Radio — A new grassroots resource for settlers to learn about Canada’s colonial present and past

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Monique Woroniak and Liz Carlson. They are two participants in a small group of women from Winnipeg who have taken seriously the admonition that white settler folks must work with other white settler folks in pushing anti-racist and decolonizing politics. To that end they have, in tight consultation with diversely located Indigenous people in Winnipeg, produced a website to allow settlers who are questioning the received wisdom about Canada to educate ourselves with respect to the country’s colonial present and past.

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Most of us who are not ourselves Indigenous to this continent know very little about Indigenous peoples, their histories, and their present-day realities. And, of course, saying that is equivalent to saying that most non-Indigenous people on this continent — most settlers, particularly most of us who are white — don’t really know much about ourselves, about the histories that formed us, about the present-day social order that produces us and sustains the lives, experiences, and expectations that we take for granted. We live in and are products of a deeply colonial reality that we often remain largely oblivious to.

Being exposed to more and better information about that history and that contemporary reality will not, in and of itself, produce changes in consciousness among settlers, or social change. But access to good information can be one element, and in some cases quite a crucial one, of broader processes of change. Indigenous resistance is constant and ongoing, but in those moments when it breaks through to mainstream consciousness, one of the ways that some settlers react is to ask questions — to recognize that things are not as we had been led to believe, and to try to figure out what’s actually going on. It can therefore be an important contribution to larger struggles to invest effort in making sure there are accessible resources that non-Indigenous people can seek out to find answers, and that those resources tell the accurate but difficult truths about this country that cannot be escaped when you refuse to erase the voices and experiences of Indigenous peoples and the harsh realities of ongoing colonization and resistance to it.

The website that Woroniak, Carlson, and others have produced can be found at groundworkforchange.org. It provides basic information about context, background, and issues, and links to many further resources. It foregrounds its commitment to working towards transformed relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples that are rooted in justice and solidarity. It is largely constructed from material that has been written by Indigenous people themselves. And it is targeted to answer the many questions to which settlers from across Canada so often grow up not knowing the answers, to filling in the blanks that colonial education and media systems have left in our consciousness, to providing a resource for learning — and, based on that learning, for acting in solidarity. Woroniak and Carlson talk with me about the issues, the project, the site, and what they hope that it can accomplish.

To learn more about groundworkforchange.org, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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