Friday, July 29, 2016

Ideas for Truth and Reconciliation Work

In her famous article, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, Peggy MacIntosh offers a concrete list of ways in which white privilege manifests itself. The beauty of the list is that it can help people see the multiple concrete places in which privilege is present in their everyday lives in things as small as the colour of the band aid they put on their skin or the look of dolls that can be purchased for young people.

One of the challenges of Truth and Reconciliation Report work is that it can feel overwhelming in the same ways that white privilege can seem impossible to change. I have taken inspiration in my own life from the work of Ursula Franklin who talks about the earthworm theory of social change and the quiet ways that change in the world really happens. She reminds us that the most important work people can do is in the circles of their own lives and in multiple, small, concrete actions. Here is our preliminary list of small concrete actions that we think people might be able to take. Please feel free to add to the end of the list, using the comment box.

1. At your local book store, purchase the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Volume I, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Futures. of the Truth and Reconciliation Report report.  Or purchase it online.

2. Print off a copy of the 94 Calls to Action and annotate it.

3. Read one call to action a day for 94 days.

4. If you have a practise of saying grace for your food, express your gratitude for the territory in which you live.

5. If you say grace, express your prayerful hopes for people doing the work of reconciliation.

6. Learn the name of the treaty that governs the place in which you live.

7. Buy or download a map of First Nation’s Territories in your province. Put the map on the wall of your home or office for a month.

8. Find out the name of the Indian Residential School that was most close to the area where you grew up. For example, what school would you have gone to if you had been indigenous.

9. Read one memoir about residential school.

10. If you have children or grandchildren under the age of 10, read Fatty Legs with them.

11. Go to the web and practise saying indigenous territory names. Practise one name 10 times or until you can say it fluently. Then throw it into a conversation during the day.

12. To your email signature, add the name of the territory that you live in.

13. Learn five plants or lakes or city’s names in the indigenous language of the place where you live.

14. Find a work of indigenous art and put a picture of it up in your house once a time, 12 times a year. Learn the name of that piece of work and the artist.

15. Learn one indigenous traditional song. Use the internet to find shared songs.

16. Choose to buy indigenous arts and crafts and music.

17. See an indigenous movie.

18. Know the names of 5 indigenous actors. Make the names you find be Canadian artists for 5 extra points. Discuss them with a friend for another five.

19. When giving gifts avoid giving gifts of chocolate, candy and sugar. I have learned from the elders that these gifts contribute to health risks of diabetes, etc.

20. Learn about country foods (deer, seal, camus plants) and local food production practises.

21. Learn to love the land, air and water in the place you are at.

22. Learn to introduce yourself with reference to the territory where you are from. For example, my name is Rebecca, I am from Calgary, Treaty 7 territory. And I can add in, it is also the traditional home of the Metis if I choose.

23. Learn about protocols from your territory and use them. For example, when introducing yourself to an indigenous person, indicate both your heritage and the place you come from. For example, my family are settlers who came to Treaty Seven territory in the 1880’s. I have been living in Coast Salish territory for the past 15 years. This act performs indigenous law in a respectful manner. If you are uncomfortable with this, a first step is to realize that when you hear an indigenous person introduce themselves, referring to their ancestry and in their language, they are performing their legal obligations. You are seeing law.

24. Read First Nations stories to your grandchildren. For example, in our house our grandmother reads a story to them while they are eating lunch or while they are sitting around a bonfire. To follow up, reference the story several times the following week, drawing connections to your daily life. That is the act of reconciliation. Not just telling the story but using the story as a tool. 25. Watch a u-tube video of an indigenous dance. Then read three supporting links about the dance.

26. When given the chance, join into an indigenous dance. For example, in Alberta you are often invited to join in during Stampede week or if you attend .

27. Learn the names of 5 indigenous athletes.

28. See the ballet, “Going Home Star” when it comes to your community.

29. If you are planning next year’s holiday, go see the Witness Blanket at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg.

30, Read a novel by a Canadian Indigenous author this month. Links to Joseph Boyden, Tracy Lindberg, Maria Campbell. In the comment box to this post, add the names of other Indigneous authors you have read.

31. Tell your Facebook friends what are reading.

32. Go online and find recipes for bannock. Try one.

33. Sign up to the Reconciliation Canada News Update to get regular updates. Send an email to

34. Read the Reconciliation Canada Blog. There is also Facebook and Twitter.

More to come.



  1. Thank you Rebecca. Tonia and Charise thoroughly enjoyed their day in Kamloops at the conference.

  2. I agree with Tonia and Charise. That was a day to remember. Whenever can you be in a room with five cousins and a dear friend and an aunt and get to hear and see and experience everything that was there for us that day. The ride to Kamloops was well worth the time we spent.