When Lawrence speaks - it's hard not to be moved and captivated not only by his vision of a resilient future for Indigenous Peoples but by the work he actively does to get us there. Share circle with us as we lean in to hear: what truth and reconciliation means, how Indigenous and non-Indigenous can use this time to pause and reflect on National Day for Truth and Reconcilation, and his hope-filled message for Indigenous Peoples today.
What Truth and Reconciliation Means
Truth and Reconciliation is a place and space to make an impact, and advance truth and reconciliation through an Indigenous lens.
"I think of it as Indigenous sovereignty," says Lawrence. "People continue to have their sovereignty over their lands that were taken away, they are returned, those resources and treasures that were stolen as a result of colonization are reconciled." He goes on to say that in modern-day context "we [Indigenous Peoples] have the ability and resources to lead Indigenous folk into the next and future generations."
In the context of Indigenous identity in the digital space, Lawrence says this means Indigenous folks must design and define that for themselves. "If we don't someone else will define what that looks like and that's a further extension of colonialism."
National Day For Truth and Reconciliation is a time to pause, reflect, and take action
Lawrence hopes it "gives everyone a moment of pause. To reflect, take stock of Canada's history and the legacies of its actions and activities either designed or by accident that have largely impacted Indigenous communities in very negative and profoundly bad ways."
Lawrence points to "residential school atrocities, thievery of Indigenous lands, the deliberate acts of government to cause genocide and decimate Indigenous folks. These are real historical facts. "
Lawrence says he believes Indigenous folks, aside from the hurt and trauma, are ready to move forward to a better place and space in their relationship with Canada and the rest of the citizens in Canada. For that to happen in a good and healthy way "there has to be a moment of pause and reflection, tolerance, and a recognition of what's happened. If we can't speak truth to those events and those acts, we can't design our way out of this."
As we pause and reflect as Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike Lawrence says we should recognize that "Indigeneous folks have a very special place in this country that we call Canada. There are legacies that need to be righted, histories that need to be taught, and there is a path forward that needs to be designed with Indigenous folks, not for Indigenous folks. Hopefully, this [instatement of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation] represents the start of a collaborative process where we do this together."
How Indigenous Peoples can participate this week
Lawrence acknowledged that every Indigenous person will have their own way of dealing with this week, "there will be "quite a continuum." For some, this may mean not much, and for others, it will be a celebratory week.
Lawrence acknowledged some will come from a place of pain and suffering. For others, it will be a time to be present and participate where they can when and if they are ready. And for a company like OneFeather and himself to continue to double down and designing digital technologies from an Indigenous agenda and perspective to advance what reconciliation looks like in the digital space.
Acts of reconciliation at OneFeather
Lawrence is inspired by his team. "I see acts of reconciliation with our team every day - from our non-Indigenous folks to our Indigenous staff - and an embrace to do that together." He says there is an individual human approach and desire to understand that legacy and history - taking courses, participating in conversations, and actively acknowledging the truth of Canada's history with Indigenous folks. This is something that all folks can do.
As an Indigenous CEO and OneFeather as an Indigenous company, Lawrence says our work must align with the vision of truth and reconciliation. This means "we start everything through discovery or design from a place of understanding the diversity of Indigenous People in this country, the legacies of colonization and residential schools, the shared lived experience, and seeing things through an Indigenous lens - and making sure that those elements define the work that we do."
A word of hope for Indigenous Peoples today
Reflecting on the past, Lawrence notes that change is happening.
"I'm hopeful, and I really believe and trust that years from now we will look back at these moments as a pivotal time in history where the right things were done, the truth was spoken, and that real reconciliation took place."
Lawrence speaks to incremental change to get us there. "Today is a good day. Let's make tomorrow a little bit better. Let's not forget what happened yesterday because it helps define how we see the world and prioritize what actions we take next. Hope is what matters here."
Lawrence closed the circle with a beautiful word of hope, "In my culture, we leave the table more bountiful than the way we found it... This truth and reconciliation day is exactly that. A whole bunch of people did a whole bunch of heavy lifting to leave the day better than the way we found it - and I think we should all be inspired to do the same thing every single day."