Do you ever have that feeling of embarrassment when you realize that you have been completely ignorant about an important issue that you really should be aware of? This was my experience over three weeks this year. I had the incredible honour to travel from Whistler to Ottawa via Canada’s high arctic as part of the Governor General of Canada’s Leadership Conference. My study group was assigned to Nunavut.
We had our own little charter airplane to fly over 8,000 kms from hamlet to hamlet to meet and listen to the Inuit people who have inhabited this land for thousands of years. We heard from Inuit leaders about the destructive impacts of residential schools, the mass slaughter of sled-dogs across the arctic by the RCMP, the unfathomable rates of suicide and the cultural genocide that leaders of colonization committed. We also met a cohort of young Inuit leaders who are creating a movement to bring their mother language back, to build a self sustaining economy that has a seat at the global economic table, and who are using the arts to reverse so much damage caused by Europeans since contact.
In honour of National Aboriginal Day, I started a blog series about my trip in the North. I shared some of the inspirations and also calls to action that I experienced over the last three weeks. We also shot a documentary of the journey that we hope to release on the Leadership Canada website in the near future, which I will highlight in one of these blogs.
Ignorance is not an excuse. I have been completely ignorant about an important issue of which I really should be aware. I have always been aware of the wrongs that were committed against the first people of North America, but until I spent time sitting and listening to those who have been directly impacted, I was not able to feel it in my soul. I now have a small introduction into a very complicated and heavy situation. As a story-sharer, I hope I can inspire you as well to do what you can do with your gifts to contribute to the acknowledgement of truth and find a path to reconciliation.
P.S. I just read this very insightful blog about the reasons why the word ‘Aboriginal’ is not appropriate to use in the context of grouping multiple national identities into one label. This blog suggest Indigenous as a more appropriate term, though still not perfect. My lesson here is to learn about the nations that we share this land with and acknowledge them by their nation’s name when possible. Thanks to my B Corp friends at www.animikii.com for this blog.