by Suzanne Doerge
She had wandered for so long,
wondering where she belonged,
her ancestors pulled from one land
to be pushed to another,
shoved into ships on a quest not their own,
their youth scooped up and caught
in the winds of promises broken,
the word they called earth denied,
keeping afloat on the waves of history,
resisting the forces that tossed them
from shore to shore.
It was in a quiet valley of Ontario,
allowing the clear stream to flow
through her life blood, sweetgrass
clearing a path for stories to be told,
that she lay her mountainous body down,
her proud hips, a horizon for the rising sun,
her breasts still dripping with milk and honey
of the promise land,
her waist dipping into forgotten ravines,
her legs stretching strong into slopes
from which the eagle soared,
her arms wrapped round all who passed,
tending the roots of the trees that grew there,
cradling the seeds of what was yet to become,
the fire lit.
the clear stream gushes
from one expanse into another,
resilient people finding home.
This poem was written during the Righting Relations Central Regional Gathering in Treaty 18, Mono, Ontario, Nov 24-26, 2017.
From many different homelands, 35 change-makers from across Ontario, who use transformative/adult education processes for radical social change gathered for two days along a spring-fed stream, flowing from the rolling hills of the Hockley Valley. We are leaders, equity facilitators, mothers, sisters, aunties, grandmas, activists, organizers, artists, people of Immigrant and Indigenous ancestry to Turtle Island. We came together as the Righting Relations Central Regional Network to explore our identities, solidarities, the impacts of colonization, creative and collective care and rebuilding our connection to the land.
We sang songs and convened with our ancestors, we listened to each other’s stories, we shared pieces of our histories, struggles, questions, and yearnings to find home. Who Am I? Deeply listening to each other’s stories in circle, we were able to understand ourselves better, for each one of us holds a piece of the collective story of disconnection, displacement, colonization, resistance, resilience, seeking, longing and reconnection.
We were able to remove a mask, and witness each other with open hearts.
We are so different. And yet, so similar.
We experienced an Indigenous way of sharing through a talking circle, where time slows down and everyone is given equal space to share their truth. And then we experienced another model, a Western approach to dialogue – popcorn style, hands raised in the air to speak – and time sped up. It became harder to process what was being said, and harder to listen as we crafted our responses to people’s points as they spoke…
Having these two experiences back to back was profound as we could see more clearly the impacts of different approaches to hosting conversation. How do we want to hold space for dialogue? What kind of conversation do we want to have? Juxtaposing an Indigenous and Western way, side by side was good information for us to have as we move forward.
We spent time connecting to the land and Earth wisdom. We listened…
Now, how do we want to walk together? How do we nurture our network of relations?
This is what we saw:
We come together again and again, we learn more about one another, we map ourselves in the web of our Righting Relations network so we can each connect to one another and collaborate.
We continue having generative dialogue, in person and online, reflecting together and supporting one another.
We continue to do the inner work of decolonization and unpacking white privilege.
We show up as allies to one another and our communities’ events and struggles. We advocate.
We widen the circle and invite new people in.
Thank you to each person who is walking this path with us. We are truly inspired and humbled by your beauty and strength. Let us continue to walk side by side, learning, unlearning, reconnecting and making this world more whole and just for the present and future generations to come. We make the road by walking.
by Rehana Tejpar