On Monday October 15th, Shannon attended a spoken word event hosted by Halifax Public Libraries. It was a wonderful evening with Cree poet Rosanna Deerchild and local Indigenous poets Deidre Lee, Rebecca Thomas, and Arielle Twist. Over the course of the evening, the women shared their raw and powerful political pieces of work. Shannon was very moved by Deerchild who so beautifully captured the importance of poetry, stating, “Poetry is my ceremony. Poetry is my land, my drum, my smudge.” Each of the poets brought their unique style and perspective to the evening, and their words and ideas were so evocative and compelling.
During the panel discussion portion of the evening, there were questions from the audience about reconciliation. The unexpected “non-reconciliatory” responses of the panelists surprised the audience. The consensus from the panel about reconciliation was that Indigenous communities are still raw and reeling from the impacts of historical and ongoing colonialism; people and families are still dealing with intergenerational trauma and many don’t have the will and capacity to reconcile. They spoke about being confronted, after various speaking events, by non-Indigenous people who were overcome by emotion and who wanted to share their feelings of guilt and shame and embarrassment. The panelists spoke of the burden and pressure of having to take people by the hand and walk them through the historical and contemporary challenges facing Indigenous communities. They said they found it frustrating because so many of the people wanted to be comforted, and to be told, “it’s ok” so that they could go on with their lives unchanged. They shared that they needed to focus on their own community and family healing and that didn’t leave a lot of energy left over for reconciliation. They reinforced the importance of education as a vehicle for reconciliation and the importance of non-Indigenous people to take on that responsibility for their own learning through the many different education options that exist to support this. They challenged the audience to INVEST in their education and learning – both with money and time – in order to increase their awareness and understanding and to not expect it to be a simple and easy process. They challenged the audience to really think about reconciliation in a visceral way. This was really powerful for the audience to hear.
Shannon talks about the different approaches to reconciliation during module six of the Indigenous Circle Approach to Cultural Confidence™ and reflects on the conversations she has had with many First Nations community members and residential school survivors from across the country. She talks about the grief cycle as a way to understand the spectrum of approaches to reconciliation. Although there are some Indigenous people who are ready to embrace reconciliation, there are many who are not in that space yet. It is so important to be mindful of the emotional labour you are putting on Indigenous peoples when you are asking them to relive their traumas for your own learning, as this is a challenge for people who are still healing. Giving Indigenous peoples that space while taking accountability for your own learning journey is an important part of reconciliation – there are so many resources available for people including podcasts, books, movies and newspapers. Try actively searching out people who are doing this work, such as Sakatay Global, or others who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences.
We have heard from SO many people about how transformative the Indigenous Circle Approach to Cultural Confidence™ course is, and how important of a resource it is for building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. However, like the panel noted above – there is often little commitment from organizations when it comes to actually putting their time and money into reconciliation initiatives. People and organizations want to check their boxes. They want a short two or three hour cultural training session to then be able to say, “yes, we’ve done training!” The fact is…. reconciliation isn’t that simple and easy. True reconciliation requires commitment. A commitment of time. A commitment of energy. A commitment of the heart and mind and body and spirit. We didn’t get to the state we are at in this country in a day, and things won’t get fixed in a day. True change will require true commitment to learning the truth, and addressing the inequities facing Indigenous communities in this country. Reconciliation means understanding your role and moving forward in respectful and meaningful ways and that can only be done by investing in your own learning.