Reconciliation program for non-Indigenous explores the benefits of allyship

Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee works with City Council on issues relating to reconciliation in the community, promoting mutual understanding and support for the Indigenous community and relationships with the Blackfoot Confederacy. Working with Cindy Rendall, founder of Untethered Heart Counselling, the committee has partnered with her in the past two years to host events on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 called Reconciliation Starts with You.

“It’s not just Indigenous people focusing on telling their story,” said Echo Nowak, Indigenous relations specialist with the City. “It is also about non-Indigenous people learning how to come together within the community and understand our history. Sessions like Cindy’s are an open platform for non-Indigenous people to come and understand, asking questions within a safe space.”

Speaking to the allyship, Rendall says sessions like hers offer a framework for how reconciliation can start.

“I am happy to facilitate that conversation,” said Rendall. “How do we as non-Indigenous people step up and do our part and recognize the privileges that we have? And taking a look at the system that gives us these privileges.”

Coming from a background of healing and counselling, Rendall’s work with allyship starts discussions on the topic of reconciliation.

“One of the things that comes out of these conversations is, as non-Indigenous people, how do we hold things that have to do with our own history, but also have a shared history of colonization, racism, and discrimination against Indigenous people,” said Rendall. “Reflecting on that, we have our own personal histories that we celebrate, but we also hold this other history that lives within both realities.”

Rendall notes it is about acknowledging these realities and knowing the right and wrong. Celebrating what we hold dear, but also reflecting on how we can improve.

“All of these things are still active and ongoing,” said Rendall. “Sometimes just beginning to look at that brings up all of our defences. We have our own personal histories that we celebrate and acknowledge, but we also hold this other history.”

With allyship, Rendall stresses the importance of asking questions and learning, saying knowledge is key to understanding what has been done, and continuing to be done.

“I would encourage people to do their own research,” said Rendall. “There is knowledge from Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers of their experience. It’s as simple as Googling it and finding those resources, and I am also happy to offer my services as well.”

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald