Over the past several years, Righting Relations/Apaji-wla’matulinej, in partnership with The Catherine Donnelly Foundation, has been fostering connections and learning exchanges with diverse adult/popular educators across Turtle Island. With the intent of strengthening our capacity to bring about radical social change, we are undergoing a transformative learning/unlearning journey to embody what a women-led, heart-centered approach to righting relations on this land we now call Canada looks like.
Our November newsletter features abbreviated reflections on five years of Righting Relations, a moose-hide tanning workshop in New Brunswick, thoughts on housing, homelessness and dignity as well as upcoming events. The newsletter also highlights of departure of Rehana Tejpar. Rehana, thank you for your commitment, your love and your essential role in the development of Righting Relations.
Rehana Tejpar Reflects on the Beauty and Importance of Righting Relations
In November, Rehana Tejpar steps down as National Coordinator of Righting Relations, she leaves friends and allies with this message:
Dear Members of the Righting Relations Network;
It has been a true honour to work with each of you and be a part of the many circles of the Righting Relations network since March 2016. I have grown tremendously through my relationships in this network and learned from each of you, from your stories, your teachings, your amazing skills, and ways of being leaders, facilitators and educators. Thank you for sharing your gifts with me, with Righting Relations, and with the world. You are each such bright and brilliant lights!
I see the profound beauty and importance of the work of Righting Relations and will be cheering you on from the sidelines as I continue to walk my path as a facilitator, artist and mother.
Please feel free to be in touch, if ever you feel the call. We can still be in relation. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you all the best on your personal journeys, in your circles and hubs and may the work continue to deepen and expand to your highest dreams.
In solidarity and love, Rehana Temper
Five years of Righting Relations
As Righting Relations enters its fifth year, we can be proud that program leaders have gathered a diverse network of adult educators and community organizers committed to advancing social change through political and economic literacy. Righting Relations is reaching circles and communities outside the current membership and is well positioned to enter a ‘second phase’ of work to deepen relationships, expand their presence and reach and build resource capacity and longevity. West Hub coordinator Renée Vaugeois reflects on the program’s successes and what’s ahead:
Committed to Brave Conversation
I see a real commitment to being brave in the conversation. There’s been a shift in the nature of people who are part of the network; a real skill that’s developed in our team to be able to transition conversation to be more empathetic in that space and now as a result, I think we’re ready to do really strong work together. There’s been this point where people have made a commitment to be in the circle and recognize that it’s hard and you have to be willing to push through [some hard] conversations without saying ‘I’m going to get out of here.’ It is a really a family of people who are taking care of each other in really interesting ways; even from those in our networks who are struggling with homelessness, people are supporting them. It’s kind of beautiful.
Deepening our Skills
Phase one has allowed us to really unpack and dissect those issues that are really deeply concerning for us and now it’s time for us to figure out how we build forward on that? What excites me is we’re not only going to deepen our skills and be able to hold space and educate in different ways, but we will actually spend time on digging into the concept of genocide and some of these issues that are really challenging for us and really push forward in a collaborative way. And what I see, too, is that when we’re doing Righting Relations – while we’re in network and while we’re focusing on capacity building – there are these really beautiful alignments that are happening between people in the network where they are pursuing work together.
Taking Learnings into Other Spaces
I’m excited about the alignments between different members in our network and creating the spaces for those folks to continue with the brave stuff we’ve been doing. Now the trick is to take those learnings into other spaces, so at our regional gathering we put people into teams and said ‘can you work on this workshop together and deliver it?’ And I think there was such a beauty in that co-educating and co-facilitating together [across different cultures]. If we hadn’t done all that foundation building, I don’t think we could try to put these people together to facilitate a conversation on their side.
Pushing the Conversation
There’s an element of trust, but now there’s also this element of everybody realizes we’re all there to push the conversation together. We all realize that adult education is such an absolute critical need in this country. And coming from Alberta right now, I can’t tell you how urgent it is. There’s a real desire to fill that gap We’re really excited to work as teams, but also to push conversations around [issues] like the Missing and Murdered indigenous Women and Girls report and hear what people think of them; not to have them shut their doors and say ‘this is not for me,’ but to create a space where they can engage and start to see the realities.
Building Capacity by Partnering with Organizations
What excites me in the second phase is really strengthening those foundational relationships with other organizations. The work of individuals – the adult educators – is moving forward, but building our capacity is going to come through us being able to really strengthen our relationship and strengthen our longevity as [larger] organizations. These organizations will bring resource capacity to the table … to build partnerships and to do that long, long term work.
Disability and Gender Identity are Priority Areas
We have identified two key priority areas, the first being disability. There was a realization recently that as much as people with disability have been part of the circle and part of the growth, there’s still such a deep lack of understanding [of their situation]. The big part is really strengthening that capacity to include, but also to have more people with disabilities as part of the network. And then the second priority relates to gender identity. We have a number of transgender community members, but again, there’s a realization there are certain groups of people who feel very isolated and excluded even when they’re in the circle. We need to create spaces where we’re holding more of those folks at the table, because I noticed with people with disabilities and the transgender community that they come in and get their toes in the water, but then they’ll leave. We have to really create that space where they can fully, fully come in and be with us in a meaningful way. And that’s going to take time.
Encouraging the cross-country spread of Dialogue for Peaceful Change training
Last February, Apji-wla’Matulinej (Eastern Hub) and Women of First Light were able to sponsor this 5-day training in conflict transformation called Dialogue for Peaceful Change (DPC), through funding from the Native Brotherhood. Righting Relations covered the cost of flights for members from across the country to join in. This experiential training supports the values of Righting Relations as it challenges people to move into a place of being open and curious rather than judgemental of each other. It also provides practical tools for using meditative behaviour in groups, in circles, communities and your work. The National Steering Committee’s hope is that in the next Phase of Righting Relations we can develop trainers across the country. To start this dream, Women of First Light and the Tatamagouche Centre are sponsoring two Indigenous women to Intern with Ishbel Munro and Steve Law in delivering this program in November.
Moose Hide Tanning Workshop
Reflection.. by Juisen Bartibogue
On October 13 to October 20, 2019 at the Wolastoq Gathering Grounds in Fredericton, New Brunswick, the Women of First Light organized a remarkable teaching for indigenous peoples in the East. A camp was set up with teepees and old-style camping tents with a wood stove for cooking and all week there were meals and hot beverages provided. The public was welcomed for observation and participation. It was the same week as thanksgiving, a funny and ironic time to host an event of indigenous culture, however, something changed the energy in the air at this week long workshop.
At the Wolastoq Gathering Grounds, with its history as a sacred ancestral burial ground, came a powerful presence that no words can describe. It brought back the indigenous way into the indigenous people of today who attended the workshop.
This event was conducted by a really remarkable and powerful teacher, named Melaw Nakehk’o, from Yellowknife. She awoke the heart of our ancestors within us all. It felt like a real indigenous community, again. Every person helped one another [and] everyone was there as a family, as a true community. Everyone inspired and created a safe space to love and care about one another.
On Thanksgiving Day, social media blew up on the genocide aspect of this holiday, but for me, I came to the beautiful realization of something more meaningful and present. It was a day of rejuvenating our culture. I thought of the ignorance that exists in people when it comes to indigenous people and then I highlighted something very important: If it wasn’t for indigenous people, the colonized settlers wouldn’t have survived 500 years ago in the whole Western Hemisphere. Imagine that?
But this day was special, it truly became a thanksgiving after all. Giving thanks for this wonderful opportunity to be part of such rich, traditional knowledge that is being offered. Being thankful for a week of laughter, hugs, reconnection, teachings, and humbleness… and yummy soul food!! If it wasn’t for our courageous and heroic indigenous ancestors, none of us would’ve seen this day! And if it wasn’t for our elders who chose the way of our ancestors in their lifetime here and now, this amazing knowledge of traditional teachings would’ve been lost. I have become incredibly thankful to have been given this opportunity.
I am 25 years old and new to these teachings and my daughter is four years old and learning this teaching by my side. I feel happy for her generation, It’s amazing to reflect on how much opportunities are coming out today to learn more of our culture; how it’s just flourishing and healing us as its brought back into practice. It warms and comforts my heart how much my daughter absolutely loved waking up every morning and the first thing she thought and said was how happy she was going back to “the grounds” to learn more.
I want to encourage my whole generation to go to these events, to these gatherings, to learn… because with all the pain and trauma that has been recycled into us, this is a step toward healing and reconnection and rejuvenation. It just feels like this is the way, always been and always should be. The sense of a real community and unconditional love is so unreal and is too precious to turn away from and forget.
Thank you/ Welalin/ Woliwon
Note: Women of First Light is an Indigenous women-led non-profit that grew out of Apji-wla’Matulinej/Righting Relations Eastern Hub. We are thankful to the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and Climate Change/Indigenous Services for their support.
Edmonton Social and Environmental Advocate Johnny Lee on housing, homelessness and dignity
“There is so much outward, overt housing discrimination [from landlords] … they will not accept Indigenous People. When you’ve experienced homelessness, you’re labeled right away. This is Indigenous land and we have to pay colonial society rent to live on our own land. It’s not our world that you have to step on others in order to get ahead. A lot of us have the view that we don’t want any part of that, we just want to live.”
The Righting Relations team in Edmonton has been working hard to advocate for issues related to dignity and housing. Listen to what Johnny Lee has to say about barriers to being housed here
KAIROS Prairies North Regional Gathering 2019
Edmonton, AB, November 22-23, 2019
KAIROS Prairies North invites those from Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories to their annual regional gathering. Come to learn more about how to build positive Alliances for Change! Link to event here
Facilitating Creative Collaboration, Toronto, ON Nov 29 – Dec 1st
Facilitating Creative Collaboration is a 2 ¼ day hands-on workshop welcoming seasoned and emerging facilitators, organizational leaders, organizers, educators, trainers, artists, bridge-builders, healers and more. If you are a person who brings people together and wants to deepen your practice of facilitating collaboration, this workshop is for you. We invite you to step into the space of exploring what is the art of collaboration? What conditions support people’s full participation into collective processes and decision-making? How do we harness collective wisdom towards our organization’s most complex challenges? What processes support the meaningful inclusion of diverse perspectives, while recognizing inequities of power? How do we engage in bridge-building conversations across difference? What helps to spark the creative genius in us all? Register for the event here
Decolonizing Relationships; learn our histories and transform relations, Hamilton, ON December 2, 2019
The event will be facilitated by Michelle Thomas, a Seneca Bear clan woman from Six Nations of the Grand River who strives to incorporate Haudenosaunee values in all her work, and is passionate about creating opportunities for people to decolonize their minds. Michelle’s book Through the Leaf’s Thickness, tells her life journey from the depths of childhood trauma to forging a new path through a powerful spiritual awakening. If you would like to attend, please RSVP on the Eventbrite page
Righting Relations Hamilton Human Rights Facilitator Training, Alberta, March 2020
The Human Rights Facilitator program is available through Edmonton’s John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights and equips participants with the tools and capacity to create spaces of learning and dialogue around human rights and build stronger and more resilient communities. Taking place at Sanctum Retreat Centre in Caroline, AB, the intensive sessions will take place over six days in which participants will:
• Deepen their understanding of United Nations’ treaties and declarations and understand how they are out relevant to the local context;
• Explore how human rights can be a tool for human rights advocacy and accountability;
• Gain skills in facilitating spaces of intersectionality and with a lens to decolonization; and,
• Learn skills in documenting and translating dialogue outcomes to stakeholders.
Cost is $1,250 which includes tuition, accommodation and meals. There are a limited number of subsidized spaces available. Register for the program here
Righting Relations National Gathering, Tatamagouche, NS, June 4 – 7, 2020