Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Last week, there was a bit of a hoopla in Canadian media .. well, more than a hoopla … it was a nation-wide, collective gasp and head shake followed by a firestorm of tweets and social media posts. I usually hesitate to weigh in on a subject when the point is so obvious but this time I've got to say something!

The dust-up in question came after a Canadian senator, Lynn Beyak, made a speech during a committee meeting on the over representation of indigenous women in the Canadian prison system. Beyak's speech avoided the committee topic entirely and instead focused on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report on residential schools. Her argument was that the report focused too much on the negative aspects of the schools and did not give enough credit to the good that also occurred during the schools' more than 100 year history. She expressed concern that all of the media coverage on the negative aspects of the schools is hurtful and damaging to the families and descendants of the teachers and caregivers of the schools.

Inhale, Nic. Exhale slowly. Just breathe.

When I first read the news reports I went through the stages of grief in rapid succession and looped back around to settle on anger. No that's not what she said, the media must be misquoting her. WTF she actually said THOSE WORDS! God please, please somehow make this not true. Really, I'd do anything to not have this white, privileged female representative of the canadian government say or even think these things! What a setback for reconciliation. How could she use her platform, abuse her platform, like this .. its heart breaking. Okay, if Senator Sinclair can respond with dignity and respect then so can I. So can I …. nope I can't FREAKING believe she said those things OUT LOUD during a recorded committee meeting! I seriously, can't even!!!

So, all those words happened in my brain in a matter of seconds and for the past week I have been stewing and mourning over this. I have no clarity on this situation and there is no excuse. I was shocked  by this senator's words and perspective. So absolutely shocked that in this day and age, in this time of knowing in our country that someone in a position of national leadership could think and say such things.

 I was deeply shocked until I looked to my indigenous friends to see their response. They were not shocked. They were angry, outraged and disappointed but not shocked. I realized quickly that they are past the point of being shocked when it comes to hearing from white people on indigenous issues. in fact, I believe they, as a community, are entirely unshockable. Here's why …

They have heard and seen it all. They still hear and see it all. Regularly. They know about lies and betrayal at the hands of the government. They have had land taken and taken and taken again. They have had their resources and industry removed, destroyed and contaminated over and over again. They have been called every filthy, degrading name you can imagine. They have been stereo-typed and victimized for generations. They have had their children stolen, their culture decimated and their families dismantled. And they have been blamed for all of it. This is why my indigenous sisters and brothers are not shocked when a white women speaks against them and elevates white woes above their own systematic oppression. This is why they are unshockable.

Don't mistake the lack of shock for the absence of heartbreak.

Generations feel the after effects of the abuse and violence that our People have suffered. We still see the despair that accompanies the cycle of addiction and abuse that began decades before we were born. We still hear the socially acceptable racist statements against our families whispered around dinner tables and shouted from political platforms. We still feel the heart ache and shame from mothers and fathers who were powerless to protect their children. We still bear the scars of the children who were abused, neglected and murdered in the name of God and country.

This is why we feel heartache and not shock. But we also feel hope because we see what you refuse to see. We see our people rising.

Women from across North America
 stand side by side after a Blanket Ceremony.
We see survivors returning to their people, returning to their culture. We see elders reaching back into their memories to teach the young ones language and art and survival and worship. We see the young learning … learning the Indian way and the white way. We see them merging the two with the focus of advocating and elevating and educating. We see the women rise up and say no more to violence and degradation. We see the men rise up as allies and assets. We see families reconcile and rebuild. We see a future that is stronger than our past. We see more than who we were, who we were told to be.

We see ourselves as we should be, as who were were created to be. Whole. Strong. Brave. Free.

I started this post with the intention of giving that senator a piece of my mind but as I wrote I realized this isn't about her. It can't be. She doesn't matter, not really. Her views are a symptom of something that outrage alone won't fix. Only time and hope and honesty and doing can change views like that. My focus cannot, and should not, be on changing small minds. My focus has to be on elevating great hearts, on amplifying courage and celebrating those who continue to rise.

I am a storyteller. That's where my heart is. That is what I'm good at. So that's what I'll do.

If you have a story, have heard a story or know a person with a story of rising, of reconciliation, of small acts of love and justice please comment or email me. I'd love to use this platform to celebrate those who are doing the everyday, good work of healing and rising above. Thos are the stories that we should share because they bring hope and courage to hearts that are looking for their rise-up moment, too.

"I really don't care if you feel responsible for the past. The real question is do you feel a sense of responsibility for the future because that's what this is all about."
~Senator Murray Sinclair

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