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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Some Local First Nations members have expressed their belief that forgiveness and healing are essential steps toward reconciliation and acknowledgement of Canada’s traumatic history.
Indigenous people and Canada have a turbulent history dating back to colonial times. The discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the residential school in Kamloops in 2021 seemed to push all levels of government to make an effort in the name of reconciliation. However, the traumatic experiences remain in the memory of the First Nation communities.
Saulteau First Nation chief Justin Napoleon believes in the traditional principle Kiyam (to let go), which is a part of Saulteau First Nations’ thinking.
As an Indigenous leader, Napoleon believes Kiyam is necessary for healing and personal growth after the harrowing experiences Indigenous people endured as a community.
When dealing with such themes, Napoleon thinks it is essential to understand the relations between the colonizer and the oppressed. He believes that “letting it go doesn’t mean we forget our history and what we went through as a community.”
Clarence Apsassin, a residential school survivor, believes that forgiving colonizers signifies strength for First Nation communities. His traumatic experience at a residential school still haunts him, but it also strengthens his belief in his community.
Apsassin, a former Treaty 8 Tribal Chief and Blueberry River First Nation member, realized the potential of his language and identity at a residential school by stating language guides individuals through difficult periods.
“Through suffering, we become closer to our roots and ancestors.”
Halfway River First Nation member Jeffery Metecheah explained forgiveness could never be understood through one perspective. He said it is impossible for some First Nations communities to forgive. However, this does not mean those communities cannot heal.
“Healing is still possible without forgiveness,” Metecheah said.
Metechaeah not only claimed, “we should not limit forgiveness to a single perspective or definition,” but also focused on dialogue which is crucial to understanding the implications of forgiveness and healing.
Despite First Nations still having to fight, progress is being made, such as the recent agreement between Blueberry River First Nation and the provincial government and the recent TLE settlement signings in the Peace region.
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