HEART-MIND 2014: Kindness At The Root Of Reconciliation

By Matthew Clarke

Closing out Day 2 of Heart-Mind 2014 was a talk by Chief Dr Robert Joseph, a Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk Nation, and a leader in the Reconciliation Movement. He is dedicated to bridging the differences brought by intolerance, lack of understanding and racism. 

Chief Joseph was a victim of the Canadian Indian Residential School System - a black mark on the history of our country. A program funded by the Government and administered by the Catholic and Anglican churches. It was a systematic cultural genocide, where they forced First Nations’ children out of their communities, away from their families and took them to isolated schools where they were stripped of their cultural heritage, forbidden to speak their native language, isolated, and subjected to all forms of abuse. The goal was to “Kill the Indian in the child.”

Obviously the harm this program did to thousands of children, families, and the native cultures as a whole is vast and irreparable.

Chief Joseph was taken to a school at age 6 and stayed there for 11 years. His life afterwards was difficult, wrought with struggle and addiction. But somehow, amongst all of this strife, he managed to retain his native language, the values of his culture, and his place in the world, and he has risen to become a positive force in our country, focusing on healing and forgiveness.

His talk was deeply spiritual and he embodies a combination of kindness and pragmatism that only someone with such a life could. He spoke of love, of reinstating a sanctity and reverence for everyone and everything, of acknowledging the divinity of this place. And he spoke of these things not as esoteric or abstract ideals, but as essential values and truths that we must implement for our world to thrive. He said that when the genocide began (aka Colonization, Assimilation), the first victims were love and kindness. It seems for true reconciliation to occur, those values must be reinstated to their rightful place at the center of our society.

Day 2 ended with a final exercise by Linda Lantieri. Everyone in the auditorium randomly grabbed a quote out of a bag. The group was asked if anyone felt the need to share theirs. A handful of people obliged. To be honest, I don’t remember what mine was, but Maria LeRose shared hers, and it has stuck with me since. It said, “Don’t let the urgent crowd out the important.” Something I must keep reminding myself.

To be continued

Matthew Clarke is a Vancouver-based filmmaker, songwriter, musician, writer, father of two awesome children, and a proud out -of- league husband.  His latest short web-series, "Convos with my two year old," has become an internet sensation in it's first season and is available on YouTube .



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