Four carefully chosen books by Indigenous authors formed the basis for a Truth and Reconciliation learning journey that took place between June and October at Taghum Community Hall. Elizabeth Ferguson, who is Dene Tha and is the Indigenous Studies instructor at Selkirk College, led this group of nine learners. The books—Embers, by Richard Wagamese; The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew; Permanent Astonishment by Thomson Highway; and True Reconciliation by Jody Wilson-Raybould—followed the themes of resilience, residential school, resistance, and recognition. We learned about Indigenous worldview as a lens through which to view history and current events toward a more fulsome understanding of Indigenous peoples’ experience in the land we share. And the journey continues, of course. At our final meeting we presented Elizabeth with a fall bouquet to which we all contributed, and with that words from each of us expressing gratitude, what we learned, and why we chose the floral contribution that we chose with intention. Although we were a small group, each of us was changed by the experience and will bring what we have learned out into the world—and so we may effect change as individuals in our community through the conversations we’ll have. Thank you to Neighbourhood Small Grants, Osprey Community Foundation the Vancouver Foundation for the gift of this experience.
Here are some words from participants excerpted from our messages to Elizabeth:
Learning from you—through your life experiences, which you so beautifully shared—and through the readings you chose, and discussions of the issues they raised—was very rich for me. You really helped me orient in deeper ways to the land—your saying “the land is the reference” is living in me now.
Thank you for teaching us about resilience, residential schools, resistance and reconciliation. You are a gifted teacher, storyteller and we are so lucky to have been your students the last couple months. Ever since our session on ‘resistance’ I keep seeing other examples of it. You have opened my eyes to this and many aspects of Indigenous culture (the humour, the strength of family bonds, the value in storytelling). I really enjoyed your passion for Indigenous literature – that enthusiasm is so contagious. Thank you for giving your time, sharing your story and enlightening us settlers.
Your personal and deep understanding of the real issues has given us a deeper understanding of the history and the complicated steps necessary for reconciliation as well as a deeper appreciation of the worldview of your people. The Eurocentric world has a lot to learn from the Indigenous community.
Each book has effected a change for me: with Embers, I began touching trees, the better to understand that aspect of Indigenous worldview; The Reason You Walk, gave me a better understanding the importance of ceremony to root in culture, and to touch a higher place; Permanent Astonishment was a window into the many facets of Indigenous experience; and True Reconciliation offers me a new lens with which to see current events, and my own path forward.
Project Leader: Anne D.