Reconciliation and how it is defined really has me intrigued, because reconciliation is different for everyone. In my reflection I would like to state that for me, reconciliation is a part of a personal journey. A journey that I am still on in terms of dealing with the hurt, shame and anger I feel towards my familial background and the words and actions that were said and done to me and my people as a whole.
While contemplating what to write for this reflection piece, I was going through some readings and came across a definition of how reconciliation is defined by a fellow First Nations individual in the book “From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools,” that was prepared for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Fred Kelly, an Ojibway of Onigaming and a citizen of the Anishnaabe Nation in Treaty Number Three defined reconciliation as a process and states “Reconciliation processes can be personal and societal. In the personal sense, reconciliation is the means by which one regains peace with oneself.” (11)
I am not afraid to admit that I struggle with both the societal and personal process of reconciliation because of the life experiences I have been through and have also bore witness to. I have been unable to ‘regain a certain peace’ with myself, though I am better than what I used to be. The anger I carry is at the emotional damage that was done not only to myself but also towards my people, and how the fight to get better and to heal is a constant work in progress. The struggle also comes in the form of questions like “Will I ever be able to achieve a certain peace within myself? Or “be able to forgive and move past the pain I feel towards those who hurt me in the past? I no longer want to walk with the heavy burden of having such anger, but saying it is one thing, action is the scary part.
This brings me to the concept of words, and how I believe words play an integral role in the reconciliation process, and how after words are said, actions need to follow in order for non-Indigenous and Indigenous people to be able to reconcile with each other. As a writer, words are important to me and I was intrigued by the reading “Words” written by Jeannette Armstrong in which she states “Words have been used to destroy, to cause pain, to cause the kinds of things that we see happening all over the world between people, between individuals, between races, between sexes, even between fat and skinny people. Many words do that.” (29)
I believe that words in the reconciliation process are all good but when it is not followed by action that is where the societal process of reconciliation goes awry. Armstrong sums up the impact of words by saying, “Everything we say affects someone, someone is hearing it, someone is understanding it, someone is going to take it and it becomes memory. We are all powerful, each one of us individually. We are able to make things change, to make things happen differently. We all are able to heal.” (29)
In conclusion I hope that through the course of the year participating in The Politics and Process of Reconciliation in Canada course, I can change my personal process of reconciliation so that I can continue to move forward in my healing journey and bear witness to a change that is much needed-being able to reconcile within and realize that I can be more of an agent for change, instead of staying stagnant and stuck in a place of anger that I no longer need to be in.
Jeannette Armstrong, “Words,” 29, Telling It: Women and Language Across Cultures (Vancouver: Press Gang, 1990), ISBN: 0889740275, 207pgs.
Marlene Brant Castellano, Linda Archibald, Mike DeGagne, “From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools.” 11, (Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008) ISBN: 978-1-897285-59-6