and AME invites all members to try it.


 By Kylie Williams