Lessons from the land for Indigenous innovators
I thought since many people are taking the day off Monday, I knew some or many of you, Indigenous innovators and makers are likely working and preparing for a busy season. I hope you take breaks and remember it can’t always be a sprint (although most days feel like it). For everyone else, I hope it brings understanding.
Recently, I was gifted with a couple of lessons, one from an elder friend and one from the land. I knew I had to share them with you. I was taught that in my culture, nehiyaw (Cree), we learn and teach at the same time. kiskinwahamakosiwin ᑭᐢᑭᓇᐧᐦᐊᒪᑯᓯᐃᐧᐣ. In my language this translates closely to “the showing of something to yourself or to someone”. It describes the act of learning and teaching simultaneously, where learning and teaching are intertwined. I know many of you teach and inspire me and I am grateful for you.
I went to an elder friend recently to talk about the business and to check in. I know many people worry about me making space for myself, so I know this visit was needed. They spoke about leadership and understanding my role in community and reminded me of where I sat. They said, “you lead from the back like in a flock of geese, find the people who share a common direction and community because you’re gonna get farther together than you would alone.” They went on giving me advice to help me in my journey and bring me clarity with each gifted word, but this lesson resonated with me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
As I build Indigenous Box, I am constantly faced with tough decisions and difficult space to navigate. I know many of you feel the same way. Some days, I struggle to walk these two worlds, being in my position comes with lessons every day. Just think, we create products to inspire others, empower next generation and break down all those barriers we face as Indigenous people and we do it in a world that has prepared for our non-existence. It’s also like no other product I know; I have a hard time thinking of other businesses that carry such a great weight like we do. Lean on each other, we don’t have to be strong all at the same time. Our strength is our unity and ability to help one another.
This morning, I was feeling the pressure and demands of my role, and I felt that I needed to connect with myself and the land. Regroup myself and prepare for change. I went for a walk and ended up along the bank of the North Saskatchewan River or as we call it kisiskâciwani-sîpiy ᑭᓯᐢᑳᒋᐊᐧᓂᓭᐱᕀ (swift-flowing river). I sat here thinking about my current challenge, reflecting in search of the answers and as I sat here, I began to see the lessons that I had right in front of me. I think the lesson of the geese helped me see it. Going with the flow or following the same direction doesn’t mean you have to endure whatever comes at you. It's not about facing challenges head-on or stopping at obstacles, but carving new paths when faced with barriers. We have the capacity to be strong and soft at the same time. In fact, we need to be in order to reach our goal.
Keep going. Persevere. Don’t give up. Remember we carry forward the legacy and dreams of our people, lighting the way for generations to come. Let’s continue to write our narrative.