I've blogged about what I will be doing with Agidasin Initiatives, I have written about reasons teaching literacy is important, and posted about some of the issues present in Grassy Narrows. It's time to tell you why I made the decision to go work with First Nation people in northwestern Ontario in the first place. Let's see if I can do this without writing novel!
At this time last year I began thinking about teaching in remote parts of the country with Aboriginal people. I did the research, I talked about it with my family, I started applying. Some family needs became more important, so I put this idea on hold.
During the summer and fall I applied to teach on some First Nation reserves. Some were very remote (fly-in only), others less so. I was given interviews and even offered a full-time contract. Instead, I chose to come to Ottawa to substitute teach. Admittedly, I was afraid of going away on my own. The desire to work with First Nations people in the north remained.
When I got to Ottawa, I discovered the Aboriginal high school at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre. They graciously called me in to visit and later to substitute teach. Every day I get to teach at this school, I learn far more than I give back. From talking circles and smudging, to Indian tacos, drumming and more - I've been given a taste of a culture so beautiful, my appetite to learn more is only growing.
When I thought of summer time and two free months (teaching will always have its perks!) I wanted to spend them meaningfully. I thought back to the job I declined in Northwestern Ontario, to the beautiful people who live there, to the wonder of the landscape, to the needs present in First Nations communities. I remembered the First Nations student I sometimes teach who lives in a shelter. I thought of how many of the homeless faces in Ottawa are of Aboriginal and Inuit descent. I wanted to make a difference.
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Basically, the more I grow in my faith and learn about God, myself and the world, the more I realize I'm here not for me. I'm here to be a part of something bigger. This "bigger" is God's Kingdom. I believe God wants me to take part in restoring this world to its intended beauty. That means helping to repair the wounds of the past.
Aboriginal people have experienced a lot of pain, suffering and oppression. They were restricted from their own land and put on reserves. Many were ripped from their families and put into residential schools, which ripped them of their culture, their language, their identity. I am still quite ignorant of all the treaties and things that have affected First Nations people in Canada, but I am aware of some of the present effects of past traumas: poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, sickness, judgment, racism, isolation, and more. Of course there are many, many beautiful things happening, and I don't want to group all First Nations people together. But I also cannot ignore the pain that does exist, especially on the reserves as I will learn more about this summer.
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My heart tells me something needs to be done. My faith tells me hope exists. My Christianity tells me God can help. My teaching skills tell me to use them. My belief is that serving with Agidasin Initiatives is a great way to tie this all together.
Please join with me in thought and in prayer, not just for my own endeavors this summer, but for Agidasin Initiatives, the founders of AI, the people who volunteer, and especially the people we will be serving.
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