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Meet Team ReconciliACTION YEG 21/22: Liz England

Tansi Nîtôtemtik

Welcome back, dear readers. I am excited to kick off a new year of the ReconciliACTION YEG blog! My name is Liz England, and I am delighted to join Amanda Wagar, Gavin Wilkes, Casey Caines, and Amy Durand to talk about the path from truth, through healing, towards reconciliation.

This year we intend to build upon last year’s conversation and cast a critical eye towards the ongoing process of reconciliation. Over the next four days, each team member will introduce themselves so you can get to know us a bit better. For the rest of September, we will review the federal election and define what “reconciliation” means from various perspectives. Throughout the rest of the year, we will explore what truth, healing, and reconciliation look like through the lens of each theme in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report:[1] child welfare, education, health, justice, language, and culture. We will conclude the year by looking forward to what the path towards reconciliation could be.

But first, allow me to introduce myself.

I am writing to you from my now-home in Amiskwaciy Waskahikan, otherwise known as Edmonton, on Treaty 6 territory. I grew up in Lethbridge on Treaty 7 territory. The City of Lethbridge lies on the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is just north of the Kainai's traditional wintering grounds where the St. Mary and Oldman Rivers merge. The Blood Reserve, which is the modern-day home of the Kainai First Nation, lies just West of the City. The land in this region is beautiful. The rolling plains smell like sweetgrass in the summer, and the river valley cuts into the prairies where poplar trees and wild roses grow in abundance. On clear days, the Rocky Mountains peek out on the western horizon. This land is still part of me.

My family is of mixed-European heritage from Britain and Greece. On my mother's side, my great-grandparents emigrated from Greece in the early 20th Century and settled in Lethbridge. My father emigrated from England in the 1970s, and after marrying my mother, they too chose to raise their family in Lethbridge. I grew up in the '80s and '90s when the Euro-centric colonial worldview was the only way of knowing.

You might be wondering why a non-Indigenous person with a truly colonial name and upbringing would be interested in contributing to this blog. It is an uncomfortable story to tell, but one that I believe needs telling.

I grew up in a community with a fraught relationship with the nearby Indigenous Peoples, but I never understood why the animosity was so intense. I had a general awareness that settlers had displaced the Kainai and Blackfoot Peoples, that residential schools existed in the abstract, and that the nearby Kainai and Piikani reserves were suffering from poverty and substance abuse. It wasn’t until I took Professor Darcy Lindberg’s course on Treaty Law that I began to see the layers upon layers of injustice that these Peoples experienced — and continue to experience — in the name of nationhood, loyalty to the Crown, and economic growth and development. Today, I am only beginning to understand the complex relationship between our Nations.

Selfishly, writing about reconciliation with this incredible team is part of my own journey. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the truth and what the path towards reconciliation could look like, not just for our country and community, but for myself. I also hope to take you along, dear readers, to share in my learning as we move towards truth, healing, and reconciliation together.

Until next time,

Team ReconciliAction YEG

[1] Canada’s residential schools: the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, vol 6 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015).

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