October 5, 2007

Taking Care Of Our Own

In our nations, our most vital resource is being threatened. The resource the determines who we are 20 - 30 - 100 years from now. What we as parents, uncles, aunties, grandmothers, grandfathers have a responsibility to instill our teachings, guidance, and identity in. This resource has a history of attacks, from Residential Schools to the 60's Scoop, to modern day government services. This wealth needs urgent action, as citizens in our nations, to act in responsibility to our nation. We must be the ones who take care of our children, the wealth of our nation.

The tactics of assimilation on our children go back to the first incursion; residential school. Beginning in 1885 with the pass of the Indian Act, the Church and Federal government worked to bring down our nations. It was a move to assimilate the children into good Christian Aboriginal Canadians. A whole new generation of indians that did not know their language, their culture, their identity. Mixed with severe racism, pedophilia, and physical abuse, it lead to decay almost all social foundations in our villages. Family ties, personal wellness, spiritual connection, governance, all began to fall crumble. This lead to a serious effect of family bond being broken and multiple social problems all related in someway. It reigned in our lands for almost 100 years. Residential Schools were by far the strongest attack on indigenous in this land.

The next wave of assimilation wasn't taking the Indian out of the child, but making sure the "Indian" just never existed at all. It began a wave of child snatching by the Provincial government. In the name of "helping", and "protecting", thousands of children were abducted, and purposely placed in non-Indigenous homes, mostly White. In many cases, these children would be removed hundreds of kilometers from their native home. The tactic moved into raising these children with good wholesome Euro-Canadian values in White homes. With no connection to their homes, their people, their identity, these would have to battle their way back into their homes, through racism, prejudice and own self-hatred for being something they could never change. This was a massive blow because now we have a generation of adults who are returned to their communities and knew little or nothing about their nation. Another strike in assimilation and colonization.

Right now in 2007 another similar patriarchal attack is being made on our children. With more children in Provincial care then the 60's Scoop and Residential School combined, we are leading to a massive group of indigenous children, more then before, who again will be assimilated and even less connected to their nations. It will lead to majority of our indigenous people being assimilated and colonized, with a weaker link to their homeland. Without a people connection to their culture, their land, their title, it leads to a strong case of land theft, infringement of indigenous rights, and a death to indigenous cultures. This issue of Child and Family Services isn't in the past, it's right now.

At a recent gathering I attended, the issue of taking care of our children was in discussion. It was largely uninspiring, with the overshadow of Ministry folk, and Social Workers, and even less community members present, it became a mind boggling frenzy of, "Who is this event really for?". It began as an opening to understanding the issues about the social degradation in our nations, cooped with the historical trauma of residential school, it turned into "Let's educate the Social Works?". It a mix of storytelling by a number of our elders, a victim of the 60's scoop and a presentation by the Ministry on the standing of Child Care with indigenous children. By the end of the day, most of my people had already left.

The conference continued on for another day, and another 3 day conference/retreat is set for November. The second part of this initiative to "train and educate" the social works in Skwxwu7mesh "culture, values, and traditions".

I choose not to attend the second day because I could expect similar occurrences in the meetings.

What become the spiritless initiative has become commonplace in Skwxwu7mesh projects to tackle this difficult issues. Foremost, these issues need to be worked on by Skwxwu7mesh with Skwxwu7mesh. Not with the Ministry watching over, guiding us, letting us, or even present. It's about respecting our sovereignty with our children. The second is the removal of "consultants", and "speeches" by whom ever. Any liberation, of ourselves, or our children needs dialogue. The capacity already exists to re-ignite our laws in our land. There were no victims of this oppressive system present to contribute to the dialogue, nor was there enough citizens to also contribute.

Taking care of our children is a responsibility we all must take up.

A good friend has been working on Vancouver Island with the Vancouver Island Aboriginal Transitional Team facilitating in community dialogue. They've largely created a unique and powerful way for everyones uniqueness to be apart of the solutions. He says on his blog:

The idea of “consultation” with community stakeholders is dead. This process is about inviting community members to take ownership over the structures and institutions that affect their lives. Instead of a one-way flow of advice from the community to VIATT, the new model is a gift exchange between cousins, relationships between family members who are putting children in the centre and looking after each other. As such there is expertise, care and ownership everywhere in the system and so we all must actively become “Teacher-Learners.”

Words like "cultural" and "traditions" are thrown around so much, it's become meaningless in it's action. With a pattern to place the child at the center, and to have to the community take the responsibility on this on, it will lead to a strong circle (read nation) in a holistic way. It's of the utmost importance to remember communities are organisms, not machines. You cannot take on piece of the community, say it be a problem, replace it with a supposedly better piece, then assume the whole apparatus will work smoothy.

Like an organism, all things must be considered and worked on collaboratively. In this case, childcare can be replaced with a better most indigenous and decolonized system, but what about when these children have to face school? Or the rampant cultural elitism that rejects them from being apart of their powerful culture and being raised with a Skwxwu7mesh identity.

The tool my friend has employed in this is Open Space Technologies. An open dialogue where the circle is the source of solutions. Where individuals are placed with the freedom and responsibility to be apart of the sessions in looking at the problem, and finding a solution. Where the facilitator only acts in a capacity to open the space, and let others fill it.

With the work on Vancouver Island through Open Space, it has created a holistic approach to working on this subject. Individual and community diversity is respected from the beginning and includes discussion from all backgrounds and knowledge. Unlike the "stand up and present" scenario which plagues these types of conferences or gatherings, no one is monologuing to anyone.

With those long drawn our monologues, it rejects my knowledge or backgrounds. Why? Because she or he is the knowledge carrier, and I'm the knowledge receiver. They know everything, I know nothing. What ever knowledge I do carry is pointless while they are attempting to instill some facts and knowledge in me. It's the same oppressive way of learning the schools use.

Education, child care, identity, land, and many other issues that all have a part of being indigenous, it takes a quick look to see how they are related. Our children with how they get an education, and if our children don't have an education of their identity, our land is not taken care of, and it goes on from there. It is an emergency issue that needs citizens or villagers in our community to take up strength, find out the issue, and organize in a way that inspires to create solutions, and not a step nowhere for an oppressed people who have little hope.

Our children are our greatest resource, and what are we going to do to protect that resource?


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