Saturday, July 23, 2016

Colonialism No More: Opening Up a Space

I am welcomed into the circle of Colonialism No More Solidarity Camp on 1827 Albert Street in Regina, Saskatchewan.

"Can't beat SK," one of the two guys who greet me says, reading the green print on my black shirt.

"I'm a table tennis player," I say. "And my name is Sheena Koops, SK, so the shirt works double time."

"Really, you play table tennis, like in competitions?" the one guy says.

"Yup, I just got back from the nationals in Winnipeg."

We chuckle and small talk around table tennis. Ping pong diplomacy.

"Wondered if I could bring you guys some coffee," I say.

"Sure," they say.

I return with Tim Hortons and some Tim Bits, and only Darren is left in the circle. He wonders where the others have gone, and maybe there is something that needs to be said between the two of us. We agree that things happen when they are supposed to happen.

Darren listens as I share some of my journey as a settler descendant, waking up to my Treaty responsibility. How it is difficult to come into this space, to make myself awkward and humble.

He shares some of his truth, that words and labels sometimes get in the way of our work. That our colonial systems, our colonial institutions have hurt Indigenous peoples and continue to colonize and oppress. How it is difficult to listen to people shout things like "go home" and worse. How people honk and shout "good job" but don't ever come into the camp for a conversation.

The other gentleman, Prescott, introduces himself, having sat down beside me. A young woman, who identifies as a settler descendant, has sat on the other side of me, but I never get her name. She talks about the importance of opening up a space where we can have these conversations, an emotionally safe place. I ask her how we can open up more spaces like this.

All four of us talk some more, and then I need to leave, my daughter has been calling my cell.

I thank these guys for their generosity and leadership.

Another settler descendant woman, wearing a Truth and Reconciliation shirt, a wide brim sun hat, joins the circle. Darren greets her by name.

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