Small Acts of Reconciliation Have a Large Impact

I was recently invited to provide a session at the Editors’ Association of Canada annual conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I titled the session “Voice, Agency and Worldview: Editing Indigenous Manuscripts.” I did my best to provide a short description and then set to work on what to include in the session. I wondered what was left to say, as so much has been said and shared on this topic. I was privileged to be part of the inaugural and second Indigenous Editors’ Circle when they were held in Saskatoon. So much wonderful dialogue occurred between the faculty and participants that I knew there were many great perspectives on the matter.

At the conference, I was given the last session of the day on Saturday, so I thought people would be exhausted and decide to cut out early or rest up for the evening. To my surprise and delight, the session was well attended. One of the twelve points I covered must have struck a chord, because here I am writing about the reconciliation thread on which I ended.

I noted that the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, by their sheer breadth and scope, make most of us feel helpless and overwhelmed. How can one person or even a small group of people take the actions being called for? I intentionally refuse to refer to the Calls as recommendations. Instead, I focus on the word “action,” because nothing else can make the difference envisioned. So what is the action one person can take? What is that action when being done by a non-Indigenous editor?

Calls to action are not new. When asked to donate to a cause, we are being asked to act to support causes of personal importance to each of us. The recent tragic losses experienced as a result of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash showed us the power of individual actions when the cause is of collective importance. We can’t make others care about what we care about, but if we take an individual action on something we care about, we may find ourselves part of something bigger. Either way, we are able to make a significant difference by one person to one person.

Taking action for reconciliation can seem like an overwhelming task. You may be unsure about whose responsibility it is to take action or whether you are being called to take action. But each of us, as editors, can respond as individuals by sharing our skills with those who need our help. There are many gifted Indigenous writers and many others who want to be writers. They are often unfamiliar with editing, submitting manuscripts, and approaching and working with editors and publishers.

At my presentation, I suggested that non-Indigenous editors donate their time and skills to support an Indigenous writer. I do not make that suggestion without the forethought to acknowledge that we all have to make a living and pay our bills. You can decide how much of your time and skill to give, just as you do when you make a monetary contribution to a cause or contribute your time and skill as a volunteer or coach.

It may be easier for you to provide your donated skill by asking a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit organization or writers’ group to help you identify a writer who could benefit from your help. Perhaps a small group of editors want to offer this together by having a meet-and-greet at which you match up writers and editors and then a regroup for the feedback session and a chance to pass on some editing skills.

We only have to look through the acknowledgements sections provided by most writers to realize that small acts of encouragement and help were meaningful to the author.

Karon Shmon Anskohk

Many paths have converged to lead Karon Shmon to her position as Director of Publishing at the Gabriel Dumont Institute, a Saskatchewan-based Métis organization with culture and education as its focus. Her roots in the one-room cabin at Chitek Lake where her mother was raised and the family’s annual visits to Batoche helped her to understand her heritage and to be a proud Métis. Karon’s career has focused on making education equitable and is driven by her personal mantra to “affirm ourselves and inform others.” She considers it a privilege to work with Métis Elders, authors, artists, poets, performers, knowledge keepers, and community members to preserve their voice and legacy through the publications and resources created at the Institute. Gabriel Dumont Institute: https://gdins.org/

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