Sunday October 22, 2017

One woman's plan to give back: 'The land needs to be returned to Indigenous peoples'

Janice Keil holds the title to 100 acres of land in Ontario. She's beginning the process of repatriating it to nearby Alderville First Nation.

Janice Keil holds the title to 100 acres of land in Ontario. She's beginning the process of repatriating it to nearby Alderville First Nation. (Supplied)

Listen 7:51

An Ontario woman wants to return her land to the Alderville First Nation as an act of reconciliation.

Janice Keil, a secondary school teacher from Peterborough, Ontario, owns 100 acres of land in Northumberland County, in the territory of the Mississauga.

Keil wants to restore the land to tallgrass prairie and then she wants to repatriate some of it to nearby Alderville First Nation.

"I realized that at the heart of this path of reconciliation is the land, that we as white settlers stole, including my ancestors."

She said listening to interviews on Unreserved, especially about Canada's 150th anniversary, got her thinking about the role of settlers in the country and what she can do to foster reconciliation.

"Something shifted inside and as a proud Canadian it made me feel really ashamed to celebrate Canada Day 2017."

Path to reconciliation

Keil said the process to repatriate the land could take between 10 and 20 years because there aren't many examples to follow. Despite the lenghty timeline, she feels repatriating the land is an important step on the path to reconciliation.

"I knew without any doubt that it was a lie that the land belongs to me and even though I have this piece of paper called a deed, the land needs to be returned to the Indigenous peoples."

She said though it often suprises people, she feels compelled to see this repatriation through. 

"For me the question isn't why, the question is how can I not do this? How can you not do everything in your power to bring about reconciliation in the best way that you can in your tiny corner of Turtle Island?"

She said hearing musician Gord Downie speak that day after Canada Day in Ottawa provided her with another source of inspiration. 

"I just found it so powerful when he talked about that, 'We had the past 150 years that were absolutely horrendous for Indigenous peoples but we have the next 150 years to do it differently and to do it better.' And I certainly hope that in my small way, and in all of my frailties that I can do it differently."