Reneltta Arluk is a writer and actor of Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and Chipewyan-Cree descent originally from the Northwest Territories. Raised by her grandparents on the trap-line until school age, Reneltta travelled with them across the North. In 2008, Reneltta founded Akpik Theatre in Yellowknife to help produce and tell northern indigenous stories.

How have you been affected by the legacy of residential schools? 

My mother being a survivor and through the hardship that she’s encountered, I definitely carry a pain that she carries without the action being [done to] me … but in saying that she has also given me a strength to overcome things in my life.

Because she survived, I feel like I can survive.

Have you participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

Walk for Reconciliation

The Walk for Reconciliation was held in Vancouver in September 2013. (Lisa Johnson/CBC)

Yes, in Vancouver last year they had that amazing walk. It surprised me. I felt overwhelmed that so many people had come out and heard about the TRC that were non-aboriginal. There were so many mixed cultures that were part of that walk and it was so welcomed. 

Because when you’ve gone through something that you feel ashamed for, even though you don’t need to feel ashamed... to be so celebrated by the community was incredible to see. 

How do you think the TRC has had an impact?

You’re surrounded by survivors, if you’re indigenous. They’re in your family, they’re your friends, they're your uncles, your aunts, so you can’t dismiss the impact that it has on the communities.

This week, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada hosts its final national event in Edmonton. We've asked voices from the first generation of aboriginal people who didn't attend a residential school to share their thoughts on reconciliation and what the legacy means to them.

The feeling [at a TRC event] is that you get permission to speak. We [indigenous people] are working on finding our voice and now our voice is getting stronger and we are uniting.

And we are doing that in so many ways – through teaching, through the arts, through journalism, through being advocates in your communities. 

I feel that TRC is just a huge voice where people can go and share theirs and it’s so heartbreaking but it's so vital because we are not alone in that pain and that we share it is so necessary. 

What are the biggest challenges facing reconciliation?

Acceptance. Acknowledgement.  I am full of heart that the [media] coverage we are getting is so much better. We’re getting more specific, we’re getting actual recognition that is positive AND negative, not just negative and slanted.

reneltta arluk

Reneltta Arluk learns an Inuit song and dance from her aunt and cousin. (Reneltta Arluk)

But I’m constantly discouraged by the comments on articles. When articles are so good and so interesting and intelligent and you read the comments at the bottom and you’re just like, really? I can’t read those comments.

Canada needs to change its mind. I can only hope that if we keep growing and uniting and having a stronger voice that is positive and intelligent, then Canada will change its mind.

Tune into CBC's The National tonight for their Next Generation panel that includes Wab Kinew, Gabrielle Scrimshaw and Hayden King.