LAND OF BROKEN RELATIONS

RED POWER- Illustration by Sloane Leong

HOW DO WE DISMANTLE SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION? Holy- not an easy task. And, yes… this is bringing up a lot of self reflection. I write about it here to further educate myself- so that I can better speak up about it when it is needed. I feel it is my duty to repay a debt for the lack of education I have received. 

Being an ALLY is a verb,  Being anti-racist involves action- this is a small step I am taking. I understand that knowledge precedes clear action and I want to be smart when utilizing my unique skills in this revolution of social change.

I’d like to once again give huge props to Dr. Tracy Bear and Dr. Paul Gareu, the university professors who teach Indiginous Canada (the free course offered by the University of Alberta). Along with this, Actor Dan Levy hosts a series of youtube episodes where they converse about each module of the course. 

These conversations are so ripe with information and tangents for research that it takes a while for me to get through one single episode. A WEALTH of knowledge regarding the truth about the history of Canada and our relations with the first nations peoples.

The more I learn the more angry and uncomfortable I feel. The more I learn, the more clear I feel about the importance of supporting/endorsing/inspiring others to create a shift in the western settler world view to one of reciprocity, accountability and redistribution of wealth. In fact, how about a redefinition of wealth? Such as, wealth being defined by how much you give back, or as by being in good relations with each other. 

Generally speaking western society seems to have become a land of broken relations. Many people are disconnected from nature, from family, from neighbours, from their own emotions. Most people (including myself) are disconnected from where their purchases come from- food, water, clothing- everything can be ordered from a click on the computer and then shipped from who knows where. Water in bottles? Vegetables in plastic? Chicken’s from factories? Gahd–the more I think about it, the more overwhelmed I feel. 

From what I’ve learned, Indigenous worldview seems based on governing principles of balancing law, society and nature. I also read that it is believed that the great law of peace is one of the oldest democratic systems in the world. There are as many different world views as there are first nation groups- (the internet tells me that there are 634 First Nations in Canada, speaking more than 50 distinct languages) and there seems to be a fundamental understanding that EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. 

In some of the First Nation groups- women were the only ones who could “own” land- but this was not in the same way Western world understood of possessing land. The idea of Indigenous women owning land meant that they were the caretakers of the land- for the next generation.  Where the Western world view has a capitalist view of possession “over” things, land, bodies and resources- a caretaker was to be accountable to the last generation and of the next one to come. This is a big difference between owning and caretaking. (I think there was a misunderstanding here when the treaties where being negotiated)

How do we re-connect? How do make this shift happen? Again and again this question comes up- WHAT CAN WE DO AS SETTLERS? I have made similar lists on previous blogs and continue to reiterate as the lessons come in.

  1. Get grounded. What does that mean? Being grounded refers to a physical and emotional balance state of being consciously present. It is from this centred and embodied state that we can find self awareness, wisdom and clarity.
  2. Know who you are, where you come from, who are your people? What Indigenous Territories were you born on, or live on now? 
  3. Educate ourselves on the truth of colonial history. De-centre imposition of “state”- CENTRE BIPOC perspectives of history. Here is a list of individual subjects I am looking into, and plan to investigate and write about each one separately. I welcome your knowledge if you want to message me about any of these items on this growing list.
    • The history of the RCMP. 
    • The Indian Act
    • The White Paper
    • The Red Paper
    • The history of BC First Nations efforts for Indigenous peoples’ title to traditional territory. THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON LONG BEFORE PROPOSED PIPELINES in the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en territories.
    • The Delgamuukw Case
    • UNIST’OT’EN camp
    • Treaties- I find this an interesting perspective- that “The Canadians (British) and the First Nations were at the same meetings, listened to the same speeches (translated) and signed the same pieces of paper. Yet they had (and still have) two totally different concepts of what the treaties were about, and what each side was promising. The differences in understanding are rooted in two totally different world views, and two totally different concepts of land ownership, and two colliding purposes.
  1. Understand our privilege. 
  2. Learn about and support Indigenous led, grassroots organizations.
  3. Open ourselves to being vulnerable and uncomfortable
  4. Donate our energy/money/talents in whichever way we can. (resource list at the end of this blog)
  5. Listen more. We have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason. Indigenous folks are showing their resilience and presence. Witness and support their rebuilding from within- beading/language/traditional food harvesting/ land based camps. We don’t need the government’s approval to do generative and healing work. We have an invitation to embody the knowledge and share. (This doesn’t mean to capitalize financially from it, or make it about you.)
  6. Support Indigenous artists! It is OK to buy Indigenous art and designs, just MAKE SURE YOU KNOW IT IS FROM THE ARTIST!
    1. 7 Indiginous artists to support
    2. Nagala Designs – cedar weaving and education
    3. JB the first Lady– powerhouse hip-hop and spoken word artist, emcee, beat-boxer, activist, cultural dancer, and youth educator from the Nuxalk and Onondaga nations.
    4. J-shine designs- https://www.jshinedesigns.ca/shop

Idle No More’s calls us to TO JOIN IN A PEACEFUL REVOLUTION- To honour Indigenous sovereignty and to protect the land & water & sky. They are an Indigenous-led social movement spearheaded by women. They have grown into “an inclusive, continent-wide network of urban and rural Indigenous working hand in hand with non-Indigenous allies to build a movement for Indigenous rights and the protection of land, water, and sky.” (You can make a donation through their website)

Land protectors are not just “protesters”. Their activism is not for themselves. They are fighting for fresh water for the next generations. Shouldn’t we all want that? 

Resources I utilized this week (I recommend to choose one at a time and really get to know their work and information- I’m telling this to myself at the same time 🙂 

  • Indiginous Environmental Network– was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples– “(UNDRIP) is an international instrument adopted by the United Nations on September 13, 2007, to enshrine (according to Article 43) the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”- Someone please tell me that in a story form- I have trouble computing government-speak
  • Indigenous Foundations, an information resource on key topics relating to the histories, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. Developed by the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia
  • Media Indigena– PODCAST “interactive indiginous insight”- They “share stories which keep Indigenous peoples alive, in every sense of the term.”
  • Justice for Joyce– A go fund me campaign- “Joyce Echaquan died because she was an Indigenous woman. There is no doubt about this; hours prior to her death, racist comments from nurses on staff were recorded on video by Joyce herself,” 
  • IRON DOG BOOKS– order your books from this Indiginous owned bookstore!
  • Red Sky Performance – is a leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance in Canada and worldwide. Their mission is to create inspiring experiences of contemporary Indigenous arts and culture that transform society.
  • WE WILL STAND UP– nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up weaves a profound narrative encompassing the filmmaker’s own adoption, the stark history of colonialism on the Prairies, and a vision of a future where Indigenous children can live safely on their homelands (Both Dr. Gareau and Dr. Bear talk about this documentary- My homework is to watch it this week.)

Here is the trailer:

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