About How to be a Better Settler

I’ve created the How to be a Better Settler series of lessons to guide you in what I know about being a Better Settler in Canada. The posts document what I have learned while working with Indigenous people here in Canada.

I am half-settler, half-immigrant. My bloodlines are from other places, even though I was born and raised in Canada. Because I am not Indigenous I cannot claim to speak for or about Indigenous people and their experiences—that’s not the point of the series.

Non-Indigenous Canadians (like me) can sometimes feel weird, afraid and vulnerable when navigating reconciliation. Our shared history is messy and people of my and other generations were well-conditioned to ignore and dismiss Indigenous experiences. It’s not easy to open up that history, especially when you come to see it is an imbalanced system specifically designed for your benefit. You’ve really got to want to know more and make an effort if you want to learn—the history is not common knowledge among most settler and immigrant Canadians.

The How to be a Better Settler series is meant to be a place for non-Indigenous people to learn how to open themselves up to learning about our shared history.

Doing and being better are, I believe, part of our responsibility in the Reconciliation process as non-Indigenous Canadians. We cannot change if we do not learn, and learning is risky, and so is growth, and I wanted to give people a chance to learn through me, with a bit more safety than I am giving myself by laying it all bare here.

Note: I’m going to post things that will be cringe-worthy in a year’s time, or less. I’m ok with that. I’m learning and posting as I go along.  I will write something that seemed great at the time, but in hindsight, appears ignorant, or outdated, or just plain wrong. I believe that I’m not only one on this path, and if I post my understanding as it develops, and let it stand here, for all to see, maybe others will feel less intimidated about getting on this journey too. It’s not about being right, or perfect. It’s about Being Better.

However, this is also not a place to congratulate yourself. This is not the place to learn things then decide you got it nailed and now you will educate Indigenous friends, colleagues, neighbours and strangers on the bus on how much you now know about their experience. You don’t. Be quiet. Read my first lesson.

This is not a place to celebrate privilege, nor to feel guilt or shame for that privilege. None of that moves us forward. None of that makes anyone feel any better. None of that does anyone any good.

This is the place to educate yourself.

Finally, to any Indigenous person who reads this blog and comes away with the notion that I am just not getting it right–I apologize, because you are probably right.

I ask for your understanding that I am committed to doing my very best to contribute in a positive way to the conversations we are having around reconciliation.

I recognize that it is not your job to teach me, and so I am teaching myself. I am trying to respect the idea that Indigenous people are not responsible for my learning.

I thank you for decades upon decades of compassion, empathy, patience, resistance and the indomitable ability to put up with the unfathomable bullshit of it all. Meegwetch.

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