Gathering Theme: Reconciliation



1. Opening common to all gatherings.

2. Introduction to this gathering “Reconciliation”

(To be read by two participants who previously agreed to do this. There are two readings, one from the TRC final report, with a comment by Murray Sinclair, and the other, a reflection on reconciliation particularly directed to Indigenous people from an article by Maggie Hodgson)

Reconciliation at the Crossroads (taken from the final report of the TRC)

“To some people, reconciliation is the re-establishment of a conciliatory state. However, this is a state that many Aboriginal people assert never has existed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. To others, reconciliation, in the context of Indian residential schools, is similar to dealing with a situation of family violence. It’s about coming to terms with events of the past in a manner that overcomes conflict and establishes a respectful and healthy relationship among people, going forward. It is in the latter context that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has approached the question of reconciliation.

To the Commission, reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.

We are not there yet. The relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples is not a mutually respectful one. But, we believe we can get there, and we believe we can maintain it.”

Reconciliation must support Aboriginal peoples as they heal from the destructive legacies of colonization that have wreaked such havoc in their lives. But it must do even more. Reconciliation must inspire Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples to transform Canadian society so that our children and grandchildren can live together in dignity, peace, and prosperity on these lands we now share. (Honouring the Truth, page 6 and 7)

“Many people came to the conversation without really thinking about reconciliation was. They kept focusing on what reconciliation wasn’t. It wasn’t about forgiveness. It wasn’t about sovereignty. It wasn’t about title to the land. It wasn’t about government control. So they came with a bunch of negative perspectives. Once we came to terms with understanding that reconciliation is establishing a balanced and respectful relationship between two or more sovereign and existing entities, and in a way that allows them to function in a partnership going forward, I think that idea gelled very quickly for us. “ (Murray Sinclair, Reconciliation Nation, by Ruth Shead, UM Today, The Magazine, Fall, 2015, p. 27)


Maggie Hodgson, a member of the Nadleh Whuten Carrier First Nation, works locally, nationally, and internationally on justice and healing initiatives. She was the founder and host for the first “Healing Our Spirit Worldwide” gathering held in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1992. The full text of her article, “Reconciliation: A Spiritual Process” is provided by a link on our website.

Reconciliation: A Spiritual Process

“It is up to you!” Elder Abe Burnstick

“Reconciliation is a Western concept that describes a process of bringing one’s spirit to a place of peace. The long-term goal of reconciliation is to prepare ourselves for the time we go to the other side in peace. Peace is a state of spirit. We get there through hard work on our part or a willingness to ask the Creator to help us find peace in our hearts. The process of reconciliation is embodied in our mind, flesh, spirit, and attitude. We either choose to stay in pain and in anger or we are willing to do the work to effect change for ourselves. This does not necessarily mean the person or the government or the church that hurt us has to be sorry before we come to a place of peace. Coming to a place of peace and setting our spirits free from pain is a longterm process for most people and communities. Finding that place in our spirits is a lifelong journey. The reward for doing our work is being a people of hope, spirit, and commitment. We do this to ensure that our grandchildren will not have to live with our spiritual, emotional pain.

Many former residential school students experienced trauma from being disconnected from their family. Those who have moved forward understand that in order to heal from our pain we have to speak our truth and take responsibility for change. We have chosen to reverse the central pillars of the intent of residential schools and surrounding legislation that drove a spike into the hearts of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples. The chilling language surrounding the “Indian question” clearly defined the legislators’ intent, which was to assimilate Aboriginal peoples by outlawing traditional ceremonies, removing children from families, and cutting off access to language and sense of identity. In 1920, Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott told Parliament that the object of assimilation was to continue “until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question.”1 One cannot separate residential schools from those policies because they decreed that our children should not live with their parents and should not have access to ceremony while they were being trained to believe our cultural beliefs and ceremonies were of the devil.”

3. Reflections by the reader.

4. Sharing Circle.

5. Determination of the theme for the next meeting and the reader.

6. Resources: 

i. Readings
ii. Videos
iii. Organizations
iv. Actions

7. Closing common to all gatherings.

First Gathering: Getting to Know You


 Getting to Know You

Documents and Materials to bring (Facilitator’s checklist)

  • Opening statement
  • Seven Sacred Teachings of the Anishinabe (choose a participant each week to read)
  • 6 copies of the closing protocol (choose six participants)
  • Talking stick
  • (If desired) smudging tobacco, etc., or invocation
  • Refreshments
  • Small pads of paper and pencils for participants (if necessary)
  • Other items unique to your group
  • Materials on the Theme of the meeting

1. Opening for all gatherings.
2. Introductory comments by the Facilitator for 1st gathering.

“In this first gathering we want to establish a climate of “mutual recognition and mutual respect” to use the words of the Truth and Reconciliation Report. No matter what your background and life experiences we want to respect you, by listening to you and by recognizing the value of you as a person and what you have to bring to our gathering.

Over the course of our gatherings we will tackle a number of issues. For example:

What is reconciliation? What does it mean to me and why is it meaningful to me.

The history and impact of residential schools.

Inter-generational trauma caused by residential schools.

Perceptions of Indigenous people by non-Indigenous people.

The meaning of land for Indigenous People.

The role of artistic expression in creating a sense of belonging.

The sixties scoop and its ongoing reality.

The justice system and Aboriginal People including FASD.

The Métis Nation.

Missing and murdered Aboriginal People.

As well as other possible themes.

Each of our meetings will end with a closing protocol.  I will bring the meeting to a close in an hour and 15 minutes. In that way those who wish to leave can do so without feeling they are disrupting anything. If others want to stay and discuss a bit longer, that is possible (as long as the facility does not have to be locked up) So we ask you to be very conscious of your sharing time. Because we will be meeting many times, you will have many opportunities to share your thoughts and feelings.

3. Sharing Circle

We are calling this first session, a “getting to know you” session, where each of us can tell a bit about ourselves.
Facilitators can google “Icebreakers for groups” and be free to choose the one best suited for their group. There are many choices. An example is the following:

a) Ask each person to find out five things about the person sitting to their right. The last of these five things might be what the person feels they know about the current move toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
b) Allow three to five minutes for questions and then have each person introduce the person to their right to the rest of the group, telling what they know about them.
c) An index card and a pencil could help participants briefly record reminders of the conversations.

An alternative would be for the facilitator to begin by suggesting the following;

I suggest that we go around the group and in about 3-4 minutes each, share the following: a) Our name, b) where we from,  c) our cultural identity/background,  d) why we decided to take part in these gatherings, e) what we hope to bring to our life from these gatherings.  Let me begin…” 

The facilitator would begin by taking about 4 or 5 minutes to share so that participants would have a sense of the expectations.

4. Setting the tone (Facilitator)

I would like to ask you how you think we can set a “tone” for our discussions so that they are respectful of one another as persons and in our use of time. Are there any thoughts you have on setting a respectful tone? We don’t have to have rules as such, but it would be helpful if we agreed on how we will conduct ourselves. (Pass the talking stick)

5. Resources

i. Readings
ii. Videos
iii. Organizations
iv. Actions

6. Closing for all gatherings.

Five of the participants will each read one sentence from the “Closing Remarks for All Gatherings” and all will join the 6th person in reading the last sentence of the closing.

Themes for Discussion

Themes for Discussion

What is reconciliation? What does it mean to me and why is it meaningful to me.

The history and impact of residential schools.

Inter-generational trauma caused by residential schools.

Perceptions of Indigenous people by non-Indigenous people and the perceptions of non-Indigenous peoples by Indigenous peoples, based on surveys conducted in Winnipeg and across Canada.

The meaning of land for indigenous peoples.

Barriers Indigenous people face.

The role of artistic expression in creating a sense of belonging.

Planning for the future of reconciliation.