Can you believe it? Truth happened.
And I was there to witness it.
Let me explain this bizarre moment in Canadian political history:
Last week marked the beginning of the 82nd Annual Conference held by the Couchiching Institute. “A civil place to disagree” where mucky mucks and future leaders gather to unpack issues and discuss policy. The topic of discussion this year was:
Coming Together as One:
Navigating the Relationship Between Indigenous Peoples and Canada
A partial list of Speakers (It was my privilege to also share the stage as a Speaker):
Chief Sharon Stinson Henry
Chippewas of Rama First Nation on whose traditional lands we spoke
The Right Honourable Paul Martin
Former Prime Minister of Canada and the founder of the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative
Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN)
Dr. Marie Wilson
Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Former Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
President, Kinder Morgan – third largest energy company in North America
Former Auditor General of Canada
Andy Mitchell and Chuck Strahl
(Privy Council) Both former Ministers of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Premier of Ontario
Founder, Idle No More
And so on. For a full list of speakers and biographies click:
What was amazing about this Conference was the access. You could ask any of the Speakers a question. If they chose to mingle (and the majority did, many of the speakers staying for most of the Conference) then you could talk to them one on one. While there were a few folks who didn’t understand social boundaries, most people were really good about it and the Speakers were always gracious and willing to engage.
It Gets Real
It soon became apparent to me that there was a huge, deep gap of knowledge among delegates. There was the reality of the atrocity suffered by First Nations – past and present – and the somewhat naïve view of those who only knew what the government and education system had spoon fed them.
Most of the Speakers spent the majority of their time educating. Some who should have known better spent their time justifying or outright lying.
This is what was awesome. The formula of deception didn’t work.
There was so much truth and power present that the lies could gain no traction. They were felt as soon as they were uttered, and utterly rejected. You could see the discomfort of the Speakers who would normally sell their pitch and call it a day. They could FEEL the pity of the listeners!
More importantly, those who spoke honestly, factually and from the heart – they were listened to. And the hearts of the listeners responded.
There was a feeling present in the air that something profound was happening, that an irrevocable step had been taken during this time. No one who attended left the same as they entered, no life will be exactly the same as it was.
The Great and Powerful Oz was revealed as nothing but a huckster. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
And you know what? In the end, no one did.
Instead they listened to what their soul was trying to say.
These past, present and future leaders heard an urgency in the whispers. An urgency that challenged them and I pass that challenge on to you:
The world is in crisis. Someone has to lead. It might as well be you. Do you have a more important job going on than making sure our children and theirs don’t live in chaos and sickness?
Because that’s what’s coming. Some of it is already inevitable. Some of it we can mitigate. Some we can halt or reverse completely. But only if we rise, stand and say, “no more.”
Indigenous people have been warning about this. They have learned to live in balance, that life is a Sacred Hoop.
If you don’t get that, then you are a child in the wilderness, making choices that doom the entire cycle of life. You are anathema to the balance of the world.
It’s not too late to become a good ancestor to those yet to be born. It’s not too late to choose life over self-destruction.
In the end, that was the only message left, and the only one worth sharing. After all, if we collapse and billions suffer and die, was any material gain worth it?
We heard much of the abuse, oath breaking, experimentation and intentional poverty perpetrated and perpetuated on Canada’s Indigenous. We heard much about wanton resource extraction versus sustainability. And we heard much about the purposeful, wasted resource of Indigenous people thanks to the Indian Act, the sheer waste of breathtaking potential for shortsighted political expediency.
We saw racism exposed and ugly. We saw it unmasked in the Canadian Government’s policies, approaches and media releases. Unvarnished and deeply unsettling.
But most of all (and maybe not too surprising in the end), we saw hope.
And the Ancestors were there. Listening, prodding, encouraging and sharing whispered wisdom.
Chuck Strahl – in explaining that Chiefs would come to him with deep felt concerns and needs – asked, “How do you make legislation out of the language of the heart?”
With truth, honesty and the desire to do better than your ego demands.
Legislation should come from no where else than a prayerful, thoughtful, well-informed place of responsibility.
Anything else is a bandaid on a festering wound.
There are few scars in Canada’s history, for it’s history is short. Instead there are open sores and a slow bleed, draining our future of it’s potential. We don’t need any more bandaids.
We need healing.
And that starts with Honouring the founding documents of this nation – this Kanata. It starts with Honouring the Treaties.
When we can show mutual respect for each other, when we can see ourselves in the eyes of our sisters, mothers, fathers and brothers, when we can say to a child, “You have a beautiful future because we are working to make one for you”, then we are on our way to something mighty.
If we start with respect for each other, it extends to All Our Relations. It extends to the lands, the air, the life giving waters.
It extends to a point where the hoop that once was broken can be made whole once more.
That’s what began at the Couchiching Institute. My prayers and offerings that we remember and are ready.