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Home / News / 13 resources to help you learn more about Truth and Reconciliation
September 29, 2023
Our United Way staff and volunteers share some resources
that have helped them in their own understanding on truth and reconciliation.
On The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, it is our collective duty to honour the children who never came home from residential schools, and Survivors, families, and communities who continue to call us in to take action.
September 30 is also Orange Shirt Day — an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day intended to raise awareness of impacts of residential schools and promoting the concept of “Every Child Matters”. The orange shirt is a symbol of the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations.
It is our responsibility to be active participants in reconciliation, both on an individual and a community-wide level. This day is an opportunity to sit with the uncomfortable truth that many of the challenges our communities face are directly caused by systemic injustice and inequality, including but not limited to residential schools.
As we learn and grow as an organization, our United Way is committed to supporting others in their journey as well. We are honoured and grateful for the Elders and Knowledge Keepers, agencies and communities who are willing to share their culture and wisdom with our team so that we can listen, learn, and understand how to break down those barriers and build a more equitable region for all.
Below, our United Way staff and volunteers share some resources that have helped them in their own understanding and growth. Everyone learns in different ways, so this article doesn’t just contain books and courses, but recommendations of people to follow on social media, podcasts, and more.
Content Warning: Since these are resources that are related to the residential school system and the oppression of Indigenous people, we can assume that all recommendations include references to violence and oppression. Additional content warnings have been included in the summary of each resource.
If you need support, you can call, text or chat with 211 Alberta to find resources near you.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience at 1-866-925-4419
Content Warnings: None
Summary: As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert).
Why it made the list: Braiding Sweetgrass is a beautiful book that effectively bridges the gap between scientific knowledge, Indigenous worldviews, and Western culture. The author’s deep respect for Indigenous teachings aligns with the call to recognize and honor Indigenous ways of Knowing, particularly through the lens of environmental stewardship. What resonated most for me was that the book offers a hopeful story about humans’ relationship with the Earth and it inspires readers to take compassionate action in healing the world for future generations.
— Lindsay Hood, Relationship Lead, Workplace Solutions
Summary: Jody Wilson-Raybould delves into actionable steps that individuals can take to make real progress in the journey of reconciliation. True Reconciliation is broken down into three core practices—Learn, Understand, and Act—that can be applied by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments.
Content Warnings: This book addresses key issues Indigenous peoples face, including trauma from residential schools, and the ongoing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls crisis.
Why it Made the List: Many individuals don’t know what they should do in regards to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. This book challenges individuals to self-reflect and push for real change to occur within Canada.
— Shannon Johnston, GenNEXT Cabinet Member
Content Warnings: This resource is related to the genocide of Indigenous people and includes references to violence and oppression. This resource includes photographs and personal stories of the experiences and impact of residential schools.
Summary: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published this history as a part of its mandate to educate the Canadian public about residential schools and their place in Canadian history. For the child taken, and for the parent left behind, we encourage Canadians to read this history, to understand the legacy of the schools, and to participate in the work of reconciliation.
Why it Made the List: This is a very powerful resource for understanding the history of Residential Schools from lived experience. It was created by The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada with the intent of supporting the learning that needs to take place before true reconciliation is possible.
— Ilene Fleming, Vice President, Brand and External Relations
Content Warnings: Rated 14+ Mature Themes. The book contains depictions of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault, physical assault, suicide, and death.
Summary: Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie, and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention. With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward.
Why it Made the List: Though the characters are fictional, the author pulls from her personal experience and that of her family to tell this story. This book provides powerful insight into the long-lasting effects residential schools have had on survivors, their families, and our community. It takes a very personal approach, focusing on each character’s story with care, depth, and empathy, that leaves readers feeling connected, heartbroken, and empowered to learn more.
— Josie Tan, GenNEXT Cabinet Member
Content Warnings: References to Indigenous Peoples’ experiences with residential schools, violence, and oppression.
Summary: In-depth courses to help you understand the perspectives and history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The Indigenous Awareness Training Workshops will provide your organization with the information needed to build effective and positive relationships with the Indigenous people. Gain the confidence to communicate and create more effective working relationships with Indigenous peoples, governments and businesses.
Why it Made the List:In 2018, I took part in a live workshop, followed by the Indigenous Awareness Certification online course. The live workshop was profoundly impactful, providing me with a foundational introduction to Indigenous ways of knowing and being. It also equipped me with valuable communication skills and insights into respectful interactions with Indigenous Peoples, encompassing everything from eye contact to speaking volume to handshakes.
The workshop was facilitated by Robert Laboucane, a Métis businessman from Alberta and Director of Indigenous Awareness Canada. Robert engaged us in discussions about residential schools and the unmarked gravesites long before these issues gained national attention, which I bring up only to show that Robert was truthful and open with us about the experiences of Indigenous Peoples. His workshops are authentic and incredibly informative, and the online courses offer a valuable alternative or extension of the live training.
— Patricia Skagen-Emokpae, Program Lead, 211 Alberta
Content Warning: None
Summary: Reconciliation Canada’s Introduction to Reconciliation webinar will create a safe place for participants to explore our shared Canadian history, examine the meaning of reconciliation, and their respective role to play. This hour-long webinar will provide an opportunity for participants to explore their values, and beliefs as they relate to reconciliation, and create a safe space for participants to ask questions, and learn from each other.
Why it Made the List: Reconciliation Canada’s Introduction to Reconciliation webinar explores Canada’s shared history, breaks down the meaning of reconciliation at a personal and collective level. Charlene Seward provides a safe space for participants to ask questions and learn from each other, she challenges everybody to think about their own values and believes as they relate to the meaning of reconciliation. She is the child of a residential school survivor who is working on her own intergenerational trauma. This hour-long webinar provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my own values and helped me understand the meaning of economic reconciliation and shared prosperity to overcome economic inequality in Canada. Seward provides tangible and potential solutions to approach reconciliation as a personal and societal journey where all of us are needed to achieve social and systemic change.
— Karina Hurtado, Portfolio Manager, Financial Empowerment
Summary: Dr. Blackstock is a nationally and internationally respected advocate for the rights of Indigenous children. She co-founded the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society in 1998. Later, Blackstock led the organization’s case against the federal government from 2007–16. The Caring Society argued child welfare services provided to First Nations children and families on-reserve were discriminatory and flawed. Dr. Blackstock and the Caring Society continue to work toward improving child and family services for Indigenous children across Canada.
Why they made the list: As an Honorary Witness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Dr. Blackstock believes she has a public duty to work with Indigenous Peoples and across academic disciplines to implement the TRC’s Calls to Action.
She says: “Reconciliation means learning from past injustices in a way that changes behaviour and attitudes to prevent the injustices from continuing so that we can raise a generation of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children who do not have to recover from their childhoods and a generation of non-Indigenous children who never have to say they are sorry.”
Dr. Blackstock is an amazing, passionate public speaker and her work as an advocate for First Nations children is relentless. Any time I can go listen to her speak in person, I do!
— Melanie Lukevich, Portfolio Manager, Agency Partnerships
Summary: Whose Land is a web-based app by BOLD Realities, TakingITGlobal, and Canadian Roots Exchange. It uses GIS technology to assist users in identifying Indigenous Nations, territories, and Indigenous communities across Canada.
Why it made the list: Whose Land is a great resource to understand the land that we live and work on. It provides information on the local territories, treaties, and fosters reconciliation dialogue through maps, videos, and community-specific information.
Summary: Indigenous Canada is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies that explores the different histories and contemporary perspectives of Indigenous Peoples living in Canada. From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores complex experiences Indigenous Peoples face today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. Topics for the 12 lessons include the fur trade and other exchange relationships, land claims and environmental impacts, legal systems and rights, political conflicts and alliances, Indigenous political activism, and contemporary Indigenous life, art and its expressions.
Why it made the list: I really enjoyed taking this course, it opened my eyes to how much of Canadian history was not taught in social studies and how much more I have to learn. It was hopeful to learn about how much Indigenous resistance has created powerful change and continues to do so. This is a great starting point for anyone looking to learn more about Indigenous Peoples.
— Darian Selander, Portfolio Lead, Workplace Fundraising
Content Warnings: References violence against and oppression of Indigenous people which may cause distress for some listeners.
Summary: Words connect us. Words hurt us. Indigenous histories have been twisted by centuries of colonization. Host Kaniehti:io Horn brings us together to decolonize our minds – one word, one concept, one story at a time.
Why it made the list: As host Kaniehti:io Horn says in the episode “Reconciliation”: “In most Indigenous communities, to learn something, you’re told to watch and especially to listen.” And CBC’s podcast Telling Our Twisted Histories is worth hearing.
Each episode explores and decolonizes our vocabulary – from deliberately hurtful terms like “savage” to nuanced ones like “obey.” With humour and truth, Horn’s conversations with Indigenous guests give listeners a better understanding of how use of these words affects Indigenous people. As a settler, Telling Our Twisted Histories is a reminder that the language we use in daily life is powerful. By watching what we say, we can avoid perpetuating harmful colonial stereotypes and hundreds of years of pain.
— Christie Hutchinson, Portfolio Manager, Product Marketing
Summary: True Story is a 2-part feature documentary series that sheds light on the history of the relationship between Indigenous and settler people as told by Indigenous voices from their point of view relying on oral history. This historical journey is heartbreaking, astonishing and shameful, but it is also uplifting, inspiring and full of laughter and light. The resilience of Indigenous peoples often shines through in their humour, which can be dark and cheeky, something that True Story embraces. As a nation living on what is now called Canada, how do we move forward from the historical wrongdoings of our colonial history? If we truly want reconciliation, let’s start with the truth. It might be messy and it is definitely ugly, but moments of hope show us what this country could be — if we are open to facing and learning from the past.
Why it made the list: I’m always looking for ways to learn more about Indigenous history and more about Truth & Reconciliation in Canada, and I came across this documentary and really wanted to see it. I appreciated the Indigenous perspectives shared from across Canada and thought it was interesting to learn more about the role of women, Elders, Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer people in Indigenous society historically, and the perspectives on community and connection. There was a quote at the very end that stuck with me about our connection to the land and earth, and I wrote it down so I can keep it close: “What we are fighting for belongs to everyone We do this for everyone. Because at the core of it all, we are all human and we all belong to earth.”
— Lis Swyripa, Vice President, People & Culture
Summary: Have you heard the word reconciliation before? It comes up a lot around Orange Shirt Day, which is marked every year in Canada on Sept. 30 as a day to raise awareness about the horror faced by Indigenous people who were forced to attend Canadian residential schools. CBC Kids News contributor Isabel DeRoy Olson explains: The history of reconciliation; The two groups involved in making the process work; A brief explanation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; An overview of the commission’s 94 calls to action; and what you can do to make a difference.
Why it made the list: As adults broaden our understanding and knowledge about reconciliation work, it’s important to engage children and youth too. This video helps share these concepts from a child’s perspective, making the topic easier to understand.
— Tina Bourne, Director, Affinity Groups and Volunteer Engagement
Where you can find it: A Spotify and Gimlet Media original podcast series
Summary: In May 2021, investigative journalist Connie Walker came upon a story about her late father she’d never heard before. One night back in the late 1970s while he was working as an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he pulled over a suspected drunk driver. He walked up to the vehicle and came face-to-face with a ghost from his past—a residential school priest. What happened on the road that night set in motion an investigation that would send Connie deep into her own past, trying to uncover the secrets of her family and the legacy of trauma passed down through the generations.
Content Warning: This podcast includes descriptions of violence and sexual abuse against children.
Why it made the list: Connie Walker is an incredible Cree journalist, who has created several compelling podcast series about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and residential school Survivors. This story is not only about her father’s experience at residential school, but their relationship and how his story affects her own. The podcast also explores the experience of Survivors and their families seeking justice and accountability — or lack thereof — from the government and the Church for the crimes committed in residential schools. Walker was recognized for her work on this series with a 2022 Peabody Award.
— Laurie Callsen, Portfolio Lead, Brand and Content Marketing
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