Educators and leaders talk Truth and Reconciliation at TRU forum

Speakers discussed issues surrounding Indigenous communities and reconciliation is so important

Bonaparte Indian Band Chief Ryan Day. (Elizabeth Nygren/The Omega)

The TRU Truth and Reconciliation Forum took place over the course of 2 days, March 23-24 and was filled with many presentations, discussions, keynote speakers, and sharing circles/break out sessions. The goal of the Truth and Reconciliation Forum was to teach people about colonization, decolonization and Indigenization. The event was put on by TRU Aboriginal Education and Thompson Rivers University.

The forum opened with a reception, with welcoming remarks from TRU President Alan Shaver and TRU Aboriginal Education Director Paul Michel. On the opening night of the event, there were panel presentations given by four TRU educators and community leaders: Bonaparte Indian Band Chief Ryan Day, TRU Dean of Social Work & Education Airini, Secwépemc Elder Garry Gottfriedson and TRU Law Student Jamie Gagnon.

Day began the presentations by discussing how important homes are to everyone and how the Secwépemc people were removed from their land, facing much trauma because of it.

“[Intergenerational trauma] is something that’s inside each and every one of us,” Day said. “Our parents aren’t perfect, they each went through something, their parents went through something and these things get passed on.The grief was not necessarily dealt with and this has been passed on and down the line.”

These words helped much of the audience understand another reason why reconciliation is so important.

Airini had a different approach when giving her presentation. She discussed how we need to look to the future after we’ve learned from our past, and discussed her current venture called ‘The Coyote Project’.

The goal of the project is to have 13 per cent of the TRU education program be Aboriginal students, as only 5 per cent of the program are Aboriginal students currently. She discussed how there is work to be done and that there are still 94 calls to action that need to be completed in order for reconciliation to truly occur. Airini stated that “it is our responsibility to do more as power holders in the university sector.”

Gottfriedson discussed how the language of the Secwépemc people was being lost, and that there is less than 2% of fluent speakers in the nation.

“Our language holds our worldviews, our philosophies, our whole essence of who we are in this territory,” Gottfriedson said. “Our connections to our land, our connections to each other and our connection to absolutely everything we know in our world.”

Gottfriedson also discussed the need for community-based programs, so people can learn the language and said that “it can’t be talk, it has to be real.”

Lastly Gagnon mentioned how TRU needs more Indigenous law programs and faculty to go along with these programs.

“It would be ideal for TRU to have Indigenous academics on staff, teaching these topics, supporting the students and supporting the faculty,” Gagnon said.