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Experiencing Truth and Reconciliation

December 13, 2017

By Vashti Boateng

Valerie Kerr, archdeacon for truth, reconciliation and indigenous ministry for the Anglican Diocese of Niagara

The term “Truth and Reconciliation” is thrown around a lot both in the media and in general conversation and I often have to ask myself: What does that term really mean? How to we actively engage through our personal and professional lives in the work of Truth and Reconciliation?

It’s important to note that “Truth” comes before “Reconciliation”. Both of these things can be explored at the same time but in order to break apart colonial structures, we have to start by listening and learning. And that’s where the KAIROS “Blanket Exercise” and the PWRDF “Mapping the Ground We Stand On” exercise come in.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of participating in both of these exercises and each have impacted me in different ways:

KAIROS Blanket Exercise: In the blanket exercise, participants step into the shoes of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island. The experiential experience takes participants through the history of settlement, reserves, residential schools, the 60s scoop, stories from today and hopes for the future. The exercise is followed by a sharing circle.

https://www.kairoscanada.org/what-we-do/indigenous-rights/blanket-exercise

PWRDF Mapping the Ground We Stand On: In this exercise, participants trace their own family history and relationship to Turtle Island. The exercise walks participants through the waves of immigration to Canada and the impacts that this has had on Indigenous peoples. It also explores the concept of terra nullius or empty land. The exercise is followed by a sharing circle.

http://pwrdf.org/2017/mapping-a-future-of-reconciliation/

Both of these exercises open up the space for deep conversation and reflection about our country’s past and the next steps forward. So what are the next steps forward? It’s a hard question but some responses I received through the exercises were:

  • It starts with relationships. If you don’t have an Indigenous friend, ask yourself why. Connect with the Indigenous peoples where you live. Find out what Indigenous peoples are working towards and stand beside them as an ally.
  • Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) Calls to Action (http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf). Find a couple points that resonate with you and work towards them.
  • Inform yourself about local, provincial and national politics and vote for political leaders who will respect and support the rights of Indigenous peoples.
  • It’s a learning process. Inform yourself the best you can. Try your best and if you make a mistake, apologize and try again.

Together, let’s take positive steps towards open and meaningful Truth and Reconciliation.

– Jessica Steele, Chair of Resources Committee, currently residing in Vancouver on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples

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