Since starting my new job at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto I’ve become familiar with common Ojibwe greetings used among the staff, children, and parents. I smile whenever I hear them and am fascinated when I see Ojibwae-English signs and labels throughout the centre. For those readers who may not know, since the 1600s the Canadian government (i.e. the English and French Settlers/Colonizers) and churches have made it their goal to rid the Indigenous peoples of the land, their languages and cultures via the Residential School System, Reserve System and the Indian Act. Simply put, to be anything other than White and Christian, in their view, meant to be uncivil, nonhuman. So with that said, for me it is a beautiful thing to see the legacy of those generation of Indigenous communities who survived centuries of cultural genocide in this country. Resilient!
Being relational, I think, is an important characteristic that allies and advocates should have in order to understand and help the people who they are standing with. Making genuine connections with people I am serving is the core of my profession. Since it is my goal in life to be an advocate alongside Canada’s Indigenous communities, over the next couple of months at my new job I want to start up conversations with my co-workers and the parents of the children I serve about their nations and learn greetings in their respective languages. For example just the other day I learned that the Mi’kmaq nation say “kwe” for “hello” and the Ojibwae nations say “boozhoo”. What a privilege it is to play a small part in promoting/restoring these children’s native language after centuries of cultural genocide. I am humbled!
Sigh. I wish I knew the original language that my ancestors spoke before they became victims of cultural genocide too.
Thank you for reading,