Saturday, September 21, 2013

What Does Reconciliation Mean?- An Incomplete Thought

The question you've struggled with for a long time: what does reconcilation mean? 

You've wandered the around the Truth & Reconciliation event in Vancouver.  You've made an effort to hear a couple of stories and witnesses at the Statement Gathering, you've wandered through the education centres at the event.  You've listened to Kim Harvey and her rallying cry that filled you with inspiration; you've been heartened by Dr. Stephen Lewis, so often an advocate and fighter for human rights overseas, acknowledge the terrrible challenges in his own backyard and pledge to do better here.

You've strived to learn what you could about the histories and stories that make up the Indigenous experience in Canada because you are Indigenous and because you are a teacher attempting to uncover for your students and help them understand it, as you hope to understand it yourself.

More than that, you've heard your grandparents' stories of their experiences in residential schools, been forced by your twisted little synapses to visit the Kamloops School whenever you have been to that community; struggled and failed to ignore the ghosts there and everywhere that remind you that they never had justice, even with the rolling TRC events and lipservice that is handed out at official events and announcements.

What does reconciliation mean?  Restore friendship? Submit?  Resolve differences? You can't impose your thoughts on the survivors that find resolution and meaning with the TRC.  You can question the meaning to you though.  Intergenerationally, you are as much a victim of the system, though you would never cal your experience anywhere near what theirs has been.  You were lucky but you have had your own struggles. 

Enough that you look upon reconcilation with suspicion.

Has there been anything to leaven your suspicion, your anxiety or your expectation?  What has happened since Idle No More rose up and inspired you?  You watched the Federal Government ignore it.  You watched them pass the bill to change the rules around the reserve lands and water rights anyway.  You watched them change the rules around social assistance on reserve, pushing it to workfare; change the divorce rules on reserve- something that on the surface seems good but the lack of consultation is concerning.  You've watched as they announce plans to change education of First Nations children without the input of First Nations people.  You've watched them commit to Shannen's Dream and Jordan's Principle and then ignore those two issues.  You've watched them underfund reserve schools and fight against funding medical care for Native kids. 

You've watched as they ignore the murdered and missing women.

You've watched them defund Native organizations all across Canada and fight in court the ones that seek to get First Nations foster care funded equitably, going so far as to spy on First Nations people to try and shame us into submission.  You've listened to them minimize your concerns about all the new "discoveries."  You knew about the medical experiments long before the non-Native historian did, you'd heard stories, even into the sixties and away from residential schools but who would believe you?  You weren't there and you don't have the credibility that comes with being non-Native in Canada.  You've watched them block their own TRC from getting all the documents they need to do the job properly.

Reconciliation seems to mean get the First Nations to submit.  At least for Canada.  All the rhetoric has been around First Nations and reconciliation.  There has been very little in the way of discourse around the need for Canada to reconcile with First Nations as well.  And there have not  been a great deal of non-Native people at the TRC event this past week to help you change your mind.  Is submission what we are expected to do?

"Including First Nations"

The phrase "including First Nations" was removed from a supporting statement in a motion you were considering today.  You won't go into the details but the longer phrase was along the lines of "Canada, including First Nations" and it was replaced with "all Canadians."  This is a piece of the problem that lies within the complexity of the relationship between Canada and the First Nations here.  Not all First Nations people, yourself included sometimes, feel that you are a part of Canada.  Often you don't feel welcomed by Canada, ironic because your people were here first.

You've listened to the deafening silence from the Federal Government when Canadians went on a rampage of anti-Native rhetoric online and in the media.  What does that mean?  Further to it, what does the rhetoric itself mean?  It frightens you.

Are First Nations included here?  In the "All Canadians" phrase it seems to be that they are expecting you to submit to a more dominant force.  This idea is rejected out of hand.  Far too long you have had to submit, give up a piece of yourself as have your ancestors and all First Nations, to this day.  Settlers and Newcomers came to Canada, either as an immigrant or refugee, but they chose to settle here, meaning they chose to be Canadian.  They are allowed to keep their identities intact.  You were never given the choice, your family, your people having been here when the first non-Native person showed up here.  Why must you give up who you are? Again and again and again?

What does reconciliation mean?  You wish you knew.  What should it mean, you wonder.  Perhaps it should be the two worldviews and groups coming together to share their differences and to come to terms with those differences then step forward, side by side.  You don't know.  Kim talked about everyone, Native and non-Native learning the truth and then finding a way to serve our communities to improve them.  Dr. Lewis seemed to confer the idea of bringing the perpetrators to justice and to work towards achieving justice for the current challenges: the water, the economic servitude, the missing and murdered women, the racism in our society.

Reconciliation is something broken, you think.  It is a good idea but it is an undefined idea.  It is an idea though that needs fixing.

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