RE-CANOE-FIGURATION

RE-CANOE-FIGURATION

re·con·fig·u·ra·tion.

[ˌrēkənˌfiɡyəˈrāSHən]

NOUN

the arrangement of parts or elements in a different form, figure, or combination

From the Anishinaube Thesaurus by Basil Johnston:

“Our word for truth or correctness or any of its synonyms is w’dae’b’wae, meaning “he or she is telling the truth, is right, is correct, is accurate.” From its composition—the prefix dae, which means “as far as, in as much as, according to,” and the root wae, a contraction of waewae, referring to sound—emerges the second meaning, which gives the sense of a person casting his or her knowledge as far as he or she can. By implication, the person whom is said to be dae’b’wae is acknowledged to be telling what he or she knows only in so far as he or she has perceived what he or she is reporting, and only according to his or her command of the language. In other words, the speaker is exercising the highest degree of accuracy possible given what he or she knows. In the third sense, the term conveys the philosophic notion that there is no such thing as absolute truth.”

So maybe we should think about ‘our truth’….that we should try exercising the highest degree of accuracy possible given what we know….but remember that others may have their own truths too.

Having said that, Native people have their own truths….their own story….that only they should tell. Just like any others have their own truths….their own stories to tell. So Native culture or traditions or teachings are best provided by Native people. Native people should be leading their ceremonies….teach about their history….telling their story through their music and dance. Just as others should. We can sit at the same table together….but we must find a way to hear each others’ truths too. Told in the original first person narrative. We should hear each others’ truth from an original source.

This is very applicable to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Will truth bring reconciliation? Justice Murray Sinclair says not without education. The TRC recommends the history of residential schools be added to all education material so that future generations know the story. Justice Murray Sinclair said: “But in addition to that, the way that schools treat indigenous history also needs to be re-evaluated and rethought and recast.”

The beginning of history for Canadian students generally begins with the arrival of Europeans. “There’s no history taught about the period before 1492 and that’s crazy because there’s a whole rich history there that we should be talking about,” says Justice Murray Sinclair.

“We have all been taught to believe in aboriginal inferiority and European superiority and that’s wrong.”- Justice Murray Sinclair

Reconciliation is not just about saying one is sorry….or one can forgive….it requires more than just words….it is about taking action. It is not up to Indigenous Canadians to figure out how to make reconciliation work….time and time again Indigenous Canadians have gone to the non-Natives….now is the time for non-Natives to come to Indigenous peoples….it’s time….the conversation is needed now. But on Indigenous terms. Don’t expect Indigenous people to ‘get over it’….or even jump up and down when their traditional territories are finally acknowkledged in the schools. It’s about time actually. Reconciliation should be tied to the land that Indigenous peoples are connected. This is a time for a climate change of a different matter….a change in the climate of thought….of approach….of behaviour….and maybe now is the time….as we are now in a new climate of change.

The Two Row Wampum speaks of friendship, respect and peace. The belt is fashioned with two rows of purple wampum (traditional shell beads) alternating with three rows of white. The white wampum represent peace, friendship and respect while the purple ones depict the paths of two vessels traveling together on the river of life. One vessel, a birch bark canoe, is for the Indigenous people and their customs and laws and the other, a sailing ship, is for the European settlers and their customs and laws. The pact promised that each would travel the river together but in separate boats, parallel but never touching, pledging that “neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.” That the ends remain unfinished is representative of the fact that the stories of both peoples have both a long history and a future that is still being written. Their stories intertwine like the tassels of the belt and like the waters of the river. They will continue on down this river together in peace and friendship as long as the grass is green, the water flows, and the sun rises in the east.

The canoe increased our reach to shape the Canada we know today, carrying many to otherwise inaccessible landscapes. The canoe was a gift from First Nations to the immigrants from distant lands who used inadequate modes of transport, reflective of a different worldview. It was a gift that allowed the newcomers to flourish and grow. Most certainly, the canoe played a pivotal role in our collective past but it also has a significant role to play in our future.

The canoe worked with our geography to navigate waterways that connected people for trading and sharing. The shapes and patterns of each craft reflected individual personality, local culture and various functions, but often sharing the same general principles of design and construction. The canoe epitomized balance, strength, beauty, function and adaptability. It was built from various gifts of Mother Earth, shaped from the bounty of our wilderness, its design handed down through the generations, infused with spirit and responsible connections to a sustainable environment.

Today the canoe continues to teach us. It offers us an opportunity to understand and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of First Nations peoples. These contributions have long been absent from our historical narratives. It invites authentic questions and encourages connected thinking in a variety of different ways. It can serve as a catalyst for a transdisciplinary, holistic approach that can offer meaning and insight into the values and worldviews of the people who created it. It provides opportunities to learn about each other.

We need to refloat or right the canoe that is Canada, especially as we work towards reconciliation. This is both hope and challenge for us; what we strive towards as real possibility for a shared future; to remind Canadians that we’re all in the same canoe and that to make this country work we should all be paddling together.

We can learn a lot from paddling a canoe. The canoe can be a means to understanding much more about both Native and non-Native peoples. Especially about our shared histories. And where we can go from here.

AND we should never forget that the canoe also ties us to the land….to the water….AND that WATER IS LIFE!!!!

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