30 Sep National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Truth and reconciliation is a messy business.
It has to be.
We can’t surmount generations of systemic damage to Indigenous communities through colonialism without having complex conversations and taking the time for challenging self-reflection. If it makes you feel uneasy or brings up complicated feelings that is okay. In fact, that is the point.
What truth and reconciliation can’t be is just orange shirts and land acknowledgements.
We need to go deeper.
We all need to understand why we wear orange shirts – we need to know the story of Phyllis Jack Webstad. We need to try to understand the emotional impact of losing everything from your favourite piece of clothing to your cultural heritage, language, and sense of self.
We need to take the time to understand every word of our land acknowledgement statements – it cannot be rote. My eldest son once had a teacher who, on the first day of school went line by line, word by word, through the school’s land acknowledgement statement to ensure every student in the class understood what they were reciting each morning, and why. We all need to take this approach to land acknowledgement.
Finally, we need to understand the suffering still being endured. Indigenous communities suffer higher rates of poverty, suicide, and alcohol abuse. This is a direct result of generations of trauma and institutional damage inflicted upon Indigenous people. It will take generations of work to undo the damage settlers have inflicted on our First People through residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the Indian Act.
As I said, this is messy business. But it is the work that needs to get done to truly achieve reconciliation.
So, what can you do?
Before you wear your orange shirt take the time to read Phyllis’ story.
Before you recite your organization’s land acknowledgement, take the time to research the treaties referenced in these statements and understand that these were considered sacred covenants between nations.
Above all else, commit to listening and learning with open ears and an open heart. As the descendants of settlers, we have a lot of “unlearning to do”.
If you are looking for an opportunity to learn, reflect and take action this National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, we have created a list of some virtual and in-person events happening across our region.
Chief Executive & Philanthropy Officer
United Way Simcoe Muskoka