The Future of Truth and Reconciliation

S3E26 of The Conversation Piece podcast

Black and white photo of Chief Cadmus Delorme over a template of The Conversation Piece podcast featuring a mic and outlines of other mics.

HOST: Generation-Y inherited the truth about the 60s scoop, residential schools and treaties. They did not create them but Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians have the responsibility of facing those truths. Many generations of Indigenous Canadians have been living in a sort of horizontal survival mode, because their vertical lineage leads straight back to those truths. Welcome to the conversation piece, this is Chief Cadmus Delorme.

CHIEF CADMUS DELORME: Uh, tânisi, that’s hello in Cree. Um, tapwe poko miyo-kîsikâw. It’s a beautiful day. Cadmus nitisiyihkâson. Hi, my name is Chief Cadmus Delorme I’m 40 years old. I look young as a chief, that’s that reserve water I get to shower in every day.

Today in this country, we inherited, inherited a situation. As a First Nations person and as a chief and as a child of parents who attended a residential school, uh, our work is cut out for us as Canadians. Today, we didn’t create the Indian act. We didn’t create residential schools. We didn’t create 60’s scoop, but as Canadians, we inherited that. And when you inherit something, you have a responsibility. In this country, starting in May of 2021, June, last week; we have unmarked graves, validation at former residential schools across this country. There’s two things I have learned as a proud Canadian and as a proud indigenous person; for indigenous people the unmarked graves is validation. Validation of the pain, frustration, anger, and tiredness of trying to remain indigenous in a country that still somewhat oppresses. To my Canadian friends and family, that shield is down. Admitting that I don’t know enough about the truth between indigenous people in Canada.

In order to get the reconciliation, we must first accept and understand the truth. And why did it take unmarked graves at a former residential school for many Canadians to now put down our shield? It’s because of the following; when it comes to truth, we must understand what our education system did in this country to put us in this moment of that gap of truth. I’m gonna take us through generations, the baby boomer generation, our generation in this country where we’re looking after them, they rely on us heavily. What did our baby boomer generation learn about the truth between indigenous people? The truth is, is that our education system never talked about indigenous people. What baby boomer generation learned was through Hollywood movies, the paint on the face, the horseback living in teepee, um, the game Cowboys and Indians. And I just pre-warn you. If we play that game, the Indians usually win when I play, I’m just warning you.

The baby boomer generation. That is what was learnt of the truth. Far from it. Residential schools were at an all time worst. The physical, sexual, mental, abuse was real. The Indian act was implemented at the worst time during the baby boomers. Generation X biggest decision maker generation in this country today, MPs MLA’s, mayors, uh, for profit, non-for-profit. Generation X is the biggest decision makers. What did they learn of the truth? The fact is that generation X learned that the white paper was the best solution in 1969. “Indigenous people, give up your rights! Just be Canadian, move to the cities, get off the reserve!” If anybody thinks that, please you’re wasting your energy. That is not the solution. Generation Y, I’m a generation Y. What did we learn of the truth? We learned that yeah, treaties happened, but somehow you agreed to live on reserve. Somehow you surrendered the land. Somehow residential schools in the Indian were a part of it. Today, our millennial generation and our generation Z are bombarded with the truth. But the reality is, is there’s no ‘Indigenous Studies 100’ class mandatory for Canadians, for the prior generations. That is why it is so important that we must understand and accept the truth. The second part of truth is what happened to indigenous people? Why are indigenous people- We’re not asking for pity. We’re not asking for anybody to feel sorry for us. We’re asking for Canadians to stand beside us and understand that we are healing.

This is what happened. It’s called intergenerational trauma. My great great-grandmother her English name was Gracie born in 1870, never attended a residential school. Gracie got vertical lineage teachings from her mom and grandma. What this country promises every Canadian. my great grandma, Maggie born in 1900, attended the round lake Indian industrial school in 1906. She didn’t get vertical lineage. She went into horizontal survival mode because of Canadian policy and residential school. The physical, sexual, mental, abuse was real. Maggie went into survival mode with her sisters and her cousins. Maggie had my grandmother, Evelyn, second generation in my maternal side. Evelyn should have got vertical lineage teaching like everybody’s promised in this country, but Evelyn didn’t. She went into horizontal survival mode. Evelyn had my mom, Charlotte, third generation. Charlotte should have got vertical lineage teachings. That’s what this country promises. But Charlotte didn’t. Charlotte went into horizontal survival mode. Charlotte had me, I never attended a residential school. My mother had to figure out how to be a mom while trying to figure out her locus of control, on what she just went through and raised children in a country. Today. I have a five year old daughter. My mom and my daughter are inseparable.

I can tell you standing here that my vertical lineage is back in this country there are a million indigenous people that have direct lineage to residential schools. In 2022, some are horizontal are vertical lineage. I’ve praised them and thanked them. Some are at 45 degree angle. They’re getting stronger. Some are still a hundred percent horizontal survival mode. As Canadians, let’s not give indigenous people the solution. Let’s stand beside indigenous people in this country and ask them, what do you need to get back that vertical lineage? That is what we inherited as Canadians.

What is the end goal of reconciliation? The end goal is the following. Couple week, couple, uh, months ago, my little girl and I were playing outside my house in Saskatchewan, where I live. And there was this plane in the sky. And my five year old daughter said, dad, what is that? Of course, when you tell a five year old, they’re gonna ask why five or six times . I told her, it’s like a bus, my girl, but you drive it. She’s like, can I drive it? I was like, oh, you wanna be a pilot? Absolutely, my girl you’ll be a pilot. One day I was driving to work and I was thinking, oh, my little girl wants to be a pilot. I’m thinking, mom, my little girl is an indigenous. Did you know, in this country in 2022 indigenous females have to try twice as hard to reap half the benefits because of what we inherited. My wife and I have to try twice as hard for my daughter to be a pilot. When we reach full reconciliation, which I know we can, if we all just take it a little more serious, one day, my daughter will be a pilot. And I ask all of you to be an advocate to make that happen. Thank you very much.

HOST: Chief Cadmus Delorme is currently chief of the Cowessess First Nation and he spoke at The Walrus Talks: What’s Next? In Toronto. And he’s just one of the over 800 fantastic Canadians who have walked, wheeled and webcammed onto a stage at the Walrus Talks.

Cadmus Delorme

Join our community

Jennifer Hollett I have been digging into the pages of The Walrus Summer Reading issue and remarking at all of the contributions from our former and current Fellows. It reminds me that every issue of The Walrus is a result of a culmination of efforts (including lengthy fact-checking) from the editorial team, the emerging journalists they train, and the generous supporters who make all of this happen.

Through The Walrus Editorial Fellowship Program, we have the privilege of training the next generation of professionals who are passionate about the integrity of journalism. In the Summer Reading issue, 2021 Cannonbury Fellow Connor Garel wrote a piece on Frankie Perez and the art of breaking. Tajja Isen contributed an excerpt from her first book, Some of my Best Friends. Isen, who also began her career at The Walrus as a Cannonbury Fellow, is currently Editor-in-Chief at Catapult magazine.

Our 2022 Chawkers Fellow, Mashal Butt, was instrumental in making sure we got the facts straight in our Summer Reading issue, having fact-checked six features, including Sarah Totton’s short story “The Click.” And, you can look forward to a cover story on housing affordability by our 2022 Justice Fund Writer in Residence, JS Rutgers. (Rutgers is now a climate reporter for The Narwhal.)

Donations of any amount (great or small) mean that we can keep on training future journalists in the rigorous practice of fact-checking and editing. With your support, we can continue to keep The Walrus available to readers everywhere as well as help foster the next generation of reporters, copy-editors, fact-checkers, and editors.

With gratitude,

Jennifer Hollett
Executive Director, The Walrus