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  • Aboriginal Education

The Hard Learning

It doesn’t matter how much I may or may not know. I am still a

colonized Nehiyaw. I remember kayâs, a long time ago, picking a book titled

For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonizing Handbook, and thinking, wow this is

a lot of hard work. And I did a lot of decolonization, so when I was recently

confronted with the knowledge that I am colonizing an Indigenous way of

being, the knowledge shook me, and immediately I was disappointed in

myself. Here is what happened. Out of respect, names will not be

mentioned.


I was trying to figure out what to put in the skm’xist Newsletter. I played

around with the idea of love. I mean, we are heading into Spring when fur

and winged babies are born. In our Cree calendar, February is the time of

Eagles building their nests. This is mostly true of the more southern parts

of the plains. Here in syilx territory though, it is the time of drifting snow. I

was just TOCing at an elementary school when I stopped the lesson and

had every child look out the window because the snow was drifting off the

roof of the school and out on the field. I thought it was neat watching the

snow swirl as though dancing. It reminded me of how the Northern Lights

move across the sky. Anyway, through commercialization and education,

February is about love and Valentines Day, so it made sense in my head to

write about love. I was just looking around for texts that discuss medicines

trying to see if I could come across anything that would be considered "love

medicine". I’ve heard from discussion on my auntie’s deck, that love

medicine is old medicine and to not use it. That didn't mean I couldn't look

into it though (a little bit of my rebellious side). I found that there are

certain leaves that can be used as a tonic, and lotions could be made to

entice someone. However, I was more curious about what is here in the

Okanagan. I emailed a person I trust who is OKIB and who also works for

SD22 to ask if there are such medicines here on syilx territory. She emailed

back saying, "No. Love medicine is bad medicine." I sat back in my chair and

if you can imagine the emoji of smacking one’s face, that is what I did. I was

immediately taken back to the conversations on my auntie’s deck. I

remembered my one auntie who lives out in Saskatchewan had said

exactly the same thing, “Love medicine is bad medicine. Don't be messing

around with it.”


So, I went to chat with my friend and asked why it is considered bad

because my auntie never told me the reason. Then it dawned on me as I

was asking that it is messing with someone’s free will and my friend

confirmed it. Then I talked about many things including what a young

woman would looked for in a partner. We talked about the syilx language

and how there is no nsyilxcen word for love. Nehiyawewin has a word for

love though, sâkihiwewin. Regardless, both of our cultures live according to

a law where everyone and everything with spirit is to be and know love. So

much is built on this understanding. Honour, respect and stewardship are

just some things that come to mind.


Finally, my friend asked, “Why are you trying so hard to fit a colonial idea

into our ways of being?” I leaned over in my chair and held myself up with

my arms resting on my legs. I stayed silent for a moment. “You’re right,“ I

said. “I am doing that, and I didn’t even notice.” I got a sinking feeling in my

chest, and I felt like such a fool.


The lesson I ultimately learned is that decolonization is a forever

process, and I was grossly reminded of this fact. So if you are looking to

align Indigenous knowledge with colonial frameworks and nothing seems

to “fit.” Ask yourself, "Am I continuing the process of colonizing?" If you

aren’t sure then ask, but be sure you are asking the people who are strong

in their culture.

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