Righting Relations, the Story of an Emerging Women-Led Network of Popular Educators and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers from Across Turtle Island

We are living in a time of prophecy. Many nations prophesized that there would come a time when people must choose between living a material way of life or following the Original Instructions – the spiritual way. They spoke of the time of the 7th Fire where there would be fires and floods. A time when Mother Earth would be sick and would shake. Some nations spoke of a giant spider web forming over the world, others spoke of black snakes across the land. In this time of power lines and pipelines we see the visions of the ancestors coming true. They spoke of a time of rising temperatures, of fighting and division. Some saw visions of water burning and what seemed impossible to the ancestors’ eyes has been made a reality by the fracking industry.

“Many people will turn away from the teachings of the Elders”, they said.

It was also prophesized that in this time of the 7th Fire, there will be people who will retrace their steps to find what was left by the trail. They will speak to the Elders, and bring back the Original Instructions. They will come together in sisterhood and brotherhood across nations.

They will seek to right relations with all of life, because this is the only way that life will continue.

We are Righting Relations, a women-led network of adult educators for social change, in partnership with the Catherine Donnelly Foundation. We are coming together across cultures as change-makers, who work with Indigenous, Immigrant, Refugee and low-income communities to co-learn, build networks of support, and strengthen our capacity to bring about radical social change.

The ways we are coming together are unique. We are aware that the political and economic systems are fraught with inequity and that we have inherited structures of power, which are colonial, patriarchal and destroying life in our communities, destroying our Mother Earth and the water. We are coming together in ways that are intentionally different, rooted in heart-based, land-based, inclusive and life-affirming principles. We are popular educators[1], adult educators, Indigenous knowledge keepers, artists, activists, grandmothers, aunties, fathers, healers, community organizers and people who want to model another way of being together. A way of being that supports and nurtures ourselves, each other and all life to thrive on this planet.

Currently we are convening change-makers in three hubs: Apaji’wla-matulinej in the East on the land of the Peace and Friendship Treaty, with an Indigenous focus; South/Central – Tkaronto, Dish With One Spoon Treaty Territory and on the unceded traditional land of the Algonquin Nation, a.k.a Ottawa, with an Immigrant and Refugee focus; and in the West in Treaty 6, 1 and 4 (Edmonton, Winnipeg and Regina) with a focus on Low-Income. We are beginning to build relationships in the North West Territories with Dene Nahjo, who are advancing social and environmental justice and fostering Indigenous leaders in the North.

We are women-led, but not women-only. Women in our leadership who are Mi’kmaq, which is traditionally a Matriculture, have taught us a great deal about what this means. Women-led to us, means that we honour heart-centered leadership. We listen to the wisdom of the heart, and we engage with that wisdom in our ways of doing. It’s a way of leading and following in which there is no one leader, rather a circle of leaders. We are all involved in shaping what we create and how we come together. A women-led approach excludes no one. There is a role and value for everyone in the circle. It’s a way of being that centers being authentic, building kin-like support networks, being vulnerable, honouring the Sacred, and acknowledging multiple ways of knowing, including the intuitive.

We believe in the power of circle learning. The circle is present in cultures the world over and is an ancient way of being together. In the circle, everyone has a place, nobody is above any other, and we can all be seen and heard. Everyone is a sacred being, full of wisdom. We learn to listen deeply to each other’s stories. We see ourselves in each other. We start where people are at, and our lived experiences of colonization, of injustice, reveal to us the systemic and interlocking nature of our oppression. It reveals to us that our liberation is interconnected – my liberation is connected to your liberation. It shows us that all of us here on Turtle Island must heal from the wounds of colonization – whether we are survivors, victims or perpetrators – we have all been deeply wounded. Without healing the wounds of colonization, we will make the mistake of recreating the same structures and patterns which separated us from the land, each other and our ancestral teachings in the first place.

We are bridging worlds, histories, cultures and knowledge systems, weaving a quilt that embodies Righting Relations. Each person who enters the circle, brings with them a piece of their culture, their story, their identity, their methodologies in adult education, and each piece is sewn into the fabric of our living tapestry. In the process we are learning about ourselves, building solidarity across peoples, learning from each other tools for transformative radical education with marginalized adults, and bridging a knowledge gap between popular education and Indigenous ways of knowing.

We know this work is generational, and the seeds we are planting together are rippling out on the personal, interpersonal and systemic levels. We have broken the isolation and the silence of pain many of us experience, and are breathing life back into the practice of critical adult education in Canada. We are building the confidence and courage to speak out against injustice, and building the support systems to stand alongside each other when we do choose to speak out even when there is a risk of loosing our livelihood. We are learning how to slow down, listen again and be the kind of leader that uplifts us all as leaders.

To find out more and to join us, please visit www.rightingrelations.org

 

[1] A dialogical and experiential process of facilitating collective reflection and action towards societal transformation, with a focus on the most marginalized sectors of society. Everyone is a teacher and a learner, and we begin with people’s lived experiences as a site for developing critical consciousness and awareness of power.

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