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  • Writer's pictureCarmen Lansdowne

Resilience: Something to Celebrate

These days I don't get much time to write poetry. Before we had kids, I wrote poetry. A lot. It was mostly about social justice issues, lots of indigenous justice issues, or grappling with what it meant to be indigenous.

Last night, in celebration of one of my (MANY) first cousin's 40th birthday, we attended Cris Derksen at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Said cousin was BFFs with Cris in high school in Alberta. Personally - I started my undergraduate studies at the University of North Texas studying classical flute performance and orchestral studies, and so watching this indigenous cellist/composer on stage in her baggy hoody, gold lamé leggings, I had flashbacks to my dreams of being the first indigenous flautist to solo at Carnegie Hall in New York (that's a whole other story).

On the way home from the concert (I'll save my critique of what a slap in the face it felt like to go from Cris Derksen to Dvořák's 9th Symphony for another time), I could feel a poem brewing, and it's called "Resilience."

I thought of all the amazing indigenous people I know, and what miracles we all are. We have faced and are facing inordinate amounts of trauma in all facets of life, and systemic racism and white supremacy are still the norm. But we persist, and despite the odds, many of us thrive. The poem is not developed yet, but this is the start of my resilience list. These are indigenous people in Canada that have done amazing things, despite being residential school survivors, 60's scoop survivors, so-called foster "care" survivors, traumatic and racist educational system survivors, toxic workplace survivors... well... you get the picture. If you don't know and celebrate these names, you could. In no particular order, these are the ones I've met or am connected to personally (that I can remember off the top of my head):

  • My brother, Robb Lansdowne, Manager - Mental Wellness, Splatsin First Nation

  • Justice Marion Buller (former chair, National Inquiry: MMIWG)

  • Justin Wilson, PhD, Chair - Indigenous Studies, Langara College

  • My cousin Carl Gladish, PhD in climate science and Math from NYU

  • My cousin Don Wilson, MD (OB-GYN & Medical Director for Indigenous Health, Vancouver Coastal Health)

  • My cousin Vina Brown, PhD Candidate, University of Alaska - Fairbanks

  • Jim Dumont, PhD, chief of the Eastern Doorway of the Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge and former director of the Indigenous Studies Program at Sudbury University

  • Rev. Alf Dumont, retired UCC Minister and Elder in residence at BCIT (and yes, Jim's brother)

  • Dr. Michael Dumont, GP at Lu'ma Medical Clinic, Vancouver

  • Carey Newman, creator of the Witness Blanket, talented musician and deeply political artist

  • Marion Newman, MezzoSoprano

  • Joe Dion, Chairman and CEO of Frog Lake Energy Resources Corp

  • Madeleine Dion Stout, CM, author, speaker, and health care professional (and yes, Joe's sister)

  • Ovid Mercredi, former Grand Chief, Assembly of First Nations

  • Philip Stewart, Grand Chief, BC Union of Indian Chiefs

  • Chief Wígvíɫba-Wákas Harvey Humchitt, the hereditary chief of my family

  • Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Board of Directors - APTN, Communications professional

  • My cousin Sean Foss, Cameraman at CBC Vancouver

  • My cousin Karahkwenhawi Zoe Hopkins, writer & director for scripted TV and feature films

  • Richard Van Camp, author

  • Wab Kinew, leader of Manitoba NDP

  • Pam Palmater, Lawyer and Professor at Ryerson University, writer and speaker and all around bad-ass

  • Jesse Thistle, PhD Candidate, Assistant Professor at York University, writer and speaker

  • Chief Robert Joseph, Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and a member of the National Assembly of First Nations Elders Council, formerly the Executive Director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and honourary witness to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

  • Karen Joseph, CEO Reconciliation Canada

  • Denise Williams, CEO First Nations Technology Council

  • Joe Gallagher, former CEO First Nations Health Authority

  • Leona Sparrow, director of Treaty, Lands and Resources for the Musqueam Indian Band

  • Aaron Wilson, Associate - Mandell Pinder, LLP

  • Nina Brown, RN, Heiltsuk Outreach Nurse, DTES

  • Cameron Brown, CPA/CA, MBA, Independent Management Consultant in Indigenous Management & Economic Development

  • My cousin 'Cúagilákv Jess Úst̓i, Executive Director Qqs Project Society

  • My cousin Ayla Brown, BPsych, BEd, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

  • Chief Marilyn Slett, elected chief of Heiltsuk Tribal Council

  • Dave Porter, former politician, former CEO of the BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council

  • Kali Spitzer, world-renowned Photographer

  • Meghann O'Brien, world-renowned weaver & clothing designer

  • Avis O'Brien, weaver & cultural advocate

  • Spencer O'Brien, world champion women's snowboarding

  • Chris Cook III, Namgis artist and metal worker

  • Barry Scow, Kwakwak'awakw carver

  • Chief Frank Brown, entrepreneur, sessional instructor Vancouver Island University, leader in coastal ocean-going canoe culture resurgence

  • Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasiḵ̓an Sxwchálten, also known as Dustin Rivers, Indigenous Canadian politician and First Nations leader

  • Patricia June Vickers, PhD, Consultant and former director of mental health services, First Nations Health Authority

  • Matt Vickers, Artist & Management Consultant

  • Roy Henry Vickers, Artist

  • Ray Aldred, ThD, Director Indigenous Studies Program, Vancouver School of Theology

  • Adrian Jacobs, Keeper of the Circle, Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre

  • Dr. Cheryl Bear, Director of Community Ministry, First United Church Community Ministry Society

  • Janice Abbott, CEO Atira Group of Women Serving Agencies

  • Rev. Stan McKay, former moderator, The United Church of Canada

  • Dr. Martin Brokenleg, Professor

  • Jeska Slater, Director, Indigenous Priorities, Vancouver Foundation

  • My auntie Pauline Hilistis Waterfall, Educator, artist & author

  • Andrea Lyall, PhD Candidate - Forestry, Natural Resources Consultant

  • Corinne Hunt, Artist

  • Kory Wilson, Executive Director - Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships, BCIT

None of us are perfect, and I'm sure many of us have challenges that could be perceived to be shortcomings, but as I drove home from the symphony last night, I had deep gratitude for these folks whose paths have crossed with mine. Each of us living miracles in our own way. We are living proof of indigenous resilience - the fact that this list just gets longer and longer is something to celebrate.

If you don't have a list at least this long, perhaps you aren't paying attention to indigenous resilience in Canada. Need help developing your list? Schedule a consult.

*photo cred: UBC Sustainability

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