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Relationship to Reconciliation

In my work over the years with the Canadian Indigenous Ministry Committee, the word, relationship, has become one of the most important words I’ve learned. Relationship is the beginning of reconciliation practice. How would I define my experience and responsibility towards relationship? 3 things: Self-Inquiry, Community and Curiosity. My relationship with myself and my past - self-inquiry, my relationship with others - community, and my relationship with not knowing - curiosity. In my practice as an English as an Additional Language teacher, I met a woman who also identified with this definition of relationship. Lina Marcela Garcia Suarez is from Colombia and has lived in Halifax for just over a year. I’ve been teaching her for a few months and her reconciliation journey began with curiosity. Below is an interview with her written responses about her journey with relationship to reconciliation. 

What prompted you to inquire about Indigenous issues and cultures in Canada?

I think my curiosity was triggered by two things: the first one was the first email I received from the Faculty of Graduate Studies of Dalhousie when I started my doctorate. In this email the university claimed “Dalhousie sits on the Traditional Territory of the Mi'kmaq. We are all Treaty People.”I immediately felt it was my duty to know the history of the people with whom I share this land. That sentence made me realise that Canada is more than the beautiful place with a high quality of life that many Latin-Americans want to migrate into. There is a history before Canada and I discovered that this history is not so different from what my ancestors had and still have to live. I think the second thing that prompted my curiosity about Indigenous peoples living not only in Canada, but also in the Americas started a couple of years before I moved to Canada. In some point of my life I felt completely disconnected from my past, my roots, and the purpose of my life, so I realised that one step in the journey to heal my inner wound and find my basic nature as human being was the reconnection with our mother Earth (some indigenous peoples of South America call her Pachamama), and that knowledge that was stolen or forbidden to my ancestors when the European settlers came. 

How have you been feeding your curiosity?  

Through our lessons together, Priya, you have shared several resources like: The Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers, the MOOC course Indigenous Canada offered by University of Alberta, Tanya Talaga’s 2018 CBC Massey Lectures series.   I’m just waiting for the delivery of my new aquisition: Sheila Wari Whitebean’s book The First Holocaust: An Inherited Duty To Survive, I cannot wait to read it!

Which part of Indigenous history or current events has impacted you deeply? 

I know I’m not from North America but the Indigenous are the first people here. They are not my direct ancestors but we are all connected, aren’t we? This interconnectedness inspired self-reflection. Learning about the residential schools and the sled dog killings in Nunavut’s Baffin Island was really shocking and unexpected. I never thought that something like that could have happened in a developed country like Canada. Canada is a reference point and the dream country for many Latin-Americans and discovering this dark past and Canada’s journey through reconciliation makes me feel a little optimistic about the fate of Indigenous peoples in South America.

As a newcomer, how has the reconciliation education impacted you?

The more I know that Canada is trying very hard to make peace with its past, the more I recover hope in human society. I know this is a little step in the path to heal the old wounds of colonialism in the whole continent and build a new world where tenderness and compassion can be felt for everyone, I know it sounds utopian, but it is my dream! 

Photo provided by the author.

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