Recently, a friend suffering from an autoimmune disease shared a healing anecdote that, while seemingly disparate, lends itself – I believe – to indigenous self-determination.
The story was about an indigenous elder who invites a friend – less familiar with indigenous cultures and philosophies – to take a hike to a place where the “veil between worlds is thin, so that they can pray rain“. When the two friends arrive at the site, the elder takes off his shoes and stands in the place, addresses and thanks his ancestors and is silent for a moment. He then leaves the spot and casually asks if the two friends should grab a bite to eat. The invited friend comments, ”weren’t you going to pray for rain?” The elder responds by saying “If you want rain, you can’t pray for rain, you have to pray rain. Praying for rain keeps the rain out beyond existence, somewhere always waiting in the future. Praying rain is when you experience the sensation of rain and call it into being through all the senses. You feel the way your bare feet feel in mud, you smell the moisture of rain soaking living things, you hear the sound of rain falling on everything and you see the tall crops that have grown because there has been so much rain.”
In a similar vein, an article in the June edition of Up Here, a magazine that covers issues in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in Canada, outlines the work of seven influential indigenous women in the region who, through a variety of professional means, are essentially praying new leadership; demonstrating a shift in political engagement.
While all seven women have (or are pursuing) formal academic study experience, they note a desire to use their skills in their respective places of origin. By returning home and assuming leadership positions in governance, public policy, the judicial system, expressive arts and education, the women represent a new wave of actualized indigenous self-determination.
Kluane Adamek, an Assembly of First Nations Liaison Officer featured in the article, recounts a phrase her mother used to say to her: “Kluane, just do it. Don’t talk about it. Just do it” (uphere.ca, 2013). Rather than praying for new leadership in the future, these women are praying new leadership in the now. While their various roles certainly entail some controversy – as most leadership positions do – the seven women are getting their feet wet, taste buds stimulated and eyes focused on new opportunities for better governance in the Far North — and beyond.