This morning a woman approached me on the street. She was homeless, and explained that she’s been staying at a particular inner city shelter, but the beds for women were limited and she wasn’t sure if she could stay there each night, or if she had to go to another shelter. She only had $3 and nothing else but the clothes on her back. She wanted more. I gave her spare change, a couple of bucks, but I also listened.
She had a very humble and genuine look on her face. She was Native, so she had to add a disclaimer that she doesn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs and she just wanted to get back on her feet. I said it’s sad that she has to add that, as a symptom of the systemic racism and colonialism that has vilified and stigmatized First Nations people. I told her to stay strong, maintain her dignity and self-esteem, to make a better future for herself.
That’s what I’ve been inclined to say to people, especially native women that I see who are trying to defend themselves and fight for their survival. I thanked women for sticking up for their sisters on racialized and sexualized violence. Idle No More is a native-led movement but it’s applicable to all of Canada – and we need it to be native-led because we need that root of the land’s values and purpose and beauty to stand its ground.
Talking to that woman this afternoon revisited this perspective. It’s not us-versus-them and the solution isn’t for them to become us. Canadian prosperity isn’t being threatened by a young and expanding native population. Individual and communal prosperity of the native population shouldn’t be threatened in the pursuit of short-term gains in wealth. Charity should include eye contact with those who need help, a listening ear, a smile, and parting comments wishing a good future.
I sincerely hope the woman I met today finds a home, a job, and a community to contribute to. A sense of place, a place within that place, and control over that place – human dignity, and the pursuit of happiness.