What is most important in this time of Idle No More is dialogue. Much of what we think we know about each other was born out of a culture of colonialism. Non-Natives and Natives alike, have deep rooted and for the most part wrongheaded views about the current situation and each other. We must seek to learn more about each other; listen and hear what the other party (group or individual) is telling us. It is reasonable, even necessary in a dialogue to express your perspective, but be prepared to be educated on points which may be wrong. Looking at a situation from another’s point of view can open whole new worlds of possibility for you.
Last year I spent a month in a town where racism is rampant and self-imposed segregation is the norm. I came back to Hamilton exhausted…I said I could not live there because it was a constant struggle to enlighten people about each other’s cultures. Someone suggested I should “just ignore it” …with knowledge comes responsibility and it was my responsibility to speak up. I have been blessed, to be close to both the Native and non-Native cultures, so I found myself uniquely qualified to share in that situation.
It is funny but (with the exception of government) everybody with an opinion, seems to think it is time to get rid of the Indian Act. Societies grew and evolved, slaves were freed, then woman were freed now is the time for our Native brothers and sisters to be freed. The first step is to abolish any legislation that prevents equal opportunity and access based on lineage. Both African-Americans and women will tell you, what follows will be decades of growing pains. Struggles to invoke, enforce and enjoy, their new found freedoms.
Will the Natives spring full-blown into a perfect system of self-government and self-reliance? Most unlikely, since we’ve been working on our system for thousands of years and still have not got a functioning model. But the greatest hope of all is that we can learn from each other. We (individuals, agencies, businesses, institutions and governments) need to share what we know with each other. On many levels Native culture has much to teach us especially around spiritualism, resilience and family. Dialogue is the way in which we share ideas; listening, hearing, and speaking. Keeping our hearts and minds open to learning from each other will make us better people and better neighbours.
I cannot speak to the Black experience but as a woman I can say we made more than a few mistakes when asserting our independence… I guess the biggest, was thinking that to be equal we had to be the same as men. Thankfully we now celebrate the differences. I bring this up because releasing our Native brothers/sisters from the paternalistic constraints of the Indian Act is not going to make them White. Hopefully what will evolve is a strong, proud 21st century Native culture.
I look forward to participating in the Canada which will emerge from the shake-up that Idle No More is bringing our way. I will speak more on the individual issues again soon but for now, have a joyous day my friends.