The recent discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has led many in the CNC community to reflect and ask, “What can I do?”
Many wish to show their support for First Peoples and build respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals. However, taking meaningful steps is vital to acknowledge harm and move forward in a positive way.
Three leaders in the CNC community offered their perspectives on steps that non-Indigenous people can take to support their Indigenous friends and colleagues. They include:
- Marlene Erickson, Executive Director of Aboriginal Education. She is Nak'azdli Whut’en and a member of the Lusilyoo (Frog) Clan;
- Corinne George, Regional Principal for CNC’s Lakes District Campus. Corinne is Witsuwit’en and from the Gidimt’en (Bear) Clan; and
- Troy Morin, Regional Principal for CNC’s campuses in Vanderhoof and Ft St James. Troy is Witsuwit’en and from the Laksilyu (Small Frog) Clan.
“There are many ways to learn about Indigenous history and issues, both locally and across Canada,” said Marlene. “One can read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action and advocate for their implementation. There are many excellent books about residential school experiences and their inter-generational impacts. Find ways to build relationships with the communities CNC serves.”
In addition to courses one can take at CNC, Marlene recommends the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada: a massive open on-line course exploring Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. The free course is available on-line, and takes approximately 12 weeks to complete.
She also recommends working towards systemic change by identifying and removing the barriers that continue to marginalize Indigenous peoples.
Create an ally and become one
“Speak with a friend or a family member about what you have learned and why it is important to you,” said Troy. “Share what you have learned with someone who may not know this information. The creation of allies in our country will help us move forward with all actions around reconciliation.
“It is important to be respectfully curious throughout your journey,” Troy added. “You have many resources available to you: read information, ask questions, learn stories and be open minded.”
Listen without judgement
“A friend said the greatest gift you can give anyone is to listen,” said Corinne. “In a CNC seminar on decolonizing education, I explained that I was grateful to be heard without folks proclaiming that they know what is best for me.
“After all, that concept of thinking that those who knew what was best for Aboriginal people was central to this historical circumstance.”