Before I attended the CRE conference I was very lost and frustrated with the world. I had just transferred out of a very racist school and I was feeling hopeless about the world and the future for reconciliation. I felt ashamed of who I was as an Indigenous woman because of months of constant harassment.
When I first met up with Rachel and the whole Students on Ice crew I was greeted with warm smiles and positive attitudes towards reconciliation and Indigenous rights. This felt like a breath of fresh air compared to my old high school environment of closed minds. The first day SOI did a whole day to get our ideas flowing about reconciliation and what it means to us. I was really nervous at first because I feared that I was going to look foolish but everyone made me feel very valued and that my ideas mattered. The talks that we had that day helped me bond with the fellow delegates and helped me create questions that I would ask at the conference. That day I learned that there is more to reconciliation than just healing the past of residential schools. My friend Thomas said that and it really stuck with me because he was so correct about that.
The first day of the delegation was so inspiring, seeing all of the Indigenous people and allies in one setting made me feel so proud to be who I am. Mumilaaq the Nunavut MP spoke and her words gave chills all along my spine. She talked about her experiences as an MP Inuk woman and how she persevered through hate. This resonated with me because even though I am not Inuk or an MP I can relate to feeling unwelcome or disadvantaged in a public setting. I do not remember the exact words but she said something along the lines of “I have to constantly remind myself I belong here, I belong here, I belong here and we do. We deserve to feel welcomed in these spaces.” This made me feel like I could conquer anything.
On the second day of the conference at one of the workshops, I learned how our everyday language and practices subconsciously colonizes our minds. Words like Mrs, Ms and Mr makes women ownership of the men and that is not the Indigenous way. The indigenous way is that we are all connected and that everyone is equally important, even bugs. I already knew this teaching but the women running the workshop pointed out strange things we do in society that have no meaning and ruin ecosystems. For example, mowing the lawn is for looks only, but yet we still do it even though it affects the soil, the plants, the insects and bees negatively. This in itself is a colonized action that we do unknowingly.
On the third day of the conference I learned about grants and how to do them. I was really interested in the whole process because to make positive change anywhere most of the time you need money to fund your cause. To get that money you need grants. I found it so helpful and important that I can now contribute the skill of grant writing to my community.
On the final day SOI had our own day to reflect on everything we had taken in and share it with everyone else since we all took different workshops. I found this super helpful because I got to learn even more than I already learned. That day we also planned actions to take to help our communities out with ongoing issues. We talked about the technicalities of activism and where to start. I loved doing this because I have always been very inspired to take action but I never knew where to start. Everyone from the delegation supported my cause and helped me work out a plan to tackle the issue in my old school, racism. They supported my emotions and they made it very clear that they would always have my back.
Later that day me and my friend Thomas went to an actual strike. It was a Wet’suwet’en strike and it was something I was and still am very passionate about. It was so amazing to see the whole change making process in one day. From the planning to the action it was so satisfying to feel like I was making a difference, even if it was small. I left this whole experience feeling so inspired by the resilience of the others around me and the stories I heard. I was also inspired by the amount of amazing and beautiful allies us Indigenous people have. I left for home knowing I had a new set of lenses to look through the world with and a lot of knowledge to share with my community. But most importantly I left knowing I had an amazing group of people to support me and love me in whatever I am to do next, and I them. This experience has helped me find and love myself so that I can get on the path to taking action. I will forever be grateful for this experience.
Msit No’kmaq – Kassidy Augustine.