Listening to the River

2019, mixed media

Listening to the River speaks to the hope and potential for the transformation of “Settler” (or non-Indigenous) society in a process of reconciliation/conciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

The work speaks to the importance of moving beyond western worldviews which perpetuate isolation, suppression of Indigenous rights and Peoples, and unsustainable relationships with nature. It speaks to the importance of learning from Indigenous worldviews, values and knowledge systems to develop reciprocity with Indigenous Peoples and nature, and to restore vital balance, benefitting all.

Okanagan/Syilx activist Dr. Jeannette Armstrong has written:

The act of “collaborating” with Indigenous peoples, on its own, would produce a transformative shift from a dominant framework of “control” toward instituting new ways of being. Such cooperation would be a crucial starting point of calling all peoples back to “Indigeneity” through forging new relationships of “coexistence” in land use practices and structuring new economies as a process of “restoring” Indigeneity to Peoples and lands. The “shift” that constructing such mechanisms would require would be tantamount to a pronouncement of justice for Indigenous Peoples as well as for all Peoples.

—Excerpt from: Indigenous Peoples: Development with Culture and Identity Articles 3 and 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 2010

Listening to the River alludes to the disintegration of destructive ways of being, the re-centering of nature, and to the cultivation of a “new tree” representing new ways of being. Independent Member of Parliament and former Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould (Musgamagw Tsawateineuk/Laich-Kwil-Tach) has spoken of this need in Canada:

What we need to do together, Crown governments and Indigenous Peoples, and this work is long overdue, is dig up the dead roots and plant something new and then properly water and fertilize it. Entrenching the recognition of rights in federal and provincial laws, policies and practices — if done properly, in a way that recognizes the legitimate politics of Indigenous Peoples — is the soil for the new healthy roots of strong and rebuilt postcolonial Indigenous Nations and in which our collective and shared future will grow. A new tree.

—Excerpt from Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book: From Where I Stand. 2019