Settler Witnessing at the Truth and Reconciliation Fee of Canada

This post presents an account of settler witnessing of residential college survivor testimony that avoids the politics of recognition plus the pitfalls of colonial empathy. It knits collectively the ideas of bearing witness, Indigenous storytelling, and affective reckoning. Following the perform of Kelly Oliver, it argues that witnessing requires a achieving further than ourselves and responsiveness into the agency and self-determination of another. Provided the cultural genocide of household faculties, responsiveness to the opposite involve openness to and nurturing of Indigenous ways of knowing and currently being. If you want As an example the complexities and difficulties of settler witnessing, the author displays on her experiences in attending six of your TRC’s national situations and, specifically, what she has discovered from Frederick “Fredda” Paul, Passamaquoddy Elder, healer, storyteller, and household school survivor. The write-up analyzes (1) aesthetics and emotions during the staging of TRC events and (two) building meaning with time plus the temporality of transitional justice.


From 2010 to 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada bore witness to and collected testimony from about 6750 survivors of Indian household universities (TRC 2015c, p. one). It hosted 7 countrywide truth of the matter and reconciliation functions and 17 Local community or regional hearings wherever survivors as well as their households shared their truths in community or as a result of personal statements. There were substantial media coverage and livestreaming of situations, and There may be now a large video clip archive hosted on line from the Countrywide Centre for Real truth and Reconciliation. Drawing on survivor testimony, historical investigation, and analysis in the intergenerational legacies of household universities, the TRC determined which the household faculty system was “cultural genocide.”

Despite the abundance of recommendations, reports, and knowledge, quite a few settler Canadians continue to downplay the nature and extent of the harms of residential faculties and deny subsequent obligations to redress historic and ongoing colonialism given that the prerequisite for reconciliation (Jung 2018). Though there are several motives for settler denial, philosopher Anna Cook dinner argues that we must “complicate the belief that non-Indigenous Canadians only need to hear testimonies of household faculty survivors as a way to challenge their historic amnesia” (Prepare dinner 2017, p. eighty). As public memory scholar Roger Simon puts it, “There’s a distinction between Mastering about and Discovering from” the household educational facilities’ record (Simon 2013, p. 136).

This paper takes up the problem of how settlers may learn from survivors’ tales by producing an account of settler witnessing. I argue that to meaningfully bear witness within the context of Indigenous genocide, we have to open up our hearts and minds to Indigenous ways of understanding and staying on this planet. This is because the household faculty process sought to destroy Indigenous lifestyle, custom, and information as a way of “reducing the Indigenous,” who stands being an obstacle on the settler’s “insatiable” want for land (Wolfe 2006). Opening our hearts and minds to Indigenous means of understanding and being serves to honor Indigenous resistance and resilience. Witnessing also can function for a method 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 while in the spirit of “Two-Eyed Seeing,” that is Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall’s term to the weaving jointly of Indigenous and Western knowledges that pulls about the strengths of every “for the advantage of all” (Bartlett et al. 2012, p. 335). Drawing on Western accounts on the ethics of witnessing as well as the perform of philosopher Kelly Oliver (2001) particularly, I recognize bearing witness to generally be an practical experience grounded in company, feeling of self, and responsiveness to the other. While in the settler colonial context, responsiveness to the opposite signifies honoring “Aboriginal concepts of witnessing,” as per the TRC’s mandate, together with the broader relational ethics of Indigenous rfpn storytelling, which center on concepts of regard, reciprocity, responsibility, and reverence (Archibald 2008). However, for settlers, This is often no straightforward method as a result of our rootedness in colonialism. As a result, I turn to the concept of “affective Understanding” (Korteweg and Root 2016) to clarify how settlers could approach challenging feelings over time so that you can act with justice and compassion.

As a way For instance the contours of settler witnessing, I replicate upon my own activities in attending 6 of your TRC’s countrywide gatherings.Footnote1 In particular, I share what I have learned from Frederick “Fredda” Paul, Passamaquoddy Elder, storyteller and healer, whose household college stories I first heard within the TRC’s Atlantic event in October 2011. I contacted Fredda in 2016 due to the fact his tales had stayed with me because I to start with read them, and I wished his permission to write down about why they were so compelling. Fredda And that i subsequently created a connection, and he will be the inspiration for this analysis. When Fredda’s tales will not be mine to share, our discussions, his teachings, and my bearing witness to his truths deeply tell this perform. I also accept the input and assistance of Leslie Wood, Fredda’s Close friend who read through his tales aloud with the TRC function and it is now dealing with Fredda to turn his stories right into a e book.