A few weeks ago, LinkedIn reminded me that it had been three years since I set up the business page for Culturally Committed. Reflecting on that time over the holiday break, I've delved into the remarkable moments and experiences that have unfolded since. Today, I am eager to share some of these reflections with you.
Allow me to provide a bit of background for those unfamiliar with our journey: I have been a Dental Therapist for 22 years, previously working in a private practice setting in Saskatchewan before transitioning to serving remote First Nations communities in British Columbia. I've always approached my role with a heart full of good intentions, aiming to bring compassion and connection to my practice. Despite being equipped with access to a provincial Indigenous cultural safety program, offering foundational insights into the history and impacts of colonization in Canada, I found myself grappling when I started my practice. Moments occurred when I sensed I was missing the mark, feeling a shift in energy – a patient might suddenly quiet or shift their gaze down, and sometimes, they would not return.
Fortuitously, I predominantly work in community health centers, bustling hubs where I often connect with people during gaps in my day. Whether helping in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher, or sitting with the Elder beading group, these interactions allowed me to develop close friendships with colleagues and community members. As trust deepened, people started sharing errors I unknowingly made in my work – behaviors routine in my practice but potentially problematic for those impacted by trauma. Making adaptations, I felt the discomfort diminishing, relationships flourishing, and individuals hesitant to access care begin to seek my support, eventually improving their own health.
Realizing that I was receiving mentorship from community members, I recognized my privilege in receiving such guidance. A spark ignited in my mind: "What if others like me had access to mentorship like this? Would it improve patient outcomes?" Although I initially pushed the idea aside, questioning my place as a white woman to create such a space, it lingered in the back of mind.
The longer I worked in community, the more stories I heard about unsafe experiences individuals faced when accessing services outside the community. These disclosures, often influenced by the legacy of residential schools, broke my heart. Although I offered pathways for complaints, people hesitated to pursue resolution due to a legacy of silence. Despite feeling honored that folks trusted me with their stories, my thoughts returned to the idea of mentorship. If individuals understood potentially problematic behaviors, they could adapt and avoid innocuous triggers.
Then, one fall day in October 2020, while providing care in one of my communities, every single person who came to see me shared a disclosure of recent unsafe care. I was profoundly affected. That afternoon, I confided in my friend, Daniel Elliott of Stz'uminus – a Drug and Alcohol Counselor and dear mentor. Dan, sensing my urgency, remarked, "You are being called to do something, and it is your responsibility to listen to that."
That night, I went home and sought guidance from my then 14-year-old son on purchasing a domain, and buying it immediately. Over the following three months, I immersed myself in learning, hosting focus groups, interviewing people, reaching out to friends for expertise, and relentlessly building. My goal was clear – to create a space where other non-Indigenous people could learn and connect with Indigenous Mentors. Consumed by the idea, I worked fervently, never pausing to consider if anyone would even join.
In January 2021, we went live, and three years later, forty-four of our Founding Members are still with us. To each of you, I express my heartfelt gratitude. We would not have been able to continue on without you.
Of course, none of this work would be possible without the generosity of our treasured Mentors and Consulting Mentors who guide this work. Thank you for your patience, your wisdom, and your willingness to walk with us. We raise our hands to you.
Today marks my 150th Teachings Tuesday, a realization that boggles my brain. When I first started writing these, it was with the idea that perhaps others would find it valuable to read how I was pursuing my cultural safety and humility journey. As I reflect on all that I have written, I feel a sense of pride. I am not a writer. I do this work imperfectly, in every sense. Thank you for reading these writings and for your generosity in providing safety for me as I learn and grow.
As we find ourselves here, slowly growing after three years, it truly feels surreal. Each time a new community member registers, I cheer out loud. Truly. If you've registered, I've whooped in your name. Every participant in our workshops brings elation. Seeing the number of you who read these emails every single week on our mailing list fills me with disbelief. Thank you for joining us on this journey. We eagerly anticipate continuing this work with you in 2024.