I recently had the honour and privilege of a podcast conversation with First Nations Chief, Author, Recipient of the Order of Canada, and Survivor of St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany, Dr. EDMUND METATAWABIN and his family.
I have been reflecting on the lessons I learned during our conversation. I would like to share them with you.
We must fully open our eyes and ears to the abusive history of mistreatment, oppression and inequality towards the Indigenous peoples of this country.
This history continues today and is found in many forms including the way we ignore their needs and their right to self-govern and live as a prosperous and thriving people.
We cannot ask them to forgive until we have listened to the whole story, to understand them, their way of life, culture and traditions and their history, good and bad.
The message is clear that we must engage in thoughtful, honourable dialogue if together we will improve their quality of life in Canada.
There is still a very long way to go.
We could learn so much from the ways of First Nations’ people, to teach us how to better steward the land we live on, our water, rivers and habitat and how to honour and respect a culture and a people different from our own.
The Indigenous worldview is based on the interconnectivity between people and nature; health and happiness is achieved by living a life in balance with nature.
The colonisers wanted to obliterate … stealing land, kidnapping the children and outlawing the sacred ceremonies.
We must look back to the traditional ways to find a new way forward.
Edmund is very concerned about our younger society, our children. His cultural ways are fading away and he is desperately trying to find ways to retain them.
Edmund and his family’s reciprocal relationships with nature permeates every aspect of life from spirituality to making a living.
This has led to a different way of seeing the world. It is a part of their being, dynamic, significant, and real.
Below are a series of quotes from the conversation with Edmund and his family that will stay with me forever.
- ‘The government is not there to protect all members of the country … just certain members of the country who are recognizable, understood, and acceptable … the way a community is supposed to look.’
- ‘Reconciliation means to me that they have not finished what they started in getting rid of the Indian problem. The Indigenous people are still in the way.’
- ‘The government, the businesses, and the churches have all been implicated. Everybody was part of the same plan.’
- ‘There is a way of protecting the abuser within the church … it’s understood.’
- ‘When you sexually abuse a child, that child becomes evidence that the adult wants to get rid of. Today we are finding the evidence. Someone tried to hide the evidence a long time ago.’
- ‘What I am fighting for is my grandchildren to understand the condition of the world. And, I want them to understand their history.’
- ‘All the things we do is for those who are not yet born- this is the philosophy of Turtle Island.’
- ‘We have gone through this suffering and we have become stronger.’
Thank you Edmund, Terry, and Braiden Metatawabin, and Daanis McDonald for teaching me so much. You have changed my life forever!