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Truth? Reconciliation? Find Meaning in These Indigenous Voices

Let this be a day when non-Indigenous people listen and absorb. Ten readings.

Tyee Staff 29 Sep

On Sept. 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we take to heart the suggestion offered by journalist Angela Sterritt, a member of the Gitxsan Nation.

Here are 10 Tyee pieces over the years by Indigenous persons speaking powerful truths and mapping paths to reconciliation.

Canada’s Coming Crisis with Indigenous Peoples
By Geoff Russ

Are you open to understanding the depth of alienation felt by Indigenous people? Contemplate the perspective of journalist Geoff Russ, a member of the Haida Nation, who writes: “Unless this state’s toxic relationship to Indigenous people improves, huge numbers, and maybe even a majority of Indigenous people, will fully reject Canada in the future. Many already do, and they belong to the younger generations who will soon be leaders.”

Story by Story, Canada’s News Media Built Indigenous Oppression
By Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty

At the core of Canada’s colonial construct is the Indian Act, created “not just by politicians but also Canada’s press, each feeding the other in a vicious circle of denigrating stereotypes and justifications for genocidal policies.” Katłįà Lafferty, a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, traces the history and issues a challenge: "If Canada’s news media helped to bring to life the Indian Act, it can also help to dismantle it.”

Thriving Together: Salmon, Berries and People
By ’Cúagilákv

A celebration of the nourishing salmonberry grows into an examination of how western science excludes Indigenous ways of knowing. As ’Cúagilákv (Jess Housty), a member of the Heiltsuk Nation, contemplates the “stewardship obligations that are written across our lands and waters,” she concludes her people must constantly reaffirm “the choices we make about what knowledge becomes part of our systems, how it is passed down, and how it is actualized.”

For First Nations, These Are Precedented Times
By Hilistis Pauline Waterfall

Have you heard it said the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is “unprecedented”? Hilistis Pauline Waterfall, who is Heiltsuk, reminds that colonialism delivered smallpox, measles and Spanish flu epidemics that wreaked havoc on her people. “The removal of our children to residential schools far from home was also a form of plague. It devastated our people’s health and well-being as much as the diseases visited upon us.” Such traumas “forced us to be strong, resilient and adaptive.”

Wahkohtowin: A Cree Way of Living
By Andrea Smith

When Andrea Smith joined The Tyee as a Journalists for Human Rights’ Emerging Indigenous Reporter Fellow, she chose to report on how a traditional way of seeing the world and our place in it offers a path for communities today. The result is a series gathering knowledge from Elders and exploring how Wahkohtowin could help overcome problems ingrained in current education and child welfare systems.

How We Can Achieve Reconciliation Beyond Simple Rhetoric
By Emilee Gilpin

Three Indigenous women discuss the need for changes in education, culture and distribution of food and land. Diana Day (Oneida); Kamala Todd (Métis-Cree) and Dawn Morrison (Secwepemc) spoke with Emilee Gilpin, who sought their views when she was with The Tyee as a Journalists for Human Rights’ Emerging Indigenous Reporting Fellow. Said Day: “When the TRC came out, we were talking about truth and reconciliation, but now it’s just reconciliation. That’s a concern.”

‘If We Are All Here to Stay...’
By Judith Sayers

As Canada celebrated its 150th birthday, Judith Sayers, former elected chief of the Hupačasath First Nation and now chancellor of Vancouver Island University, got straight to the point: “If we are all here to stay, we must settle past grievances, resolve the outstanding issues of Aboriginal title, rights, compensation, and deal with the ongoing effects of colonialism so that our relationship can be based on peace and not violence. Big order.” Sayers, whose Hupačasath name is Kekinusuqs, goes on to define opportunities for forging that new relationship.

Indigenomics, and Why the Time Is Right
An interview with Carol Anne Hilton

Carol Anne Hilton, who is of Nuu-chah-nulth heritage, explains why she coined the term #Indigenomics via Twitter in 2012. Canada’s economy “has been based on the establishment of acts to be able to access resources that required the removal of First Nations from the land they used as their resource base.” Two decades of court decisions, however, render that dynamic obsolete. “With these milestones we have inserted ourselves into the reality of the Canadian economy,” she says, creating a need to incorporate “First Nations values, worldview, stories and relevance” into how business is done.

After Residential School, My Path to Healing
By Theodore Fontaine

Theodore Fontaine, a member of the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, spent 12 years in residential school. And the rest of his life learning how to talk about it. Throughout the hellish abuse, he clung to a tight friendship he credits with keeping his spirit alive, a bond he revisits in this and a second piece excerpted from his memoir Broken Circle.

‘Getting Back Our Dignity’
By Steven Lewis Point

In 2007, Xwelixweltel of the Stó:lō people was appointed B.C.’s 28th lieutenant-governor. Steven Lewis Point, as he is also called, served as an elected chief of Skowkale First Nation, tribal chair of the Stó:lō Nation, as chief commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission, and now is chancellor of UBC. In this piece written in 2001, he references negotiations that were just getting underway then between the provincial government and First Nations claiming rights and title.

Point writes: “We know there are no boats waiting in the harbour to take all of the non-Natives back someplace. We know people are not going to get on planes and say, “Oh well, we didn’t get this country so we will go somewhere else.’ The non-Natives are all going to be here after negotiations. And so are we. What I want to leave behind is the injustice. I wish that we could start again. When two people start dancing, they step on each other’s toes. Well, my feet are getting very sore, and I am sure that yours are, too. I would like for us to start again. That is what the negotiations are about.”  [Tyee]

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