In honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day, our staff did some individual learning and had these takeaways to share. We encourage all settlers to take some time today to do some learning and reflect on the colonial history and present of our province.
“I reflect on trust or all the reasons why an Indigenous person may struggle (or refuse) to trust a non-Indigenous person or institution. The reasons are horrific and plenty. Yet, in sharing this unceded land, we are in constant relationship, though often a broken one. My current focus and commitment to Truth and Reconciliation is learning how to have different and better relationships with Indigenous people. This starts with respecting why an Indigenous person may not trust me and continues with acknowledgement, listening, representation, and offers of allyship.” – Julia Boyle, Executive Director (she/her)
Working on a team trying to build a more inclusive society, I am sensitive to other groups who have been marginalized or excluded through ignorance or bias. What saddens me most is what we lose when we allow that to happen. A great example I learned after moving to Victoria is the potlach ceremony performed by First Nations peoples throughout the Pacific Northwest. During this days-long ceremony the host would bestow gifts and re-distribute wealth among invited guests from other groups. Thought to be a barrier to assimilation, the ceremony was banned by the federal government from 1884 to 1951. What we lost in doing so was the value that was upheld and demonstrated through the ceremony: for the people who practiced the potlach, wealth was (is) not measured by what one has, but by how much one gives away. – Jonathan Wharton, Director of Operations (He/Him)
“I listened to The Behaviour Speak Podcast: The Realities of Autism in First Nations Communities in Canada. A few things that resonated with me were: The Cree word for autism means to think differently. I thought this definition was very accurate and often reflects how I explain autism to people, everyone’s brains are different, some people process and think differently. I liked the definition as I feel that sometimes there is still a stigma associated with the word autism. This line was also very poignant, and [my colleague] Sharon also mentioned it on Teams when discussing the podcast, ‘the systems aren’t broken, they are doing what they are designed to do … keep people marginalized.’ Wow.” – Lisa Watson, Regional Coordinator (she/her)
“Over the past year, our team highlighted one area of team learning to be around the intersection of Autism and Indigeneity. There is a shockingly small amount of credible information in the public realm.
When it comes to Truth and Reconciliation – I do not believe conciliation has taken place. So to move people into a place of reconciliation is a fast-moving cycle. There are thousands of people who still carry the weight and pain of intergenerational trauma and systemic oppressional systems and understanding that is one part of the Truth.
We are in a time of listening and learning about the Truth. And that is the first step, as I know that everyone is at a different stage in their learning and allyship journey. I remember the sharing of Symbia Barnaby as a starting point for Indigenous allyship.
What does it mean to be an ally to the indigenous communities in BC? Stand Alongside – Listen and Learn – Amplify – Use Spaces of Privilege and bring in people to talk.” – Brock Sheppard, Program Manager (he/him)
September 30th marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a day dedicated to reflecting upon and learning about the history and stories woven into Indigenous lands and communities. However, I believe that Truth and Reconciliation should not be confined to a single day on the calendar. It’s an ongoing commitment, as we continue to live on this land.
When I initially encountered the tragic history of residential schools, I struggled to see its relevance to me as an immigrant. The weight of this history, its profound and lasting impact on Indigenous individuals and communities, didn’timmediately resonate with my own experience. Yet, as I delved deeper into the historical narratives and the ongoing consequences of colonialism, supremacy, and systemic racism, I began to recognize that the privileges I enjoy today are connected to this history.
As residents on Indigenous land, we have a duty to acknowledge and understand its history. I am committed to continuing my journey of learning, striving to comprehend the truths, cultures, traditions, and experiences of Indigenous peoples. It is only when we start to learn and become aware of the truth that we can begin to reconcile. – Cindy Wu, Graphic Designer (she/her)
“On this Truth and Reconciliation Day, I am keenly aware of the violent history and impact of colonialism in so-called “Canada”, but only recently started learning about autism in Indigenous communities country-wide. I am deeply grateful to live on land stolen from the Qayqayt First Nation, and to have access to a wealth of Indigenous-created information online about how to be a better ally. Otherwise, I would not be able to do the work I’m doing today.
There is a lack of ethical research and public information available about Indigenous autistic folks, which leaves them with little information about themselves and the services available to them. There is also a lack of services for Indigenous autistic folks for no reason aside from systemic oppression and racism. All of this leaves them at a radically unfair disadvantage.
Indigenous autistic folks will probably struggle with trusting the medical system — and other social systems — because of how they have repeatedly failed them. Understanding this is key to knowing how we can fix that problem and get people what they need to be happy and healthy.
Allyship requires action. For me, that means continuing to do regular learning about how I can help the Indigenous community, and more specifically within this role, Indigenous autistic people. Hopefully, the content I create from that understanding will be able to help people.” – Aly Laube, Content Collaborator (she/they)
“As an immigrant who grew up in a colonized region for a good half of my life, I have my own share of struggles related to internalized racism and colonialism. Arriving in Canada exacerbated these struggles, especially if you didn’t fit into the mainstream culture or look like the majority.
When Truth and Reconciliation became a more prominent topic these years, I didn’t understand how it applied to me. I told myself that I’m not a settler because settlers are white. Settlers don’t have internalized racism and colonialism. I felt sorrow but never guilt when they discovered the remains of indigenous children from residential schools. It was like watching from afar as a bystander.
That was my perspective until I came across the term “settlers of colours”. It dawned on me that all the opportunities, our beautiful environment, free education, health care, etc, that have been provided to me as an immigrant would not have been possible without colonial violence in the first place. I’m privileged to receive all of those while Indigenous peoples continue to experience oppression, discrimination, and trauma brought on by settler colonialism, white supremacy and systemic racism.
As an immigrant, so often we only think for our own benefit. Our thoughts are focused on getting our kids into the best schools, finding a stable job, and building a forever home. Some immigrants care more about the news of the country in which they came from than the country they are living in now. On this Truth and Reconciliation Day, I will commit myself to reflect on my privilege and continue to question and dismantle colonialism, internally and externally. I will share what I know with people who aren’t sure what their part as an immigrant is in Truth and Reconciliation. Likewise, I’ll be humble, learn, and listen so I can really mean it when I say “I care” and act accordingly.” – Selina Lim, Marketing Manager (she/her)
Truth and reconciliation is a way of forcing us to reflect on the past on the terrible injustices inflicted on the indigenous people of Canada and gives a platform for survivors to share their stories. Listening to these personal narratives is a vital part of understanding the extent of the harm caused and the need for healing.
It acknowledges the truth that so many children were forced, against their will, to attend residential schools thereby wrenching them from their families, subjecting them to abuse, and taking away their culture, language, and heritage.
“I reside on the Northcoast of British Columbia, on unceded lands and waters that have belonged to the Ts’msyen and Smalgyax speaking peoples for thousands of years.
Ts’msyen Communities: Ma̱xłaxaała (Metlakatla), Txałgiiw (Hartley Bay), La̱x Kw’alaams (Port Simpson), Gitxaała (La̱x Klan / Kitkatla), Gidasdzuu (Klemtu), Gits’ilaasü (Kitselas), Gits’mḵ’eelm (Kitsumkalum), as well as by Ts’msyen people who live in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Alaska and beyond.
This National Truth and Reconciliation Day is an opportunity to reflect on what little I know and take the time to learn more from those who share their stories, traumas, and experiences through their indigenous lens.
The Ts’msyen peoples have seen devastating impacts on their language, culture, and community at the hands of colonization, government, and the church.
Reconciliation is a commitment to support Indigenous children, youth, and families in our northern communities with a bottom-up and indigenous-guided approach. There is a greater need for understanding on the views of disabilities from an indigenous perspective and how their ways have openly supported the diverse needs within their populations since time and memorial.
The truth to me is that we are far away from reconciliation, and we need to get comfortable with discussions around indigenous traumatic experiences. We need to learn from those who are sharing their truths and shedding light on the grave injustices that have and continue to happen to marginalize their communities and peoples.
I encourage you to seek out those within your community who are leading the way in sharing what culturally competent supports look like for disabled indigenous individuals and how we can all work to reduce the barriers and systemic inequities faced by the Indigenous community.
An opportunity for learning is the “Healing Nation” documentary produced by a local community member Symbia Barnaby that highlights the intersectionality of neurodivergence, colonial violence, intergenerational trauma, and how to move forward and heal through sharing their story.
“Often when we speak about colonization, we speak about it in the past tense. As settlers, we not only try to distance ourselves from the people who initially colonized this land, we also try to separate the indigenous people alive today from those who were harmed in that time. In order to move forward, we must recognize the ongoing pain of colonization. The injustices and atrocities committed in the past bleed forward in time through generational trauma, through racist outlooks and policy, and through the violence against indigenous peoples happening to this day across so-called Canada. Every non-indigenous person living on this land has a responsibility to reflect on our privilege, recognize and honour the peoples harmed in the pursuit of that privilege, and take meaningful steps toward a more equitable future.” – Terri Hopkinson, Marketing Coordinator (she/they)
“Today I honour the marginalized voices of the indigenous communities. I have learned, in respect to the neurodivergent community, indigenous folk have limited access to support and resources. Past traumas affect their access to government services, and many autistic indigenous youths are wrongly diagnosed due to negative indigenous stereotyping within the medical community. Colonial systems have silenced indigenous views of neurodiversity and have forced the medical model of disability upon these traditional communities.
There are many barriers to services for the indigenous neurodivergent community including:
“When I was in my twenties (40 years ago) I was in the hospital for a short period with an ailment. One day when I was in the visitors’ room with a friend, I looked over at the registration counter and saw a woman who had bruises, a black eye and blood all over her face asking the nurse at the counter where the bathroom was. The nurse angrily told her ‘get out of here’ and waved her away. The woman just stood there, looking frail as she was already badly injured, and not knowing what to do. I went over and walked the woman to the washroom, then went back and told the nurse how insensitive she was being. She said to me “you have to be careful. You can’t trust those people.” I said “what people?” and she said “Indians.”
I went back to my room and told the horrible nurse story to the 3 other women I was sharing the hospital room with. One of the women said “I’m Indian.” I asked her if she had experienced that kind of treatment before. She paused, and then told us her experience: that her young brother was killed at a residential school, and she was alive because she ran away. She put her head down and walked over into the washroom closing the door behind her. When she left, one of the women said, “that’s bullshit” and the other said “ya, I don’t believe it either.”
I thought the nurse was an isolated incident, but after the two other women spoke I realized how rampant this bigotry was. I’ve never forgotten this experience and think back about it often.
The truth is being uncovered. On National Truth and Reconciliation Day I reflect on how it is my and everyone’s duty to honour the children who never returned home from residential schools, like the young brother of the survivor I shared my hospital room with, by listening to and honouring their families and communities. It is hard to reflect on the damage that has been done, but as Canadians we can acknowledge this painful part of our history and continue to learn how we can take part in the reconciliation process.” – Cathy Nadolski, Development Manager (she/her)
At AutismBC, our Resource Team is here to connect you to region specific community supports and other organizations that provide support and help meet your needs. When the AutismBC Resource Team is asked about complex needs, we provide relevant resources and then direct you onto an external advocacy and […]
Rhoda is a late-diagnosed autistic woman who has had many challenges in accessing support and understanding. She shares with us what it’s like to be an older adult on the spectrum. Content warning: Use of functioning labels.