I’m writing this letter to you the morning before Tracing Threads goes live, from my parent’s home on unceded Coast Salish, W̱SÁNEĆ, Stz’uminus, and Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group lands.
This project has been in the making since September, and I’m so proud of it.
This December will mark the five-year anniversary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The TRC was originally formed in 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. It was intended to act as “an independent body that [would] oversee a process to provide former students, and anyone who has been affected by the Residential Schools legacy, with an opportunity to share their individual experiences.”
Through consultations with thousands of Indigenous people and by reading over 6,750 statements from Survivors of residential schools, members of their families, and others, the TRC developed and released 94 Calls to Action in 2015. These Calls, directed primarily at Canada’s federal government, were intended to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.”
According to the CBC, only 10 of these 94 Calls have been completed.
This project was born out of a curiosity to explore some of the TRC’s Calls to Action, how they have—or haven’t—been implemented, and what Indigenous activists say still needs to be done.
What we found was much deeper than that. Many Indigenous experts, storytellers, and educators told The Pigeon that they’ve had to take reconciliation into their own hands, asking the Canadian governments for support instead of receiving it outright. Others said they have yet to see any action in their areas of need.
What legacy has the Truth and Reconciliation Commission left? More importantly, how has its original intention been warped and misused by settler frameworks? Where are Indigenous peoples still being left out of the narrative?
Tracing Threads is a project meant to invite reflection about reconciliation, and what it means for our colonial government to promise change on the lands they’ve stolen.
The TRC’s Calls to Action are often lauded by settlers as a means to an end, but 94 Calls alone can’t attempt to encompass the trauma of colonialism and cultural genocide on Indigenous communities across this land.
Indigenous people have been saying this since the TRC Final Report was published in 2015, but many settlers have refused to listen. Meanwhile, Land Defenders are being arrested, Indigenous people are being killed by police, and Indigenous women continue to experience gendered and racialized violence in their daily lives and within institutions like the Canadian medical system.
These are the things 94 Calls cannot address.
As Skyler Williams, a Land Defender at 1492 Land Back Lane told contributor Chezney Martin, “We’re living right now, behind a barricade, because of reconciliation and its failures […] How are fruitful negotiations supposed to happen with a barrel of a gun pointed at you?”
This project was largely written and planned by settler journalists. As The Pigeon’s managing editor and a white settler woman, I knew I needed to listen to Indigenous people and reflect on Indigenous teachings throughout this process.
You may ask then, why did we choose these topics? Why is a group of settler journalists sharing these stories?
Well, other settler media outlets sure aren’t.
Duncan McCue, an Anishinaabe journalist-in-residence at the Ryerson School of Journalism, told staff writer Maia Herriot that legacy media outlets not only need to report on reconciliation, but to “recognize that [they] aren’t at arm’s length from reconciliation and all that entails.”
Indigenous-led media outlets like APTN, Kukukwes, IndigiNews, Muskrat Magazine, Windspeaker, Wawatay News, Nunatsiaq News, and many, many others have been putting in the work for years to tell the stories settlers are choosing to ignore. They need your clicks, your donations, and your shares. They need your attention.
This project was funded by our monthly donors, and the money we received was given directly to the Indigenous writers and creators who chose to be involved in Tracing Threads. The volunteer staff writers who also wrote pieces for this series spoke to Indigenous experts, storytellers, and educators, and let their guidance shape the stories we’re presenting today.
As a settler, I also recognize that this project invites reflection, not action—and right now, Indigenous people are asking for action.
This week, Land Defenders at the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory have asked for a national call to action to support and respect their sovereignty. Land Defenders from coast to coast are fighting for their voices to be heard, and their land claims to be respected. As settlers, we need to financially and physically support them.
If you read this piece and would like to take action, don’t listen to me. Listen to Land Defenders, to Elders, to women, and two-spirit people. Donate to the Land Defenders who are under attack from invaders. Listen to the Elders with wisdom to share. Fight for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
Read our stories, sure.
Then take the next step. Listen, learn, donate, act.