Shelly Johnson Perpetrating Sexual Violence on Indigenous Bodies – EVA BC 2018 Keynote

Shelly Johnson Perpetrating Sexual Violence on Indigenous Bodies – EVA BC 2018 Keynote

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[Shelly Johnson introduces self in traditional Indigenous Saulteaux language] Good morning, everyone. what I said to you in my Saulteaux
language is my traditional name and that I give thanks to the Creator for that in
my community and my nation it’s my uncle’s responsibility to give me my
traditional name Mukwa Musayett that means I’m walking with bears
I’m from Keeseekoose First Nation it’s a Saulteaux community on the
Saskatchewan Manitoba border and so in every way that is possible to be a
visitor here on the unceded and occupied territory of the Musqueam people I am
and I’m very grateful to the community to make this space available for all of
us to be here as guests or as uninvited guests as it may be the other thing that
I said to you is that I’m from the bear clan I like to thank Tracey for
extending an invitation for me to come and speak with you today I think that
the work that you’re doing is some of the most important work that exists and
when Tracey was reading out where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing one thing
that she didn’t say and that isn’t in my bio is that some of my first memories
are of being about three years old standing with my mother and my little
brother who was an infant at the time and seeing these men with fuzzy hats on
their head and long yellow stripes on the side of their pants
come to our house and to escort us to a really pretty car that was in our
driveway and it had red and blue lights on the roof and those men took us to
Grandma’s house so I would have been three my brother would have been a
newborn and I remember being afraid in thinking
that maybe we had done something wrong I didn’t know why they were in our house I
didn’t know why we were in the car and I remember when I got out and I could see
my grandparents standing on the front step waiting for us and I remember
looking at the man and he said you know there’s really nothing to be afraid of
you’re gonna be okay he said is there anything I can do?
He must have had children at home and I said it would be really nice if you
would turn those pretty lights on and so in my grandparents driveway he turned on
the red and blue flashing lights and I remember thinking wow he’s a really nice
guy and I remember skipping up the walk and thinking everything was gonna be
fine I remember the next day we were home and my mom put a turkey in the oven
and she was cooking and I remember saying to her why are we back here she
didn’t really have an answer and I remember at that time at such a young
age thinking when I grew up this is never gonna happen to me
three years old I can remember that like it was yesterday I’m going to talk to
you a little bit about what’s happened since then and what happened a long time
before that and I’m going to start by asking the person at the back to bring
up the PowerPoint that I have now am I able to control that from up here and I point it where the technology
great when it works and to bring this up okay so I’ve done the acknowledgement I
want to say a word to indigenous women that are in this room at this point I’m
57 years old and I know a lot of people through a lot of work history and
community connections and I’m here to say that in my circle of very privileged
people that teach at universities I don’t know one indigenous woman that’s
not been sexually or physically assaulted I don’t know one and that’s a
that’s an indictment about our society and what’s happened to us and we’re not
the only ones the things that I’m going to be sharing today are going to mean
maybe different things to indigenous women in this room then maybe to
non-indigenous women that have not had this experience and I want them to be
ready I don’t want them to be surprised and I want them to know that I’m going
to talk about some hard things today and I want them to know that we’re gonna be
okay I’m going to start with some self-care for all of you in this room
and to remember that I care for you and I care that you do well in your work
because just like me being that little kid there’s lots of little children out
there that are depending on you to do good work and to do it in good ways a
lot of families out there – and I want to start with a prayer song it’s by a
guy named Doug spotted eagle and what I’m going to ask you to do is to close
your eyes and I want you to think about those
people in your life that have made lasting impressions on you people that
when you wake up in the middle of the night it’s them that you think about and
I want you to think about the people that have helped us all to be here at
this time in place and it’s only for four minutes so it’s a sunrise prayer
song and it’s to give thanks that we’re all here today [Sunrise Song plays in background] So that was a sunrise prayer song by
Doug Spotted Eagle. What you’re seeing up on the monitor right now is a map of
Canada with the treaties identified and you can see on the Saskatchewan Manitoba
border is treaty four that’s where I’m from here in British Columbia
most of the landmass is not covered by treaty except for Tsawwassen and Nisga’a
treaty eight, but about 90% of our province is not covered by treaty and
that means special things and I liken it to somebody coming to my house knocking
at my door and saying you have a really nice place I’d like to come in and then
they decide to move them in their family in and they say that I don’t have to
leave but I have to live in the bathroom that’s the amount of space so our people
have gone from having 100% ownership of this land to 0.02%
that is now set aside for us in reserves in this country when our people
first met the newcomers we agreed to share but we didn’t know that ninety
nine point eight percent of the land in 0.02% was how the
sharing was going to happen here the Musqueam do not have a treaty with
Canada and that means in effect that basically we’re all squatting on their
land and I want to acknowledge the people that have have made that possible
this is what I’m going to talk to with you about today and it’s in your agenda
I’m going I’m not going to go over this in in particular order but there are a
number of things that I’d like to do and I really want to assist you if you’ve
come out of the Canadian education system about the last 30 years or so
probably you didn’t receive a lot of Education around indigenous issues in
your education and you may have received some since you’ve left I’m going to help
with that understanding can help us to start conversation that
and actions about ways to better support indigenous people from our perspective
not what anybody else thinks is in our best interest but from our perspective
I’m going to talk about some specific human rights frameworks thought it was
important it’s not just Shelley standing up here talking about this but this is
from the part of a motion from the city of Vancouver and I don’t know if people
have seen it but it’s June 25th 2014 and what they said was underlying all the
other truths spoken during the year of reconciliation is the truth that the
modern city of Vancouver was founded on traditional territories of the mosque
weum Squamish and slay with toothed First Nations and that these territories
were never ceded through treaty war or surrender do you think how can that
happen how can that happen and because I was at UBC and have much family extended
family and community members that I know and love that Musqueam
spent a lot time down there and I asked that question and they said at the time
of contact their people were numbered at 30,000 people in this area 30,000 people
and with the coming of disease and with the coming of newcomers and all of the
things that that brought with it in terms of colonization their numbers went
down to 100 people and I think about you know a city the size of an Coover’s say
a million people in a very short period of time what would happen to our
governance systems our social systems our legal systems our economic systems
if 1 million people were reduced by the same amount and that would be to take us
down to 3300 people from 1 million the kind of devastation that that would that
would wreak in our communities and that’s what’s happened here that’s not
where the story ends Musqueam today is back to about 16 or 17 hundred people
from that low of 100 of almost being wiped off the map
and so when we’re working in communities it’s really important I think for us to
understand from the people’s perspective what has happened there that has brought
so much change in a very short period of time two hundred and fifty years and in
for the Musqueam people what’s happened in the communities that you’re working
in and if you haven’t asked those questions I hope that when you leave
here you go back and you do standing up here talking to you about these very
personal things is is really difficult and when I’m talking with students that
are coming out of high school or first couple of years a university they don’t
have a lot of understanding they don’t have a lot of knowledge about this and
this is really deeply personal work for me because it’s not just a theoretical
concept that I’m talking about I’m talking about what happened to my family
I’m happy I’m talking about what happened to my community and it it
requires an unsettling a disruption if students coming into my classroom think
that they’re not going to be unsettled or disrupted they quickly learn that
that’s not going to be the case and it is very disrupting for them because for
many of the students coming to university and they’ve come from a place
of not knowing and not seeing and not understanding from my perspective the
way I see Canada and the way that things have happened here in Canada so it
creates some tension and it really uncovers racism and bias in in ways that
students maybe aren’t prepared for it and it really is an unsettling of our
shared history because I think Canadians as a general population like to think
that we’re the peacekeepers that go around the world we’re the peacekeepers
that bring calm to chaos and conflict and violence and nobody really talks
about the violence that’s happened here for hundreds of years to our people and
there’s a shutting down sometimes that happens when we introduce those notions
that Canada isn’t maybe the Canada that you know from our perspective
so it can be challenging and so this morning might be a bit challenging too
but it’s really important that we have these conversations honest open
transparent conversations where you talk about your history your understanding of
what’s happened in this country and we have an opportunity to talk about what’s
happened from our perspective there was there was an opportunity when I was at
UBC to go and have president breakfast with president and he invited
staff and faculty and students and so I showed up and there was about 150 of us
on the UBC campus beautiful campus to talk about what might make UBC a better
place for incoming students and I used to be an executive director and so when
I got invited by the president I went with a briefing note and I had all my
notions that I wanted to talk to him about identified and when it came time
for him to say okay what are people’s ideas you could hear crickets in the
room nobody said and he think and I thought how many opportunities do we
ever get to get this guy in a room and tell him what we really think and so I
spoke up and I said mr. president what would you BC do if the Musqueam Indian
band representatives that live seven kilometers away walk down to your office
one day and said UBC you’ve been squatting on our land for a hundred
years and here’s your bill your invoice for back rent for a hundred years what
would you do and he turned white he was a South Asian guy at the time and he
said well what do you think we should do and I said well do we have an employment
strategy there any openings first look to the local population and do we have
tuition waivers here at UBC for our indigenous students from Musqueam no
might want to come here and I was the only voice talking I said
you know children and care have tuition waivers and as an employee here if I had
any children under 25 years old they would all be entitled to a four-year
tuition free degree at UBC because their mom works here and that’s extended to
every faculty member and every staff member here at UBC and I know for a fact
that there’s 360 people sitting on the Musqueam Education List and even if they
can afford to send three or four people to school every year it’s gonna be 60
years before that weightless is is decimated
nevermind all the people coming behind it he didn’t have anything to say and
then one of my colleagues from fisheries a man stood up and he said I don’t think
that’s enough I don’t think but they should just have to ition waivers I
think if they come and they get in to say fisheries for example they should be
identified with a mentor from a faculty position that’s gonna guide them and
help them through their four-year program and there was another woman that
spoke up and she said she was from the president’s office which kind of took
him by surprise nice and she said you know I don’t think that’s enough either
she said I’m a single woman and I have that tuition waiver in my collective
rights but I don’t have any children and so I’d like to transfer my tuition
waiver to a Musqueam person that was amazing opportunity for the president to
hear from us and what that showed to me is that even though I was the only
indigenous person in the room they’re our allies and they made themselves
present and they made themselves accountable and the weight that that
takes off the shoulders of an indigenous person when another person that is not
indigenous speaks up was a huge lesson to me and I hope that’s something that
he’ll take away from here this is an e and this is a map of Nunavut and in 2008
I was part of us something called the Governor General’s
Leadership Conference it’s amazing opportunity if you’re under 40 years old
look it up because what happens is that you compete with other people for about
250 positions and for a two week conference and you they ask you which
part of Canada do you want to go to for two weeks to meet with government to
meet with all kinds of people from labor from academia from social services from
support services and it’s paid for by the Governor General’s conference two
weeks so they flew us to Ottawa they flew us I joined this one in Nunavut and
we were met with the elders in a little place called Igloolik Nunavut and you
can see it on the right hand side and this is the lady Annie that I got to sit
beside and she said to me Shelly I’m gonna tell you a story and when you’re
in front of a lot of people I want you to share this story this is mine and
it’s my gift to you Annie told me that when she was a young woman she was
living in the Western Arctic and she married a man from the eastern Arctic
and that was in the 1940s and when she went to the Eastern Arctic she was met
by some people who gave on her wedding day her husband a disc that he was to
wear around his neck all the time it was like a social insurance number but it
was given to all the men in Nunavut at that time and before it was called
Nunavut and Annie she was wearing a tunic and some leggings and she was at
that time 92 years old and she she stood to the by the table and she lifted up
her tunic and she pulled down her leggings so that I could see her hip and
on her hip was nine letters and numbers tattooed into her skin and I said to her
Annie where did you get that and she said Shelley it came from the
government people when I got married they gave them
in the disks but they tattooed numbers on the are women I’ve done a lot of
research and short of asking for a freedom of information from the
Government of Canada I can’t find any information about that but that’s not
surprising because Canada would want to suppress what they were doing to women
in the Arctic indigenous women in the Arctic in the 1940s when they were
sending our troops overseas to fight against Germans and the only other
people that I’ve heard about getting tattooed by government were Jewish
people and that happened in our country so I think it’s fair to say that the
Canada that I know as an indigenous woman might be a little bit different
than the Canada that you know I just want to help people to remember the
Convention on the prevention of punishment of the crime of genocide has
come any of the following acts committed to with intent to destroy in whole or in
part a national ethnical racial or religious group as such killing members
of the group causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part
imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and forcibly
transferring children of the group to another group justice Maurice Sinclair
he talked about cultural genocide after he’d finished his report on the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission and I’m here to say as an indigenous women a
woman all Canada has met all of these conditions in the Convention on the
prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide from my perspective they’ve
met that and gonna talk a little bit about that I’m
going to talk about establishing new relationships but there’s a lot that has
to be restored and renewed and repaired and returned from my perspective so I’ve
already talked about the lands that were formerly owned by us I’ve talked about
I’m going to talk about the Indian Act and if you haven’t heard of the Indian
actor you think it’s something in the past I’m here to say that it’s alive and
well today Canada’s Indian Residential schools were for over one hundred and
twenty two hundred and fifty years our children were forcibly removed from our
care by the government by the church and backed up by the muscle of the RCMP and
talk about the numbers of children that we have that are missing that we don’t
know where they’re buried or where they’ve gone the 60 scoop and the
Millennium scoop again where our children have been forcibly transferred
from our care to non-indigenous people and other care I’m going to talk about
Indian hospitals is there anybody in this room that has ever even heard about
Indian hospitals safe to say maybe 20 people out of 420 I really encourage you
to ask why your education system this Canadian education system has not
prepared you with this information when you’re working with are very vulnerable
people and you don’t understand maybe some of the implications for those
families that have experienced Indian hospitals in this country for housing
and a lot of contracts on reserve that went to the lowest bidder boil water
advisories are missing and murdered indigenous women and girls are high
rates of incarceration are over representation in the child welfare
system and the lack of post-secondary funding when I look around and I see
indigenous people still standing and fighting I think that we must be the
toughest people on this bloody planet I think it’s pretty clear that the
Canadian government has thrown everything at us to ensure that we don’t
live and yet we’re still standing I come from the prairies if there’s some
reading that I can encourage you to take away this is James Josh Chuck’s book
from 2013 he’s talking about indigenous health and disease on the prairies and
he’s talking about where we were forced into treaties and onto reserves at the
point of starvation where our families were given rotten meat does that
diseased animals and food was withheld from us if we tried to counter any of
the rules of the federal government thousands of our people died and coming
from the prairies I can say that I don’t think that our health on the prairies
has ever recovered from that I come from treaty for you know what winter looks
like in Saskatchewan and our treaty was findings signed in September of 1874
just before winter when the Buffalo was gone and our people were starving and we
were promised food if we moved on to reserve and so my great-grandfather was
one of the signatories and my grandmother was born about 20 years
after we signed our treaty and it was done at the point of a gun it was not
sitting down negotiating we were going to die or we had to sign and that was
the decision they made now this next slide for indigenous
people in the room this may bring up issues for you and I really encourage
you to come and talk at lunchtime if it does this is a depiction
I can’t Monkman it’s called the scream and it talks about how our people viewed
the RCMP and the church and the leadership at the time and their ability
to take our children away from us and send them to residential school where
many of us knew that they were going to be harmed there and so when I think
about our services and how we’re going to decolonize them or indigenized them I
think that that really has to start with an acknowledgement of our
inherent rights and our treaty rights and how those are enshrined in the
Canadian Constitution section 35 and different international agreements and
if people in this room have not read the 94 calls to action I really encourage
you from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to do that to make that some
of your reading if we’re going to move forward then there has to be a
recognition of all these historic and contemporary wrongs that are committed
against indigenous people in this country and there’s a need to redress
that and it isn’t going to be easy but it has to happen and it has to happen in
very frank conversations yes there’s intimate partner violence but the
systemic and the institutional violence is also something that we need to be
talking about and understanding how that’s come into our lives and what that
means today this is a quote people can say well we didn’t know about it we
didn’t know that Indian Residential schools Canada had that policy we didn’t
know what was happening in those schools just like today people can say yes we
know there’s an over-representation of indigenous children in the child welfare
system there’s an over-representation of Aboriginal people in the jails and but
we do know about it and we have to ask what are we doing about that what are
you doing what am i doing this is a quote from May 8 1909 is from dr. Peter
Bryce who was a doctor with the Ontario Health Commission and he wrote to the
superintendent so the person that’s now in indigenous and northern Affairs
position said I believe the conditions are being deliberately created in our
Indian Residential schools to spread infectious diseases the mortality rate
among students often exceeds 50% this is an initial crime he was let go from his
position for making that aware and putting it in writing so the person he
was writing to Duncan Campbell Scott he wrote to an Indian agent here major
Mackay in BC April 12th 1910 so but a year later he said it’s readily
acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by
habit again the residential schools and they die at a much higher rate than in
their villages but this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this
department which is geared toward a final solution of our Indian problem
1910 Annie was tattooed in 1940 the last
Indian Residential school didn’t close in this country until 1996 in
Saskatchewan and they knew that putting children with active TB in the bed next
to a child without active TB was calculated to bring about the
destruction of our people 50% of our children that went didn’t survive the
education that they received when you start thinking about people not trusting
government officials not trusting the RCMP not trusting people in health these
are some of the reasons why they’re 139 of those schools deliberately funded by
the government state sanctioned violence and abuse starvation they did medical
experiments on our people and created into substandard education levels not
only that it was enforced by the RCMP and it was administered by churches 139
across the country what happened in my family is that my father is one of nine
children he and his brother that’s closest in age to them were sent to
labret residential school his two older sisters were sent to a residential
school in Alberta two were sent to Ontario one was sent to the Maritimes
and one was sent here in BC there were nine of them it wasn’t just separating
children by floors in a residential school in our family they were separated
by provinces which completely distorted our family and had all kinds of
implications state sanctioned violence this is from an article does anybody
remember where they were on June 11th 2008 anybody I was sitting in the
Northwest Territories in front of a little TV screen about this big to watch
the apology from Stephen Harper in an airport lounge waiting for our next
flight to Nunavut and I was with 16 people in my group and they sat in a
horseshoe around me because that’s what they could do as non-indigenous people
to support me that day and as i sat there I thought what would this mean to
my grandmother what would this mean to my dad if they could be here grandma had
already been dead 35 years by then she never heard that
and when my dad learned it was coming on TV he just went for a walk this is Cathy
Richards from UVic she wrote this article with Vikki Reynolds and she’s
talking about her experience she said I watched my Prime Minister’s official
apology to Joe and his people for residential schools from a reserve with
former residential school inmates everyone’s crying some leave it’s too
much to watch as a Canadian with Metis, Cree, Gwich’in, Dene, and European
ancestry I watched this federal performance beside people who are
visibly tormented by memories of state imposed violence against children those
are the parents and the grandparents of some of the children that you’re working
with today Vicky writes who isn’t Vicky Reynolds
who’s a non-indigenous woman said my prime minister never asked me or other
settler people if we were sorry or what we were sorry for or if we wanted to be
accountable or how we wanted to be accountable for this political violence
it’s an empty apology given on my behalf that pretends to clean my slate
requiring me to acknowledge nothing and to do nothing
what does that apology mean to people in this room what did that do for you what
changed in your life because of that apology I think those are some questions
that we need to start asking each other and asking ourselves people said well I
can’t believe that Canada would do this but then there was this guy in Mosby who
was doing research for his ph.d and he came across this nutritional research
and human bio medical experimentation that happened here in Canada between 42
and 52 when Annie was getting married by some of Canada’s leading nutrition
experts cooperation with various federal departments conducted on an
unprecedented series and nutritional studies of Aboriginal community and
children forced to attend Indian Residential schools so they had a
captive population sample the intent was to determine how little food Aboriginal
people and children could survive on without starving to death that was done
in our country on indigenous people that couldn’t leave residential schools and
couldn’t leave our reserves and I’ve occurred during the period where there
was the establishment of the Nuremberg code of experimental research ethics
done this is our country our peacekeeping country as our people were
away fighting in the war this was what was happening to six communities and
children in residential school and we didn’t know that was happening in my
family all my dad and uncles and aunts talked about was how hungry they were
all the time and two of my aunts that were in Manitoba at the brand and
residential school talked about going with other children to an experimental
chicken farm that they had just down the road and catching live chickens and
eating them because they were so hungry we didn’t know this kind of
experimentation in between the federal government provincial governments was
happening on our people we just knew we were hungry this is another book if
you’ve not read it and you’re working with indigenous people this has to be
required reading for you medicine unbundle the journey through the mine
fields of indigenous health care when you read this book by Gary
Geddes it’s based here in BC and he’s talked with a lot of elders that were in
the three Indian hospitals that happened that we’re here in British Columbia it
will help you understand why indigenous women and people in my family especially
a lot of indigenous women don’t want to go to the doctor for Pap test don’t want
to go to the doctor for rape kits don’t want to go to the doctor don’t want to
go to the dentist my dad was one of those little kids at seven years old
developed an abscess in his tooth they sent students dentistry students
from the University and Regina out to the residential school and they did
surgery on his teeth at seven years old with no anesthetic now there’s a reason
my dad really doesn’t like to go see dentist today you’ll understand more
about how people say well you know I’ve heard stories about infected blankets
being shared in our communities to bring about our destruction by the Canadian
military by the Canadian RCMP Gary Geddes talks about how that was done in
this province to make way for settlers coming here and the collateral damage
that happened in our communities again if you’re working with indigenous people
anything to do with health care this is a must read book for you people may not
know that there were about a hundred and 22 Indian hospitals in this
country three were here in BC and Prince Rupert, Nanaimo and Sardis at Chilliwack
and they were usually set up in decommissioned barracks so the military
so more oversight on our people and in in the basements of hospitals now when
you’ve been in the hospital what what’s usually in the basement of a hospital
garbage laundry a morgue our people have very strong traditions beliefs and
values around who can be around dead bodies
and where those bodies and their spirit are gonna go so if you’re an indigenous
person with those kind of beliefs do you really want to go for medical treatment
in the basement of a hospital next to a morgue there are a lot of reasons that
this was not a helpful thing but we had segregated healthcare in this country
for 30 years between the 1940s and 70s and again that’s not part of your
education probably that people are talking about maybe what you don’t know
too is there’s a 1.1 billion dollar class-action lawsuit that’s been filed
against the Canadian government to provide compensation for victims in 29
of the hospitals and they’re listed there all three and BC or part of that
class-action Canada doesn’t really want to talk about its policy of
sterilization of indigenous women but it’s a fact and this book by Karen stone
talks about sterilization and she talks about how killing people sterilizing
people is really a way for the government to gain access to land and
resources and reducing the numbers of people in this country that the federal
government has fiduciary and treaty responsibilities and obligations to she
talks about the Alberta sexual sterilization Act and where 25 percent
of those 2,800 women were sterilized against their will and there was no free
informed and prior consent and this is really really difficult history to
listen to and then I heard about Senator Yvonne Bowie in this month
who’s launched a class-action lawsuit and is underway because indigenous women
in this country are still coming forward with stories of being forcibly
sterilized and I want to take you back to the the understanding about what
genocide means from the UN, the UN Convention Who here knows anything about Justice
Gordon Ramsay does that name ring a bell for anybody in this room maybe about 50
people out of 420 back in the day I I lived in Prince George and I had I was a
social worker and I had a caseload of indigenous children and I’d asked for
all the indigenous children in that particular office to be with me rather
than to be with other social workers and that was because I was aware of the high
rate of racism and bias against indigenous people in that particular
office held by those particular social workers and I was sitting one day with a
14 year old indigenous youth and she started talking to me about this judge
that was buying sex from girls and how violent he was and how she had to appear
in court in the next month in front of him he was a sitting provincial court
judge David Ramsey in the end he pleaded guilty to 15 or
five counts sexual assault causing bodily harm breach of trust and three
counts of buying sex from a person under 18 his victims were mostly Aboriginal
girls I’ve already talked about you know our history with the RCMP with child
welfare with residential schools with the church with the state with the
state’s policies and now here sitting in front of me was a young woman talking
about this 60 something-year-old sitting provincial court judge white guy buying
sex from her and her friends and how violent he was with them he was charged
his victims were between 12 and 16 years old he was sentenced to seven years in
jail and he died there in the Dorchester Penitentiary as an untreated sex
offender you might have heard the name edy Barry
does anybody in the room know that name he’s also from Prince George he was the
highest-ranking MCFD employee in Prince George and he was he lost his job after
he’d spent years with his wife being a foster parent he’d spent years being
somebody that worked with children in care he’d been a manager for the public
Guardian and trustee he’d been on the board of accreditation of social workers
in BC and he was then the highest-ranking are a member of the M
CFD in Prince George and he was arrested when somebody found his laptop and found
images of child pornography on it how people are supported how people are
connected how people are protected from accountability in this country is also a
part of a story that needs to be told and it’s a difficult story because we
don’t want to believe that about people but recently in the paper you might have
heard of a guy named Robert Riley Saunders as well social worker in
Kelowna who opened joint bank accounts with kids that were on independent
living and then used their money for his personal gain allegedly he’s been
charged when children are telling you about things that are happening I really
hope that in your training your first step is to believe so why is it pardoned
that we have culturally safe practices with indigenous women and girls not just
because we’ve lost our rolls around colonisation not just because we’ve lost
our power through the Indian air in this country when they took away our
traditional systems of governance and impose this Indian Act legislation and
this imposed Chief and Council on us in this country women weren’t even allowed
to vote indigenous women until 1951 I was born in 1961 the year before that my
dad finally got the vote here in this country as an indigenous person just in
1960 so as a helper there’s six questions that I want you to ask
yourself how have you learned about the ways in which colonization
differentially impacts or in fact affects indigenous people versus non
indigenous people in Canada and who taught you it’s a really important
question I just did a presentation to a nursing class I’m not gonna say at what
to university but they’re all first-year nurses and after I started talking about
some of these things one of the first-year nurses turned to me and in
front of all of her colleagues I think there was about 120 she said Shelley I
heard that indigenous people don’t feel pain in the same way that white people
do this is a first year nursing student and this happened about six weeks ago in
this province and as I was regrouping and thinking how am I gonna answer and
how am I gonna swallow all of this anger that is coming up in me right now one of
my colleagues step forward a nursing prof and she said oh it’s probably
because they didn’t need any kind of anesthetic when you know there they were
doing experiments on them or you know in their residential school when the dental
students would come or when they were in Indian hospitals and they didn’t need
anaesthetic in the way that we did that’s my colleague racism bias not
knowing that’s alive and well in a lot of our systems today so second how do
the ways in which I’m working helped to build respectful relationships between
indigenous people and me consciously to think about how it is that you go about
doing that how is that done what’s helpful what isn’t helpful what your
role as a helper in the relationship with indigenous people and what are your
responsibilities I asked that question because as a little child I remember
being told all of the time Shelley your role by my grandparents by my mother by
my father your role shall is to be a helper that’s your purpose in
life that’s my responsibility I know that so what’s your responsibility are
you fulfilling your role in obligation to indigenous people in ways that are
culturally relevant and is it meaningful to them have you asked them is what I’m
doing helpful to you what might be more helpful
what are you contributing or giving back to the relationship between indigenous
people and me in the sharing growth and learning that’s taking place is it
reciprocal again that some of our teachings to be respectful to always
think about reciprocity in our relationship I work at an institution on
unceded territory I do work with indigenous people at their request I
bring what I can to that relationship I do that because I’m living on their
unceded territory if you’re living on unceded territory in this province what
are you doing to give back to the indigenous people that have given so
much for us to be here and finally how have previous helpers been experienced
by the indigenous person you’re working with and helping to build a relationship
with asking what has happened what’s happened here in the community and then
listening to be quiet and listening there’s just one little thing I’m going
to ask the person to come up just I want to show you a two-minute clip and this
is when I worked at Musqueam Indian band those issues or when I worked at
UBC and worked with Musqueam Indian band asking people what you can do to help
and how that might look I’m just going to share a little bit about it.
You’re going to see a clip of a research project that I was involved
with was Musqueam Indian ban and again it’s all that about being respectful
thinking about what’s relevant to the people that you’re working with thinking
about what you can contribute in terms of reciprocity and your responsibility
as a person living on their territory and I had a student at UVic her name was
Corrina Sparrow and she was in a Social Work class that I was teaching when she
finished her degree I asked her to come and work with me at at the agency in
Victoria and then when I got hired at again we did this before and it worked
oh there we go yeah I’ll just start that when I’m ready thank you and when I said
when I was hired at UBC Corina got hired at Musqueam to come home and help the
people there and we’d had a relationship for about 15 years at that time we went
for coffee and she was telling me about some of the issues that were coming up
in Musqueam and how people were dealing with issues that negatively affected
youth and women in the community and I said to her what is your community need
and I thought she was going to talk about programs and services and supports
and she said what we need is a canoe she said we need a new canoe family and we
need to get our people back out on our traditional highways we need to help
teach our youth how to build those ocean-going canoes again because that’s
our identity and if that is not part of our identity anymore and that’s not part
of our experience when what will that mean for our people in the community
that big piece of us is missing and so she said this is what I want to see and
I said well how can I help remember I’m from Saskatchewan and
said well we want to build an ocean-going canoe and we want to train
our young people we want to send them out on tribal journeys we want to build
a carving shed in our community and then we want to tell people what we did and I
said that sounds great how much is that going to cost and she said about five
hundred thousand dollars I said right thinking I don’t have $500,000 and she said well if it drops in your lap one day just give me a
call and I thought right I went left I went back to my office at UBC I sat down
on the computer I turned it on and the very first line was a call for proposals
up to $500,000 for community-based research. The importance of spirit the importance of listening, not figuring out how we’re going to get to
the end line but as we go along so I sent her the email said I’ve never
written a proposal this big but if you guys will help me we can do this the
money had to flow through a university this is the project I’m just going to
show you a short little clip [Clip Plays, song starts with Indigenous drumming] [Corrina Sparrow speaks in clip,
introduces self in Musqueam language] This day has been a long time coming I’m just gonna take it in for a minute. Just wanted to share a little bit about how
this project began I was asked to come home to Musqueam 3 years ago to be
a support person to work with the children and the families here so I came
here as a helper and within the first two weeks that I was here I mostly did a
lot of talking and listening with the families, the community
members and the elders. two weeks after I was sitting down
having a cup of coffee with a dear friend of mine and colleague Shelly
Johnson who’s working at UBC. Shelly turns to me and says
“so what does your community need?” So I shared with her
about what I had heard what the people here were saying about their hope and
dream to reconnect our young people to our culture and to our teachings and to our
values, to help our young people learn our language and learn what
it means to be strong Musqueam people. That they wanted our young people back on our traditional highways back on the river, back on the ocean where we belong. As the Chief would say, this is a canoeing community. We wanted something that our young people
could be proud of again. So I told Shelly when she asked me that question,
I said we need a canoe and we need a new canoe family
and our young people to go back onto the water [end of video clip] I’m just gonna skip through. This project
was a four-year project funded by SSHRC and like I said I came from Saskatchewan
and my dad always laughs he said it’s a person from a small reserve in
Saskatchewan doing heading up an ocean-going canoeing project on the west
coast the candidate said that could only happen in academia the issue with it is
though this is what the Musqueam people said was important to them to deal with
all of the things that had come into their lives around colonization a way to
bring back the culture a way to bring back the tradition a way to bring back
the language and to continue that work so we hired people to carve the canoe in
the community and to teach other people how to do that we videotaped everything
Musqueam has given us permission to use this short video clip but what it
resulted in was the very first canoe carved in Musqueam in 35 years
35 years and the day that it went out on the water on to the Fraser and made a
circle up with at the Pacific Ocean and came back I was standing on the beach at
Musqueam with about 400 people and I was standing with grown men in their 60s and 70s absolutely crying because they said that
they never thought that they would live long enough for to see that happen in
their community again and the return of identity just going to show a little
piece of that day this is our Chief Carver Elmer Sampson. He was 87 years old
by the time we wrote the proposal and it was funded and Elmer’s
colleague in the community tree for Ernie Campbell he died he was going to
be our chief carver so we had asked Elmer to come over from the island to do
that this was the hundredth canoe that he’d
carve Elmer passed away shortly after the completion of it he was 87 years old
and I’m just going to ask is there anybody here from the Stz’uminus First
Nation anybody at all okay that’s good because in their territory you’re not to
show pictures to people from their community of people that have passed
away for a year This is an important issue for Musqueam people to
have your own canoe… Shelly: this is the day that it was launched and
this is the blessing of the canoe there’s Corinna front center two-spirit
person that the community identified [Video plays in background, audio indiscernible] Shelly: It’s really fitting that Corrina took the
position at the front of the canoe. In our teachings two-spirit people have special
roles and responsibilities in our community and they’re around healing and
teaching. I just want to say no matter where you’re standing there’s something
that you can do to help people deal with this history an ongoing colonization in
our families and in our communities I encourage you to think about not just
the partner and violence but also the systemic violence that you may or may
not have learned or been taught about in your education there’s a lot more for
all of us to understand in this country to get it to a place where we can all be
proud to be a part thank you for your time and attention I really appreciate
it thank you very much. [Applause]

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