People of Green Drinks: Redefining Reconciliation with Jennifer Ward

As Canadians, we are well-used to recognizing “Reconciliation” as a kind of buzzword for the rights of Indigenous and First Nations peoples. I for one have heard the term used in discourses ranging from the political to the geographical, and yet, (I am humbled to admit) I barely have a grasp on what that means for someone like me: a white female living within 23 years of Canada’s last residential school closure.

Sometimes I even find myself wondering how we can begin to reconcile a rift so palpable in everything around us.  

Fortunately, there’s an absolute powerhouse of a person making sure that people like me can not only contextualize reconciliation efforts, but also begin to criticize them as they exist in our sociological present.

“Colonialism lives in systems—the systems that drive our economy, our society. It doesn’t matter how many carvings we put up; those are superficial. Until we decolonize the systems that guide how we live, nothing is going to change.”

That’s Jennifer Ward, Educational Developer and PhD student at the University of Alberta. In preparation for February’s Green Drinks Event—centred on Reconciliation in Edmonton—we at the Local Good wanted to talk to an expert on the front lines.

“Thanks for coming,” she smiles, nevertheless giving credence to the elders who have passed along their wisdom; who have given nuance to her own understanding of indigeneity.

I first had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer during an Indigenous Worldviews Session, where I immediately felt at home with the no-nonsense way in which she speaks about not only her personal history at Beaver Hills House (Cree: amiskwaciy waskahigan), currently living and teaching on Treaty 6 territory, but also about Canada’s history as a nation built on a pact that has since been soured almost beyond repair.

“Even in larger-scale reconciliation efforts, I have found that the work continues to be on the backs of Indigenous peoples. Our stories are commodified, co-opted by non-indigenous people and sold back to us.”

Suddenly, something I hadn’t quite been able to articulate stands sharply before me, clear as day. Is Canada talking the talk, but not walking the walk? While grassroots efforts are at least opening up the floor for discussion, are people like me really doing enough to change our systems?

“Events and initiatives like Green Drinks are doing good work around informing others about Indigenous perspectives and contemporary realities,” she admits, “but what I think can continue to be done is motivating people to do things that are actionable, such as making changes to policies and political structures that negatively impact the lives of Indigenous peoples.”

“There are lots of dollars around reconciliation at the government level, but at the end of the day, what does that mean? Are we actually supporting Indigenous peoples in healing from the legacy of colonialism?”

In the end, says Jennifer, we must always be willing to check our motivations. We must hold one another accountable for the racial and biased conversations that continue to happen all around us. We must actively pursue Indigenous knowledge from the original knowledge keepers, and then support Indigenous sovereignty by doing more than just lending an ear.

“I would encourage people to educate themselves through reading Indigenous authored texts,” she continues, suddenly excited. Listing some of her favourite Indigenous teaching resources, one in particular catches my attention:

“Oh, the Indigenous People’s Atlas! It’s this incredible set of hardcover maps…they have one the size of a gymnasium for sale that schools are buying like crazy.”

With Jennifer already on her phone trying to find me the link, I can’t help but think: in all of my prairie education, had I ever seen an “unbroken” map of Canada? And what does it say about my own ignorance, me who hadn’t tried to find that map all on my own—who hadn’t even thought to look?

My colleague Rayleigh, in the room with us, makes an offering of tobacco in ceremony of the knowledge that Jennifer has passed along to us. Thanking her again, I can’t help but nevertheless feel warmed walking out into the deep chill of February, my head clearer, my heart calm with the knowledge that even though it’s taken me a while, there are people like Jennifer out there ready to help me learn what reconciliation really means.

Article originally published at The Local Good.
Header image copyright Jessica Barratt.

Healthcare App Development Trends to Watch in 2019

Seeking a new stream of development revenue? Looking to break into the mHealth industry?

Take a look at Topflight Apps’ Healthcare App Development Predictions for 2019 and see if there’s a medical cause that calls to your technical know-how!

Original Article Authored by Jessica Barratt.

Quasar Trash

We’d gotten a vehicle to Mars for Christ’s sake, and this is what they choose to celebrate? Curiosity, out there all on his—its—own, humming to the frequency of “Happy Birthday”? Mics up to max, an ear-numbing static filling our large control room, some of the more senior staff sing loudly over the noise while eating crumbly cupcakes over their consoles. Normally I might put a stop to it, but they’d been working so hard. 

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People of Green Drinks: Tracy Bear and Creating Opportunities for Allyship

Of our experience, we already know everything we know. It’s listening to what someone else knows that’s important.”

–Overheard in Edmonton

It was a phrase that caught me off guard, hanging in the air long after I’d mentally said goodbye to my fellow LRT-goer, who I would never meet. Simple, unassuming, and effective: The more you listen, the more you learn.

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Tips of the Trade: Freelancing for the Editors and Writers Among Us

For the last six years, I’ve been a freelancer. Even when I was still at school, even when I worked full time as a server, an administrator, an intern, I managed a whole other venture on the side, building it step-by-step. Just six months ago, I decided to take the full brunt of it–I risked my livelihood in trusting my trade to vest the rewards for which my heart yearned: not just money, but freedom. And, I wanted to create a life that was only writing.

“What?” you may be asking. “Writers don’t make money doing what they love.”

Well, believe what you want, but right now I want to tell you how I am challenging those odds and making money writing for others, writing for myself, and writing exactly what I want to be writing–no regrets.

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I’m one of the lucky ones. I mean, I never got hooked.

Could’ve happened of course, that’s always a danger when you’re a Trader. Got a whole supply at my fingertips, could tap in anytime I want–be like those kingpins over there, rattling their yellow teeth my way, hopped up on the stuff, eyes crazy. But that’s not my style. A Trader’s gotta be fair, has to be clean. If he ain’t he’ll just be pushing for his own benefit. That’s not what it’s about, you know? It’s about helping people.

I’ve been doing this a long time, know all the tricks. That’s why I can call this side of town my own; everyone comes to me. They know I’ll be good to them, that I won’t cheat. I’m running a good thing, here. Got drop points all over the place, a few Runners and a couple of Recruiters. Good ones too. But they all know I’ve only got one rule: don’t get hooked and I’ll keep paying. Get hooked, and I’ll make sure you pay double-double. 

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Suck It, Miss Bea.

There’s a lady already on about her damn therapeutic hairless cats when I get in. Trying to catch my breath, I make it almost to the back row, but of course all 10 or 12 of them are drawn to the smell of what snuck in with me—the lovely, sultry, slightly burned aroma of a running vacuum cleaner needing a good empty.

“…Bea?” someone whispers from my new audience.

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