Getting Mother Earth back to good health

·4 min read

Conversations about conservation standards are taking place during a ten-week, Healthy Country Planning workshop, led by Indigenous leaders Michele Sam of the Ktunaxa Nation at the helm and Amanda Sheedy based in Tio'tia:ke (Montreal) on the unceded territory of the Kanyen'kehà:ka as co-facilitator.

Excellent health isn’t just something we should strive for in our bodies, but also in our environmental, cultural and social values. Making sure all these are considered equally and that we take care of mother earth for future generations embodies the motto of the Healthy Country Planning workshop.

“To be Indigenous led, means to be ready first, to listen and value Indigenous peoples' knowledge and center the place and people. Not many of us have had that sort of socialization to do so,” says Sam. “This opportunity is co-facilitated by myself, a Ktunaxa person, who is also Indigenous in partnership with a non-Indigenous facilitator. People will appreciate the different world views and experiences, as well as find ways to shift the narratives of the past into a future plan. The knowledge of Indigenous is not a past tense way of being, doing and knowing. We have been here and continue to be here despite all the challenges and impacts, and we plan.” she adds. “It is time for Indigenous people to re-emerge our ways of thinking and plan for the future.”

The ten-series Indigenous-led workshop takes place once a week until June 15 and had its first class on Apr. 13. The workshops are offered through Zoom every Wednesday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m PST.

The cost for the workshop was $1100 plus tax per person, with a small discount if there were four or more from the same organization enrolling together. “The fees pay for both my own and the other co-facilitator Amanda Sheedy's time in preparing the course and its delivery including all the background production involved,” says Sam. “This training is an opportunity to re-emerge based on Indigenous knowledge that has merit and is time tested, because we are still here.” Carla Buck participated in a Healthy Country Planning Training Workshop back in May of 2019 in Pinewood Lodge, Manitoba. She shared that was the year that her community of Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba began the actions of implementing a Land Use Plan for their Traditional Territories. “Nature United had outreached to our community because of our desires to steward the lands, and strive to have a healthy environment for our people and mother nature for generations to come,” says Buck. ”I enjoy how adaptative the Healthy Country Planning workshop is, because each community is diverse and each situation is different. The healthy country plan really helps with focus and time management. It supports the community’s vision of what we want for our traditional territory and that it is very much attainable.”

Sam describes herself as a sixties scoop survivor. She currently owns her own business and teaches Indigenous studies at College of the Rockies. Sam offers workshops on a variety of topics, including one called Pre-Engagement Ethics. “This is the background, the stuff we need to know, to get ready for meaning and reciprocal engagement with Indigenous people,” says Sam.

Non-Indigenous were absolutely encouraged to take part in this past workshop and the more that will follow. “It is non-Indigenous who are in positions of decision making, advising, planning and policy development in Indigenous organizations,” says Sam.

Web-based tools are used throughout the workshop so that participants can engage with one another. All participants of this workshop will have access to exercises, powerpoints, and resources throughout and after the workshop is complete. “I would be incredibly happy if even one participant came to realize the importance of Indigenous Peoples' knowledge and value of ways that might have been sleeping,” says Sam.

The Ktunaxa have a term “to wake up" — “haq̓ maxun.” Sam hopes that knowledge wakes people up, giving them energy to do great work for the homelands and waterways that are attached to ancient languages and cultures with a rich history to accompany it. “I love witnessing 'aha' moments and supporting people through difficult and challenging dialogue,” says Sam. “Reconciliation implies a conflict and so to get to reconciliation we have to get through and understand the nature of conflict, and how it plays out for different people in different places.”

Sam shares she loves to see people be engaged in the content even though we are on a Zoom link. “Just because it is virtual does not mean it has to lose its meaning or ability to connect with people,” says Sam. “I think we are in a whole stage of 'social integration' after the whole social-isolation era. That means purposeful engagement and effort. More words not less. It’s a time to dedicate to thinking, reflecting and planning for the future.”

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer

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