15 Ways to bridge the gap between cultures and communities in conflict

Submitted by Ben Ziegler on February 7, 2011 - 7:37pm

In early December, just passed, I participated, along with 200+ others, in the first ever Truth and Reconciliation conference between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals in Victoria.  The conference was titled “Open Hearts, Clear Minds: A Road to Reconciliation”, and took place at the First Peoples House at the University of Victoria.

The conference was aligned with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada; a commission established as part of the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history, which was reached in 2006 and came into effect in 2007.  The TRC was established in 2008 to tell Canadians about the history of Indian Residential Schools and the impacts (think negative and colonial) it had on Aboriginal children who were sent to the schools (run by the Churches) by the Canadian government; and to guide a process of reconciliation between and within Aboriginal families, communities, churches, governments and Canadians.

What it felt like

At times the weekend felt surreal to me.  Listening to stories of “survivors” of residential school abuse and inter-generational dislocation were difficult; especially when many of the stories came from the elderly, and are still very painful (to them) to share, even 60 years later.  At times I felt as though I, a “settler’s” child, and my Aboriginal neighbour, living only kilometres away, are in parallel universes.

Where do we go from here?

Yet, with all the pain, there was still room for joy, humour, and optimism.  In one circle that I participated the question was posed “where do we go from here (along the reconciliation path)?” The following, 15 ways, are largely based on that circle’s conversation:

  1. Inspiration; offer a picture of “hope” for a future, together
  2. Vision; imagine a future that includes all cultural groups, not just the two in conflict
  3. Education; teach the others’ story, as they would like it told, in your community’s education system; the sooner/younger, the better
  4. Joint ceremony; to promote hope, and give rhythm to the communities working together
  5. Traditional customs; to nurture each community, in its’ own culture, way
  6. Dialogue; between communities; conversations transform us
  7. Storytelling; so people hear directly; the pain, and the joy, of the other community; listen to listen, not listen to talk
  8. One-on-one; taking inter-community dialogue back into ones’ own community, one-to-one
  9. Places: where people, from either community, can show up, be welcomed, and be themselves
  10. Invitation; to the other community to participate in your community places, and influence your community
  11. Inclusiveness; including the other as part of your community’s celebration
  12. Language; agreeing on respectful language for conversation crossing cultures and communities (witness that it was only last month that Canada finally signed onto the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)
  13. Leadership; capable of letting go, and passing the torch to the next generation
  14. Grandmothers; and grandfathers, bridging cultural divides, as only grandparents can!
  15. Appreciation; of the other community, and the positive things they bring, to the relationship


There were many sponsors and contributors to make this conference work; including the prime organizers, Aboriginal Neighbours, in partnership with the TRC, four Churches who ran residential schools in this region, and other concerned Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organization.  Kudos to all!

Have you attended a Truth and Reconciliation event somewhere?  What was your experience?  What now?

[Note: This post was orginally published, along with pics, here on Collaborative Journeys]

Thank you

I just wanted to add my thank you for sharing this experience. It sounds like an amazing conference. I also agree that it would be useful to apply this list to a variety of conflicted communities. Thanks for the inspiration!

What a powerful experience

Thanks for sharing this powerful experience.  I have heard a bunch about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the work that it has done.  I have not had the opportunity to attend one of these conferences yet, I hope I do get the chance.  THe list of 15 ways forward I think trancends many boundaries and can apply to so many different things.  Great Work!!

Reconciliation meetups

Derek, Thanks for your generous comment.  I do hope you find an opportunity to connect with one of the Reconciliation meetups, and hopefully post your observations on it!  The blending of cultures and diverse opinions, that the Reconciliation format offers (at least as I experienced it), is invaluable for participants, and by extension, the broader community.  Cheers.

ben, what an inspiring blog.

ben, what an inspiring blog. both in the story of the event overall, and especially the list of where we go from here. those ideas are applicable to all communities. thanks for sharing your experience, and these golden rays of hope.


Thanks Nola.   Appreciate your comment, and I think you are right... the ideas have applicability to other communities.   And maybe as we find ways to reconcile Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal issues, those experiences will will also spark additional ideas for moving forward in our other communities?

growing inspiration

Indeed I hope that these experiences will spark more ideas for work in other communities. It is a hope of this site that we can share ideas and thoughts and practices and take the inspiration to apply those ideas in new ways and communities. Using the web really lets us reach into new places and share with people we might otherwise never hear from.