My K-12 education included pieces of Indigenous history every year, but the information offered was very surface level. The history we learned always started at the time of European contact and was told from the perspective of the colonizers. Due to this, I had a lack of understanding surrounding First Nations people’s place in history and the colonization of Canada as well as almost no knowledge of different First Nations groups or cultures. I felt like the primary focus of our education was on Residential Schools. One opportunity I had in elementary school was having a survivor come to our class and talk very openly about the horrors he lived through. I was very young when I was exposed to the truth behind Residential Schools which I think shaped my process of uncovering the truth and helping to reconcile. Being aware of these truths young helped me come to terms with my emotions easier when we watched movies and read stories from survivors later in my education.
One area I’ve focused my adult learning on has been the generational consequences Canada’s actions have caused. This has been one of the most important aspects of my journey towards reconciliation as it has helped me put the trauma into perspective. As a white person, it’s easy for me to brush things off and claim it’s all in the past or put blame on individuals for not “working harder” or “getting help”. Being able to understand how the system in many cases works against Indigenous people has helped me understand the importance of using my privileged position to help reconcile and build a society that values all its citizens. Another area I’ve been able to learn more about is Indigenous history from an Indigenous perspective. Before now my knowledge of pre-contact First Nations life has been almost nothing. Building on my understanding of Indigenous history has helped me realize how intentionally or not my education has been solely from a Western perspective and that because of this my view on my country has been incomplete.
The Truth and reconciliation booklet to me was about uncovering the truth behind Residential Schools and the impact they’ve had. Reading through the sadness, horror, and disappointment of the students was something I related to. I find it hard at times to put my feelings of guilt and sadness aside and work on building my understanding of how to do better in the future. Hearing the truth behind a country whose identity surrounds being inclusive and kind to all wasn’t an easy thing to accept. I found myself trying to make excuses for why Canada was better now and how we treated our Indigenous people better, but ignoring the truth does nothing but allow myself to be ignorant to the continued issues faced by Indigenous people. One quote from the booklet that stood out to me was, “I hope you don’t forget the promise you made to the TRC telling them you agreed to do the recommendations they had planned for you to do because we are all still waiting for that to happen.” While this quote was directed at the government, I feel it’s also something I can apply to myself. Allowing myself to sit back and ignore issues is a demonstration of my privilege as a white person and I need to work on applying everything I’ve learned so I can help in the process of reconciliation. At this point in my journey, I’d like to learn more about how I can be a better ally as well as how I can properly help decolonize our education system. One of the things I still struggle with is how to appropriately incorporate Indigenous knowledge and history into things since most of my life has been learning through a Western perspective.