This week and next, I’m in Saskatchewan for the second intensive summer of three for my MEd in Critical Eco Justice.
Sometimes I feel like I can write pages about my experiences here, and sometimes there’s nothing to say. Chrystalizing it all into explaining how intense and amazing the time I spend here has been seems futile: nothing I write is good enough for what I want to say. But I’m going to try anyway.
Today, my class did a Sweat. Lead by an Elder in the Dakota tradition, a dozen of us entered the Sweatlodge as many times as we could handle it. We prayed. Some of for the first time, others not.
The Crown, governments and corporations have tried very, very hard to eliminate First Nations culture, traditions, languages and ways of life. They tried to erase entire peoples through a centuries-long project of genocide.
The brave men and women who maintained these and taught these traditions have helped ensure that the knowledge and way of life that grew out of the Land have not been eliminated. Instead, in many places in Canada, they thrive.
Of course, traditions that grew from thousands of years of living on the Land that Canada occupies can (and should) teach us about this Land: how to treat it, how to live in a good way, etc. I say “of course” because it should be obvious. But, it’s still actively suppressed.
Rather than these traditions, ceremonies and understandings being mainstream, they’re pushed to the fringe and still sometimes demonized and ridiculed.
Learn these traditions in any way you can.
With environmental destruction that’s likely to kills us all, hairbrained schemes like the Ring of Fire, the Plan Nord and the Tar Sands that will make some dudes quite rich and kill/injure/poison thousands of people, animals etc., isn’t it clear that we don’t know how to live with and among this Land any longer? Isn’t is the most obvious thing since the existence of sexism that they (the privileged who dominate halls of power) have no fucking idea whatsoever about how to run a country without killing off the poor, oppressed, marginalized? Or, isn’t it clear that this project is ongoing?
To those of us who are settlers and who are not the privileged few who run this place, I beg you: do your homework into the cultures and traditions of where you live that predate those WASPy names you’ve probably memorized.
The Treaties that remain in force that have allowed settler-descended Canadians the lives we’re living now (yeah the docks/beer/long weekends/shit-pay at mind-numbing jobs/sports etc. all thanks to the Treaties) Settler-Canadians got a lot out of the Treaties that were signed, but we have a side of a bargain to uphold. Unfortunately, our representatives in Ottawa aren’t the most unracist folks out there and we’ve sucked at upholding our side of the agreements.
The Treaties allowed many Canadians to live their lives without fear of violence, after fleeing it from home.
So, if you needed another issue to pile onto your inbox of things to do to unfuck this world, I think you should add this: research, read, meet, understand and know about the history of this land. Balance your reading by hearing from people who lived it, who didn’t go to university, who you may or may not be related to.
If our representatives won’t do it, we must force change in other ways.
Place decolonization at the centre of work that you do, regardless of what that work is. All people who care about the Land must resist “progress” that is supported by Stephen Harper and any other neo-con-man out there in the most accessible, public and powerful ways we can imagine.
How will you do it?