A Path Towards Healing and Unity



Truth and Reconciliation Day: A Path Towards Healing and Unity

As Canadians, we are fortunate to live in a country known for its multicultural diversity and inclusivity. However, it is crucial to recognize that our history is also marked by the painful legacy of colonization and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples. Truth and Reconciliation Day is an occasion for all of us, including organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC), to reflect on this history, acknowledge the truths, and embark on a journey of healing and unity. 

Turtle Island by Melinda Shank 600px

Truth and Reconciliation Day, observed on September 30th, is a day of remembrance and reflection on the residential school system’s impact on Indigenous communities. Our organization recognizes that mentoring and supporting young people extends beyond academic and personal growth; it also involves nurturing a sense of empathy, understanding, and respect for all cultures, backgrounds, and histories.

every child matters

Mentoring has the power to break down barriers and foster understanding among young people from different backgrounds. BBBSC mentors play a vital role in promoting a sense of belonging and acceptance, which aligns with the principles of reconciliation. By discussing Indigenous histories, cultures, and challenges with mentees, mentors can help broaden their perspectives and encourage them to become active participants in reconciliation efforts. It’s essential to learn about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the impacts of residential schools, the importance of Indigenous languages and cultures, and the ongoing struggles for justice and equality.

In the heart of Indigenous cultures across North America, the land is considered sacred, and the connection between people and the natural world is deeply woven into their traditions. One profound aspect of this connection is the use of sacred plants—cedar, sage, tobacco, and sweetgrass. These plants hold spiritual significance and play essential roles in ceremonies, healing practices, and daily life.

On this Truth and Reconciliation Day and every day, may we all strive to foster a deeper connection to the land and to one another, inspired by the wisdom of these sacred plants:

Cedar: Nature’s Healing Medicine

Cedar, revered as a medicinal treasure rather than a mere symbol, holds deep significance among Indigenous communities. This sacred living entity, integral to our sacred land, serves practical roles like crafting canoes, totem poles, and longhouses. Yet, it transcends utility, functioning as a potent medicine. Cedar takes various forms, from infusions to topical treatments, and is central to Indigenous culture, serving profound spiritual purposes. It is ritually burned as incense, purifying spaces and ushering in positivity.

On Truth and Reconciliation Day, cedar’s resilience and purifying attributes serve as a reminder. We can draw inspiration from its medicinal properties, viewing them as metaphors for cleansing prejudice and ignorance from our hearts and minds, forging a deeper connection to our sacred land’s heritage.

Sage: A Source of Wisdom and Clarity

Sage, known for its fragrant leaves, is used in smudging ceremonies to clear stagnant energies and promote mental clarity. As we reflect on the truths of the past, we can embrace sage’s wisdom by seeking clarity and understanding. It reminds us to approach reconciliation with open hearts and open minds, ready to learn and grow.

Tobacco: An Offering of Respect and Gratitude

Tobacco is considered a sacred gift, often used as an offering in ceremonies and as a symbol of respect and gratitude. On Truth and Reconciliation Day, we can offer our respect to Indigenous communities by acknowledging the resilience and strength they have shown throughout history. We can express gratitude for their wisdom, teachings, and the opportunity to learn from their experiences.

Sweetgrass: The Essence of Unity and Connection

Sweetgrass is known for its sweet aroma and is used in ceremonies to bring in positive energy. It represents the coming together of diverse strands, symbolizing unity and connection. As we observe Truth and Reconciliation Day, we can draw inspiration from sweetgrass, emphasizing the importance of unity among all Canadians as we work together towards healing and reconciliation.

As we learn about the roles of these sacred plants, let us also honor the wisdom and traditions of Indigenous peoples. May their teachings guide us in our own journeys toward understanding, respect, and unity with the natural world and each other.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2023

Truth and Reconciliation Day is a reminder that the journey toward healing and unity is ongoing. BBBSC is committed to being a part of this journey, fostering a sense of belonging, understanding, and empathy among young Canadians. As we reflect on the past and strive for a brighter future, let us remember that reconciliation is not a one-day event but a long-term commitment to creating a more inclusive and equitable Canada for all.

On this Truth and Reconciliation Day, we invite you to join BBBSC in taking meaningful steps towards truth, healing, and unity. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of young people and build a stronger, more inclusive Canada for generations to come.

Resources to Continue your Learning:

Read and understand the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action – particularly actions 1-12 which focus on Child Welfare.

Download the Government of Canada’s mobile app: Reconciliation: A Starting Point and learn more about Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Indspire is a national Indigenous registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities, and Canada. BBBSC has worked with Indspire to learn and understand how to connect with Indigenous peoples through our work.

Watch this Video to Understand how a Mentoring Program is connecting with Indigenous Youth in their community (original content available in English only): Big Steps to Success Mentorship Program – YouTube

We acknowledge that his article was possible thanks to the contributions of Melinda Shank, Indigenous artist and Program Coordinator for Big Steps to Success, Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Bay and District.