Advocacy & Leadership

My Letter to the Editor of the Lloydminster Booster/Source

On February 8th it was a pleasure to attend the Institue for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women- Indigenous Women in Leadership Speakers Series. I was inspired by founder, Muriel Stanley Venne’s advocacy work, and leadership.
From left: Myself, Carly Morton-Germann, Roxy Naistus, Muriel Stanley Venne.
Front: Host of the leadership series, Stephanie Harpe.

Last Sunday I had to remove myself from social media because of the explosion of hate-filled racist comments that were circulating online. I felt anger, frustration, but most of all sorrow. Some of these people were my friends on Facebook, and now they are not.

I was stunned by the racism, however, many Indigenous peoples like Andrea Landry (@AndreaLandry1) stated on Twitter,  “This level of racism has always been here. The only thing that’s different now is that they are no longer keeping it quiet.”

Two days before the Gerald Stanley verdict I had been in conversation with the editor of the Lloydminster Booster/Source to potentially do a reconciliation column. I sent him my editorials that had been published in News North, Being An Informed Indigenous Ally and the Yellowknifer, Reconciliation in Health & Healing in the North. He told me he would consult with his bosses. I’m trying not to assume that means no, but with the state of relationships, and the amount of racist commentary on public forums, I’m not hopeful.

Reconciliation is still a relatively unknown entity in this community, with the Heart of Treaty 6 Reconciliation committee just getting started. As stated in the Lloydminster Source on February 14th, “This week City council has accepted the declaration from the Heart of Treaty 6 Reconciliation and has authorized the mayor to sign the declaration. There are two key areas of work the Heart of Treaty 6 aims to develop stronger relationships and trust among communities, organizations, and individuals.”

I wrote a letter to the editor, which will be published next Tuesday in the Meridian Booster on the state of relationships in our community. I believe that the trust factor is at an all-time low. Also, that leaders must pave the way for relationship building.

I must admit the featured letter below is my second attempt. I had posted the first attempt on my personal facebook and I was attacked by trolls telling me I was asking for “special treatment” for Indigenous peoples. I’m thankful that I posted it because that feedback made me realize that emotion has no place in advocacy. I must use hard facts from documents that exist pertaining to reconciliation and human rights.

When I contacted the editor about my potential letter to the editor he stated in his email to me, “with the papers being pretty tight in recent weeks it’s very tough to get submitted content in. So, if you write a letter to the editor please keep it under 380 words so I can make it fit.” Most editorials allow at least 500 words, but I’m always up for a challenge.

358 words advocating for the human right to feel safe in our community.

“In the spirit of reconciliation, before the Stanley verdict, I contacted the City of Lloydminster to ask about their municipal government Indigenous cultural awareness program, which was a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada:

Professional Development and Training for Public Servants
57. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

On February 2nd, 2018 the Mayors office issued me this statement:

“Our community is comprised of a rich and diverse mix of cultures; this Council welcomes all opportunity to learn more about those cultures and their respective beliefs, traditions, and histories. Each year, your Mayor and Council have the privilege of attending dozens of cultural events, including spiritual ceremonies, festivals, celebrations, dinners and the like. The City of Lloydminster is also currently examining how participation in the Declaration from the Heart of Treaty Six Reconciliation initiative may further support strong, communicative relationships with community-based organizations, governments, and businesses in the Lloydminster region.”  -Mayor Gerald Aalbers

I ask for the leadership in this community including community-based organizations, governments, and businesses to take a strong stance, either verbally or in the form of a statement, against racist or hateful dialogue against anyone in this community. As stated by the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, Article 3: Everyone has the right to live, to be free, and to feel safe. All people of this community regardless of race, age, or religion have the right to feel safe.

I believe that the skilled –based training recommended by the TRC in “intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human right, and anti-racism” can help our leaders build a strong foundation for “strong communicative relationships” that is needed after this controversial verdict. I ask the leadership of this city, and provinces to call on its citizens to remain respectful of all peoples.”

As a taxpayer in this community, I sent letters to my political leaders, Mayor Aalbers, MLA for Saskatchewan, Colleen Young and MLA for Alberta, Richard Starke. (I suggest you do the same to advocate for your rights). The 2016 Lloydminster census data states that 10% of our population identifies as Indigenous. The national average of Indigenous peoples sits at about 4% of the total population – we have a higher than average base of Indigenous taxpayers in Lloydminster.

I was not asking for a comment on the verdict, as that would be inappropriate and crossing the line between justice and politics. I did ask for them to please consider issuing a public statement from their offices addressing the racist dialogue and growing division in our community.

Another critic pointed out that if Mayor Aalbers is held accountable by his taxpayers, then so should Indigenous leaders from this area like Chief Wallace Fox of Onion Lake Cree Nation or Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations. Let me reiterate that I am not a member of these bands or organizations and I do not pay taxes to either. I am a taxpayer of the Lloydminster community and I have a right to ask my leadership to advocate on my behalf.

The true leadership that emerged from Saskatchewan is Saskatoon’s Mayor Charlie Clark. He wrote a public post on his Facebook account on Monday, February 12th:

“As Mayor, I have made it central to my leadership that we are stronger united than divided.

I have, and will, stand alongside anyone who says they are prepared to work together to address the deep divisions in our society that have been revealed with the shooting of Colten Boushie and the trial.

It is more important than ever to confront the undercurrent of racism that has become escalated since this happened. We have been aware of racism and discrimination in our city and province, but the level of contempt and hatred that has emerged in comments online and in daily interactions has revealed the magnitude of these sentiments.

This cannot be tolerated if we are to build a better society. They are a risk to our future.

We have a choice in this moment: to either find a way to come together as people sharing this land and this community, or to allow the divisions to get deeper and tear us apart.

This is about a relationship and what we risk if we give up on each other. We have been celebrating and talking about reconciliation during the good times, but we need to continue this work during the difficult times as well.

This is the choice I am asking you all to make. Choose a future together, let us build relationships with each other, and be, as our provincial motto states, “From many peoples, strength.” ”

In a time of crisis when people are looking to their leadership to guide them, the kind of person I want to follow is the one that makes human decency their platform and calls for relationship building. Also, thanks to Muriel Stanley Venne for inspiring me to advocate through the hard times.

Take ownership for the community you live in and stand up for your beliefs. There are many ways to do it, including writing to your government representatives or the newspaper. Anything is better than nothing. In the wise words of Martin Luther King, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Saskatoon StarPhoenix article:
We cannot let this situation tear us apart’: Saskatoon mayor calls for unity after Stanley verdict


Self-Care: A How-to Guide to Loving Yourself & Setting Boundaries.

It’s important in the midst of negativity to practice self-love. I had a friend call me on Thursday afternoon and I had a good cry, then we talked about all the things we love and how we take care of ourselves. She lifted my spirits and I realized that it would be helpful to ask women to share their self-care practices. Here are some of the Women Warriors self-care practices.

I’m so into essential oils with my air diffusers, bath bombs with a few drops of oils as well. I also really enjoy herbal teas. Even if its just that 20 mins a day to enjoy those things you enjoy doing. Once the kids are in bed I make my tea and get my infuser going, either watch my favorite show or just enjoy the quiet. There’s never enough time in the day to get ahead but it’s important to take the time for yourself.  – Linda

I absolutely love hot showers and or baths with candles. Maybe my fascination with candles is because that is what my name means. But I also enjoy listening to guided meditation even if it is only for thirty minutes, but I usually try for an hour. And I still love my old rock fountain. It is so very peaceful. – Shondyl

My everyday self-care practices are: I always start my day with prayer (and I pray to God our Creator) and it doesn’t have to be a long prayer. I just thank him for waking me for a new day; a new chance to be better and pray for the protection of my kids and granddaughters. I love to do mini-meditations on Youtube (because I am one that cannot sit an hour in meditation) there are so many and you will know which one resonates with you. Throughout my day I constantly have little “positive reminders” even if it’s just, “I got this,” “things will get better,” “I am not alone.” I know it sounds corny but it really works. At the end of my day, I take an “energy infused bath” so I load it with certain crystals and Epsom salts and candles and that’s my “defuser” just wash everything I’ve read or seen or went through. And, of course, end in prayer thanking him for the lessons learned that day and it’s not any big moments.. its the laughs with my kids listening to their stories… it’s those moments that are so powerful and filled with all the love and determination I need to go on. Lately, I had to stop engaging in all the negative social media from both sides.. so I will just post and share the positive or funny posts and then get off! Because I have experienced first hand just how painful racism is on both sides, it’s easy to trigger these feelings from my past experiences. I know exactly where my boundaries are and it is just that – not engaging in these online debates because it’s so easy to speak from the hurt, instead of trying to reason with people, because not everyone has an open mind. And lastly, it is so important to surround yourself with like-minded people that share your views and concerns and create that positive circle of support in your life so that when you do face trials, you can reach out and know you will be heard and supported in a  positive way. Participant of Women Warriors


Women Warriors Updates

1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Dates: April/May
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is:
Bev Renaud
Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW.
Calgary Neighbourhoods
The City of Calgary | email: Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca
Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and hopefully our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th.
2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator.
3) I am a bi-weekly contributor to the Yellowknifer newspaper. You can view articles here


 

Tala Tootoosis speaking at a ribbon skirt workshop.

 

The Power of Mentorship
Tala Tootoosis is a 35-year-old single mother of three. She comes from the resilient bloodlines of Nakota Sioux, Plains Cree, and Haudenosaunnee. She has been doing motivational speaking for over 12 years on recovery from addictions with holistic healing. She has expanded her skills to teaching about recovery practices and has a new workshop she created on crystal meth addictions.Crystal Meth Epidemic – Case Planning Tools for Youth in Care
Presenter: Tala Tootoosis, BISW, Substance Abuse Prevention Facilitator, Traditional Teachings and Cultural Advocate for Youth – Tala will share information about crystal meth, her experience as a recovering addict and provide case planning tools for adults who work with youth in care
Target audience: Frontline workers, social workers, family workers, addiction counselors, NADAP workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, chief and councils, school coordinators, therapists. If you are interested please email Tala: inspiredndn@mail.com.
She is also a talented designer and creates works of art seen on her Facebook page, Ribbon Skirts.
Interview with Tala The Ribbon Skirt: Symbol of surviving cultural genocide
Facebook video of Tala speaking about her journey from addictions to recovery.

1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
Lindsay Knight

2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
I met her at a hip-hop show, she was performing. I heard a woman rap like so solid, she had so much power in her voice. I looked up to her and how she dressed, like she was from Brooklyn and her mind was from the resilient grandmothers of both our bloodlines. I ran into her again when she was part of the FSIN youth justice secretariat, she was our youth leader. I told her I wanted to be like her and learn from her and she was all humbled. She even told me that it was her grandpa and my grandpa who were the ones who helped be the founders of the FSIN (Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations).

3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?

  • Always be humble.
  • Don’t be a sellout.
  • Fight for the cause.
4. What qualities make a good mentee?
If you are being a mentee, you have to be willing to learn something new every second, every minute, every day, to never think you know everything. You have to be willing to be wrong sometimes, to be humbled, to be told what you need to do to better yourself. You have to work on your own trauma, your own sobriety, your own healing, you have to always be working on you to be able to help others, being a mentee means you are becoming a mentor.

5. What are the benefits and/or rewards you received from mentoring?
I am still being mentored by her, we are sisters now, I always know she will never judge me, she will never look down on me, she will never criticize me, she will never belittle my words, thoughts or actions, she always supports me and encourages me. This teaches me to be this way towards others and those who I now mentor. I know I can go to her for sound advice as well and that gives me the strength to know I am exactly where I am supposed to be – I feel safe, I feel accepted, and I feel confident in my decisions.

6. What personal development practices do you have?
I do my best to work on my own healing all the time and try new ways of healing, I share these teachings as much as possible and always do my best to try new things to help me help people and share my teachings. I always center myself in my spirituality and self-love, as many mistakes as I have made my Creator has always been there for me as well as the spiritual leaders who support me.

7. What book most impacted your life?
Two books from the same author have helped me: Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love.