The Canadian Roots Exchange National Gathering was a great experience. We learned how to achieve reconciliation, but also learned about decolonization, solidarity, and landback. Despite all this, I believe the most powerful part was defining reconciliation. We all draw on our own narrative and privilege to define it. This is one of the reasons why reconciliation is different to everyone; it’s dependant on what we, as non-indigenous people, are willing to give up to accommodate the Indigenous people who have long accommodated settlers of Turtle Island. To some people reconciliation means doing the bare minimum to remain steadfast in the pursuit of capital gain. To others it means being sure you treat Indigenous kids in classrooms the same way you would wish to be treated.
Reconciliation means too many things to count, and that’s all different to every single person in Turtle Island. In order to make reconciliation happen in policy, it must take place in terms of equal opportunity across institutions. Part of this begins with education, which is one of the most critical aspects of reconciliation.
In all academic documents it is nearly impossible not to be at least the slightest bit biased. Just examine the difference between US and Canadian accounts of the War of 1812 in history textbooks. But consider how academic knowledge is found. It must be published to be accepted, and for that to happen, the author must have peer editors, along with years of university education. In my understanding, this means that a person must have the privilege to afford to attend university, along with luck to find the right advisor to help them publish their document. This makes sense in a colonial system because history is generally solely accepted in published documents, although history is all, at some point, only oral. History’s indigenous perspective is often lost here, as it is generally still oral, but not accepted in the academic sources that provided our history educations in high school. Oral history still is sometimes not entirely credible, but it deserves to be cited in academic documents before it is forgotten, or even just pushed aside by the colonial education system. Oral history from elders is not wrong, it’s just different from academic sources. So why should it be excluded? Why should privilege control the way we receive our information?
This is why reconciliation to me includes the end of colonial bias, not only in education, but also in media, government, the workforce, and almost every aspect of our society.
This was my biggest takeaway from the National Gathering. But here are some other notable moments from the Gathering, good or bad:
1. I got some narwal meat for the first time since 2018. Tasted good.
2. Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, NDP MP for Nunavut: “When those Snotty Nose Rez Kids followed me on Instagram I almost lost my mind!”
3. A look into an average morning in my hotel room with Tiivi:
Tiivi: “Thomas, can you do me a favor?”
Tiivi: “Could you pass me a sparkling water?”
4. Our Isuma workshop! I helped facilitate the music section. I tried Inuit drumming and throat singing! People were much more interested in that than my songs, and I’m glad, cause my music isn’t quite as fun as throat singing.
This gathering was a great experience to reconnect with my Students on Ice friends. The gathering brought me out of my high school routine, and brought me back in closer with the issues I am most interested in resolving. I’m glad I got to go, and I hope it’s not long before I see my friends again.