SFU-led projects

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation 2022

October 11, 2022
Michael Kelly Gabriel (L) and Kevin Kelly (R) of Kwantlen First Nation lead attendees in a song.

This year, the SFU community observed National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with multiple opportunities to reflect upon residential schools, Canada’s colonial history and the path forward to reconciliation.

SFU has held a longstanding partnership with the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee and the City of Surrey, who together hosted a ceremony for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day September 30th.

The ceremony began with a drumming procession from Surrey City Hall to Holland Park, and a welcome from Kevin Kelly and Michael Kelly-Gabriel of Kwantlen First Nation.

Steve Dooley, executive director of SFU Surrey, President Joy Johnson and Nav Chima, director of community programs and partnerships, SFU Surrey joined the procession.

“My wife (Kwantlen Hereditary Chief Marilyn Gabriel) doesn’t call them survivors, she calls them warriors. We have to respect the ones that never made it home, but also the ones that are here,” said Kelly.

“Don’t be mad for our people, don’t be sad. All we ask is what we tell you - we come to educate you so you can go home and educate your children, your parents, your grandparents.”

Reflecting on the ceremony, SFU President Joy Johnson wrote: “This event, along with all the Truth and Reconciliation Week activities across SFU, was an important reminder for me that reconciliation and decolonization work requires a sustained commitment from each of us.”

The ceremony also featured a speech from Elder and residential school survivor Eugene Harry (Cowichan), jingle dancers and serving of bannock and tea.

“When we drummed in, I almost cried when I saw the amount of orange shirts out here,” said Kelly. “Thank you for taking time out of your day today to be here and pay your respect to our warriors.”

Truth, reconciliation and action

National Truth and Reconciliation week began on-campus with the first of a new Monthly Lunch program organized by the Indigenous Student Centre and First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Association, in order to deepen the connection of the Indigenous community at SFU and help Indigenous students to meet with Indigenous faculty and staff.

Sxwpilemaát Siyám, a Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation, Transformative Storyteller for Economic Reconciliation at SFU CED and co-author of "Step Into the River".
(L) Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Ogwi’low’gwa, a former Chief of Qualicum First Nation, award-winning activist and academic researcher of ethnobotany. (R) Douglas Deur, Moxmowisa, associate research professor of anthropology at Portland State University .

The week also saw a number of guest speakers deliver lectures on paths for reconciliation centering Indigenous values and knowledge.

Sxwpilemaát Siyám (Chief Leanne Joe), along with co-author Lily Raphael, presented her framework for economic reconciliation, Step Into the River. From the report released this summer, the framework uses Indigenous worldviews about wealth and sustainability as a source of wisdom for economic transformation.

In “Honouring Ancestral Teachings and Environmental Knowledge in a Time of Urgency: Lessons from the Ninogaad”, Kim Recalma-Clutesi (Qualicum) and Douglas Deur explored how some Indigenous peoples and local communities understand sustainability and resilience and how their traditional worldviews might provide models for more sustainable futures for their communities and others.

Chris (Syeta’xtn) Lewis, director of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation at SFU also moderated a panel at the Burnaby Board of Trade on creating opportunity and working collaboratively with Indigenous communities, organizations, and individuals.

A full list of 2022 events and activities can be found on SFU’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation page.

The university also released its annual Reconciliation report, an update on SFU’s progress towards the Calls to Action outlined in the 2017 SFU-ARC Walk this Path with Us Report. You can read the 2022 report online.