As you begin your journey as a newcomer in Canada, it’s essential to embrace not only the opportunities but also the responsibilities that come with it. One of these responsibilities is to engage with the truth and reconciliation process that Canada has undertaken. If you’re living in Regina, Saskatchewan, it’s important to know that you’re in Treaty Four territory. This acknowledgment holds great meaning, underscoring the Indigenous heritage of the land you now call home. It’s also crucial to learn about the dark history of residential schools so that we can work together toward healing and unity. In this blog post, we’ll explore why it’s vital for newcomers to learn about Indigenous history and culture and how this knowledge serves as a catalyst for reconciliation, paving the way for a more welcoming community for all.
The Truth and Reconciliation Report
Before we dive into why learning about Indigenous history and culture is important, let’s acknowledge the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). This commission was set up to shine a light on the dark legacy of Canada’s residential school system. The TRC’s final report, released in 2015, revealed painful truths. Over many decades, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were forced to attend residential schools, funded by the government and run by churches.
These schools aimed to make Indigenous children adopt a Euro-Canadian way of life, erasing their languages and cultures. Sadly, this period in Canadian history was marked by widespread abuse within the residential school system.
Calls to Action
In response to the TRC report, 94 Calls to Action were issued, with the goal of advancing reconciliation. These Calls to Action emphasize the importance of understanding, acknowledging, and respecting Indigenous history and culture.
Calls to action #93 and 94 are specific to ensuring the government takes action and works with different organizations so that, newcomers to Canada learn about indigenous history, treaties and the history of residential schools, as well as how updating the citizenship oath to include a mention of the treaties.
We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with the national Aboriginal organizations, to revise the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.
We call upon the government of Canada to replace the oath of citizenship with the following: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
Understanding the Residential School Legacy
Understanding Indigenous history starts with acknowledging the legacy of residential schools. These schools operated for over a century and left deep scars in Indigenous communities. Learning about this dark chapter in Canadian history is essential for you as a newcomer. It provides insight into the struggles faced by Indigenous peoples.
Empathy and Compassion: By learning about the residential school system, you can develop empathy and compassion for the Indigenous communities who continue to grapple with its consequences. This understanding fosters a sense of solidarity and support.
Historical Perspective: Understanding the historical context of residential schools will help you appreciate the resilience of Indigenous peoples in their journey towards healing and reconciliation.
Building a Welcoming Community
As a newcomer, you have the power to contribute to a more inclusive and welcoming community. Here’s how your knowledge of Indigenous history and culture can make a difference:
Fostering Inclusivity: building awareness and respect for Indigenous traditions and values can serve as a powerful tool in fostering inclusivity within the community. By taking the time to learn about Indigenous customs, practices, and beliefs, you not only enrich your own understanding but also discover similarities between your culture, traditions, and history and those of Indigenous people in Canada. This in turn creates an atmosphere of acceptance and appreciation, contributing to a sense of belonging for all residents, regardless of their cultural background.
Challenging Stereotypes: One of the most significant contributions you can make as a newcomer is challenging stereotypes and misconceptions about Indigenous peoples. These misconceptions can perpetuate biases and misunderstandings. By actively learning about Indigenous history and culture and sharing your knowledge with others, you become an ambassador of truth, helping to break down barriers and promote mutual understanding.
Strengthening Relationships: Engaging with Indigenous history and culture goes beyond knowledge; it’s about building meaningful relationships. By immersing yourself in Indigenous heritage, you can connect with Indigenous neighbors and community members on a deeper level. Sharing in cultural experiences, conversations, and collaborative initiatives can strengthen these relationships and contribute to community unity.
Here are some online resources to start your journey of learning about Indigenous history, culture, and truth and reconciliation:
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Website: Access TRC reports, documents, Calls to Action, and educational resources.
Indigenous Canada (University of Alberta): Take a free online course providing an extensive overview of Indigenous history, culture, and contemporary issues.
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation: Explore educational resources, survivor stories, and multimedia exhibits related to the residential school system and reconciliation efforts.
Native Land Digital: Discover traditional territories, languages, and treaties of Indigenous peoples through an interactive map.
CBC Indigenous: Access articles, documentaries, and multimedia content covering a wide range of Indigenous issues and stories.
Reconciliation Canada: Find educational materials, webinars, and resources promoting reconciliation and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
National Film Board of Canada (NFB) – Indigenous Collection: Explore Indigenous films and documentaries that provide insights into Indigenous culture, history, and contemporary issues.
Indigenous Foundations (University of British Columbia): Access informative articles, videos, and resources on Indigenous histories, cultures, and contemporary issues.
Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. (ICT): Find online courses and resources for individuals and organizations interested in Indigenous cultural competency and reconciliation training.
National Indigenous History Month (Government of Canada): Explore information and resources to celebrate National Indigenous History Month every June.
Indspire: Access educational resources, scholarships, and programs focused on Indigenous education and career development.
Virtual Museums of Canada – Indigenous Perspectives: Explore virtual exhibits and educational materials highlighting Indigenous culture, art, and history.
Our commitment to Reconciliation
At the Regina Open Door Society, we are committed to continually expanding programs that connect newcomers and refugees to Indigenous culture and history. Through collaborative efforts with various community organizations, educators, artists, and Elders, we offer a growing number of initiatives designed to share knowledge about Indigenous culture, history, dance, cuisine, and more. These programs, led by Indigenous educators, are an ongoing part of the goal of promoting reconciliation through education.
These learning opportunities aren’t limited to our program participants. We extend these valuable experiences to our staff, many of whom are newcomers themselves. Our staff events serve as a platform for engagement with Indigenous educators and elders, encouraging reflection on the significance of learning about reconciliation and this important aspect of Canada’s history.
Your Role in Reconciliation:
Please keep in mind that immersing yourself in Indigenous history and culture goes beyond reading this academia; it’s a meaningful step towards reconciliation, fostering empathy, and nurturing a more inclusive community. As a newcomer, you have the opportunity to actively participate in the journey of reconciliation.
Your journey as a newcomer includes a vital role in the reconciliation process. It’s a journey of empathy, understanding, and community building. We encourage you to seize this opportunity, engage with the resources provided, and actively participate in community activities.