Truth and Reconciliation reveals the long and often painful history behind Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples, particularly the legacy of trauma associated with the residential school system. As difficult as the details may be to learn and talk about, the concept of “truth” is, at the very least, a simple concept for most of us to comprehend. Reconciliation, on the other hand, can be more complicated—as it  often means different things to different people (and peoples). The dictionary definition of the word is: “the restoration of friendly relations”, which falls tragically short when applied to the process of colonization in Canada and the forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples.

Within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC)—which was established to educate the public on the impact of the residential school system and released a final report in 2015—reconciliation is more about the creation of a new relationship with Indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Though we may desire to simply “put the past behind us” so that we can work towards a stronger and healthier future, the process is considerably more complex than that.

We spoke with Piikani Blackfoot Elder, Dr. Reg Crowshoe, to get his thoughts on moving forward with reconciliation in the post-TRC era. Here are three of his most compelling thoughts on the subject.

  1. Today’s Indigenous youth should be well-versed in both the ways of the mainstream system and traditional Indigenous culture. Through assimilation and intergenerational trauma, Dr. Crowshoe believes that young people have become heavily influenced by the mainstream culture. In his view, there is a need to help youth embrace their Indigenous culture and oral practices in order to instill in them the confidence, strength, and resiliency to operate confidently in both worlds.
  2. Indigenous people need reconciliation amongst themselves. While Dr. Crowshoe believes that reconciliation within the context of Canada as a nation is possible, he calls first for reconciliation amongst Indigenous individuals and families, and creating an understanding of what the two systems (mainstream and Indigenous) have in common so that we can work together for positive social change
  3. Stories, language and Elders are valuable resources. The oral system carries important lessons and transmits vital values from one generation to the next—as long as it is permitted to flourish. As Elders leave this world, that resource of traditional knowledge is slowly depleting. Dr. Crowshoe believes that the oral system should be considered right alongside the writings and teachings of the mainstream system, so that traditional knowledge can be harvested for the resilience of young people. Rather than locking out the Elders, the smudge and the circle, Dr. Crowshoe would like to see these practices embraced and protected by our country’s policies.

Read more about the #UNIGNORABLE issue of intergenerational trauma that affects individuals and families in the Calgary area today.