This week's Teachings Tuesday is generously offered by Culturally Committed Community Member, Aaron Rivard (Cree-Metis). Thank you, Aaron - for your beautiful, open heart and your commitment to this work.
During one of our recent Learning/Talking Circles at work, I was reminded of how long I have been working on the front lines, supporting children, youths, and their families to feel a sense of connection. I began my career as a volunteer youth mentor for a local non-profit while attending school. I vividly recall the first youth I supported—an Indigenous teenager from a prairie province, sent to the lower mainland to live with family for various reasons. His love for hockey and the desire to feel connected stood out. I remember his Sunday morning calls, ensuring I would pick him up.
At that time, I had a friend living in a co-op who shared the same passion for hockey. Despite my own love for the sport during my childhood and teen years, I eventually found it less enjoyable as I became too skinny. However, during our time together, we spent many Sunday afternoons playing street hockey with my friend, his son, and numerous neighborhood children and youth from the co-op. Witnessing the significant impact it had on the Indigenous youth's life was incredible. I felt grateful and honored to see the happiness radiating from him when playing hockey with others.
I share this story because it was the first time I witnessed firsthand the fundamental need to feel connected. The youth I mentored taught me about our universal need for connection and highlighted the growing disconnection in our society. I reflect on my father, his sister, and brother, contemplating the potential feelings of disconnection they experienced when taken from their families and placed in residential schools and foster care. Throughout my work, I've witnessed the challenges of reconnecting with what we love and those we love.
Recently, I had dinner with one of my dad's younger sisters, who shared why she didn't recognize her Cree Metis heritage for most of her life. Growing up in a community marked by racism towards Indigenous people made it hard for her to feel connected. Only recently has she embraced her heritage, expressing a desire to learn more about her roots. I was grateful when she helped cook Indigenous Tacos at my office, celebrating National Indigenous People’s Day in 2022. Seeing her connect with her culture and share it with coworkers was a profound experience. At seventy-eight, it was also her first time participating in a Smudge ceremony.
In my thirty-plus years of working on the front lines, supporting Indigenous children, youths, and their families, I'm reminded daily of the importance of helping them feel a sense of connection and belonging. The stories are numerous, and the ones above are just a couple I wanted to share.
My Cree grandmother, Elizabeth, taught my brother and me valuable lessons about helping others, fostering a sense of connection. She practiced the concept of paying it forward long before it gained media attention. Her generosity extended to giving someone the shirt off her back and sharing her last meal if she sensed a need.
Relationships revolve around feeling connected to those in our lives—family, friends, culture, creator, Earth, spirituality—anything that brings a sense of belonging. When connected to our culture, family, friends, community, spirituality, and Mother Earth, we create a sense of belonging within ourselves. Any form of spirituality can evoke a feeling of connection within us.
Connection brings peace to our souls.
Ay Hay/Thank you,