The Courier

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The following was submitted with the approval and advice of the 4 Wing Defence Indigenous Advisory Group. 

As we marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation once more this year, this day is slowly becoming a part of Canadian culture. I ask myself how observing the day could be more than virtue-signalling.

In spite of physical distance, I keep in contact with my second cousin in Ottawa who is Anishinaabe, over the internet of course. There is the likelihood of miscommunication happening before any meaningful dialogue can begin to happen. However, if I am to have any knowledge of Indigenous culture, my second cousin is the most obvious person to help me in undertaking this task.

Another problem is in fact that until two years ago, I had not thought much about Indigenous cultures, or even in what way would be helpful for reconciliation. This is part of the hard truth. 

Nine generations of my family have now been born in Canada. We have no other natural home, and at the same time have only a single link to the people who have called this land home for thousands of years. Much of this has to do with the fact that our communities did not live in close proximity. Our contact with First Nations has been totally providential. 

Through the generations, my family planted farms and orchards that needed several acres to yield any worthwhile crops. This is not compatible with the “open range” emphasis that the Indigenous practice, or so I understand. Indigenous nations were not part of our community, and that meant that we did not have the chance to work together. That I think is the basic problem. We speak of Canada as a multicultural and diverse nation rather than a melting-pot. One unhappy result of this idea is that we have created manifold solitudes. We live with little or no communication with our neighbours. What exists of mainstream society has deprived itself of the wisdom the Indigenous have from working and living with this land. 

What can be made of this situation? Much talk exists about ecology and greening the economy, including agriculture. Could not Indigenous knowledge and experience help in developing or reorganising how we grow our food or even build our towns and cities? In these things could be found the positive way forward that our country needs.

All of this “meditation” is leading me to say that I am seeking to know what I can do to help with the work of Truth and Reconciliation. Gaining academic knowledge is only a part of helping to build a society where Indigenous principles and practices are part of everyday life. Those principles should be an important consideration in taking decisions about how we would like to build the future of Canadian culture. 

Any realistic first steps especially on the individual level, must be things like showing up for, and even helping to organise public indigenous activities. Taking the time to learn the history of the nations in the region where I live, and simply being careful to hear what Indigenous people are saying

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