My name is Casey Caines, and I am a Cree and Dene woman, mother, and advocate from Fort Nelson First Nations. I was born and raised on Treaty 8 territory in Northern British Columbia, where my ancestors lived long before it was recognized as such. It is truly an honour to be here as a visitor on Treaty 6 territory and to be part of this year's Law and Social Media class. I am grateful for the opportunity to explore further what reconciliation is, who is responsible for moving us forward along its path (spoiler alert: it's everyone), and why progress has thus far been precarious at best.
The word ‘reconciliation’ brings up many emotions and images for me. As a mother of two young girls, whom I am raising with the knowledge of their community and the strength of their ancestors, I have to believe in a world of equity and community. As an Indigenous woman myself, however, with Indigenous kin who have lived and continue to live with the repercussions of colonialism and intergenerational injustice, the word is also a reminder of broken promises and great despair.
For myself, reconciliation isn't just the big decisions we make like who to vote for, the policies and laws we support, the programs we fund, or the land we claim. It is also the way we consume Indigenous culture, support Indigenous ways of knowing, grow our relationships within our circles, and how we carry ourselves in our roles as Treaty people each and every day.
The road to reconciliation thus far has not been an easy one. If this summer, which saw the recovery of thousands of Indigenous children buried at Residential School sites, is any indication of how far we have come from the Eurocentric and colonial thoughts that brought us the violence of Residential Schools, it is also a reminder of how little we have progressed. Countless people have dedicated their lives to move us further along the path, but many more will be required to get us there.
These thoughts on reconciliation have guided much of my adult life and work. I have been fortunate enough to work in many spaces, alongside incredible activists and advocates, from grassroots to international, bringing awareness to Indigenous issues and finding community-engaged solutions. As a co-founder of the Medicine Box Project, we were able to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to grow traditional plants, care for sacred medicine, and learn alongside one another. Through my role as co-founder of Waniska Leaders, my team and I organized a retreat for Indigenous youth to build their leadership skills through a decolonial and traditional knowledge lens. I've also been active in pursuing the United Nations Social Development Goals, particularly SDG#10, Reducing Inequalities and Barriers to Access. This work has opened the doors to speaking engagements and opportunities to learn from the United Nations Environmental Programme to the Youth G7 Conference. I'm also incredibly fortunate to be the Vice-President External of the Indigenous Law Students Association at the U of A, where I have the opportunity every day to learn from some of our most inspiring up-and-coming legal professionals.
With this foundation of lived experiences and knowledge, I look forward to sharing with you each Thursday this year. It is my hope that as we explore this complicated word, we can challenge each other in growth and worldviews.
Mahsi, hiy hiy, thank you.
Until next time,
Team ReconciliAction YEG