Traditions are the answer

A teepee was raised at Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Moose Jaw campus as part of their Welcome Days on Sept. 5

 

Lori Deets

Let’s talk about it

I don’t have a lot of time left and I feel like we have so much left to talk about.

As I’ve said in almost every article, reconciliation is a process. It’s not going to happen overnight, and like many life changes, they take time and sometimes many failures. They come with their fair share of struggles.

The process of change is sometimes slow. Progress at times is made in leaps and bounds, other times change is non existent and hard to see. I expect reconciliation will be about the same; it will be slow going at first, but one day we will be able to look back and see all of our progress. At least that is my hope.

So with little to no time left, how do I decide what is most important for us to talk about? There are so many issues to address and they appear every day. I have always taken a personal approach to these issues and discussing how these issues affect my life. I am always quite surprised at how deeply colonization has affected me and my family.

On any given day in the media you can find a story about issues that many Indigenous people face daily – issues from health care to education and mental health and homelessness. As an Indigenous person, it’s hard to read about all these. The negative stereotypes and racism Indigenous people experience online and in person everyday are disrespectful and simply untrue.

Whether we are one of the people directly affected by these issues or someone just standing up to speak the truth, Indigenous people across the country are met with harsh criticism and accusations. We are often all lumped into the same categories, told we are lazy and that all we want is handouts. Why can’t we just get over it and move on? The excuses go on and on.

I recently watched a debate online on The Agenda, a current affairs program. The topic: “The government of Canada is essentially keeping Indigenous people in crisis, in order to get unfettered access to the riches of their lands.”

Now that’s a loaded statement. I encourage you to think about this statement. How does it make you feel? What was the first initial thought in your head? Was it disbelief or agreement? Does this statement make you angry, guilty? A combination of both? Agree or not, we can’t deny the state of crisis Indigenous people are in. This isn’t new; this has been happening for a long time, well over 150 years.

So of course the question is, what can we do about it? How do we change things? How we look at the answers to solving these issues is one of the biggest divides between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Indigenous people believe our culture and our traditions are our answer. Some non-Indigenous people like to convince us this is living in our past. That we must assimilate to western ways in order to solve theses issues, that by not completely assimilating to western ways we are keeping ourselves stuck. Do I believe ceremony will cure me from cancer?  No, but I do believe traditional ways combined with modern health care, with emphasis on ceremony, is the direction we need to be headed.

I am part of a traditional women’s healing group. We have been brought together by funding to look at the effects of traditions and culture on women and families exposed to domestic violence. Our focus is women’s traditional teachings and rarely do we need to talk about the problem; our focus is the answer to the problem.

How do you, the average citizen, become more involved with reconciliation and become part of the solution? I have decided to compile a sort of a reconciliation checklist. Much of this will be things I’ve mentioned, but it feels like a great time to recap.

Please don’t contribute to stereotypical views of Indigenous people, especially online. People can’t all be lumped together, and of course the information given is generally untrue, or just part of a story. Uncovering Indigenous myths is a mission I encourage every one of you to start. Chelsea Vowel does an excellent job dissecting these myths in her book Indigenous Writes.

Spread the truth and if you don’t know the truth, don’t guess or make up an answer; ask an Indigenous person who has the correct knowledge and teachings. Because of colonization, we cannot assume all Indigenous people fall into that category. Also – so important here – when you have asked the questions, don’t forget to listen. Listening is not as easy as we think. When it comes to reconciliation, this is one area non-Indigenous people can practise a lot more listening and a lot less talk.

Look up what your Indigenous community is doing take part in any ceremonies or demonstrations coming up. The Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association Is holding their fourth annual round dance on Feb. 4, 2018. Details will be posted soon all over the city. Community participation is welcome and encouraged.

Understand what your Treaty rights are. Own your privilege as a Canadian and know what that was built on. We are all treaty people and that includes you. We are all part of Treaty 4 territory and the signing of Treaty 4 is celebrated every year in Fort Qu’appelle, SK. Go check it out sometime!

Remember it’s ok to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is a very necessary step towards reconciliation. If you have not discovered some uncomfortable feelings, there is a good chance you haven’t looked deep enough yet. The facts of our history will only get you so far in our journey to reconciliation.

Reconciliation, traditions, culture are the solution. Get involved in the reconciliation efforts in your community!