Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lessons I learned from Chief Theresa Spence


Theresa Spence has been on my mind. As she ends her fast today, I have been considering what I have learned from her and how I can take these lessons forward in my own life.

1. Sometimes, some of us hear a call to action, and we make an effort to heed it. Sometimes, our actions inspire others, and that's when the real fun starts. Chief Spence became the unwitting face of the #IdleNoMore movement, which is probably the most organized, most widespread, and most inspirational movement of First Nations activism in recent Canadian history. We witnessed supportive action arising in the most unusual places over this time. In the midst of our Christmas shopping, our malls were transformed into places of inspiration and conversation, the likes of which most of us have never had. All because of one woman.

2. There is in fact a collective sense of responsibility for the rights of First Nations people in Canada. Nothing has revealed that sense more than the absolute venom we have all witnessed being spewed at this warrior woman over these past weeks. I purposely am not providing examples of what I am referring to because, frankly, these people, and these media outlets, get all too much attention already. Anger like what we have seen over the last while can only come from a place of major guilt, and having a sense of guilt indicates a sense of responsibility.

"Ogichidaakwe Spence challenges Canadians because no one in Canada wants to believe this situation is bad enough that someone would willingly give up their life." 
-Leanne Simpson, Fish Broth and Fasting 

3. We can all make room for meaningful action in our daily lives. While we are wrapped up in our life's business and meeting our personal requirements to make our way through our days, there are simple things we can do to make a statement about injustice. Chief Spence chose to stop eating, and while this is a drastic and dangerous choice to make, the outcome demonstrates that sometimes, the simplest of actions can precipitate far-reaching outcomes.

4. Sometimes, you set out to accomplish a specific goal, and in the course of trying to reach it, you inspire action and create change that you never imagined would be sparked by your actions. While Chief Spence set out with the goal of securing a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Governor general, and this meeting has yet to take place, she can rest assured that her actions brought other important goals to light and succeeded in bringing international attention to the plight of the majority of First Nations people in Canada. In short, she exposed Canada's dirty little secret to the world.

Thank you, Theresa Spence for these lessons, and for all those we are not yet aware of. Thank you for your spirit and your strength. You are in inspiration to us all. May your vision come to fruition.