National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Heads up Canada! If you find yourself in Winnipeg, pay a visit to the headquarters of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) on the campus of the University of Manitoba. Located in the Chancellor's Building until such as time as a permanent building on the campus is completed, NCTR holds the textual and material records of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

 Bentwood box at NCTR. The box was used to hold testimony, gifts and medicines offered as the TRC toured Canada.

Bentwood box at NCTR. The box was used to hold testimony, gifts and medicines offered as the TRC toured Canada.

The Commission examined the history of the tragic residential school system for Indigenous children in Canada. The final report was submitted in 2015. The Centre aims at ensuring that the process of reconciliation outlined in the TRC action plan continues and that survivors, descendants of survivors, interested Canadians and researchers can access commission archives.

As a member of a group of visiting historians and ethnologists, I was fortunate to receive an introduction and tour of NCTR from historian Trisha Logan who is the organization's Community Outreach Coordinator. Logan spoke with passion and profound understanding of the TRC mission. Her grandparents had both attended residential schools. She emphasized that the TRC's work must continue in the hearts and minds of all Canadians in learning an accurate history of Aboriginal - settler relations in Canada and in the interest of meaningful reconciliation.

 Trisha Logan, Community Outreach Coordinator, NCTR

Trisha Logan, Community Outreach Coordinator, NCTR

Logan also directed our attention to unfinished research. For example, the commission reported on approximately 3,000 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves who died at the schools. The commission believes that is about half the actual number. Logan expects that communities and forensic anthropologists will find more graves in the years to come. She drew our attention to the heartbreak of survivors and their descendants who told stories of how their relations had simply disappeared after entering the schools as children. The search for answers continues.

The Centre is also a site for healing and ceremony. A tipi that that had toured the country for TRC hearings is now located on the grounds next to the river. 

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A turtle carving surrounded by medicinal plants greets visitors outside the main entrance. It's a fitting welcome to visitors to this site so intrinsic to mutual understanding between Indigenous people and settlers here on Turtle Island, the name for North America in the cosmology of some Indigenous groups in this place now called Canada.

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As a settler citizen of Canada, as a historian, educator and storyteller, I offer a heartfelt chii-miigwech (great thanks) to Trisha Logan for the tour and to all involved at the Commission during its work and at NCTR now and in the future for their important work.