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At the conclusion of the final Indigenous Planning Perspectives Task Force (IPPTF) meeting, it was proposed that members of the Task Force prepare 250-350 words to reflect on their journey so far in working with Indigenous peoples and communities. The intent was to use these brief reflections to emphasize the importance of the work being done by the IPPTF, and to give the report more of a “personal” touch. These reflections are provided below for OPPI Directors to read and ruminate on.
In the years I spent living and working as a community planner in a remote hamlet in Nunavut I learned that there are many ways of knowing. The Inuit elders who took care in showing me how to draw fish through ice and how to play cards also taught me that the land is changing and so are the challenges and opportunities for growth in their community. In the time I spent with them, they gave me a glimpse into the way they understand their community and the land. The planning practice has not always recognized these perspectives and has not always included the deep knowledge and wisdom contained within them.
The profession is changing. I am proud to have played a small role in the Task Force as it grapples with the history of planning in this country and seeks a path forward that embraces Indigenous perspectives.
“Mino Bimaadiziwin” “live the good life” is what we all strive for as human beings. As an Anishinaabe, we are told that to “live the good life” we must live by the law of the land and to do so we must follow seven simple principles we call the ”Seven Grandfather Teachings” of Bravery (the ability to face danger, fear or changes with confidence and courage), Honesty (speaking and acting truthfully, and thereby remaining morally upright), Humility (living life selflessly and not selfishly and praising the accomplishments of all), Love (to know love is to know peace, it must be unconditional), Respect (to honor all creation, live honorably and be mindful of the balance of all living things), Truth (to know and understand all the seven teachings given to us by the Creator and to remain faithful to them), and Wisdom (the ability to make decisions based on personal knowledge and experience, respecting your own limitations and those of all of your surroundings).
We are told that if we practice these teachings in our everyday lives, both in business and pleasure with all of creation in mind, doing the right thing for the right reasons isn’t so difficult and a good life, indeed we will live.
I am not a planner, but my understanding of this current profession and the people that work within it, is that, this is what they strive to assist the public in achieving through the design and alteration of the natural landscape to meet human needs to” live a good life”. The intent of the people that are drawn to this profession, I am sure, are honourable but some how the sacred teachings that the Anishinaabe have been gifted to guide us, have been lost along the way.
For the OPPI to recognize this and take action has been inspiring. It has been a privilege to work along side so many people that have demonstrated the seven sacred teachings throughout this process, have the willingness to learn, understand and see the importance of the Indigenous perspectives and are willing to work together to achieve “Mino Bimaadiziwin” for all, leaves me hopeful for the future.
I grew up in Brantford, Ontario, which is located on the Haldimand Tract and next to Six Nations of the Grand River and Mississaugas of the Credit Reserve land. I grew up appreciating Indigenous cultures through attendance at pow wows, cultural lessons through formal education, and community driven opportunities. Attending a high school named after Pauline Johnson, the famous Indigenous poet, I was privileged to have access to a learning environment that embraced Indigenous cultures and that was – relatively speaking – progressive for its time. I was also privileged to have many amazing people in my life who shared with me their community and culture, but who also did not shy away from ensuring I witnessed and understood the legacies of colonialism and systemic racism that continue to affect their people.
I distinctly remember one thanksgiving dinner on Reserve when I was called out for my whiteness. My then partner’s father spoke plainly. I was an outsider and a white settler descendent at that. I didn’t know how to respond. Do I defend myself? What do I say? Where does this come from? I think I just sat in silence. At 17, as a young white woman, I had never been asked to explain myself based on my ethnicity, appearance, or family lineage. My white privilege had been a down-filled blanket protecting me from the realities of the world, and many of the people I loved. It was easily one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life.
I share this moment, albeit a personal one with many complicated layers that I will not delve into here, to emphasize that the process upon which OPPI must now embark will not be a pleasant one. It will be uncomfortable. It will likely be frustrating and shocking. But it is critical if we are to move forward and learn to plan for – and with – ALL people in Ontario.
As a young planner, I am hopeful for the future of planning in Ontario and within our communities. I am confident the only way to move forward is with Indigenous peoples, in collaboration with them and with a full understanding of from where we came. I applaud OPPI for taking this step and I am beyond grateful to have been a part of it.
I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in this Task Force and more so for the leadership on behalf of this initiative from OPPI's Council and staff. My experience working with First Nations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe can be summed up in one line: you can do more than you think you can; and there's a lot to be done. As a result of this Task Force experience, I personally feel more closely connected to my role as a planner and to the Institute than ever before. What drew me to this profession was an interest in land-use decision-making: who decides, how and when our communities change and grow? These questions lead me to Indigenous cultures, as the First people of the land. Their history, which is our history, speaks for itself. Thank you OPPI Council for your support. Keep going, there's still much work to do. Partner with CIP and other provincial Planning Institutes to form an Indigenous Advisory Circle, build the capacity, listen and give back. Task Force members such as myself will be there to support you along the way.