~Truth and Reconciliation ~
“EDUCATION is what got us here, and EDUCATION is what will get us out.” .... Justice Murray Sinclair
These are powerful words. Education is the key to Truth and Reconciliation. And I, too, believe this to be so.
After an emotionally charged conference - accounts of residential schools, survivor’s experiences, reconciliation gains and challenges – the Wicihiowin Conference in Saskatoon fired up the spirit within me, and I hope I am able to lead to that same spirit of reconciliation within you.
Social indicators and research clearly show that we have a long way to go in order to create a safe and equitable society for all people. We know that we need to continue to do more. As my own journey progresses, and I learn more about Indigenous traditions and knowledges, my heart and spirit are opening up to the value and importance of Truth and Reconciliation.
Let’s do more than just talk about ‘Truth and Reconciliation’. We need hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for a better understanding of each other. Hope for sharing with one another. Hope for all people to participate in the abundance of this great country.
Let’s choose to see the strength and possibilities we have in each other. We do have a choice. We can move towards healing and co-learning. We can be grounded with inclusion and respect as our guiding principles. We can live and work together. We can help and be better for each other. We can work to strengthen our own communities.
As I sat and listened to the many speakers, with my heart and mind open, I witnessed and heard survivor after survivor of the residential school system recount the pain, anger, and hurt that they were able to express from their life experiences.
At the same time, I was also struck by the resilience and perseverance that shines upon the many survivors who attended our gathering. It is clear to me that it is from this perseverance, and a genuine desire for a good life, that wisdom and strength of spirit is born.
One survivor spoke on the behalf of many survivors who still are not able to speak, and he said;
“We have more yesterday’s than tomorrow’s and all we want to see is less of our children incarcerated, more graduates, less alcoholism and drug abuse, stronger families.”
These are basic things that many of us simply take for granted. But this reality is so real for many of the survivors, their dependents, families, and friends.
Through the agonizing accounts of residential schools and the cruelty that these children endured, it is no wonder that people left such outrageous conditions with only shatters of their lives left, and with pieces of their personhood barely intact. Many of the survivors can only find a distant feeling of safety under the heavy influence of alcohol or drugs, hoping that the horrific memories may be drowned out or pressed far away. There may be temporary relief from this deep emotional pain, but only to return as sobriety begins to settle in and reality becomes clear again.
Many people deny that these experiences and events could have possibly occurred. Others feel that nothing can or should be done - that people and families just need to ‘get over it’. But if you, or someone you love had lived through such abuses and horrors, would you - could you - say these same words: ‘get over it’? I know I can’t.
Efforts were made by the federal government to discredit the claims made by survivors. Survivors were called liars over and over again. But these stories are not false, and hard evidence is available. These truths are very difficult to stomach and accept that such things could have actually happened. It is equally difficult to accept that the current lived experiences of many Indigenous peoples, families, and communities are a direct result of these historical events. But, my friends, this is Truth and Reconciliation. These are Truths, and by becoming more informed about our shared history and the strength of the Indigenous peoples and knowledges, we can be move towards Reconciliation, understanding, and respect for each other.
Here in Warman we have begun to take steps towards Truth and Reconciliation, making it a priority by partnering with other municipalities, First Nation communities, other partners and leaders. Guided by the Great Plains College and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, we are learning, accepting, supporting, and growing through these Truths.
Our Regional Committee is hosting its first conference: Rural Reconciliation: An Educational Gathering on Wednesday, November 7th, from 9:00-3:30 at the Brian King Center in Warman. Please come to this informational event, at no cost, to help support your own journey of Reconciliation. To register follow this link: https://www.greatplainscollege.ca/news-and-events/rural-reconciliation-educational-gathering
The journey towards Truth and Reconciliation may be filled with tears, laughter, frustration, and all sorts of strong emotions, but it is a journey worth taking. It has been for me. We have an opportunity before us, and not to simply neglect this collective work and personal growth to another time or to another generation – we are doing this is for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. Let’s keep our collective fires going and let the spirit also run through you.
“If you feel connected to the future of this country, and if you feel responsible for the future, then youneed to care about reconciliation for the sake of the future of this country.” .... Hon. Senator Murray Sinclair