Indigenous advocate Lynn Gehl questions if reconciliation is working

Advocate and author Lynn Gehl fought for 32 years to be recognized as Indigenous. In a talk in Brantford Wednesday night, she questions: What is reconciliation?
Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She is speaking at Wilfrid Laurier University's Brantford campus Wednesday for the final lecture in a series called What is Reconciliation?

It took 32 years before Lynn Gehl was recognized as an Indigenous person.

​During that journey through the Ontario court system, she said she also learned a lot about Indigenous knowledge.

"It's not just feathers and dancing," she said.

There are teachings, ways of creating new knowledge, and learning about Indigenous models of the human spirit.

"I really find learning about Indigenous knowledge and talking about Indigenous knowledge and thinking more about it and listening to more about it, that's really where my affinity, my spirit is," Gehl told CBC K-W's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Wednesday.

Listen to the whole interview below:

'We're not getting our land back'

Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe. She is an advocate for Indigenous rights, a critic of colonial law and policies and she wrote Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit and The Truth That Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process.

Gehl is scheduled to give a talk at Wilfrid Laurier University's Brantford campus Wednesday night for the final lecture in a series called: What is Reconciliation?

"I have a lot of views about reconciliation," Gehl said.

"I don't think it's happening at the level of practice or policy — whether you're talking about the land claim process or the Indian Act, the process of removing sex discrimination in the Indian Act, obviously we're not getting reconciliation there. We're not getting our land back."

Lynn Gehl (left) and her lawyer Christa Big Canoe seen in 2016. They fought for decades to gain Indigenous status for Gehl. Both Gehl's grandmother and father have status, but Gehl was denied because she does not know the identity of one of her grandfathers. (Colin Perke/Canadian Press)

Understanding colonial mentality

She said she hopes people leave the talk knowing Indigenous knowledge was criminalized because "Canada didn't want people to know it."

"I want people to walk away with the understand that Indigenous knowledge is deep and it's sophisticated and it's more than colours and feathers, which is what Canada wants everyone to believe," she said.

"I want them to come away understanding that the heart is very intelligent, contrary to what we all like to think — that the mind is the intelligent being or entity within our bodies — actually the heart is a valid repository of knowledge."