In this session, Clara MacCallum Fraser and Christine Migwans joined us for a dialogue on what it means to restore right relationship with the land in Toronto, and with each other--from both indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives.
Clara and Christine offered some theoretical framing for our conversation, exploring how urban planning policy and practice could be informed by Indigenous consciousness and ways of knowing—and ultimately become a fulfillment of treaty.
Clara MacCallum Fraser, Shared Path Consultation Initiative and York University
Clara is the co-Executive Director of Shared Path Consultation Initiative, an Indigenous-non-Indigenous organisation that raises awareness around urban planning and Aboriginal and treaty rights through workshops and research. She is currently a second year PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. Her research, entitled “Imagining Planning Futures: urban planning as fulfillment of treaty” focuses on the intersection of urban planning and Aboriginal & Treaty rights, with a particular focus on Anishinaabe Nations in Ontario. In seeking to make reconciliation a part of her life, Clara is learning about treaties and her own responsibilities to those treaties as a settler person, in particular those over Toronto and the eastern shores of Georgian Bay, where she grew up and currently resides.
Christine holds a masters degree in Indigenous Studies from Trent University. She has worked extensively with Indigenous peoples in Canada and Thailand. She is interested in reconciliation through Indigenous education, transforming the moral fabric of the country, and Treaty ethics and philosophy.
Kevin Best, Series Curator
Kevin Best has focused on how to create a just and sustainable society through activism, innovative business and restoring Indigenous society for over four decades. Of mixed heritage, through adoption he self-identifies as Anishinabeg of the Martin Clan. He has worked with Indigenous people throughout Turtle Island, consulted to Greenpeace and pioneered green energy in Ontario. He is currently working on a start-up called Odenaansan (Village or “the little places where my heart is”), an integrated, culturally-based approach to restoring Minobimadzin (the good life) through sustainable food, energy, housing and water in Anishinabe communities. Passionate about decolonization and re-indigenization, he is committed to spreading understanding of these life-giving possibilities. He is Managing Director of Rivercourt Engineering.
Kevin Best—Setting the Context
- The Indigenize or Die series was planned a year ago today.
- It grew from key events in 2015:
- The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)
- Coming to terms with the lack of knowledge of Indigenous Peoples by most Canadians
- The election of the Trudeau government, with its interesting rhetoric
- Through 2016, the series has unfolded in response to evolving events.
- We need a gathering place with a council fire in downtown Toronto, to enable meaningful consultation with First Nations.
- First Nations live from “us-ness”, not individualism.
- There is a wealth of Indigenous planning knowledge.
- Patriarchy broke our relation to spirit.
- Bad news: The election of Donald Trump, though buying into anger and fear lets Trump win.
- Good news: Standing Rock, where women stood up for the water, based on a relationship with spirit.
- Master’s in Planning at Ryerson University, doing her doctoral studies in Planning at York University.
- I identify as a settler-Canadian, but am learning to be an ally to First Nations people.
- From a Planning Law assignment to conduct a site assessment, I learned that no data are available about First Nations reserves for planning purposes.
- The focus of my research at York is on planning and treaty rights.
- Historically, there has been:
- A focus on conflict, not understanding or common ground.
- A fear of the unknown…this area is not part of planners’ education.
- Planning policy has changed, but practice has not.
- The Provincial Policy Statute refers to Aboriginal Peoples, they are not part of the planning process or language.
- How has treaty-making affected planning processes, institutions and structures?
- Clara sees Treaty-making as an early form of planning, with roots in Indigenous communities as well as settler countries of origin
- There is an obligation for planners to consult with indigenous people, as part of the delegated duty-to-consult responsibilities of the crown (procedural aspects delegated to municipalities), but the planners don’t know how or often why.
- A key question is “How can planning policy be informed by Indigenous principles and be a tool for reconciliation?”
- Conflict arose from the appropriation of land from Indigenous peoples.
- The Hawaiian Manuani Mayer defines indigeneity as an enduring set of practices.
- But colonialism destroyed practices on the land.
- We need practices to be present.
- They bring radical relationality into the world view.
- Land is a living being.
- Invoke nationhood (not nation-state) through connection to the land.
- Ceremony is embedded and rigorous practice of knowing and listening, leading to insight.
- Practicing knowledge creates truth in the community.
- Listen to and perceive the land through practice.
- First Nations peoples practiced radical relationality with the newcomers.
- This was embodied through wampum.
- The Indian Act was radical departure from Indigenous practices, by creating:
- Extermination laws
- Land surrender to a spatial consciousness of the nation state and the permanent absence of Indigenous peoples
- The colonial sense of time
- The internalization that you, as an Indigenous person, don’t exist
- The TRC restores stability after unconsciousness
- It is a return to treaty-making.
- Indigenous peoples really need to be seen
- The truth will rupture the consciousness
- How we share the land will emerge from mindful practice
- Practice is a pathway to reconciliation
- There is a need to disentangle from colonization to recover relationships.
- It is a consciousness-killer.
- We have to go beyond a mediated relationship to the land, to return to the truth of relationship to land and consciousness.
- Treaties created land surrender, but treaties can also be about spirit and relationships.
- We need to use the tools of occupation to reconcile:
- University education
- Focus on indigenous research:
- Reflexivity—look inward
- Go beyond the objectivity bias and the notion that we can be objective
- Researchers have feelings about objective knowing, but are disembodied.
- How can we avoid appropriation?
- Practices for grounding
- Yet Western culture dismisses rituals as primitive; it compartmentalizes them.
- The disconnect regarding spirituality is key.
- Ceremony is at the heart of treaties.
- We need to go beyond feeling good about ourselves.
- Self-reflection will take generations.
- Indigenous issues need to be integrated into planning curriculum.
- We need to focus on emotional ecologies and moral landscapes:
- Foster inner knowing
- We need the integrity to look
- Dismantle colonization.
- The deeper we go into a place, the more embodied and moral we become.
- We can develop rigorous inner knowing together
- Invoke our moral imagination.
- To undo the Canadian narrative:
- Read the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
- It’s long but accessible
- It looks at treaty-making, between Indigenous peoples, between Europeans, and between Indigenous and European peoples.
- take the time to examine what you mean when you say “I want to do something” – spend time reflecting on what has shaped your opinions, your perspective, your ways of knowing
- Read the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
- We need to relearn our national narrative.
- We are all innocent and guilty, going back to the time of the Druids.
- We live in a time of the restoration of the Divine Feminine
- We need spirit and connection to find our way forward.
Key Phrases From The Large Group reflection facilitated by David Burman
- Emotional ecologies
- Moral imagination and landscapes
- Treaty-making is an on-going process
- Going inside to go forward
- Recovering relationship
- First Nations lands are gray space in mapping—no information—unknown
- Indigenous peoples as rigorous—they can transform time and space
- Fictions justify the land grab
- Invitation to stand in the truth
- Planting placentas—the child will be called back
- Embed Indigenous consciousness in planning—NKG approach
- Reconciliation—bearing witness to the land
- Treaties are rigorous and ethical based on infinite space and consciousness
- But colonial treaties restrict space and consciousness
- Treaty-making is the best way to build relationships
- Seek to free the land from title
- Embodied treaty is the spirit and intent
- Agency and self-determination
- Indigenous protocol is that all voices have the same value and that the truth is emerging.
- Processes to decolonize and find new ways to relate to:
- The land
- Each other
- Roots, stories, questions
- Finding faith in tangible things
Values embedded in language to reclaim wisdom
Suppression of wise women and people of the land to establish capitalism
Permaculture and relationships
Acknowledge many displaced peoples in this country
Recognize the caretakers of the land
Quiet space in parks
Practice reciprocity with the land
Ritual is a human need
Settler vs. Indigenous practices
Radical listening—go more deeply to consult
Create a space stewarded by First Nations people
Listen to the land and the people
Fire pits can be found across the city
Policies can impede or support
Treaty-making as a way of being
- Solemnity and integrity