Learning & Action

Learning & Action

Dear Friends, 

June is here, and as with any new month, invites us to take stock of where we are and where we're headed. For me, June about the "Journey".

It's the month that signals life in motion after the winter and budding spring. It's about abundance and fullness, fragranced breezes and long days. It's about stepping out of our comfort zones and learning new ways.

This was brought home to me this morning, listening to writer Michelle Good who was announced today as the winner of Canada's Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language fiction. She wrote her debut novel, Five Little Indians, at the age of sixty four, after having worked as a lawyer advocating for residential school survivors.

Her interview with Q's Tom Power is worth listening to! She explains that she focused on the story of five teenagers as they leave residential school because she wanted people to grasp the struggle and courage of what it means to "find a place of safety in a world that doesn’t want them". She wants us to stop saying "Why can't you get over it?!" In her interview she also shares her insights about being an emerging writer in her sixties and the value of learning as a lifelong habit.
In the context of the harrowing discovery of the unmarked mass grave where 215 children were uncovered in Kamloops, BC her words were particularly striking: we must learn. And instead of dismissing past suffering with a "Why can't you get over it?!", we need to begin by acknowledging our ignorance and prepare to listen and learn.

So ironically, right now, the journey I feel I need to take is not one to another country, but one to my homeland, Canada.

For Canadian Indigenous artists, this, understandably, may be a particularly rough time. As empaths and translators of the lives we lead, you may find that it's become overwhelming to process the anguish and anger that is being expressed by your people across the country. Please know that you are not alone. As an ally and friend and parent, I stand with you. I can't understand the grief you may feel but I witness it and I will not look away. (Please note that The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. Access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866 925-4419.)

For non-Indigenous artists, let's get over our fear of being accused of "virtue signalling" and awkwardness. If you are wondering how you might be useful, that is a start. Sharing the stories of survivors, signing petitions and expressing support for change are first steps.

Other things we can do include:
· Using our platform to call on all three levels of government to implement each of the 94 calls for action that were brought forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There's no need to wring our hands and ask “What can be done?": Actions have already been identified, including the scan of all residential school grounds, the identification and return of remains.
· Holding space for Indigenous art and artists. It's as simple as paying attention to lineups where you perform to make sure the diversity in our cities is reflected on the stage.
· Calling out complaints or muttered comments about funding or programming initiatives that are specific to Indigenous artists. This is not money that is "taken away" from you but rather added funds to make space for art and stories that have long been repressed. There's room for everyone.
· Creating new friendships, alliances and creative partnerships with artists you're not used to working with. Online tools allow us to start by following instagram and youtube feeds, discover music at virtual showcases and livestreams, and zoom in for a virtual coffee.
After the emotions of this weekend have passed, there will be much work to be done. We can all take great inspiration from Michelle Good! Learning is the key to living. There is no age cap on new paths or professions or platforms.

We have a tremendous opportunity to work together to make this world a better, safer, fairer place. June invites us on that journey. It is both the month designated as Pride Month June is the National Indigenous History Month as well as Pride Month (In Canada LGBTQ+ History Month is in October, but Pride Month, which originated in the USA is recognized in many cities here)

And of course, along with every journey is the need to rest. Let's not forget to take some time time for ourselves, and keep ourselves healthy so that we are fit for the road.

xo Nat

In the meantime, I hope that you are having a good week. I'm looking forward to checking in with you and catching up at the Hang!

Nathalie Kleinschmit

Article by Nathalie Kleinschmit

Published 01 Jun 2021