Healing the Land, Healing our Selves
In a nutshell:
About eighty-five people attended our October session--indigenous people, settlers, newcomers. The City of Toronto and their consulting team gave a presentation on the TOCore Parks and Public Realm Plan they are developing, and received feedback from indigenous and other participants.
A stark contrast between indigenous and settler worldviews was revealed. The need for the land itself to be a participant in the planning process emerged as an overarching theme. Indigenous participants also spoke of their need and right to be in relationship with the land. One part of reconciliation is to restore the damage done to the land itself, they stated, while re-creating opportunities for indigenous "customary practices" on the land.
Some memorable quotes:
The land is a resource but it is also a relative.
We have to ask ourselves what kind of relationship between land and human we want to restore. Currently our relationship with the land is very different than it was 500 years ago (also water, other beings). What extent do we want to restore that kinship between human, land, water. When we have the answer we can design the details.
Look to see if there is natural life that already exists and whether we should be working towards reestablishing/helping this life.
It's about understanding what we were before a city and if this can inform this plan.
We’re excited by the notion of the re-naturalization of the Don, excited about access to ravines for everyone.
Return the soil, as the basis of life, to what was here, so that the species (including what was underground like mushrooms) can be healed.
The full report:
Public engagement is at the root of the plan’s development, and the planners have expressed a desire to include an indigenous lens in that plan. Early City consultation with some indigenous people and agencies pointed to the possibility of a much greater focus on reindigenization.
The City of Toronto's Parks and Public Realm Plan
Visions and proposals for re-indigenizing Toronto's parks and public realm
INDIGENOUS USE OF THE LAND: We need fire circles around the city, places of ceremony and healing for people and for the land itself.
- The plan should recognize and restore ways the land was used before settlers arrived as well as the way first nations continue to use the land: for ceremony and customary use, such as gathering family and council around fires in Toronto’s public spaces. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) both refer to the importance of first nations using land for ceremony and customary use.
- Set aside significant pieces of urban land and give them the status of a kind of indigenous “embassy”, i.e., they would not be Canadian municipal, provincial or federal territory. Nor would they be anything like a “reserve” governed by Indian Affairs, nor the “property” of Indigenous people in any Canadian sense of the word. The land in question would have indigenous status in the sense of it not being possible to own it or define it as property in any way. Simply put, this land would be “owned” by God, if any kind of owner had to be identified - or exist unto itself as a sacred manifestation that, if anything, “owns” us as humans.
What could take place there would have to be determined in relation to re-emergent indigenous cultural frameworks, and some rules would obviously need to apply from the outset given our urban context, e.g., any structures would likely need to be impermanent (i.e., temporary lodges only, made from saplings).
Beyond that it’s hard to say, but certainly from the beginning they would be places of ceremony and healing (with corresponding rules like no booze or drugs), both for people and the land itself, and for learning and the restoration of balance to the extent possible, considered through community and culture-based indigenous principles and practices, and ultimately grounded in natural and sacred or universal laws as articulated by Indigenous people in this region (primarily the Anishinaabek and Haudenosaunee).
- Make indigenous history in Toronto visible. For example, at the Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden indigenous people telling stories have inspired and informed projects relating to arts, culture and plants.
- Organize the ecological restoration of parks in the city, and ensure opportunities for native youth to participate in that.
- Enable and encourage food production—in Toronto’s parks and public realm but also in people’s yards and on their balconies.
- Another step that could help recognize indigenous uses of land could be to map the trails used by indigenous communities; restoring these trails could be a long-term goal.
- Daylight Toronto’s rivers. Seven rivers run through the city, and these were the lifeline for indigenous people.
SPACES AND COLLECTIVE PROCESSES: Spaces around the city for indigenous society, institutions and structures to be restored will enable meaningful consultation with indigenous voices.
- There’s a need for a new way of consulting with indigenous voices — a “2.0” version of the City’s Aboriginal Affairs Committee that can express a collective indigenous voice in consultations. The plan needs to be based on an understanding of how indigenous people lived on this land, and that will only work when indigenous people are at the table to talk about that. Indigenous people are readily available and can be part of the public planning process.
It is incumbent on the colonial structures, if get are sincere, to provide the resources to create the spaces to allow indigenous society, institutions and structures to be restored because only then can meaningful consultation with First Nations occur. It is currently almost impossible to consult with indigenous people, as the colonizer era was so effective in destroying indigenous society, institutions and structures. Marie Wilson reported that the number one thing she heard as a Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner was, "They stole my identity."
Patricia Kambitsch (PlayThink.com) has captured their key ideas here: