We respectfully acknowledge the lək̓ʷəŋən speaking peoples on whose homelands the POLIS Project at the University of Victoria is situated, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose relationships with the lands and waters continue to this day. We also respectfully acknowledge the unceded territories of other Coast Salish communities and Indigenous nations across B.C., where some of our team members are living and working remotely due to COVID restrictions and to intentionally lighten our travel-based ecological footprint.
POLIS Calls to ReconciliAction
At POLIS, we are called to continually examine our approaches and practices to identify what reconciliation requires of us, what needs to change, and how. Our team is committed to supporting meaningful and ethical reconciliation with Indigenous peoples guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Reports and Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the laws, ethics, and cultural protocols of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada, and Indigenous peoples in other parts of the world.
We call on ourselves—and invite all people in our networks, especially those who identify as non-Indigenous—to join us in the difficult learning about the shameful history of our country. If we want to be part of healing and catalyzing real change, we must commit to remembering these painful stories every day, not just on days when tragedies dominate news headlines.
The TRC has 94 calls to action, and only a handful of these have been “implemented” since they were brought forward in 2015, noting that implementation is not a checklist but involves ongoing commitments with ongoing tangible actions. Taking to heart the advice of many Indigenous leaders speaking out at this time, our team has reviewed the TRC Calls to Action in light of our work and we are asking ourselves:
- What more do I/we need to learn?
- What can I/we start doing?
- What can I/we continue doing?
- What can I/we stop doing?
One thing we do know is that good minds and good hearts coming together are needed to make change. Some ideas inspired by our Indigenous colleagues are shared below. Please join us as we continue to learn how to be part of the healing, reparation, restoration, and justice that underlie any hope of reconciliation in Canada:
- As a first step, actively listen to the many Indigenous leaders and speakers who are sharing their perspectives, advice, and wisdom, and encourage others to do so as well.
- Consider speaking up. Silence can be interpreted in many ways. Consider if/what you can contribute to the public conversation, whether that is speaking your own words or amplifying the words of Indigenous colleagues and leaders.
- Support counseling, ceremonies, and other healing actions for Indigenous peoples, whether financially or by through understanding and making space for Indigenous colleagues to tend to their families and communities at times of loss and crisis.
- Call for action from Crown governments. We must hold our provincial and federal governments to account. Contact your elected leaders. Tell them to make it a priority to implement all of the TRC’s 94 calls to action. Tell them to require the release all of documents and records related to residential schools in Canada. Tell them to support Indigenous communities in their healing ceremonies and other needs to reconcile the findings. Tell them that financial and political support are obligations of Canada to Indigenous peoples, whatever the cost may be.
- Support your Indigenous colleagues. Be open to learn what is shared but do not expect Indigenous colleagues and friends to educate you. If you identify as non-Indigenous, do your homework and seek to learn from reliable sources, before asking others to educate you.
We compiled this list of resources to help deepen our understanding of the residential school experience, what reconciliation means, and what are the changes that reconciliation requires of us. This list is a small start and is continually updated.
The links below mention Indigenous residential schools and the ongoing violence committed against Indigenous peoples. If you need support, the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for people experiencing pain or distress as a result of their Residential school experience: 1-866-925-4419.
Testimonials, Statements & Articles
Building a Resilient Economy: A Cleaner & Healthier Future for Our Kids.
Governor General Mary Simon’s Speech from the Throne to Open the First Session of the Forty-fourth Parliament of Canada, November 23, 2021.
A Poem by Elder Raymond Tony Charlie This poem was shared as part of an online Listening Circle held on June 30, 2021, hosted by the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies and POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. Permission for POLIS to share the poem was granted by the author. The image (contributed by Kelly Bannister) is of Penelakut and Thetis Islands, close to the location of the former Kuper Island Industrial School that was attended by the author. The poem will be published in a forthcoming book written by Elder Charlie about his residential school experience “In the Shadow of the Red Brick Building,” available in early 2022.
Monster by poet Dennis Saddleman This unsettling and deeply moving poem was read by Dennis Saddleman during public testimony to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
POLIS Project Statement regarding the mass burial site discovery at the Kamloops Residential School. June 3, 2021.
Gatherings & Events
Listening Circle with Coast Salish Elders Florence James and Raymond Tony Charlie. June 30, 2021.
Hosted by the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies and POLIS Project on Ecological Governance.
Education & Action
SENĆOŦEN website tool to learn the traditional language of the W̱SÁNEĆ People
150 Acts of Reconciliation This list was published by Active History as part of Canada 150.
Every Child Matters: Honouring the Missing Children This library guide from the University of Victoria lists educational and scholarly resources related to the remembrance of the many children missing from Canada’s residential schools.
Indigenous Canada online course. This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada.
Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education online course. This MOOC from the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Education helps participants envision how Indigenous histories, perspectives, worldviews, and approaches to learning can be made part of the work we do in classrooms, organizations, communities, and our everyday experiences in ways that are thoughtful and respectful.
Towards reconciliation: 10 Calls to Action to natural scientists working in Canada. Facets. October 1, 2020.
An Overview of the Indian Residential School System (Union of Ontario Indians, 2013)
About the image: The featured feather design was created by Carey Newman Hayalthkin’geme (Kwakwaka’wakw/Coast Salish) for Orange Shirt Day in 2017. The design—a grouping of smaller feathers to create a larger one—is meant to represent that children come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re all important. In 2019, Newman incorporated the rainbow colours as a way for the design to be more inclusive of LGBTQ2S+ peoples. Newman is also the creator of the Witness Blanket, a 12-metre-long sculpture comprised of 600 objects and artifacts he collected from Indian residential schools across Canada. He is the current Audain Professor of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest at the University of Victoria.