Have you ever said something and then later reflected on it and thought, "What was I thinking?" Since we are speaking truthfully feel free to admit it. No judgment here. In fact, I had that experience recently and it prompted me to start down a path that has been both enlightening and surprising. I'm going to warn you this email may be a bit longer than my normal email. I'll do my best to keep it succinct.
At the end of August I went to see a documentary about Wendell Berry, the American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. (Side note: reread that last line if you have ever felt like you can't narrow your work down to 'one thing'.) If you are interested in knowing more about Wendell Berry watch the trailer for the documentary here:
I wasn't well acquainted with one of of the women I drove to the movie theatre with that evening. I have been following her on Instagram for a few years and I was curious about her life and work. We started talking about her work experience with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. And then I opened my mouth and said, "I think a lot of people feel the way I do. I feel genuinely remorseful for the way the Indigenous Peoples have been treated but I am not sure how I am supposed to respond. So much has happened and it seems like there is very little I can do at this stage to change the past."
I don't remember what the response was to my comment. What I do know is I went home and replayed my words in my mind. I recalled a saying we had when I did my MA in Leadership program, "What would a leader do?" And I challenged myself to act like a leader in this situation. So, I started doing some research and within a very short time, I realized that there was a lot I could do. I could write pages (and I probably will over the next little while) about what I am learning. I started a project (and yes, I have a new journal dedicated to it!) based on a document titled 150 Acts of Reconciliation for Canada's 150th. You can download a copy here
In the first month of this project I have worked through about 30 of the Acts of Reconciliation and I have become far more aware that there is a lot than I can do. Today, I read the news about the federal government's decision to give Sixties Scoop adoptees financial compensation. I only really took time to read and learn about the Sixties Scoop earlier this year. Why? This atrocity was happening while I was growing up. Some of the victims are the same age as me. I'm not blaming anyone. I'm taking responsibility for my own ignorance. What concerns me is how easy it has been for me to carry on my life without too much thought about the history of this country.
I recently read The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir. It is a heartbreaking story. Sadly, an story shared by close to 150,000 children.
I just started reading Life Among the Qallunaat . I'm determined to educate myself about the history of the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. And as my eyes have been opened I have started to make connections in my community with people who are further along on this journey than I am. It has almost felt fated that the week I started this journal I connected with a woman who has spent much of her life on this road of reconciliation. It is like that saying, 'when the student is ready the teacher will appear.'
So on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful to discover that there are things I can do beginning with thinking about Indigenous-settler relationships in new ways. That's what a leader would do.