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Reconciliation Through the Arts (IRA1-V10)


This video features clips of artists, Indigenous leaders and public servants discussing the role of the arts in the reconciliation process.

Duration: 00:05:13
Published: February 7, 2017
Type: Video

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Reconciliation Through the Arts



Transcript: Reconciliation Through the Arts

Within our Nation, the Mohawk Nation, there was no language word for art. We called it beauty. It was a way of life. It was how we lived day to day, and the path, the path of beauty.

Cowboy Smithx.

Good to see you.

Good to see you again.

I'm glad you made it.

Yeah, well, I'm really happy just to be here on your land, you know.

I've heard that before.


Elder in the Making is kind of a road trip story, actually, between a Chinese Canadian (me) and Cowboy Smithx, as we go learning about our shared history and our home. What started off as kind of this small exploration grew into a huge exploration of Indigenous culture and history in Southern Alberta, on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot.

Actually, you know, shoot the beautiful landscapes that exist out there and understand what they mean to the people of the land. I can't even say it was so close to home; it is home.

What is it that you would want to tell us, the public servants, on how we should be building better relationships with Indigenous Peoples?

Making a genuine connection with individuals, specifically elders. You know, they carry the most knowledge in our communities. It's really a conversation about effort. I mean, you've got to go beyond what's in your policy here, at the School. I mean, you've got to make it a personal journey and not one that is part of the institution you represent. You can't expect anything. You can't think there's a certain level you are going to get to if you spend four years with an elder. It doesn't work that way.

Here's a dangerous conversation about pan-Indianism. We are not all the same. We all have different circumstances and connections because the land itself, the physical geography, the geology, expresses itself in different ways.

Definitely, you have to go above and beyond what siloed expectations you may have which may be connotated to your work or connotated to some sort of obligation. Even tokenism is always kind of a dangerous thing to get involved with. But definitely make it genuine, make it authentic, if you're going to connect to somebody. Know your history.

It's important to know what you're actually saying before you say it. Be considerate, right? So, when I hear things like, "Well, we'll let the First Nations do their dance at the beginning, or we'll let them…" I mean, come on, we're done being "let in." I mean, we're foreigners in our own territory enough that we don't need to be let anywhere within our own territories.

So, when it comes to the language of any type of circumstance, it's important to be very aware of what you're saying. Inclusion is a form of othering and it's… You know, I'm saying to be respectful.

We're seeing all these types of stories like Elder in the Making, like the Truth and Reconciliation Report, which I recommend everybody read. These all help to start shaping people's understanding of how we came to where we are.


It's essentially a love story. It's about Annie, who is a young, Indigenous girl who is not in touch with her culture. She meets Gordon, who is a survivor, and he teaches her about the Indian Residential School story.


I felt it was timely, and I felt that art can bring about change. I want to make people aware.


Truth brings reconciliation; reconciliation, I think, can bring harmony; and harmony can bring prosperity.

Reconciliation is a word I've only started using recently. The fact that we're even having this conversation is quite inspiring. Hopeful is definitely a part of that, but we've been hopeful for too long. It's time to really take agency over these conversations and bring them into fruition.

We're not going to come and say, "Oh, it's time to come to Mohawk lands." You know, we're not going to do that, it's not our place. It's your place to come and ask, and it's in the asking you will grow, learn. But more importantly, love for yourself and others.


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