Indigenous Arts & Stories - (Re)-Conciliation


2016 - Writing Winner

My reconciliation is when pictures of the cigar store Indian is not the image that greets ignorance, when war bonnets of big chief are not misused for profit, when head shops are not referred to as “peace pipe”...

Read Karissa Martin's (Re)-Conciliation

Karissa Martin

Hagersville, ON
Six Nations of the Grand River
Age 20

Author's Statement

She:kon, sken:nen. Nikaronhya’a yon’kyats. Kanienkeha’ka ne I:I, wakskaré:wake, ta:non Ohswekenron:on.

Hello, greeting/ peace/ well-being/ tranquility. My name is Nikaronhya’a which translates into something like “Little Blue Sky.” Mohawk is my nation, I am Bear Clan, and I am from Ohsweken or Six Nations of the Grand River.

The poem that I have wrote is entitled “(Re)-Conciliation.” Over the past couple years, the relationship between Indigenous nations and the Canadian government has been affected by a number of different occurrences in mainstream society. The apology given by Stephen Harper June 2008 was viewed differently among certain Indigenous groups. Myself, I felt like the apology amounted to very little in my eyes. Actions speak louder than words and this is the exact notion I am portraying in my writing piece.

After June 2008, Idle No More and other resistance movements were established widely across Canada. This goes to show that there is a lot more work to be done in our Indigenous communities and our relationship with the colonial state still needs to addressed and readdressed.

I chose to title this poem (Re)conciliation to get at the notion of our relationships actually staring with true conciliation and the need for working and reworking this relationship between these two parties. It is an ongoing process that takes more than just words and one-time discussions.



(RE) conciliation


In the depths of summer

When the plant life is at is fullest

When the birds sing their songs every sunrise

When Skies stay calm and blue


In the depths of summer; we danced

We sang

We celebrated

In the depths of summer,

New beginnings are in full bloom


Our stories were told and heard

Some of pain,

Some of hurt

Some of lives being taken too young


Wounds being open and reopened

Traumas being lived and relived

Tales heard after years of repression

Poison finally leaving the body

As silence is deafened


Word after word,

tales spilling out of mouths,

Burning the throat-

as these harsh histories are brought forward

With each past being told-

we restore


this is the struggle we go through

to heal our nations

Resistance is a form of fight,

of battle,

of conflicts being addressed


Resistance-also has no days of off


Our bodies

Our lands-

are tired and weak

Constantly rebelling against

challenges you set in our paths

Resistance needs to turn into something

other than struggle


If reconciliation were to happen,

We need you to know- we are sick of words


These meaningless verses that hold no weight

These words you speak of “sorry”

Slipping through mouths

From the people who don’t know our trials or tribulations


My reconciliation includes a revolution

A transformation of sorts

My reconciliation is

Hundreds and thousands of

Resolutions adding up to

The greater of dialogue


My reconciliation is

When pictures of the cigar store Indian

Is not the image that greets ignorance

When war bonnets of big chief

Are not misused for profit

When head shops are not referred to as “peace pipe”

We’re not your f*cking mascots


My reconciliation is

When the dispossession of the lands

where my culture and ceremonies

come from are given back to my people

When government boarders

do not define my existence

When my mother’s lands

are not abused, misused or exploited

When there is no pipeline that runs across her body

Blocking the veins that hold life


My reconciliation is

When my language, Kanien:keha,

Is not seen as foreign in its own homelands

When I can voice the words of my ancestors

And they are understood

When I can speak to my brothers and sisters

In the tongue that connects me to the

Places our mothers have walked

When the ability to choose what language

I converse in is not something forced down my throat


My reconciliation is

When traditionalism is

not seen as something of the past

When intergeneration traumas are addressed

When colonial violence is confronted in our life histories


My reconciliation is

When the idea of the sacred feminine is returned

How they tried to keep us

too weak to speak

too weak to spark

When women are not seen as squaw or savage

When their lives are honoured

Reclaiming the power that life givers hold


My reconciliation is

When our men are not scrutinized for their unknowing

When they are not harmed by colonial patriarchy

When the tears that fall from their faces are validated and respected


My reconciliation is

When false labels do not restraint us

Because Indian, native, aboriginal

Do not give full voice to who we are as people

Try onkwehonweh- the original peoples of turtle island


My reconciliation is

When 1181 is not just a number rising

When MMIWG is not just a hashtag

When our sisters who have gone and left are put on the radar


My reconciliation is

When equality is met

In the educational system

in health standards

and for living conditions


My reconciliation is

When suicide rates are not at an epidemic level

When the lives of the hurt

Are healed with love

And not damaged with pain


My reconciliation is

When the indigenous family dynamic is returned

When we know what it means again

To belong to family

To belong to community

To belong to nation


My reconciliation is

When our questions are answered


Because I don’t know why it’s so easy for dad to crack that bottle

Than to crack a smile

Or why I hardly heard laughter leave his breath

Or how he couldn’t lend me life

Because he was searching for his own

Adding fire to the fuel

Making flames burst with anger and sadness


Because I don’t know why mom cries

Every time she is reminded of the nights she was violated

When her power was taken with force

why she cannot give my family true love

To ground ourselves in


Because I’ll never know why

Brother took his life too young

I’ll never know why we had to bury him

When I was the age of seven

I’ll know why that piece of our family

Will be gone for this lifetime


Because I just don’t know why

So many don’t know why


My reconciliation is

When you know,

Canada knows

The worlds knows

We are not quite what you said we were


My reconciliation is

When the purposeful forgetting

Of our histories is not left out of curriculum

When unawareness is addressed in society


My reconciliation is

Letting the children in those schools

Know it is not the fault

That their spirits were damaged and abused

It’s not their fault that they carry this burden


My reconciliation is

Tapping into the hope

I know is living among our people


Know that you matter

Know that you have purpose


My reconciliation includes

Creating and recreating

Our own histories


We are the people of this red earth

We are the people that have been living

With creation before ships sailed the ocean blue

We are the people who want meaningful action put forward


And I’m not going to be apologetic for these truths

it is something you need to hear