End Poverty’s Indigenous Circle talks: Reconciliation work in the local neighbourhood


“When I talk to my indigenous neighbours, they express their concern that everybody seems to be watching their house.” 

Fear and suspicion over concerns related to race, class or culture often show up in our communities, even if they are consciously unwanted and rejected in hearts and minds.  What can be done to overcome this unwelcome undercurrent at play in our communities?  How can we find our way to healthy relationships with local neighbours, especially when there are barriers between us?

CRIHI recently had the opportunity to visit End Poverty Edmonton’s Indigenous Circle to seek their wisdom and ideas on how people can pursue practices of reconciliation in their local neighbourhoods.

Here were some of their insights and observations:
“It takes work…  give and take from both.”  As with all relationships, it can be complicated.  Efforts to connect may not always go smoothly.  It may require some commitment on both sides to say this is important and to give it the time and attention it needs.

There are some communities that are thriving already on this front!  One member of the circle shared her experience of a great relationship with her neighbours.  They talk over the fence; shovel each other’s walks (even racing to see who gets there first); weed each other’s gardens and share vegetables; and keep an eye on each other’s places when someone goes away.  People know and support each other.

But others had a very different experience… of local neighbours being cold and unkind.  Another shared the experience of being followed around in a store.

What can people do to build relationship with local neighbours?

  • When you are going into a new community, “look for kind people!”
  • “Become Colour-brave!  Start a conversation and hear my story.  See me as a Cree man, who has been through a lot and struggled…  And let me hear your story of your life and your struggle.”
  • “Say Sorry!”  Share your regrets at what has happened in the past and what another has faced.  Sharing tears can be very healing.
  • Keep extending the welcome!  Continue to reach out with an open hand.  Treat people with kindness and respect.
  • Walk with each other and work together as Allies!  Do things together.  Go with each other to talk to a neighbour or to help someone.  If just one person goes, it will be heard differently than if we go together.
  • And of course, respect each other as equals.  Share food.  Go for Coffee.
Reconciliation won’t always happen the same way or to the same degree between people, but even small steps in the right direction move us forward.
By Mike Van Boom, CRIHI Housing Ambassador
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