I found myself feeling conflicted over the past few days.
On Friday and Saturday, I took part in Indspire’s National Gathering for Indigenous Educators at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I was one of the presenters at this Gathering (I co-presented on The Canoe As A Teaching Tool).
Constant reference was made at the opening ceremony….breakfasts and luncheons….of the partners and sponsors of Indspire….and how great such organizations were. Companies like Suncor….Shell….Imperial. Natural resource based companies. Friday’s schedule was sponsored by TD. Bharat Masrani, Group President and Chief Executive Officer, TD Bank Group spoke at Fridays luncheon, expounding how great TD supports Indigenous education….how TD supports Indigenous communities ( a booklet was left on each chair at the luncheon, before we even got there, on TD and Indigenous Communities in Canada). Similar statements were made from high profile reprsentatives of funders like Suncor and Shell. Each was usually with introduced with great fanfare….great praise of how wonderful each is.
I found myself squirming in my seat uncomfortably….even thinking to myself that I was giving in….becoming like the deer caught in the headlights….won over by shiny trinkets like good food….and a complimentary room in the Royal York. I wasn’t even sure I could make the March in Support Of Standing Rock held yesterday in Toronto….due to a ‘time conflict’.
Don’t get me wrong….I think Indspire does great work….that the National Gathering for Indigenous Educators was a great opportunity to meet and learn from others….share with and bring awareness to others. And even my discomfort with Indspire’s funders led to discussion with others sitting at the same table at meals….and many didn’t know TD’s role in the pipleline that was behind the Standing Rock protest. Murray Sinclair and Lorne Cardinal were both insighful in their respective keynote speeches. SO not all was bad with the Indspire National Gathering.
BUT after the National Gathering ended, I rushed home, changed quickly and made it down in time to take part in the March in Support of Standing Rock. Literally 1000s of people gathering to support not only Standing Rock, but Mother Earth. I don’t see myself as an activist….not a protestor….but as a protector….a land defender. I was proud to see the turn out at the March. The positive energy that was part of the March. The support provided to Standing Rock….and Mother Earth. The love given to Standing Rock….to Mother Earth.
This morning I found an email with a survey from Indspire about what I thought of the National Gathering for Indigenous Educators. Often I don’t take the time to answer such surveys….too much bother I guess. BUT this time I had some comments I felt needed to be made….and hopefully heard.
I expressed concern over the decision of the Royal York Hotel as a venue….when even doing a simple smudge indoors was not allowed. To me this just added to a feeling of being caught up in a colonization process.
I expressed my concerns over Indspire’s funders and sponsors. How Canada, one of the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destruction in its wake. That Canadians are too often driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. How when the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, we will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that we can’t eat money.
That Indspire could take a true leadership role by divesting itself of such funders….of such interests. That none of such interests is doing any real favours to Indigenous people….or non-Indigenous people either. And such interests do not need to be puffed up or praised for doing good deeds when in reality they are adding to the rape and exploitation of Mother Earth. Money from such interests is tainted….and often only given so the donor can look good.
I also decided I couldn’t support Indspire, in good conscience, as long as Indspire was involved with such interests. That I would not take part in….or support….or even recommend future National Gatherings for Indigenous Educators….as long as such interests were involved.
That is what I said in the survey I sent back. I might not be that important a participant….BUT I have a voice….and I can make myself heard if I choose to. And if enough voices say the same thing who knows what can be accomplished….maybe real change. SO I hope all of the voices that were part of the March in Support of Standing Rock are heard….and that Indspire hears my single voice (especially if I am all that speaks out….although I am sure I’m not).
I know you have to walk your walk….not just talk the talk. I am proud to have taken part in the March yesterday….and that I let Indspire know exactly how I felt.
Everyone has a voice….and should be heard….no matter how insignificant….or significant….and we are all significant. If we believe in something enough….if something is important enough….then we should speak out. We should make ourselves heard.
Mother Earth is significant….to all of us.
The protection of Mother Earth….of the land….of the water….and everything else that Mother Earth is made up of….because as Indigenous people know everything in this world is connected….including us humans….and as such Mother Earth is worth protecting. She is our home. Without her, we cannot survive. We need to protect her….defend her.
SO until Indspire changes its ways of being funded and sponsored I cannot support….or take part in anything pertaining to….such an organization. Any more than I can with TD. Or any ‘natural resource based’ companies (which is really a misnomer….there is nothing truly naturally based or even resource based about such companies….they are based on greed and profit….at the expense of Mother Earth).
Because truly the natural resources of Mother Earth are gifts from the Creator….the beauty of the wild places….the bounty of the land and the waters that so many (especially Indigenous) peoples need to subsist….all we know really is a result of all that Mother Earth and Creation has to offer. Without connections to the land there is no language and no culture. And to have any such connection to the land….to the water….we need to have healthy land and water to connect with.
And it is time to get back to the Original Instructions….to live in a good way….to lead a good life….with love and respect for all things in Creation….even each other.
Paddles up until later.
Miigwech for listening to my rant.
Mike (W’ dae b’ wae)
Thank-you. Your essay/comment is thought-provoking and inspiring. I didn’t stay at the RY, and was caught up in my life outside of the conference events. Usually, I notice and view such sponsorship with a critical eye. I appreciate the nudge to reflect on this particular event in a way that I should have earlier.
Thank you for this article. It very much makes me think about even myself as an individual supporting such organizations, I’ve banked with TD for a few years and will definitely not be using them in the future. Thank you also for using your opportunity to use your voice and probably shed some knowledge and a chance for Indspire to re-think who they do business with and get funds from.