Cultural Appropriations

When It Comes to Reconciliation

I realize, lately, that I spend an awful lot of time being angry.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, necessarily. I think righteous anger is a good thing. Anger stirs people into change. It stirs up emotions that lay dormant. And I feel I have spent so much time being so disconnected that being angry is actually good for me. I am forced to confront the feelings; I am forced to shout from the rooftops about what it means to be Native in a society like Canada’s.

But this season is a time of reconciliation. So for now, I’m trying to put my anger aside.

Last year's Strawberry Moon.
Last year’s Strawberry Moon.

The province of Ontario released a report today detailing 25 responses to points set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, released a year ago by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. This report detailed the atrocities done to and genocide of my people, and set out conditions that must be met if Natives are ever to heal from the effects of colonialism. And granted, there’s a part of me that is happy about this response. There’s a part of me happy about being finally acknowledged; the pain of my people finally held up to the light in order to move on.

But I get the sense I should be grateful, and I wonder why that is. Should I thank the province for finally acknowledging our plight when our brothers and sisters suffer in northern reserves like Attawapiskat? Should I feel relieved that children in Ontario schools will now finally be required to learn about residential schools and the despicable, racist Indian Act?

What I feel is weariness. What I feel is a sense of resignation. Because part of me feels that it’s too little, too late, when so many of us are still smarting from generational trauma, from the effects of colonial and systemic abuse.

So I made a promise to myself this Strawberry Moon.

I turn to what paralyzes me with beauty about my culture. I celebrate with the heartbeat of the drum. I lift my face to the moon and remember that the strawberry has two halves, like the human heart. You need both to make a whole.

Reconciliation isn’t about forgiveness, completely. It’s about the ability to acknowledge the truth of what is, and to solution forward so that truth doesn’t happen again. We can’t change the past. We can’t change what is. And the thousands of my brothers and sisters know this – so a lot of reconciliation for us is to be heard.

So I’m grateful for that – for the fact that we were heard and finally acknowledged after tireless work done by Natives and advocates. I remain weary about the work to come. Healing from trauma is always harder than burying it under the surface. Canada will feel the pain and the cries of Native peoples across the country while we work through these generations of continuous pain.

But my hope is that at the end, we will find the other half – the half of peace, of forgiveness, of healing. And our children won’t carry the weight of what our ancestors carried. Instead, they will find it easier to connect to the culture without the colonialist roadblocks that remain in place now. They’ll grow up with the soft song of our original languages. They’ll learn what was taken from us – what I as a Native woman am trying so hard to get back.

So when it comes to reconciliation, sometimes it’s about putting the burden down for awhile. I am so tired of being angry. I am so tired of having a reason to be angry.

I remain in hope that the tide is turning. As always, I keep a foot on the ground to feel the earth and my face turned ahead to see the path before me.

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One thought on “When It Comes to Reconciliation

  1. I wish you luck on the part of “our children won’t bear the weight” – because from latest trauma studies on Holocaust victims they know that trauma is passed on. 😦
    It’s a good thing that it is admitted your people suffered a wrong (more than one, if you ask me). But it is not possible to right those wrongs: Nobody can undo the killings, undo the pain and it would probably destroy Canada if the land had to be given back that was taken away. Which would cause even more trauma – as all those who made it home would lose THEIR home then.
    You are right that you have to look at the future. Your people’s voices have to be heard. I think your people need more protection and veto rights. But that is just an outsider’s view.

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