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Maya'xala


This week's #TeachingsTuesday is being offered by Cultural Safety Educator and our dear friend, Jenn Smith of Tlowitsis First Nation. When Jenn is faciliatating she provides not only historical context, but weaves in (with permission) her familial experiences of the impacts of colonization. Jenn generously explained how sharing from this viewpoint has provided her an opportunity to reflect on and understand her own path, and we extend our deepest gratitude to her for demonstrating the power of reflective practice while allowing us all to learn from the lessons she discovered.

"Maya'xala is a Kwakwaka'wakw traditional value which means, 'Respect for oneself and all things, living or otherwise.' Being respectful also translates to a belief about proper conduct in the world. Further, proper conduct means that we must never bring shame to ourselves or to our families.


In a recent three-part series that I delivered called 'Truth, Resilience and Reconciliation', I shared stories of my family's resiliency, which in turn meant that I shared the truth about the impacts of colonialism. I highlighted that there are some First Nations people who are thriving and some who are not. Those who are not thriving haven't been able to overcome the trauma experienced as a result of colonialism. I also noted that even if a person isn't thriving, it does not mean they aren't resilient. While developing the presentations I had to come to terms with the fact that talking about resiliency wasn't easy, because in order to get there, we have to suffer. I thought about Murray Sinclair's statement, "The Truth is hard, Reconciliation will be harder" and I asked myself -- why is the truth so hard? As I reflected, I began to unravel the shame.


It's hard to tell the truth when there are layers of shame and trauma attached to it. After months of planning and feeling confident, I woke up on the day of my 'Resilience' presentation with crippling anxiety. I asked myself, "Are people ready to hear the truth? Am I ready to tell my story?"

As I began to peel back the colonial layers, I realized that sharing my story is not only self-healing but in turn, it can help people to understand the impacts of colonialism. It was a big moment in my healing to accept that there is no shame in telling my story. Truth-telling is not bringing shame to myself or my family because the truth of what happened to First Nations people throughout colonialism is not our shame to carry -- it never was. The truth is that the shame belongs to the colonizers and the churches, and it's time for us to release it.


Truth-telling has become a powerful tool, not only on my healing journey but in my Cultural Safety teachings. As I heal, my family heals. As I share, the world will slowly learn about the history of First Nations and together, we can build the road to Reconciliation.

But first -- the Truth must be told and it's our job to listen."

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