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THE CIRCLE: Trauma-informed leadership

We find ourselves once again caught up and dominated by current events. Parliament Hill sparked international solidarity movements, as truckers were fast to mobilize. As stated by at least one uniformed police officer in a video making the rounds on social media, many simply resonate with their ideology. To be clear, one can indeed support the movement, while also disagreeing with public protests altogether. And yes, police officers are sometimes incredibly flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. It is dangerous to place any one person on a pedestal and forget the collective, shared range of human experience.

But before people get sidetracked, the point is: there is space for everyone to co-exist.

Yet, clearly, we see that co-existing is uncomfortable for many. Especially in today’s day and age on social media.

We haven’t quite figured out how to share our virtual space, have we? How do we build this virtual world to be productive, engaging, dynamic, and uplifting to the masses? How do we ensure equity within this space?

The best way to ensure that you aren’t operating in an echo-chamber is to first look around at whose narrative you’re following. News is great, but if you don’t hear voices and perspectives from people outside of your immediate circle, then you must adjust for a variety of sources. After all, we are individuals, within a community, within a nation state. We should be exposed to varied perspectives and lived experiences from non-homogenic people. And thanks to this virtual world, hearing from Indigenous people directly is easier than ever for the greater public.

Living through a global pandemic touches us all; we are now traumatized individuals, within a traumatized community, within a traumatized nation state. How well do can interact globally, when our internal affairs looks the way they do? Our external reflects the internal, and we are showing the world how much work we need to do on the inside. What we need to do is heal as a nation.

(Queue Indigenous peoples entering the scene, as we know a lot about healing.)

Indigenous peoples have direct experience healing communities and nation states. We have lived with damaging and lethal attacks to our mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional wellbeing for over 150 years. Let me repeat the length of our continued oppression: over one hundred and fifty years. We have survived through seven traumatized generations of violence and abuse. And not just any abuse — abuse directed to our core inner child, mass state-sanctioned abuse inflicted by the state, with evidence mounting daily via unearthed mass graves, exposing our child ancestors and carrying Survivors’ painful cries. All occurring in real time, during a global pandemic of course.

So, I say again: Indigenous peoples in Canada know all about healing. This is all we’ve ever done, every painful day we’re alive in this world. Healing wounds that aren’t necessarily ours, but also others that we’re left profoundly impacted by, so much so that the onus of healing has been placed on us. While we all know this isn’t fair, this is our reality.

Healing is extremely difficult and requires hard work, but it can be done. Look around your community and see how we may better walk, live, and peacefully co-exist with one another. Talk to your neighbours to learn from Indigenous peoples about healing, how our teachings guide us, and how we carry ourselves, because we need to emulate this model nationally. We need to heal our Kenora community, together.

That is what we are all lacking right now; a voice of reason, a calming voice to reassure imploding Canadians that they are safe. That they are important. That their feelings are heard. And that they are loved. That my friends is trauma-informed leadership in action.

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About The Author

Janine Seymour is an Anishinaabekwe organizer and lawyer practicing in Kenora.