Indigenous Activist, Author and Educator, Pam Palmater estimates that there are about 100,000 Canadians who are allies to First Peoples. Angela is one of these allies. Her ancestors were among the original Settlers to the West Coast of Canada. Angela is 45, a mother and a teacher who values education, knowledge and the sharing of knowledge.
Angela became aware of the full extent of the evil behavior of the Canadian Government toward First Peoples after the Truth and Reconciliation Report in 2015. She felt the depth of despair that it evoked even more after she began to learn about the duties and obligations of Treaty. The realization that seven generations of her European Settler family had participated in the GENOCIDE of First Peoples through the privilege of living on lands that were under Treaty Agreements never honored by either the Liberal or Conservative governing parties since Federation made her reel with pain and guilt. Her family had reaped benefits from the resources of First People’s lands while their own children had been carried off to residential schools, forced give up their culture and made to suffer sexual and metal abuse in the hands of both church and state. That this abuse went on for seven generations was utterly despicable.
Angela tried to speak to friends and family about what had happened and was ridiculed for her feelings. She soon realized that most Canadians, less than 1% of Canadians, in a country of 30 million, felt the remorse she did or were even remotely concerned about the ongoing policies governing Indigenous issues like child welfare, incarceration and Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. Most Canadians, those who have even begun to think about the big picture of this nation state are therefore, in the early stages of the “7 Stages of Grief”. They are feeling shock and disbelief and it might take them years to move to the next stage. Angela attended a number of Indigenous events in an attempt to learn more about what is expected of her now. She cried most of the time she was in sharing circles. She quickly learnt that White Settler tears are not a good way to deal with the issue of reconciliation as many First Peoples had worked through their own grief and are reconstructing their lives and cultures. She was out of step with their healing process, left behind in the dust of toxic emotions. Angela began to feel very alone. She wondered if she was the only one who felt this way and retreated into a long winter of her soul, working thru anger towards herself, her family and the system. When she emerged, she started to search online for ways to learn more about First Peoples Culture. She recognized that while First People were forced to learn European culture, we know nothing about the cultures of First Peoples. She joined Twitter to stay up to date on current issues that effect First Peoples. She tried to reach out to Indigenous women, activists and leaders but found it hard to begin to build relationships in 140 characters, when surrounded by racist comments made by ignorant Settlers and by trolls whose sole purpose is to sow dissent. With no credibility or support from friends, family, community or nation state how would she prove that she was for real?
Surely there must be a better way. One day she saw a tweet calling for help in the creation this Cultural Commons. The tweet was asking for Settlers to assist with user experience research in creating a commons based on the framework of the Two Row Wampum. Angela signed up to contribute and was joined by other Settlers. To her surprise, she found that they had read many of the same Indigenous Authors and followed the same Indigenous Activists, Leaders and Thinkers on Twitter. Together they wrote blog posts about what they were feeling and learning and identified key words and phrases that emerged in discussions. She started to feel less alone.
One day in the spring of 2019 Angela was sitting at her desk staring out her home office window at the land beyond. She had been on the commons chat, only a moment ago, arguing over the definition and use of the word ALLY vs ACCOMPLICE. Now she pondered as she gazed out: Which one was she? Which one was correct? What did it mean to be an ally? How did it differ from being an accomplice?
As she stared out the window, deep in her thoughts over words and identity she mused about the power of language and how important it is for Settlers and First Peoples to have a shared understanding of the meaning of words that relate to what had happened, to what is happening… Suddenly a Blue Jay appeared on the ground outside the window. As it hopped about, it pecked at a pine cone on the snowy ground. Another appeared and began to do the same. They both seemed to want the same pine cone and soon the seeds contained within began dislodge and scattered on the ground. The two jays dismantled the pine cone, selected a few conifer seeds and flew away. Angela smiled and returned to the task at hand. She peered down into her laptop to see what was happening in the commons chat. No agreement had been reached as to what to best call oneself with respect to defending First Peoples Rights. Someone had asked “Why does it have to be an either or choice? Maybe it can be both/and…” Angela liked the idea of both. She bend her head and replied: “I know it’s complicated, but let’s try to be both. I want to be an Ally who is as complicit as an Accomplice. In finding ways to repay the Collective Karmic Debt owed to First Peoples we are bound to disrupt the status quo. That will seem like a crime to many cuz the cultural clash between First Peoples and Settlers that occurred at first contact has yet to play out fully. We need to find a balance between the Resilience of First Peoples and the Efficiency of Settlers, between Feminine and Masculine forces, between the Diversity of the Matriarch and the Mono Culture of the Patriarch.”
Angela thinks hard. This commons gives her a place to share her thoughts and connect with like minds. She is an Ally because she is committed to working with other Settlers in co creating this commons. One day we hope First Peoples will join us to establish the rules of governance for this commons and to share and educate us as they see fit while being compensated with our Caring Currency. While many First Peoples, have expressed an interest this commons, the process will take time. First, We Settlers need to create something that proceeds the old school economic thinking that arises from out dated Government policies. In the meantime, Angela is helping herself and others by sharing and engaging. Knowing that there are other Setters and Immigrants across Canada and the United States who feel the same way and care enough to participate in this commons has given her hope. While she will never be the same as she was before she learnt the Truth about the full extent of the genocidal crimes committed by the Canadian government against First Peoples she has accepted that she can make a difference in balancing the scales of social justice.
IF you are like Angela or if you are a ‘woke” Settler who wants to support this commons please join us! There is much work to be done.