Nov. 19, 2019

Walking Parallel Paths towards reconciliation

Join ii’ taa’poh’to’p, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, to celebrate two years on Nov. 29

What does it mean to walk parallel paths? Since ii’ taa’poh’to’p, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, launched in 2017, various committees and groups have been working to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching, learning and research into the institution by walking parallel paths with integrity and openness.

“A parallel path for Canadian post-secondary institutions is about coming to learn how to do things differently,” says Michael Hart, vice-provost, Indigenous Engagement. “It’s about creating respectful, ethical and cultural space to walk side by side with Indigenous people, where all are successfully contributing to a shared journey.”

On Nov. 29, the University of Calgary will celebrate two years of ii’ taa’poh’to’p with a pipe bag transfer ceremony to President Ed McCauley, a progress update, and keynote speakers Douglas White and Elizabeth Carlson, who will discuss Indigenous and settler responsibilities as we look towards the future of reconciliation.

Shared visions for the future

Douglas White (Kwul’a’sul’tun) is the director of Vancouver Island University’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation, councillor and former Chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, and a practicing lawyer. Having been a lawyer for over a decade, White actively negotiates treaty rights between Indigenous governments and the Crown, and sees the value of walking parallel paths towards genuine connection. “At the highest level – leadership to leadership and nation to nation – you have to understand that the Indigenous people who are coming to sit with you are not just here to talk,” he says. “We’re sitting down in a very specific way, to create space for conversation and discussion, so mutual understandings and shared visions for the future can spark real change.”

White acknowledges that the reality of our country’s history continues to be harmful for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and should not be taken lightly. “The baggage placed on the Canadian psyche is a mess,” he says. “A country that inflicts this kind of harm on Indigenous peoples also harms itself in a horrible way.” But healing is possible if we continue to work towards a common goal of reconciliation. “I think there is enormous potential for this country to be great, but of course, it never will be if we can’t get these things right. Recognizing and implementing Treaties and Indigenous rights should be a powerful part of who we are as a country, together.” 

Living in Indigenous sovereignty

For Elizabeth Carlson, settlers have a responsibility to be accountable for our complicated history, especially in relation to the land. Carlson's Swedish, Saami, German, Scots-Irish, and English ancestors settled on lands of the Anishinaabe and Omaha Nations, which were unethically obtained by the U.S. government. She considers herself to be both complicit in, and resisting, settler colonialism on lands occupied by the Canadian state. Carlson is currently learning to live as a treaty relative of the Robinson-Huron Treaty while working as an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Laurentian University.

“One of the most powerful concepts I’ve been learning from is the idea of living in Indigenous sovereignty and looking at the land where settlers now live. Those lands have their own stories, their own protocols, their own laws,” says Carlson. Her keynote on Nov. 29 will tackle big questions, like “what does that mean if we’re going to understand ourselves as living on Indigenous land?” And, “what does that mean for how settlers are finding a way to fit into and learn from what’s already here?”

Join UCalgary on its path towards reconciliation, and hear more from Elizabeth Carlson, Douglas White and Michael Hart, along with Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Dru Marshall and President Ed McCauley at Walking Parallel Paths: ii’ taa’poh’to’p Journey Update on Nov. 29, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in MacEwan Ballroom.

Seating is limited – register here.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, ‘in a good way,’ UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.