"The best thing allies can do is not to jump in and try to fix it, but to believe us" - Krystal Lezard, Westbank First Nation
On September 20th, the team at Okanagan Lifestyle along with two of our friends and community partners, had the absolute honour to attend a workshop led by Moccasin Trails - an Indigenous consulting and tourism business owned by Chief Frank Antoine and Greg Hopf.
The learnings from that day resonated with each of us and we will carry them for a long time to come. And while their stories and the stories of their ancestors are not ours to share, we wanted to pass along the knowledge that we have gained — the value of listening to truth and actively participating in reconciliation.
Strength in VulnerabilityThere are moments and actions that speak louder than language could. The sheer presence and leadership of the three facilitators - Greg, Frank, and Krystal - was a masterclass in itself. What they gifted to us was the permission to be open and vulnerable, but also that even in pain, there is room for generosity. Frank, Greg, and Krystal gave to us and shared with us so willingly and with so much generosity that it empowered us to share our own stories. We began the day in a sharing circle - the symbol of which demonstrated to us how sharing and vulnerability is reciprocal and circular. The structures of power cease to exist when we approach each other as humans.
Diversity of Nations + CulturesEach of our facilitators grew up in different nations and it was important for them to acknowledge that there is much diversity in Indigenous cultures across Turtle Island. Greg showed us rat root - a traditional medicine - from his Denedeh culture. Frank brought a woven basket with bundles of sage from his family in T'kemlups. While each discussed the different protocols for visiting each area, they all acknowledged the profound connection the the land. Together we walked out to the water and participated in a water feeding ceremony - taking sage and tobacco and returning it to the land.
Bearing WitnessOne of the most impactful moments came towards the end of the day when Frank, Krystal, and Greg were sharing about Residential Schools. The history of which is not history at all, but living history, one in which we, at the present, are living through in the first, second, and third generation aftermath of a system hellbent on cultural genocide. The room was moved and paying close attention when Krystal shared this with us "We [as Indigenous peoples] aren't supposed to be here - to be alive - that wasn't the plan. But there have been many prayers for this moment, to sit together and be listened to and believed." We often hear the phrases "bearing witness" or "truth + reconciliation" that the words themselves start to lose their meaning, but to bear witness is to be present to truth, to the lived experience of others, and to believe it and bring it out of the darkness toward the light.
On the first nationally recognized Day for Truth + Reconciliation, we hope to take a moment to reflect, to spend time in nature, but most importantly to pay attention and bear witness to the lived experience of Indigenous peoples in Canada.