All my Relations

Tuesday August 25th

Allan Reeve

As we race home, the kilometres clicking. stock markets dipping, politicians promising brighter futures in radio sound bites, Lynn reads from the Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) 388 page report “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future”. As an official document – it’s surprisingly digestible. As a record of Canada’s history – it’s deeply troubling.

I wonder how much of our trip will have a lasting effect on me? As we drive south the hills are surrounded by mists rising off the lakes. It has an other-worldly effect – making me feel like the world we’re leaving is unreal, distant, a dream that disappears like smoke once daylight arrives.

Passing through hour after hour of northern forests it might be easy to think there’s a limitless supply of timber. It could be easy to forget the living nightmare the people of Grassy Narrows have shared with us. Return to my routines. Return to my same old ways of getting by, consuming energy and natural resources without a thought to the true costs of my living.

I remember Larry Morrissette’s definition of Development.  “You flush the toilet – and somebody else gets the shit.”

We have short memories when it comes to such things. The 1996 Royal Commission covered much of the same territory as the TRC report. It made many of the same recommendations. Most of which were conveniently disregarded by those in power and forgotten by the general public.

This TRC document however, is soaked in the tears of the Residential School survivors. The TRC heard over 6,000 stories. Many heartbreaking accounts are captured in the pages. In addition to the hard cold truths of how we made “our home on native lands”, it documents the human costs. The truth is that the “true north” is not strong nor free.

A chapter details the TRC process. The Commission had to deal with deliberate resistance from our federal government departments. If it wasn’t for the Supreme Court’s rulings, the government would have successfully withheld vital information about it’s attempts at cultural genocide. It seems that the courts are the only place First Nations can hope to receive justice. Our governments continue to spend millions trying to defend and preserve their own institutional self-interests.

On the other hand, our CPT visit to the Kenora district court revealed how our lower courts are awash with the side-effects of colonialization. In the two hours we spent there all seven cases were aboriginal people. Five of the seven were young women. Three of these were girls whose foster parents had called in the police after failing to control them.

For a culture that is essentially matriarchal, the current “missing and murdered” women disgrace tells a story of just how pervasive have been the effects of our governments attempted genocide. By tearing apart families, we have hacked away at the trunk of the tree that connects deep roots with the branches of future generations.

It seems that only our Supreme Courts are willing to address the root causes of indigenous people’s claims. The TRC has told the truth. Now we will see whether Canadians will begin the work of reconciliation.

What can I do to change things in Grassy?

It’s the same answer I came home with after visiting the Dominican Republic in 1976, Fiji in 1979, Peru in 1982. The poverty of those places is a direct result of the colonialization, corporatization, and “progress-driven” consumer society whose benefits I thoughtlessly enjoy daily.

“Be the Change you want to see in the world.” said Mahatma Ghandi and this truth still rings out. I hear it at Fleming College where I tell community organizing stories to students.

While walking in solidarity as allies with the people who live where the shit ends up – the changes needs to happen here – in the white man’s world.

“A learning journey can be a provocation that invites you to examine your beliefs and assumptions and how change happens and what becomes possible when we fully engage our communities.

Sometimes a learning journey that immerses us in a different context or way of looking that can be overwhelming or disorienting. It can create moments when we’re no longer sure about something.

When certainty collapses, it’s often replaced by curiosity.”

Margaret Wheatley from “Walk Out Walk On”

“Aren’t you Curious?” is a by-line we use to invite people into learning circles at Bedford House (the new community development learning centre we’re working hard to get off the ground this fall)

At Peterborough Dialogues we engage in forging relationships and telling a new story about the Peterborough we want to live into.

With Transition Town we celebrate our local food economy at the Purple Onion Festival.

At Greenwood United Church (where I start working part time in September) faithful followers of the Jesus-way commit to reducing their environmental footprint.

Did I find Jesus on my trip to Grassy Narrows? In my first blog about this trip I’d said I was looking for him on the front lines where Colonialization and the battle to save Mother Nature meet.

I found his strength dancing in the 32 degree heat of the Pow Wow.

I found his wisdom in the four directions teachings of the Bear Clan.

I found his anger in my fears that violence would prevail against justice.

I found his tears listening to the women’s drum songs of healing.

I found his courage to put his body on the line at the Blockade.

I found his humility in the prisoner’s dock preserving humanity in the midst of insanity.

I found his spirit deep in the cold waters I dove into each morning.

I found his laughter in the bread we broke and the jokes we shared.

I found his sisters and brothers everywhere as I looked into all my relations.

“Lo, I am with you always” he says.

May I remain awake to my privilege and the price of it.

May I remain on the red path of sustaining the circle instead of the bottom line.

May I keep my eyes, ears, hands and heart open to the teachers I encounter daily.

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