Engage for Change

The Importance of 'Indigenous-led' - The Spirit of Collaboration

The Importance of 'Indigenous-led' - The Spirit of CollaborationPinterest
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With the current narratives on reconciliation in Canada, there is an emphasis on ‘empowering Indigenous peoples,’ but what does that really mean? There have been countless initiatives, projects, workshops, symposiums, truth and reconciliation commissions by various organizations, businesses, academic institutions, and government - all dedicated to reconciliation… But, are they helping?

Reconciliation is a complex topic because it can mean different things to different people. For example, for residential school survivors, reconciliation may take on the form of an apology and restorative justice for emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse experienced in residential schools. For business owners, ‘reconciliation’ may mean creating respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through working together on economic development projects in Indigenous communities. In the Engage for Change reconciliation circles, every participant offered a unique perspective on reconciliation, which is grounded in their personal and/or cultural histories. As meanings of reconciliation can differ from person-to-person, it can be challenging to create initiatives and projects that put reconciliation into action.

What is ‘Action’ in Reconciliation?

It is important to acknowledge that Canada is in a time of ‘reconciliation’ now because of a history of colonialism and paternalism; where early European settlers set in motion plans to suppress Indigenous culture so that European ideals could flourish in Canada. Although Canada has a lot to be proud of today, this ‘dark history’ has resulted in an overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system and systemic issues with alcohol and drug addiction, among other socioeconomic issues.

So how do we create positive change? How do we improve current conditions for Indigenous peoples?

When working on reconciliation initiatives, it is important to include and champion Indigenous voices.

Although we cannot change the past, we can help to ‘heal the present’ by allowing Indigenous peoples to guide the process of reconciliation. Indigenous peoples have a lot to offer Canadian society. Indigenous knowledge systems have been in place since time immemorial.

In Kingston, there is a vibrant Indigenous community; it is estimated that there are between 5,000 – 10,000+ Indigenous peoples living and working in Kingston. There are many highly skilled Indigenous students that are currently attending Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, the Royal Military College, as well as the First Nations Technical Institute in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

The take-away message here is that there are many opportunities in Kingston to collaborate and work with Indigenous peoples to champion reconciliation in Kingston. Reconciliation starts with relationship building, understanding, and allowing Indigenous peoples to take the lead on projects that involve their communities, whether in an urban environment or in an Indigenous community. This means actively listening and working together on reconciliation projects. It also means patience. Reconciliation will take time. It may take several generations before reconciliation is fully realized in Canada.