ʔaǰɛčxʷot? This is ašli from Klahoose First Nation.
I was recently visiting my hometown on the traditional territory of the Tla’amin First Nation; one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It is also a place where there is currently a lot of tension due to discussions on renaming the town, which is named after Israel Powell, the first superintendent of Indian Affairs for BC. Because of these tensions, visiting home has me feeling apprehensive, as it no longer feels as emotionally and mentally safe as it did when I grew up there. Especially knowing some of the culturally unsafe incidents that have been impacting my friends and family within the last year.
When I was home, I visited a market located on the territory that used to be one of the main villages of the Tla’amin people – tiskʷət. As I explored the market, I said hi to each sales clerk and made small talk, as one does in a small town. As I entered each store, I found that the feeling of apprehension would build. Until I started noticing small things… Orange t-shirts in windows, orange hearts, rainbow flags… Small gestures that might go unnoticed by so many, but symbolized safety to me, allowing for my anxiety to rest. This phenomenon is related to a concept called the “culture of power”, which explains how the dominant “powers” will influence an environment in ways that are often unnoticed by those who fall within the “culture of power”. These symbols of care and inclusivity – Indigenous art, orange shirts, rainbow flags – shifted the culture of power in these places and signalled to me safety in a tangible and very real way.
I encourage you to read the article on the Culture of Power (linked at the bottom), and to spend time thinking about how society and the physical environment might send messages about who holds power – whose voices are heard, who makes decisions, who feels safe. And think about ways you can start to shift this to create a society (or an environment ahem workplaces) that are safe for Indigenous people (and others who are marginalized) to feel safe.
Kim here! Did you know that the logo for Culturally Committed was created by Quw’utsun artist, Stuart Paguduan? The image features a person standing with their hands raised, which symbolizes a welcoming or on honouring of the person being addressed -- an emotion we felt beautifully aligned with the feelings we hoped to evoke in individuals who observe the logo. We also made the primary colour of the image orange -- a colour that is seen as a symbol of support towards residential school survivors and their families. Those who sign up for our Professional Membership receive a provider’s package that includes a window decal and pin, which can be displayed with the intention of demonstrating safety and inclusivity to those who view them. These items are all packed in traditional medicine, to ensure that they are infused with 'uy sqwalawun - good feelings.
The Culture of Power – Paul Kivel - https://www.creducation.net/resources/cmher_vol_5_1_kivel.pdf