From Wawmeesh's notebook 

Hello, <<First Name>>. Have you ever had an a-ha moment? That moment of clarity when something you’ve been pondering becomes crystal clear, and you understand more about it that you did before? I had such a moment last week when contemplating my investigation into reconciliation in small Canadian towns.

To recap: I’m working on a series of stories about what reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people looks like in small towns that were once home to residential schools.

The a-ha moment came last week after I talked to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics and average citizens about what “reconciliation” really means. They responded with multiple definitions: Some were confused and didn’t know what the word meant, but wanted to learn more; others saw reconciliation as a buzzword describing something to do with Indigenous people — but they weren’t quite sure what.

To me, reconciliation involves unearthing and acknowledging the difficult history between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, then finding a way to move forward together. Given the wide variety of definitions, I interviewed Linc Kesler, director of UBC’s First Nations House of Learning, to get clarity.

Kesler says opinions vary widely about what reconciliation means, so he suggests reframing the word to avoid getting bogged down in debate about its definition. Instead, Kesler recommends looking at the practice of reconciliation by asking: Do you think Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are developing better ways to communicate and collaborate? What do you see happening between them, and what don’t you see happening? In other words, how well are people living together? As soon as Kesler explained this to me, it was as if a 150-watt light bulb went off in my head. A-ha!

What’s your definition of reconciliation? How do you think others should understand it? Send me your thoughts via Facebook, Twitter or email. And if you liked reading my newsletter, please tell your friends to subscribe.

Before signing off, I’ll leave you with this: Recently, while conducting research, I Googled “reconciliation tools.” The ensuing search results had everything to do with accounting and banking — and nothing to do with Indigeneity. Humour aside, what does it say about reconciliation if financial information is prioritized over Indigenous issues in online search results for it?

Thanks for joining me on this journey, 


Linc Kelser, director of UBC's First Nations House of Learning, says people get bogged down in the definition of reconciliation instead of discussing what should be done to practice it. (Credit: UBC Public Affairs)


  • Want to start practicing your own personal reconciliation? Sara Komarnisky, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Alberta, and Crystal Fraser, a PhD student and Gwich'in First Nation member from Inuvik, N.W.T., produced a guide that outlines 150 different things you can do to accomplish just that.
  • The Federation of Canadian Municipalities published “Pathways to Reconciliation,” a guide that shares local leaders’ efforts with reconciliation. Read and discuss it with your city council members.
  • This year’s Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver is coming up on Sept. 24. Got a team or putting one together? Then this is the guide for you.
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