Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner November 4, 2021
There is no more important piece of work for us Canadians than walking with Indigenous people and healing our relationships. Recently I have seen four highly positive examples of this work proceeding.
One is highly local, and citizen-initiated. It is the weekly Truth and Reconciliation vigil every Thursday from 4-5 p.m. in Confederation Park. Led by “woke” teachers Ferne Christal, Barbara Ratz and Stephanie Benn, it has attracted numbers between 15-100 people, many wearing orange T-shirts, saying “Every Child Matters,” standing in a circle and approaching a microphone to read three or four of the 94 recommendations made by the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Justice Murray Sinclair, five years ago.
They are simply read out and reflected on. In between each segment, the names of missing and murdered Indigenous women from the past 60 years are read out, and the names of children who died at residential schools.
The women organizers say these gatherings will continue indefinitely. It has the effect of bringing home to participants real people in real situations.
Meanwhile at Trent, there has been a powerful Treaty Rock installed just outside Bata Library, at the main bus stop.
I have long visited the Trent Symons campus, mostly as a member of the Athletic Centre. I like being among the young and in an atmosphere of thought. There have been projects to take part in, such as writing an encouraging message to students during Mental Health week.
Progressive thought has always marked Trent’s leadership. On September 30, an installation took place honoring the fact that Trent stands on the original lands of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg people, through an agreement in 1818 signed by the colonial government and six clans of Indigenous people.
It is three massive stones of limestone, 20 feet long and 4 feet high, donated and placed by Drain Brothers Construction. Original artwork of crane, fish, snake, caribou and eagle was carved in the rock by Indigenous artist CIA Cavanagh.
The moving, half-hour ceremony was opened and closed in prayer led by Ann Taylor and Lorenzo Whetung of Curve Lake. Two Trent chancellors, one present, one past, along with Emily Whetung, a Trent grad now Chief of Curve Lake, the president of Trent, Leo Groarke and Board Chair Debra Cooper-Burger, unveiled the rock. Then there was a profound historic teaching by Elder Doug Williams.
Julie Davis, a Trent vice-president and a catalyst for the installation, has worked for three years with a council of Elders, receiving advice and guidance. Trent also benefits from 40 years of scholarship in the Department of Native Studies, the First Peoples House of Learning and many Indigenous students.
For many years, the entrance to Trent was marked by an Inukshuk, the symbol of Inuit history and presence in Canada.
More recently, Trent realized that it is situated on land occupied by six clans of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg people. The Inukshuk was respectfully moved to a site on the East Bank.
In another positive development, Marc Miller, Federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs has announced with some pride, that since 2015, 119 drinking water advisories for First Nations communities have been lifted. His report indicates that this is 72 percent of the target. In another 17 percent, facilities are under construction and the last few are in the design phase.
Finally, there is the welcome news from the Catholic bishops that Pope Francis has accepted the invitation to come to Canada “to support the journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, a date to be decided in due course.” Many native leaders have called for this visit and will meet with the Pope in Rome in December.
May all these signs result in genuine progress.
Since good work often follows on good news in a spiral way, we must take some pride in these signs, and keep walking. Mark the milestones and remember how much is left to do. Davis recognized that many emotions were felt on September 3: sorrow, anger and determination among them. Take a drive or a walk by Treaty Rock.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or from >Amazon<