Settler Witnessing at the Truth and Reconciliation Fee of Canada

This text offers an account of settler witnessing of residential faculty survivor testimony that avoids the politics of recognition along with the pitfalls of colonial empathy. It knits alongside one another the ideas of bearing witness, Indigenous storytelling, and affective reckoning. Pursuing the get the job done of Kelly Oliver, it argues that witnessing will involve a reaching past ourselves and responsiveness on the agency and self-willpower of the opposite. Offered the cultural genocide of residential faculties, responsiveness to the other need openness to and nurturing of Indigenous means of realizing and currently being. As a way As an instance the complexities and issues of settler witnessing, the writer reflects on her encounters in attending 6 with the TRC’s national events and, particularly, what she has discovered from Frederick “Fredda” Paul, Passamaquoddy Elder, healer, storyteller, and residential university survivor. The article analyzes (1) aesthetics and emotions during the staging of TRC situations and (two) making indicating as time passes as well as the temporality of transitional justice.


From 2010 to 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Fee (TRC) of Canada bore witness to and collected testimony from around 6750 survivors of Indian residential educational institutions (TRC 2015c, p. one). It hosted seven nationwide reality and reconciliation gatherings and seventeen Neighborhood or regional hearings wherever survivors and their households shared their truths in community or through non-public statements. There were significant media coverage and livestreaming of occasions, and There is certainly now a considerable video clip archive hosted on the web by the Countrywide Centre for Truth of the matter and Reconciliation. Drawing on survivor testimony, historic investigate, and analysis on the intergenerational legacies of residential colleges, the TRC determined which the household faculty process was “cultural genocide.”

Regardless of the abundance of testimonies, reports, and data, many settler Canadians go on to downplay the nature and extent of your harms of household universities and deny subsequent obligations to rfpn redress historic and ongoing colonialism since the prerequisite for reconciliation (Jung 2018). Although there are many explanations for settler denial, philosopher Anna Cook argues that we have to “complicate the assumption that non-Native Canadians basically will need to hear testimonies of residential school survivors so as to obstacle their historic amnesia” (Cook dinner 2017, p. eighty). As general public memory scholar Roger Simon puts it, “You will find a distinction between Finding out about and Understanding from” the household faculties’ historical past (Simon 2013, p. 136).

This paper usually takes up the question of how settlers may well find out from survivors’ stories by establishing an account of settler witnessing. I argue that to meaningfully bear witness from the context of Indigenous genocide, we must open our hearts and minds to Indigenous ways of recognizing and getting in the world. This is because the residential university procedure sought to ruin Indigenous society, custom, and understanding as a means of “doing away with the Native,” who stands being an obstacle for the settler’s “insatiable” need for land (Wolfe 2006). Opening our hearts and minds to Indigenous means of recognizing and currently being serves to honor Indigenous resistance and resilience. Witnessing can also perform as a sort of settler accountability, but only when the process of witnessing contributes to the disruption of colonial narratives, a reckoning of complicity, and decolonizing change.

The paper proceeds during the spirit of “Two-Eyed Observing,” and that is Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall’s phrase to the weaving collectively of Indigenous and Western knowledges that attracts around the strengths of each and every “for the advantage of all” (Bartlett et al. 2012, p. 335). Drawing on Western accounts in the ethics of witnessing along with the perform of philosopher Kelly Oliver (2001) particularly, I realize bearing witness to generally be an practical experience grounded in agency, sense of self, and responsiveness to the opposite. Within the settler colonial context, responsiveness to another indicates honoring “Aboriginal ideas of witnessing,” According to the TRC’s mandate, plus the broader relational ethics of Indigenous storytelling, which Middle on ideas of respect, reciprocity, obligation, and reverence (Archibald 2008). Nevertheless, for settlers, This is often no simple approach because of our rootedness in colonialism. As a result, I flip to the concept of “affective Finding out” (Korteweg and Root 2016) to elucidate how settlers may course of action complicated emotions eventually in order to act with justice and compassion.

If you want For instance the contours of settler witnessing, I replicate on my own ordeals in attending 6 with the TRC’s nationwide situations.Footnote1 In particular, I share what I’ve uncovered from Frederick “Fredda” Paul, Passamaquoddy Elder, storyteller and healer, whose household university tales I initially listened to in the TRC’s Atlantic event in Oct 2011. I contacted Fredda in 2016 due to the fact his stories experienced stayed with me since I to start with heard them, and I wanted his authorization to jot down about why they ended up so powerful. Fredda And that i subsequently developed a marriage, and he would be the inspiration for this research. While Fredda’s stories are not mine to share, our conversations, his teachings, and my bearing witness to his truths deeply inform this work. I also admit the enter and assistance of Leslie Wood, Fredda’s friend who read through his tales aloud in the TRC event and is particularly now working with Fredda to show his stories into a reserve.

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