Books for Attawapiskat: Ready to Learn?

By the end of the day yesterday, even more packages had arrived than those featured above.

Yes, this is still a blog about one couple’s journey out of debt – mine and my husband’s. And I will get back to that topic soon. Just not today.

Thank you!

I’d like to extend my thanks to everyone who has bought a book for the initiative that I wrote about last week. As you can see from the photo above, in just 1 week, we have received so many generous donations of books for the youth of Attawapiskat, a northern First Nations community in crisis. I personally have never been involved in something like this – that takes off through social networking. E-mails, Facebook, Twitter, blogs . . . They can certainly work their magic.

First Nations issues: It’s time to learn

Our Board of Education has, for the past several years, made a real push to have First Nations issues taught. I’ve been very, very slow to respond – partly because I feel so inadequately educated in this area myself. A younger teacher approached me about this a few months ago, and she said that the thing to do is to just start teaching even very basic lessons – because most of us know very little. When I went through school, I never even heard about the residential school system – which was ongoing at the time. (The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.) And as I grew up in a family and a church that encouraged an awareness of social issues, the plight of First Nations people in my own country was somehow never on my radar. I knew there were problems, but they baffled me, and the unacknowledged, silent belief that I have to admit I carried was that the root of the problems must lie with the First Nations people themselves.

I responded to the advice my young colleague gave me by offering to give a brief presentation on the history of the residential school system to the class of any teacher in our school who was interested. As it turns out, last week, the same week our Books for Attawapiskat initiative was unfolding, I gave my first lesson. I had significant angst as I prepared it – given my own ignorance, and having to make decisions about the level of detail to go into, what to focus upon,  what to leave out – all while making it fit neatly into one self-contained period of 75 minutes. I was nervous about giving my first presentation, but it went well.

As I prepared for it, the most significant thing I learned was the concept of intergenerational trauma. If a person has grown up in an institution, separated from family and community, and has been forbidden to speak the language, engage in the spiritual practices, wear the clothes, eat the food, develop the skills of his/her heritage – if that person has grown up silenced and micro-managed, every expression of self squashed, every minute of the day and night scheduled – if that person has grown up within a culture of normalized abuse, physical, mental, emotional, and even sexual – and then that person at the age of 18 is sent out either to return home or to make it in the world at large – what chance does that person have to find his/her place? Anywhere? As a spouse, a parent, a worker, a community member or leader, how functional is that person going to be? Now multiply that person by tens of thousands of people over seven generations. “Get over it,” just doesn’t cut it, does it.

The wake-up can lead to new strength

In both personal terms and in terms of society at large, the wake-up moment can allow for powerful change. As a debt-blogger, I know how important it was for me to “wake up” to the self-sabotaging personal finance chaos that paved the way to my own experience of financial distress. I have friends who have had a wake-up to alcoholism, drug addiction, or to negative patterns of codependency in relationships. As we survey history, it’s common for us to respond with, “How could they have let THAT happen? Couldn’t they see what was going on?” And no doubt, future generations will look back at us and wonder the same thing. As societies, we have wake-up moments too. We humans are so adept in our strategies of denial, and it’s very hard to break through them. But when we do, paradigm shifts happen. I know. My husband and I  have paid off 60% of our total debt.

There. It will be back to our journey out of debt next time. Thanks again to everyone who has supported our school’s initiative to help a First Nations community in crisis. We can now receive packages until May 19, so it isn’t too late to buy a book for the youth of Attawapikat.


 

Thanks for reading our report for April ’16! Please check out my weekly posts at Fruclassity.

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