Panel Discussion with Knowledge Keepers

Panel Discussion with Knowledge Keepers

Transcript

Hon. Carolyn Bennett:
(Indigenous words of welcome) Bonjour.

It is so exciting to be celebrating together while apart for National Indigenous Peoples Day. And I am speaking with you from my home in Toronto on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit where we honour all of the peoples who paddled these waters and whose moccasins walked these lands.

Today, as we cannot be together, we are very much looking forward to this conversation that we will have on all of the traditional territories of the participants today. It is a conversation with these amazing special guests about protecting and safekeeping Indigenous knowledge and Knowledge Keepers, and it is about what we in Canada would benefit from by that protection and promotion, and being able to figure out this afternoon how we can do this together.

So, I am honoured that Anishinaabe Elder Dr. David Courchene, Métis Cree Knowledge Keeper Maria Campbell, and Inuk Professor Dr. Karla Williamson are joining Minister Marc Miller and Minister Dan Vandal. It is, in terms of ceremony for a virtual session, it's new and so our guests have asked that I put tobacco down in my garden here and I have put it next to the forget-me-nots because I think that's what we're doing today.

I know David had a pipe ceremony this morning and we'll open his presentation with a prayer. And I know Karla will share with us her ceremony and a poem. And I was asked to recognize First Nations, Inuit and Métis as distinctions-based as we move forward knowing that Indigenous knowledge is different coast-to-coast-to-coast, and very important that we honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis. So I now want to ask Minister Marc Miller to introduce Anishinaabe Elder Dr. David Courchene.

Hon. Marc Miller:
Thank you Carolyn and hello everyone, and first I want to acknowledge that I'm speaking to you here from Parliament Hill, just off Parliament Hill on traditional territory of the Algonquin people. And I have the honour of introducing Elder Dr. Courchene, (Indigenous words), the leading earth man who has travelled internationally carrying a message of hope and peace. He's a respected Elder and Knowledge Keeper of the Anishinaabe First Nation. Elder Courchene has devoted his life to creating a healthy environment for current and future generations.

He's created a special place for sharing ancient Indigenous knowledge, the Turtle Lodge, as you can see in the picture behind, built based on a vision he received many years ago. The Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness is a sacred lodge of the Anishinaabe peoples situated on the Sagkeeng First Nation on the southern tip of Lake Winnipeg.

Elder Dr. Courchene's leadership and stewardship have had a global influence from lighting the sacred fire at the UN Earth Summit in 1992 to delivering the keynote and conducting the opening ceremonies at the 2010 G8 Summit on World Religions to sharing the stage with spiritual leaders including the Dalai Lama. Considered a trailblazer, Elder Dr. Courchene has built alliances with institutions, academics and policy makers across the country.

Elder Courchene is an active collaborator with a number of universities and has inspired notable figures and institutions from ministers, federal judges and media to museums, to consider Indigenous teachings and make a collective commitment to future generations.

In recognition of the vital role he's played in promoting peace, cultural understanding and environmental sustainability both nationally and globally, I'm proud to introduce Elder Dr. David Courchene. Thank you.

Dr. David Courchene:
(Speaking his Indigenous language). I have just offered this prayer in gratitude to the Great Spirit, to our kind and loving Mother Earth and to our ancestors who walk before us, who left us a clear path to follow. We have arrived at this time of critical change and also great opportunity in our evolution to live our greater purpose. We are evolving to a greater understanding of how we should live and behave as we walk on the earth.

Mother Earth is trying to teach us right now and she's trying to tell us we cannot continue down this path of self destruction that has created violence, fear and separation. We have always been inspired as the Knowledge Keepers of our nations to go back to our beginning, to our relationship with spirit and the land, to find our original instructions in seeking solutions to what we face as humanity.

The Great Spirit has put us here in this part of the world to share knowledge that has evolved for over tens of thousands of years with our brothers and sisters who have arrived on our homeland and that, as the leadership, we have a duty and a responsibility to fulfill.

What has helped us to survive every challenge has been our close relationship with Mother Earth, our source of life whom we are responsible for taking care of. She is alive. And she has great intelligence that is accessible to all of us. She gives birth to life, she is fully expressive of the spirit of love in everything that she creates. From our Mother Earth comes everything we need to sustain our daily lives, the food, the sacred water, the medicines, the knowledge and the teachings to keep our bodies, minds and spirits strong and healthy.

Mother Earth has given her sacred power to create life to the mothers and women who pass the spirit of love that Mother Earth carries to all children. Today is the day of the summer solstice, which is being recognized as National Indigenous Peoples Day. We are blessed with the longest day to receive the fullness of the Grandfather Sun and the sacred teachings that nature provides for us.

We have been able to read the signs of the land and the signs of change. There is a new world coming. The old ones say Mother Earth will give birth to a new life. As humanity we must be prepared to welcome this new life. This new life will position all the women, the mothers, the aunties and the grandmothers into their rightful place of leadership and honour, to be recognized as the life givers and the first teachers.

There is a law that our ancestors have practised, (Indigenous words) meaning sacred teachings that are given to a child that last forever, that can only be given by a woman. We need to return to the original instructions and responsibilities we as human beings were given. We must begin as individuals. Mother Earth has laws that are self-enforcing. These natural laws are there to teach us and there is a consequence for breaking these laws.

Together we must plant the seed of a new life. We need to create a foundation based on moral and ethical values of respect, love and kindness. We are all brothers and sisters. Today we make an appeal to all our relatives to consider listening to the knowledge held by the Knowledge Keepers of our nations. We share a vision our ancestors left for all of us.

The Knowledge Keepers are there to support those who want to make the journey to the land, to receive the intelligence of the land that can help create unity and define a path to peace. Re-educating ourselves must be paramount. We begin by teaching our children, modelled by Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous thought. If the young people are given the proper guidance and mentoring from the Knowledge Keepers, the grandmothers and the Elders who are connected to our way of life, they will fulfill their destiny to change the world.

Indigenous spiritual Knowledge Keepers can lead following ancestral protocols of Indigenous leadership, connecting with the land and working together with the great scientific and academic minds of our time. It is going to require action. Not actions of anger, rather, actions based on kindness and respect. There must be a new relationship with the original people based on respect and support of our autonomy and identity which would reach a level of true nation-to-nation relationship.

Once again our Knowledge Keepers are in the best position to lead and develop this process. Supporting the spiritual and natural laws is not just good for us but essential for our survival. Our challenge is to be kind, loving and generous.

My mother used to say, "For the good deed you have done, by your act of sharing, the Great Spirit will pay you through the abundance of the land". This is natural law. The spirit may seem invisible, but it is visible when you see it from the eyes of your heart. It is the connection to the spirit that has always guided our people and we all have the capacity to connect to the spirit.

This time belongs to the people of the heart, essentially it is the people of the heart who will make the change. It is within each of us to know and to decide whether we are a person of the heart. Are you a person of the heart? Meegwetch, thank you for allowing me to offer my words here today.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett: 
Thank you Elder Courchene and thank you for your wise words and reflections and advice for a path forward as we all try to be a person of the heart. So thank you so very, very much.

It's now my honour to be able to introduce the Métis and Cree Elder Knowledge Keeper Maria Campbell. She would be annoyed with me for calling her an Elder, so I'll take that back and say Maria is the Cree Métis Knowledge Keeper for Batoche, Saskatchewan, and the Knowledge Keeper and Cultural Advisor of the College of Law, at the University of Saskatchewan, and at Athabasca University.

Writer, playwright, filmmaker and teacher, she's authored eight books, directed and written scripts for theatre and film. She also has worked with the Indigenous women and youth, both in community and in community theatre, and mentored many writers and artists during her career.

Maria has served as the writer-in-residence at 7 universities across Canada. At the University of Ottawa, her research was on the history of violence against Indigenous women in Canada. She's the cultural advisor at Athabasca University and at the College of Law, the University of Saskatchewan, where she also teaches Cree, Métis legal processes and traditions.

She is an officer of the Order of Canada and holds 7 honorary doctorates. She's a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. Having tea and freshly baked pie at Maria's house in Gabriel's Crossing is I think one of the fondest memories I have in my life. Her wise words transform. She asks wicked questions and then helps us see things differently and find solutions. She's a gardener, and I believe her passion for growing Indigenous knowledge will change the path forward in Canada. Marsee.

Elder Maria Campbell: 
Thank you, Carolyn. And hello to my fellow panellists, or whatever we're called, and to the ministers, and to the people who are watching this.

I'm really honoured to be a part of this discussion today. And I want to talk about my journey to this place, to knowledge keeping. And I want to start by saying that I'm (speaking her Indigenous language), which means a Cree half cousin when it's totally translated, a Cree Michif woman.

I grew up in a sister community on a road allowance in northwestern Saskatchewan. And I say sister community because I grew up in a community with my great-grandmother and my grandmother, sometimes both my grandmothers, and with my grandmother's daughters. I never realized that that was kind of strange until many years later. But our community was road allowance and until I was 13 we lived in that community as a family. My great-grandmother was, until she passed away, the head of our family.

My father was the spokesperson and the oldest son and the oldest grandson and would speak for our community. Our first language was Cree and Michif. We spoke both of those languages. We never thought of ourselves as one or the other, we were both. And I think I have to clarify that; it was because we lived off the land, the land was totally our survival. We picked rocks and roots for nearby farmers, but it was the land that sustained us, that provided us with food and all the things that we needed.

And so when people would ask who we were, and there are still many people like that in those northern areas, when you ask who they are they will say (speaking her  Indigenous language). They'll always acknowledge Cree first. And people always assume that we are calling ourselves Cree, that that's our, that that's who we are, but it's not. It's acknowledging that we are people of the land and of that particular place and acknowledging our grandmothers.

And so I grew up in this community that was pretty isolated, even if town was only not that many miles away and the land as I said was really important. But I grew up with lots of old people, all of my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers families from the 6 reserves around us and from the nearby Métis communities. All of those old people were constant visitors at our homes as we were at theirs.

And there was never a division of who the people were like we have today- either we are Treaty or we're not Treaty. Those things were not that important until we, until at least I, got older. And those old people were our very early teachers, and especially in our community, our grandmother and our great-grandmother. We learned everything from them, and they were the people who made sure that myself and my older siblings all understood our language and that we were able to speak it fluently.

We learned about tradition and culture without those words ever being used and it wasn't until many years later that I even knew what a sweat lodge was. I think I was in my late 20s and somebody invited me to a sweat lodge and I didn't want to go. I was embarrassed because I didn't know what that was. And then one day she got tired of asking me and she just took me, and it was many years after I had left home, got into all kinds of trouble, and was looking for a better road for myself.

And she took me to this sweat lodge and I remember when I saw it I thought that's not a sweat lodge, (speaking her Indigenous language) because I knew it in my language, I didn't know it in English. I had no idea what it was in English. But the (speaking her Indigenous language) that I grew up with was always done under our kitchen table. My great-grandmother always did it under the kitchen table because for her people that was not allowed and there was always the fear that somebody would come in and find her doing it. So you could always pretend that the kids were making a tent and playing inside, under the table, when somebody would come in.

But she impressed on us the importance of learning the language and keeping it and without ever giving us a lecture helped us to understand that the land, that without the land, we would never have survived both as Cree or as Métis people, that it was the land that sustained us and kept us together.

When I was 13 my mother died, I was left with children. And again it was my great-grandmother who taught me that the most important thing in our life as Indigenous people, whether we are Cree or Soto or whatever we are, that children are, they inherit everything that we do. They are the people who have to carry that bundle forward and what we put in that bundle is what's important.

And so for me the most important thing about my work, because when I went into that sweat lodge for the first time that was when I knew what my work was and what my life was. I had come home and I had all the tools to live that life. I didn't know that until I went in there. I never saw what I had been taught as a child and my life today were the same thing. To me it was almost living a schizophrenic life. I could switch from one culture and language to another almost instantly and so it was always this switching back and forth that kept me so unbalanced and ungrounded.

And over the years I met ... I never went out looking for whatever it is that I'm able to share with other people. There were old people who found me and gave me, and mentored me and helped me along the way and made sure that if I was shaky that they would pick me up and help me to keep going, and always impressed on me that it was my job to be able to pass that on to young people.

So for me the most important thing today is that our knowledge has to be protected. And when I say protected I'm not talking about it in the Western sense where we have to go and do all of this copyright and waste time trying to get that done. That can be done. But what has to be.. what has to happen for it to be protected is that we have to be able to bring all of those old people together.

And we are now the old people, or at least I am one of the old people. I have to be able to bring my own peers together to sit down around the kitchen table and to be able to talk about the kinds of things that we were given as young people, and to be able to have intellectual conversations at that table with young academics who have been taught a Western way and being able to share that with them. And then talk about how do we take that and we try to grow it in a new way without taking it from the place that it comes from.

How do we do that and be able to use it in a new way so that it still retains, that it's still… I don't know the word for it, but how can we keep it intact but be able to grow it in a new way? You know all we have to do is look at the seasons. This summer is not like last summer, and next summer is not going to be like this summer. And culture and language are like that. Things don't stay, they are never static, they never stay the same. A tree doesn't stay the same, it has more branches, it has more flowers, and our culture is like that and we have to start to see it that way.

I think about many of the older people that taught me who always would say you have to keep it a secret, don't talk about it, we are going to get into trouble, don't give it away. And some of them would be downright rude about it. I don't buy into that, we haven't got time to do that. Our kids need us so desperately and they need the knowledge that we have, that we have to find a way to be able to pass that on to them. And I believe that we can do that.

But the work that we do, there is no, there's not really any support for it, there's nothing. You know, we get invited to come in and do a quick lecture in a high school or maybe if we get famous like, you know, some of us are, we can talk to more people. But usually it's not the people that we should be talking to, that we should be sharing .. that we should be giving that stuff to.

Not that I don't believe we should be sharing it with other people. But they are the only people that can bring us in. Our own people often can't do that, and especially our young people who most of the time are poor and don't have … you know, don't even have the means to buy a bus ticket to get out of town to go for a walk out on the land.

And so that's my shtick. You know I love the work that David does and he's got this wonderful lodge. You know, I love the work that Karla does. She's able to.. she's got a PhD, she can teach all sorts of people, she has knowledge from the land. But, you know, some of us don't have those things. We have to find other ways to do it and many of our people are either beadwork artists, you know, traditional artists or some of us have found ways to be able to express that using art or writing, storytelling or teaching.. And I think I better stop there because I kind of get carried away. But thank you so much for listening to me. Marsee.

Hon. Daniel Vandal:
Thank you. Thank you Dr. Campbell. It's a pleasure to hear your words. Thank you everybody, merci, marsee, meegwetch.

Good afternoon to everybody, and thank you for inviting me to participate in this discussion in celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day as well as National Indigenous History Month. I'm joining you today from my office in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital, Treaty One territory as well as traditional homeland of the Métis Nation.

I am honoured today to introduce Dr. Karla Jessen Williamson, one of the foremost advocates for the economic, social and cultural rights of Inuit in the Arctic and continues to break down barriers. Karla is born in Appamiut, western coast of Greenland, and speaks her Inuktitut dialect fully as she was totally immersed into the worldview of the Inuit.

She's a matriarch with 2 adult children and 3 grandchildren. The latter are fluent speakers of their mother's Inuktitut language while growing up in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She is a faculty member of the University of Saskatchewan, and is the first Inuk to become tenured in any Canadian university.

As an Indigenous researcher she focuses on the well-being of Indigenous children, their families, communities, and always looks for ways in which the aspirations for their autonomous rights are materialized. She speaks and writes about Indigenous paradigms and philosophies and remains committed to making contributions to Indigenous ancestors' insights into humanity.

Karla obtained her doctoral degree in social anthropology, University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Karla is well appreciated locally, nationally, internationally and is involved in significant bodies nationally and internationally emphasizing the decolonization processes. She's also an accomplished poet.

Thank you, Dr. Karla, for your leadership and advocacy for many years and so many important issues that impact the North, the Arctic and the world. I look forward to hearing more on the knowledge that you will share with us today.

Dr. Karla Williamson:
Qujannamiik. Many thanks Minister Vandal for your kind words introducing me. And I'm simply awed by being called an Elder, officially on a stage. This is a state of mind that I have been really longing for.. to graduate into for a long time.

Allow me to acknowledge my (speaking in her Indigenous language), fellow Inuit in Canada, who partook in creating the notion of Aboriginal peoples in Canada whose lives, cultures, languages, food, (Indigenous words) I relish and love. (Indigenous words) these are priceless to me. They provide me with strength and identity. I'm also very pleased to have met David Courchene through the Internet and I know Maria Campbell and I'm just simply delighted to be allowed to be among the 2 of them.

I also would like to extend my gratitude to Treaty 6 peoples and that of the Métis on whose land in Saskatchewan that I worked in and lived. I'm deeply, deeply indebted to their incredible knowledge systems they shared with me over the years. I've been much impressed by the love and devotion to their land and how much this love translates into equality all across the creation.

One of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada... Oh, this is our day to celebrate, Aboriginal Peoples Day! We outlived so much anguish and may our ancestor spirits rejoice as today, on summer solstice. And I know for a fact that, in many Arctic communities, this is the time when the sun is just going around 24 hours and do I ever miss that.

For this I would like to share a poem that came to me a day before I was called by my (Indigenous words), fellow Inuk, Sheila Cloutier to recommend my name to this podium. The title of it is Dancing with the Universe...

 "Ah, dancing the wisdom of the universe is the very best for the spirit as it realizes the ancestral promise of universal truth. To belong to the name, traversing the earth, to the stars, the rivers, through the name, the soul which is in the wrong one goes back home to the cosmic powers. Oh, dancing, yes, simulation, so (inaudible) to the rhythm of the universe as it pretends the powers disguised in human greed and narcissistic tendencies to undo the rhythm of the universe."

So in many ways that's exactly what we are talking about: Indigenous knowledge. And to me it has been that of ensuring that I understand that our lives as human beings are very much ordained through the powers of the universe. It's not something that you actually create as a human being. So we are very much cognizant of the matters beyond this world and that of connecting the individuals into the universe somewhere, somehow.

And many other things that are done through the cultural practices, again like Maria was saying, you never knew that you were going into that. Because in many ways the importance of the Inuit knowledge is like that, my knowledge is my ancestral knowledge. I was born into it, surrounded by my parents, my grandmothers, both my grandfathers passed away before I was born, my aunts on both sides, uncles, cousins, town folks from near and far. Some really loving, some really annoying, some really interesting, others very quiet, others downright bright.

Inuit knowledge was given to me as the very first incredibly loving language, as the baby being born into that. There is absolutely very, very little limit to how much love the individuals pour into you. And that also comes through the naming system whereby each one of us born into the Inuit communities is born with a name that's been borne by a very beloved person that may have passed away before your birth.

Inuktitut language in itself embraced all the living things around me like strong rains or very nice winds from the Arctic enticing me into imagining animals talking directly to human beings and how to create justice based on universal principles of creation that we are simply awed by. That language taught me how to be grateful and mindful of the relationship that humans have, honouring their alive, fully aware sentient beings around me. And it is in that regard that land is alive. It gives us, as David was saying, birth. And as human beings this is what we do, certainly as women.

It's in that sense [ ...] that as a human being you're not the only one thinking, but the land is thinking. So are the seas, so are the mountains, so is the wind, and any of the animals that we hunt. They have their own sentience, the reason for their own being, that they acknowledge, and we as Inuit really need to do that, of figuring out how to be much more like the animals that honour the earth, they honour the creation around us.

Knowledge in itself, (inaudible) gave me philosophy on many different levels. It taught me that human beings, readily given to tendencies of self-adulation, easily disturbed the long established equilibrium, the animals, the land, the air, the fish, the mammals of the seas negotiate on their own with the creation, and that we are to be very leery of human quality in that regard.

A philosopher  taught me that men, Inuit men and women, are equal despite physiological differences and have equal access to knowledge. It is then required to articulate newly gained knowledge in ways that other Inuit in the community get to have a better life embracing the universal truth. And this is something that is somewhat very different from that of the knowledge system, that gathering of the knowledge system that we have through universities where it's very particular to individuals. Original names of the Inuit: they're genderless. And so it speaks to the equality and also the Inuit language itself has no gender involved in it its grammar, and that is exactly the reason why as human beings we are just that, a mass of human beings representing the universe.

So as a female and a male, you are just a vessel of the name, and many before you bore the name and many after you in life will bear the same name. That really, really makes you humble. You breathe air, it gives you life and intelligence, and so don't waste it. And so again these are very, very brief introductions and of course there's many other things that could be brought but that's going to be my first foundation for this discussion. (Speaking her Indigenous language). Many thanks.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett:
( Indigenous words). Karla that was lovely. And I just now want to go into the why this is important to not only the young people, First Nations, Inuit, Métis youth but also for all Canadians to chart a way forward, and then how do we do it. So David do you want to start?

Dr. David Courchene: 
Thank you very much. You know I'm glad that that question is being put into the forefront. One of the biggest challenges that we have is to be able to be given more opportunities to be able to share our knowledge and an understanding that helped us to survive. And certainly as a people we have had to endure many, many challenges which has created a lot of negative impact in our communities.

When we reflect on the richness of the knowledge that we do have and are blessed to have, it is the knowledge that I believe that is needed very much. Because what we are dealing with in our own individual communities is an identity crisis. Many of our young people have no understanding of their identity. And that is why I feel that, and believe that, the Knowledge Keepers of our nations have a very important role that needs to be supported.

Because it's important that the young people know who they are, and they need to know the creation story of their own people and why the Great Creator put us in this part of the world. There is a reason why we are here, why we were placed in this place that we call Turtle Island. And prophecy had foretold these times that we are in, and it also prophesied that it would be here on Turtle Island that the truth would be revealed.

And we are seeing that truth being revealed in many different ways. Not only you know the positive part of that prophecy is being shared through Indigenous people, but we are also witnessing Mother Earth reflecting her strength and her love, encouraging us to be able to change the way that we are treating life.

So when it comes to supporting this knowledge, I believe that we need to find more ways to appeal to our brothers and sisters to share in the responsibility of bringing back what was taken away. We still remain in a lot of economic challenges in creating the infrastructures that we need, that would reflect our full economy of our leadership where we teach the children what we feel are the most important values and teachings that they must learn.

In listening to the grandmothers over the years that I've been able to meet, so many beautiful grandmothers, and the grandmothers have always encouraged this: the most important values that you can teach your children are how to love, how to show kindness, how to take care of the earth itself.

So I believe that if Indigenous people are given the proper support, it will benefit all of us. I think if we are able to position the Elders, the Knowledge Keepers, in their rightful place of leadership and knowledge that they hold, we can change the narrative in this country just by the fact of the inclusion of the original people.

At the present time, you know, we still remain marginalized. And I'm thankful that we are given this opportunity here today to share our heart, our concerns, and our hopes that we will find a way to work together. And I believe that if we allow ourselves to be inspired by ceremony that are done through the ceremonies of the Indigenous people, we will make a positive step forward.

So, and speaking on behalf of our children that are crying out for these teachings, you know, I speak on their behalf and make that appeal to those that are in a position of influence, and people in a position of finding support to support these ancestral centres of knowledge. Meegwetch.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett:
Maria, do you want to, can you jump in and help us with why it's important to the youth coming forward, but also how it can be important to charting a path forward for Canada.

Elder Maria Campbell:
I think when we look at all of the things that are happening in our communities with our young people, you know, the tools that are being used and the tools that have been used in the past, none of those things work. The only thing that works is going back to those traditional tools to be able to find a way to put young people in the centre and for us to be able to give them that knowledge and share it with them, and then how to do that. You know, like I said, we can go into classrooms and that's worked. But I believe that we have come to a point where that is not enough anymore, that we need to be able to do more.

I'm really concerned that we are losing so many of our Knowledge Keepers and Elders, and that we are all so busy that we don't have time to even sit down and share knowledge with each other or talk about ways forward, and I believe that has to be done. And I believe that that can be done through giving the support to existing centres, like David said, or in classrooms. Not so much in classrooms but in centres. Maybe it's in research centres, Indigenous knowledge research centres.. I don't know what you would call them. But in centres or in institutes where we are developing leadership, either its leadership for women or leadership for community people. But that knowledge can be the foundation and the very centre of that new way that we are trying to create.

Those old tools don't work anymore, and they never did. And we know that these ways work. You know, they work because people like me are here. You know if those things were not there to help me I wouldn't have been able to do it. You know, those seeds were planted as a child but there was such a big space between my childhood and when I actually went back to those things again.

I don't believe that anything is ever lost, so I don't believe that we have… that we are going to gather our Knowledge Keepers together to go out and find it. I believe that when they come together those pieces will all fall into place just like a puzzle that, you know, if we don't have it the land has it, all of those things are there to help us.

And I believe that those are the tools that non-Indigenous people need for this new change that's coming because it really is coming. They are here because the tools that they are using here didn't work in the countries they came from. You know if they did they wouldn't have left, and I know that there are not very many Elders that are not prepared to share with them that kind of knowledge, because we are in this together. It's our children that we are talking about and our children come in many colours and they are of this place. Thank you.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Karla.

Dr. Karla Williamson:
Quiannamik. I would like to get to the very point of saying what Canada is and the learning in Canada is about. And that is that we have actually inherited an education system that is basically nation-building based on the colonial premises. And it operates very nicely according to the following values: patriarchy, Western knowledge, Northern or Western European perspective, Christianity, class system, industrialization.

And so, all these are based on routine learning and kind of memorizing what this is about. What is big time missing in that education system in all the institutions across Canada is the love to the land. I teach at the University of Saskatchewan on place-based, and it's amazing to realize that these third-year university students never actually thought of the land as being any matter to their lives, let alone that of the lot.

So for my purposes if we are indeed to do that, build up Indigenous knowledge, [ …] one big issue is for these learners in Canada to be able to critically learn about what they have been fed as a routine learning, and that of having to do that, of respecting the Indigenous knowledge to what it is.

You cannot go anywhere else in the world to create a Cree knowledge, you cannot go to Germany, you cannot go to Japan, you cannot go to, down through Middle America or South America to gain Cree knowledge, for that matter, Métis knowledge, or for that matter Inuit knowledge. These are the only places in the world that we have these, that create these notions of knowledge.

So for me we need to go beyond that, a binary system of the learning perspective, the good and the bad, white versus black, poor versus… We really need to do that, of taking an opportunity for Canada to play a role in global setting that actually highlights the incredible knowledge system that exist in our communities, whether they be Métis , First Nations, many different kinds of First Nations here in Canada, and that of the Inuit knowledge systems.

I think we really need to have a whole new system that's put in place where we have many, many different kinds of perspectives that can be taught in divergent ways for us to learn to respect one another on the land that we are on, whose lands that we are treading on. That's my thinking.

We need to analyse the cognitive assimilation as much as we talked.. as I talked about assimilation earlier. We also need to do that: figure out how to wean ourselves off the cognitive assimilation that exists in these learning systems.

As far as the Inuit are concerned, I think we really need to do that of embracing a heck of a lot more on Inuit (inaudible) and practices and that of figuring a way to and sure that the language is, and knowledge system is in place. But that also needs to be analysing how we can put a system in place that respects the hunting rights.. how to go about it. Because Inuit cannot live on beef or pork or chicken that comes from the south. That's not the way to do it, and nobody can actually afford it in that setting that we have in the far north where so many people and so many children are actually in dire need of good nutrition, but also good nutrition in form of nourishment for intellect. So that's how I see it.  Qujannamiik. Thank you.

Dr. David Courchene:
May I say one more thing? I remember when I was visiting the ex-Prime Minister Paul Martin in Montreal and he asked me this question. He said, "How can we change the way that Canadians look at native people?" And he was referring more from a negative sense that the stereotypes that we have to live under. And I responded to Paul and I said: "You know Paul, the answer is very simple. Send your children to us and we will teach them."

Because what has been happening and it really falls in line with what Karla is saying is that you know we are overwhelmed by colonial thought, and what we are proposing of course is the inclusion of, in an equal way that we are full participants in developing and changing the narrative of this country so that we can find what we are all looking for that's spoken from our hearts.

And part of that is allowing the inclusion of non-native people to come within our environment where we will take the opportunity to take them to the land. It's very important that if we are going to move forward that we centre all children, you know that they have all been born with rights, a child is born with rights: the right to be loved, the right to be told the truth, the right to be given all that it needs in order to be able to fill its own destiny in this world.

And this is what is so beautiful about Indigenous people. They are inclusive to all people that are loved. It's for all of life and all people within the circle of our family that we call human beings.

Hon. Marc Miller:
Thank you for that. It's great words to end this session with. I think, we all say it's never too late to learn, but the importance of early learning is, and in early learning in the right way is so crucial. I think we are all… and on behalf of the other two ministers, touched by the importance you highlighted of that knowledge and the knowledge that comes from your languages. Also the importance of preserving that and ensuring that it's passed on to the younger generations and that your role that is so key in doing that and it can only be done here and not in some other country, but by the people who are here today, the Knowledge Keepers.

This ends the session. I want to take a moment to thank you for your time, thank you for your words first and foremost, thank my colleague ministers for being with us, and to wish everyone Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day.

You highlighted the importance that I think we take away as ministers which is to educate our own people and I think that is part of the.. one of the biggest challenges that we face in our day-to-day interactions with colleagues, whether it's in the House or with constituents. And we gladly realize that we don't have the knowledge sufficient to do that in the ideal way, and we always respect and need your guidance.

And on that note, again Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day. Thank you.

Dr. David Courchene: Thank you.

Date modified: