Finley had a great time, especially when I let him off leash for a swim in a quiet section of the river.
Along the way I spoke to an Anishnaabeg artist about a series of art pieces he is creating in the area. He spoke about the importance of knowing the history of the area and expressed appreciation that I was interested in just that. He said that only by taking the time to listen to the First Peoples and grow trust will we turn a corner in our sharing of Canada.
This was underscored at a couple of talks I attended this past weekend at the Skylight Festival. Adrian Jacobs, Keeper of the Circle at the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre (a United Church ministry training centre) was there and shared the history of the Two Row Wampum and the settling of the Grand River area by the Haudenosaunee.
Southern Ontario had been the hunting grounds of his people, but with American incursions into their traditional territory in upper New York State, they withdrew to the Grand River. An agreement was made with the British that they would have set aside for their use 6 miles on either side of the Grand River from mouth to source - that's a large territory. But as is well documented the people were cheated of their land and reduced to a much smaller territory. "People's beliefs are known by their actions," he reminded us. "My people have kept our agreements. If the promised land was returned to us you wouldn't need to worry. We should be scared of you based on the past." You could sense some bristling among the crowd when he said that but I know he was right. That same story has been repeated in many parts of the country.
And yet despite how much settler people have failed Indigenous people Adrian has hope. He invited us to share the story, to do what we can to stand with indigenous people. Many others have shared the same thing with me, that we need to do something beyond just saying sorry in order for a new relationship to be created. It will take effort on our part, more than just attending talks. It will take writing MPs and attending protests. It will take showing up at pow wows and listening to Indigenous people as they share how we can advocate for change.
And truth be told sometimes we'll miss what is going on. We get caught up with our lives and the day to day busy-ness. Meanwhile there are tragedies like the suicide epidemic among young people in isolated reserves, or the fact that the federal government continues to under fund health, education and social services for Indigenous peoples despite being told more than once by the courts that it was in the wrong. And we'll miss the triumphs, like the mandate of Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women being expanded to include police conduct. When it happens I feel overwhelmed, like I have let down my friends by not paying attention.
Something akin to that happened on my river walk. There were a couple of markers I missed along the way. I'd been distracted by a group of kids getting ready to go canoeing and by the rumble of the subway overhead. I was busy trying to make sure I was on the right path and avoid heavy machinery on the sidewalk. When I realized I'd missed them I was tempted to go back. There was a part of the story I'd missed and I felt that I had failed in my mission to learn the local Indigenous story.
But as I walked a labyrinth that I discovered near the mouth of the Humber I realized it was okay. along with the kids and subway and heavy machinery I also had been focused on what I needed to in that moment - the peace of the river, the beauty of wildflowers and trees, and Finley wanting to have a swim. And I was attentive to the paintings under the subway bridge and to listening to the story of the artist. Which is the point he was making in the end. It's easy to get caught up in our lives. But what really matters is the series of relationships that we nurture along the way. And when we take time to get to know Indigenous people and are attentive to our relationships, that's when the healing will happen and something new will be born.
I discovered this a couple of days ago in the nest. I thought the eggs were delayed when all along little hatched chicks had been cozying under their parents slowly getting stronger.
And the same is true of the Indigenous-Settler relationship in Canada. With friendship new life will slowly grow and before we know it a new way of being together will take wing.