I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Wahnapitae First Nations to attend a Cultural Mindfulness training session lead by George Couchie of the Nipissing First Nations. The lessons and teachings were meaningful, powerful and, for me, sometimes quite shocking.
On matters of Indigenous history in Canada, I admit to having been completely ignorant. Ignorance is only a “thing” until one seeks out or is gifted with knowledge. After only a one-day session, I know that I am still ignorant to much of the history and the culture, but I have been gifted with understanding now that I didn’t have before.
I am not an expert, but this session educated me on some of the violent atrocities that took place across this country, of which I was previous unaware.
- It is likely that you have heard of the tragedies of the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. I learned on this day that the number of missing and murdered Indigenous men is actually 10 times higher than the number of the women!
- I learned that the residential schools robbed individuals and their communities of their language, culture and their families. They were given dog tags with numbers and were often referred to only by that number.
- I learned that statistically a person was more likely to die in a residential school than they were to die while fighting in one of the great wars.
- I learned about so many streams of systemic, generational racism and the genocide of multiple cultures.
This session was emotional and impactful. However, it is not hopeless. As George said, “We cannot change the past, but we can make the future better.”
George gifted us by starting the day teaching us the Seven Grandfather Teachings. I enjoyed this portion so much, as it is very akin to the life journey that I had started for myself about two decades ago. I am going to make it a point to remind myself of these teachings every day to remember that we all can be a part of the solution.
As this was the first time I learned these teachings, I know that with time I will develop an even deeper understanding. Here is what I learned and what I wanted to share. For those who know them, I apologize if this feels like I am not doing them justice. George has a far more powerful way of instilling these lessons. He laid them out like a path and went into far more explanation than I would be able to. This portion of my blog is just for those who are starting a journey like I am:
We need to be brave and speak up when things need to be changed, and have the courage to listen, even when the lessons are difficult.
Wisdom comes from experience. Hardships and struggle can turn into something positive if we are still breathing, and we can learn from the struggle in order to make life better for ourselves and others.
It is a valuable lesson to learn that doing the right thing is even more important when no one is watching, and no external praise is given. I have personally found over the years that when one learns that making a positive impact is its own reward, then doing good for your neighbours and the land becomes a habit.
We all have the spark of life in us, we need to make the spark shine brightly by living our lives with authenticity and integrity.
We are all responsible for own selves. Generational trauma is real, but we can learn to not carry it. If we break bad cycles, we can immediately create positive ripples for the future generations
George taught us these teachings in the order that I have them listed. He put Respect before Love because without respect, there is no true love. Respect for the land, respect for others and respect for yourself are all necessary to live one’s best life.
Love, as I have learned along my life’s journey and was reinforced on this day, is the key. If everyone came from a place of love, the world would be a far better place. If we all practise it, then we will be the change we want to see.
I know my knowledge will deepen over time, as I continue this journey and working with the Wahnapitae First Nations and other communities in the area.
If you have not had a session like this, I highly suggest reaching out to George Couchie and booking him at his earliest availability (https://www.culturalmindfulness.ca/cultural-mindfulness). There are deep rooted, systemic issues in the world. Using these teachings, we can all begin to make things better
Manager of Investment and Business Development at Economic Development, City of Greater Sudbury
DEI Committee at EDCO