AERA 2019: Opening Plenary


Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage 2019 AERA president, Amy Stuart Wells. (applauds) Good evening everyone, good evening. Welcome to Toronto, and it is my honor to be opening the 2019 annual meeting with our provocative theme, Leveraging Education Research in a Post-Truth Era, Multi-Modal Narratives for Democratizing Evidence. We would like to acknowledge that we stand on the treaty lands of the Mississauga and the traditional territory of those who have walked in this land in the past and present, and we have an amazing program this evening that reminds us of indigenous people who have walked this land from time and in memorium. We’re going to begin with a welcome from three elders from local communities and nations. Garry Elder Sault, Garry Jacqui Lavalley, and Elder Amos Key. Following the elders, we’re going to be joined by the Dakhka Khwaan Dancers, a national award-winning inland tlingit dance group based out of Whitehorse, Yukon territory. In the spirit of multi modalities, the Dakhka Khwaan Dancers focus on reclaiming their languages and traditional values through their inherited art form of singing, drumming, dancing and storytelling. They are committed to participating in cultural revitalization events in indigenous communities to support the reclamation of their own ceremonies and ways. They strive to present their performance with the utmost respect to cultural protocol and the highest form of artistic integrity. The Dakhka Khwaan Dancers for AERA are Marilyn Ann Jensen, David Neil Jensen, Aaron Pauls, Blake Luh-pin, Gary Sidney Johnson, Felicia Violet Rose Johnson, and Daniel Ashley AKA DJ Dush. So we are officially opening the 2019 annual meeting. Welcome. (applauds) Can I go now? Can I go now? Yeah?
Yeah. Okay. (muttering) Do you have water back here? Bonjour, all you lovely people out there! Welcome to our traditional territory of the Mississauga’s autocratic, and while we acknowledge da-roo-guh-nuh-sho-nay whose footprints are left here. And I think that they always forget the mighty Metis because the Metis were children of both races, both the colonial and the aboriginal people. So I welcome you to their territory as well, and I’m going to begin this with a song that will welcome you here. (rhythmic drumming) (foreign vocalizing) The turtle is raising his head up from under the water. (foreign vocalizing) And he’s getting ready to make a journey on this part of Turtle Island. (foreign vocalizing) And he’s so happy to make this journey that he kicks his back feet together. I’ve never seen a turtle do it, but he must’ve been really happy. (foreign vocalizing) So the turtle along with us is inviting you to come on that journey on this part of Turtle Island so that you can enjoy our history and our land and the people that are around it, so (foreign speaking). (applauds) (foreign speaking) And we were asked in a good way with Sama to come and share a little bit of our way, and I’m a ceremonialist. I do ceremony all the time, and an intricate part of the ceremony is to call a, you know, spirit. So we go, and we sit in the bush for four days and four nights. And we ask for those things to be given over, and we ask in a good way how we sacrifice for the people so that we can have and share all of those things that we learned when we were sitting there. Just before he turned 65, I went and sat in the bush for four days and four nights. And I had some beautiful young (foreign speaking) to help me up this great big kind of cliff, and I was really tired when we got to the top. So they put down a Sama circle for me. They put out the cracked corn for the little animals, and they put down the seeder for me. And I put down the bear medicine for me, and I was very, very tired from just that experience of putting, that experience of putting away, putting away this bear medicine and asking for that protection. So I was there for about 10 minutes, and I sat down because I was so tired. I sat down, and I was already transported into my vision. My (foreign speaking). And the trees that surrounded my fasting circle turned into oh-ki-shni-nah-bay people. They weren’t dressed up with beads and fine stuff. They had old hide clothes on. Their hair hung down straight, and they glowed. They started to sing a song. And growing up the way I did in the bush, if you heard somebody talking, you were supposed to disallow that and not listen. Cover up your ears, so that’s what I did. I didn’t know that this was for me, so I fell to the ground and covered up my ears. And a friend of mine appeared in front of me and said, Jacqui, this song is for you. So I listened. I fell to my knees, and I opened my hands. And I listened, and the oh-nish-nah-bay people started to sing. This is the instrument that they used. This is an instrument that we can make. Anybody can make it. If you’re six years old, you can make this. And they have some secrets. Have some secrets. So when they started to sing, they shared this song with me. This song talks about our first teacher. And our first teacher’s name was Nanabozho. You hear oh-ki-nish-nah-bay people greet each other and say, bozho. Well, they were given that part for greeting to greet each other. And saying bozho to one another, they were asking, are we going to learn from each other? What are we going to learn? What are you going to teach me? So the song talks about that one, that first teacher, Nanabozho. The words of the song are in (foreign speaking) language. Nanabozho, Nanabozho, (foreign speaking) My first teacher, my first teacher, I hear you. And we hear him every time we hear a bluejay and when we’re walking in the bush. Bluejay sings out Nanabozho is present. Your teacher is here. When robin wakes us up in the morning and cardinal, it is the same. They are saying it’s the time of magic. Open your eyes. Get up. Nanabozho is here, so he is forever present. We’re conscious of that. Consciously aware of his presence. He becomes a friend as well as a teacher. He takes us on beautiful journeys. The second part of the song says Nanabozho, Nanabozho, (foreign speaking). My first teacher, My first teacher, I see you. And I see him in every human being, every human face. We see him in every animal that we encounter. We see him in every bird that flies in front of us, so we’re constantly reminded of his presence. We see him within all the trees, all the flowers, every bit of food that’s on your plate. He reminds us of where that came from, who fixed it for us. Third part of the song says, Nanabozho, Nanabozho, (foreign speaking). My first teacher, My first teacher, you inspire me to gratitude. From the bottom of my heart to the top of the sky is my show of gratitude, my thanks giving. The fourth part says, Nanabozho, Nanabozho, (foreign speaking). In the old-time bush language, we are telling our first teacher how much we treasure his existence, how much, how much we treasure that existence, how much we love him for all of the teachings that he brought to the people. And they are numerous, they are numerous. So I’ll share the song with you. When you catch the melody, you can hum along. If you hear the words and they touch you in your mind and pass through your heart, you can sing the words. This is a song to be shared. (rhythmic playing) (foreign vocalizing) (foreign speaking) Thank you for listening to me. (applauds) (foreign speaking) Hello, everyone. (foreign speaking) Yes. My name is Amos Key Jr., my English name. My traditional name is Dee-hi-oh-ist. It means that my Elders, my faith-keepers, gave me this name as a child. And it means He Works With Words, and that’s been my career in Ontario here is to work with indigenous languages. And what I’m going to recite in a minute is from our language. There are, just for you who are visiting Toronto this weekend, there are 133 first nation communities in this province, 13 indigenous languages, and three indigenous civilizations, which those communities and those languages come from. Much more than cultures, they are civilizations. The Muskego in the far North who are the Cree and the OG Cree, the ish-nah-vay in the middle of the Great Lakes are the (foreign speaking) peoples, the free fighters Confederacy people. And then my people, the Longhouse people, (foreign speaking). We live in the Southern Great Lakes across New York State into Ontario. Those are the territories in which we reside even to this day, and where those civilizations still live. They have all the intellect, institutions, traits, characteristics, virtues, ethics of any civilization in the world. I’m privileged to work with the University of Toronto as a professor at the Center for Indigenous Studies, and I just love talking about this stuff because my students knew nothing about this history. And they’re in their early 20s, late teens. And so we’re decolonizing in Ontario. We’re decolonizing what the British brought to this province and embolden themselves to put up dominion here in our lands, or on our lands. So I’d like to straighten that out a bit, straighten out some history. So that’s what I’m about, and I like doing that. And I just like talking about our civilizations. You’re gonna see some music and dance in a minute. You have to know that in 1921, the Canadian government outlawed music and dance for indigenous peoples in this country. 1921. We couldn’t hire lawyers to defend our human rights because they were our lawyers. The legal system in this country were threatened that if they represented indigenous peoples’ civilizations, they would be disbarred. Those are just some facts about my peoples in this province, so I hope you take that home with you because with the truth and reconciliation commission, that’s not here for calls to action. The articles of the United Nations declaration on the rights of the indigenous peoples, there’s been a huge shift about the discussion and engagement with indigenous peoples. And I’m so glad to be a part of that. As a part of that, I was able to create Ontario’s first emerging bilingual school system through my work in languages. And after one generation, after 35 years, we have bilingual young people in my community. (applauds) It was a struggle, but we did it. And those people now are gonna raise their own children with bilingualism so that they won’t have to switch languages. They can switch languages, code switch they call that, at any time. I’m struggling with my own bilingualism. My parents were polyglots. They spoke four languages plus English. I wish I was able to do that now, but I’m retraining my bilingualism as best I can. And I’m able to work for my people to bring back those languages because those languages glue all of those virtues, ethics, and emotional intelligence that is the foundation of our civilizations. And once we get there, hopefully in another decade, we’ll see the glows of indigenous people again. And we’re so hopeful that this will begin a new relationship with indigenous peoples and the settler communities in this country. This conference comes at a great time for me personally, and I guess professionally. I just taught my last class on truth and reconciliation at the University of Toronto yesterday, and I’m now on a journey to work with Brock University to be the new vice provost for indigenous engagement. (applauds) Thank you. So I’m gonna take all this lived experience, this experience from this conference, and move it over to Brock University. And I want it to be the center of excellence, indigenous research, applied research, and studies. That’s what I’m hoping to do in six years, and I teased them, I taught them, I teased them in my interviews. I had 12 interviews. I said don’t be surprised if I have the confidence and maybe the audacity to ask you for $50 million for bricks and mortar to create our own center of excellence in indigenous education and applied research. (applauds)
(foreign speaking) But I’m an educator like all of you, so we have hope, right? So we’re gonna try for that in a decade from now, so I’m going to address the Creator in my language. As it is, we are from the Six Nations Confederacy. I heard, I spoke about the free fighters’ Confederacy. Another point to ponder is that din-ish-nah-bay and my people, (foreign speaking), had democracies way before contact. We had democracies. When the rest of the world were being led by kings and queens, we had democracies. So that’s what we wanna fan back up. Flame that back up so that our people can go forward and take their rightful place in this country. It’s been buried so long, so that’s what we’re about. As educators, indigenous educators, that’s what we wanna do in this country. So, hopefully, you take that message around the world and start the sparks. Fan the flame so that indigenous education can come back up and our intellect and our intelligences from our civilization will take its rightful place among all the civilizations in the world. That’s what our hope is. (applauds) With that, I’m going to, as I said, I’m going to address the Creator. So I’d like all of you to take a moment. Take some pause and reflect on your bounty, your gifts, your rewards, awards, and especially the gifts of children. Those of you who are lucky to be grandparents and maybe even great grandparents, aunties, and uncles. Remember those children. We need to give them all of this knowledge about humanity. In my words, I’ll ask that we, I’ll ask the Creator to bless us for bringing our hearts and minds here to this conference. And then I’ll ask him, also, to bless us, to bless our mother Earth. (foreign speaking) That’s how we phrase it, the concept of that. The concept that the Earth is our mother, and we revere her as our mother ’cause she brings forth life. So we talk about that in our language. And I’ll ask that he give us blessings for all the elements that are around us, the changing of seasons, the warmth, the snow, the blanket of white snow around Mother Earth. We give thanks for all of that as well and the beautiful water. We gotta protect the water. We gotta protect the water. She’s suffering. We’ve gotta protect her, and then I’ll ask to give thanks to a prophet who brought us a code of ethics that we, as Haudenosaunee people, will have to live by with our younger brothers coming across the ocean. So this code, these messages, came from the Creator through our prophets so that we can live in harmony with our younger brothers and the settlers that are coming across the water. We had that way before contact. We had those teachings and those prophecies. Then I’ll thank the four holy people. We believe we have, like Freud, we have people who control our conscience or levels of consciousness. We call them the holy people. (foreign speaking) The four holy people. And then I’ll thank, I’ll thank him for bringing us all here. And I’ll add a little paragraph at the end to ask for the holy people, the four holy people, to take us all home safely to our loved ones at the end of this conference. So that’s what I’ll say in my language, which is the kay-go language. And I’ll begin right now, and just take a moment. Whatever faith you’re from, whatever language you speak, just take a moment to reflect on our beautiful gifts. (foreign speaking) Thank you very much. Welcome to Toronto.
(applauds) Thank you, thank you. (inaudible) (exotic music) (foreign speaking) We are Dakhka Khwaan. (foreign speaking) We are the descendants of strong and noble people. We carry on our Elders’ vision. We are the result of 500 years of resistance, determination, courage, hope, and fight. (foreign vocalizing) (applauds) (foreign speaking) In our language, there is no word for art. Everything was art. Nothing was separate. Everything was beautiful. Everything was given its purpose. Part of our culture is learning how to be humble. When I was working on my first canoe, I was investing pride and ego into my work. I was bragging about how amazing I was. This little mask that I was carving, it broke. I made a small fire. I put this mask in that fire. Just as it burned up, I could hear this song coming through the flames.
(foreign vocalizing) When we do this dance, when we make this art, we try to invest our best into these things. We take our time. We infuse love and courage and power into these things. We don’t do this so we can be better than other people. We do this because this is who we are! We don’t know any other way. And for a long time, we didn’t have what we have now. And we’ve worked hard to get to where we are. We spent a long time being pushed down, we spent a long time pushing other people down. But now, our cultures are gaining strength. They’re getting powerful once again. And no longer will our cultures ever be seen as something that might be lost! (rhythmic music)
(foreign vocalizing) (applauds) (foreign speaking) Thank you, everyone. We wanna say (foreign speaking) for this honor to be here to share our culture on the beautiful territory of the indigenous peoples of this land with whom we had such a beautiful welcome from their Elders. (foreign speaking) Thank you for your strength and for your words that ground us. And (foreign speaking) to this, to the American Educational Research Association for inviting us here to share who we are with you. I don’t know how you found us ’cause we’re, we come from way across Canada. We’re from the Yukon right next to Alaska, so our village is literally 50 miles from the Alaskan coast. And so it’s such an honor for us to be here in this territory of (foreign speaking), the Mississauga, and the (foreign speaking). I hope I said that right. Forgive me if I didn’t pronounce that right, so we’re really happy to be here. We’re gonna share some of our songs, some of which are old and some of which are brand new. And I’d like to introduce our friend. This is Daniel, DJ Dash. And,
(applauds) he’s a little blonde boy that grew up with us, and his mom did a lot of research and a lot of work with our Elders and our people. So it’s kind of cool that we’re here because many of us in our group are teachers and are, have taught in universities and colleges. And have spent a great deal of time doing research as well, so thank you again for this wonderful opportunity. It’s such a pleasure for us to share our culture with you. (foreign speaking) (applauds) (rhythmic music) (foreign vocalizing)
(rhythmic music) (applauds) (foreign speaking) (foreign speaking) Is how we say thank you in our language, which is (foreign speaking). So (foreign speaking) and (foreign speaking), so we have kind of a mixture of indigenous identity. But also many of us are Scottish and Irish, English. My dad is from Vancouver. He came to the Yukon for a weekend, saw my mom, and. (laughing) 50-something years later. He’s still there, so I wanted to speak a little bit about the next piece that we’re going to do, which is very emotional for us. And it really speaks to a part of our history that is difficult, challenging, and hurtful, and painful. And it’s a shared history. Not just for indigenous people, but for all people in Canada and, similarly, across North America. And, as well, to some of the other areas of the world that have been colonized. So this is, we call this piece The Apology. And it speaks about the residential schools and about assimilation and also about reconciliation, and I know that’s a very strong theme at your conference. And for us, as a group of people who all we do is sing and dance, this is our life. And this is a big part of our own pathway to reconciliation in our own hearts because we have to reconcile our history and the parts that really hurt us, and we do that walking together with our brothers and sisters of other nations who are open to doing that because we can’t speak with, you know, without acknowledging that there’s a lot of racism and hurt that still exists. And a lot of people who say just get over it, just get over it, you know. You guys get everything for free. Just get over it. Well, our story is is we are walking through this. And we’re trying our hardest to reconcile our own spirits and our own hearts, and we welcome whoever wants to walk with us to go on that journey together because it is critical that we go there together. It’s our shared collective history, and we must acknowledge it. And we must find a way to move forward in it, so this piece is The Apology. And we welcome you to open your hearts. (applauds) (rhythmic music) I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian residential schools. The treatment of children in Indian residential schools is a sad chapter in our history. Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions, and cultures and to assimilate them into the dominate culture. These objectives were based on the assumption that aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. In-deed-sum-son most infamously said to kill the Indian in the child. Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country. (rhythmic music)
(foreign vocalizing) The government of Canada built an educational system in which very young children were often forcibly removed from their homes or often taken far from their communities. Many were inadequately fed, clothed, and housed. All were deprived of the care and nurturing of a parent, grandparents, and communities. (foreign speaking) Have strength and courage. (foreign speaking) Long ago, our spirits were sad and hurt. (foreign speaking) We are gaining strength. We get our strength from our land. We now recognize that separating children from their families. We undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children and sowed the seeds for generations to follow, and we apologize. (foreign speaking) (overlapping voices speaking) Our way of life is gaining strength. (foreign speaking) We are gaining strength. (foreign speaking) May we work together in strength. (foreign speaking) And we love this land together. (foreign vocalizing) (foreign speaking) We’re paddling forward in this canoe like our ancestors before us. (foreign vocalizing) (applauds) (foreign speaking) Hello, everybody. Oh, we got some people that know (foreign speaking). We are very grateful that you guys are having us here. We’re very grateful to be here. In the language, it matters how you got here. So we said thank you by coming by foot, by plane, and possibly, by boat. If there’s any other way, I’ll have to translate that later for you. I want to tell you guys a little bit about a couple of the songs you heard. The mask dance you saw was called The Raven Strut. (foreign speaking) That mask dance you guys saw was in two languages. It was in (foreign speaking), and the words were (foreign speaking). And then that second one was, (foreign speaking). And it was talking about how the raven’s just strutting around, doing his thing like he usually does. Then you guys saw that powerful apology, which is why I had to throw in a Facebook quote there. You can follow us on Facebook, and you can find those songs before that apology on Spotify and iTunes. But one thing I did notice is when these local people, children of the land, were speaking, it’s a foreign language. (applauds)
(foreign speaking) See, when I’m speaking (foreign speaking), we can say foreign or West because I’m from the West coast. But those were the people of the land, and that is their language. So in no way is that foreign.
(applauds) (foreign speaking) I also apologize to the people in the front row. You’re not speaking proper (foreign speaking) if you’re not spitting. And with these white lights, you see every little bit of saliva. So I’m sorry. What is that hashtag? Sorry not sorry?
(laughing) This next song that we’re gonna do for you guys is called Spirit of the Dancer, and this is another song that you can find on Spotify or iTunes. And the song, the words are, (foreign speaking). My heart is on fire. I love dancing, it makes my spirit happy. And it lit my heart on fire, so this is a song called Spirit of the Dancer. I hope you guys enjoy it. (thundering) (foreign speaking) The Spirit of the Dancer. (rhythmic music) (foreign vocalizing) (electronic music) (foreign vocalizing)
(upbeat music) Spirit of the Dancer.
(upbeat music) My spirit is happy.
(upbeat music) (foreign speaking) My heart is lit on fire. (upbeat music) The Spirit of the Dancer.
(upbeat music) (foreign speaking) Oh. Scared me. I thought I used my Longhouse voice for a second. (foreign speaking) I’m tired. I don’t know how Madonna does it while singing and dancing at the same time. This next song, (foreign speaking). This song is called The Killer Whale Hunt. If any of you have ever watched National Geographic or Blackfish or anything about killer whales, you’ll see that the way they hunt is not so fun for the prey. They like to splash and submerge the seal that’s on an iceberg, or they love just to splash it and play with it. So this song is a song that’s depicting what it’s like for the killer whale to hunt the seal, so The Killer Whale Hunt. (raining)
(animal squawking) (rhythmic music) (vocalizing) (applauds) (foreign speaking) It is that time. The time where the imaginary ship again is pulling us off, and we just wanna say (foreign speaking) to all you educators. What you guys do is important, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. I used to be a person that chased all these dreams, and I wasn’t happy until I was teaching. And you don’t have to make a whole lot of money, do you, to be happy. We, as educators, know that. So this, kind of, the show that you guys seen was a quick mixture of traditional with new modern contemporary. So, in our tradition, it is customary for us to leave, to do an exit song. What we did onstage was an outside an entrance, so now we’re gonna do for you guys a song that we call (foreign speaking). Which is The Box Drum Exit Song, which you can also find on Spotify and iTunes. (laughing) And keep those cameras rolling because you can tag us on (foreign speaking), Facebook, (foreign speaking), Instagram, (foreign speaking), Twitter. So thank you for all you guys’ people for supporting us and for having us out here. We are very honored, especially since we come from the West. Our style and traditions don’t really get seen as much on this side of Canada, so we are very, very grateful. (foreign speaking) Thank you very much. We are grateful for you learners and educators. (foreign speaking) (applauds) (vocalizing) (rhythmic music) Can I get a hoo-ha?
Hoo-ha! Everybody, if you like what you see, and if not, still, can we get a hoo-ha? Hoo-ha! (foreign speaking)
(applauds) I’m Janelle Scott from UC Berkeley, and this is Jennifer Jellison Holme from UT Austin. And we are co-program chairs for the conference this year, so we welcome you as well. And we are honored to introduce our esteemed panel. First, we are going to have Dr. Christopher Span who will serve as the moderator for this evening. He is a professor of education in the Department of Education Policy Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Associate Dean for academic programs in the College of Education. He is also Vice President of Division F for AERA. He’s an historian. (laughing) Sorry. He’s an historian of education. His research interests pertain to the educational history of African Americans in the 19th and 20th century. He holds a PhD in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (applauds) Let me step down. Next, we have Dr. Niigaan James Sinclair. (applauds) Dr. Sinclair is (foreign speaking), St. Peter’s (foreign speaking), and an Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba. He’s a regular commentator on indigenous issues on Canadian television and radio. He was named by Monocle Magazine as one of the 20 most influential people in Canada and also named the top columnist in the Canada and National Newspaper Awards. (applauds) Tanya Senk is an indigenous Metis (foreign speaking) educator and researcher. She’s currently the centrally assigned principal Indigenous Education for the Toronto district school board and the urban indigenous education center. (applauds) Sorry. It’s hard to figure out where to stand on this stage. Yeah, you’re right here, here. Number seven. Tanya has been a classroom teacher, instructional leader, program coordinator, and has been seconded to the faculty of education York University and urban indigenous education. She holds a BFA, a BD, an MED, and is currently a PhD candidate. Her research areas include decolonizing and indigenizing education within urban systems. (applauds) Daniel Solorzano is professor of social science in comparative education and associate dean for equity and diversity in the graduate school of education and information studies at the University of California in Los Angeles, go Bruins. (applauds) His teaching and research interests include categorized theory in education, racial microaggressions, and other forms of everyday racism in critical race pedagogy. He’s authored over 70 articles and book chapters on issues related to educational access and equity for underrepresented students populations in the United States. He’s been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including AERA Social Justice in Education Award and the Mildred Garcia Exemplary Scholarship Award from the Association for Studies in Higher Education. (applauds) Hello, everyone. Our next panelist is Elise Boddie. Elise Boddie is a nationally recognized expert in Civil Rights and a professor of law, Henry Rutgers University professor and judge, Robert Ella Carter scholar. Boddie teaches constitutional laws, civil rights, and state and local government law. Before joining the Rutgers faculty, she was a director of litigation for the NAACP legal defense and education fund. From 1999 to 2005, she litigated affirmative action, employment, economic justice, and school desegregation cases in federal district courts and in federal courts of appeals. She’s a leader in the current effort to integrate public schools in New Jersey and has been a major force behind the case that challenges school segregation statewide. Welcome to Elise. (applauds) Our next panelist is Dr. Leslie Fenwick. (shouting) Dr. Leslie Fenwick is Dean Amerida of the Howard University School of Education and a professor of education policy. As a noted education policy scholar, Fenwick was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the study of the impact of mayoral control on public schools. She’s regularly called upon to testify and present about educational equity and teacher quality to the US Senate, the US Department of Education, and the US Conference of Mayors. Her op-ed articles have appeared in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe amongst other outlets, and she has also appeared on national news outlets including C-SPAN, CNN, and Aljazeera America, and locally televised programs discussing educational equity, college affordability, and education policy. (applauds) And our final panelist is Sandy Whitehawk. (applauds) Sandra Whitehawk is a (foreign speaking) adoptee from the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. She’s the founder and director of the first nation’s repatriation, the first organization of its kind whose goal it is to create a resource for first nation’s people impacted by foster care or adoption to return home, reconnect, and reclaim their identity. She’s an Indian child welfare consultant for Hennepin County Minneapolis, Minnesota. Indian Child Welfare Unit, and the National Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for Tribes. Sandra served as a commissioner for the main Wa-buh-nah-kee state child welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She also serves as an honorary witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools in Canada. She has received numerous awards of recognition including the Women in Well Variety Dana Tiger Award for creating change in nations. (applauds) I’m now gonna turn it over to Christopher Span. Thank you so much. First and foremost, let me thank the Elders for their greetings. Let me thank those dancers for, beyond everything, we have a very tough act to follow. So I don’t even know where to begin in that regard. I think one thing that’s absolutely essential is we probably start with an overview of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as to how Canada began the process and went through it and thinking about, you know, reflections as to where we are. And, Niikaan, do you believe maybe you can give us an overview of that?
Sure. Yeah, I think so. Okay, so (foreign speaking). It’s a pleasure to be here, it’s a pleasure to talk about our relatives and acknowledge, of course, our territory. This work that you’re seeing behind you is the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I bring greetings, I bring (foreign speaking) from the Treaty One territory, from where I come from, this is the first national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But I bring greetings, of course, also from my family who went on the journey of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. My father is Senator Murray Sinclair who was the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission along with Dr. Marie Wilson, the chief Littlechild. And I bring greetings on behalf of Ron Moran, the director the of National Center for Truth and Reconciliation. I’m an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, and I work very closely with the National Center. But of course, I work very closely with my father as well. And so I’ve been asked by both of them to come and represent not just the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but also represent the National Center, so I’m gonna talk a little bit about what the TRC was all about. And I gotta do this in four and a half minutes because it took me half a minute to just introduce myself, so there you go. (foreign speaking) So the TRC, the TRC six years, seven national events, one of them, this is the very first one in Winnipeg, the meaning of (foreign speaking), the place in which, the life that comes from water, (foreign speaking), so Manitoba. The TRC collected 7,000 statements, and those 7,000 statements constituted survivors. 80,000 who participated within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a whole as well as 10s of thousands of others, Canadians, everyday Canadians who walked in and participated, those who worked in the schools as well. The TRC began through the National Residential School Settlement Agreement in which the government had been sued consecutively by survivors throughout the 2000s until finally agreeing in 2006 to commit to a settlement agreement. And when the survivors were offered money as that is the only venue to offer restitution, any, that is the only language Canada speaks in terms of reconciling at that time. The survivors invited the country into a relationship by taking that money, the largest percentage of that money, 80 to 85% of that money, and they chose to give a gift to the future. And by giving a gift to the future, they committed to a process of several different things, commemoration, remembrance, and then most importantly, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The survivors created the TRC. The government did not create the TRC, which is the most important thing to understand with the TRC.
(applauds) The survivors committed us to a journey that took, at the beginning, a bit of a stumble involving the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which involves a long story. I don’t have enough time to tell it here, but after that first stumble, that initial stumble, a new set of commissioners was appointed to take a journey over six years. And over that six years, they studied in the most in-depth study I’ve ever done. 150,000 students who attended the schools, over 130 of them that were recognized, and of course, many more that were not recognized, because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission learned that they were both schools that were recognized. And then, of course, members of day schools, for example, Metis, non-status, people who attended the schools who were not included within the settlement agreement. But the TRC took that upon themselves to document that as well. And during that six years, during those seven national events, there was two separate processes taking place. There was a truth-gathering process. And then there was also a settlement process that was taking place at that time where survivors would receive an individual pay of $10,000 for just attending and then $3,000 every year following, and then there was also an independent assessment process that involved things like physical and sexual abuse, which involved, and the intricacies of that process, I’m happy to talk about that as well. But the numbers involved approximately 37,000 survivors participated in the independent assessment process, and then 80,000 survivors operating the common experience payment. At the end of this report, at the end of this journey, there was a six-volume report. And, as you can see here, documenting the various things that happened throughout the national gatherings but also the small regional gatherings as well, which was as large as a dozen people, sorry, as small as a dozen people to as large as tens of thousands of people such as at the Forks when Buffy St. Ree and Blue Rodeo held a concert. There was truth gatherings, collections, as you can see here. There was documentation from that six-volume report which resulted in the 94 calls to action which was released to the public two times, actually. During the initial report, which was before the election, and then there was the actual report which was released after the election. Now, those 94 calls to action, I don’t have time to go over all of that here, but they include the entire compass of society. However, they are not perfect. And that’s what we’re gonna talk a little bit about today is the reconciliation process. The reconciliation process commits to a journey of the United Nations declaration, the rights of indigenous peoples. Of course, those of you who know that document know that that is an all-encompassing minimum standard document for nations to commit to involving their relationship with indigenous peoples. And that is the number one guiding post within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 94 calls to action, but the second part of that is they go above and beyond that commitment to also looking at a pope’s apology or the private industry or media or sports logos. And committing to that journey involves every single segment of society, private and public, to be able to engage two elements of their report, the legacy from residential schools. That’s calls to action one through 42 and 43 through 94, which are the journey forward, the journey ahead. And that is a much more intricate journey involving things like a national council and so on and so forth. All of those calls to action, however, are not perfect. Some of the things that I would invite you to think about is what, perhaps, the TRC couldn’t do at all. And one of the things that TRC was challenged with was the government continually refused and the, the TRC sued the government five times for documents. And then the government kept delaying, and delaying, and delaying. And even today, the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation still asks for documents from things like the Department of Agriculture or the RCMP, because when children ran away, when young people were struggling to fight with the schools, or when families that refused to send their children, obviously the Department of Agriculture, the RCMP, the health departments, all of those were involved. But the papers have still not been released in its fullest form. Therefore, the report is somewhat complete but not fully complete. And one of the challenges within the report is to try to encompass everything within the residential school legacy, but some things were missed involving things like gender, sexual identity, and issues like land. Although dealt with in the United Nations declaration, residential schools were about land theft. And by removing people, their commitment to land, and their commitment to each other, that was inevitably about land. However, the TRC report, I think in many ways, if we could include everything that would include sections such as land redress. One of the biggest challenges, of course, is that the TRC was not a guilt-finding mission. It was about a fact-finding mission, it was a truth-finding mission. So it wasn’t about saying, this person is guilty. We’re gonna throw them into jail, into a court trial. It is about saying to survivors, we believe you. And by committing to survivors by saying we believe you, it didn’t involve a combative oppositional truth-sharing moment. It involved the moment in which we recognize that your testimony is valuable, and I can tell you one thing before I sit down here. You know, having attended most of the national events, most, many, many regional events, I can tell you this. Residential school survivors are not interested in their relationship with Canada. They’re interested in their relationship with their children, and they are interested in. (applauds) They’re interested, as a survivor once said to me is, I don’t care, I don’t need the nuns and the priests to hear me. I don’t even care if they say sorry. I care about whether I can say sorry to my children for the things that I brought home and the things that I brought home, even though I didn’t know it at the time, created a legacy in my family that divided us, that took us a long period of healing, and now I turn to my family and say, I want to be sorry. I’m sorry. I want us to come together, and I want to reconcile. So if reconciliation is anything, my relatives, it is about committing to each other. It is about committing to each other and moving forward as a community, and that’s what the TRC is all about. And so, (foreign speaking), everybody. (applauds) Thank you so much. We start with this overview because it really helps frame the questions that we have for this important panel and discussion, and one thing that I heard, Niikaan, as you were speaking as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the TRC, articulated is acknowledging our truths to reconcile our future. You even made mention of that gift to the future. I was hoping that a few of us on the panel could have a conversation as to maybe what else is needed to address the past and what role do educational researchers in Canada and elsewhere, what steps should they take to insure that this process is handled with the kind of care and empathy that is required to insure the outcomes that are desired and that are needed. Someone else? I spoke a lot, so. Tanya, do you?
Sure. Is my, okay, my mic’s on. Hi. (foreign speaking) My name is Knowledge Woman. I’m Cree, Metis, and So-toe from Treaty Four area. However, I was born in Toronto. I lived in Saskatchewan, Manitoba for a while. My grandfather went to a residential school to Luh-bret. And to answer the question around education research and what we can do, I think that it’s, indigenous peoples have been researched over and over and over and over again. So I think thinking about indigenous research sovereignty and having indigenous research led by indigenous peoples in a good way within communities that’s based on a reciprocal relationship and that it is ongoing and sustainable. So with regard to educational research, it’s really employing indigenous research methodologies. I can speak to, for example, I’m from the Urban Indigenous Education Center with the Toronto district school board. And systems of public schooling are colonial systems in which to engage, however, ways in which we can center indigenous voices, amplify indigenous voices, and then also apply the principles around data and research, around ownership control access and possession, but working very closely within community and learning from indigenous peoples and working with indigenous peoples in a way that gives back to our communities and restores communities and moves forward in terms of building that, what we need to do in order to move forward seven generations for it to build a better future for our children. We are here at the AERA, the American Educational Research Association. And this is a tremendous opportunity for us, kind of, think reflectively as to our neighbor country has decided to address historic crimes and wrongs. And not coming from the top down, but coming from the people themselves requiring that they be acknowledged and heard, recognized, and respected. And in some ways in the United States, and I say that incorrectly. In many ways, in the United States, we’ve done very little to even begin the conversation, let alone establish processes to shake those outcomes. We’re in the 400th anniversary of Africans as they arrived in Virginia 1619, and most of us might be able to name the Mayflower, which came in 1620. And even though bits and pieces of that story or the mythology around it, many of us in the room may not be able to even name or acknowledge the ship that brought those Africans to Virginia. It’s the White Lion, L-I-O-N, just in case. But when you think about that, that erasure of history or displacement or distortion, in some ways we struggle with that in our own context. And I was wondering if we can maybe speak a little bit to, in what ways maybe I’m incorrect. In what ways might have we thought through the way in the United States we’ve tried to address some of those uncomfortable truths around race or associated with race and whether it be with our indigenous populations or people of African descent, Asian Americans, Spanish-speaking people, Latinx people. But are there individuals who, maybe Danny, maybe you can get us started with that conversation? Any thoughts on that?
Yes. Thanks, Chris. You know, in early January, Amy Storewells contacted, we were having a conversation, I think about this panel but about other issues. And she was talking about Truth and Reconciliation, and she said, I hope I get it right, Amy. She said that, she wondered why, or what we had done in the United States around Truth and Reconciliation. And the thing that came to mind, because there’s another anniversary that’s being honored this year. And that’s the 50th year of ethnic studies. (applauds)
And with the strikes at Sampson School State, the development of Ethnic Studies in different universities around the country. And I, my response was that, in many ways, Ethnic Studies was trying to bring truth to our histories, to our various histories. And I think that our, we’re still working on that. But also, what Ethnic Studies did is that Ethnic Studies looked back in history to help us understand those truths. And the best of Ethnic Studies was always looking back at that history, looking at how people struggled, look at how people resisted. And I suppose, looking how, in their own ways, were looking for reconciliation. I’m not sure they ever used that word, and so I think Ethnic Studies is one of those tools that we’ve used. And I think in this year of honoring our 50 years of Ethnic Studies, we’re gonna be having these conversations about what does it look like today? Where are we going? What will it look like in the future? I also do work in critical race theory, and one of the major foundational elements of critical race theory is honoring the voice and the stories, or as Derek Bell has commented, those faces at the bottom of the well. And I think, so, I think that both in the tradition of Ethnic Studies and the tradition of critical race theory, I think that’s how we’re trying to deal with this. Excellent. Leslie, would you share a little bit as well? Maybe on this thought or these questions in consideration? So I read one of the reports, and I had to write down what I was thinking because there’s so much, so many parallels. And so I’d share at least two lessons, I think, that came from the Truth and Reconciliation reports. I was really struck by this request that all the federal agencies uncover and share historical reports and data that revealed the government’s role and the brutalization against children and families. And this strategy, this mandate to have each federal agency uncover and share the record about the brutalization, I think, is quite powerful. So what if we, in the US, were to legislate the use of this strategy. Think about the histories of the US Department of Agriculture’s decimation of black farmers through the outright trashing of federal farm loan applications submitted by black farmers, or think about the US Department of Transportation seizures of residential lands owned by blacks to make way for interstate highways. And the IRS records that would show black taxpayers support for public schools and universities and libraries during the American apartheid era when blacks were not permitted admittance to public schools and universities and libraries. And as an example, imagine all the black Virginians who paid state taxes but couldn’t attend the University of Virginia until 1970 when the school first opened its doors to black students. This public institution supported by all peoples’ tax dollars, and then what if we linked these histories to present-day realities? For instance, in our own university and academic lives, link to the under representation of blacks in the professorship, deanship’s, provost positions, and presidencies. And what are our scholarly and everyday explanations for these under representations? How are these under representations informed by racist notions and the scarcity, about the scarcity of black talent, racist notions about the inability to find black talent, and racist notions about exceptionalizing those blacks and other people of color who squeeze their way to the table. So, that’s the first thought that I had on reading the report–
Just the first thought? The second thought. That’s the second thought.
(laughing I can do the second thought in 30 seconds. That truth-telling, as my colleague already said, is not a one-time deal. It’s an ongoing–
That’s right. Exercise. And what we know about the truth is tied to what we believe about ourselves to our beingness, and one of the impressions that I had as I was reading this report is that the beingness of the first nation people was critical because that beingness is traced to what we think about our own heritage, our rights, our destiny. And conflict arises in the world when there’s this emphasis on material interests that produce these win-and-lose outcomes like death and dissension and disease and destruction, but the worldview that’s embraced by first nations that emphasizes universal needs like self-determination and love and respect and dignity and security is what will produce these abiding and enduring changes. So I think the Commissions work urges us in America to ask, you know, on what vision, on what identities, and on what intention are we grafting truth and reconciliation. Are we grafting our efforts in the US or Canada onto the absolution of white guilt? Or are we grafting onto an abiding commitment to love and peace and respect and self-determination and dignity to be an abiding way of being? If it’s the latter, how do our personal lives and our personal work and our scholarly work and our societal structures change in order to create faith and beauty and goodness? And do we have a soul at the end of the day when we’re doing this so-called research whether we’re in Canada or the US? And what’s in that soul? (applauds) You raised so much for us to think about, and. (laughing) You ever eat ice cream so fast that your brain starts to hurt a little bit? And I say that, in a sense, because I think some ways, our students feel that, that they’ve had so limited an opportunity to learn anything that’s kind of been shared thus far but yet it’s so absolutely essential that their brains start to hurt because there’s almost information overload. But what, is it possible, and Elise, maybe you can help us with this, is it possible for the United States to achieve the first goal as maybe laid out or articulated in some ways by Leslie? Is reconciliation through that healing process, through that acknowledgement, through recognizing that it’s not about protecting guilt or embarrassment but really establishing what happened and then dealing with that, what are your thoughts on that? Is reconciliation a possibility in the United States? Can we go through a similar process that we’re seeing here in Canada? So I, and first of all, just thanks to AERA for inviting me to participate in this wonderful conversation. It’s a humbling experience to be here and to hear about the process of Truth and Reconciliation that has been ongoing in this country. And when I first came to this conversation as we were, when I was invited and we had our sort of introductory call to talk about what this discussion might look like, and I have to confess. I really struggled with this, I really struggled with this because I, there is no truth in the United States as far as I’m concerned with respect to the,
(cheering) I mean, you know, I speak as a legal scholar, as a former civil rights lawyer, I guess, a current civil rights lawyer. And I’m focusing in particular on the African American experience, but people have no idea. I mean, they know sort of conceptually. They know that there was a thing called slavery, but they don’t understand about the systems that have carried on into the present. And even though we talk about healing, I can’t even wrap my mind around healing because the wounds are so raw and fresh. And we haven’t grappled with the fact that the systems that we have, that took root 400, 400 plus years ago continued not only to fester but to adapt and to shape shift. And as soon as you thought you had addressed one problem, then another problem would surface. And you can’t even get ahead of it, so the truth part, I would like some, I would really like some truth. I’d like to have some truth. I love these ideas of community conversations and moving around the country and having this process of helping people to understand how we got to the place that we are in the United States. I taught my Constitutional Law class the other day about redlining and how urban black and brown communities were systematically disinvested from by the federal government and how that has carried through to today, and they had just blank, 80 students, they had blank stares on their faces. They had no idea what I was talking about. They had never heard these stories, so the truth part is critically important because you can’t get to the other piece of it without the truth. I would, I don’t believe, personally, I have, I struggle with the idea of reconciliation. I like to talk about transformation. I like to talk about how we dislodge systems of oppression and how we dislodge and, I’ll credit Danny with this because he mentioned it on the call, that Robert L. Carter, who was one of the, sort of, leading thinkers behind Brown vs. Board of Education and whom I had the privilege to clerk for, said when he was not so long before he died, that when we try to address the issues of segregation in public education. He said what we didn’t understand was that we were grappling with white supremacy. And until you grapple with that, right? All of this, we’re just sort of moving the chairs around the decks of the Titanic as far as I can tell. I mean, so I think how we get to that process of transformation is ultimately about power and how, and whether we can get to a place where folks are willing to share, or whether we have to take power. My experience has been through the courts. Courts can’t deal with this. The courts in the United States cannot deal with this. They’re too focused on white resentment. They don’t wanna be, they don’t want white people to feel guilty. That’s where the courts are, and so the process of community conversation, I think it has to come through that, how that happens. Are there other thoughts on this question? Even within the Canadian context? I mean, here is the beginning phase. We have a few years in. We recognize the effort that’s being made, but how long-term? How sustainable is this? Can it be sustained? And if so, you know, how can those outcomes be achieved that, you know, again, do the best to correct the harms caused to individuals’ legacies, generations of individuals. Is, when it’s all said and done, is reconciliation possible? There’s been an acknowledgment, it sounds, I read the report as well, of truth. To what degree, to what extent. Clearly can go further, but the step after that is the healing.
Me? Yeah.
Yeah, so, yeah, absolutely. So what I can say about reconciliation is this. One of the biggest challenges in the report is, I’ll tell a quick story. So we’re at the very final event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And for six years, the prime minister never came to one event. Not once. And, of course, it was a conservative government. But, I don’t know if you can remember, attach that to what I said earlier. But anyways, so the, so we had a conservative government. No interest. They would send the administrative indigenous affairs. We’d sit there and just not applaud at anything, just basically sit and judge everybody. And then suddenly, we get a government shift, right? And then we get a government shift to the center. Now, the history of Canada is it really doesn’t matter if there are liberals or conservatives. The exact same treatment, it’s just delivered differently, meaning pitched differently. It’s like one government is just aggressively pretending you’re not there, and then the other one is we’re gonna aggressively micromanage you to the point where your head is spinning with micromanagement. And so I’ll let you figure our which is which, but anyways. So, but the bottom line of it is we had a prime minister who’s interested. And that was remarkable unto itself so a very emotional day, and so we present the 94 calls to action. Now, I happen to know that the prime minister had a copy of the report two weeks before the release of the report. So he had two weeks to read it. Now, okay, we’ll just leave it at that, okay? And, all right, now he comes up. And so we present the 94 calls to action. It’s out there. The volumes are there, and the prime minister comes up onstage and says, we commit fully to the 94 calls to action as a government. And I turn to my family, ’cause my sister was right here, my sister on this side, a sister on this side, and my daughter who’s backstage was sitting right there as well. And I turned to them. I said, holy smokes, the Indian Act is over. The Indian Act is still here, and what that tells me is that the prime minister didn’t read the report. And he didn’t even read the 94 calls to action, and I don’t mean that to be, you know, can I say pissy at the AERA? Will I be in trouble? I don’t mean that to be pissy. What I mean by that is he doesn’t understand the intricacies of what reconciliation is to be transformed into, what it is to be embodied. And what that means is is that Canada has inevitably acted in this way, particularly with the United Nations declaration and the rights of indigenous people. It says, oh yeah, it’s good. Or it’s good insofar that it doesn’t change anything. And so, therefore, it’s impossible, and I would say Jodie Wilson Rabald, who, I don’t know if you know what’s going on in the country, tried to navigate it. And then she, herself, said it is impossible without doing a constitutional renegotiation. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to imagine, as a country, how would we actually give restitution of lands? How would we actually revitalize languages? How would we commit to the massive inequality of wealth distribution? And in order for us to begin to engage that, we have to look at it, the way that we’re doing it is we’re just doing it anyways in Winnipeg. And we go out there, and we do it with no funding, with no commitment from government, with no commitment from any ministers. We just do it. Now, of course, what happens is you do it for a while. And then, boom, power hits you. And then you’re forced with institutions, right? And you can’t change a court system overnight, but you can change what’s happening in the room outside or the outside of the courtroom, which inevitably affects what’s happening inside the courtroom. So what I mean is the marches matter. That is what changes the courts, and we continue to march. We continue to demand change, and we continue to refuse to acquiesce to white supremacy rules, which is in every facet of the country. (applauds) One thing is clear from the report is the effort was made through schools that schools could be the place that would introduce these new processes, these new thoughts, these new considerations to insure that current and future generations might be able to move forward, partially lead that language of the gift, right? The gift of the future, but still undetermined, undefined, will require kind of structure and guidance. Can educational research work with schools to insure that these outcomes can be achieved to address the systemic and the structural, the interpersonal, intergenerational forms of racism that we’re talking and articulating about? How do we shift the not just language, but shift the power to insure that individuals reach their highest potential? So can I speak to that? One of the things is that there are colonial structures, and, in many ways, systems of public schooling continue to repeat the habits of colonization. So we really need to look at policy and thinking about reconciliation and redress in education as being places that oftentimes are not culturally safe for indigenous and racialized students is how can we use, or how can indigenous knowledge be centered in policy-making to move forward reconciliation? So it’s really about governance within systems of public schooling, and indigenous people are very, very underrepresented in all different spaces within the institution but, particularly, looking at governance around trustees, indigenous trustees. But it’s still a colonial system, and indigenous people’s ways of knowing and being are the antithesis, really, in many ways, of these systems of public schooling. So we really need to look at research around the Education Act, for example. Research needs to be done in terms of looking at the barriers that have privileged certain groups of people and marginalized others. And until there’s some real structural change within systems of public schooling, we’re continuing to replicate those colonial structures. So it’s really looking at that. What you can do, maybe, on the front line, as an educator, is educate yourself. Read the TRC. What we do is we provide professional learning, learning from indigenous peoples on reconciliation about the truth of Canada and our entwined histories, looking at treaties, looking at the land, talking about redress and reparation and restitution. So, and trying to support, in some ways, this concept of parallel governance so that indigenous peoples have voice to speak to what’s best for indigenous children and students and youth. So until we have more indigenous representation within the system and we work very closely with community and that there is a strong voice to shift that system and that power hierarchy, we’re still going to continue to potentially continue the harm. And so what can we do as educators and with community members to create the conditions for possible transformation within systems of public schooling that are trauma-informed, culturally safe, but yet at the same time speaking to the strength and survivance and the contributions of indigenous peoples in Canada? (applauds) I open that question to everyone, so please. Yeah, I’d like to add something. I like to look at founding documents. Documents that found a particular discipline or a particular idea. 50 years ago, at the University of California Santa Barbra, a group of activists, both from the community, teachers, professors, students met to really establish a field. (foreign speaking) Studies. And in that founding document, with all of its challenges, if you happen to read it, if you know about it, there was something that they said is that (foreign speaking) Studies, as a discipline and as a curriculum, shouldn’t only be at the universities, that we should establish (foreign speaking) Studies in the K-12 system. That’s where it should be, and here we are, 50 years later. And the state of California is barely struggling with its Ethnic Studies requirement for graduation from high school, right? It hasn’t been established. But if it passes and it becomes law, it’ll be 2022 that we finally get Ethnic Studies. It’ll only be at the high school, it’ll only be one class. So there’s some challenges there, obviously. But I think that’s an important, I mean, right, before I got here, they sent out the curriculum, the statewide curriculum that’s been established. They’re asking for people to respond to it by a certain date, I think it’s next week. But the bottom line is that I think those founding documents, basically, told us, at least, pushed us in this direction that if we’re gonna move towards establishing courses or curriculum at the post-secondary level, well, that may be too late. We should probably start it much, much earlier. And I think those founding documents are really important. Sandy, you’ve been awfully quiet sitting next to me. But I can feel your energy, and so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I know you were sharing before, and I felt moved. Could you? Do you?
Yeah. Yeah. I was gonna say.
(foreign speaking) Greetings, my relatives. I come from the (foreign speaking) people. People that (foreign speaking) and the Rosewood reservation in South Dakota. The name that I’m known in the spirit by the spirits is Cho-kah-too-nah-chi-ki-nah, Stands in the Center Woman. And I have a spiritual responsibility, which is I carry an orphan bundle. And it defines the work that I do in our communities, which is working with families that have been impacted by adoption and foster care. So the first thing I have to say is microphone guy, it was not me that messed up our order, okay? Because he lectured me and told me I am number three, number three. I had to sit in the third chair. It’s my fault. I sat in the wrong chair.
No, see. And then I told him, no. And then I told him, I wanna sit at the end. And he said, no, you have to sit in number three. Don’t mess up my order, and then he looked at me. And he said, you’re gonna do it, aren’t you? I can tell you’re a troublemaker. And I thought, I didn’t think I was that transparent. So then, imagine this then. And I’m trying to behave myself ’cause I’m amongst all these intellectuals, and I’m not. And then the guy says, make sure you sit there. And then I was like, oh my gosh! I’m not even close to three, and so that’s for him. He’s back there listening to us. It was not me. That’s Truth and Reconciliation. Right there. Always speak the truth. So what I heard in the question was is it possible, and what I heard in the answers is a mix of what I think makes it possible. When I began talking about Truth and Reconciliation among Elders throughout the United States, I was very fortunate to be schooled by an Elder who really had a vision of bringing people together to address healing from child welfare and what it’s done to our families. And so we learned, by bringing people together and what I now call truth healing reconciliation community forums, what I’ve seen is that it, reconciliation, what we’ve defined as model truth healing reconciliation, truth is explaining what happened individually or your community. Healing comes once there’s acknowledgment and encouragement and an exchange of both actually. Not just the native person who’s told what has happened but the listener who then has emotions that raise up because if they were present, they wouldn’t want what happened to that individual to happen. And they’re wracked with guilt and grief themself, and that’s hard for us, as Indian people, to want to comfort the individual that represents the perpetrator. But if we’re about this, we have to remember that we are all related. That means everybody, and you know what it’s like to have relatives. You love some of your relatives and several of them are just your relatives. Yeah, that’s my relative. We get along over here, but that’s a human thing too. And you do it out of respect. So there’s truth healing, this healing process now is told by a grandma years ago, never to talk about truth and reconciliation without including healing. She said no reconciliation will happen without it, and reconciliation isn’t this big intellectual thing. It just irritates me that we have this huge, huge discussion when, really, it’s so very simple. Reconciliation is a change in relationships, a balance based on what you heard. What can you do within your life independently and what can you do with your profession? One small thing to start. It begins with the individual reconciliation, it begins with the individual. It cannot happen from this top, down. So I come at it with a spiritual foundation and a spiritual belief. I don’t know how it can be done any other way. And what I would like to share with you that you may not know, during the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation, a ceremony was done before each event. And a sacred fire was lit and burned the entire time of the statement gathering, and then there was a closing of that. And when I say a sacred fire, I mean there was a protocol of how that fire is built. There’s teaching upon teaching in that fire, and that’s what’s sustained and held all of the trauma that was shared and the hope that came from that. And all the spiritual people who were involved in helping those who were heavy with emotion, to help them through the rest of the day that they were there. I don’t think without that you can have any kind of coming together ’cause that’s beyond us as humans is our humanness gets in the way of that process ’cause we fight, we judge. And that helps us, so with that, knowing that they did that, even to the point of all the tissue that was used while hearing statements was collected. Little baskets went all the way down, and there were hundreds and hundreds of people at each statement gathering. All the tissues were collected, and it kept to the end, burned at the end of each day. And prayers were said that those tears bring that healing because we believe that in our culture, that tears are that cleansing. There’s strength in that. We begin healing when we begin crying. Many did not tell their stories for the first, many had just shared, publicly, their first time. Certainly, they were prepared, you know, and had support. But it’s not so much telling what happened to you that’s difficult. I have trauma that I’ve shared that I don’t have difficulty telling someone I don’t know what happened to me. I have difficulty in whether you believe me. Our people have said what’s happened for generations and have not been believed, dismissed, marginalized over and over. That’s the difficulty, but I believe, and I’ve witnessed it, that shifts happen. When individuals hear what’s happened, most of the time, they think, oh my gosh. I don’t want this to happen again. What can I do? What can I do? I’ve seen more of that than I have seen resistance. Thank you. Can I just add one thing? (muttering) When you create indigenous space or when you invest in indigenous space, the most incredible thing begins to happen. Non-indigenous peoples transform along with us, and it is because of our inherent, I think, the best way I can describe it is our adoption, what we call, treaty. So when we create treaties and we commit to relationships, people begin to understand what those relationships actually entail, which is that you stand with people when they are going through that change. And you, as a result, transform with that. That’s not an easy process because there’s a whole lot of ignorance that’s perpetrated and held up and held as a value. Like, in Canada, ignorance is a virtue. And you only have to look at the ways in which this continual amount of stereotypes or whatever else about indigenous people to the point where we say things like, maybe we shouldn’t do a pipeline. And they were tossed in a cabinet. And then, so whatever that might be, when we invest ourselves in indigenous space, interesting things begin to happen. The TRC, we didn’t have almost any non-indigenous peoples the first year, the first year and a half. It was almost exclusively indigenous peoples at every gathering, but I don’t know if you saw my video. But the only people that would show up would be government people, but we had the minister of indigenous affairs being consoled by a survivor. And when that generosity, like, the remarkableness of survivors to give us the TRC and then console the Minister of Indigenous Affairs who was the face of violence is remarkable. That is remarkable! And transforms the country. And we see it at the University of Manitoba, where I work, for example. We invest in indigenous space. Suddenly, all these Nigerian students are, have a place to go. All of our international students, non-indigenous students when they come in, they have a place to go. And then they begin to transform in their understanding of what does it mean to be a treaty person, and then that transforms into more and more ally shift because trauma is not just about the individual who experienced the trauma, but who witnessed it. And those teachers, the pilots who flew the children, those people who, those priests that removed the children, the nuns that were teaching at the schools. It is not to say that they don’t have responsibility, but the part of understanding that responsibility is understanding that they were part of a system too and that reconciling that moment of trauma is to say that we are going through that process together. And you have a place here. Like, you, in our ceremonies, we always say, everyone has a place. I believe that this process works because we’re the authors of social justice. We’re the authors of, oh, that wasn’t mine ’cause I’m not number three, excuse me. (laughing) I resent being given a number. It just hit me! (laughing)
Don’t go there. (applauds)
I’m sorry. He told me not to go there. Okay, I’ll behave. We really, you know, when I think about what my relative here just said, it is so true that we end up comforting those because the reason I think that happens is we have a value system. And we have a ceremony that brings us this healing, and we have a strength. We know what it’s like to feel helpless and not being able to do something. We know what it feels like to have that injustice. So when we watch and see a person genuinely going through that, it’s only natural to offer that comfort and offer that encouragement. And just as the Elder said this in the beginning. I can’t remember her name, but the grandmother who sang the song and offered that prayer said, let that be in your mind and go through your heart and then you’ll know it. And we talk about having that balance of our intellect and balance of our heart. An Elder told me that your heart is, your heart has more wisdom in it than your head will ever know. You must learn to trust your heart. That sounds pretty outlandish to someone who only came from the head and who comes from only a broken heart. But when I think about it, when we look at how our way of life as indigenous people it makes that’s where all our strength and power and wisdom is. I wanna,
(cheering) I want to give some closure to this panel, and it stems from a question that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would always ask. So where do we go from here? And I think one thing that I’ve learned, being privileged, is being part of this panel to moderate it, to hear the Elders open this plenary to see the dancers is intentionality, that we have to be intentional in our actions. We have to be intentional in our thoughts and choices and the way we treat and engage each other, that if we can be intentional in creating, I left this out for a reason beyond keeping time, if we can be intentional in creating a device that we all have a mode of communication, that we have the history of humanity right here in our pocket, then we should be able to be intentional to come to know and understand each other and begin to offer redress for the challenges, to harms that we’ve caused, or we experienced. So we have at least three opportunities as we go forward. One is waiting right outside in the reception, and I appreciate your intentionality for staying through this process. But the second is we got a week-long conference. This is just the beginning, and I can’t wait to engage you guys and hear how you are gonna engage each other in making meaning of these kinds of information. And the third is we have the rest of our lives and careers to push a reset button. If we haven’t been there, then that becomes the soul of our research as Leslie said. And I was joking with her in the back, and I said, it’s kind of like James Brown. I got soul, and I’m Superbad, okay? So let’s all have some soul in our research to have that intentionality, let’s all go out and be Superbad. So enjoy your conference.
(applauds) Thank you. Thank you to the panelists. Thank you so very, very much.
If I can just add. Yeah. As executive director, I just, I have two thank yous, or three thank yous. One, this was an epiphany moment, I think, for all of us. Joining this family that you really kind of co-created, so much factors that we have to deal with, the pernicious victimization that has pervaded all forms of indigenous populations throughout our world. Southern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere, and what we now need to do and go forward, I especially wanna thank Chris because often, the executive director is in this unenviable position of concluding. So you concluded so well. Saying it’s over, but it’s not over. It’s just beginning. Not only is it beginning for the meeting, but we need to collaborate together to take the messages that we heard from the very onset of this event through, really, the very significant and important conversations. Even for those who were not quite in the right seat, you did it all. So thank you. (applauds) Very nice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *