1. I wish to acknowledge that we are on the original lands of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
2. Following the presentation of the topic for today, a general discussion will follow with each of you being given an opportunity to speak to the issue. You are encouraged to keep in mind seven sacred teachings of the Anishinaabe in your thoughts and words.
3. (The Seven Sacred Teachings are then to be read aloud by one of the participants)
LOVE: it is important to care for one another
HONESTY: better to fail with honesty than succeed by fraud
RESPECT: give it, earn it, receive it.
TRUTH: it is always easiest to speak the truth
HUMILITY: to be humble about your accomplishments is to be strong
COURAGE: let nothing stand in the way of doing the right thing
WISDOM: with hard work and dedication will come knowledge
4. Sharing around the circle, clockwise is recommended. Should you wish to “pass” at that time, you will be given a chance at the end to offer your thoughts. While you may not wish to speak at all on a given week, your participation is desired as each individual has gifts to offer the circle.
5. An item, such as a talking stick, will be passed around giving each person a chance to speak. Speak on behalf of yourself only and speak what comes from your heart and from your own experience.
6. It is very important that we all recognize that the feelings of an individual are neither right nor wrong. They are real and need to be respected.
7. In accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, the four guiding principles for the new relationship are “mutual recognition, mutual respect, sharing, and mutual responsibility.” (Interim Report, page 23)
8. We ask you to be conscious of your sharing time so that everyone has a chance to participate. Because we have a number of gatherings you will have ample opportunity to share your ideas and feelings.
Opening protocol for the first circle
I would like to share with you some of the feedback we have received from our participants. While most of it has been very positive, there have been several concerns raised.
Our non-Indigenous participants have sometimes been frustrated when Indigenous participants have not continued in the group after the first few meetings.
Our Indigenous participants also have some concerns. Some feel that too much burden has been placed upon them to share difficult moments of their past, while the non-Indigenous participants have not felt that same obligation. We need to respect each other’s stories. We cannot ask Indigenous participants to share if the non-Indigenous partners are not also willing to share.
A second concern Indigenous people have expressed is in the form of a question: “Why should we have to educate settlers about things they should have learnt in school or elsewhere? It is not our job to educate them”. The answer to that question is both simple and complicated. The simple answer is that settlers did not learn it in school. Period. But now there are plenty of books, T.V. programs and media reports that are telling the stories. Non-Indigenous people cannot be blamed for not learning this in school, but there is no longer an excuse to be ignorant. Now that we know a little more, we can do something about it. Let’s all take responsibility ourselves to learn more and do something about it. Our circles give us a wonderful opportunity to meet one another, to get to know one another, to hear the stories of one another and to build that mutual respect that the TRC states is the foundation of reconciliation. Knowledge has to add empathy to bring about change.
There is another reason we encourage Indigenous participants to take part in our circles. We hope your children and grandchildren will no longer have to experience the racism and ignorance that has marked Canadian history and Indigenous lives for so long. You can help end that with your participation. We hope you will grace us with your presence and participation. We need you!
To our non-Indigenous participants, we want to ask you to share some of your own history. How does it relate or does it not relate to Indigenous people in Canada? Why have you not been taught more about Canada’s broken promises to Indigenous people or about your relationships with the systems that uphold the status quo? Together, our sharing can lead us to live by the treaties that our forefathers signed in our name.