"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us walk together."
- Australian Aboriginal Activists Group, 1970s
This is my personal prayer. It may offend immigrants who think assimilation is fine. It may offend settler Canadians who believe that they have done no wrong.
If this offends you, I am sorry.
There are three things I learned from my indigenous sisters and brothers.
I have learned a lot of things in my life. But these three things exist on a higher plane than the degrees beside my name, my years as a teacher and my time as a so-called educational leader.
Before I studied and reflected upon indigenous ways of knowing, I was but a child.
Before I go further, I acknowledge that indigenous knowledge is not necessarily race or culture based. Being a member of a culture doesn't guarantee you wisdom unless you've walked the long journey.
Many indigenous people are still learning what it means to live according to an indigenous worldview. And many non-aboriginal people are hostile to questioning the roots of their own thinking and being.
It is all about the journey.
My journey into the cultural and social history of my Korean upbringing brings me to a deeper understanding of my parents and ancestors. I didn't care so much about my history when I was young. I was torn. I wanted desperately to be "normal," just like you.
When you reflect upon the person you have become, you begin to hear the voices of your ancestors.
Mine tell me one very clear thing: the human family is one.
This knowledge is the core of what can be called the "indigenous worldview." (A deeper view contends that we are also one with all of life.)
It isn't difficult to understand why indigenous people all over the globe are fiercely protective of the land. It is a core part of their identity.
I pray to make it a part of mine.
After I reflected upon my own connection to the land, I realized that my culture taught me that the land was simply for my personal use.
No wonder there are fewer species, fewer natural places.
The second thing I have learned from my indigenous sisters and brothers is to respect the connection between mind, spirit and body. I had learned in my culture to gorge on book wisdom, ignore my body's appetite for knowledge, and to be suspicious of the spirit.
I realize now that it is folly to separate your mind from your body, that the body contains great wisdom, that connecting the mind, body and the spirit can heal what is broken.
I have enjoyed more than 50 years of life. My children teach me. I have read many books. I held both parents before they died. But something inside me (and perhaps outside of me) feels so broken.
If you need a healing journey, where do you start?
When you reflect upon the past, your future changes.
The third piece of wisdom I learned was to question my own worldview, the symbolic air that I breathe, the cultural identity that fixes me, the corporate society that teaches us that we are what we consume and that there is but one way to live.
Are there other ways?
Yes, this journey is a reinvention; it requires imagination, and you won't know the answers before the journey begins.
Each journey is unique.
Understanding the worldview that got us here might be the great hope of this world. It will makes us aware of how to resist the powerful forces that tell us that the master/servant relationship is the only way to live, that tells us women are lesser than men, that tells us that nature is for our own use, that tells us the economy is not for us, that tells us to give up the journey before we start.
Most people travel (even between cultures) under one dominant worldview that contains one's values, beliefs and ideology. Aboriginal people face the rupture caused when one worldview tries to extinguish another.
Cultural assimilation is one thing; extinguishing a worldview may be quite another.
But it survives after 500 years on feathers, circles, fish soup, Twitter feeds, treaties and land leases.
An indigenous worldview teaches us one overwhelming idea: we can change the way we think, so that we can live in harmony with ourselves and this planet.
Otherwise, we can only hope for more of the same.
More suicides. More shootings. More wars. More spills. More languages lost. More sadness. More men in jail. More children and women living alone.
Idle No More may seem like a fad. It may appear to have no goals or no agenda. You will definitely see one chief say it is good and one say it is bad.
One day, we will realize that this journey is relational, that life is about our relationships - with our families, with our culture, with our "civilization."
My journey tells me that adopting a deeper awareness and consciousness of who we are, how we can heal and how we can hope for a better world is why Idle No More is not just about the freedom and rights of indigenous people in Canada.
It is about freedom for us all.
I am an ally of a deeper and more profound relationship with ourselves and with our planet. I was a child before I learned that the change begins with you.
Who are you? What kind world do you want? Where is the hope?
Let us find a way to transcend the way we think about the human family.
This is a prayer for my aboriginal sisters and brothers. I am a Korean Canadian, the son of Ji Won and Sook Chung. We acknowledge the traditional territories of First Nation, Metis and Inuit people. We respect all Indigenous Peoples.
We will be idle no more.
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