Originally published: October 2022

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September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada.

Reconciliation is about creating and maintaining respectful relationships between Indigenous and settler (non-Indigenous) people in Canada. It involves acknowledging the harms and mistakes of colonization, including the devastating effects of Canada’s residential school system. It also means sharing and learning together about positive ways to move forward.

Reconciliation is a process that involves both education and action. On September 30, commit to learning more about Canada’s history of oppression of Indigenous people, and talk with your teen about meaningful acts of reconciliation you can do together.

Here are some ideas to help you and your teen take part in reconciliation. Use them as a starting point and reflect on your intentions. Consider how your actions will respectfully deepen relationships with Indigenous history, culture, and people.

  • Learn the truth about the residential school system and its impacts on Indigenous people. If you can, connect with Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and community leaders to make sure you’re getting information from trusted sources. You can also look to materials for teachers and schools – these can be useful for families too. For example:
    • This summary of residential school history from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation includes photos, documents, and links to an interactive timeline.
    • Plain talk 6: Residential schools from the Assembly of First Nations is a virtual toolkit with stories, videos, and other digital resources.
  • Listen to the stories of residential school survivors and their family members, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers. These stories can be disturbing to listen to, but these personal narratives capture what life was like in the residential school system. You know your teen Consider these options based on their age and readiness:
  • Reflect on your own biases and misperceptions. Challenge them with accurate information about Indigenous Peoples and Communities in Alberta. This AHS series on Indigenous myths and misconceptions can help:
  • Get to know the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’ 94 Calls to Action (TRC). Together with your teen, explore progress on each Call to Action using Beyond94, an interactive digital platform from CBC. It breaks down progress by key themes: child welfare, education, language and culture, health, justice, and reconciliation. Talk about what reconciliation means and what you and your family can do to follow the recommendations outlined by the TRC.
  • Wear orange shirts to symbolize harm done to residential school survivors and their families and to show your family’s commitment to the principle that every child matters. Talk with your teen about the story that inspired the Orange Shirt Day movement, and plan to wear orange on other dates and events that honour First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, legacies, and cultures.
  • Learn what treaty territory you are on and how to recognize it. Not sure where to begin? Try resources from the Alberta School Councils Association, including a Treaty map and sample wording in different parts of the province. Talk with your teen about why acknowledging the traditional land and its people is an important way to begin school assemblies, events, and other gatherings.
  • Find out if there was a residential school in your local area. CBC’s interactive map of residential school sites can help you get started. Learn the name of the school and research its history. Consider making a visit to the site to show respect for the children that survived, and to honour the lives that were lost.
  • Watch films by Indigenous filmmakers from across Canada. These playlists from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) can help you stream films appropriate for both younger and older teens:
  • Explore Indigenous books, online games, animation, and other media. CBC’s list of 15 beautiful Indigenous comic books and video games is a great way to start.
  • Help your teen research Indigenous heroes, role models, and change-makers. Here are some helpful tools:
  • Attend an Indigenous cultural event or gathering that’s open to the public, like a powwow, drumming circle, or traditional dance performance. These events provide opportunities to make connections and learn first-hand from Indigenous communities. Be sure to follow traditional protocol expected at these gatherings.
  • Listen to music and storytelling by Indigenous artists and young people. Try these ideas:
  • Go to an Indigenous museum or art gallery. If there isn’t one in your community, try a virtual tour with Mootookakio’ssin, a 3D digital collection of Blackfoot items from the 19th and 20th
  • Visit an Indigenous restaurant, café, or food truck, or try making a traditional meal at home. Get inspired with this Indigenous recipe collection from the Dietitians of Canada.
  • Learn some common greetings or words in an Indigenous language, or research the original names of places and landmarks in your local area. This digital collection of Blackfoot-English phrases can help.
  • Encourage your teen to try traditional games like ring the stick or double ball. Learn how with the Move & Play Through Traditional Games toolkit from Be Fit for Life and Ever Active Schools.
  • Connect with the land. Spend time outside as a family, showing respect and appreciation for nature. Enjoy getting active in traditional ways (like walking, canoeing, or playing outside) or try planting and harvesting. This resource on traditional plants and uses from the Alberta Teachers’ Association can help your teen learn about traditional medicines such as sage, cedar, sweetgrass, and other plants.
  • Support an Indigenous-led business or company in your community. The Indigenous Tourism Alberta website can help you find gift shops, art and jewelry stores, food vendors, hotels, and more.
  • Help your teen fundraise or volunteer for a Friendship Centre or Indigenous-led non-profit group. Check out the Government of Alberta’s Guide to Indigenous Organizations and Services in Alberta for a full list of Indigenous non-profit organizations and services (including national umbrella organizations).
  • As a family, commit to lifelong learning that supports reconciliation. Watch for local opportunities to learn from Elders and Knowledge Keepers, or try webinars and virtual options like Indigenous Canada, a free massive open online course from the University of Alberta. Share your learning journey with your friends and community – reflect, ask questions, and spark conversations.

Reconciliation is a difficult journey. Reach out for help if you need it. You are not alone.

Photo: Sings Many Songs Women (Pearl White Quills, Deb Green and Noreen Demeria) sang for the opening of the healing garden at the Alberta Children's Hospital, a place of refuge for patients, staff and physicians.

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