Be Teachable

The definition of teachable is “apt and willing to learn.” Are you that person? Specifically, are you willing to put aside what you think you know… to learn another truth?

I’ve been doing that a lot lately. The pandemic and lockdowns have seen me with more time on my hands and because there is a plethora of free (or low cost) webinars and courses available right now, I’ve taken advantage of many.

I’m on a mission to learn as much as I can about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. What I have discovered has been enlightening, shocking and humbling on a very personal level. I realize that I’ve held preconceived notions that have proven to be so far from the truth that I can’t believe I ever thought the way I did.

As European descendants, many of us were led to believe that Indigenous Peoples were somehow “less advanced” than us. That way of thinking isn’t surprising because in the 1800’s the Government of Canada labelled Indigenous Peoples as “primitive, child-like and uncivilized.” They did that on purpose as a way to put them down and allow settlers to take over their land.

Sadly, that same attitude continues today in so many people.

What I have discovered in my education is that Indigenous Peoples pre-1800’s were exactly the opposite. They were incredibly advanced in languages, economics and trade, pharmacology and agriculture, animal behavior, astronomy and weather systems, political and reformatory systems, and spiritual wisdom and ceremonies.

In their rush to take over the land, the government actively destroyed Indigenous Peoples’ ways of living for the purpose of assimilating them. They removed children from their parents for generations as a way to eliminate their language, culture and knowledge. They arrogantly assumed that European ways were more intelligent and somehow better.

Separating generations of children from their parents and community, along with the horrible abuse they suffered in residential schools, left a legacy of shame, humiliation, pain and loss of identity that has resulted in domestic abuse, alcohol and drug addiction and so much more. The ripple effects are still felt today.

The resilience, self-determination and strength shown by Indigenous Peoples after enduring so much is truly remarkable.

After close to 200 years and generations of abuse, some of the Indigenous knowledge and ways of living have been lost. Fortunately, some have survived, and there is an effort now to bring more back through Elders holding this sacred knowledge.

There is much to learn about our shared history and current issues happening today. For reconciliation to happen, it is vitally important that every Canadian do their part and learn the truth for themselves. There are many ways to do that – books, videos, webinars, courses, social media groups, websites, etc.

Allow me to share just a few ways to get started. These are free or charge a small fee:

Indigenous Canada is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. It explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada.

Cultivating Compassion is a four-module workshop to create awareness and understanding of Indigenous and Canadian history in order to build bridges from the past to the present and subsequently our future.

KARIOS Blanket Exercise is a two-hour interactive workshop that allows you to learn the history most Canadians are never taught. While this is an amazing event in person, KAIROS has developed a virtual Blanket Exercise workshop that is now available.

Take a look online to see what courses are available that interest you and fit in the time that you have available. I’d love to hear what you take!

Make Giving Count

The Christmas season is fast approaching and people who celebrate the holidays are trying to find ways to make it meaningful when so much is different. We are a resilient lot though, and it’s wonderful to see how people are finding creative ways to make it work.

Rather than focusing on what we can’t do, many are finding things they can do. Video calls with family are replacing large gatherings. Intimate phone calls with friends in place of parties. Connecting with neighbours from a safe distance.

I recently discovered other ways to make Christmas more meaningful this year. In fact, it is making this season one of the most heartfelt in years simply by making giving count.

I have shopped at Amazon in the past and still do for things that I truly can’t get anywhere else. The difference this year is that I am doing whatever I can to shop locally – preferably at mom and pop shops – before even looking at big retailers. I am also finding creative ways to support charities and causes that I am passionate about.

It takes a bit more effort. But wow, is it worth it!

For one thing, you can find truly unique gifts when you look in smaller stores and seek out local artists or entrepreneurs. Many gifts are handmade, high quality and at reasonable prices.

When you buy something from a small business, you see the heartfelt gratitude in their eyes and hear it in their voices. You can feel good knowing your purchase will help them stay open during unstable times. There is no better feeling of community.

Yes, you may have to pay a few dollars more to shop local (they just don’t have the huge customer base to set lower prices) but it shows you truly care about the people and businesses in your community. That says something. Remember, those same small businesses also support your local economy including donating to your kid’s sports teams, charity silent auctions, etc.

This season, you may also want to consider giving to a local charity as a gift for the hard to buy for person. Local food banks are truly hurting this year and need our support as do so many other charities. And if you have a cause, movement or activity that you are passionate about, find ways to support them at Christmas too.

If you read my posts, you will know that my passions are being eco-friendly and the Truth and Reconciliation movement in Canada. I consider both in my gift giving.

By buying gifts locally I am reducing packaging and travel emissions and, therefore, reducing my buying footprint.

I want to support local Indigenous crafts people and was delighted to find a wood turning artist from Ta’an Kwach’an First Nations (Yukon) living in my city! I found the perfect gift in my price range and now have a new connection and business that I will continue to support.

Charity wise, this year myself and a group of other women went together to purchase gifts for over 20 Indigenous girls (ages 10 to 18) who attend a non-profit organization for girls living in poverty and/or other challenging circumstances. In addition, I will support the local adopt-a-family and toy donations in my city.

Giving a gift that matters is so simple and can truly make a difference this holiday season and all year through. I hope I have inspired you to give it a go. If you do, I would love to hear your story!

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