February 14, 2022

Tool: Truth-Telling & Indigenous Cultural Awareness

Tanya Chung-Tiam-Fook

Evergreen and Future Cities Canada

This Tool is part of the Civic-Indigenous Placekeeping and Partnership Building Toolkit


In coincidence with an emphasis on truth-telling before reconciliation , it is imperative that municipalities and civic organizations be honest about the history of conquest, colonialism and genocide in Canadian state formation; and that all city building and placemaking occurs on the occupied lands of Indigenous Nations. An integral part of repairing, restoring and building mutually respectful and equitable relationships with Indigenous peoples is for settler institutions to become more conscious of the deeply ingrained colonial settler world views and power inequities that persist within contemporary urban planning and design, city building and municipal policies.

Moreover, the TRC Calls to Action and the preceding Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP)2 formally call on people in Canada to unlearn the false and damaging ‘truths’ about Indigenous peoples that have been taught and socialized within many educational, political and media spaces. This can be done through research, direct engagement and attending events and presentations led by Indigenous knowledge- keepers, practitioners and organizations.

Settler colonialism will continue to be the dominant narrative restricting Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds if it is not actively and constantly addressed and dismantled. Critical self-reflection of one’s own cultural biases and blind spots, especially those that privilege settler colonial views and create exclusionary practices, is the only way to disrupt status quo patterns and inequitable practices. When we do this work with intentionality and open minds and hearts, it becomes possible to repair and rebuild relationships and reorient approaches that are more honest, mutually valuable and generative for Indigenous and civic partners. Truth-telling about the colonial settler history and present of cities and city building is a necessary part of reconciling and healing for the future.

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