Listening on both sides is vital as indigenous people and settlers continue to learn to walk beside, and relate to, each other.
This was one key point that some 70 participants took away from a day-long meeting at Columbia Bible College on April 9, 2016, called “Journey of reconciliation: Listening to indigenous elders.” The event was jointly sponsored by Columbia, Mennonite Church B.C., and Mennonite Central Committee B.C.
First to share was Patricia Victor, co-pastor with her husband of the Chilliwack Native Pentecostal Church, who said reconciliation will never happen unless settlers listen. “One of the aboriginal values is listening, not just with the ears but with the heart,” Victor said.
She pointed out how differences in cultural practices—something as simple as the western way of asking lots of questions—can form barriers in getting acquainted. “One thing I find offensive is that non-aboriginal people like to learn by asking questions. I like to learn by relationship,” Victor said. “We [indigenous people] don’t need to be under a microscope. Let it be reciprocal, sitting together.”
“People always look at life through their own cultural lens,” she said. “Culture is not just drums and feathers; culture shapes what we see, what we think, what we do. We need to sit back and enjoy each other.”
The afternoon session featured Robert Joseph, a hereditary chief of the Gwawanuk First Nation and founder of Reconciliation Canada, who affirmed the mutual storytelling approach. “We start by sharing our truths,” he said. “We start by sharing our histories.”
Joseph called Canada an “unreconciled country,” with broken relationships with indigenous people. “We should adopt reconciliation as a core value, and recognize that doing so means you have to pursue a life of reconciliation every day. Reconciliation is not just about aboriginals and settlers; it’s reconciling your life with everyone and everything around you.”
When one participant asked, “How do we do this and where do we start?” Joseph answered, “Mediate, meditate and reflect. [Let us] begin to discover our common humanities and approach reconciliation as a trajectory of the heart.”
“We will find new ways to move forward together,” he concluded. “Reconciliation can and will take place in our beautiful country. You’re the most important person in the world when it comes to reconciliation, because it starts with you.”
More about reconciliation:
Dancing towards reconciliation
Hearing God in indigenous voices
CMU pledges to bring indigenous knowledge into classrooms
MC Canada provides resource on indigenous-settler reconciliation