Indigenous Culture & COVID-19

Indigenous Peoples have known how to live off the land since time immemorial. They acknowledge that nature is the provider of all that is pure and good for our bodies and our spirits. 

We have been hurting Mother Earth for far too long. These times are unprecedented for us but we have inflicted onto Mother Nature numerous unprecedented things that have had detrimental impacts on her and in turn, on us. COVID-19 is a response. We harm her to the extent where we make ourselves sick too. 

In these hard times, while we are scared, isolated, and wracked with uncertainty for what the future holds, we can’t help but look for some kind of silver lining in it all. We are seeing articles about reduced air pollution in China, crystal clear canals in Venice, and wildlife roaming the streets. However, it is important that we acknowledge that this is only temporary. That in fact, once this crisis ends, we could see even more environmental degradation than before while economies are undertaking their recovery plans.

This pandemic has brought to light even more just how much of an impact we have on the Earth, through how much nature is blooming and unconstrained with our [temporary] absence.

Even though the positive impact on the environment is evident, but not at all long-lasting, we can still see this COVID-19 crisis as a renewing, a transformation and even a whole revival for all of us. Let’s open our eyes to what’s true, what’s holy, and what’s pure. Let’s take it upon ourselves to learn from Indigenous Peoples, being caretakers of Mother Earth and realize and respect her gifts of water, air and fire.

Nature provides, and Indigenous Cultures globally, live out this truth. If you take from her, you always give back. That is a way to respect all of our relations. We are all connected and that’s why we are hurting ourselves when we pollute, extract, and corrupt the Earth. If it has taken being in quarantine for us to realize the detrimental role that human beings have in climate change, I surely hope that once things get back to “normal” we live a little differently; a little more conscious, mindful, and closer with the Earth, than we did before.  

When will we choose giving over greed and value our true nature and organic ways of being, more than money? Do we not think about the generations that will come after us?

Now is the time.

Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then will you find money cannot be eaten.
– Cree Prophecy 

What I’ve Learned

Blog Post Photo

I want to share a few things with you that I have learned thus far on my journey walking alongside First Nations, Metis, and Innu Peoples.

  1. Evaluate Your Own Biases

You may believe in something or live a certain way, but that does not mean that it is right or relevant for someone else or for another culture. Acknowledging one’s own biases can bring to light the root of your prejudices and stereotypes, that you otherwise may have not known you even had. Personal bias is formed by the different influences around us. They mold us. It is my hope that people experience the conviction to reflect, becoming more self-aware in order for their personal biases to become more clear to them. Not only the clarity is needed but the depth of knowing how damaging our own biases actually can be to another person. If not addressed, personal biases risk becoming oppressive.

  1. Categorization

Categorizing stems from making assumptions. These assumptions can be strongly influenced by the stereotypes or prejudices we may hold. They are all connected. Something that categories do, is make us comfortable. However, I think that one of the most negative implications of categorization is that it limits people and puts them in a box. As a result, this hinders their identity; who they truly are. We have an inherent need to categorize, in order that whatever the topic of conversation may be, whether it is pertaining to something inanimate or animate, will make more sense to us.

Simply put, an example of categorization is, “white people”. Categorizing is not only limited to ethnicity but also associated with morality, ie. “religious”, “pagan”, “feminist”, etc. In other words, categorization creates a label for something or someone, making us feel as though we know all about them based off of the category we put them in. This results in a blind comfortability. Anything outside of that comfort zone we automatically deem as taboo or, “outside the norm”. Asking someone to go against this common trajectory of thought, is expecting someone to reorient their mind, the way that they think and in some cases, change the way that they live. This is uncomfortable, and will not happen overnight but I believe it is necessary in order to live in harmony.

Let’s try our best to see one another as humans, connecting spirit to spirit, and heart to heart, fostering healthy relationships and community.

  1. Don’t be Afraid to ask Questions

If you fail to enquire, then you will be left not knowing and falling prey to making assumptions. If you do not ask questions, you will never learn. Think about it, how many questions do children ask on a daily basis? SO many, am I right? Asking questions will help you grow. Even those questions that seem so simple, ask them anyway. If you do not seek, you will remain ignorant. Please, hear me when I say, do not be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS. I can almost guarantee that there will be someone else who is wondering the same thing.

Always remember to be respectful and ask your questions in a good way. Whether you are asking a First Nations, Metis, or Innu person a question, they will more than likely be happy to share what they know and what they, themselves, have learned. If you are asking a First Nations person to share their knowledge with you, part of protocol is to give them a tobacco tie as an offering, from your left hand (same side/closest to the heart). This will also ensure that preventable measures are taken when it comes to possible cultural appropriation. 

  1. Navigating Spaces

It is becoming increasingly relevant in our society to create what we call, “safe spaces” for people, especially minorities. I was reminded recently how important it is to work towards reconciliation, not only for Indigenous Peoples but for non-Indigenous peoples too. It is a two-way street. I think it is worth asking ourselves how exactly it is that we live this out in our own lives? How do we work towards creating safe spaces for people? In my own experience with this, it comes down to empathy; taking the time to listen to another, truly listen. When we listen intently, we can come to understand someone else’s story; where they come from, and what they have gone through. I have seen walls tumble down when this happens. People become real with each other, vulnerable and transparent. As a result, a safe space is created where individuals start opening up and telling their story. We are in this reconciliation journey together and the truth has to come first and the truth is often told through stories. 

Disclaimer: sometimes, when the situation calls for it, an individual, in an act of courage and boldness, will speak up even in a seemingly unsafe space because they know that speaking the truth is more important than being comfortable. 

“Whether we are young or old, whether our skin is light or dark, whether we are man or woman, we share a common humanity and are all headed for a common destiny. That should bind us together more strongly than divisions can push us apart. So long as anything other than love governs our relationship with others, we have work to do.” – Wab Kinew, The Reason You Walk 

 

Oppressed to Oppressor

Ever wonder what possesses someone to hurt another? Is it fueled by anger? Jealousy? Fear? Maybe it is all of these possibilities and more, or maybe none at all. There is always more beneath the surface. Take a moment to reflect on a time when you may have caused someone pain physically, or emotionally (or both) and ask yourself why. You may already know the reason, and if not, I realize that asking you to examine your motives may pose a risk, because it could be painful if you still need healing in those areas of your life.

At this point, you are probably wondering where I am going with this, so I should probably cut to the chase. I want to talk about oppression. I want to dig down deep and uproot the behaviour of an oppressor, bringing to light more understanding. I know this goes beyond the scope of a blog post but I am going to try anyway. There are different forms and definitions for oppression. However, no matter what lens you choose to view oppression from, it is always when, “people reduce the potential for other people to be fully human.”

When settlers claimed to discover Indigenous land, they colonized it, while oppressing the original inhabitants of the land. Oppression is a very common term nowadays with the uprise in efforts towards reconciliation (a word that has also been used more loosely), which is necessary, but I want to emphasize the true weight of this word.

There is something I want to share, something that has been lingering in my consciousness, regarding oppression. Although oppression can be fueled by all the above possibilities, as previously mentioned, as well as power and control over another, there is more to the story. Many of the Europeans that colonized Indigenous land, were running away from something. Believe it or not, many, if not all of them, were also being oppressed. In other words, the oppressed becomes the oppressor. Wow.

It was not until my friend and coworker, Meagan and I, were facilitating our Journey into Truth workshop, when I realized this simple but weighty fact from an Elder who was present at the workshop. I do not share this in order to justify and defend the wicked actions of the Europeans, but rather to bring truth to the surface. The truth simply being that hurt people, hurt people. When someone feels powerless, who is hurting, they are more likely to oppress themselves, as well as project their suppressed feelings of oppression onto another.

As someone who is non-Indigenous, I often think about how it was my own ancestors who were the colonizers and oppressors. These thoughts make it is easy to be riddled by feelings of guilt and shame, which in turn can fuel internalized oppression on the side of non-Indigenous persons as well. This is exactly why forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others is so important in the reconciliation journey between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. We all need compassion and empathy to truly understand one another and live in balance and harmony.

“No one is free when others are oppressed.”

The Doctrine of Discovery

I do not know where you come from, what your background is, or what you are going through right now but I want you to take a moment to imagine. Imagine all your values and beliefs being swept out from underneath you, out of your control, and deemed as a criminal offence. I do not want you to imagine this as a way of condemning or mustering up feelings of guilt, but instead to imagine this as a way of encouraging an increased understanding of Indigenous People’s and what has been happening throughout history.

Before contact with Europeans, Indigenous People’s did not own the land in which they inhabited, but it was their home. In Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden (2004), he states, “Enjoy the land, but own it not”. I have learned that this is exactly what Indigenous People’s have done, since time immemorial. Mother Earth, is exactly that, our Mother. Therefore, we do not own her. We honour her, and respect her, as we tread lightly upon her.

When Columbus claimed to have first discovered Indigenous homeland, he did not hesitate to spread the word and fast. He brought this discovery back to Europe, reporting to the government and the Vatican. He was ordered to go back to the land he discovered and render the land empty. The land was in fact not empty but inhabited by a Civilization of people, who were rich in community, spirit, love for one another, and for their Mother, the Earth. However, this did not matter, since those who inhabited the land were not Christians. The land was considered, terra nullius, defined as, “nobody’s land”, and Indigenous People’s were not considered human beings, and cleared from their homeland. This is known as the Doctrine of Discovery, justified by, “patriotism and religion“. The Doctrine of Discovery derived from the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera,” created by Pope Alexander VI, on May 4, 1493, as a way of ensuring Spain’s right to lands discovered by Columbus.

The Doctrine of Discovery effected Indigenous People’s in a number of ways. Dehumanize is a word that comes to mind when I think about these effects. To dehumanize, means to, “deprive of human qualities, personality, or spirit.” Indigenous People’s were stripped of their sense of self-worth, meaning, and agency through colonial forces. Thankfully, human, is not all that we are, but we are spirit, also.

Drawing on Lynn Gehl’s book, Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit (2017), she brings forth an important point regarding the human spirit, and states, “While an essence of the human spirit resides within us, an essence also resides outside of us.” This may be a difficult concept for readers to wrap their heads around but bear with me. I reside with a feeling of hope that despite the fact that Europeans came and cleared Indigenous People’s from their homelands, a strong spirit still remained, on, and all around the land. Let me explain further, Europeans did not only claim the land as their own, they also criminalized Indigenous cultural ways of knowing, such as their ceremonies, and their language, in turn, colonizing the spirit that dwells within Indigenous People’s. However, the spirit residing outside of the body remained, and thrived, through traditional ceremonies and their language being practiced underground (in secret). Due to this, Indigenous People’s have the chance to regain their identities and meaning through decolonizing their spirits that dwell within the body. “It is what is outside that ignites and activates the spirit within” (Gehl, 2017, p. 67).

Thankfully, Indigenous People’s are reclaiming their ancestral rights to land that they deserve, and no longer have to practice their ceremonies underground, but much work still needs to be done in dismantling the Indian Act, reviving treaty relationships, and mending broken promises.

Progress towards undoing the injustices’ that have been done, cannot happen in isolation. I cannot stress enough that all communities, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous, must work together.

The 94 Calls to Action, deriving from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), exemplify the ways in which Canada is working towards reconciliation. Listed below are a few Calls to Action regarding the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, as well as the importance of reconciling Treaty relationships:

• Call to Action 46 (ii) states, “…repudiation of concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and the reformation of laws, governance structures, and policies within their respective institutions that continue to rely on such concepts.”

• Call to Action 46 (iv) states, “…support for the renewal or establishment of Treaty relationships based on principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect, and shared responsibility for maintaining those relationships into the future.”

• Call to Action 47 states, “We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal government to repudiate concepts send to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.”

The Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, as well as encouragement of the renewal of Treaty relationships, continues throughout the 94 Calls to Action. My hope is that these 94 Calls to Action (Despite the fact that the Pope has recently refused to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools) continue to enhance reconciliACTION amongst both, Indigenous and non-Indigenous People’s, for generations to come.

“Whether we are young or old, whether our skin is light or dark, whether we are man or woman, we share a common humanity and are all headed for a common destiny. That should bind us together more strongly than divisions can push us apart. So long as anything other than love governs our relationship with others, we have work to do.” (Kinew, 2015, p. 268)

Religion < Spirituality

“We could never be Christians”, was stated by a First Nations Elder during a panel discussion at the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education. This Elder is definitely justified in his perspective. There was an immense amount of injustice done on behalf of the church and the government, working together, to colonize First Nation’s land and assimilate the First Nation’s people who inhabited it. It will never be forgotten. Writing this post has been a process. After some personal reflection; analyzing my own biases, and reaching out to First Nation’s Elders for more guidance, I finally got the courage to share this with you. I gained clarity and confidence to proceed in writing about this topic after speaking with an Elder who has been in residential school herself and is a Christian.

Residential schools were run by the government but they were also run by religious institutions, in fact, they actually believed that they were doing a good thing. However, they were disabling the freedom of another, which is undeniably wrong. Due to this, and the intergenerational trauma that followed, many people think that if you are Indigenous, you cannot be a Christian. However, a change of heart when it comes to how Christianity is perceived, is necessary, if we desire to see true reconciliation continue to come to fruition.

“I don’t think that it’s true. You can still believe in Jesus. He didn’t come to divide or separate, its people who did that.” These are not my words, but the words of an Indigenous Elder and these words are truth, and they are powerful. If an individual is truly connected to Creator, they know His character and they know to be a Christian, means to have a relationship with Jesus, not to be religious or condemn other people. It is not a Christian value to steal away children, and commit cultural genocide. Many people within religious institutions take scripture out of context. It is the people who make it corrupt, the belief itself is not. Creator has been on this land far before we were, and I think it is important that we acknowledge this. Let’s, “seek to understand in the same way that we want to be understood” (Thank you, Brene Brown, for that gold nugget).

I think that reconciliation needs to start within the individual person first, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, extending to their family, and their community as a whole, all intertwined with healing and forgiveness. Everyone’s healing journey is different but I think if we are patient with one another, and strive to understand one another, true connection and reconciliation can flourish and continue into the future. One of the highest forms of understanding is empathy; the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, listen to them, and see the world through their eyes. It is also important to know that there is a strong distinction between what it means to be religious and what it means to be spiritual. To understand this, you must be willing to step outside of yourself and what you have come to know up until this point in your life and listen to someone else’s story, someone else’s healing journey.

Cultural Appropriation

Halloween is fast approaching and I thought this would be an appropriate time to discuss the topic of cultural appropriation. Google defines appropriation as, “The action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”. Cultural appropriation occurs all the time, amongst several different cultures and I think it most often occurs in retail stores and during Halloween. More often than not, people are unaware that they are committing the act of cultural appropriation. It is a huge indicator of ignorance, especially on Halloween. However, Mia  Mercado brings to light that cultural appropriation is a bit convoluted because cultural appreciation and cultural exchange can be important parts of any culture, but this is why it is important to discuss and hopefully gain some clarity.

I think that you can agree with me when I say that there never fails to be at least one person “dressed up” as an “indian”, on Halloween each year.  I used to be completely oblivious to cultural appropriation but I have never “dressed up” in the traditional clothing of another culture because I have always had this innate feeling that it was wrong. Some of you may be wondering what the big deal is; dressing up for Halloween as an Indigenous person. It is a big deal because it is traditional clothing that is being taken by another and used as a costume. First Nations traditional regalia, for example, is sacred, and it is usually given to someone who hand-made it or they make it themselves, and it can take a very long time. There is love and there is spirit that goes into making Regalia. Regalia is not something you just go out and buy in a store and definitely was never meant to be used as a costume.

When people dress up for Halloween as an Indigenous person, it is a stereotypical perspective of what it is to look like an “indian”, and this can be construed as being disrespectful and rude, even if the person is just “having fun”.  It is important to educate others on this topic, in a good way. Many people did not learn about the Indigenous Culture in school and they are not to be blamed.  There is effort being put forth to change this and include more about First Nations history in the curriculum.

My hope is that people will increasingly become more aware of the injustice which occurred amongst the Indigenous Culture. I hope for forgiveness, understanding, empathy, and that the truth would never fail to triumph over stereotypes, and any preconceived notions that have grown over time. Reconciliation is a two-way street, where Indigenous and non-Indigenous People can walk alongside each other and work towards a better future for generations to come.

Let us Listen, Let us Recognize

“I remember them taking me away from my mother and my step father. I could hear them telling my mom that it was the best thing for me and not to worry, that I would be looked after. The next day I woke up with hundreds of total strangers, my size, my age, not knowing what they are doing with all of us here…That’s where my whole life really started to change because I got strapped, beaten up for speaking my own native tongue…”

“In the early 1970s, when my two sisters and I were very young, we were taken away from our biological parents and placed in foster homes. We were adopted into a non-Indigenous household in Ontario, three thousand miles away from our homeland, our people, our language and anything vaguely familiar to our Cree culture. Life was difficult in our new home; we dealt with isolation, racism and sexual and physical abuse for many years. All three of us had run away by the time we were fifteen-years-old. Eventually we all found our way back to Alberta.”

The quotes I shared above are true experiences of just two Residential School and “Sixties Scoop” survivors. There were children taken from their homes even before the age of five, but most had to be as tall as a metre stick when the “Indian Agent” was determining who would be taken to Residential School. As a result of being forcibly removed from their home communities, their ability to develop a clear sense of self was hindered. However, when the Residential School era came to an end, the Sixties Scoop still continued and custom adoption continues today in another form, hence why I put “Sixties Scoop” in air quotes. Indigenous children are overrepresented in the child welfare system today. They are taken from their homes and put into a mainstream foster care system, which in turn is detrimental to a youth’s identity; no longer being exposed to their traditional ways of knowing.

Intergenerational trauma is apparent in First Nations communities and the systemic removal of children from their homes by the foster care system further hinders the whole life cycle wheel (Pg. 14) and most definitely does not help mitigate the effects of the intergenerational trauma that is so deeply experienced amongst community members. First Nations children should be provided adequate child-care and mental-health programs in their communities. However, many children are being denied care in discriminatory ways through not receiving the equivalent health services as other Canadian children. This increases the likelihood of Indigenous children being placed in foster care outside of their home communities. Thankfully, there is effort being put forth to change this, and more people are becoming aware of the issues amongst First Nations youth in Canada, including the suicide epidemic in Northern Ontario, and the prevalent low-self esteem and self-worth that these youth carry, fuelled by and interconnected with the lack of care and services provided on reserves.

I could continue with statistics pertaining to this situation. I know I still have a lot to learn and become aware of and some things I may never know. I simply hope that whoever reads this has learned something new about the Indigenous people of Canada and its current relationship with the government. I also hope that you would not merely read this but you would tell others about what is happening here in Canada. When more people become aware, it enables more change to take place. A child should have a right to their own agency. Stripping a child of their culture prevents them from truly knowing themselves, who they are inherently meant to be, and diminishes their self-worth. No one deserves to feel or be devalued, isolated, or forgotten.

Let us listen, and let us recognize.

“That is the frontline face of systemic discrimination in this country. It happens again and again. We lose children literally every single day due to a lack of services and supports that other children and families would take for granted,” said Angus, whose riding of Timmins-James Bay includes First Nations communities along the James Bay coast that are also struggling with suicide epidemics among their young people. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/01/19/wapekeka-first-nation-feared-suicide-pact-says-they-were-denied-help.html

Please visit the links below for further information on what is being done to provide health services for First Nations communities and their children:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/urgent-action-needed-to-address-indigenous-suicide-in-canada-committee/article35384932/

http://theturtleislandnews.com/index.php/2017/06/28/feds-fund-mentorship-network-support-indigenous-health-researchers-2/.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/unicef-canada/first-nations-children-equity_a_22584226/

Personal Reflection

Inspiration is everywhere but sometimes we neglect to acknowledge it. Lately, I have been choosing to wake up everyday with the desire to learn something new and keep an open mind. I have also been reflecting on my journey thus far and wanted to share a more personal post.

On many occasions I have been asked why I chose to take Indigenous studies in school and why I am so interested in the Indigenous culture, being someone who is non-Indigenous. I would always tell people it is because of the simple way of life that Indigenous People’s live and the more collective and unified world-view that Indigenous People’s hold. Contrary to the western culture, which holds a more individualistic world-view, and frankly I believe that if anything is going to change in terms of greed, control, and power in our world, it would not happen if we kept living an individualistic lifestyle.

The truth is, I knew from the beginning of this journey that it was going to be a challenging one. I knew it would likely be challenging to find a job in an Indigenous organization because of the effort being put forth to decolonize the workplace. I knew it would be challenging when it came to my fear of overstepping boundaries. I used to feel like I was walking on eggshells, trying not to share my opinion too much, as a means of not offending anyone. It is good to always be mindful of your words, yet, I have learned that it is okay to share your opinion and ask questions, as long as it is done in a good and respectful way.

Recently, I was reminded of the importance of unity and it has brought me a lot more peace the last couple of weeks. When considering the history of the Indigenous culture, you will learn that everyone worked together, in peace and harmony. It took a village to raise a child and everyone in the community knew their role, but no one was ever alone in their efforts. This is the way that Indigenous communities have always lived. With European contact, this way of life was hindered by the injustice that ensued but they continued to practice their culture and traditions out of the sight of opposing forces. They do not need to be reminded of this way of life; it is in their spirits and natural being to act upon these traditions without hesitation and or contemplation. There have been certain barriers built by colonization that have kept many Indigenous People’s from living out their traditional values to their full potential. However, as they practice their traditional ways, their identities have and continue to be reclaimed, and they acknowledge where they are and what their role in the life-cycle wheel is.

There is continuous discussion about reconciliation and I guess the whole point of this post is really to say that, I believe, in order for reconciliation to truly take place, we all need to work together, in unity. This effort includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous People’s. This is the way in which the walls of resentment, unforgiveness, and wrongful doing will be broken down to rectify this ongoing quandary. Reconciliation is not solely an outcome, but a lengthy process that will consist of the efforts of all whom cohabitate within this marvelous yet disarray nation of ours. The youth, Elders, Indigenous and non-Indigenous People’s of our country and the citizens of the world need to collaboratively strive towards the common goal to appease what and whom have been mistreated.

I am going to continue to be an advocate for the Indigenous culture and encourage others to speak up and share their knowledge and their opinions, with good and pure intentions.

If you want to learn more about the life-cycle wheel, follow this link: https://www.beststart.org/resources/hlthy_chld_dev/pdf/CBS_Final_K12A.pdf  (Beginning on Page. 13)

Decolonizing Employment 

Another frequently asked question: “Why is preference given to Aboriginal People’s for some government jobs?”. Some people perceive this as discrimination. Discrimination is a sensitive topic and I believe it to be highly controversial at times. However, I felt inclined to write about my own convictions, as well as revelations when it comes to being declined certain job positions because I am non-Indigenous. I remember the emotions I would experience when I would reach the end of a job application only to see the words, “Preference will be given to…”. I remember feeling immediately discouraged. Despite being discouraged, I tried my best to understand and found that the reason why the government implements this policy on some of their job postings is in hopes of giving minorities an equal opportunity at income. 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty in Canada, as opposed to 1 in 20 non-racialized families. The situation is even more dire for the Indigenous population, where 1 in 2 Status First Nations children lives in poverty. Although, as I began reading more and researching, I learned very quickly that what I thought I knew and understood to be the reason, was not even half the story.

I was in need of a reality check. A change in perspective from old ways of thinking. I realized more truth when I read, “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.”, where the Prime Minister of India is quoted, stating, “…this is our way of atoning for the centuries of injustices we inflicted upon these people…”. This statement is referring to India’s “Untouchables”, who are people of a lower caste system, accepted into College or University over those of higher caste systems, as a way to try and eliminate discrimination. This is relevant for the Indigenous People’s of Canada today.

There is another book that I am currently reading, “Decolonizing Employment – Aboriginal Inclusion in Canada’s Labour Market“, by Shauna MacKinnon, where I am gaining more understanding as to why current policies are the way that they are when it comes to the labour market. Policies are continuously evolving, moving away from the convenience of short-term job training. Moving away from the fast and convenient work policies that only focus on capitalism is a good thing because when accepting these policies, we are accepting, “narrow economic theories that ignore factors including class, race, and gender…”. Assumptions that the market ensures everyone is given equal opportunity is an illusion because it is based on convenience – thinking that good jobs are available for all who are willing to do what is required of the labour market. This simply is not the case.

MacKinnon states that governments seem to be less concerned with learning for its inherent value; instead, they do what is more practical for employability in order to benefit the overall labour market, without thinking about the employee’s themselves. Where is the value in that? I apologize for rambling and possibly straying off topic, but I think it is important for people to know about current policies within the labour market that still continue to hinder many minority groups from gaining meaningful employment. I agree with the shift away from narrow-minded policies because it makes for more equal opportunity for those who have faced injustice in the past and those who are at different stages of life. It should not be expected of every single person to do the exact same training when everybody has different life experiences. An individuals life experience should not limit them, but instead help them to succeed.

The truth is, I am still trying to understand the ever-changing labour market policies. However, I can honestly say that I am no longer discouraged when I reach the end of an application and read the words, “Preference will be given to…”, because now I have, and continue to gain, more of an understanding and what it means to truly decolonize employment, not only through reading and researching but also in conversation with others. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Abandoned

The more I learn about the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) culture and their land, I am reminded of how much knowledge I still have yet to acquire. There is always something new to learn, not only about the FNMI culture but about the World in general and about life. We are learning something new everyday whether we realize it or not, whether it is something small or something big, we never stop absorbing new information.

A friend brought to my attention a TV series on Viceland, called Abandoned. I watched the “Native Lands” episode, and I think the appropriate word for my reaction is: Baffled. I learned about the Heilstuck Nation and the abandoned Namu fishery. As well as, an abandoned Copper Mine, and Gold Mine, and abandoned towns, all along the Pacific Northwest. These places are exactly the way that people left them. Nothing has changed other than the occurrence of mold and asbestos, and gradually deteriorating infrastructure. Some have a population of 0 now and others have between just 2-3 inhabiting these abandoned places. For example, there are only 2 people living in Ocean Falls, British Columbia, which used to be a copper mine, but the government has “done away” with this town. These two locals have put their effort forth to clean up and put the natural resources that are left, into good use.

I am surprised I had not learned about this earlier but some of us do not even know what is happening in other parts of the world let alone right here, in our own country. I think this could be for two reasons, one being that people are just simply unaware because they do not listen to the news and do not put in a conscious effort to become aware (ignorant by choice), and another reason being that the government simply sweeps certain pieces of information under the rug because certain information is perceived as being too risky to reveal, and it is seen as easier not to expose the truth.

The problem with these abandoned places is that by just leaving them to deteriorate, is detrimental to the health of the environment. Buckets of oil, as well as, metals are just left behind and nothing is cleaned up and properly disposed of. I guess it is true that, when it comes to “big business”, some rules pertaining to the environment do not always apply. There is no balance between industry and the preservation of nature. There is more being taken away than what is being given back. It is possible for humanity to come up with alternative ways of making profit, without harming the environment. I truly hope that the work many First Nations communities are doing has a ripple effect on the rest of the world because when, “The environment gets sick, we get sick.”