Elder Marge George delivers a morning prayer during the first day of five in the last community hearing of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Vancouver in March. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press)

Tackling reconciliation: Group tries to understand Indigenous perspectives

Reconciliation is about forming relationships with local First Nation communities, says organizers

As Canada grapples with how to achieve reconciliation with Indigenous people, a group in British Columbia has come together to figure out how to restore relations person-to-person.

About a dozen people meet once every three weeks at Kristi Lind’s house in the small community of Naramata south of Kelowna to discuss how to build relationships, fight racism and support local Indigenous communities.

“We are learning how to be good allies and to stand side by side,” Lind said.

Lind has an interest in social justice and read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report after hearing a call on the radio for all Canadians to do so. Not wanting to read it alone, she reached out through the local library for others to join her.

The Naramata Truth and Reconciliation Group formed and has progressed from reading the report to discussing a range of issues including privilege, trauma and what it means to be an ally.

A major benefit to the group has been the involvement of an Indigenous voice, Lind said.

Anni Phillips, who grew up in Saskatchewan, is of Cree and Scottish descent.

One of the group’s first activities was to unpack their personal ancestry, and Phillips said it became clear that her upbringing was very different from the experiences of the predominately white and middle-class group.

Phillips said her mother, who is Indigenous, left her family when she was under the age of five. She then lived with her father’s non-Indigenous family for several years before moving in with her father and his partner’s family, who are Cree, she said.

“I lived in both worlds,” said Phillips, who testified about her experience at hearings held by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

While it was “stressful” to share her past with the group in Naramata, it was also a learning experience, she said.

“Growing up, I hid my identity in order to basically survive in this world because it was so bad to be an Indian.”

Phillips credits the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for changing her awareness.

“I started to understand more of my upbringing, and hiding my identity, why I did that, why I felt so much shame about who I was,” she added.

Phillips said for her, reconciliation has come to mean self-healing, rebuilding relationships with family and educating the broader community about the truth of what has happened to Indigenous people.

Lind said for the group, reconciliation is about listening and forming relationships with local First Nation communities.

Members of the group attend events or rallies hosted by First Nations and participated in an anti-racism march in the village, she said. They have also inspired two other groups to form in the Okanagan.

Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, said Canadians can feel overwhelmed about where to begin with reconciliation but there are many simple ways to engage in Indigenous issues, from reading books to watching films.

“The question isn’t so much what to do but how to fit it into one’s life and we have to make the choices in our daily lives to want to become involved and want to learn more,” he said.

Throughout history, Moran said Canadians haven’t sought the perspectives and ideas of Indigenous people, but that is slowly changing.

Reconciliation groups like the one in Naramata have formed across the country. There is also growing interest in Indigenous tourism and culture, and an increase in the number of Indigenous people in positions of power, he said.

While change can feel destabilizing and discussions around race and equality are difficult, Moran said it’s important they take place.

“It’s so powerful when we begin to listen to voices we have not been hearing in society, the voices of the people who are bearing the brunt of the unequal or unethical or unjust ways that our society is functioning.”

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Langley Home Expo shows off home and yard improvements

The annual event is being held in Brookswood at the George Preston Rec Centre

Winner announced in Langley Total Makeover Contest

Cheri McBride thanked friends and family for supporting her

LETTER: Langley cycling lanes sparse and treacherous

Bike to School and Bike to Work week is taking place May 27-31

Public invited to Alzheimer walk in Langley

A Langley seniors complex and a North Langley business group have teamed… Continue reading

OPP looking for suspect after Best Buy credit-card fraud in Surrey

Ontario Provincial Police believe suspect has links to Surrey and Langley

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Burnaby facility to dispose of 1,500 tonnes of Canada’s trash from Philippines

All 103 containers will be disposed of properly within Canada before the end of the summer

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

Man wants guilty plea revoked in 2012 collision in Abbotsford that killed Chilliwack woman

Michael Larocque was charged in relation to crash that killed Eileen Kleinfelder

High-risk sex offender released into Surrey

Earon Wayne Giles, a Newton “tag-team rapist,” was released from prison Friday and is now living in Surrey

Vancouver woman sexually assaulted after man follows her home; suspect at large

Police are looking for an Asian man in his 40s after the incident on Vancouver’s east side.

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

UPDATE: Vancouver man dies after crash between motorcycle, transport truck

Police believe speed was a factor in Thursday collision

Most Read