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Reconciliation: Paving the way to a Brighter Future

by Nicola on 2012-10-28

Reconciliation: Paving the way to a Brighter Future

Dr Nicola Davies

                                                                           A Brighter Future for Inuit.

                                                                          Photo courtesy of David Ho.

Being a unique part of Canadian, Alaskan, and Greenland society, Inuit have always been a segregated community living separately from the rest of what is termed “mainstream” society. As the majority populations have attempted to reform and educate Inuit to fit in with their culture, attempts at maintaining their dialect, culture, language, and traditions has been staunch among Inuit. As a consequence, while some Inuit have attempted to fight for their rights and preserve their culture, they have moved further away from mainstream society. However, living as a progressive part of society and moving towards modernisation has become essential for Inuit, highlighting the need for reconciliation with other parts of society.


A History of Rejection

It was after several blows experienced by Inuit, such as the residential schools program that left Inuit feeling that their culture was not respected or perceived as ‘good enough’ for their children, that Inuit understandably became distrustful towards mainstream society. While mainstream society claimed that these schools were introduced for the betterment of Inuit, the general feeling amongst Inuit was one of torment and shame as they contended with thoughts of being looked down upon. As with all cultures, this feeling of exclusion led to problems such as the use of drugs and, in some cases, suicide among the younger generation of Inuit. While mainstream society claimed they were providing Inuit with education and making them “civilized,” Inuit felt that their traditions and culture were being threatened by these school programs and that their culture was on the verge of extinction.

Additional problems such as land claim issues and climate change exacerbated this feeling of rejection, as Inuit were made to relocate and leave their homelands without being given adequate compensation, or in some case any compensation. Prevailing negative sentiments due to these past struggles and disagreements has made cooperation and living together difficult for Inuit and mainstream society. Hence, in order to avoid further negativity and to enable progress for Inuit, reconciliation is fundamental.

Reconciliation: Mending Broken Relationships

The reconciliation process involves attempts at mending the relationship between Inuit and mainstream society and making efforts to resolve the distrust and problems caused by broken relationships of the past. Representation for Inuit in Parliament, recognition for their language and dialects, preservation of their culture and traditions, and settlements regarding land and issues such as climate change are examples of progressive steps towards reconciliation. To progress reconciliation further, it is important for both cultures to be highly aware of one another’s similarities and differences in an effort to further understand the issues and concerns affecting both cultures. It is also essential for Inuit to attempt to maintain their rights in a peaceful and cooperative manner, while also merging with mainstream society in a way that will enhance their quality of life.

The largest reconciliation program to date is the Survivors of Residential Schools Program, which financially compensated Inuit who had to go through the traumatic process of attending residential schools. However, economic compensation may not have been enough to make up for the emotional turmoil and hardship caused to some Inuit. Therefore, Canada has introduced programs such as the Truth and Reconciliation Program, which seeks to mend the relationship between Inuit and mainstream society and to help Inuit preserve their culture and traditions while moving progressively with society.

                                        Learning of Culture from Elders and Parents - Dance.

                                                                    Photo courtesy of David Ho.

Healing the Pain for a Brighter Future

While feelings about reconciliation may be mixed due to deep-seated hurt experienced by Inuit, reconciliation is essential to ensure that Inuit are fairly represented in society and that their culture is preserved. Successful reconciliation can contribute to Inuit’s rights being upheld, equal opportunities in education and employment, and respect of their property and land. To move towards progress and economic emancipation for Inuit, mainstream society and Inuit need to grasp the reconciliation process with both hands.

Historical negativity may affect the relationship for several generations. Indeed, Inuit remain highly challenged in mainstream society. However, peaceful preservation of culture and language will be the outcome of perseverance within the reconciliation process. One way to achieve this is through attitude change and a better understanding of the needs of all cultures. Exposure, education, interaction, and other social activities, including this Website, can further enable mainstream society and Inuit to intermingle, relate to, and empathize with one another.

Inuit are unique and have a rich cultural heritage and while the wounds of the past may be deep and inerasable for some, the progressive path of reconciliation provides hope and strength to many. Indeed, participation in programs such as the Truth and Reconciliation Program are likely to be fundamental in healing the pain of the past and paving the way for a brighter future.


                                                                 Leaving the Past Behind.

                                                                    Photo courtesy of David Ho.

Author Bio:


Dr Nicola Davies is a Psychology Consultant and Freelance Writer with an interest in health and well-being.  Her publications can be viewed at Alternatively, you might like to sign up to her free blog:







Do you want to talk with someone right now?
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Contact your lawyer for assistance; or, phone Gayle McCarthy, Residential Schools Advisor, AWOC, 1-800-994-7477 or email:
What does reconciliation mean to you?