The Way We Choose Our Words
October 15, 2019
Sometimes we are guilty of underestimating the power of language, and the way we choose our words. In my work as an Indigenous liaison at Wood’s Homes, I am very deliberate in the use of my words and I believe it’s something all of us need to be reminded of.
In my work with children and families here, I have been noticing a common theme in the use of the words ‘white people’. I hear this term used by Indigenous children, Indigenous parents, those who work for Child and Family Services, and even Youth and Family Counsellors.
The words are used in reference to Canada’s past when the residential school system was created to take ‘the Indian out of the child’. This is a sad reality, and yes, ‘white people’ did, in fact, show up on the reserves to take Indigenous children away to residential schools.
And here, I want to acknowledge that many families were impacted by this, and many are still working to heal the wounds and losses. My mother attended day school in Manitoba and spoke of the abuse she received from the priests and nuns there. That experience impacted my parenting style and I have reached out for support to find new ways of being the best version of myself as an Indigenous person.
But let’s work to validate today’s truth, and recognize the difference of the time we are in. I see so many non-Indigenous people helping Indigenous people – they want to see them stand tall as a people, to acknowledge their nation. Yet in this work to support, I have noticed non-Indigenous people calling themselves ‘white people’ and I do not think they realize the impact in choosing those words.
They don’t fit the times.
Upon reflection, I have asked myself: “Did you really take children from their homes to take ‘the Indian out of the child’”? This is not what is happening these days – there are so many efforts being made to support Indigenous children and families not only maintain connection to their culture to establish re-connection.
So what is the learning here? We need to be very deliberate and clear about the words we choose to speak and write. Validate the truth, and acknowledge the opportunity that is in front of everyone.