Background Setting for Conversations that Matter
Nancy Wales, CSK on behalf of the Federation Ecology Committee
As we know, the various regional hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have concluded and the Royal Commission has released its final report. This comprehensive report offered its potentially impactful and transformative recommendations as 94 Calls to Acton. The Calls to Acton provided “a general handbook on how to achieve reconciliation within Canada.” Lenard Monkman, CBC NEWS
No doubt, our exposure to Survivors’ stories opens our minds and softens our hearts to the unimaginable and horrendous experience of many of the Residential School attendees. How-ever, coming to grips with the ongoing events of our shared Canadian history will require much more than just learning about the legacy of residential schools.
Owning our past calls us to create a shared future, which is “a multi-faceted process that restores lands, economic self-sufficiency, and political jurisdiction to First Nations and develops a respectful and just relationship between First Nations and Canada.” Centre for First Nations Governance
It is apparent that the task ahead is monumental both in size and significance. However, it’s important to keep in mind the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
An Important Step: Face to Face Conversations
Reflecting on what reconciliation means to me, and us, collectively, it seemed important to have a conversation with 2, local respected elders. Sister Margo and I met Dan and Mary Lou Smoke while working on a local T and R initiative.
In our visit with them, in their home, Sister Margo and I felt their hospitality and enjoyed Kana’talako Indian Cookies and lemonade. I came away from our time together knowing a little more of their personal journey of discovering their cultural roots with its rich ceremonies and traditional wisdom.
Dan is encouraged that following the process of the Royal Commission and the release of its Calls to Acton there has been an evident surge in interest among Canadians to become more familiar with the history, diversity, and richness of First Nations peoples.
It is significant to him that Western University’s Senate, among other bodies, decided to include the naming of traditional territorial lands on which the group gathers for events. I came away realizing the importance of this simple act as a way to include, recognize, and honour our Indigenous Peoples.
However, Dan laments that 100+ natve communites remain without access to clean drinking water.
Furthermore, in neighbouring Delaware, ON plans are underway to build a new waste water treatment plant which raises concerns for him about the future water quality from the Thames River. This is the source of drinking water for London’s 3 neighbouring reserves, Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation, and Munsee-Delaware Nation.
Does this water crisis of which Dan spoke not raise our group conscience for the need for us to contact our local government representatives to apply public pressure to initiate concrete steps to rectify the intolerable situation faced by boil water communities? Our founding charism of unity and reconciliation urges us to assume our personal responsibility in bringing about the necessary healing of the rupture in relationships between individuals of First Nations or Settlers heritage.
Face to face conversations with our First Nations sisters and brothers offer us opportunities to see our mutual history and shared future from new perspectives.
Dan and Mary Lou encouraged us to visit nearby reserves assuring us that we would be most welcomed. Many communities have gift shops and restaurants where we could begin our conversations. Let us embrace Dan and Mary Lou’s invitation and continue to walk toward reconciliation and right relationships.