People need to stop thinking reconciliation is possible through government rhetoric alone. Genuine action must follow. As long as Canada fails to participate in a genuine nation-to-nation relationship that honours Indigenous Land and Resource rights, reconciliation will always only be something settler people and their descendants celebrate through false parties at the expense of Indigenous people.
Imagine an Indigenous child who has embodied within them generations of racist, sexist, and genocidal colonial policies and laws, where their father was an angry, abusive, drunken, maniac due to racism, abandonment, abuse, and poverty, and where their mother was a neglected child, a residential school survivor, and a victim of sexual abuse. Imagine this child who has grown up in a similar context as their parents of racism, sexism, abuse, poverty, neglect, and hunger. Imagine all this knowledge is embodied within this child yet the young child is unable to express it verbally; all they can do at their young age is express their embodied knowledge and inherent emotions at the level of practice. After all this is what Indigenous knowledge brings to the table – that being that knowledge is not simply in the mind; it begins in the feet and body first.
Imagine this child of direct trauma, inter-generational, and multi-generational trauma goes to school and manifests their embodied knowledge and emotions of racism, sexism, and genocide against a more privileged white settler child, where they are then forced to reconcile their knowledge that is yet to be really understood, examined, and affirmed and consequently if fortunate enough addressed and resolved. In this context so-called reconciliation means the Indigenous child has to shut down their knowledge and emotions and who they are, where everyone is then allowed to ignore what the real underlying issues are all for the sake of reconciliation. In this context it is the privileged white settler child who gains reconciliation off the back of the Indigenous child. In this context reconciliation means the Indigenous child is not really a person; in this context the privilege child with all the material wealth once again gains.
If you think reconciliation comes from institutions and organizations with paid employees that are funded in part through the latest political rhetoric and dollars you are not doing the critical thinking needed. And you are patronizing critically trained and thinking Indigenous intellectuals who know better. Follow the money and you will learn you are being manipulated; you are celebrating the oppression of others; and you are complicit in the perpetuation of the pain of children who are pooping in buckets, drinking poisoned water, and eating mercury contaminated food.
When people celebrate their own oppression, or the oppression of others, this is the worst form of manipulation and genocide. Today colonization has become a celebration rooted in the lie of reconciliation. It is a party that makes some Indigenous people happy and where some settlers too are happy and benefiting more. Today reconciliation parties, like false generosity, are actually fake celebrations that may absolve settler anxiety and guilt. In this way these parties are rituals that are ultimately more for settler people.
Today colonization means celebration called reconciliation that will include only some Indigenous people because the Indigenous critical thinkers want nothing to do with celebrating their own oppression. Look around and you will most likely see the party goers are paid employees; look around and you will most likely see party goers who are seeking awards; look around and you will most likely see party goers who are looking for political appointments.
That said, if you need to attend a celebration to absolve your guilt, you can be sure there are Indigenous intellectuals who very well know you are complicit and they are hurt by your complicity. When you look at their faces you will see and feel their pain. Consider this transfer of their feelings the kindness and truth they offer.
Reconciliation will only be achieved when Indigenous Nations’ jurisdiction to their Land and Resources is respected. We only need to turn to the land that Canada’s parliament buildings squat on. For almost 250 years the Algonquin Anishinaabeg have been asking Canada to respect our rights through the framework of the Two Row Wampum Belt and the British and Western Great Lakes Covenant Chain Confederacy Wampum Belt constitutional framework. Despite our repeated request Canada is only offering the Algonquin in Ontario 1.3% of our territory, a $300 million buy-out, and is currently desecrating Creator’s Sacred Pipe known as Akikpautik and Akikodjiwan.
If you experience cognitive dissonance from this message this does not mean it is wrong.
One day I hope to invite you to a real party that will not celebrate my oppression.
© Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. In 2017 she won an Ontario Court of Appeal case on sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of Canada's land claims process. Recently she published Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit. You can reach her through, and see more of her work, at www.lynngehl.com.