Back in 2008, I was at UBC. Newly arrived to take on a huge responsibility. Before my attempt to achieve a Phd.
And there was a theme in my life, which is of “missing”, grief and scared I guess…as it is recurrent and I move through the transitions of my life these days, all the while moving and shifting the thoughts and ideas given as sacred…here is a recollection…August 2008…and it is still relevant, and is still as strong as it was that day. And still teaches me today, about this work we are doing, trying to do.
…So I dreamt this morning in a way I haven’t for a long while…you were there and so I want to tell you this…I was told that you always tell the people who are in those dreams as sometimes there are pieces we get for someone else…for that person,….
I woke suddenly this morning.
After a night of running and outwitting others in order to keep safe what at times appeared to be a book of knowledge that the children had and were trying to keep.
People in suits were trying to take it.
The kids were hiding it in their clothes and in their stuff but the people kept finding it.
People wanted it and were intent to destroy it. Benevolently at best, dysconsciously but unchecked nonetheless.
It felt like a night of defensiveness and violence.
The kids were just kids with so much responsibility and were looking for adults to help them and found most were untrustworthy.
And then there I was there helping them and organizing them around me and I never questioned what they were trying to do or why.
I could feel the issues of trust and the need to ensure sharing of knowledge for all of them.
When I finally left the children in relative safety,
I found my way to a room that had in it assembled the great Indian minds of today: PhD,’s new philosophers, thinkers, writers, storytellers, ceremonialists, tribal leaders, academics, …. as they came in–many of them late, joking about Indian time, as if it really was,
there were not enough chairs for them all…a wall obstructed the view of half of them.
There was no ‘Roberts Rules of order’ to the chairs and some tried in vain to make it into a circle. While others were moving them into lines and rows for lectures.
Some of them were dressed in their finest regalia, some of them were in those clothes you knew they wore everyday to their office also a regalia to their ceremony and work
Some brought their bundles, some their books (another bundle if you think about it)…all expecting to lead.
You were there.
We, you and I, were leading them.
I started to notice and feel, because as I told you before, I like to watch and observe…I watched the chaos generations in the making.
The invited guests, they were all complaining, that I wasn’t doing it right.
All complaining that I should be doing it this way or that.
That I should go around the room to be respectful of the minds and speakers there.
Who was I to be leading them?
Complaining that there wasn’t enough room, there wasn’t….you name it…while I was talking and others were sharing, people kept talking under their breath to each other.
I started and this is what I said
“At first sight, we see that we all come from different nations, different tribal ways and so whose ways were to be the best and therefore structure this gathering?
The thing we share, the common unity, “community” is that we are all “the people”.
We all descend from the first peoples according the highest principles of being that we were all offered in our tribal ways.
With privilege comes responsibility to and with others.”
We had brought them all together to do the hardest work of their careers: tell their life stories, to write them, as evidence and as support to those coming.
We were brought together to add and in some cases begin the writing of the book of life, to give to the ones coming, the ones that I and so many others had spent so much time trying to find, love, in some cases protect and help, because they (the vulnerable ones) only had one copy left and it was in shambles and they couldn’t read it.
Worse, it was a translation, from an interpretation, not the actual living stories because…technology. because social policy. because the agenda. because the agreement. because the time.
Meanwhile, the littlest ones of our people were protecting it with their lives because they were told it was important but not what was in it.
And because they learned not to question their elders and their leadership, and loved them unconditionally, they were dying from fighting to keep it safe.
If we are to leave our great thoughts to academic minds is one thing, but to give the stories back to our littlest ones about how we came to be, they will find their use in this world again.
And then I told them about Indian time, the way my grandmother told me…that summertime is the most important time to work, but that there is always work for all of us to do…because when the food comes there is work to be done by all of us, indirectly and directly…that Indian time means being where we need to be, to help prepare and be prepared…being there way before the food is ready and being prepared…to work. Being ready to set up chairs, cook food, be humble.
and just as they came into the room, finding it not ready for them, and them not being ready for us either, the work will not get done.
I told them about how I am late to places and it is the one lesson I try hard to teach my children…to be earlier and to be of use to others in being early, in whatever way I can: emotionally, intellectually, physically…
Whose responsibility is it to be ready and to prepare the room and to prepare themselves?
We have all been busy “arriving” that we are not spending enough time teaching the children–not just our own what we know and why.
They are becoming grasshoppers in guise of “children and youth” by the same people who defined our ancestors as not human and and and
It is our own responsibility to be ready and to prepare the place and to honour the ones who do the preparing.
Just as the spirits, whatever you call them, prepared the universe for us, we must do the same…for each other and for those to come.
That we must humble ourselves to know that even in this room, there no hierarchy of who is best to lead.
We must relearn leadership of the time of the first humans because without those humans and their leadership, we would not be here…and we can and will return to those ways because they are still alive.
But we need to be together to teach each other, remind each other, love each other and laugh with each other (flirt with each other) and lead each other and tell those stories the way our mentors and teachers did and do. The ways they learned from their people as conduits of the universe, great spirit…
It is possible and necessary for cultural continuance.
Some people will be angry with my words.
Some people may feel disrespected too.
Some People may feel, this is not the right place for them to be.
Some people may leave.
I ask that you stay for one day, this day and at the end of it, should you still feel you need to leave, do so, without regret, remorse or bad feelings unresolved.
To do what we require of others, we will do ourselves.
And we will be stronger, all of us for it.
It will feel uncomfortable perhaps.
But I ask us all to try by doing.
You took down the wall.
And You and some other guys got up and brought in enough chairs for everyone.
You stood over there.
And then stood yourself beside me.
I asked them all, all of us to, in their own language and ways of being to all lead prayer for all of us there.
And I woke up to their voices, some singing, some praying in their language, some in english, but all heartfelt and tearful. It was sunrise.