That First Monday
It was midnight on Monday night, and I found myself sitting in my darkened living room, looking out at the water, holding a cup of tea, and scrolling through the hundreds of tweets, messages, and Facebook posts.
I was trying to decompress and reflect on what had happened a few hours earlier, when myself and Stephen Augustine – together with an incredible team from Cape Breton University – launched an educational experiment to create a course that would honour and share Mi’kmaq culture, stories, and wisdom freely to anyone who was interested.
And what a night it was! Joined by an amazing group of in-house participants and over 12,500 online, folks showed up in a BIG way. And we have been inundated with messages from around the globe ever since!
It is hard not to feel humbled. It is hard not to feel honoured. And it is hard not to be overwhelmed by emotion – emotion at the power and the words of what was being shared; emotion at witnessing a conversation erupt across this country, and in 26 different countries, which was celebrating and respecting and giving space to Indigenous culture; emotion at the ways in which people were able to connect with the course, resonate with the learning, and reach out to us and to each other.
Wow. Just wow.
So many themes came out from all these interactions. Some of our favourites (and sticking with the symbolism of the number 7) include:
1. Freely available courses are awesome!
Indeed they are – we couldn’t agree more! So many people have reached out to thank us for putting this course online and making it freely available to anyone who wanted to tune in, connect, listen, and learn. And so many congratulated us on a ‘groundbreaking course’. Ah thanks – you are welcome., and we are flattered. Thank you for coming out and giving your time to this learning journey! Wela’liek!
— J Curran (@mzfrizzlepeci) January 12, 2016
— David Decker (@DavidDecker3) January 12, 2016
This is the best thing I've seen in many, many years. Thank you for sharing your indigenous heart Stephen Augustine. #taliaqCBU
— Tina Hennigar (@Tinahennigar) January 11, 2016
2. Learning about Indigenous culture is essential… because it’s 2016.
We were overwhelmed by the incredible sentiments from around the world celebrating and supporting Mi’kmaq culture and Indigenous wisdom. So many of those who joined us expressed that now is the time for ‘learning, understanding, and respecting’. Welcome to 2016.
— Karen Blair (@karenblair81) January 11, 2016
We heard Canada's heart beating tonight. <3 #taliaqCBU
— Mary Ann Archibald (@maryannarch) January 12, 2016
"Support cultural resurgence of Indigenous peoples by learning, understanding, and respecting their wisdom and teachings" #taliaqCBU
— Alexandra Sawatzky (@_asawatzky) January 12, 2016
— Jamie Snook (@jamiesno) January 12, 2016
3. This is what Canada is all about
We received so many great tweets from people living coast to coast to coast articulating that Mi’kmaq culture, Indigenous cultures, and Indigenous ways of knowing, are really what it means to live in this country – and that it is the responsibility of everyone to learn as much as possible about First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.
#taliaqCBU now I finally understand what makes us Canadian? "Canada has maintained our Indigenous way of life" Stephen Augustine
— Patti Boudreau (@Patonwater) January 12, 2016
— Kathleen Parewick (@paerewyck) January 11, 2016
#taliaqCBU thank-you/we'lalin I've never felt more Canadian or human – loving learning our first part of history so I can share on my tours
— Roads To Sea Tours (@RoadsToSea) January 12, 2016
4. This history has been silenced far too long…but it’s still here
So many expressed outrage and frustration and the ways in which the histories of Indigenous peoples in Canada have been long-silenced, marginalized, and tokenized. People showed us they want to change, they want to learn, and they want to move forward with deeper understanding for better Nation-to-Nation relationships.
Even after all the abuses and traumas and mass inequities inflicted on Indigenous peoples, Stephen said it well: “Guess what? I’m still here!”
Learning about the missing pieces of Canadian history is a fine way to spend a Monday evening #taliaqCBU
— faye williams (@williamsfaye) January 12, 2016
— Kendra Coombes (@kendrachristin3) January 11, 2016
#taliaqCBU I'm so proud to be l'nu, to be Mi'kmaq. To be HERE.
— Killa Kill'em (@killaatencio) January 12, 2016
5. Combining ancient teachings with 21st Century digital media is cool
We couldn’t agree more – it is cool! We have been thrilled to be able to beam in these stories and teachings to thousands of people around the globe, and continue to share them through the archived videos. Thanks to Bell Aliant for the partnership. It was quite the moment to have Stephen sharing a ceremonial telling of an ancient story, while social media lit up with thanks, gratitude, and response.
@CunsoloWillox it was history in the making. What a way to bring in the year 2016, using social media as a tool to connect to our culture!
— Tami PT Blue Eagle (@TAMIPT) January 12, 2016
— Megan (@megmaccormas) January 14, 2016
#taliaqCBU Finally watched the first lecture in CBUs Learning from Knowledge Keepers–brought me to tears a few times. Wela'lin!
— Carolyn Charron (@CarolynCharron) January 13, 2016
6. Humour is the best medicine, and the best healing
And of course, we can’t forget the humour: the wonderful and warm humour for which Stephen is known; the slip-of-the-tongue that led to the hashtag #StephenMedia; the joke that #taliaqCBU was trending above Han Solo in Canada, leading to the hilarious hashtags of #StephenSolo and #MaytheCreatorBeWith and several great memes. To share these moments of humour and healing with audiences near and far, and have people respond with kindness and hilarity, is a gift beyond imagining. Keep ‘em coming! (And FYI – I’m still waiting for the ‘Magical Mi’kmaq Unicorn’ Meme…).
— Jim Mutch (@Listugujij) January 12, 2016
— Jim Mutch (@Listugujij) January 12, 2016
— Jim Mutch (@Listugujij) January 13, 2016
— Ashlee CunsoloWillox (@CunsoloWillox) January 14, 2016
7. The Creation Story has lessons for us all
Not surprisingly, The Creation Story moved many who witnessed Stephen’s sharing. So many people experienced deep resonance with the lessons and timeless teachings in the story, understanding that within this story lies deep wisdom for living better in this world. Many people also produced beautiful art and poetry in response, and we were in awe. Thank you. Truly.
— Andrée Lachapelle (@yogandree) January 12, 2016
— Gracen Johnson (@gracenjohnson) January 11, 2016
— Lindy Garneau (@LindyGarneau) January 12, 2016
The Truth About Stories…
And on the note of The Creation Story: as some of you may have noticed, one of the resources we are recommending for this course is Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. This is one of our favourites. Witty and disarming, powerful and pointed, King weaves an amazing narrative of Indigenous identity, cultural resurgence, and the importance of storytelling.
As he writes: “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are. ‘You can’t understand the world without telling a story,’ the Anishinabe writer Gerald Vizenor tells us. ‘There isn’t any center to the world but a story’” (King 2003, 32).
And this is what The Creation Story is: it’s the centre, it’s the pivot upon which life can be understood, it’s the hinge that allows us to move within multiple points of understanding, it’s the mechanism through which we can continually learn, reflect, and learn again. It speaks to us and tells us what we need to hear, in the moment we need to hear it.
It is there for us when we need it. And it will change each time we hear it.
And now that we have heard it, we have a responsibility. A responsibility to remember, listen, respect, honour, and respond.
As King writes, “It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Make it the topic of a discussion group at a scholarly conference Put it on the Web. Forget it, but don’t say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You’ve heard it now.” (2003, 60).
Wela’liek, and see you soon.