Starting with truth

My friend Marilyn, a Sinixt elder and Smum iem, says that we need to get to the “truth” before we can begin to talk about “reconciliation”.

The summary report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada begins with some of these truths. 

A few of these truths are becoming known - that Canada asserted control over Indigenous land and forced many Indigenous people onto economically marginal reserves while offering resource-rich land to settlers. That Canada replaced Indigenous peoples’ traditional forms of governance with the colonial band council system, outlawed their spiritual practices, and tried to destroy the social fabric of Indigenous communities by separating Indigenous children from their families and sending them to residential schools. 

Many, many truths are not as well known. 

Each community in every part of what is now called Canada has its own truths, and we need to come together in our own communities to uncover these before we can move towards justice. 

One way to move forward could be through supporting language revitalization and recognizing the traditional languages of our communities. It was common in residential schools for children to be severely punished for speaking in their own languages, and this is one of the reasons why these languages were not passed on to children of the next generations. This happened in Marilyn’s family too.   

In my community, the Sinixt Smum iem are working to bring the Sinixt dialect, sn-səlxcin, back to the təmxʷúlaʔxʷ (traditional territory) through a project called T'k̓ikstn (walking stick). So far, they have created a map that shows sn-səlxcin place names, and are in the process of creating a website that will have a pronunciation guide. 

Catherine Fisher, blogger

Image: Sẁaŕàḱxən (Frog Mountain) at Vallican, B.C. Photo by Catherine Fisher