Sharing the Message of Truth and Reconciliation with Your Kids
By Selena Mills, Daughter of Detail
Photo © wdeon/123RF
Mar 13, 2018
As Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Turtle Island, of this land, we have been tasked with an important challenge put before us by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. But what does this look like for parents? What can we teach our kids, our friends, our extended family members, our colleagues and our neighbours about being allies? Or, if you’re an Indigenous parent, what can we teach kids about rising above past and present oppression and standing tall in their Native Pride?
Because, in all diverse roles that we fill, we are our children's ultimate influence — their steady teachers. We need to teach them to believe that social justice and equality are integral to not only living a good life, but also to surviving after we’re gone. Dark thought, perhaps, but it’s true. Putting down roots on Mars isn’t quite an option yet, no matter what Elon Musk has up his sleeve, so just how are we teaching our kids to walk together as society and community members?
We all want to raise children who honour their own culture and the cultures of others and the peoples of this land.
As a mixed Indigenous parent, I follow in the Anishinaabe teachings that have been shared with me, and in doing so, I keep the faces of those born and unborn front and centre — the future of the next seven generations — when making my decisions and taking action based on those decisions. This is a crucial aspect of kinship. This governing practice of true accountability is how many Indigenous peoples strive to maintain peace between our nations, and provide a sustainable world for future generations through the preservation of all of creation, our languages, and the oral teachings passed down from our ancestors.
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I’m sure many of you can relate. The food, music, languages, perhaps religion or spirituality and traditions of your culture affect how you parent, I’m no different. We all want to raise children who honour their own culture and the cultures of others and the peoples of this land. And we all live on Indigenous territory no matter what slice of pie on on Turtle Island we call home. It should be a priority to find out more about your own home and find out ways that you can learn about the community that you live in.
So this is where we’ve begun with our own kids, who are now six and eight. Their lives are rich with the positive influences and contributions of Indigenous peoples — historically and in present day — and they are occupied by vibrant cultural traditions extending all areas. I don’t want their learning to be exclusively about the genocide and colonization of their peoples (which is sometimes all they might get at school). Their peers and their friends should be also immersed in the positive elements of the rich diversity of Indigenous peoples.
Be self-reflective and honest about any biases that might be holding you back.
Taking simple, age-appropriate and consistent steps to learn about the injustices (residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and current-day injustices) while highlighting the positive has been crucial for my kids right now, so that they can weather the heartbreaking and confusing truths that they have already started to learn. If you haven’t already gleaned where I’m going with this, it’s really quite simple. Think of the activities you already do with your kids that are inspiring and enjoyable, and include Indigenous offerings into that variety. Take them to Indigenous-led art and cultural events (like powwows, kids programming at film and theatre festivals and movies.) Introduce them to Indigenous practicitioners, knowledge-keepers and icons in sport, dance, theatre, film, art, music, academia and science.
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Whatever their age bracket, there is a variety of ways to highlight and elevate Indigenous excellence. You just have to do your research, in your own locality, and be self-reflective and honest about any biases that might be holding you back. Ask yourself: are you putting in any effort about sharing and teaching your kids about the rich culture of the First Peoples who lived in your home before it became your home? Because we’re still very much here, thriving and shining brightly — albeit with hard truths to share — reclaiming, revitalizing and insisting on no more stolen generations.