UCG Spotlight: Lizeth Ardila - Jane Goodall

UCG Spotlight: Lizeth Ardila

Written By: Lizeth Ardila, UCG Winnipeg Cohort Coordinator
Category: Youth Power

JGI Canada’s Uncovering Common Ground initiative creates space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from across Canada to exchange perspectives and knowledge in order to break down barriers and stereotypes impeding reconciliation. The Cohort Coordinators play an important role in overseeing youth involvement in their geographic region and guide participants through their community projects. Here we introduce the new Winnipeg Cohort Coordinator, Lizeth Ardila.

When I applied to the Uncovering Common Ground initiative in 2019, I wanted to find an opportunity where I could further explore my role within decolonization and reconciliation. However, my journey actually began a few years prior.

In 2016, I had the opportunity to go back home to Colombia for the first time since I moved to Treaty 1 Territory, now known as Winnipeg. I had enrolled in a university course called ‘Indigenous Peoples in Latin America’ which included a field trip to La Guajira, Colombia where we visited the reserves of the Wuayuu’s peoples. It was an eye-opening experience which exposed how little I knew about the Indigenous Nations and their history in my country of birth. That reality saddened me, and it changed my mentality about what action I could take moving forward.

Lizeth, fourth from the left, on her university trip to Colombia.

I came back to Winnipeg feeling a sense of responsibility to work towards decolonization; to continue to intentionally learn (and unlearn) the history of colonization. I began to read, to listen, to observe the realities of Turtle Island through a different lens. It was through this process I found the Uncovering Common Ground (UCG) project.

Do you know that feeling of wanting to do something to bring about change and not knowing how or where to start? UCG brought me closer to see the needs and the gaps that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and allowed me to put care into action. Through this initiative, I worked with an amazing group of women that just like me, were eager to learn and bring about change. This experience provided me with the tools, the resources and the freedom to be creative and work with my community towards the future we want to see; a place where we can live in reciprocity with each other, the animals, and the land. A place where those that were here from time memorial and those who immigrated after can live in harmony. Our country has perpetuated lasting crimes against Indigenous peoples, and we need to reckon with them and work towards a more just and accountable world.

Lizeth and her fellow UCG participants worked on a project called Thunderbird Rising restoring a local community centre.

Now, as a Cohort Coordinator, I am excited to continue working with the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada and support the new UCG projects what will be developed during the next cohort. I am excited to continue to forge relationships of trust, care, and accountability.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned through my time with UCG, has been from the teachings of elder Cat about the braid: each strand representing the mind, body, and spirit. Each strand is unique and brings its gifts in unison with the other strands. They complement each other and provide the perfect balance. Our society’s results-based methodologies can often distract us from creating long-lasting relationships where individuals can bring their gifts into the braid of networks and communities.

I look forward to continuing this work and creating strong relationships beyond this next phase of Uncovering Common Ground. I am excited to see how the next cohort of projects will carry on through each of our lives and, as a result, positively affecting the lives of our families, friends, and the people we interact with.


Photo Credits: Mike Graeme & Lizeth Ardila