Resilient indigenous in an age of reconciliation

This week the government in Saskatchewan did something profound and important — making the choice to change a derogatory name of lakes in the province and change them to names that celebrate indigenous culture.

A group of lakes called “Killsquaw Lake” near a town called “Unity” have been re-named. According to the Canadian Press elders gave the area a name in the Cree language that means “we honour the women.” Parks Minister Gene Makowsky says the area will now be known as Kikiskitotawanawak Iskewak Lakes.

In a world where we are constantly reminding of the bad and offensive it is really encouraging and empowering to hear stories like this. That a Canadian province would not only remove an offensive name but then replace it with an empowering act of lending place for indigenous elders to re-name in the indigenous language and give honour to indigenous women is not just chicken soup for the soul — that’s meat and potatoes for the soul.

Words have power. And an act of settlers releasing their colonial dominion over a place name and leaving space for indigenous elders to name for honour to the most oppressed of our families is a spiritual victory. However this news is also coming from a province that has made headlines in recent weeks for the shameful practice of medical officials coercing indigenous women into ‘voluntary’ sterilization. A class-action suit with about 70 registered members is now going forward on that case.

Discovering this human atrocity is the opposite of meat and potatoes for the soul. It’s more like Soylent Green — finding out that the meat and potatoes is actually made out of people.

Such is the life of being an indigenous person not only in Canada but across the world.

We are up in the heavens soaring like eagles on one victory and the next we’re dredging through the very trenches of war — fighting oil pipelines and protesting for our lives to halt danger at every turn. It’s kind of exciting sometimes to be honest. But it’s always exhausting. Sometimes we get burned out and can’t keep up at the same pace the “normal” non-oppressed people in society can keep. Nevertheless, we keep going. We are resilient.

The important thing to remember is to know the fight. It’s not always about raging until you win. Sometimes that part of it is there. But sometimes the fight is quiet. Sometimes it means reading or talking with others to make up your own mind. Likewise, rest must always be a part of the fight. And always — always — find time to laugh.

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