October 3, 2023 Message to the Membership
Posted on October 3, 2023 in Message to the Membership
Last week, in advance of National Truth and Reconciliation Day, the NSBA participated in some excellent programming and events throughout our community to acknowledge National Truth and Reconciliation Day. On Friday, we held our own luncheon, featuring my good friend Milton Tootoosis, the Chief Economic Reconciliation Officer of SREDA.
Milton provided some insightful and historically relevant information to the members in attendance. Among the key takeaways for me was that this is so much more than to just wear an orange shirt one day each year, because it’s so much more than just a day.
Indeed, it’s a lifetime for those who suffered as a result of the trauma and horrors that occurred not only at the residential schools, but for those suffering from the grief and loss that occurred in the communities from which the children were essentially kidnapped. I’m sure like all of you who have children (or now in my case, grandchildren), it makes me shudder to think if that had happened to our family.
In discussing it with friends and family over the weekend, it was so aptly put by one of my peeps in my circle, ‘In what society does it make sense to steal a child from its family?’ Sadly, it made sense to those in positions of power and authority within our society in Canada. For a long, long time.
So, while we cannot do anything about the past – except learn about it and learn from it – we can influence the future. And that’s where the NSBA sees itself in playing a role, through putting on educational sessions such as the one Milton led, as well as bridging connections for the benefit of Indigenous-led and non-Indigenous-led organizations. In other words, a win-win for all involved.
I must admit, the more I learn about cultural relations and the like, the more I realize how little I know. And ironically, I consider myself to be an advocate for this type of activity and learning.
It might surprise many of you to learn I’m not big into reading books (there’s a hint of sarcasm in there as anyone who knows me well knows that it oftentimes takes me months to get through a book). All due respect to my alma mater, the U of S, I think I can thank my English degree for this, as I was forced to read hundreds of books that I had little to no interest in, and that’s kind of tainted me since then.
In another vein, taking public transit from that timeframe has also tainted me from riding the bus as well, with the odd sold-out concert being the exception there. But that’s a story for another day.
Indeed, I digress. I think this book-reading admission of mine speaks to the validity of oral history, which is so much a part of Indigenous culture. I would thrive in that type of environment. Keep the books away and just tell me what I need to know.
As Knowledge Keeper Lyndon Linklater said at the podium at our Business Builder Awards in March, where we celebrated our 50th birthday (not an anniversary)… how many of us in the room knew the words to the song, Happy Birthday? Well, of course we all did. And did we study it in a book somewhere, buy the song sheet from a store, he wondered? Well, no, we hadn’t. It had just been told to us and sang to us by our elders, from one generation to the next. And this, he explained, is exactly how oral history is shared in Indigenous culture.
Sign me up!
This is just one example among so many things that settlers could have adopted from Indigenous people that would have made our world a better place. Thankfully, this realization is starting to become more to the fore, as we all learn more about Indigenous culture, and accept and adopt many of these customs universally.
I think the bottom line here is to keep communicating. Don’t let miscommunication result in non-communication. Or even worse, cause divisiveness in the relationship. That will only lead to more challenges down the road. Solve small problems before they become big problems.
To thrive, we must do more than just co-exist, we must build one another up. Leverage each other’s strengths and create opportunities that did not exist in past generations. The beauty of it is that we have the ability to do just that. So now, it’s just a matter of willingness to do it.
Until next time, be safe, be smart, be considerate, be well, but most of all, be kind.