We all know that to create the radical systems change required of this time we need to be brave. Brave enough to see that actually the systems we are trying to change live within us as well as outside of us. Brave enough to look at our privilege. Brave enough to face the ecological crisis upon us. Without bravery very little will change to the degree and urgency that it needs to.
Doing this on your own is pretty hard, so this summer our Social Labs community has started a new practice we call Brave Conversations. Each month we’re picking an intractable concern for lab practitioners to jump on a Zoom call and speak from the heart about. The goal is not to share how we’re ‘solving’ this issue, but instead how we’re grappling with it. The format is basic – we do a talking circle with three rounds – check-in (how are you entering this conversation?), dialogue (how is this topic affecting you?) and check-out (how are you leaving this conversation?). In this practice we see each other’s care and struggle and we feel less alone (and maybe a bit more brave).
The first month our topic was the deep adaption for climate change – inspired both by Professor Jem Bendell’s paper of the same name and by this article ‘Why we all need to stop worrying about climate change (and what to do instead). It was emotional and amazing to hear how practitioners from all around Canada were navigating through this overwhelming topic.
Our second conversation was about how to be a good settler – understanding that reconciliation with indigenous peoples has two parties (the indigenous and the settler) and wanting to give support to each other to do our part well. There was an overwhelming sense of care for this issue and a real desire to ‘get into right relations’ with our First Nations peoples. And part of that means alleviating some of their burden of having to educate us settler folks.
People spoke about the need to cultivate a growth mindset, understanding that we will inevitably make mistakes even with the best of intentions. Our blindspots will trip us up and we probably will offend people. But this can’t be an excuse for not trying. Many of us settler folks grew up on a diet of approval where we had to get things right or else we would lose status (just think about our schooling system!). Trying something with the risk of getting it wrong is a daunting thing, especially when we really want to be a ‘good person’. What we need to realise though is that this diet of approval is a privilege. Working through this is key to the work of de-centring ourselves.
The call finished with a heartfelt commitment from each of us to organize ourselves and our other settler friends to educate ourselves to the best of our ability, while taxing our indigenous relations only strategically (and being hugely grateful for their teachings). To that effect we put together a list of resources that have been valuable to each of us in our learning so far.
If you have 10 minutes:
- Indigenous Ally Toolkit by Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network
- 5 Things You Need to Know About Solidarity in Reconciliation: Calling in White Settler Canadians by 4RS Youth Movement
- Jagged Worldviews by Leroy Little Bear
If you have an hour:
- All My Relations podcast
- Stories from the Land podcast
- 94 Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
If you have 5 hours:
- First Peoples – A Guide for Newcomers by the City of Vancouver
- Book : Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel
- Book : White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo
- Novel : The Break by Katherena Vermette
- Novel : The Heaviness of Things That Float by Jennifer Manuel
- Novel : Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness by Robert Specht
If you have 10 hours (maybe start a book club!):
- Honoring our Truth, Reconciling for the Future by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
- Book : Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Book : Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villenueva
If you have 20 hours:
- Indigenous Canada online course by University of Alberta