Dawson, YT Y0B, Canada
I wanted to remind us that we are not here to dwell or wallow in shame or guilt for past actions of our ancestors and governments. We are here today to acknowledge our history and to look forward to tomorrow. And each of us has a role in making a better future for us all and rebuilding the relationships we have with indigenous people. I want to thank again each and every presenter for everything that you contributed, for your thoughts and your wisdom very much appreciated, it was very rich.
We asked the Chief Isaac family for permission to bring forward his image today as a reminder to us all of the first people of this land. Chief Isaac was here at the beginning of the Gold Rush when indigenous people, or when non, when everybody else got here. And the family was honoured and, they shared a few stories. And what I’d like to bring forward is Chief Isaac welcomed each and every person to this territory and he was kind to everyone and respectful to everyone.
The first winter when thousands of people had arrived here ill-prepared for the winter ahead, him and his fellow Han people went out and hunted and killed brought in many, many animals and saved hundreds and hundreds of lives that first year. And so, given the legacy of what came since and how, his people were treated in the Han people and the people across Turtle Island in our presence, it’s important to remember that, we were welcomed here and we were cared for and, there was a willingness there to share the resources and share the land. And so it’s high time that we, made space for, acknowledging and respecting, the indigenous people country.
I would like to thank the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Chief Isaac, of taking care of this land so that when we are here we can see the beauty of it and that the river is still clean and the water that we drink is still clean.
What you are holding here right now, willow, willow finds water. Where, wherever you see water there will be willow, where there, ever there is disruption, there is willow. That’s the first thing that people plant to reclaim the land and clean the soil. Willow is also medicine. It’s a painkiller. So what I ask you today, this [*week? *weight?] that you carried while you were leaving, that we’re going to collect it all in one bundle. We’re going to all harvest this willow that we rooted, imagine that it was rooted here, and we’re going to all harvest it. And I’m, we’re going to put it all down into the Yukon River, and it will feed the fishes, and it’ll decompose, and it’ll maybe feed us. But it will clean the water.
And what we listened to today is not carried through the willow but carried in our hearts and what, when you go home, the next steps is to think about what you want to hold, what your actions will be in the future. How are you acknowledging indigenous territory that you’re visiting and living. What are the languages that are, you’re using. I’d like to, I’d like you to think about the colonialism, all the forms of colonialism that’s ingrained in us. In, even in little ways, and I’d like you to reflect on and think about them. And perhaps interrupt it. I ask you to interrupt it, in ways that are kind, like this walk, in ways that are compassionate, in ways that perhaps open more questions. And perhaps in that way we could build a better relationship.
We all hold one strand of the story, and as a single willow is bendable, and it’s a strength, and it’s bendable and it’s flexible, but as we put all these bundles together we won’t be able to bend that and that is the strength, in our unity. And so as we gather these up we’re, we are acknowledging that we’re in this together, and together we will build a more respectful, a more compassionate and understanding society.
There will be tea and bannock. That way.
We didn’t mention that there is a willow installation also at Dänojà Zho Cultural Center, it’s one of the two sites that we built with many hands in the community, many people here today contributed. And there are audio pieces that are contributions from Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens reflecting on, their experience of colonialism.
So what I want ask you to do is when you are ready to let go of this willow, just put it … like this.
And as you’re releasing the willow say a prayer for past actions and releasing the pain, and pray for awareness and compassion in the present moment. And to be with your feelings and be honest and accepting of truths. And for the future. We wish for hope, we hope for the future, for a better future.
And also this willow and reconciliation is about reconciliation with the land, because we disrupted culture and we disrupted societies that were intact and meaningful and purposeful, and we also disrupted the land and the relationship that indigenous people had with the land. And as we all are aware of that is a fractured relationship not only with people but with the land and we need to repair that, so that we can survive as a human species living compassionately and gently on this great gift of a planet.