I was honoured and humbled to attend a reconciliation session on the Squamish First Nation this week. The elders and Chief and Council invited non-aboriginal people from many walks of life into their longhouse to tell stories of residential school tragedy and heartbreak. They shared with us intimate details of pain and suffering that most Canadians cannot imagine. They reflected on abuses, on being taken from their families by government officials, and of being forced into a culture as very young children that they could not possibly understand. They spoke of not being parented and, therefore, not knowing how to parent their own children in later life. Much pain was shared.
And much hope was shared as well. This was not a session for hearing only but of telling as well! The Squamish people don’t want to forget these experiences, they want to reconcile their pain with an exciting future for their children. They do not believe that they live in isolation, but that they are a part of a world that offers opportunity for their youth.
At this session, they wanted to hear our stories as well. They want to know their neighbours who are not aboriginal so that together we will offer to their children, and our children, a world of respect of each others’ values, beliefs and experiences. The Squamish people are, as one elder told me, walking from one room to another room.
I felt welcome in the Squamish longhouse. I felt valued and respected. As a proud Canadian, I look forward to returning that respect.