Get To Know Me

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Reconciliation. A long word with many meanings. A word that leads to many interpretations for many of us. As a residential school survivor that has been scarred by my residential school experience, my interpretation of that word is simple. Get to know me. As I am today. As I was yesterday and the person I will be tomorrow.

Your opinion of me will change once you have met me. It is a short walk for me to get to know you as a simple acquaintance to a friend. Eventually I may even get to refer to you as my brother or sister in my small circle.

Get to know me—my past and the hidden wounds that I carry. Find out why there is a shadow of sadness beneath the smile I wear. My sense of humour is a large part of me and I use it in many different ways. Sit down with me one day and we will laugh together. We may even laugh at each other, if we are so comfortable with one another.

Reconcile your personal opinions of what I should be in your eyes. It will change once you get to know me. See past my brown skin and other visible signs of my Indigenous culture. That is a small part of who I am. I have dreams and goals like many other people. Some I have proudly achieved and I will be glad to share my story with you. I have also suffered personal losses in my life. A few that have changed me. Talk with me and pray with me as I share that sad part of my life. As I share my stories, you may find a common thread in the words I share.

Let us not talk about how different we are from each other. That will only build up walls that need tearing down. Walls that were created from mistrust and false assumptions of each other’s culture and faith. Reconciliation is about getting to know the other person. A simple hello tears down a piece of that wall. A handshake is a true gesture of hospitality and a step forward in reconciliation.

Get to know my culture and why the sound of the drum is so important to me. Once you understand the language of our drum and our songs—songs that our ancestors still sing today at various ceremonies—you will hear the true history and will feel the beat of the drum. Why we call it our mother’s heartbeat. Why it calls to us.

Let me get to know you—beyond your first name and title. Reconciliation is more than exchanging first and last names. I want to know why your brow is so furrowed and are those laugh lines around your mouth? What causes that sparkle in your eye when you talk of a loved one? I want to know all that and more.

Is it that difficult to see past my brown skin and dark eyes? You may see me sitting on a park bench. Alone. Get past your first assumption of me that history is telling you. How the general public perceives an Indigenous person and woman. No, I am not a drunken Indian or a squaw. Nor am I waiting to ask you for money. I am there to rest or to enjoy a moment of solitude. I may even be waiting to make a new friend. Again, a simple hello is welcomed.

Reconciliation needs two people from two different worlds. Mutual trust and willingness to accept one’s differences. Embrace each other’s different culture and faith. Find common ground to walk together. To want to change the worlds they are in. Make it better for their neighbour and friends.
Get to know the person who I am, not the object that society assumes I am. Not what the government says I am. Not what the media writes about me as an Indigenous woman.

I am a mother, grandmother, someone’s niece and daughter. Common themes we all have. Let us build from there. Get to know me

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About Vivian Ketchum

My name is Vivian Ketchum. I was born and raised in the Kenora area. I am a Anishnabe of Wauzhushk Onigum, a First Nation Community outside of Kenora. I currently live in Winnipeg, Man., and have for the past 20 years.