If I don’t recognize you in me and who I am, how can I acknowledge you?

Confederation Park, Kingston, ON 2019

By Gracelynn CY Lau Sep 29, 2019

Last month I came across a CBC podcast “The Secret Life of Canada” and listened to an episode on The Oldest Chinatown in North America.

I know Victoria has the oldest in Canada, but to my surprise, I learned that in the Haida oral history, the first time Chinese people had came to this land was in 500AD. They were a small group of monks from China, stayed on the island for a year and traded plants knowledge with the Haida peoples.

My ancestors came even before the European traders and colonizers, skill-traded and hung out with Haida here? No wonder the Cowichan River told me, “Our people knew your people long before you introduced them to us. Love your people, love your ancestors, we have medicine for them.”

Every time I stood at Victoria’s inner harbour, I could see the shadow of another Victoria harbour miles away. Victoria is the name of Hong Kong in the colonial era. When I was a kid, my parents would take me to see the Christmas lights every year at the Victoria harbour in Tsim Sha Tusi. I can’t remember how many nights I spent at the harbour trying to take the best shots of Hong Kong Island’s skyline; how many nights my peeps and I would hang out at the stairs, sang and chatted and watched the night gets deep. I had spent 20 years in that Victoria, but it had never felt like home. I had never felt belong. But in this Victoria (capital of BC), I found my clan.

I came to Vancouver Island in Oct 2014. As the ferry approached Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo, I remembered the strange strong sensations in my body, a big sigh of relief and release of some sort, as if somebody finally recognized who I am. Two days later, my friend and I were invited to a sweatlodge. We got the invitation serendipitously on Salt Spring Island. Not until we were on our way to the sweatlodge, I found out that it was actually gonna be in Port Alberni, in a Nuu-chah-nulth family home.

That was my first sweat. The lodge keeper took me and my friend to prepare some devil’s cup medicine because we were first-timers. Barely made it to the end of the first round, I found myself bawling in front of the fire.

The grandmother and lodge keeper took me under their wings, and said to me, “leave all your prayers and tears to the grandfathers, ask the smoke to carry your prayer with the wind, to the air, to the water, to the Creator and the ancestors. Leave it all to them, we want you to come out the lodge happy and smiling.” And I did. That few hours felt as intense as a 2 months Vipassana retreat. After the lodge everyone shared a feast together. At dinner, I learned the meaning of the word “Love” in Nuu-chah-nulth language, “it means ‘You Are My Pain’.” That night, I stayed at their house. I felt like I shredded 20 pounds overnight, invisibly.

The podcast’s hosts also said that when the British trader John Meares had recruited 50Chinese men in 1788 and brought them to Canada, they had landed at Nootka Sound. The Nuu-chah-nulth peoples gave them some land to live on. And then came the Nootka Crisis, which I don’t know much about, but I know while the Spanish and the British were fighting, the
Chinese workers were captured or killed.

I once wondered why I felt so belong and at home on Vancouver Island. My elder said, your ancestors on the island are the ones calling you here.

Many Chinese men from the southern part of China came to work at the gold fields in Fraser Valley or to build the Pacific Railway during 1780–1850. It has never crossed my mind that many of them had to go to Victoria City (Hong Kong) the British Colony (since 1841) at the time, in order to get on a ship to Victoria (Canada), in order to get to BC lower mainland.

Both Victoria(s) were a place of transition and of anchor, for hope, for finding a better future, for separation and union, for lives and families across the Pacific.

According to the podcast, there were 300 Chinese people living in Victoria Chinatown area in 1923. Oddly enough, I never enjoyed going to Chinatowns, or any Chinese immigrant development zones. When I worked in Markham, ON, I would rather spend 3 hours on public transit everyday to commute back and forth from my downtown home. My mentor B would say,
“how come you are allergic to your own people? Don’t you realize this is what the British had done to our indigenous peoples here too? They disintegrated the young ones from their own culture, so deeply that many young ones don’t want to learn from their elders again.” Am I racist against my own people? Or is it because some parts of my being just can’t handle
the inter-generational traumas of my ancestors that my sympathetic nervous system wins over to react?

In 1867, John A. MacDonald’s government took the right away from the Chinese and the Indigenous peoples by enacting the Chinese Immigration Act and the Indian Act. The rest is history. A long history of past wrongs that Canada is finally trying to right.

What does it mean to me to be a Chinese diaspora settling in Canada? Coming from a place where my parents were born in a British colony, I considered myself the 3rd generation of refugees. My paternal and maternal grandparents fled to the British colony of Hong Kong because they were afraid of the Communist Party in China. I grew up in the Christian church, my family never talked about our ancestors, and I never participated in a traditional ceremony.

In 1997, Hong Kong was handed over to the People’s Republic of China, a party that had rigorously threw away ancient Chinese culture and bruised my great-grandparents’ and my grandparents’ generation tremendously, so badly that my grandparents (when they were alive) didn’t want to talk about their past at all.

I remember that day, July 1, 1997. The UK flag came down, the 5-stars red flag went up. Chris Patten, the governor of Hong Kong at the time, and his family said goodbye to Hong Kong people on the TV. Like Mr. Patten three teenage daughters, I was in tears. Sad and angry tears. “How dare the British government gave us ‘back’ to an authority that killed their own people with tanks and guns!”

When Tiananmen Square Massacre happened, I was 7. I couldn’t sleep. I made a lot of newspapers clippings. My father took me to join the protest in Hong Kong Island. 3 million people showed up in front of the Legislative Council Building. After that summer, many of them decided to emigrate somewhere else. My father said, “we are from here, we won’t go

My hatred towards the Chinese government had never ceased. My father wanted to give me a different perspective, so our family went to Peking (now Beijing) for Christmas. That didn’t help. Peking was dirty, uncivilized, chaotic, plus the food was really bad; plus I would never forgive a
government that killed their people with tanks and guns! 8964 had became parts of my password or phone number since then.

I remember that day, July 1, 2003. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government celebrated the Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, which is also the establishment of HKSAR, in Wan Chai. I was among 500,000 protesters in the march organized by Civil Human Rights Front, holding up signages and distributing info sheets on why we must oppose the legislation of Basic Law Article 23. Since that day, July 1 had became an annual protest rally in my birth home. Since that day, July 1 means the day of anger, solidarity and grief.

It wasn’t until 2007, July 1 took on another layer of meaning. I came back to Toronto for my graduate studies in the Fall of 2006, after taking care of my seriously injured mother and the after-care of my father’s funeral. They had got into a major accident in Egypt during Chinese New Year. Mom almost lost her life. I lost my father. I stayed with her for 6 months for her
recovery and grieving. When I returned to Toronto in the Fall, it was my time to grieve.

My British boyfriend at the time was my anchor for grief. My friend used to joke about that, “are you being colonized in your romantic relationship too?” My boyfriend was involved in organizing medieval reenactment at the Pride Parade, so we went. Again, July 1. With unsettling grief and anger from my family lost and all the protest news from Hong Kong, I found myself at
the intersection of Yonge and College, in solidarity and celebration with a bunch of colourful, joyful half nude people. In Hong Kong, the streets don’t belong to people, but they do in Canada. We watched the Canada Day fireworks after dinner at a brewpub near St. Lawrence Market. I looked at the clock, and realized that my “today” in Canada will always be “tomorrow”
in Hong Kong.

Fast forward, 12 years later, July 1 took on yet another layer of meaning. The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1923, it went into effect on July 1.

1997, 2003, 1867 and now 1923. I have 4 layers of July 1 and two Victoria Harbour in my personal history as someone in diaspora. What does it all mean to me to be a Chinese diaspora settling in Canada?

My research reached out and found me on the lands of the Coast Salish peoples. On Nov 25th, 2018, I said yes to the Creator and the ancestors of my own and of theirs.

10 months later, here I am, at Queen’s, on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. As I stand in front of Lake Ontario, by the Murney Tower, I realize that I’ve forgotten to bring Cowichan River water with me. I don’t recognize the trees in the park. I can’t
call the plants by their names. Here I am, on my own, without the familiar ecosystem of my plant allies, elders, mentors and fellow villagers. How do I start? I miss the ocean, I miss the feeling of walking on earth not pavement, I miss the smell of Western Redcedars…

“Listen, you have earned your Eagle feather for the work you’ve done in the last 4 years, that was equivalent to someone serving at the Sun Dance for 4 years,” that voice comes through my heart. My elder’s voice. I recognize it. “Work from the ground up. That’s your foundation. You have what you need, not what you want, to start your work.”

That moment, I know. I must start by introducing myself.

My Cantonese name is 劉頌恩 meaning honor and praise to the Creator and be grateful. My English name is Gracelynn Lau, meaning gracious as waterfall. I was born and raised in the British Colonial Hong Kong and moved to Canada in 2005. The last 5 years I have been living in the Cowichan Valley at OUR ecovillage, learning the way of the Cowichan Tribes peoples and practice rebecoming villagers with my global family. It is my learning with them that taught me how to embrace my own indigeneity and villager culture, as Chinese; that which also is the motivation, intention and integrity of my research. Thank you for having me on this land.

I am not indigenous. Can I use indigenous pedagogies?

The bodies of water in Lake Ontario. Sept 26, 2019

I have been thinking lots about the critiques on settler adoption fantasies and other “move to innocence” in Tuck and Yang‘s co-authored article “Decolonization is not a metaphor” (see my reflection). Are those really attempting “reconciliation prematurely”? Isn’t it polarizing “settlers” and “indigenous peoples” into a western thinking pattern again? By all means, YES, their arguments are great to stop settlers mindset to dilute the real meaning of decolonization. AND what’s the point of developing settler-colonization theory without making contribution forward to the collaboration of all peoples that is rooted in indigenous worldviews?

Plus, the more I read the Nishnaabewin worldview, the more I realize the way I have been learning and we have been practicing at the ecovillage and in the permaculture movement are almost the same as their indigenous teaching. My almost 5 years living in the ecovillage/permaculture world had seriously transformed my way of living and being in the world (not only thinking!) that it became my embodied reality now. But I am not indigenous. Can/should I continue to facilitate the way I facilitate? Am I contributing to colonial violence by sharing what I had learned from the land, and the plants and all non-human people in the mainstream education system as a non-indigenous person? Plus, I do have an eagle feather and I do carry tobacco and the Cowichan river water with me everywhere I go…

I went to the“Indigenous pedagogies and ways of knowing” workshop yesterday to find out. Lindsay Brant of the Mohawk nation was the facilitator. She shared some best practices to indigenize your curriculum and indigenous ways of knowing (I went, “Holy cow, these are EVERYTHING embedded in OUR ecovillage’ life practice and the way I co-facilitated the Ecovillage Design Education course in the last couple years! ‘everyone’s teacher, everyone’s learner’ is even on there!”) None of the attendees were indigenous. Perfect time to ask my question.

Lindsay said, we are kinda pass the time to stay on decolonizing talk and move onto revitalizing together. We want to encourage people to bring indigenous ways of learning and knowing into the classroom. Acknowledge and honor where you had received your learning before you share it; and if you can invite an Elder and indigenous knowledge keeper in your class to share, do so. Include materials from indigenous artists, scholars etc. There are many ways to do that.

What a relief. As I walked home, I thought about the beauty of having indigenous participants in our Ecovillage Design Education course in the last 2 years, and how beautiful it was for a small group of people of many nations (not only indigenous nations) to come together, in a mutually respectful way as best we can, to learn how to be in reciprocal relationships with each other and with Mother earth. I recalled one of the design project was a wellness regeneration design for Grassy Narrow nation. The design team has 5 people, from France, Denmark, Canada, the US and Grassy Narrow reserve. They came together with different projects that they were interested to create but similar themes. After a 2 weeks process, they decided to put all their hearts and energy into a design based on Grassy Narrow. It wasn’t only a head-based thinking process. In that 2 weeks, they have been through mind, heart and spirit deep connection with one another. They came up with a design that aligns with the Grassy Narrow indigenous teachings that they learned from the team member who grew up there. Their design outcome was based on reciprocal recognition, humility and intentional slowness in proceeding. Is that collaboration itself counts as working together for resurgence?

In the article “Unsettling settler colonialism: the discourse and politics of settlers, and solidarity with Indigenous nations”, co-authors Corey Snelgrove, Rita Kaur Dhamoon, and Jeff Corntassel brought up the ideas of “upsettler” and “temporal and spatial solidarity”. Corey said, using the term “upsettler” isn’t trying to say “I am not like them” or presuming there’s such a think as a “good colonizer”; instead, it is to open up more discussion around responsibilities. He didn’t say very clear what he means, but my take on it is, to stop feeling guilty about the colonial realities but acknowledge what had been done and step up in your ability to response (responsibility)now, in the present tense.

I am so curiously about the idea of “temporal and spatial solidarity”. Jeff explained it means unsettled solidarities that moves across time and space.

I understand that as knowing that our relationship with indigenous people isn’t perfect, and I choose to be with you in a good way. Let’s practice together, if you choose to. Thank you for allowing me to practice with you. I see you, and thank you for seeing me.

Only practice can undo settler-colonialism.

Reciprocal recognition as resistance: reading Leanne Simpson

Since I got my heart and mind on Leanne Simpson’s work, I haven’t been sleeping much as if I found new treasure! (Or, is it my “settler adoption fantasies” syndrome?)

In a directed studies reading, I came across the piece where Simpson talks about generative refusal and Nishnaabewin concept of reciprocal recognition. These two are super important in what she advocates “radical resurgence as indigenous resistance” (Sorry, I will have to explain what is radical resurgence in another piece).

Radical resurgent organizing =
Generative Refusal of state recognition/settler colonialism framework+ Embodiment of Indigenous “Reciprocal Recognition”

Generative refusal is moving away from fear of disappearance (from colonial determined framework), in order to regenerate a resistance rooted in indigenous thoughts. By “productively” refusing the settlers colonial mechanism, the indigenous presence brings forward a grounded normativity.

Here’s an example. Simpson wrote in her book,“…what if our [Michi Saagiig Nishinaabeg] leaders saw heteropatriarch as an attack on our nations and refused to uphold it as an act of sovereignty and self-determination, and we focused intensely on taking care of our own and having each other’s back?”
“What if no one sided with colonialism?” 

Then she went on to discuss, “what makes me a member of my nation?” Mohawk author Audra Simpson’s work inspired hers.

In her book Mohawk Interruptus, Audra asked her also Mohawk fellow interviewee, “what is the ideal form of membership for us?” Her interviewee answered, “when you look in the mirror, what do you see?”

Leanne S. was really taken by this part of the book, and went on to recognize the true meaning of recognition in her own Nishnaabewin culture.

The Nishnaabewin concept of reciprocal recognition can be summed up in the word “Aaniin”.

Aaniin is the word Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg use to greet each other. Leanne Simpson went to her elder Doug to learn about the true meaning. Doug explained that the “Ah” sound places them in the spiritual context, in the Nishnaabeg universe; the Ni is a “taking notice as sound”. (p.181)

The word Aaniin then means How do you recognize/see yourself in your journey in the universe? It also means: I see your light/essence. That is saying to the person you greet, that you “see the energy they put into the universe through their interactions with land, themselves, family and their community” (p.181)

I love this quote: “What do I see when I look in the mirror?……Do I see a network of intimate relationships rotating through time and space in all directions across human, plant, and animal nations and in the context of a spiritual cosmos? How do I , how do we reflect back the indigeneity of our unique nation? how do I both see my reflection and act as a mirror?” (p.180)

In this sense, reciprocal recognition is internal. It’s a self-recognition. Rather than searching for recognition outside of yourself, reciprocal recognition is fully understanding yourself or another being.

In their language, there’s another saying “Maa maa ya wen du moovin”, which means “the blending of all thoughts and feelings into recognizing another being.” (p.185) wendanmoowin means “what is your thought process as you move through life?” and maa is “it’s in my heart.”

Reciprocal recognition is also an act of practice that builds resilient relationship. Meaningful relationship, in Indigenous context, is recognizing and affirming the light in each other and reflect back to them their essence. “What do I mirror back to my kin?” through which they “reproduce and amplify indigeneity” (p.182), self-worth and dignity.

I couldn’t stop jotting down quotes and lines as I was reading. “Reciprocal recognition” is exactly what I was taught and we have been teaching at OUR Ecovillage in our Honoring Circle practice! I remember all the conversations with my mentor B in recognizing the essence in others and giving it back to them. And the songs we sang to each other. Seriously, based on Tuck and Yang’s critique on metaphorizing decolonization, our practice will be considered “settler adoption fantasies”(see previous article). But is it really a move to innocence? Could it be a experiential learning that non-indigenous people relearning to be in deep and intimate connection with one another? Is it appropriating colonial framework if we don’t have an indigenous person teaching us the way of relationality? Is it creating more settler-violence to indigenous community by us remembering our way back to be villagers again?

She closed the chapter with a discussion on shame. How to deal with shame? Grow indigeneity. Leanne S. explained that shame is a settler colonial mechanism to destroy indigenous system of reciprocal recognition. It stereotypes indigenous peoples as wrong, not because they have done something wrong but they are wrong.

Searching for state recognition is like looking at the colonizer’s mirror.

She wrote “…and that mirror is reflecting back that we are shameful, that we are not good enough, that we are … not white enough, or Canadian enough, or together enough to organize….but why is the colonizer our mirror? ….they certainly do not reflect back anything that has to do with land, sovereignty, or my power as kwe.”(p.188)

Growing indigeneity intellectually and artistically and use those as mirrors, thus become powerful and simple intervention. She uses example of Nanabush, a spirit and figures in Anishinaabe storytelling, as the original teacher and “researcher” whose “methodology” created relation-based knowledge; and indigenous youth with whom she work in creating film telling stories that reflects their light.

She ended with a call to resurgence not only within her own indigenous culture, but other indigenous nationals. “Resurgent organizing has to be concerned with building a generation of indigenous nationals from various indigenous nations who think and act from within their own intelligence systems.”

I have so many thoughts on that, and they go twofold: Were the Laus’ a indigenous nation century ago? How far back do I go to find my indigeneity? Is it traceable? On the other hand, how do I stand with indigenous nationals as they organize resurgence? How do I respect their cultural sovereignty as a colored settler/immigrant on their land? What do I do with this privilege?

We are all treaty people + who the heck is Sir John A?

Confederation Park, city of Kingston, ON (Sept 14, 2019)

Couple days ago in class we talked about treaties.

Treaty means completely different things to the indigenous people and the British men. Indigenous peoples made treaties for thousand of years, not only with other nations but also with the water, the sky and the land. Treaty is a way they make agreement (usually oral) with others in relations, by wampum belts, renewal protocol and ceremony. In their worldview, treaty always based on kinship, which means it’s always relationship-based. They renew treaty in ceremony, and by doing so, both parties tend the relationship and agreement continuously. Whereas the British see treaty as contract, which also means it’s transactional . The deal is one-off. Once you sign, you’ve agreed to those words on that piece of paper.

The conversation went on to discuss: are we all treaty people? I would say yes, in two sense. First, although I am not of European descend, I grew up and am still living in a heavily colonized context. By saying that I am also treaty people, I am owning my accountability to do something with the colonial realities both in the Canadian context and in my own ancestral-cultural context (again, if I can’t recognize the people and the land here, how can I acknowledge them and me? see previous learning journal). Second, if treaty means making honorable agreement with other (human) beings to be in rightful interconnected relationships, yes, I am in.

We had two guests in class, elder Laurel and Armand G. Ruffo, the poet and author of Treaty # (Buckrider Books, April 2 2019). They both shared valuable insights with us. Couple things that I took away:

  • In one of the Coast Salish peoples’ language, the word “settler” means “Hungry people”. And in another indigenous language, “settler” means foam on the water, clinging on the land. Prof. Laura Murray mentioned that it is interesting to see how these term describe some indigenous groups’ view on non-indigenous peoples. Often the process of reconciliation requires the indigenous party to give more in teaching or sharing to the non-indigenous party.
  • The Haudenosaunee peoples have a protocol at the edge of the forest. when someone approach the edges of a nation, they stop, light a fire to make themselves known, and wait. Once the host comes to greet you, the host will always ask, 1. what’s your name? 2. who’re you representing or where are you from? 3. How will your time here benefit the land and the community? Laura summed it up as “Stop, Honk, Wait”. Elder grandmother Laurel shared with us that in her culture, she never send anybody back when they come to her door. They also try to receive and welcome others. Imagine that attitude was passed down to her from generations to generations. Perhaps that was how their ancestors received the European who came to purchase their land…

That same night, I went to a the public talk “Sir John A 360″ at the Grand Theater. The event was organized by the city of Kingston.

I first heard about Sir John A. in the “Secret Life of Canada” podcast last week, in an episode that mentioned about the early Chinese railway workers. (see my learning journal entry)

Sir John A. was the first prime minister of Canada, and at that time, the Canadian government absolutely couldn’t build a cross-Canada railway to British Columbia without the help of the Chinese workers. Sir John A. made sure that Chinese workers could come to work. Not only the Chinese men were underpaid, overworked and suffered from malnutrition and health issues; when they finished the Pacific railway, the Chinese Immigrant Act was enacted by Sir John A.’s government, applying heavy head tax for each immigrant from China. It was around the same time that the Indian Act was enacted.

The “indigenizing the academy” lecture earlier this week took place at Sir. John A Macdonald Hall. There’s a train engine stood at the Confederation Park in front of city hall, that has “The Spirit of Sir John A. Canadian Pacific” on it. (I saw it at the Saturday Public Market last week, my heart went, “holy smoke, my ancestors built that train track for you, and your name is on the engine sitting right on top of that track they paved for you!”)

I heard that he was a practicing lawyer in Kingston before he became Canada first prime minister. Other than that, I don’t know much about him.

I was excited that Lee Maracle joined the “Sir John A 360” panel discussion! I just found out about her on youtube the other night![I hoped she would speak about “Dish with One Spoon” treaty] Other panelists were historian Christopher Moore and Charlotte Gray, member of the Order of Canada. Bob Watts, Queen’s adjunct professor (Policy Studies) moderated the discussion.

The forum discussion topic was the controversies of Sir John A. legacies in Canada history. His statues and monument sand memorial buildings are everywhere. Should Canada erects more statues of him? Or should we take it down? One of the panelist said that John A. as a symbol is a profound part of Canadian reality, taking away his statues won’t erase what happened good and bad, but we have to ask how to look at these symbol considering all aspects and both sides of the treaties’ parties. The other panelist pretty much said the same thing: history is a ongoing process, how do we handle our past and personality that aren’t us now (us as in Canada today) and how do we reframe our nationality? Lee Maracle said that the only way out is commitment to hear each other out. She reminded us that Canada only have democracy of the white men; in the 1920s, democracy didn’t include any people of colours either, and we have to remember it. She suggested that let’s keep the statues, but change the plaques.

Again, for me, it’s about how do we tell the story. What the narrative? How do we restory/restore a collective story that has many different sides of the same story? What framework do we use to approach it together? Are we trying to fit a circle in a square, just like overlaying indigenous knowledges into the western colonial academic framework? And when “we” approach it together, what does it mean to do it together? How to involve and who should be involved?

All speakers seem to agreed that we need to hear each other out and commit to building nation to nation relationship in reconciliation. One of the panelists mentioned that it is important to have safe space like this for difficult conversation. I disagree with that. Of course having a space container for conversation is important. But relationships building take much more than conversations. Talking won’t deepen relationship. Plus, long-term committed relationship is a high risk investment. It isn’t safe at all, and the reward is immeasurable, like any intimate partnership. No one can stay in the safety zone, nice and clean, but want an intimate relationship. You have to risk to get deeper, knowing that no one can have full control. Can you really get to the core of a difficult conversation while wanting to be all lollipop and unicorn? I don’t think so. I kinda think that human species is running out of time to always be nice and polite to each other while standing up for one’s truth.

This public talk is part of a series under “Your Stories, Our Histories” project led by the city of Kingston. There are online and in person workshop/platform for public engagement.

One of the elders raised a question, “Who are the ‘we’”? Let’s make sure who’s involved? Lee Maracle responded let’s stop using the “we” until we find out who they are.

That’s true, and yet I couldn’t help but going back to OUR Ecovillage’s practice, which is also from Starhawk teaching, “There’s a place at our table for you, if you choose to join us.” Apparently it didn’t work, at least the intentional community movement has proved the challenges of being radically inclusive. So now what? I would say that those who want to be part of the conversation of restorying this collective story must follow an on-boarding process. Show your commitment in relationships rather than in conversation. Relationship matter much more than words and ideas.

Are we all treaty people? If you say yes to it, then own it, feel it deeply in your core, and show up in being in relationship.

“A Dish with One Spoon” treaty — intact memories seeking to contribute

I learned about “A Dish with One Spoon” Treaty from yesterday lecture “A second cup of tea and a few more stories: Deepening our understanding of Indigenization” by two indigenous women scholars on indigenizing the academy (see more)

Dr. Ruth Koleszar-Green said that it is a treaty of peacemaking, represented by the wampum belts, which is the law, that says the dish has more than enough for all of us, so don’t take more than you need and make sure that everyone also has what they need. She said that we all use one spoon, and no one is gonna use to knife to dice the dish to make it even. The spoon represents that we will not bring weapon.

My mind went, “Isn’t that what we have been teaching at the Ecovillage? Every time at our Gratitude Circle before meal, we would say ‘there’s enough food for all of us if we don’t eat like a North American. Take what you need for the first round and make sure that everyone has their first before you go for seconds.” The village culture is a reindignezing practice.

Later I came home, and searched about “A Dish With One Spoon”. I found out from another indigenous woman scholar Lee Maracle, that “A Dish With one Spoon is a Haudenosaunee Confederacy law called the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace.

I looked up documentation online, and I found out (via this article) that it is stated in the Great Law of Peace,

“[that] it will turn out well for us to do this: we will say, ‘We promise to have only one dish among us; in it will be beaver tail and no knife will be there’… We will have one dish, which means that we will all have equal shares of the game roaming about in the hunting grounds and fields, and then everything will become peaceful among all of the people; and there will be no knife near our dish; which means that if there is a knife were there, someone might presently get cut, causing bloodshed, and this is troublesome, should it happen thus, and for this reason there should be no knife near our dish. [Concerning the League, p. 458]

On April 7, 1757, Thomas Butler wrote to Sir William Johnson about a meeting between the Haudenosaunee and the French at Montreal. According to his report, the Haudenosaunee told the French:

“…we can’t write but know all that has past between us having good memories.

after the Warrs & troubles we together met you at this place where every trouble was buried & a fire kindled here. Where was to meet and Treat peaceably; you are daily now working disturbances and Seem to forget the old agreement &c. The Tree Seems to be falling, let it be now put up the Roots spread and the leaves flourish as before. You formerly said take this bowl and this meat with this Spoon let us Eat always friendly together out the one Dish but you now forget and have separated the Indians very much So as they can’t well come together To Eat out this Dish which is very hard as we have children here & there Scatred through ye Country by your Means.

The English your Brothers & you are the common disturbers of this Country. I say you white people together. We term the English your Brothers as you must have some. We Indians you call Children you both want to put us Indians a quarreling but we the Six Nations know better if we begin We see nothing but an Intire Ruin of us as we would leve of till all was Gone. So we are Resolved to keep Friends on both sides as long at possible & not meddle with the Hatchet but endeavor always To pacify the white people Our arms shall be between you endeavoring to keep you a Sunder.”[Sir William Johnson Papers, II, 705]

At the University of Waterloo Indigenous Speakers Series 2018, Lee Maracle said at her speech that the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is a 1000 years old confederacy, that “A Dish with One Spoon” is the oldest form of democracy happened on this land, when five nations agreed to respect each other’s cultures and languages together. “Even nations fought among nations, they honor and respect each other.”

She ended the speech with this, “Imagine, 168 nations of peoples are in Toronto, probably a 100 nations in the Guelph area. All kinds of knowledge, all kinds of stories, all kinds of art; all kinds of sensibility, religions, philosophies, we could learn from that. We could put these things together. We could recreate the world. And Canada is fit for that. We could create intellectuals who have a powerful sense of cultural theory that embraces the people of the world that are right here. Intact memories, seeking to contribute to this great new land because it’s new now….”

Intact memories seeking to contribute. But the premise is, don’t forget everything you/I learned from your/my own people.

We have a chance to get there.