This past week, the teacher in charge of my daughter’s high school reconciliation committee decided to cancel this years’ Indigenous Arts event. The explanation given was that people in the Indigenous community feel that non-Indigenous people need to reconcile before they are allowed to experience Indigenous culture.
It seems that feelings in Indigenous communities are pretty raw after the recent Coulton Boushie and Tina Fontaine cases. This is understandable. Still, I think that movement away from cultural sharing is a mistake. Experiencing indigenous culture is a way in, at least for people like me!
First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures are rich and worthy of exploration. I believe I came to where I am today BECAUSE I experienced them. A big part of my reconciliation process involved reading the work of Thomas King, watching North of 60, collecting Inuit carvings and wall hangings, sleeping in an igloo, attending pow wows, listening to First Nations stories, eating Muktuk, bannock and bullet soup, attending plays like Salt Baby, and exploring First Nations practices like smudging.
This is NOT to suggest that experiencing Indigenous cultures is enough on its own. There are other things that need to be done too – learning and accepting our shared history being one of them. For example, try reading Clearing the Plains. It is an eye-opener!
Experiencing Indigenous arts provide an esthetic, affective route to reconciliation though that reading history can never do!
Am I really reconciled??? While I like to think I am, no one has ever pronounced on that. Who would be qualified to do that anyway – an elder or elder’s helper, I suppose.
Still, we non-Indigenous people need to be patient around this. First Nations in particular are dealing with a lot of issues. I believe a reluctance to share Indigenous cultures will only be temporary because the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.