Tuesday, April 30, 2013

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Introduction


On September 13, 2007 the UN General Assembly
adopted the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This followed more
than twenty years of discussions within the UN
system. Indigenous representatives played key roles
in the development of this Declaration.
There are over 370 million Indigenous people in
Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific.
They are among the most impoverished,
marginalized and frequently victimized people in
the world.
This universal human rights instrument is celebrated
globally as a symbol of triumph and hope. Effective
implementation of the Declaration would result in
significant improvements in the global situation of
Indigenous peoples.


Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous
Issues, to the General Assembly on the Occasion
of the Adoption September 13, 2007:
Through the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the United Nations marks a historical milestone in its long history of developing and establishing international human rights standards.

It marks a major victory for Indigenous Peoples who actively took part in crafting this Declaration.This day will forever be etched in our history and memories as a significant gain in our long strugglefor our rights as distinct peoples and cultures. The 13th of September 2007 will be remembered asa day when the United Nations and its Member States, together with Indigenous Peoples, reconciled with past painful histories and decided to march into the future on the path of human rights. I thank very warmly all the States who voted for the adoption of the Declaration today. All of you will be remembered by us.

This Declaration has the distinction of being the only Declaration in the UN which was drafted with therights-holders, themselves, the Indigenous Peoples. We see this is as a strong Declaration which embodies the most important rights we and our ancestors have long fought for; our right of selfdetermination, our right to own and control our lands, territories and resources, our right to free, prior and informed consent, among others.

Each and every article of this Declaration is a response to the cries and complaints brought by indigenous peoples … This is a Declaration which makes the opening phrase of the UN Charter, “We the Peoples…” meaningful for the more than 370 million indigenous persons all over the world.

Effective implementation of the Declaration will be the test of commitment of States and the whole international community to protect, respect and fulfill indigenous peoples’ collective and individual human rights.

I call on governments, the UN system, Indigenous Peoples and civil society at large to rise to the historic task before us and make the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a living document for the common future of humanity.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Treaty Walk Thang by Kelli Daigneault


Kelli is one of my grade ten students. She wrote this piece for her Treaty Walks Assignment last fall.

September 15th, 1874 was a momentous occasion, the signing of Treaty 4. Now fast forward 138 years to September 15th, 2012, and here I stand in the same valley that very treaty was signed. It's embedded in my heritage as an Indigenous person, but also as a Canadian Citizen. We're all treaty people right? We must be, because the mix of people on these grounds is astounding. I adjust as I step off the bus, taking in the glorious smell of Bannock, as the teachers begin telling us about our day. We're told to experience as much as we can and meet for Trivia at 10am. As they finish I head off and begin wandering the grounds. I take notice of the many tipis and begin to wonder, "How'd it be like to sleep in those? Maybe I should try it sometime..." I get snapped back into reality as one of the ladies smoking meat waves to me, I politely wave back as I continue on.
                Some time passes and Mrs. Koops began gathering us for Trivia. I am so prepared! Or am I? I mean I like to believe I know quite a bit about my heritage, but is that the truth? Do any of us really have the knowledge we think we do about First Nation's heritage? I mean after Canada's many attempts at Assimilation... But now's not time for that! We must win the Trivia! The game begins, we're in an intense battle between ourselves, Standing Buffalo, and Pasqua. We try our hardest but in the end we still loose. Oh well, you win some you lose some, right? And I'm quite proud since I knew the correct answer to about 80% of the questions.
                Mrs. Koops dismisses us to wander the grounds and try different things until it's time to return to the school. I begin to walk when I'm assaulted by the delicious smells wavering through the air as many begin to grab lunch. Well 11am is an okay time for lunch. I walk to my favorite stand that's often on the Pow-wow trails and order a Taco in a Bag. Yum! I love them!
                As I finish my lunch one of the organizers for Lacrosse asks a group of kids from the school if we'd like to play Lacrosse, we generally all agree. I watch my classmates learn the basics of Lacrosse and realise, "This is one of the things my ancestors did for fun! Whoa." By the time I snap back to reality the game is well in swing. I laugh at Mrs. Koops’ completive nature as she and Talia try with defence against some of the guys. The game continues until another group of students come to play, and we dismantle heading off again.
                I continue my wandering; with all my wandering I'm like a chicken with its head cut off! Oh well... I notice people gathering once again in the center and I soon notice they're forming a Round Dance. I prompt Serina and Nathan to join the Round Dance with me. It is a Friendship Dance after all! As we Round Dance I begin wondering if my ancestors tried to get the settlers to join them in a Round Dance. I think they would, it's quite an easy dance to do, and so very symbolic.
                The dance subsides and the day is about to do the same, but not before I shoot an arrow! I jog to the shooting area and get in-line. I get to the front of the line and set up my arrow on the bow. I take a deep breath and aim for the fox target. Whoosh. I missed. I joking tell Serina, "I'd go hungry if I had to hunt like this!" She laughs as I prep my other arrow, and aim. I inhale and shoot. Whoosh. I hit it's leg. Closer, but I'd still go hungry. I set up my last arrow as I hear the teachers calling the students to make their ways to the bus. I aim, close my eyes and shoot. Everything seems to go silent, and I open my eyes and I get a good hit in the stomach. "Tonight, we eat!" I triumphantly say as I set down my bow. Serina just face palms at my stupidity and tells me to hurry and grab my arrows so we can get to the bus.
                We walk towards the bus and I just think about my day. On this day, 138 years ago, Treaty 4 was signed, without it I wouldn't be here today. Not only because this day was made to remember that treaty, but because Canada would not be here, and my people, the Metis, would not be.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

GH Summit

my cousin prays in a band
long hair brushing the base guitar
his music walks healing
to me, char, ange and kate
four women in the audience
who especially like the song
brian wrote for the valley
i hear a little Craigleith in there
says char
bay is in there, too
says kate
while angela smiles and
i write this poem
past balcarres, peepeekisis, abernathy
to lemberg treaty four territory
our home

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The New Michael in The New Nation

When Michael Morin was in our classroom earlier this semester, he left me a copy of The New Nation, a publication of the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research. He wrote one article, "My Experience in Nicaragua" and his mom, Metchild Morin, wrote one called "Strengthening the Old Ties! Celebrating the New Nation! ... an historic journey deepening Scottish Highlander and Metis Relations"



Michael Morin telling Emily and her class about his transformational and healing
"Waterfall" story while in Nicaragua with the
International Aboriginal Youth Internship Program with Canada World Youth.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Microcosm of Dialogue by Michael Koops

At the beginning of this semester, I started teaching a Native Studies class. I was and still am quite nervous about teaching this class. It seems bizarre that I am teaching this class. In preparation, I struggled with the unifying theme. The curriculum is clear in the concepts to teach, but I try to have a unifying theme to each class I teach. Sometimes, I will use something like “symbolism” as a theme.

In my art classes, I have all the students “display” their work; whether it is a performance piece or a visual work. In my Native Studies class, I wanted something similar. It helps me translate the concepts and lets me refer back to a way of thinking. After some brain-wracking, I decided on a “historical” theme. I wanted to look at the concepts of “Aboriginal Rights” and “Economic Development” outlined in the curriculum through the lens of Canadian History.

So, as a class we are taking a look at the history of Canada, with a Native Studies perspective. Therefore, the beginning of the Story of Canada begins really with First Nations people and the term “First Nations”. The problem with terms is that they lose their original meaning. “First Nations” refers to two concepts. “First” means that the people who formed “Nations” lived here first. In Janet Lunn’s Story of Canada she calls her first chapter “One Hundred Centuries”. For 10,000 years Canada had a history, most of which is a geological history, however, there is also a history of people here in Canada. This history is as diverse and lengthy as any history of any European Nation.

In the following weeks, after the start of the class, my students and I learned about the diversity of these people, and the fact that they were sovereign nations. We learned of some interesting discussion that is going on about the origins of people in North America. For example, the most widely accepted theory is the “Bering Strait” Theory, which describes a number of waves of migration of people from Asia. The last wave of immigration from Asia was the Inuit people. However, the people have their own stories about their origin. These stories have been group together and are usually labelled “Traditional Theories”. Immediately we can see a worldview struggle within the origin stories and the concept of history. We have a scientific paradigm and a spiritual paradigm coming into conflict. The problem is that the conflict is artificial. What if both are equally true?

It is a hard concept for my students to struggle with, which becomes evident in their journal responses. I ask the students to respond in their journal if they thought that schools should only teach the “Bering Strait” Theory as true. One student eloquently pointed out that the word “theory” means “best guess”. One student thought that the “Bering Strait” had evidence to support it while the “Traditional” stories did not. Another student pointed out that really there wasn’t one “Traditional” theory but a multitude of stories. She pointed out that the origin stories were more about values and beliefs than they were about facts.

I think it is exciting, but not surprising, that our class is a microcosm of the dialogue that is happening in our Canadian society. We are trying to struggle with what these origin stories mean whether they are the “Bering Strait” theory or the Raven origin of the Haida people. More importantly does one invalidate the other or could both demonstrate an understanding of reality that have equal merit and importance.
Note: My husband, Michael Koops, is teaching a Native Studies class at Bert Fox Community High School. He is one of my great teachers. I've asked him to share some of his insights on my blog.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Things I Don't Know

to bring a blessing
all the way from
is no easy drive
through the prairies
over the mountains
all the way to
Tim Horton’s in Quesnel
where I type and
re-hype my words
finally returning to pencil
feel the drag of the graphite
on the white, torn page
when a smile
like a wild spring rose
speaks in fragrant
shades of pink
“what is it that
you are working on?”

I want to tell him every-blooming-thing
and I nearly do

at the wedding the bride’s beauty
sings from her bare shoulders
the healing transparent
like white lace flowers
over Champaign tone earth

I dial his number
and when we meet again
at Tim’s
“the moment for the blessing
never came,” I say
“but the bride told me
I was her spiritual warrior
and my presence was the blessing”
I lower my eyes caught in a brag
but when I look up
into his dark face
his eyes are sunflowers
the exact moment
they open a little wider
to the heavens
I'm wearing my round-dance t-shirt and jeans when I meet Martin at Tim Horton's for the second time. We shake hands, sit near the counter. Martin gets up to buy us coffee and I take the moment to jot a few questions (based on our conversation yesterday) on the back of my notes from Dustin and Naomi's blessing.
1. What's your immigration story?
2. What is your understanding of Canada?
3. What questions, thoughts, do you have regarding First Nations?
4. What do you see is the future of Canada? What is your vision?
Martin brings me a coffee and I flip the fine pages of my bible I've laid open on the table. "These verses have meant a lot to me the last two years," I say and then I read. "Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"  
"That reminds me of the verse in proverbs," he says, "Iron sharpened by iron."
"Yes," I say. "I've learned to trust that my teachers are being sent my way. I think you will be one of my teachers."
I ask my first question. He reiterates what he told me yesterday. http://treatywalks.blogspot.ca/2013/04/ceremony-and-conversation.html and then he tells me more.
When Martin first flew over Montreal, as they were landing, he wondered, what is it they are building with? Everything is white. What is that material that makes everything white? Martin laughs. "It was snow." Martin went on to spend twenty-five years in various universities, receiving many degrees. He studied logic, linguistics, management, counselling, sociology, theology, but his PHD is in ethics. Martin speaks many languages, including Malagasy, French, English, German, Arabic, Latin, Greek, and "some Spanish" he says. "I am a professional learner."
I make a joke about barely speaking English, and the irony of being a bad speller as an English teacher. "But I'm okay with that," I say, "Because I want kids to know that language is messy. I do something called a cooperative essay, where I don't rehearse the thoughts, and we write together, and they see that, even though I'm the educated one, I often lose a word, get stuck, rely on the them for insights, and keep going even when it's lame because the clock is ticking."
Martin's face lights up. "Teaching is showing others how to learn," he says. "I share what I don't know. I share what I do know."
"Oh my goodness," I say, "I'm going on a sidebar here. Tell me what you don't know."
Martin pushes his coffee cup to the side, taps the table with his fingers like he's holding a pen, and begins. He tells me that just last Friday, while working with some youth, he had a realization, and it came through conversation with these young minds. "How do we, with many cultures at the same table, come to a decision that does not come from any one culture? Maybe this will take me three years of reflection. It's work to understand each other. I'm wondering what is a process or a mental set to understand a model. When I understand this I would disseminate it. I'm looking for something innovative, something from many cultures, never seen before."
Martin is giving examples and I wish I'd brought a tape recorder because I can't keep up with my pen. When he is finished I see I have doodled a circle. "I have been drawn to the circle," I say. "We call our faith gathering 'Sunday Circle' and I have my Idle No More Community Circle. I wonder if part of your answer will be revealed in a circle."
Martin listens, a slight smile on his face.
"Have you heard of Round Dances?" I say. He shakes his head. I remember I'm wearing Kate's t-shirt
http://treatywalks.blogspot.ca/2013/03/round-dance-t-shirts-hot-off-press.html "Like my shirt." I point. "See, and this one is a blonde."

Martin nods.

"A round dance is a friendship dance where everyone joins hands and steps, steps, steps to the drum as a big circle forms. One of my students was in Winnipeg at an Idle No More rally and they danced around the entire Legislative Building. When we walked in Regina, we stopped on the Albert Bridge for a round-dance, and in minus 27 we round-danced on Highway 10 and 35 intersection in Fort Qu'Appelle."


Martin is finishing his danish, nodding his head. I take a drink of coffee.

"Okay, tell me something else you don't know," I say.

"When people are hurting are they mean? Or are they victims of mis-perceptions or misinterpretations. Like in a marriage, in love or in war? I'm trying to understand if this is mean or if this is a victim. Being mean is really a horrible thing, but is it mean when you act out of pain?"

I'm nodding, reminded of a conversation I had with Rob just last night. "Was I ever a kind person?" Rob had said. "I'm just so angry now. Was I ever kind?"

"I'll give you an example," Martin says. "This is an example from McGill University. A Japanese person and a Canadian were in business negotiations. The Canadian was staying in Japan, and there was a futon in his room where they met. By Friday they would sign the contract. So on Monday, they visited very nicely and the same on Tuesday: by Wednesday they felt very comfortable with each other, relaxing, one on the futon, very casually. On the Thursday the day before they were to sign the contract, the Japanese person said to the Canadian, we will sign the contract tomorrow if I can sleep with you tonight."

"What would you do?" Martin says.

I gasp a small breath, ready to answer.

"Don't answer," he says. "So the Canadian thinks about it, and there are millions of dollars at stake, but he does have his own ethics and values, and the other man is short, but okay. So for whatever reason, the Canadian says, 'Okay.'"

"Next, the Japanese man brings a second futon into the room and they spend the night having great conversation, each on their own futon, and in the morning, they are well rested and they sign the contract."

I am nodding.

"So you see, in a marriage, one partner can be saying something, and the partner may hear something completely different. There is no fault in misunderstanding. One must step back from the situation and try to truly hear. I am especially interested in the communication that happens within and across culture."

"Oh, this makes a lot of sense to me," I say. "In my marriage, in my cross culture experiences. When well meaning people are mean. I get it. And so when we react in a mean way, it might be because we've been hurt based on a misunderstanding."

"Yes, this is something I don't understand," says Martin. "When people are acting and hurting, are they mean?"

We pause in our conversation, resting in the chatter that surrounds us.

"Okay, and what's the third thing you don't understand," I say.

Martin holds his hands together. "All the shades of emotion," he says. "If I could compare emotion to colour, all the variety, even within one colour. This I don't understand." Back and forth, we discuss emotive words and colour.

Martin's fourth unknown is the nature of intuition and kindness. He uses our meeting as a gift from nature, and how is that people do meet each other. This is an unknown.

We have slowed in our discussion. "Is there a fifth?" I say.

"I don't know," says Martin. We smile. Pausing.

I look back over my notes. "Yesterday, I'd told you I am frustrated with Canada's unimplemented treaty promises and how we are so reluctant to admit we have systemic racism," I say.

Martin nods. "Canada will need to rely on the natives and immigrants," he says. In 2014 Canada will have a very serious gap with retiring people. Maybe it's time to adopt integration of each one because I feel that when you are a First Nation or immigrant you can be rejected, you are underestimated. But there can be no such thing anymore. We must listen and learn from each other."

I am scratching notes in black ink on the white paper.

"Come let's work together, we have to do that, or Canada won't survive, according to me," says Martin with a smile. "Canadian employers can't say, 'You want to work for me, here's the way things must be.' Not one way to do things anymore. It's changed. We have no choice. If we don't try to grasp, to know. It is foolishness to ignore the potential of a race."

I sip my coffee. It's getting cold.

"Do you have a few more minutes?" Martin says.

I look at the clock, it's 1:30 pm. We've been here for over two hours. "I should probably get back by two," I say.

"Do you you mind if I go get something from my truck? I want to show you something." Martin returns with blueprints of a house and facility he has designed and is now building, to be entirely off the grid. It's a series of circles.

It's been almost three hours. At the door of Tim Horton's we are taking turns in parting conversation. "Every time I visit Rob, I'm given a gift, someone new, who helps me leave," I say. "It's very hard to leave him, but you are a gift."

Martin gives me a word in his first language, Malagasy, for a friend who knows you best.

"When I lived in Black Lake," I say, "The people didn't have a word for goodbye. They say, Ne ne sne ha, I will remember you."

"Nenesne ha," Martin says.

"Ne ne sne ha," I say.

Salmon leaping across the road from Tim Horton's in Quesnel.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blessing for Naomi and Dustin

Naomi and Dustin, thank you for the invitation to share this day with you.

I’m a long way from home, way west, and way north, and some of you might wonder, how is it that a southern Saskatchewan farm girl finds herself in Quesnel’s northern beauty, well, I’m part of a story. When Naomi asked me if I could bring a blessing today, I thought of another story. You’ve heard of David and Goliath, well being here today reminds me of David and Jonathan.

David was a shepherd boy. Jonathan was the son of a king. Just after David killed Goliath in that famous story, we hear of the bond between the shepherd boy and the king’s son.  “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David” 1 Samuel 18:1 (I know how much you folks love your knitting, or is it crocheting?)
David and Jonathan entered into a friendship, a covenant, a treaty.
Just like any good story there is conflict: King Saul tries to kill David repeatedly, Jonathan saves David's life; David becomes a great warrior; David lives life on the run, but Jonathan is loyal, 1Samuel 20:42 And because our Creator is a master story writer, there are twists and turns until Jonathan and King Saul are dead, and with more war and years of struggle, the shepherd boy becomes king. But the most beautiful part of the story of Jonathan and David is still to come. It’s the way David, once he is king, honours the covenant he made with his friend Jonathan, and even  after Jonathan’s death, David takes care of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosephth, who expects to be treated like a dog, but instead, he is treated like a son, the son of a king. 2Samuel Chapter 9
Like David and Jonathan, you, Naomi and Dustin, your souls have been knit together, you love each other as you love your own soul, your own life. Through difficult and joyous circumstances, you have built a life together, a family together, based on friendship, love, grace, healing, and destiny. Like David and Jonathan, the Creator is writing your story, Nomi and Dusty, a story full of twists and poetry, a beautiful story.
Those of us gathered here today, we are happy to be part of your story, it’s not a picture book story or a fairy tale, it’s a full-out-drama, the kind of story they make movies about, the kind of story that wins awards. And it’s not over, either. Today is just one part of the story, a very important part, but just another chapter.
So what is this wedding chapter called? How about, “A Day of Healing”? Way back in the beginning, back in the garden, we were whole, man and woman, we were right with our Creator, no shame, no pain. But as brokenness came into the world, and we had to leave the garden, life became a struggle. We longed for the garden.

Fast forward to two thousand years ago, the Great Gardener sent his son, a Carpenter, a Bridge Builder, a Great Physician, who came back for the sick, to bring healing. You see, we are all made in the image of the Gardener, the Carpenter, the Physician, and we have been called into one another’s gardens, buildings, hospitals, to bring growth, stability, and healing. And really, this is why I am here today, to bring healing and receive healing, for this has been my friendship with your Uncle Rob, like David and Jonathan, and this has been my experience with you, Naomi and Dustin, even in the short time we have called each other friend. You have spoken words of peace and comfort that can only come from those whose hearts are filled with wisdom. As Matthew says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34
So today, this ceremony is a get-up-and-walk-you’re-healed-ceremony, across the carpenter’s bridge, back into the garden where man and woman first walked as husband and wife. You know, the word husband means gardener and wife is the gardener’s help-meet, so you two can grow deeper roots as you continue watering, sunning, nourishing each other, and the beauty of the garden is that it can’t help but spill over its borders and bring healing and hope to those around. This has been my experience watching you, and hearing about you from your very proud Uncle Rob.
Ever since you asked me to play a role in your wedding, I have been thinking a lot about ceremony. Every culture has ceremonies. We have graduation ceremonies and awards ceremonies. Where I live in Fort Qu’Appelle, I hear First Nations people talking about ceremony as part of living in a good way. But what is a ceremony? I offer that a ceremony is a time of gathering, of family, of community. A time to mark a transition and all who leave a ceremony are invited to walk in a new way. Today, we bring this man, Dustin, And this woman, Naomi. Two halves of one whole. Two elements like earth and sky. Two beautiful buds, two buddies, ready to bloom under the purifying sunshine, and the cleansing rain, digging deep into the rich soil, making our world a more beautiful place.
As we celebrate this wedding ceremony, I invite all here to pledge a witness vow, Dustin and Naomi, we, your friends and family do promise to love, honour, and cherish your marriage. We will laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry. We will walk beside you as loyal friends and family. We will believe in you. We will respect the destiny God has for you. When you confess your mistakes, we will remind you of grace. When you are broken, we will speak words of healing.
So today, I offer an announcement, that there has been a wedding ceremony, a healing chapter written by the great author, through which we celebrate the knitting together of these two souls, Dustin and Naomi. And today, I declare that this family is free of any power-imbalance that may haunt you. Like David and Jonathan, the power has shifted, the weak have become strong – like David the shepherd-boy-made-king, you are powerful as you bring kindness to the-Mephibosephth-among-you who feel unworthy; today I claim grace for this family in the name of the Morning Star, the Humble Carpenter, the One Son of the Creator.  Amen. So be it.
Photo: amazing day!
Naomi and Dustin
Proud Uncle Rob listening to his sister and mother-of-the-bride, Wendy's speech

My gift from Wendy.

See the hat my girl Victoria is wearing in her engagement photos?
Naomi knit it.
Naomi knows knitting.
Long may our families be knit together.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ceremony and Conversation

I've dressed for the wedding and leave Rob's house, letting the girls and him keep sleeping while I get a coffee at Tim Horton's. I'm sitting at the table, computer and bible out, going over my notes. Naomi has asked me to bring a blessing, and I'm really nervous, praying I'll say the right thing.

I'm working and reworking my thoughts, like this bit below:

"Ever since you asked me to play a role in your wedding, I have been thinking a lot about ceremony. Every culture has ceremonies. We have graduation ceremonies and awards ceremonies. Where I live in Fort Qu’Appelle, I hear First Nations people talking about ceremony as part of living in a good way. But what is a ceremony?
"I offer that a ceremony is a time of gathering, of family, of community. A time to mark a transition and all who leave a ceremony are invited to walk in a new way.

o   Today, we bring this man, Dustin

o   And this woman, Naomi

o   Two halves of one whole

o   Two elements like earth and sky

o   Two beautiful buds, two buddies, ready to bloom under the purifying sunshine, and the cleansing rain, digging deep into the rich soil, making our world a more beautiful place.
I imagine my brow is furrowed when a man walks toward me. I look up and smile. He greets me and passes by, but then returns. "What is it that you are working on?" he says.
sunshine slips over the hills
where he stands
and into the valley of the table
where I write
words mist the morning
“what is it you are working on”
he listens and sunbeams pour
now from his eyes
as he sits behind me
warming the earth
and little does he know
he has sent sparrows of kindness
to pull weeds between my lines
and only as they are laid aside
do I see their colours
blue-teal of insecurity
burnt orange of fear
purple parrot of pride
he gardens with words
his voice sends the rain
his eyes send the sun
and even at his command
the coffee blown air shifts
in the Tim Horton’s landscape
I learn this is Martin Ravelo and I am intrigued by his immigration story as our conversation passes back and forth between our reasons for being in Quesnel, British Columbia.
Martin is from Madagascar and when he was young he knew it would be mandatory to serve in the military. Although he respects people who serve their country, he also knew he believed in conversation to solve conflict. So he talked to his parents and they told him he could consider leaving the country. While still in Madagascar he went to a Canadian run school. He had two teachers: one was European and one was a Canadian from Quebec. When these men assessed the students, the European was very concerned with the product; and although the Quebecer was also interested in the product, he was equally concerned with the process. In fact, Martin says that the Canadian even considered the local ways of knowing and being in the assessment. This is why he chose Canada.
I confess that I have always been a very proud Canadian, but the past ten years, or so, I have been frustrated with my coutry as I've learned more about white priviledge and unimplemented treaties. Martin explains his belief that in the year 2014, colonialism will lose a lot of power because the Canadian population is aging and the colonial attitudes which keep First Nations and immigrant people from having equal opportunities will break down. I ask him if he's aware of the Idle No More movement and he isn't, but he thinks it's wonderful that people gather to discuss ideas and hope. "Like Sartre," he says.
Martin's perspectives on Canada and life in general encourage me. I am also touched by his purposeful insights he has given regarding my blessing. I ask Martin if I can interview him further for my blog, and he agrees.
I drive back to Rob's house to get the girls ready for the wedding. I am feeling humility and confidence, thanks to my new friend. Maybe this conversation has been a bit of a ceremony, an invitation to walk in a new way.