Thursday, June 2, 2011

You are Safe Here (CCELD Day 5)

I have been telling everyone here how I never understood the term breathtaking until I came here, and saw the beauty of the land...that literally took my breath away. And the thing that is really crazy, is th spirit and hospitality of the people, match the beauty of the land. There is a population here of 2about 500,000 people and everyone literally knows everyone. There is such an immense sense of community on this entire island (so far), and a sense of shared history, and future that really makes me feel so good.

So, when we left Fogo Island, we had about a 4 and a half hour drive to St. John's. So we watched an amazing video that got us super pumped about heading down south (it was about Belize) and then watched a video on the history of Newfoundland & Labrador. It focused on the fact that this was a province plagued with poverty and had constant challenges with economic prosperity, as the main industry was fishing. In any event, due to over-fishing, that can no longer be the main economy and Newfoundlanders & Labradorians are in a position where they have to find an alternative industry to create employment and stimulate the economy in this province. So, long story short, it showed me how much the history of exploitation, and the strong sense of community and togetherness was aligned with the experience of the many Indigenous communities I visit. (as an aside, the innovative leadership that I have been exposed to in this province has enriched my perspective so much)

I sat with one of our liaisons, a police inspector from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary after the movie because I wanted to ask the question: how do Newfoundlanders remain their welcomeness and their sunny disposition, even though they have a history that is marred with poverty, and exploitation of the industries and natural resources of this land? Nice question eh? Well, she told me that its because in Newfoundland, it really goes all go back to the people, and how the sense of connectedness has come from their isolation. Being an island community, they knew that if they (as a people) didn't do something to address their problems, that no one would. And also, they learned to laugh, not only at the funny things, but also themselves. Another impressive trait of these people is their amazing work ethic.

I saw such commonalities between us Indigenous folks and Newfoundlanders. At this point I began to explain to her some of the challenges our Nation is facing and how they manifested themselves in my own personal story. By telling her how I grew up she made me realize how much I am a produce of my environment. About how much I owe to all of the people that helped shape me into the person I am, specifically the Champagnes. Such a powerful example was set by that family that I had a foundation that has allowed me to be really successful today. Her outside perspective caused her to see...that I take my role i learning and helping our peple VERY seriously.

She noticed how upset I was getting as I was speaking about the problems of our people and I shared how passionate I was about using my own example for the benefit of the young people in the community. I was also very proud to share with her, the 7 teachings and how I try to live those in my day to day life, and share them with others. Well, she affirmed that I was doing good things, but when I shared a quote with her...she changed my tune.

Until all of us have made it; none of us have made it

That really has been a guiding quotation for me in my work, as it resonates with me. She said I needed to be careful with that though because I cannot help ALL Aboriginal people. She said that I can make a huge impact, I already have and will continue to do so in the future, but if I put that kind of pressure on myself... I won't be of any use to myself , my community. At this point, she made me look behind me, at the other 9 leaders that are in my study group with me, all older people, all amazing leaders, all have taught me so much already.

'what are those people doing right now?'

They were all sleeping, resting, listening to music or staring quietly out the window. She said that I have to learn to balance...and to take the time to rest, and to enjoy the experiences that I m a part of. She said I can't be learning all the time on this trip, and this short 4 hour period of inactivity, was a good opportunity to chill out, and just process on my own...or just to rest and relax and enjoy the beauty of the scenery and appreciate in the moment, the opportunity that I was given. Essentially, she told me to relax...because I was in a safe place.

Well it resonated so much, and I as so over-come with epiphany and the beauty of the land, and the immenseness of this experience, that I sat by myself after that and cried tears of joy, for half an hour. In that time, I was thinking about, and consciously acknowledging in my head, the REAL reasons why I am the way I am....because of the amazing people I have had in ,y life that showed me the way. It was just such a great experience, and felt like a weight had been lifted.

That safety of environment, is the place where learning occurs. Where we can explore ourselves, in the presence of others, and they will catch you. This is what I hope to create in my community. A place of safety, where those that I love can come as well, and I can be honest with myself in terms of my doubts, hopes and challenges.

I am so appreciative.

Love & Respect


PS - I'm off to soak in my personal jacuzzi that's in my room :P

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North End MC

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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Representin the North End of Winnipeg since 1987. I will share my journey tryna set an example and live a proud Cree life. I'll include my challenges and feelings and progress in terms of AYO! Aboriginal Youth Opportunities. You(th) are the reason.