I want to say nia:wen goha/chi miigwetch/thank you very much for allowing me to come and share an evening with you all. It was a very rich experience for me, as it sounded like it was for many of you. I also want to acknowledge the organizers and co-facilitators, Natalie, Kevin and Kathleen, and everyone else involved in putting on Kairos’ The Blanket Exercise. Although the night went longer than expected (apologies for lost sleep!), it was full of a wonderful amount of sharing.
As a result of not being able to go around more than once to allow people to process their experiences, I felt there were things I was unable to share with you. First, as with any experience that is moving, disturbing or upsetting, I encourage you all to ensure you care for yourselves. That can take many different forms: talking with trusted family and friends, a counsellor, create something such as a drawing or written piece, etc. If you find you have questions, find those who are willing and able to share information. I will include some possible resources at the end of this piece.
The second thing I wanted to address is the idea of reconciliation. As I mentioned in the wrap up, it is normal to feel many different and difficult emotions when learning about Indigenous history that wasn’t taught in school, that you may have never been aware of. Bear in mind that much of this history is ongoing – Indigenous children continue to be excessively over-represented in the child welfare system, Indigenous men make up more than 25% of federal inmates and Indigenous women 35% of federal inmates, and yet the total Indigenous population in Canada is only 4% of the total. There are many things that continue to support systemic racism and structural violence against Indigenous people. But this is where your awareness of history can aid in working toward reconciliation.
Reconciliation in Canada means different things to different people, and each needs to be acknowledged and respected. What it doesn’t mean is speaking for or acting for Indigenous people. It does mean working in solidarity with Indigenous people, providing space for Indigenous voices to be heard and finding common ground on issues where there are many view points. Some things require the involvement of many people working together. Other actions are ones that can be done by individuals.
Examples of individual actions can be engaging in reading information written by Indigenous writers (and there are many!), attending community events, watching films by and about Indigenous people, supporting Indigenous arts, and having conversations with different Indigenous people to learn more about the issues that are important to each and to gain more awareness of culture and history. You can engage your children’s teachers and schools to find ways to bring more Indigenous information into the classroom so that they are learning more accurately of history and current issues facing Indigenous people. Have conversations with your friends and family about what they know and share what you’ve learned. Stereotypes of all sorts can be challenged: the romanticized mystical medicine woman or man, the drunken Indian, the savage, the squaw, etc. – none serve any purpose except to fuel misconceptions and, at its worst, racism.
So where can you learn more? In Toronto, there are many places you can connect with to get more information, or find ways to be involved in different events. Here are just a few ideas:
- The Native Canadian Centre on Spadina Rd.
- Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto
- Anishnawbe Health Toronto
- Métis Nation of Ontario, Toronto office
- Anduhyaun – Native Women’s Shelter
- Native Child and Family Services of Toronto
- Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre
- Dodem Kanonhsa’ Centre
- First Nations House, University of Toronto
- The Deepening Knowledge Project of OISE/UofT http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/deepeningknowledge/
- Toronto District School Board, Aboriginal Education http://www.tdsb.on.ca/community/aboriginaleducation.aspx
- Aboriginal Human Resource Council https://aboriginalhr.ca/en
- Kairos https://aboriginalhr.ca/en
Magazines, Arts, Sports:
- Muskrat Magazine (e-zine)
- imagineNATIVE Film Festival
- Raven Spirit Dance
- Little Native Hockey League
- North American Indigenous Games
You are also welcome to contact me if you have questions or are looking for resources. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.