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What’s love got to do with it?

Photo Credit: At the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Amy Foote, centre, and Echavarria, right, receive donated moose meat from retired NFL player Joe Schuster, who is now on the board of the Alaska Professional Hunters Association.

(text and photo from CBC, photo submitted by Amy Foote)

What’s love got to do with it?

Tansi Nîtôtemtik, good morning everyone,

"Just in case anyone forgot about it..." while the convoy dominated the news last week, an important story slipped by. [1] Williams Lake First Nation identified another 93 potential burial sites, [2] and evidence of unspeakable crimes against children [3].

Because it is unspeakable, it is important to talk about it. [4]

We send our love to those children, their families, all their relations, everyone grieving for their loss and suffering. We send our love to the survivors.

Love has everything to do with law. [5] Just ask the grandmothers. [6] Justice - and injustice - is a matter of life and death. It is not faceless. Ongoing abuses often occur because people have more than one side. Principals, teachers, neighbours, friends, relatives - these are the people who commit unspeakable crimes. They are not abstractions, and they are never one-dimensional "bad guys."

So what do we do when those we love, harm those we love?

This is an important question to ask. It is especially important to ask when we cannot imagine something could have happened, or don't want it to be true. Truth is a part of justice, and it is a cornerstone of Reconciliation. [7]

If you do not know already, you can read about the realities of residential schools and the genocide sanctioned and committed by those institutions and the individuals who organized and supported them. [8] Many, many changes need to be made so that the kinds of crimes committed in residential schools do not continue to happen.

Who will make those changes? We will.

One step is to look at our current institutions and the harms that they perpetuate. No one wants to imagine that a place of healing could become a place of abuse. But that is what happens in health institutions. Joyce Eschquan knew this and documented it.

In 2020, Joyce Eschquan was denied care in a Canadian hospital because she was Indigenous, and her caretakers were racist. As a result, she died. [9]

Her family reminds us: "our healing will come through truth." [10]

Truth matters in all of our institutions, all of our relations. This is why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action span so many areas of our lives.

Joyce Eschquan was a human being who deserved love and respect, not racism and an early death. For Joyce and all those who died, and for the survivors, we are talking about justice and health this month .

Calls to Action #18-24 tell us about health. They call us to address residential school deaths, illness, and ongoing trauma(#18 and #21). They call us to recognize and respect Indigenous people and Indigenous approaches to health (#20 and #22). [11] I think, they call us to love.

So what might change look like? In Anchorage, Alaska, it looks like "really, really good salmon." [12] It looks like "reindeer stew" [13]. And I hope that brings a smile to your face, one just as important as the tears you shed. Love is expressed in the everyday, just like justice is expressed in the everyday.

So how is really, really good salmon part of a just health care system?

It is one way that the Alaska Native Medical Center hospital is helping people there heal well. By providing Indigenous food, the administrators and chefs learn Indigenous knowledge about food and health and invite relationships with the sources of the food. And unlike the previous food - really, really good salmon and reindeer stew get eaten. And appreciated.

Together, a group of people in this hospital used their authority and kindness to make this change in health care possible. To me, this looks like a beautiful, effective, direct response to the TRC Calls to Action on health.

To me, this looks like love.

And I would be so glad to know: what does love look like to you?

Kinanâskomitin, thank you for reading and take care,

Hero and the ReconciliACTION team

***If you need emotional support, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-800-721-0066.*** [14]

[1] Title is a quote from the following twitter feed: Mi'kma'ki News

@MikmakiNews, "💔💔💔 Just in case anyone forgot about it...." (January 30, 2022) online: Twitter, <>.

[2] Mike Hager, "Williams Lake First Nation identifies 93 potential burial sites at former residential school," (January 25, 2022) online: The Globe and Mail <>.

[3] Tina House, "Williams Lake research leads investigators into ‘darkest recesses of human behavior’ says chief," (January 25, 2022) online: APTN National News <>.

[4] Judith Lewis Herman. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - From Domestic Abuse to Political Power (BasicBooks, 1992) at 1-4. See also Hadley Louise Friedland, The Wetiko Legal Principles: Cree and Anishinabek Responses to Violence and Victimization (Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press, 2018) at 12 [Friedland]

[5] CBC Books, "kôhkomak, those who still dance by Darcy Lindberg," (November 7, 2019) online: CBC Literary Prizes <>.

[6] Aaron Mills, “Driving the Gift Home” (2016) 33:1 Windsor Yearb Access Justice.

[7] Friedland, supra (above at) note 4 at 12 (which asks "how do we protect those we love, from those we love?")

[8] Home / Your Records / Reports (2022), online: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba <>.

[9] Antoni Nerestant, "If Joyce Echaquan were white, she would still be alive, Quebec coroner says," (October 5, 2021) online: CBC News <​​>.

[10] Ibid. (the same as the last footnote)

[11] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2015), online: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba <>.

[12] CBC Books, "Meet the chef who learned to cook with seal and other Indigenous foods at Alaska hospital" (January 29, 2022) online: CBC Radio <>.

[13] Ibid. (the same as the last footnote)

[14] Indian Residential School Survivors Society, Indian Residential School Survivors and Family 1-800-721-0066 (2022), online: Indian Residential School Survivors Society <>.

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