National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Today is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, established to honour survivors of the residential school system, their families and communities.
“The residential school system is a national tragedy borne by colonialism and propelled by systematic racism… Today is a day for commemoration and a day for Canadians to hope for a better future as we acknowledge a shameful past. Let us forever banish the racist ideology that allowed it to exist and happen. Let us honour the children who survived residential schools, and those who did not, by working together toward a renewed partnership built on respect, dialogue and recognition of rights.”
— The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services
This is especially important with all the tragic news that has come to light over the past several months. As I become more aware of the struggles of indigenous people since colonialism began, I realize how much I have to learn.
What I’ve Read
I’ve read a few books by Canadian indigenous authors that have helped to open up my eyes:
This novel by James Bartleman, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and a member of the Mnjikaning First Nation, was one of my first exposures to indigenous life – not counting visits to what was called the Huron Indian Village (now the Huronia Museum) when I was a child, and what they taught us in school in the 1960s. It’s been five years since I read the book so I don’t remember it in detail, but it certainly opened my eyes to reality.
This autobiography was one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read. Reading what Jesse Thistle went through at the early age of three was absolutely heart-breaking and helped me understand why he made the choices he did as he got older.
It was amazing to see everything he experienced, the fact that he survived it all, and most of all that he was not only able to overcome his addictions but to become the successful person he is today.
I highly recommend it for its insight into Métis culture, homelessness, addiction and recovery.
I’ve read three novels by the late Richard Wagamese, one of the leading indigenous writers in North America, but parts of this one take place in a residential school.
It’s important to understand the way that our indigenous population has been treated historically and the impact this has had on current generations, and not only here in Canada. We can’t change the past but we can acknowledge it and do what’s in our power to appreciate and support them in the present. For many of us, reading a well-written novel like this is a more powerful way of learning than studying history or sociology.
Indian Horse was made into a movie which is also excellent.
Although I’m much more aware than I was even a few years ago, I’ve only just begun to learn about the true history and culture of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.
Fortunately, the Government of Canada offers tons of learning resources on their website, including e-books, podcasts, audio clips, and much more.
Do you have any other recommendations?
At the few public events I’ve attended in the last couple of years, the hosts have begun by acknowledging that the land on which we were gathering is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishnaabeg. I’ve decided to add a similar acknowledgement to my Contact Page.
What steps have you taken to honour survivors of the residential school system, their families and communities?