Posts tagged ‘aboriginal’

April 6, 2014

Art is not just in us, it is us

An excellent quote from Sarain Stump, a Shoshone-Cree poet and artist from Wyoming, later co-ordinator of the Indian art program at the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College:

Art is us, with our frustrations and hopes, with all of our good and bad feelings. Through art, we can make ourselves clearly understood beyond the barriers of time and space . . . beyond the inhibitions of language. Our art is us as Indian people and its rebirth will be one of the major forces for our people’s rebirth.

Whether we are of First Nations decent or otherwise, our art is our own unique form of expression. It gives us strength and confidence in who we are. It enables us to explore the roots of our being, our culture, our history, and to share those discoveries with the world. And it provides us with a safe outlet for expressing and releasing long-held emotions and experiences, and therefore serves an important healing function.

For these reasons and more, art deserves a place in our lives.

Your art is an essential part of who you are. Please let it shine.

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September 8, 2013

How do you treat your home?

I like this quote from canoeist Bill Mason’s documentary Song of the Paddle, produced in 1978 by the National Film Board of Canada:

Wilderness . . . is a white man’s concept. To the native peoples, the land was not wild, it was home.

 

April 29, 2013

Observed on the street: A circle of life, turning, turning

I came across this beautiful rendition of the aboriginal medicine wheel (also called the wheel of life or the sacred hoop) on the outer wall of my local/district community arts council building:

wheel_of_life

 

I love the grounding stones at centre; the depiction of the cycles of nature, the seasons, the sun; the symbolism of birth, growth, death and rebirth — of life itself.  I love how the prints of humans and animals exist together in the soil, intermingled with the roots of the trees, connected to both the seeds of life and the earth to which all living things eventually return.  I love how each component of the circle relies on every other for balance, for continuity, for solidity, for completeness.

We are all one, forever united in the loop of this enduring narrative.  We share the same history; we share the same future.  Let’s take care of one another the best we can.  Peace.

November 25, 2012

Kuleana: where talent and trajectory (responsibly) meet

I’m always interested in notions about personal destiny and life purpose, and recently I came across a new (to me) branch in this tree of ideas:  the Hawaiian concept of kuleana.  Broadly defined as “responsibility,” kuleana is understood to include a deep accountability to several interconnected realms:  self, family, community, earth, etc.

I discovered the concept in the pages of Terrie M. Williams’ book The Odyssey of KP2:  An Orphan Seal, a Marine Biologist, and the Fight to Save a Species.  She writes:

Kuleana is a Hawaiian word that has no direct translation into English.  It describes the sense of ancestral-based responsibility that often comes with a unique undertaking or experience.  It is destiny with a DNA underpinning coupled with a realization that you are doing what you were meant to do in this life, the harmonization of talent and trajectory.

In my experience, the happiest individuals are those who have discovered their kuleana.  Such individuals weather hardships, challenges and sacrifices not as obstacles or excuses for failure but as a natural part of life’s adventures.  The entire odyssey called life is a joy.

A beautiful concept — and one that gently encourages us to think and act beyond our own small spheres of perceived influence.  There is so much more out there, all around us, and we are accountable to it (all of it) by simple virtue of the fact that we are, at root, a creation of it.

I also find it noteworthy that kuleana has no direct translation into English.  The concept — with its interconnectedness and wide-ranging responsibility — certainly exists within other indigenous cultures, but it is much less prevalent within “modern” white societies, which tend to be driven more by personal gain than by personal responsibility.  If there were words in English to describe kuleana, would our motivations be different? How can we create the words to fill that gap?

I hope you find your kuleana.  May your life’s journey be an odyssey of joy.

November 8, 2012

Aboriginal businesses shine in B.C.

Congratulations to the 2012 British Columbia Aboriginal Business Award recipients, announced yesterday:

  • Shelley Stewart, SRS Trucking Ltd. (Merritt) – Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Toolcomm Technology Inc. (North Vancouver) – Business of the Year, One- to Two-Person Enterprise
  • Braker Electric Ltd. (Port Alberni) – Business of the Year, Two- to Ten-Person Enterprise
  • Taba Enterprises Ltd. (Fort St. James) – Business of the Year, Ten or More Person Enterprise
  • Duz Cho Logging Ltd. (Mackenzie) – Community-Owned Business of the Year
  • Coast Salish Development Corporation (Ladysmith) – Joint Venture Business of the Year
  • Chief Councillor Garry Reece, Lax Kw’alaams Band (Port Simpson) – Individual Achievement

Congratulations as well to all the Outstanding Achievement runners-up in each category.
View a full list of the 2012 award recipients.

The B.C. Aboriginal Business Awards recognize the accomplishments and economic contributions of B.C.’s Aboriginal business sector.  The awards are presented by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation.  Recipients are selected by an independent panel of judges representing Aboriginal business in B.C., with judging is based on criteria such as business viability, sustainability and competitiveness.

Read more about the B.C. Aboriginal Business Awards.

November 2, 2012

Children. . . . The future of our past

My children are the future of my past.

These words come from Alyce Johnson, a professor of First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia and a member of the Kluane First Nation in Yukon.  She shared them yesterday as she led a group of six women on a “trail talk” along the trails of Forests for the World, a park and demonstration forest in Prince George, B.C.

Alyce spoke to our small group, of which I was a member, about how trails — whether “natural” or “man-made” — carry knowledge of people, landscapes and traditions, and help define languages, narratives and, ultimately, world views.

To me, Alyce’s words drive home the importance of immersing our children in the stories, protocols and traditions of our families, our people, our communities, our earth.  The past (and our cultural histories) cannot be integrated into the future unless carried there by our young ones.  We must therefore equip our children well for the task.

I also love this beautiful quote from a handout Alyce provided during the walk:

I am a map of a storied world expressed from a language that the earth remembers and a people speak.

The Earth remembers, a people speak, and we are one.

(The “Trail Talk” I attended was one of a series organized by the University of Northern British Columbia’s Northern Research Group.)

July 18, 2012

Words from Shawn Atleo

Collected quotations from Shawn Atleo, who was today re-elected for a second term as national chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada:

On education:

First Nations youth are the youngest and fastest-growing segment of our population. Their share of the labour force will triple over the next 20 years.  First Nations youth who complete high school are twice as likely to be employed, and those who get university degrees triple their earning potential.  Increasing their graduation rates to match those of other Canadians [40 per cent of First Nations youth graduate from high school, compared to 80 per cent of non-First-Nations youth] would inject an additional $71 billion into Canada’s economy over the next 10 years.  This would help eliminate the employment gap, adding another $160 billion to the economy over a 10-year period.

Investing in First Nations is a long-term, sustainable stimulus plan for Canada’s economy.  And yet our learners languish.  First Nations children receive $2,000 less per year than non-aboriginal students.  Schools lack libraries, computers, even heat and drinking water.  Some of our communities lack permanent schools. Simple fairness dictates that we address this intolerable inequity.

When we open a door to a school, we close a door to a jail cell.

On resource development: 

First Nations can and must have a say in designing more sustainable resource development within our country and in our territories. . . . Together, we must plan what a sustainable future looks like.

On awareness and working together:  

Learning is all about . . . listening for understanding [and for] what each each others’ perspectives are.  Somehow we [in Canada] strayed, and it’s time to return to that sentiment.

The consciousness of [First Nations’] history is starting to become well known.  There’s a real sense of resilience.  We have come through a most unbelievably challenging time where most of Canada has not understood.  Now we are welcoming [Canadians] into this conversation.

Let us turn the page to a new chapter, together.

June 20, 2012

How can you help “Corriger le tableau” / “Clean the slate” ?

This short film is incredibly powerful — it speaks volumes about stereotypes, prejudices and self-esteem among First Nations youth in Canada, and it raises important questions about what we (as non-Native Canadians) can do to help “clean the slate” and provide these youth with the level playing field they need for their self-confidence to grow and their dreams to truly take flight.

(Note:  The film was created by First Nations youth from the community of Manawan, Quebec, and Wapikoni Mobile, a non-profit organization dedicated to brining audiovisual skills and a voice to First Nations youth in isolated communities.  I was fortunate enough to see the film as part the Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival, which runs this week in Ottawa, Canada.)

 

 

More information:  http://wapikoni.tv/medias/fiche/movie/706

[Film summary for non-French speakers:  First Nations youth write on the chalkboard stereotypes and derogatory comments they encounter in their lives — things like “Go back to the reserve,” “Savage,” “Cigarette smuggler,” “Poor,” “Druggie,” “I wear feathers,” “Don’t pay taxes,” “Lazy,” etc.  Then, they erase these words and write descriptions of who they really are:  “I am fine,” “I will be an airplane pilot,” “Love sports,” “Generous,” “Love music,” “Good at school,” “Passionate about hockey,” “Cook well,” “Make everyone laugh,” “Proud to be who I am.”  The title “Corriger le tableau” means “Clean the slate.”]