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The Journey Towards Reconciliation: OpenText Navigator Interns Share Their Stories

On Friday, September 30th, Canadians will commemorate Orange Shirt Day and the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, honoring the lost children and survivors of residential schools and acknowledging the resulting generational trauma that remains prevalent today.  

The journey towards reconciliation, however, extends beyond one day and is rooted in action: the act of listening, learning, self-reflection, and transformation. And while reconciliation is an ongoing process, it is one that we must practice every day to help drive sustained change.  

The role of companies in reconciliation  

At OpenText, we strive to lead and advocate a better shared workplace for our employees. This includes fostering a culturally diverse workforce where everyone feels included. We have remained committed to having regular discussions about how we can be better allies to the Indigenous community, taking steps to educate ourselves and each other as part of that commitment.  

As we strive to make reconciliation a part of our everyday actions and priorities, Canadian companies and businesses are in a unique position to create an impact at a systemic level through job creation and the prioritization of Indigenous Peoples within company cultures.  

Last year, OpenText announced its partnership with Lakehead University to create internship opportunities for Indigenous students enrolled at the University. The program, which aims to provide equitable access to work opportunities, offered full-time summer internships for students to work remotely at OpenText in our Software Engineering, Marketing, Finance, IT and Human Resources departments. The first cohort of OpenText Navigator Interns had the chance to gain new skills, network with leaders across the organization, and participate in several unique events and mentoring opportunities. For many of these interns, this was their first time working in a corporate environment. 

In honor of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we sat down with five students from Lakehead University who recently completed their internship with OpenText to talk about their experience and gain their unique insight and advice. Here’s what they had to say: 

What does Truth and Reconciliation mean to you? How do you observe this day? ​ 

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is very near and dear to my heart; I grew up on reserve, so this is my life. One of the biggest things that continues to take me aback is the fact that even so close to home, a lot of people are unaware of the history of Indigenous people in Canada and how they have been treated for many years. I believe it is so important to get the awareness out there so that people access the right information and learn how they can help move forward in a positive direction. As a mother of my two daughters, I worry that they will be discriminated against based on their gender and race – especially as Indigenous women. So, if things get better, people take the time to listen and learn, and my daughters can live in a world with a little bit less discrimination as a result, I will be happy.” – Sheanna Bannon, Nursing student, Partner Marketing intern  

“For me, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is helping to finally reveal Canada’s history to most of the world as it has been swept under the rug for too long. To me, Truth and Reconciliation is two-fold. With Truth comes addressing and recognizing what has happened to Indigenous people and understanding our history, including how we were here long before the settlers came to Canada. With Reconciliation comes the acknowledgement of what happened and what we are going to do to move forward. I think at the core it’s about education of all people, including many Indigenous People who may not even realize what happened to their families because their own ancestors were so ashamed and couldn’t share their stories. My family heavily regards the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we are deeply connected to supporting our communities and will observe the day together by attending as many events as we can. I encourage everyone to do the same!” – Teagan Neufeld, Biology Master’s student, Design Intern in Creative Services 

From your experience, how can we support and elevate Indigenous Peoples through our everyday actions?  

“I think respecting the culture and providing inclusive opportunities wherever possible. It is especially important for larger companies to create and prioritize opportunities for Indigenous People. For individuals, education is a key component. Access educational resources, share them with others, and take the time to learn. In everyday life, it is about respecting the culture and recognizing the hardship and history that has affected Indigenous Peoples today.” – Nea Saunders, Final year Education student (Primary and Junior Education), Talent Acquisitionist intern in Human Resources 

“Taking steps to help ensure fairness and equality is essential. A lot of reserves in Canada don’t have access to the most basic necessities – like water. There are reserves and communities in Canada that are living without access to clean water right now. Something as basic as helping to ensure access to clean water by supporting local charities or contacting your provincial or federal government will really help support Indigenous People and the communities.” – Teagan Neufeld, Biology Master’s student, Design Intern in Creative Services 

Is there any advice you’d offer to other Indigenous students at Lakehead University – or any University – that may be exploring applying for an internship?​ 

“My advice for future students applying for internships would be to be fearless and just go for it! That’s essentially what I did, and I ended up getting this internship with OpenText even though I didn’t think I would. So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, I know it’s hard to do and everyone struggles with it, but it’s worth it.” – Tiffiney Strickland, Nursing student, IT Service Desk intern 

“My advice would be to keep an open mind and no matter where you land, if you accept an internship with a company, make sure you take advantage of everything you possibly can. At OpenText for example, I not only joined the Indigenous & Allies Affinity Group but also the Queers and Allies Network, where I learned a lot there too. You never know what’s going to appeal to you the most and at the end of the day, I think that everybody should do as much as they can.” – Sheanna Bannon, Nursing student, Partner Marketing intern 

What career/education advice would you give your younger self? ​ 

“Don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve always been that guy that was too afraid to ask. Ask questions, ask for support and ask for help, because you can’t do everything by yourself. People are willing to help you if you just ask and more often than not, you will learn so much more that way.” – Justin Jacko, 3rd year Computer Science student, QA intern in R&D 

Coming together in reflection and art 

This year, OpenText also commissioned special beadwork-inspired artwork from two of our talented OpenText Navigator Interns from Lakehead University, Teagan Neufeld and Sheanna Bannon. 

Here is what one of the artists, Teagan Neufeld, had to say about this piece:   

“I wanted to try and create a piece that reflects the whole Indigenous community. At first glance, I want people to appreciate that this is a nice image but understand that there is pain within the beauty of it. There is a bigger story to tell. I took inspiration from a quote that I came across in 2021, when hidden graves began to be uncovered: ‘They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.’” 

The art incorporates the orange colour symbolic of Orange Shirt Day and includes the image of a turtle, which symbolizes Turtle Island, an Indigenous representation of North America, as well as truth. The piece is inspired by Indigenous beadwork, in which the bead most used is often referred to as a “seed bead”.   

As we prepare to commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we are thankful for the opportunity to have learned from our interns and look forward to a continued partnership with the University. 

By listening to Indigenous perspectives and experiences, we can better learn, reflect, and drive action. From these seeds, there will be growth. 

Resources for further learning  

OpenText

OpenText, The Information Company, enables organizations to gain insight through market-leading information management solutions, powered by OpenText Cloud Editions.

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