Honouring Reconciliation

“I would like to recognize that today we are meeting on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe and acknowledge their contributions to our society.”

I was first introduced to the traditional territory greeting by Kim Pate, an incredible canadian activist who educates, advocates and fights on behalf of imprisoned women in Canada.  She begins every workshop, every speech and welcome with a traditional territory greeting like the one above. While it was only part of how she honoured the aboriginal peoples, it was an education for me, little Scottish girl brought up in predominantly white schools in Ontario where no one really ever talked about the First Nations peoples of Canada except in stereotypes with a very narrow lens.

"Learning" by Benjamin Chee Chee http://www.whetung.com/chee.html
“Learning” by Benjamin Chee Chee http://www.whetung.com/chee.html

I read Joseph Boyden‘s The Orenda last year. It was easily one of the best novels I have read in a long time.  The Orenda was identified as the essential novel that every canadian must read through the CBC’s annual Canada Reads competition. It helped me see the cultural clash between Wendat (Huron) and Haudenosaunee (Ojibway) and european people in the 17th century Ontario. It whetted my appetite to understand more about history but also our present and how aboriginal peoples form an integral and vital part of our culture today. John Ralston Saul‘s The Comeback is another book that educates me about the shift towards influence that is happening.

I am privileged to meet and work with many people, including the amazing Dr. Jenny Dupuis in our district. She has given of her time to educate me about what small steps I can take to honour all contributions and voices. Today, I have a better understanding of the cultural genocide that Canadians and the Canadian government perpetrated on all First Nations and the open wound of the residential school legacy. I am hopeful that it can be healed.

This year, I decided to begin formally honouring the peoples whose territories we now live and work on. It’s such a small thing. I used the traditional territory greeting at the graduations and farewell assemblies I attended.  It felt right.

Does reconciliation matter to you?


3 Responses to “Honouring Reconciliation”

  1. Reading your blog post, Sue, I realized just how little I do know about First Nations history and culture (and this concerns me). I’m going to read Joseph Boyden’s book this summer. Your post made me realize that I have to start learning more. Thank you!


  2. Hi Sue, I read The Orenda last summer and thought it was fascinating. It encouraged me to further my knowledge and understanding of First Nations in Ontario also, and I had the pleasure of teaching Grade 5s about First Nations history and culture this past year. I am interested in reading The Comeback so thank you for recommending it, and thank you for sharing about traditional territory greetings! I have been looking for some form of training around cultural awareness of First Nations, and that website is a great start. Hope you’re enjoying your summer!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment – I appreciate it! My learning around FNMI continues as well. I can recommend another great read if you haven’t read it: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese and The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King.

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