Content warning: missing children, colonial violence, Residential Schools
On Thursday, May 27, the remains of 215 children were found buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School through the efforts of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc Language and Cultural Department and ceremonial Knowledge Keepers. This announcement has had a significant impact on communities across Canada. Through the input of Indigenous leaders here in London, and from nearby Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Munsee Delaware Nation, and Oneida Nation of the Thames, we honour the simultaneous experiences of grief and community and acknowledge this moment of retraumatization, while also understanding that it is well known that many children did not return home and that such unmarked burial sites exist is not new information. In fact, not only is their existence documented in Volume 4 of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, but direct action related to missing children and burial information is also outlined in items 71-76 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.
We also acknowledge that many settlers are experiencing a range of feelings from grief to shame and many others in between. As an organization, we share a statement of solidarity calling for the implementation of the TRC Calls to Action and it is important that we, too, hold ourselves accountable to continuing the work of building meaningful relationships with local Indigenous leaders and supporting education related to Truth and Reconciliation.
Particularly, if you work with a settler-led organization, you may be wondering where you can begin with this work after any initial steps of demonstrating respect for Indigenous communities near you. While many of the actions among the TRC Calls to Action call directly upon different levels of government, there is ample opportunity to bring a cross-sector approach to advancing work against the 94 Calls to Action, only 10 of which are deemed complete by Beyond 94.
Is your work directly related to child welfare (Calls to Action 1-5)? Are you already connected to people and organizations working to indigenize this system? If you are a settler-run organization, can you share resources with or direct resources to Indigenous-led organizations in your community? Are there policy changes you can make or facilitate to support cultural safety and connection through a food sovereignty lens, access to language, access to community, etc.? Do you have a clear understanding of Jordan’s Principle, how it applies to your work, and how you can direct First Nations children and families to support?
Is your organization dedicated to health (Calls to Action 18-24)? Do you have Indigenous clients? Is your team sufficiently informed about health issues directly and disproportionately impacting Indigenous clients? Are you aware of partners in the community who can provide culturally relevant care? Have you built meaningful relationships with Indigenous partners who can centre Indigenous medicines and healing practices relevant to people from the First Nations near you? What funding and/or policy changes are necessary to support this work?
Is your work directly related to serving youth (Call to Action 66)? How are you meaningfully partnering with youth-serving, Indigenous-led organizations?
These are just a few examples of how to consider the relationship between the TRC Calls to Action and your own work. What you might notice as you dig deeper is the relationship between these issues and actions (for example, Jordan’s Principle, although listed under child welfare, also directly connects to health and education). How your work relates to the TRC Calls to Action will be unique to your organization and is, ideally, determined in meaningful and respectful relationships with Indigenous communities and partners and centring Indigenous Ways of Knowing. Note also that these are requested actions to change systems that continue to perpetuate harm and that distrust may arise in doing this work, which is why it is critical to move toward action in right and respectful relationship. If those relationships don’t yet exist for you, then building them is step one. We submit these as reflections of our own journey towards community-based action and reconciliation.
If you are looking for more information to learn about the experiences of Indigenous Peoples in Canada or to take action to support Indigenous Communities, please see the links below.
- Indigenous Canada Course - University of Alberta
- Our Stories: First People's in Canada Ebook - Centenial College
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action Report
- Yellowhead Institute's 2020 Status Update on Reconciliation Report
- Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls