Like many Canadians, I have been deeply affected by the activity surrounding cases involving Indigenous people in our country. We have some painful and tainted history here in regards to what has happened to our First Nations and Indigenous people. When European settlers first arrived, the Indigenous populations were forced onto reservations. The Indian Act was created, which ultimately prevented any chance of reclamation of the land and blocked the inherent rights of the Indigenous people.
Residential schools were created, and many children were taken from their families and put into schools run by priests and nuns. Horrible abuses occurred in these schools, most of which have been stealthily swept away from the public eye. There is a resurgence with this information, this ‘forbidden history’, and it is beginning to come to light. This is important to me because it wasn’t too far back in my own family history where members of my family had land taken from them, and some were made to attend residential school.
Even though there has been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission brought forward, there is much healing to be done. Many reservations still don’t have clean or running water, racism runs rampant, and this segregation has led to much resentment from the Indigenous cultures.
I am personally not so sure that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is really enough to even begin to heal the damage that has been done. It is certainly a step in the right direction, but I feel it is also important to begin to lift the stigma on Indigenous ways of life. The suppression of these ways is where the atrocities and segregation began. So I believe it is important to begin to honor these ways again, believe in their potency, and honor them in the way they were meant to be. This needs to begin with the Indigenous peoples themselves, to lessen any chances of cultural appropriation.
Here is something I wrote today on social media, regarding this image in my feed which I ultimately shared:
Imagine this happening to you as a child. Everything you’ve ever known stripped away and stolen from you – your language, your rituals and all that you hold sacred, your natural way of learning, your natural way of healing, your loving family that you may have never seen again. Imagine the warm and caring hands you once knew from your parents and grandparents becoming the cold abusing hands of priests and nuns. As you grow older, knowing that same family probably turned to alcohol in despair of being broken in so many ways. And if you physically survived the pain and abuse, you may have turned to substance as well. Imagine that within this ‘society’, you came to see your people treated, in all directions, like criminals. The way of the people within this society, ever so sanctified, was somehow the ‘right way’.
How Can We Begin to Revitalize and Respect Indigenous Ways of LIfe?
Here are some of my thoughts on this. Indigenous communities need to be proactive in order to return to their tradition. Those that hold ancient knowledge in the community of Indigenous culture are the guardians of the old ways. They can teach the children and youth the traditional ways that the community relates to the land. It is different than the modern, colonial, Western attitudes. These are wisdoms that we call all learn from and navigate our lives with, helping to revitalize and respect the earth honoring ways of Indigenous cultures within ourselves.
Enjoy Life’s Journey, but Leave No Marks
One idea necessary for revitalization is to lessen any dependence on outside assistance. Build up strength and resources as much as possible within yourself. Clarify the means of what you will require for your journey in order to fulfill your dreams. This will lessen any ‘strings attached’ paradigms, and you can then be sure that any steps you take will be in your full integrity.
Take From the Earth Only What is Needed
Do your best to truly listen to those prepared to bring back ancient knowledge. Lessen your footprint and be mindful of what you take and how you use it. This wisdom was once passed down through oral tradition. Nature was once the classroom in which Indigenous children learned. The Flora and Fauna are being forgotten for the potent abilities in healing and connection, but can be found in classrooms that study Indigenous culture.
The Earth is Our Mother (Give Thanks for Each New Day)
It is my hope that Indigenous families will take the deep dive into feeling confident to teach their children traditional ways at home. The grandparents are especially important in this process. They will provide the backbone of support to others holding ancient wisdoms. Just because Indigenous information is not written down in any ‘formal fashion’ does not make it any less valuable than the textbooks of Western cultures.
Honour Your Ancestors Through Your Actions
Through this process, the future generations will be able to understand their heritage. They will comprehend the Indigenous way of life. And it is not enough to just tell, elders must also be able to show the youth and children how to enact these traditional ways. They need to know their language and be connected once again to the land. Everyone can do this, wherever you are, by taking the time to learn the traditional ways of the Indigenous peoples of your land. Respect and honour these ways of life, and do your best to feel rather than just hear what you are learning.
Work First for the Good of All (All Life is Sacred)
There needs to be an interconnected attitude among the Indigenous community. People who are guardians of ancient knowledge must find the courage to step up to the plate before the information is lost. People who do not understand the culture will never be able to keep it alive. It is only through those who are active participants that tradition can be transmuted and stay alive. We must all remember that we are part of the larger human family, and this family creates a sacred hoop in which all life is sacred, and of which we are the custodians.
Speak the Truth, and Only of the Good in Others
This is especially in regards to the truth of the early relationship between the Indigenous and the colonial settlers. The way this needs to be accomplished is through the educational systems. Settlers should not be teaching the traditional ways because they see them through a different lens. The Indigenous community needs professionals engaged in the revitalization of traditional ways.
The beauty of these wisdom teachings is that they always remain relevant, for every person and all cultures, no matter how evolved or learned we think we’ve become. We can always come back to remembering the importance of opening our hearts and souls to Great Spirit. We can wake each day with the promise to ourselves that we will follow the rhythms of nature, and retire and rise with the sun. We must try to remember these simple but profound teachings, especially when the pain gets overwhelming and life gets challenging.