One morning last week, I felt compelled to look for an necklace from my childhood that I still have. It’s a piece of Aboriginal jewellery–a yellow, red, and blue beaded necklace. I found it and put it on. I wore it all day and thought about Idle No More, First Nations communities, and Nicole Robertson. This evening I heard on CBC Radio that Chief Theresa Spence will end her hunger strike, and has signed a 13-point declaration. See this breaking news story here.
In November and December, I had the honour and privilege of interviewing Nicole Robertson for my upcoming book about women entrepreneurs. Like the other books in the Women’s Hall of Fame series by Second Story Press — two others of which I’ve written — this new title will feature profiles of ten women who are excellent role models for children, especially girls. The series targets children ages 9 to 13.) Nicole is a Media Specialist and President of Muskwa Productions & Consulting in Calgary, Alberta. She’s a Rocky Cree from Sandy Bay in north-eastern Saskatchewan, but she now resides at the Tsuu T’Ina [soot-tenna] Nation, just outside Calgary.
Nicole is devoted to spreading good news stories about Aboriginal peoples. She is well connected with the media and this puts her in a great position to notify mainstream media about positive and inspiring stories about indigenous people. She also makes videos that educate non-Aboriginals about First Nations culture. I just love this whole idea of being a messenger of good news stories for the media. What a welcome change!
In the last six weeks, the Idle No More movement and Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike have brought Aboriginal issues into the spotlight. Concerns about poverty and the destruction of the environment are central in the movement. When I visited the remote Inuit community of Nain, Labrador, two years ago, I felt like I was in a far-away foreign country. The living conditions were closer to developing countries than they were to what I previously associated with Canadian communities. There was tremendous beauty in the land and most Aboriginal people feel this connection strongly. It’s part of their culture and something they revere.
What’s clear to me is that something HAS to change. It is not right that a disproportionate number of Aboriginal people live in poverty. How can we turn our backs to this and pretend it’s not our problem?
I think non-Aboriginals have much to learn from indigenous people. Consider the value in inviting a full-of-attitude tween to sit quietly with an elder in the community, listening to stories that the elder chooses to share, or meditating silently. This deep respect for elders is lacking in non-Aboriginal culture, and we are missing out! Our elders possess great wisdom, gained from years of living and experiencing life. Young people can learn a lot from the elders in our society, and yes, we can learn a lot from young people, too.
Let’s stop the racism and embrace the positive changes that are underway, at last.
You can read more about Nicole Robertson and other fantastic women in my fall 2013 book, Enterprising Women Entrepreneurs (working title).