People within the academy are putting too much emphasis on merely talking about reconciliation, without putting any real action into it. The problem with this, is that if there’s no real action to the reconciliation, it’s not doing anything for anybody except allowing the academy to build capital off the reclamation Indigenous people are working so hard for. Many Indigenous people are growing tired of the term “reconciliation” because quite often, it’s become a term that is loosely thrown around for convenience.
The fact of the matter is, is that this isn’t just work for us. This is our livelihood, this is our home, and this is our ceremony. The systems we work within are actively disregarding our Indigeniety, and we work within these systems willingly in order to make our society a better place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The emotional labor that goes into what we do doesn’t end when we leave campus or finish writing an essay. The work we do comes home to bed with us and keeps us awake for hours into the night.
You would have to be extremely naïve to deny the simple truth that the systems in canada are working against Indigenous people. If you are smart, you would know that there are underlining factors that lead up to high poverty rates, drug and alcohol abuse, high suicide rates, and things like this…. People don’t get this way from nothing. What I mean is, it would be stupid to believe that there are no injustices that Indigenous people face, because the proof is in our people. An entire race of people don’t just become the way we are because of our blood, or just because we’re Indigenous… and if you believe the problems we face is due to the fact that we’re any less human than you, or it’s “in our blood” to be more susceptible to suicide, drugs and alcohol, then you are a couple centuries behind and I will label you the same way I label the “Fathers of Anthropology” who believed intelligence has everything to do with the shape of your head…. Stupid. The problems Indigenous people are facing are due to colonialism and oppression. These problems come from hundreds of years of conditioning and systems that are rooted in the way our society conducts itself. These ideologies began in the academy. In order to peel back the layers of ignorance and misunderstanding, we must begin this work in the academy.
This work is important, and it’s not just something we can leave at school. We don’t get to go home and relax. This work is not just work because this work is embedded into every part of our lives and we don’t have the choice to go home and leave it for tomorrow. We don’t get to choose to take a day off because it’s too much. If it’s too much that’s too damn bad because there is no escaping the colonial violence we face. My work in these areas started at birth, not when I entered the academy. I’m not sure if people will be able to understand that, and that’s why people have to stop using Indigenous reconciliation as capital and stepping-stones. People have to stop taking credit for our work, more importantly; people have to stop acting like reconciliation is a bandwagon they can jump on to gain popularity.
We are not your latter to being looked at as a measure of success. The fact that people even pat themselves on the back for acknowledging Treaties or being more inclusive of Indigenous students and customs is colonial and dehumanizing. You don’t get extra points for doing something that should have already been done generations ago. You don’t get to say that you have been a part of reconciliation after claiming the work Indigenous people have been doing for generations.
It is violently disrupting our healing process as Indigenous scholars. It’s already hard enough being here doing this work that actively dismantles these colonial narratives that oppress and continue to marginalize us. But, to have the work stolen, claimed, and glorified by people who don’t even understand what it is, is not only painful, but it is insulting to everything that we have worked for.
If you don’t understand it, that’s okay – but don’t pretend like you do know what it means for your own personal gain.