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Setting the Table

This mornings #TeachingsTuesday was put forth by Culturally Committed Consulting Mentor, Jared Qwustenuxun Williams of Quw'utsun. Qwustenuxun is an Indigenous food sovereignty advocate, educator, storyteller, and a writer.

During a previous Culturally Committed workshops, Jared explained the significance of food in First Nations culture. Food is so much more than sustenance; rather, it is a connection to the land, to each other, and to skills and teachings. Jared explained that food was also seen as a type of wealth -- the more food you had to give away, the richer you were. Following the call, he and I chatted about the relevance of these teachings to people like myself: non-Indigenous providers who work in community. Jared shared:

"In hwulmuhw [First Nations] culture it is custom to feed your guests before hosting any event. Elders often refer to this as 'sharing a table' and it is looked at as a connection, a link between people, a place where stories, linage, and teachings are shared. The act of eating while listening is said to help the listener take in the teachings or stories. So, the act of sharing a table is more than breaking bread, or eating together. It's the act of absorbing the stories and teachings of those around you, and the first step in joining the family. When an Elder invites you to share a table, they are asking you to share more than food; they are asking you to share in our way of life."

I started providing services in-community nine years ago, and during my very first visit I encountered an Elder who I quickly connected with. Since then, he has come to sit with me every Tuesday and Thursday for lunch. These visits are usually punctuated with bursts of laughter as we lovingly tease each other. Sometimes he offers teachings. Other times he shares bits of his story with me. Some days I help him navigate correspondence or processes that are foreign to him. If I'm not there on a day that I'm supposed to be, he calls my home to make sure I'm okay. And if he's not there, I do the same.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to be in relationship with this Elder, and with everyone who has welcomed me in community. He has been such an incredible support to me on my cultural safety and humility journey, and has urged me to keep going in the work I'm doing with Culturally Committed. His encouragement means everything to me.

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