The Stick Used to Beat Indigenous …

I am awake, I am alive … as I continue to dance with a disturbing comment I heard this week, one that is multi-layered and complex, even if most would never realize.

The comment was simple enough, “I have never attended an event like yours. I’ve been to events where stories are shared but this was different.”

The comment was shared during a Q&A session, rapid fire questions and responses with little to no time to consider the implications. But it stuck with me, as troubling comments most often do.

And I knew the type of session he was referring to, the sharing of life stories or experiences by Indigenous people, often elders or youth. The problem – he was complimenting my seminar (educational in nature, with exercises for participants to do) while simultaneously slamming those sharing events, and that makes my heart hurt.

You see, I hate when our stories are graded in terms of educational value. When your mother tells you of her younger years, do you offer her a grade in return? How about your grandmother or great uncle? Do you learn from the stories, nevertheless? I bet you do, if you are open to the work involved in truly listening and finding lessons in the stories.

It is how we educated our children, back before settlers informed us we were doing it wrong. We shared stories for our children and colleagues, friends, and family to consider, allowing them to glean information without ever having to admit they needed it. No superiority. No teacher at a higher level then student, just sharing.

But here it is again, the sad reality that so often presents itself once a marginalized person from any disadvantaged group attains any level of success – we become the stick others use to beat our own. Dripping with “Why don’t they do it that way?” and “If only they would try harder, they could do what you do!” our success becomes bittertasting, often enough to halt the pursuit of success in its track.

I won’t give up my work, because too many need to realize how amazing we are as Indigenous people, how wise and strong, how resilient even if our education was delivered outside of hallowed halls. No, I won’t give up, but I will speak up and I will write, if for no other reason than to prevent my work being used against the very people I carry the most about.

I am not a stick. Please do not use me as one.

I love you!