Not all that glitters is gold; not every act of “reconciliation” carries the weight and commitment a meaningful act requires. As it becomes increasingly popular for random non-Indigenous organizations to include a prayer in Cree (or whatever Indigenous language) as a token gesture, it becomes more important to ensure that their contribution is treated as more than just an empty gesture.
What might this look like? Maybe a significant portion of the event would be presented in Cree (or whatever language). Or maybe the event should include a meaningful role for the Elder throughout: not just a prayer and rapid dismissal.
Sol’s mother used to tell him:
tâpiskôc î-mîtawâkâtâcik kîhtî-aya
ᑖᐱᐢᑰᐨ ᐄ ᒦᑕᐚᑳᑖᒋᐠ ᑮᐦᑏ ᐊᔭ
it’s like they are playing with (disrespecting) Elders.
After a recent tokenistic request, he imagined a cheeky blessing appropriate to such a hollow request:
“Just picture it! Me being asked to do a blessing at a reconciliation event just because I’m old and can speak Cree, in other words, a token gesture:
maskwak mîsîwak sakâhk;
kinosîwak mîsîwak sâkahikanihk;
mîmîwak mîsâtîwak otâpânâskwa;
ᒪᐢᑿᐠ ᒦᓰᐘᐠ ᓴᑳᕽ;
ᑭᓄᓰᐘᐠ ᒦᓰᐘᐠ ᓵᑲᐦᐃᑲᓂᕽ;
ᒦᒦᐘᐠ ᒦᓵᑏᐘᐠ ᐅᑖᐹᓈᐢᑿ;
ᐊᖨᓯᑎᓂᐘᐠ ᒫᐦ ᒦᓵᑎᑐᐘᐠ᙮
Bears shit in the woods;
Fish shit in lakes;
Pigeons shit on cars;
People shit on each other.
It’ll sound good, poetic and all, maybe even holy… and no one will know what I said. In other words, don’t ask me!”