First Steps to Decolonizing – Mind, Body and Spirit

Owning my colonized mind

Today is July 1st. I’ve always celebrated this day with fireworks, BBQs, maple leafs, trips to Ottawa, drinks, and laughter. I’ve always thought of it as a glorious day to rejoice and to be grateful for the many freedoms, peace, love and kindness I felt “we” had.  Such a privileged view that ignored our true history.

I am a grateful person. I see the good in most things and people and like my optimistic lens of potential and possibility. I like to have fun and I like enjoying celebrations. Don’t you? You may wonder, why should I do anything other than celebrate this day? Perhaps you don’t want to feel anything other than joy. As someone who practices yoga, I understand that. 

And yet, not wanting to feel anything other than joy for your own privilege may lead to ignoring what has been dismissed for so many generations. I’ve had an adjustment to mindset that may help you reconcile the duality of feeling both gratitude and a deeper understanding of the suffering of those who came before you. I can be grateful and also more deeply get what needs to change now – and that I can be part of truth and reconciliation.

The inconvenient truth

My ignorance. I thought I was an inclusive person, and perhaps you do too. My very first friend is Indigenous. She lived at the end of my street in a wooden house and I thought she was awesome. I have a lot of Indigenous friends today who live shore to shore. I have taken Indigenous studies – one I loved the most was by Chastity Davis-Alphonse on Canadian History Through the Lens of Indigenous Women (www.deyen.ca).  I teach and coach to equity and inclusion every day. Yet, I have celebrated July 1st like it were only positive, like my experience was the one that mattered, with no regard to the experience of my friends, peers and esteemed teachers amongst the Indigenous communities of Turtle Island.

It may feel today like an inconvenient truth that you are likely missing opportunities to do better. The reality is that Indigenous children were stolen with brutal force from the arms of their parents with the aim to “kill the Indian” through brutal measures that included sexual, physical and mental abuse. Siblings were not allowed to speak to one another, they were not allowed to speak in their own language at such tender ages, with no mama or dada to support their fears and sadness. Indigenous communities have been and continue to be stripped of their rights. Canada has racist policies today that so severely impact livelihood, governance, and wellbeing.  I know it’s uncomfortable. I know it’s difficult to think about. But we must.

Imagine for a moment what these children were being taught about life with so much abuse in these “schools” run by priests and nuns. Think for a minute what it’d be like to be torn away from your parents, or for your children to be stripped from your arms and never return. Think about the trauma of the communities of human beings who had their children taken away in carts to known atrocities. And we did nothing.

How does one recover from this? How do you ever trust again?  How do you move forward? 

Perhaps the duality of my emotions today are likely shared by a number of you who also feel generally grateful in life, while also recognizing your privilege, this nation’s true history, and the overwhelming truth. The truth of genocide, ongoing murders of Indigenous girls and women, the abuse of thousands of children and so many babies who never made it home. The truth of the dishonoured Treaties that created horrific issues for the Indigenous who welcomed the settlers and taught them/us how to heal, how to sustain, and how to respect the Earth.

Today and every day thereafter

I hope I am honouring my Indigenous friends and colleagues and communities and I know I can and will do so much better. This is how I am spending this day:

  • Share my heart, own my colonized ways and reflect on where I can do better
  • Paid for a certification course on Truth and Reconciliation
  • Made a donation to the Native Women’s Association of Canada
  • Purchased Shuni written by Naomi Fontaine
  • Visited the Awen Gathering Place in Collingwood
  • Listening to the stories on the radio from the Indigenous communities
  • Listening to your thoughts and ideas

Here’s to loving your family, your friends, your communities and being grateful.

And here’s to decolonizing your mind, body and spirit by doing any / all of the following (or adding ideas to this post)

Educate and Share. Here are some of the resources:

Listen. Listen to the truth. Listen to the source. Listen with open hearts.

Reflect. Study your colonized mind if you are not an Indigenous person. Raise consciousness to what you don’t yet know about our policies, systems, history and find out.  Notice who is in your trusted circle and who isn’t. Notice where you can do better in how you think, how you speak and how you act in all that you influence whether it’s at home, at work, or in your community.

Donate.

The Native Woman’s Association of Canada
  • This is a national Indigenous organization representing the political voice of Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse people across the country. It exists as an aggregate of various Indigenous women’s organizations that have come together for a common goal.
The Oneida Language & Cultural Centre
  • This centre works to preserve the Oneida language and culture stolen by residential schools. A GoFundMe has been started to support and raise money for the centre in an effort to keep the language alive.
The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation
  • Another GoFundMe has been started in support of two women from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, who are on a mission to build a traditional Anishinaabe Round House. This cultural space will provide a place of learning, community, healing and growth.
Indspire
  • This is a fantastic charity that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people for the long-term benefit of these individuals, their families and communities and Canada. It has been named a top 10 Canadian Impact Charity each of the past four years and continues to offer various programs in remote communities, rural areas and urban centres across Canada.
The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund
  • This fund continues Gord Downie’s commitment to improving the lives of First Peoples in Canada. The fund works to build awareness, and eduction on the true history of Indigenous people in Canada, the history of Residential Schools, and encourages reconciliation through events and programming.
The Indian Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS)
  • The IRSSS is an organization out of British Columbia that provides essential services to residential school survivors, their families, and those dealing with Intergenerational traumas.
The Legacy of Hope Foundation
  • This foundation is an Indigenous-led, charity that works to educate and raise awareness about the history and ongoing impacts of the residential school system. Part of the LHF’s goals are to provide needed resources for schools and to prevent the spread of misinformation.
Geronimos Dream
  • This is a GoFundMe started to support residential school survivor Geronimo Henry’s desire to build a monument that will honour those who suffered in residential schools.
Celebrate Indigenous Resilience – Thirty Eight
  • This is a GoFundMe started by an MMIWG survivor who was held hostage after her parents were murdered. 30 years later, she’s celebrating resilience by collecting donations for Abbey House Transitional Home for Indigenous women & Manitoba Métis Federation, St.Eustache Local to support Indigenous Youth.
The Native Canadian Centre of Toronto
  • This is an Annex-based organization that offers a wide range of programs and services based on Indigenous cultural traditions and teachings. It’s Toronto’s oldest Indigenous community organization and provides social, recreational, cultural and spiritual services for the Indigenous community and visitors alike.