Protocols, Symbols and Ceremonies

The National Inquiry approach respects protocols, symbols and ceremonies. These include lighting the qulliq, using the red willow basket, and giving gifts of reciprocity.

The Qulliq

Another ceremonial item we have incorporated into the Truth-Gathering Process is the qulliq (Inuit lamp). It symbolizes Inuit women’s strength, care, and love.

The qulliq represents the light and warmth provided at the hearth. The Inuit woman’s lamp is made for her by her husband. Then, as the owner, she becomes the flame keeper.

The soapstone lamp is shaped in a half-moon to hold oil for burning. The oil is poured in, and then a mix of Arctic cotton (suputi) and moss (maniq) is delicately placed along the groove. This wick then absorbs the oil and can be lit. Once lit, the wick burns slowly. It should be tended to occasionally with a hook-shaped tool, the taqquti. Inuit women have sewed by it and made warm clothes for their families.

They have cooked by it, dried wet clothes, melted ice, boiled water, and created warmth and energy by always tending to its light.

We will light the qulliq at each Community Hearing, and at other times when it is appropriate for Inuit participants. We hope it will shine light into the survivors’ and families’ journey forward.

The red willow basket

The National Inquiry will include the Miskwaabimaag Basket (red willow basket) at each of the hearings to symbolize the process of gathering truths.

For many Indigenous people throughout the world, baskets are used to gather things that support mino-biimaadiziwin (the good life of all beings, according to Anishinaabe teachings). They are a commonly used Indigenous symbol for “gathering.”

A red willow basket represents kwe (women); it symbolizes our continued connection to land, language, and culture through the ceremonies and teachings of our Grandmothers or Elders.

It is a visible reminder of women’s important role in building, strengthening, and repairing relationships as part of the reconciliation process. As the National Inquiry undertakes its work, the basket will hold all the truths that we gather. These stories are teachings that will help us learn to work together towards a collective good life.

The National Inquiry’s red willow basket was created by a group of Indigenous kwe (women) in Manitoba, called the Miskwaabiimaag collective (red willow collective). They gifted this basket to the National Inquiry to help us honour the stories of loved ones, families, and survivors of violence.

Gifts of Reciprocity

The National Inquiry will provide gifts of reciprocity to those who participate in the Truth-Gathering Process. This gift giving symbolizes the relationship we hope to maintain between the National Inquiry and the people who share their truth with us.

In many Indigenous cultures, gift giving and reciprocity are important elements for building and maintaining good relationships. Reciprocity acknowledges a mutual exchange of benefits or privileges. This exchange is expressed through the act of exchanging gifts.

The stories people share with us are gifts that will meaningfully help the National Inquiry. They should be acknowledged, respected, and treated as such.

For Inuit, the National Inquiry is gifting suputi (Arctic cotton) and mamaittuquti (Labrador tea). Suputi keeps the qulliq lit, and mamaittuquti can be enjoyed anytime, but has traditionally been used as a remedy for colds and stomach pains.

Our gift for Métis and First Nations participants is seeds. In the same way that we hope this is just the beginning of an ongoing relationship with the National Inquiry, we hope these seeds will take root and grow. It is our hope that families and survivors, if they wish, will keep us informed on how the seeds are growing through pictures, social media, and in-person conversations. We have chosen different types of seeds to gift, depending on the region: Strawberry, White Sage, Blue Aster, Forget-me-nots, Fireweed and White Yarrow.