Monday, June 21, 2021


Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day and it's time to reflect on 'Reconciliation'.  What will it take?  What can all of us do to advance reconciliation?

All the reading I have done suggests that the first important thing to do is to educate ourselves, that is those of us who do not have Indigenous heritage.  There is so much we need to learn.  If reconciliation is to lead to mutually respectful relationships we each need to at least understand each other!

I`m really tempted to leave it just there.  The 94 `Calls to Action` in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are central, but for me they are big, overwhelming and mostly directed at government.  We need simple first steps that the average person can start with, so start with just learning.

Learn about the Indigenous people who live (or lived) near you; that`s what I`ve been trying to do.  And learn about at least one aspect of the bigger picture - the story of residential schools in Canada would of course be the appropriate place to start today.  You can always learn about orange shirt day and ribbon skirts too if you want!


Like I said, I`m tempted to leave it just at that, but obviously the entire education system has a similar huge responsibility to provide some focus on reconciliation.  I learned absolutely nothing about Indigenous history through all my years of education.  Future generations have a lot to catch up on.

There are also much more practical things that must be done.  Indigenous communities need access to clean drinking water, and they need modern quality housing.  They need health and education systems themselves that match those elsewhere in the country.  We need changes to both the judicial and the welfare systems to remove discrimination.

And in the immediate future we need financial support for survivors of residential schools to find any unmarked, unrecorded graves at the other 129 former schools in the country.  Finding the graves of course is just the first step, deciding what to do next is a major challenge for the communities.  Archeological excavation is a long, slow and costly process and appropriate commemoration will vary at different schools.

In all this it is obvious to me that first we must move beyond the polite words and apologies to action.  We`ve had enough of those nice words from politicians and some church leaders; we need to see real action.


Are there signs of hope in this dismal picture I`ve painted.  Of course there are!

Along with orange shirts we now have ribbon skirts, thanks to 10 year old Bella Kulak in Saskatchewan.  she wore her traditional ribbon skirt to her grade 5 class at school and was ridiculed by a teaching assistant.  Thousands of women have since posted pictures of themselves in ribbon skirts on Facebook  in support of Bella.

The amazing resilience of residential school survivors is an incredible sign of hope.  If they can accomplish that, then we can do a lot.  The diverse cultures of Indigenous peoples across Canada is a huge reason for celebrating.  Those western totem poles are the things that interest me the most, but all Indigenous cultures have a rich history.  With mutual respect these communities can share a great deal of their way of life that is rich and meaningful for us.

Sadly the discovery of those 215 unmarked unrecorded graves in Kamloops has been enough of a shock for the country that perhaps we will now see real change.


  1. I will wear the shirt but not the skirt. No siree.
    Seriously, I caught a bit of a cbc piece this morning when someone who was retiring form a post sad that much has been accomplished in the last 7 years, but he foresaw anther 10-15 to make things more right. I think that was the gist.

  2. I went looking for Bella on FB and found a page for "Bella Bella" but there were no pictures of ribbon skirts. I hope that we can find a way toward reconciliation in the future. Thank you for continuing to teach me more about this sad history.

  3. I pray you are correct, FG. Thank you for this series.

  4. There are couple of podcasts available on CBC. I listened to an episode of Telling our Twisted History this morning - it was about decolonizing the words, discovery and Canada. Very interesting and definitely worth a listen. I had actually been looking for Secret Life of Canada - it was offering an introduction to the other. I'll be bookmarking these two to listen to while I walk - there is much to learn.

    I'm happy to see that many of the provinces are offering funding to allow the search for unmarked graves to be searched with possible identification of the children. It's just one step towards the reconciliation that is so very important. Thanks for sharing this information.

  5. I really think that direct contact with aboriginals on a personal basis is crucial. We have to get to know one another. We have to realize that we are people. We have different cultures .We have to learn about the cultures. The more we learn the easier it is to understand and respect others. It's a lot of fun to mix with aboriginals. There is a great sense of humor there.

  6. Well, we need more dedicated people like yourself bringing awareness to we the many who are poorly educated about all this.

  7. I'm learning more about Indigenous people from your postings than i ever did in school. Thank you.

  8. I truly think we are making progress! It's slow, but it's a start.

  9. At least you in Canada are beginning to deal with the legacy of how native peoples were treated, there's little sign of that happening to the same degree in the U.S.

  10. I don't recall anything substantial about indigenous history until university... And then it was because I sought it out.

  11. More and more it's becoming impossible to ever know the truth about our past. Not that horrible things didn't happen, but maybe because records were not always kept things get twisted over time, and we jump to conclusions for lack of facts. Here's one person's view on recent events:
    We're human, we all come into the world the same way, so why can't we just love and help each other, starting with ourselves, today!!