Shé:kon sewakwekon Kanehsatàkero:non!

For a while now, I have been pondering many questions surrounding our affairs: politics, governance, rights, culture and sovereignty. These are very important topics that should be at the forefront of our discussions. As part of my process, I often ask myself: “How are we sovereign?” “How do we assert this sovereignty?” “What makes us distinct from the settlers?”  The answer can be quite simple: our ancestors were here much longer before the arrival of the settlers! Although this statement rings true, it is only a partial truth. Yes we were here first, since time immemorial, but in addition to this, we had a different way of living, a different way of thinking, of governing and of speaking. The whole truth is that we are distinct because we hold an ancient connection to this land through our ancestors who we are connected to through our language and culture both of which are intrinsically linked. We need not look further than the countless attempts made against us in order to force assimilation and to bring about our demise. The attacks were against our language and culture. To break the ties we held to our ancestors and to this land we call home. Once that connection is broken, once that distinction is gone, our identity will be lost..

It is no secret that colonialism and its genocidal tactics have had a profound negative impact on our existence. Our current situation is a direct  result of this and it has created some very deep wounds. Wounds that we must work to heal in order to move forward and grow.

Although MCK operates under a vail of secrecy and lack of public accountability, we can decipher from the bits of information and statements in the media that their priorities lie with economic development and policing to “restore order” which they believe will facilitate the first. Policing will not solve our issues, it will not mend our wounds or heal our scars. Security is an essential part of healthy living but we know all to well that current models of policing do not bring about the type of changes we long for. Economic development which would bring about more prosperity is a great thing, no one will argue that. The most pressing concern however is whether we can ever achieve security and prosperity while our people are still hurting and suffering from the wounds and scars of colonialism.

When we suffer a cut, we stitch the skin and the wound eventually heals and scars. If we hurt a muscle, we rest it and then work to rehabilitate it. Colonialism sought to annihilate our language and culture and these practices still continue to some degree today. The wounds and scars left behind are not physical but mental and spiritual yet extremely serious nonetheless! Now, what are we doing about this? Why are we not healing the cultural wounds? Why are we not rehabilitating our language to preserve our identity? I believe the path to mental and spiritual health can be undertaken through language and culture, filling the void that was created when these vital aspects of our identity were stripped from us. Reconnecting with our cultural identity can return balance to our mental and spiritual well being. Healthy minds and spirits make for healthier people. Healthier people make for healthier, safer communities and Nations with opportunities to thrive.

In Kanehsatà:ke, our language is in a dire situation. The doomsday clock of cultural identity is ticking. Of the relatively small number of aging speakers we have left, an even smaller number are teachers. Our teachers are invaluable assets of cultural salvation and they will not be with us forever. It is imperative that we act now to created speakers but more importantly that we create capable and willing teachers to undertake the task of language revitalization. We must break the cycle of cultural destruction and assimilation and replace it with a system that will see our children becoming healthy and proud Onkwehonwe.

Investing in language and culture is investing in a healthier, safer and more prosperous community. It is crucial to meaningful economic development in line with our assertion of sovereignty on our homeland. The responsibility lies with each and everyone of us to be the agents of change. Many individuals have already undertaken this task, some have been at it for years. We must however collectively demand that those in positions of influence and administration also afford this dire situation the level of attention that it critically needs!

Why is language and culture not a top priority for the current administration of MCK? Are they blind to the reality we face?

Why does Canada, although superficially, seem to afford more importance to language preservation than our own administration?

Through complacency and inaction, are we complicit to our own cultural genocide? Immediate, meaningful commitments and actions are required. Let’s discuss these issues and work together toward viable and sustainable solutions!

Nia:wen kówa tá:non skennen!