“We were put into a colonial school system!”
“I had a really hard time finding my identity.”
“I didn’t know much about my culture”
These were the phrases and words that really resonated with me when I went to view the youth panel at the Wîcihtowin Conference, I was touched by each of the four speakers in different ways as they spoke about “Walking in Two Worlds.” The young leaders on the panel were Allison Bear, Curtis Vinish, Jordyn Burnouf, and Rollin Baldhead. By listening to them I learned how hard it is for indigenous individuals trying to adapt to a society today, where although there might be improvement from when there were residential schools; many indigenous people still face so much stigma. I also learned to empathize with each and every individual that spoke and couldn’t help but notice a kinship throughout the conference room and a level of respect that every indigenous individual had for one another. I could also feel the sadness of their past when they discussed what had happened to their relatives, that had been forced to attend residential schools, and the rippling effect it had on their childhood. Although they faced hardships as individuals, their determination to make a change and better the lives of Indigenous peoples everywhere was palpable.
Something I found myself doing after this talk was questioning our school system. We speak of reconciliation and wanting to create a better place for the Indigenous students but we do not spend enough time learning about their culture and beliefs. I believe as a resident of this country, at the very least, we should incorporate more of traditional teachings into the school system. Incorporating these ways of knowing would go a long way to to show Indigenous people that, through all the injustice and wrong they have faced in their lives, we are willing to take an even bigger step towards reconciliation through education.
Canadian Indigenous people are incredible individuals and should be respected instead of being judged based on the colour of their skin, or their traditions. I truly feel that our society needs to do better at addressing racism as a whole to make sure that the Indigenous people of this country are admired and respected.
By: TERI THOMAS