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As the Nishiyuu walkers arrive in Ottawa, I am proud to be Canadian.

This weekend, I was in Saskatoon to attend a conference put on by an organization called Canadian Roots Exchange. The conference was about bridging the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous youth.

Of about 150 people who attended the conference, I was one of maybe 10 non-native people.

We They talked about what it means to be native, the 8th fireIdle No More, spiritual practices, creation stories, the environment, their place in society, their elders. They talked about working to overcome the scars left by the residential schools, even today. I had nothing to add or contribute, and that’s good. I have so much to learn, and I’m still processing everything. My clothes still smell like burning sage. It’s incredible to see this group of youth who are ready to overcome past struggles, ready to make a change and a commitment to a clean and healthy life to save their histories and cultures, and to raise their children in a way that respects their elders and traditions. I learned what it means to smudge, and what it means to fight, sometimes silently, to fight for your religion and your beliefs. I learned about their struggle to stay true to themselves, when surrounded by their peers who are still lost. I learned about environmental racism, poison island and chemical valley. I learned the word Anishinaabe, among others. I was embarrassed when asked to introduce myself in a non colonial language. I couldn’t. One of the other non-native women at the conference wrote a poem about the guilt she felt – “I feel guilty, even though I was not there. I am white, they were white. I feel guilty.” The thing is, though, that they didn’t care that we are white or non-native. They’re here to build bridges, and they’re looking for allies. I got to spend the weekend with a group of youth who are ready for a change. What a rich exchange between people who have so much to offer, what an honor to have been a part of it.

I also just found out that the Nishiyuu Walkers are reaching Ottawa tomorrow, after a two month journey. They are thousands strong, here to make their voices heard, to prove that first nations care and are working together. Harper won’t listen. But we need to.


On the road again – Third time’s the charm

As you can see in the last couple of posts, I ended up leaving my African internship earlier than planned – it just wasn’t the right experience or place for me.

So I’m heading out again, for the third time in two years. My great escape to London in the summer of 2009 was a great failure, as was my exciting African experience of summer 2010. Based on her previous experience, my friend Cecil believes that the best time to start a new adventure is in the winter. So this is me hoping that my newest exciting project will be the right one!

Two weeks from now, I’m leaving home again for my Katimavik Project Leader training. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks explaining to everyone what Katimavik is, and I’m becoming a pro at answering this question. I usually read people and figure out where to begin, but since I’m a series of black and white words right now and you are an anoymous set of eyeballs, here the bare bones basics:

  • Katimavik is Canada’s leading youth volunteer service program for Canadians aged 17-21
  • Youth spend three months in two different Canadian communities–usually smaller, more connected communities where they can make a bigger impact
  • Youth live and travel with 10 other young people from all across Canada (plus one project leader – me!)
  • In each community, they are assigned a work placement.
  • They must learn to live in and run a house together, and plan trips and other activities while keeping in line with one of the five learning programs: Leadership, Official Languages, The Environment, Cultural Discovery and Healthy Lifestyle.
Lucky me, that I get to be there to help them along the way! I leave for Bromont, Qc in two weeks to start training, and after a short break for Christmas I’ll be heading to Moncton, Saguenay or Matane to (eagerly) await my first set of volunteers!