Consider This: Truth First

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The truth is hard to hear. Even if you know about Canada’s residential school legacy, the scope of what happened is difficult to grasp.

More than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were removed from their homes and put into the residential school system. An estimated 6,000 children died. Nearly 40,000 people have filed claims related to physical and sexual abuse at residential schools.

This is probably not the first time you’ve heard these facts. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Final Report has sparked numerous conversations and events across University of Alberta campuses. The U of A community, like many across Canada, is coming to terms with the truth of what happened and the implications of it all. And rightfully so — of the 94 Calls to Action that came out of the TRC, more than 70 of them are related to education directly or indirectly.

At New TrailNew Trail, we knew we had a responsibility to tackle this topic and to include U of A alumni in the many conversations happening on our campuses. But when we looked around the table we had to ask, who are we to take on this story? All we saw were non-Indigenous faces. We were eager to do something and willing to ask for guidance but also terrified that we would ask the wrong questions or accidentally cause offence.

Fay Fletcher, ’84 BPE, ’94 MSc, ’04 PhD, associate dean of the Faculty of Extension, talks about that paralysis and how to move past it. Fletcher and Pat Makokis, ’79 BEd, director of Indigenous programs in the Faculty of Extension, served as our main consulting editors for this issue of the magazine. The pair have worked together for years, Indigenous woman alongside non‑Indigenous woman, to educate people from both worlds about reconciliation.

In a way, this entire issue of New TrailNew Trail is modelled after Fletcher’s and Makokis’s work. Walking side by side is a theme that runs throughout all of the stories. “We need to work together. That’s how it was meant to be,” said Elder Jimmy O’Chiese, eminent scholar and instructor with Yellowhead Tribal College in Edmonton.

The Spring 2017 issue of New TrailNew Trail looks at the truth of what happened to Indigenous people in Canada, what the TRC’s calls to action mean for each of us and just how far we have to go before reconciliation is possible.

The path from truth to reconciliation will be a long walk and a hard one for all of us. That’s why we need to walk together.

Lisa Cook — New Trail, Editor-in-Chief, Advancement Strategic Communications
Office of Advancement