I had the good fortune to learn more about decolonization late this winter. Critics of reconciliation argue that it merely attempts to increase satisfaction with existing systems. It’s my understanding that decolonization demands that colonial systems of power and governance be dismantled with new decolonized systems created in their place.
All this learning took place at the Community Leaders Retreat hosted by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association. The retreat was offered in partnership with the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning. Dr. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Justina Black were the speakers and facilitators for the retreat.
Leanne is a renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, and artist. She is a faculty member at Dechinta. Justina is a proud member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. Her grandfather was a T’satsaot’ine Dene and her grandmother was Tłı̨chǫ and she has strong roots to the land through them. Justina was born and raised in Somba Ke, Denendeh and is a Dechinta alumni and a facilitator for the KidsU program at Dechinta.
Leanne and Justina generously shared their knowledge – sitting around the table, between bites of delicious Blachford Lake Lodge food, and out on the land while checking nets. I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from them. I also thank the other participants in the retreat—it was wonderful to have a chance to learn with and from you all!
I left the retreat with my heart full and my mind abuzz. I know I’m learning when I leave with more questions than answers. Questions are good, because they remind us that we don’t know all the answers and encourage us to continue to learn. And, I have a lot of learning to do. As a white settler who calls Somba K’e home, I believe that it is my responsibility to continue to educate myself about decolonization and find ways to use my learning in my work and in my life. I’m still working out what this might looks like. One action I can take is to use my position at the NWT Literacy Council to share resources on decolonization and to amplify the voices of Indigenous people. With that in mind, I share a few readings that have helped me in my learning. I hope that they might help you in yours. Some of these readings were shared at the community leaders retreat.
If you would like a copy of any of these resources, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Emily Smith, Youth and Adult Services Coordinator
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