I’m Sorry

Posted on June 19, 2016. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, Christian, Church, cultural, Ed890, educational, First Nations, Masters, personal, Privilege, Race, reflection, Unsettling the Settler |

Chapter 6 of Paulette Regan’s Unsettling the Settler Within is all about Apologies. She says that an apology and/or testimonial exchange can be a decolonizing act. Her position as part of the TRC committee allowed her to sit in and listen to Survivor’s heart wrenching testimonies of their experience with residential schools. Although she was extremely moved, the interaction between herself and the Survivors was limited as she was working within the bounds of a government project.

“I am mindful that my apology, although heartfelt and sincere, was offered within the constraints of the ADR pilot project. My words were spoken in private within the context of a claims resolution process that, though more informal in nature, was still bound by legal convention” (Regan, 2010, p. 174).

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ADR via Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

Regan obviously felt limited in her response to Survivors. She was honoured that she was allowed to be a part of those conversations, but her position with the government also hampered a full response. That said, she allows her readers to explore the idea of how Settlers (like her) fit into a testimony and apology context.

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“Healing Walk 2014” Photo Credit: Jen Castro via Flickr

“Testimonial exchange may well be healing for certain people, and to some degree the very concept of healing has become analogous with decolonization. Within this context, one can talk about healing individuals or a nation. But the healing metaphor has been used almost exclusively with regard to Indigenous peoples. We have heard far less about the settler need to heal” (Regan, 2010, p. 175).

This paragraph moved me. I am not constrained to a title or a government position.  I am free to speak my mind (within limit) without legal ramifications. I have the freedom to explore my own thoughts and feelings that perhaps Regan didn’t. In reading this chapter, I have realized that I have been learning so much about decolonization over this last year, but I have never had the opportunity to apologize. So in honour of taking a step towards decolonization and acknowledging my settler need to heal, here I go.

I’m Sorry

This apology is going to start with a firm rejection of the “Canadian peacekeeper” myth.  If I am going to own and apologize for my White Settler side of Canadian history, then I need to do that while fully rejecting the “victorious Canadian Western Settlement history” that I grew up learning. From this point on, I am acknowledging that Canada is not a peacemaking country, and it never has been.

As a teacher, I need to apologize for working within and reinforcing a neo-liberalist society. I acknowledge how the institution of education (which includes me) often works directly against Indigenous ways of knowing. It inspires and drives capitalism, and I really don’t challenge this enough. When I have lunch dates with my students, and I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, many tell me about dream jobs that will make them rich. I wish I could say that I used these opportunities to challenge and reveal the downfalls of capitalism and how it affects my young students.

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“Dr. Ladybug” Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

As a believer in Jesus, I am sorry for what people have done in the name of Christianity. I am so sorry that people who said they loved Jesus actually just loved power and control. I am sorry that the residential schools were run by Christian churches. I am broken over the idea that people thought Aboriginal students needed to be stripped of their culture, their language, their heritage, and their families so that they could be “Christian.” I am grieved that many people will never be able to trust Jesus’s words in John 10:10 that say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

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“Mary’s Indian Residential School and cemetery” via National Post

I apologize for all the times I was a bystander. If you asked me about some of these topics a few years ago, I would try to convince you I was innocent. I was not.  No matter what level or depth of understanding one has on these issues, silence is a stance. Not asking more questions is a stance. Not digging deeper into why things are the way they are, is a stance… and a privileged one I might add. I have been a bystander to unjust acts, and there is no innocence there. Here, I am nothing less than guilty.

To all of the First Nations students who have gone to University, I am sorry for thinking that you were handed a free education, and that this wasn’t fair FOR ME. I am sorry for the times that I had misguided discussions about this and I used my privilege and ignorance to speak hurtfully and perpetuate very racist, uninformed ideas. I wish I would have known some of the Treaty misconceptions  earlier. I’m sorry that it took me 28 years to even start this journey.

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First Nations University of Canada

I am painfully sorry that I ignorantly tied poverty, drug abuse, homelessness and other social issues to race. I can’t believe I am capable of simplifying so many huge interconnected social issues and reducing them to a biological factor of the colour of someone’s skin. Here I must apologize for not seeing how the systemic racism has been initiated and then preserved by White privilege… my White privilege.

I know that I could continue. There are many things I am learning daily that I feel like I need to ask repentance for. But in this moment, I am going to stop; I’m not going to ask for forgiveness. I’m not going to expect forgiveness. This apology is not a way to relieve White guilt. This apology was not made so that I can feel better and then move on.  In fact, I don’t plan on “moving on” any time soon.  This apology is a way to take hold of the responsibilities of Settlers. This apology is to shift the obligation of reconciliation from the shoulders of First Nations people onto the shoulders of Settlers. This apology was a way for me to Unsettle the Settler Within.

unsettling the settler

 

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One Response to “I’m Sorry”

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I am very thankful that you are on this journey and that we get to learn from and with you. Thank you for honestly acknowledging some of the many wrongs “we” have perpetuated and reinforced. I hope we all can grow, learn, and be a part of the ongoing need to reconcile.


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