I have a feeling that things are going to change in Canada for First Nations People — and for once, it’s a hopeful feeling.
I am an Algonquin Anishinabe woman from the First Nation community of Kitigan Zibi situated on the outskirts of Maniwaki. I am also a Fellow of the United Nation’s Indigenous Fellowship Programme. All my life, I have sought to advance and improve Algonquin Anishinabe standards of life.
I was born into a family of warriors and chiefs who have always responded to a call to action to defend their lands, families, rights and the survival of our culture. My hopes for the Anishinabe are deeply ingrained in this past and within my belief system. I receive direction and insight through ceremonies rooted in ancestral practices, and I take the meaning of ceremony very seriously.
Recently, I have had the opportunity to really think and assess my role and how I want to go about and positively forge a change for my community. This came about when I chose to help create the Memengweshii Council. Inspired by ancestral practices, we are comprised of strong-willed Anishinabe women who have come together to support and help shape Zibi in a grassroots, non-political way.
I’m sure it seems odd to many that a group of Algonquin Anishinabe women would come together in support of a development project. Yet, to see Zibi as simply condos is to miss the point entirely. Zibi is a model where, collectively, we practice the values of true reconciliation. It is a 21st century inspiration of First Nations and non-First Nations, aiming to bring the voice of the Algonquin Anishinabe back in the heart of Canada’s capital. It is a joint effort of sincere collaboration that will make invisible people visible again and allow us to contribute and benefit in the growth of Canada.
Although in its early stages, our alliance of First Nations and non-First Nations has shown that cooperation and grassroots are the right mix to create real change and become a success story in the development of the world’s most sustainable community, built in the core of Algonquin Anishinabe territory.
To me, this model of collaboration is a catalyst that will demonstrate what can be achieved through reconciliation, and spark positive change in villages, towns, cities and provinces across this country.
Everyone has a role to play in how relations are rebuilt between indigenous peoples and Canadian society. Yet the solution is not a one-size fits all approach engineered and designed within a colonial structure. It requires a personal journey to figure out the best role we as individuals can play — but the actions must be done collectively.
It has been a very emotional and personal journey for us all, First Nations and non-First Nations, and our efforts to map out together a new course has at times created inner turmoil. It took courage to accept that bias had to be set aside if we are to make the headway required for people to understand the importance of what and how this generation can progress. Before we learned to walk together, we had to learn to crawl together. Through this, we have become friends. And through this friendship, we learned what it is to be human, as the Creator intended us to be.
It will only be together that we can defeat Windigo, the monster that eats the soul of goodwill. Together, we must find the path to a true future, one appealing and welcoming to the 22nd century where our children will live in a world long ago foreseen by our ancestors. Together, we must embark on that path, unobstructed by the past. This is how we defeat Windigo.
What we are accomplishing with Zibi is unprecedented in eastern Canada, perhaps in all of the nation. It goes beyond the creation of jobs and cultural recognition. It is trusting in our strengths and changing human behaviour. It is an embracing of the land, water and people in the most human way. It is striving for One Planet Living.
With a focus now on reconciliation, it is time to reconsider the advocacy models of the past and explore new ways to bring positive and lasting change, not only for First Nations people, but for all Canadians. This new way must be founded on friendship and must be conducted by leaders with a sober mind.
I have always walked in pride, knowing what I represented as an Anishinabe warrior woman, and today I have no regrets. My vision is peace and my means are peaceful.
Reconciliation will be accomplished through friendship. I am living this now and I see its powerful effect.
The time is now.