by Fathiya Warsame
Forty-five women with diverse backgrounds and organizations travelled together to Kitigan Zibi community, in Maniwaki Quebec, to deepen their understanding of colonization and strategies for decolonizing our work. This event was organized by the Ottawa Righting Relations Circle and coordinated by the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI), which seeks to enhance the skills of women facilitating social change.
We are extremely grateful to be welcomed by Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda to the Kitigan Zibi cultural centre and to have been taken on a tour of the community. At the beginning of the day we heard from Elder Claudette Commanda, Elena Abel, Michelle Penny, and Delores Peltier who shared personal stories on how they were impacted by the sixties scoop, residential schools and moving to an urban area. This was followed by an interactive exercise to name our ancestors experience of colonization as Indigenous, immigrant, racialized and white women. We were all urged to take action and continue to be more aware of ways we may have benefited or marginalized by colonization.
Manvitha Singamsetty then provided us with a presentation on the history and belief system behind colonization.
“We grant you (Kings of Spain and Portugal) by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture and subjugate the…pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, countries, principalities, and other property (…) and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude.” – Papal Bull, issues to Afonso V by Pope Nicolas V
We were also invited to join in traditional cleansing and prayer ceremonies as well as participating in open and closing prayer songs. We all came together to build bridges as we are all a part of the solution process. By listening to everyone’s ideas, thoughts, stories and concerns we can begin to engage community members and organizations to work with an inclusive and de-colonizing lens.