By Grace Goudie/YR 49 Canada – NL

September 30th marked a day unfamiliar for many on campus, but important for all.

In Canada, September 30th is National Truth and Reconciliation Day, a relatively new holiday for Canadian and International students alike, having only started in 2021. Truth and Reconciliation Day is a time for discussion, for learning, and for moving forward with Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people and the land the country calls its own. It’s a moment to recognize the wrongs the Canadian government has committed, and approach how we can make the future a better place for all.

At Pearson College UWC specifically, I feel like it’s an important event for understanding the reasoning behind our land acknowledgements, and for being aware of what happened so that we could be living and learning here on Sc’ianew First Nation land.

That said, I would like to recognize that Truth and Reconciliation should not be limited to just one day of the year. It is a commitment for whatever length of time you spend in Canada or on any Indigenous land.

Before reconciling, I believe it’s important to learn the truth. This is a very broad statement, and depending on who you ask, even amongst Indigenous people, it can mean very different things. Truth can be somewhat personal, or broad. It depends on the nation, the family, or even the individual. Indigenous people do not have all the same experiences.

My grandparents attended residential school and rarely speak our language today, while my cousins have been lucky enough to grow up learning Inuttut in the classroom. I think that it’s our responsibility as people living on Indigenous land to learn these stories – maybe not all of them, maybe only one or two. We have the responsibility to learn someone’s Truth, and even as an Indigenous person myself, I have the responsibility to inform myself about the experiences of those who come from what is now known as British Columbia. The cultures, traditions and experiences of Indigenous people are not universal, and shouldn’t be treated as such. It can seem like a daunting task at first, but I’m not asking you to read a full collection of Indigenous history. Start with a five-minute video. Start with an article written by an Indigenous author (well, you can check that one off). Start by getting out in nature.

Only once we start learning the truth can we start reconciling. This is a strange word, and maybe one many of you have never heard before. ‘Reconciling’ means to restore friendly actions or return to being on good terms. While it’s debatable if the Canadian government was ever on friendly terms with Indigenous people, it’s important to think about our own personal roles in reconciliation.

I think we all have a piece to place in the puzzle. Even if we don’t plan on staying in Canada after Pearson, in this moment we’re living and breathing on stolen land. We’ve partaken in the act of colonization, myself included. Now, what can we do to make this right? I think we’ve started off strong with education, but once we’ve learned the truth, what comes next?

Personally, I think change is next. Change through advocacy, change through lobbying the government, change through returning land to their rightful owners. This is rather broad, and differs from person to person. The next step in Truth and Reconciliation depends largely on you and how much you feel is enough to repair Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people.

We can start small and talk about 58 reserves that as of September 2020 had long-term drinking water advisories. Or we can bring up how many Indigenous people in Canada are denied access to proper healthcare services, how many Indigenous women go missing every year, or how Indigenous students are guaranteed access to funding for post-secondary education. In the end, the way you want to rebuild relationships with Indigenous people is in your own hands.

However, one thing I think we can all do is take land acknowledgements seriously. To make them more than just a quick mention before a house meeting or the opening remarks of the College Assembly. Recognizing whose land we’re on is one step closer to Truth and Reconciliation, and reminding ourselves of the privilege we have in being here outside of these moments is another. Don’t just speak a land acknowledgement – live it. Put it into practice and build a personal connection between you and the ancestral territory of the Sc’ianew First Nation or the original territory of the First Peoples where you now live.