Discussion with Knowledge Keepers - Part 2
Hon. Dan Vandal: Okay. Tansi. Kwe. Ullukkut. Greetings and Bonjour.
Hon. Dan Vandal: Welcome everyone to our discussion today as part of the National Indigenous History Month. I'm joining you today from my office in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital, Treaty 1 territory and homeland of the Métis nation. I'm joined today by Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations as well as Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services. We are having a discussion today on Indigenous knowledge with 3 respected Elders, Dr. Karla Williamson, Dr. Courchene and Dr. Maria Campbell.
We previously had a discussion on safe keeping Indigenous knowledge and protecting the role that Knowledge Keepers play. In our last discussion we talked about the journey of the Elders, their words of wisdom on protecting Indigenous knowledge and how we continue to pass that knowledge along to future generations. I'm very much looking forward to learning more from each and every one of them today.
And I think that leads me into a question I wanted to raise here today, and this question can be for anyone who would like to answer. I'm wondering if anyone wants to talk about the importance of children, the next generation of preserving Indigenous knowledge and the importance of being able to use cultural tools to protect the lands, the water and the air.
Maria Campbell: I can begin, it's Maria. I can't stress enough the importance of children. I had an old teacher, he was a very old man when he passed away and he was my last mentor and teacher, and he taught me that when I think about our community I should always think of it in terms of 4 circles, one inside of the other, and at the very centre of that is our children and that everything that we do as a people or as a country or as a world is inherited by our children, whether it's good or bad.
And I can't even begin to stress enough, and for those of us who work with young people, we know how desperate times are for them. Long ago we used to have ceremonies to celebrate the birth of babies, we had a celebration at every part of a child's life from losing a first tooth, taking its first steps, all of those things were always celebrated so that everything in our lives, that child was always in front.
We need to be able to do that again, and we can take these things into schools and talk to children for an hour, teach them a little bit of Michif or a little bit of Cree or a little bit of whatever, but is not enough. We have to be able to, well we are doing it, but we have to be able to do more of it to be able to go into our communities or have our communities come to us to be able to tell them that they have everything they need in their community, on their land, to be able to change the direction of our lives and the lives of our children, and to be able to give them the strength and the belief that they can do that, and to give them the tools to believe that.
I can't even imagine why we would think about anything without thinking of our children, putting them in the middle first. We all talk about how important our kids are but how often do we put them in the middle of what we are talking about and say that this is for them, not even for them, it's for their great great-grandchildren?
When I think about, I think about wind for example, (speaks in her Indigenous language) in our language you know we are told that when the wind is blowing all the time that really horrific things are going to happen if we don't listen to it, and I don't want to sound like a bearer of bad news or make everybody depressed but I don't know if anybody has noticed but the wind has been blowing real hard for the last few years, and it's getting worse and worse. We are being told that we have to do something.
I had a feast yesterday with mothers whose children had been killed by the police and those mothers need help. Those mothers need to have traditional and cultural teachings, they need to be able to have a place to be able to work with their children, they have to be able to feed them proper food to be able to have old people there to teach them and nurture them. They don't have any of that stuff and that's not just this handful of mothers, these are mothers all across our country.
If we don't change those things, it's not going to be just more missing and murdered women or more of our people being killed on the streets, it's also going to be more suicides and more of everything else. And it's really a shame when we can't do anything about it when we have the tools to be able to make those changes better ourselves. Thank you.
Dr. Karla Williamson: Karla here. Thank you for the question, I think the reason why we are here as Knowledge Holders and Elders and whatnot is because of the good life that we would really like to continue. Not just us because we are at the end of our lives and we had a good time I would think, and for the children to be able to have that as a gift that we have inherited from our ancestry.
But reality is, that in any part of Canada, that the children are growing up in school systems that are mandated with curriculum, very specific curriculum on expectations on how they turn out. Many of these are very similar to any provincial school systems in southern Canada and therefore do not get a chance to become human beings that we would really like to see in First Nations communities, the Métis or Inuit whereby that they become holistic beings, human beings that can see beyond the human greed, and for them to be able to connect themselves to the land, to the animals, to the rivers and whatnot that I was talking about.
And so in the case of the Inuit, the physical aspect is just one, as I was saying it's just totally genderless, it's a basic human being. But in the Western society it's like there's an alpha male and alpha woman and nothing in between. We give them very little choices.
But recently there has been a lot of development of curriculum that's been happening in Indigenous communities and there you would see that these holistic ways of knowing are being sort of implemented through new curriculum documents. So I'm hoping that in the future, that there will be a lot more land-based accreditation for the school kids to be able to learn about the economy that they came from, how they can actually do that, sustaining themselves through the local means. That means that, you know, in my case as a schoolchild, I never learned anything about seals or whales, but I would very much like to see that these be implemented in the new school systems so that they can actually do that of becoming the new Inuit, the new Métis, the new (speaks in her Indigenous language) that really is well connected to the rest of the universe. That to me is a very important one.
I know that there some strikes, the new ones. I know of a school in (names the school in her Indigenous language) in Apex, in Iqaluit that started on that land-based and it's really, really cute to see these little kids actually handling the seals and doing the various activities, singing and learning to speak the language as part of the experience. The same for a daycare that's been started in Iqaluit, it's really heartwarming to see that these kids are learning that there has to be a lot more support being poured in because us, we are a generation that really lost a lot of knowledge ourselves, having gone through the school systems that are very stringent in assimilation.
So it's heartwarming to see that and I would very much like to see that in the future that there be much more real accreditation, certification whereby the education system is grounded in land-based education. Yeah, why don't we be really good Canadians and lead the world in that, right? Thank you.
Dr. David Courchene: I really want to thank the grandmothers for the wisdom that they share. It's always been within our culture in this area that it is the grandmothers that will always take the lead to highlight the values in what is really important in living life. And when it comes to teaching the children, it is very, very important that the grandmothers and the women take the lead in terms of sharing the deepness and the understanding that they have in regards to life.
And I firmly believe that one of the most important things we can teach the children is how to love the land and how they learn to love the land is by taking them to the land so they can feel the land. Far too many times we have intellectualized the teachings of our people. We've intellectualized that knowledge when what we should be doing is allowing our children to experience the land, to feel the land and to understand that nature has an intelligence and is able to share so much, because nature itself retains the original memory of creation.
Mother Earth, you know, carries that intelligence of the natural laws that we should be supporting. There is a law that our people have practised in this area and it's called (speaking in his Indigenous language) which means the great binding law of the Creator. And what that means, that great binding law is that it reflects our identity and who we are and what our purpose and meaning is in life.
A tree is given identity on how to be a tree, that is part of that (speaking in his Indigenous language) that every living entity has a purpose and has an identity. And so do we as human beings, we have an identity, we were given original instructions on how to live and how to behave as children or as human beings. And the land has to become the primary teacher along with the grandmothers so that the children can feel the land and feel the love of the land itself.
Like seeing so many times you know where our people have gone to the land to seek comfort for much of the trauma that they had to face in their life and the struggles they continue to face, is that they always depend on the land to give them the comfort that only a mother can give.
And the animal world has much to teach us. The 7 teachings that are our foundation of our people in this area as Anishnabe people, are carried by animals, and that is in the acknowledgement of our relationship that we should have with nature, that the animals are also teachers and symbols of the values and the teachings that we should be following.
I remember one time gathering with Elders in the city of Winnipeg and there was a major windstorm the night before and some of the windowpanes off these high-rise buildings were taken off. And I got up early in the morning and I was waiting for the Elders to gather and this one Elder approached me and said: did you get the message? I said, what message? And he said the message of the wind. And I said no, I didn't get the message. And he said: that's the problem with you people today, you don't listen. Because the wind always has a message and I really appreciate, you know, and the grandmothers are talking about the wind, the wind carries a message. And this is what I mean by taking the children to the land.
I remember another experience when I took a group of children out into the forest and I said we are going to go and talk to the trees today. And then the 5-year-old little girl was so excited and the young boy that was 12, 13 years old, he says you must be crazy. Who would talk to a tree, you know that's ridiculous and he was reluctant to go.
And he said, what if my friends see me out there sitting with you guys talking to a tree, they're going to really think I'm foolish. So I inspired a young boy, I said do it for me, come on, do it for this young girl that's excited. So we made a circle around the tree and I offered some tobacco to the tree and some medicine and then I sang the song and I used the rattle and I told the children: just clear your minds and allow, and if you have a question for the tree, ask the tree and a question that you want, and let's see if the tree will answer you.
So I stopped singing and then I asked is there anybody here that has anything to say that they heard from the tree and this little young girl that was 5 years old raised her hand and she was almost jumping up and down, so excited about what she wanted to share. And I said do you want to share with the group what you experienced? And then she said (you know it was the season of fall time and the trees were all in different colour) and this little girl says I asked of the tree how come you come in many different colours in this time of the year? And you know what the tree said to me, she said to the group, and then I asked her, well what did the tree say to you why they come in many different colours? And the tree said to her, you know why we have all this colour, because it is our way to celebrate the life in colour for the life that we have received from Mother Earth, that is what she said.
And then the young boy was still in disbelief and I told him to walk to the tree and to hug the tree and I will sing the song. I said: just hold the tree, hug the tree. So I started to sing and he reluctantly put his arms around the tree. And then, suddenly, I noticed there was something happening to him with the way he was moving around that tree, and then I stopped singing and I said: well, what did you feel, what did you see? And he said that tree felt when I was hugging like it was breathing, that tree was breathing, like you put your hand on your chest and you can feel your breathing, he said it was the same thing with the tree. And I said, you know, why did the tree show you that? Because you didn't believe it was alive, it wanted to show you that it was alive. And I've shared this with many, many young children from many different cultures and there was always a response in some way with the tree itself.
We have to revolutionize the whole education system in this country to include the experience of children to be able to go to the land and to feel the land, and this is where I believe that Indigenous peoples, Indigenous Knowledge Keepers that know and have felt the experience of the land itself, that they take those children and they allow them to experience the land and the dreams that they can receive, the feelings that they can receive from the land itself.
We have to find the courage to be able to take our children out of these boxes that we put them in and release them to the land to feel the love of the earth, to feel the love that really refers to the original Mother to all of life. That is what they need. And if we are able to give support to the children, it is how we are going to see change in our homeland. It is by teaching our children now and giving them the maximum opportunity to be able to feel the land so that they could take care of it the way that our ancestors have taken care of it.
It's really difficult to take care of something if you don't feel that it is sacred. It's very difficult if you can't feel that it is alive and that it is the source of life for all of us. So if we can find ways and means to, you know, to offer that kind of support for our children, then we will have done something. Then we will have left a legacy that we can be proud of and say that we got together and we agreed that we had to pull all our 6intelligence, our resources for the sake of all children to be able to feel and experience the land.
Hon. Marc Miller: Well thank you Elder Courchene and I want to go back to something that you spoke about earlier which is the importance, the importance of educating non-Indigenous peoples. And you've touched on a number of themes, the importance of listening, the importance of not intellectualizing everything, getting back on the land. I was hoping, perhaps you could each expand on that. Whoever wants to go first, I'll leave it up to you. But I think this is an important thing for people that are non-Indigenous listening and wanting to learn more what the right approaches and what your thoughts are on this.
Maria Campbell: This is a good question and a really hard one because I'm 81 years old and I have spent probably the last 50 years of my life educating non-Indigenous people. And for a long time I was really angry when I realized that that wasn't changing anything, and I tried to, I did all sorts of things, I fasted, I did different ceremonial things to try to help me understand why, to help me get rid of this anger because it felt like I was wasting my time, the time that I should've been spending working with children in my own community or with my own people, I was putting all of that energy outside of my own community.
And then I started to teach at university and I had most of the time more non-Indigenous people in my class, and again I had to find ways to be able to do that in a good way because I didn't always feel like doing it in a good way. And one of the things that I learned during one of my fasting times was that, that the circle of grandmothers I come from were many colours, that there were many different grandmothers, that they were not just Indigenous grandmothers like I saw in my head, that I had to get to know those other grandmothers.
And because I'm Métis, I never really explored who those grandmothers were and so, I set out to do that and I learned about my grandmothers in Scotland and in Ireland, and I learned about the horrific things that happened to their children, how many children were killed, how many homes were burned, how many people were dispossessed and displaced. And I started to see, to understand something that was bigger than my community or you know… As Canadians our own, our Canadian children don't know their own history. When you ask them who they are even as adults in the classroom they say I'm Canadian, but maybe they might know that they come from Italian people or they come from England maybe 5 generations ago, but they don't know why.
And so when I sat down with my old mentor and I said what am I going to do with this, this is what I've learned about myself, how do I use that in my literature class, because I was teaching literature. And he said: well maybe it's because they don't know that history, maybe you need to help them to understand that part of themselves.
And so what I did was I gave them all an assignment, that was their first assignment in class. Every single person had to go out and find out who their people were and how they ended up in this place, in this territory. And so that's what they went out and did, some of them you know didn't have grandparents, but there are several old folks homes not far from the university so I told them to go there. And they had to tell their story to the rest of the class.
And some of those families were Ukrainian, they didn't know that they had gone through name changes. And in fact one of them had said in class: why do we have to listen to native people talk about name changes, what's the big deal about names? And she came into the classroom and told her story and found out that the name that she was carrying wasn't even her name, that her family had changed that name maybe 50 years ago, maybe longer. They had anglicized it because of what was happening to them in their community.
They found out about the Highland clearances, they found out about starvation in Ireland, they found out that the English are not the Indigenous people of England and who the people were before them. They came back with all of this information, and for the first time in the several years that I had been teaching up to that point, I had a classroom where everybody was talking about their history and exchanging stories, and even looking at what their customs and their traditions were at home and how, you know, what did Easter eggs mean, they didn't really mean what we think or we had been taught what they mean.
They were able to communicate with the Indigenous people, they were able to talk to each other like a lot of young people instead of sitting in all of these different groups and coming from all these places and each one protecting their particular place.
Now it took me a long time to get there to be able to do that. But we can do that. That can happen. That happens so easily when you're able to bring EElders in or you're able to bring Knowledge Keepers in and you start to talk about what were the traditional songs in the places that we come from. What were the reasons why your family had to leave that country, and people start to talk about how they ended up here, and non-Indigenous people then start to realize that their histories, that our histories are very similar, the only difference is that we didn't leave our country, we are in our country.
The other people came to this country because they were fleeing from those horrible things. So the conversation changes, you try to create places where it's safe, they're what, you know, my friend Willie calls create ethical spaces, a place where people can be safe and they can share stories and talk to each other when their children are in the middle of the room, and they are talking about all of those kids and what they are going to leave them in their legacy as Canadians, whatever that's supposed to mean.
There are able to then give them gifts where they are able to share stories and ceremony and teachings with each other instead of throwing names back and forth at one another or laughing at each other or being arrogant with one another. And that doesn't just happen in non-Indigenous classroom, in a Western classroom, it even happens among ourselves as Indigenous people. We divide our children the same way. Those were things that were imposed on us, they were imposed on the Irish, they were imposed on Scots, they were imposed in every corner of the world. People divided into corners so that one would always be better than the other because it's a way to control people.
And those are the kinds of things that we have to change and the only way that we can change them is to be able to have those kinds of conversations, whether they are in institutes, in our lodges or if they are in our classrooms. And they have to be done in ordinary language where we can talk to each other about real things. Thank you.
Dr. Karla Williamson: Karla here. I think you know the conversation like what we are having right now is of course very serious because it's a serious issue, but I also would like to say that the reason why we are in our communities and continue to be in our communities is because of the laughter. And I think in many ways this is something that's really, really missed in the Canadian system of education, to be able to laugh off mistakes or misunderstandings in a big, big healthy way. And I miss that very badly in a university setting.
I mean there are days, weeks, months, years where you don't hear any laughter. Come on! I think that's really very serious omission in that sense because laughter can actually get you to think very seriously about things in a nonthreatening way. So that to me is something that I feel that we have to be able to get across to other non-Indigenous people because that to me is precious and that is what made us live through the hell that has been actually offered to us, and then to be able to not laugh it off but laugh about it in a good healthy way. That's really something that I would like to recommend for sure.
The other one that I would like to recommend in form of what is missing is transformation aspects, you know, here I am, a female and growing up in that sort of assimilation kind of setting. It really didn't give me that much of transformation except that I should really become a white. Yeah, sure, I can do that of putting lipstick on, you know, and I can do that of getting a degree, you know, and reach the PhD level after all. But how then I can use my status as an Inuk woman as being a transformation, has been very profound for me to experience and realize that as an Inuk woman I had equal rights to any other man. It's very, very freeing to be able to tell a man, you know what, da, da, da, da, this is how it's supposed to be and it's actually just unbelievably empowering to be able to be in a setting like that, and I love it.
And of course the men around my neighbourhood and my family, they love me because I do sincerely love them and I'm not doing that, empowering myself, in a way to hurt other people's around me, but to empower myself in a way that I can be useful to the community around us. So that's one.
So when I was becoming kind of assimilated into being a white woman through the education system somewhat, I kind of go like hmm, do I really want to become a secondary, as a woman in a westernized world and no, actually I don't. So it gives you that opportunity to kind of analyse yourself in a setting that's been provided and go like hmm, do I really want to be like that, actually no. So for my purposes it's been very, very transformational learning that I really appreciate.
So I think that it would be very important for people to actually garnish that process of transformation, and you know what, who knows what kind of transformations are waiting for me still in my age, where hopefully many other transformations that have happened over my life already happened and that's why I'm here.
But I'm looking forward to other insights that I can garnish to see where that journey might take me. I really look forward to that and that's something that I think is missing in the teaching in the Western world: take things in a way that it's all about learning a journey, and it's a wonderful thing. I mean like my poetry is something that I had never ever determined, nobody told me how to do it and yet it gives me such an incredible push to do excellence and that's nothing. Even if you do that of sweeping or vacuuming, see that as a transformation not as a task, a transformation as to how you can do things. And that to me has been absolutely wonderful, so that's something that I would really like to share.
Laughter, good laughter, transformation, making changes to yourself, you're not always the same, and for a person to celebrate one's own growth that way it is for me, that's really missing. (Speaking in her Indigenous language). Thank you.
Dr. David Courchene: Thank you Marc for that (inaudible, technical issue) I received from the university presidents of Winnipeg and Manitoba and the college, Red River community college, and they had proposed indigenizing their institutions. And after meeting with a number of Elders, we rejected that concept to indigenize those institutions under their context and under their control. And what we proposed was that we have an equal support for our own educational centres where we can bring in students from all colours to come to be able to be a part of that environment that can share the teachings.
It is not our way as Indigenous people to impose ourselves even amongst our own people. We don't impose like even our way of life that we have been so very fortunate to be able to experience and receive through the elders. We create an inviting environment in the centres, like in the Turtle Lodge. We've been able to engage with many, many different kinds of groups and many different kinds of people. And one thing I have experienced are people from all colours coming within that environment, you know, that they leave different, they are changed.
When we brought in the federal judges of Canada to the launch, at the beginning of our invitation, they were a bit hesitant and a little reluctant, and they said are the Indians going to do anything to us on the reserve when we go there? We said that, you know, they said that jokingly, but you know it was very real.
And the Chief federal judge at that time after we had experienced sharing together, he shared with the whole group and he said, you know, his experience had helped him to become a better human being and a better judge. And that's the kind of experience I feel that we want to extend to all people.
If I had the power right now, I would take all the young boys when they reach the age of puberty, and as men we all know what happens to us at that age of puberty: everything changes, everything is different, and we seem to be drawn to one thing. And in the great wisdom of the Elders, you know, they would say well we better balance this young boy, so what they did through a rite of passage, they took that young boy on the land to go and seek a vision. If we could do that with all the young boys of this country, I guarantee you that it would change because they would feel something that you can't get within those institutions of learning, the academic teachings and all of that.
I'm not saying that's not worthy of education, of course it is, but how do we include, you know, the experience of the part that our Elders consider the most important element of our being? The old people say in our language (speaking in his Indigenous language), translated it means the most important element of our life is the spirit because it is within each of us, and the challenge for us as human beings is to make that journey to our own heart where our spirit sits with our own identity as a human being.
And it's the land that helps us to be able to feel that part of our self that is inside that we call the Spirit because the earth itself, you know, has the spirit at her core. How else would she be able to generate life? If we are able to you know create those kind of equal structures of higher learning, because I consider that what we have as Knowledge Keepers can be recognized as a higher knowledge of understanding of our relationship to the Spirit and our relationship to the land, and why not give opportunity, you know, to the young people to experience the land?
And certainly with the issue of climate change and many, many of the young people are very concerned about their future, and rightfully so. And what they need is to engage in action rather than protest, to use their energies to be able to take time to be with the Knowledge Keepers, to be within those environments of higher learning such as an ancestral school of knowledge that we have been proposing for some time.
And it was through the support of the scientists like David Suzuki and other scientists that came to the lodge as we were met with the challenge of what is happening to the environment. Indigenous people, I believe, deserves that kind of support, more so the children, and all children that can experience the land in some way because you cannot intellectualize spirit, you cannot regulate spirit. That is something that is beyond human control.
And this is what is encouraged by the Elders for all of us to be able to recognize the importance of that part of our nature that we call the Spirit. In every life that has been created, it reflects itself in a physical way as a shining blue light. In each and every one of you that are in front of me right now in picture you have a shining blue light inside of you, whether you acknowledge it or not but that is the truth, because we see it in ceremony. We see it in the animals, we see it in the trees, and we see it in you, which defines your identity and your gifts and who you are.
So it's creating that kind of equal parallel support for Indigenous knowledge within our own environments, exercising our full autonomy, not controlled by anyone but rather guided by the Spirit itself and what we will share with whoever wishes to share that experience of understanding is the sacredness of life itself. Thank you.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Well thank you and it's been an emotional time in Canada and around the world, and you know the anger that Maria talked about or the need for laughter that Karla talked about, the coming together and the need for Spirit that David has talked about, I guess we want to know that simulations are really bad idea and that secured personal cultural identity, being proud of who you are is the way forward. And what Maria talked about in terms of the, what happens in universities when people have to look at their own experience, that the superiority of the colonizers was pretty wrong.
And so how can we use, or what would be your closing remarks about how the protection of Indigenous knowledge and Knowledge Keepers can bring us together as a country going forward, to stop the othering, and I think we've talked about, you know, of all of you in terms of your lived experience and your expertise. So I think we'd just love to hear what it is that you think that is the way forward, your prescription perhaps for going forward in a good way, protecting the Spirit, the knowledge and the Knowledge Keepers as we go forward. I think that we are all very keen to listen. We know it's never been more important.
Dr. Karla Williamson: Karla here. Yeah, this is about higher learning and is something that Inuit really, really love. I mean intellectualizing everything and that of using intellect is the very best way of leading a good life as far as the Inuit are concerned, it doesn't matter whether you're in Alaska, Canada, Russia or Greenland. For people to be able to live in the far north, in the Arctic, you have to be able to be a really good thinker, a quick thinker at some time, but also being able to really put things together.
So higher learning is not something new, I think that the Inuit have been able to do that, figuring a way of life that is in compassion about everything, so art is not separate from that of what you do of opening up a seal when you're doing without flinching because it's an artwork, it's a thought process altogether that puts everything into an action that is really just beautifully put together. You are grateful, being given a life and you give back to the nature and make sure that everybody around you is safe with that.
So it's not new that people do that, figuring out a kind of intellectualizing or using the intellect that way. But where it's lacking in many ways for people to just think is the wisdom. And wisdom is a very important one, and wisdom is the one that will allow you to see how the animals and the land actually relate to the human being and how you can actually do that of figuring a way of articulating it and that's why Inuktitut is so very important because it's all about articulation of thought to that of actions that become the way of life as far as the Inuit are concerned.
So higher learning is very, very desired. To be a really well cultured Inuk is a very desired thing and here we are in Canada where the Inuit have no university. It's like the only population of the Inuit besides Siberia maybe, in the Western world anyway, that do not have direct access to a university.
There are some programs put in place here and there but there is no such thing as a single university for the Inuit. So that's one thing that Canada really needs to take on. And there are many other Indigenous peoples around the world that have actually been looking into that as well. And a good example that I would use is the Sami Cultural University in Kautokeino, in Norway, whereby all the Sami council, which of course crossed the borders of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, put together a university whereby any of the faculty members, even that of staff members have to be able to speak the language of the Sami regardless of the nation state. And that's pretty much how Inuit are true nation states, Siberia, Russia, right, United States, Canada and Denmark actually, that's how we are divided.
But anyway so faculty members are chosen by the degree of course, by the PhD, but each one of them have to be able to speak the language as I was saying. And then it's paired with a community member, in which a community member is also a great use of the Sami culture and language. And the 2, you know half-and-half, a degree from a PhD and that of community degree that you get, they work together to do that, teaching the Sami culture in that.
It's something that can be adopted as far as I'm concerned, that look into how people with PhD, of Inuit in this case, can be employed at a university but also matched up with a community member to keep alive the knowledge and really well, because that intellectualizing can be really, really dangerous whereby you miss out on the wisdom. And by including that of the community member who is greatly respected, you put the higher learning together that way and as far as I can see it worked really well for the Sami.
I wonder if we shouldn't be able to do that here in Canada whereby we do that, and the only thing is that any staff, any faculty member has to be able to speak that language. I think that's a very, very desired situation.
But also pedagogically speaking, employing those ways of learning from the point of view of Arctic pedagogy, I think it's something that really would be enticing Canada to be a leader in figuring out what that is, how that could simply be done in a way is something that I really would like. I would love to be partaking in creating again a transformation that I was speaking about earlier whereby Canada can actually make itself transform into being that of a nation that protects and develops the
Indigenous knowledge in a good way, whereby the learner's or the faculty members are of high quality, but speakers of the language and including the community members that are well thought of in the various communities.
So that's what I would recommend for Canada, and how exciting is that. It can invite any students anywhere in the world that have any interest in doing that, of furthering the Inuit languages and that of the Inuit culture. I do know that there is a Indigenous university here in Saskatchewan and I've been very, very envious about that, but as far as the First Nations, and Métis are concerned, there are so many universities that the students can attend, but Inuit have to go outside their own lands to be able to obtain a university. That's my little five-minute.
Dr. David Courchene: This is Dave here. Let me answer that quickly because I want to give as much time to Maria. You know if we are going to move forward to create this level of understanding that I'm finding here today, it begins with the leadership. You know there has to be people in a position that really reflect a leadership that will show the courage to be able to correct the wrongs that have been done, and to make it right.
And if we are going to engage with anyone, people have to show recognition and respect for our autonomy, you know, in the way that we see life, the way we see ourselves as a people, and it's about relationships that we should have together, knowing that we are all related, we are all connected, we are all brothers and sisters, but the system does not reflect that because we have never been a part of designing, participating in terms of the system of this country.
Then we can change that by beginning to engage in discussions like we are now. I find this so promising that I'm able to sit here, to be one of the people that is able to share what I'm feeling, it's the kind of this spirit that we are feeling in here, I know I'm feeling it. I feel hope that we can create the kind of world that we want.
And to me, what is important for me, from a biased sense, is that let us support Indigenous Knowledge Keepers with proper infrastructure of support, you know, so that they can share with the maximum of those that would like to learn about Indigenous thought and Indigenous knowledge.
I know that there's a lot of young people out there right now that would be willing to engage in that way, knowing that Indigenous people have a place that they can come to, to receive that higher level of knowledge that has taken us tens of thousands of years to evolve, but now we have a destiny that we have to fulfil in our homeland because the truth is, we are the true leaders of our homeland. I'm not talking in a political sense here, I'm talking about the spirituality that we hold must take a lead in terms of redefining and restructuring the world that we are living in.
And it's a challenge of a change of lifestyle, it's a challenge of change of attitude. There shouldn't be racism in this country in the way that we are witnessing it today. If people could only understand that we are all on the same ship now and we are going to have to learn to get along. But is not about 1 part of the human family dominating, dominating the rest of the uniqueness of the human family.
And as Indigenous people we want an atmosphere or an environment of partnership, recognizing our autonomy and then sharing what we have with those that carry another knowledge and another wisdom that we could put together. That's the challenge, to grab a hold of the uniqueness of the knowledge of the human family. It's not about one dominating or overpowering another but rather sharing in what each of us can bring. And our children will benefit from this because they will say that we, you know, they'll look back on this and they said that's what those people did and that's what they started back in 2020 when they had this special Zoom meeting where it was difficult for the Elders to go on Zoom but here we are, we are taking advantage of it. But thank you Minister Bennett for taking the lead on this and allowing this type of forum to happen and I look forward to engaging more. Thank you so much. Meegwetch.
Maria Campbell: I just want to say, it's Maria, I just want to say thank you as well for this time to be able to talk about the things that we think are important. And I would just like to say that what I would like to see is support for Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and Elders coming together with Indigenous academics and academic Knowledge Keepers so that we can begin conversations on a new way of taking that knowledge into our communities and how it can be used in medicine and law, in all of those areas that affect our people. So thank you and it was good to share this time with all of you.
Hon. Dan Vandal: I want to sincerely thank our 3 guests for this very, very important, very profound discussion. We know that there are lots of, we live in a tumultuous time on so many levels, and I think it's important, now more important than ever to reach out to one another, to understand one another and to simply treat each other the way we all would like to be treated, with respect.
And you've brought much to the, for discussion over this last one hour and I thank you for everything that you have shared with us and certainly look forward to continuing this conversation. Thank you so much.
Hon. Marc Miller: Thank you too and I entirely agree with Dan. I think other than the technical issues, some of the silence was that we were speechless, which is probably a good thing. I do as well want to thank the 3 of you for taking the time to do this on a really, really special day in very, very unusual circumstances, ones that we hope will never repeat.
But this is a, I think it's a chance to reflect on how we move forward and how we let others move us forward, and that's, I think that's, I would say that the Knowledge Keepers on this call are all doctors, except for the ministers, but I forget that the next person to speak is also a doctor, so my interesting reflection is unfortunately inaccurate, but on that note I will pass it on to Carolyn and thank you all again for the time you took to do this. Meegwetch.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Well, thanks for that Marc, but as you know I'm the sort of doctor of body mechanics and have a lot to learn in terms of the Indigenous way of keeping the mind and the body and the spirit well, and I know that what I learned in medical school was really not all that helpful as we have learned now that when you leave out the spirit and leave out the emotion and the need for secure personal cultural identity, that somehow you end up not being as good a doctor.
And I wrote last year in a Globe and Mail article about how I wish I had read Maria's Halfbreed when I was in my last year of medical school because it would've made me a better doctor because I don't think I'd understood really about racism and the unequal treatment of people in this country that we thought was about fairness.
And so I just am so grateful as with my colleagues that like Dave, I hope we'll look back on this Zoom meeting and to think that we were able to build a better country, that it is in this as "Covidians" than we are now ready to build back better, socially and economically and environmentally and with fairness and respect. So as we celebrate this important day of the National Indigenous People's Day together, while apart, we will know that we learned a lot this afternoon and that we actually do need to be able to let this move into the concrete actions that will preserve the Indigenous knowledge and revere the Knowledge Keepers and make sure the young ones are able to carry it forward for generations.
And so, Marsi Maria, (Indigenous language) Karla, Meegwetch Dave, till the next time which I hope is really soon.