Lil’wat scholar Dr Lorna Williams on why schools are an important place to grow and practice reconciliation
A year ago, Dr Lorna Williams shared her thoughts on where we were at, in our national reconciliation journey. She identified what an important role schools play. Dr Williams is a Professor Emeritus from the University of Victoria where she was Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning in the faculties of Education and Humanities. She is past chair of First Peoples Cultural Council.
Tanina Williams, who is the Aboriginal Cultural Support Worker at Signal Hill Elementary, and played a huge role in the blanket ceremony, shared the video recently and added, when I expressed my interest in it, that Dr. Lorna Williams is from Lil’wat Nation. “She has made great contributions to keeping our language alive as well as being a trailblazer for First Nations Education.” I think this perspective just reinforces what a significant event the Aboriginal Day 2016 Blanket Ceremony was.
“Residential schools made a huge impact in communities in a number of ways. One was on the individuals who attended residential schools, and I was one of those. I attended residential school in Williams Lake. but they also impacted communities, because, when children were removed, the communities became childless, and in the times when our communities were intact, the community really revolved around it’s people and especially around children. So to remove a whole layer of a society, it impacts everything. it impacts people’s relationship with one another, people’s relationship with the land. It impacts all activity. The activities of living. The ceremonies. The way people spent time with one another. The way people travelled. The planning that took place. Everything.”
“What schools have done to us, is, not allow us to bring our knowledge into the school walls. We didn’t exist. We haven’t existed in the school curriculum. Our stories are not in the school curriculum, as told by us. Any stories about us are filtered through a European mindset, not an indigenous mindset, so what we learned about ourselves in schools, was not ourselves. It’s caused a sense of invisibility and non-existence and a devaluation of who we are, our existence, our way of life, our knowledge, our wisdom, a lack of understanding of who we are, and hasn’t changed. Schools have tinkered, schools have tried, but there’s such a distrust of our stories, in the way that they exist because there’s a sense, a real belief, that our knowledge, our wisdom, our language, our way of life, our values are not good enough, are not civilized and sophisticated enough for the world today. So I think that what has been happening with the meetings is people, for the first time, have been able to talk about their experiences in residential schools, but it’s not just the residential schools. It’s been our entire relationship with the settlers in this country. When I look at the way we’re talked about in the media, the way we’re discussed in the Houses of government, I don’t see any reconciliation.”