Mi’kmaw sharing circle aids in reconciliation

When Mi’kmaq elder Billy Lewis looked around the room seven years ago, he saw disapproval.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had just delivered his apology to Indian residential school survivors. But for Lewis and others at the public gathering at Millbrook First Nation near Truro, the apology didn’t ring true.

“Some people were glad that it happened, of course, but they weren’t clapping. A number of people were literally just steaming because it was just so insincere. And I believe it was insincere.“

But when Lewis looked around another room Tuesday night, he saw what he says is the beginning of reconciliation.

As part of World Interfaith Harmony Week, Interfaith Harmony Halifax and the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre held a traditional Mi’kmaw sharing circle to discuss indigenous issues.

Participants of different faiths and cultural backgrounds shared their thoughts on issues such as the need for more aboriginal history to be taught in schools and reconciliation in Canada.

Lewis says he hopes events such as this will help people see and hear indigenous issues and put them into perspective.

Alix Speirs is glad she came to the ceremony. She says she has wanted to connect with aboriginal culture in Nova Scotia since a young age.

Speirs says when she learned about residential schools and aboriginal history she was shocked it was a topic she hadn’t learned in school.

“I was 19 when I first encountered First Nations culture and I realized the lie my culture was built upon here and I was so ashamed . . . of what my people had done,” she told the group Tuesday night.

Lewis says indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians need sharing circles such as this, to find a starting point for reconciliation.

“We need to find what he have in common,” Lewis says, “to me it’s the land. Everyone has a connection to the land.”

The event was shortly after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The group formed in 2008 to inform Canadians about residential schools and renew the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians, released it’s final report and summary that included 94 recommendations.

The recommendations of the TRC set out to improve the relations with Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
“We have to give life to that TRC,” Lewis says. “Guilt doesn’t solve anything.”