Decolonizing Efforts for Water: the first retreat
Protecting water in Canada needs an ethical and institutional reorientation. Water is a source of life and not just a resource. Colonial water rules and attitudes were forced upon the lands, waters, and peoples of Turtle Island and there is a growing community of people and organizations dedicated to an Indigenized reorientation.
This movement is largely Indigenous led, but Canadian allies (settler descendants and immigrants) are taking up their responsibilities for the privilege of living in Indigenous peoples’ territories and are working toward reciprocating the gifts of creation. A group of 16 non-Indigenous people have been meeting monthly for over a year online to explore our personal and professional questions and needs for water protection. The group calls itself Decolonizing Efforts for Water (DEW). From our conversations, the following Ponderings and Practices have emerged.
From the evening of Friday, January 27th to the afternoon of Sunday the 29th, DEW is hosting a retreat to challenge, clarify and commit to decolonizing water efforts for 2023. If this intention sparks your interest, see the questions and answers below.
Who is invited?
The retreat space has room for about 25 people and currently 9 DEW members have said yes. 3 staff from the Ignatius Jesuit Centre will also join, leaving space for others to join. Current DEW members are invited to ask 1 or 2 ‘peers’ to join as a way to build the group and to strengthen relational ties with those we work with (or want to work with). Please see our emergent participant list here
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE SCHEDULE:
As a predominantly white-identified group, it’s important that we are response-able to the needs and perspectives of those we claim to be allies with. Our retreat will include the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour leaders offering us needed perspectives and questions for the work ahead. Some will join us via zoom or in person, while others have offered prompts for us to consider. Please see the Schedule to learn more. These opportunities are highlighted with a light green background on the schedule. We encourage all participants to attend each of these sessions.
Waasekom is a Turtle Clan Anishinaabe from Saugeen First Nation and the Kettle & Stoney Point First Nations on the southeastern shores of Lake Huron. He has lead ceremonial canoe journeys throughout the Great Lakes to raise awareness about Water, Climate Change, and Indigenous sovereign responsibilities. His great passion is in building agency for Indigenous led nation building. Waasekom will share with us a vision where Water has her own agency through indigenous led governance.
Georgie Horton-Baptiste is Anishinaabekwe currently residing in the Nogojiwanong/Peterborough area (originally from northwestern Ontario territory). She is Chair of the Board of the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre, initiator of the Community Voices for Manoomin group, and one who straddles working in the dominant culture and connecting with her own culture. She is part of both the Sacred Water Circle and the Water Walkers in the territory. Georgie will share with us reflections on practical Allyship with Indigenous peoples.
Patricia Wilson of Diverse Nature Collective is an environmentalist, community leader and social justice advocate who is passionate about diversifying the environmental field and advocates for proper representation and inclusivity in this sector. Patricia will lead us through a workshop on Addressing white supremacy in the Environmental Movement.
Tasha Beads is a Plains Cree, Scottish-Metis and Bajan academic. She is Mide-Kwe and a Water Walker. Her PhD involved research on violence, Indigenous women and Cree consciousness. Recently, Tasha was hired to a new position working with the Federal Government - Canada Water Agency. We will enjoy “Tea with Tasha” with some potent questions we create that she will endeavour to answer.
We are also intending to host other “connective” blocks of time (highlighted with a pink background on the schedule) where those of us participating might be willing to step into holding or facilitating a conversation or an activity that could reflect or deepen our Ponderings and Practices. We invite you to consider and plan these in advance. Near the beginning of the weekend we will ask participants to share their proposal (brief - perhaps a title and one or two descriptive sentences) and we can slot these offerings into our schedule. These sessions are optional and may also have concurrent offerings if there are a lot of suggestions.
We will also be sharing conversation prompts for our meal times together, to deepen our decolonizing efforts for Water.
**** this is an alcohol and recreational drug free retreat
GENERATING ACCOUNTABLE SPACE:
It is our collective responsibility as we endeavour to create a brave space for learning and sharing, that we are conscious of and take care with the safety of the space for everyone present (human and other than human). For this reason, we establish the following guidelines:
Check out this article by Elise Ahenkorah (she/her) called “Safe and Brave Spaces Don’t Work (and What You Can Do Instead)”
Accountable Space Guidelines (adapted from UCLA)
- Please do not interrupt others.
- Listen actively, instead of just waiting to speak. Please use a pen and paper to record your thoughts, if necessary.
- Be mindful of your total talk time and, if you are comfortable, speak up to add to the conversation.
- Give everyone a chance to speak, without unnecessary pressure.
- Understand that we are all learning. If you said something offensive or problematic, apologize for your actions or words being offensive — not for the person feeling insulted.
- Recognize and embrace friction as evidence that multiple ideas are entering the conversation — not that the group is not getting along.
- Give credit where it is due. If you are echoing someone’s previously stated idea, give the appropriate credit.
- Ask for clarification — do not assume or project.
- Speak for yourself. Use “I” statements and do not share others’ lived experiences.
- Words and tone matter. Be mindful of the impact of what you say, and not just your intent.
- Self-reflect on actionable items to become an ally in your daily work or personal experiences, after leaving the space.
- If you attend as an ally of the community, please allow space for diverse and marginalized communities to share their experiences.
- Other — ask your audience if there are other guidelines needed to support them to ensure the conversation does not create further trauma.
WHAT IS THE RETREAT SPACE LIKE?
Located just on the edge of Guelph, the Loyola House at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre provides private rooms, meal preparation, meeting spaces, and outdoor access to 600 acres with ski and hiking trails, sacred spaces, forests, and a farm. There is an option for attending the retreat, but finding your own accommodation. Also important to note: although this is a Jesuit retreat space, the content of this retreat is fully designed by this DEW group and will not include any of the religious content that this retreat space would include in their typical retreats they offer. It is also important to note that the space may have some religious symbols from the Jesuit beliefs.
The rooms are comfortable and cozy and include linens on the beds. Bed and bath linens are provided, pillows and blankets too. The space is beautiful and clean and all on one level. We have access to multiple rooms if we require break-out space.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Please find a map to the Ignatius Jesuit Centre Here. 5420 Hwy 6 N, Guelph ON N1H 6J2
Email: [email protected]
Ignatius Jesuit Centre is located on Hwy. 6 north just minutes from downtown Guelph. The land consists of a 600-acre green belt stretching from the Guelph Lake Conservation Area to the Guelph-Elora Trail.
The landscape is comprised of farmland, wetland and woodland areas, formal gardens, naturalized landscapes, walking trails and various buildings.
Life at the Centre is influenced by the diverse use of the land: Loyola House Retreat & Training Centre, Ignatius Farm, Ignatius Old-Growth Forest, a Jesuit cemetery, and Orchard Park Office Centre.
Find information and maps of the property here.
We encourage carpooling or transit to and from the retreat. There will be cars leaving from Sudbury and Peterborough, among other locations, that could possibly help others with travel. Guelph downtown is also accessible by GO transit. Please be in contact with people near you to build community and lighten our carbon footprint, or contact Ian ([email protected]) to help facilitate this.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS?
We don’t want costs to be a barrier for anyone’s participation in this important work at this most critical time in Canada. We are working on some micro-grants to offset costs and for those individuals and organizations who have more resources, we are asking for extra funds to redistribute to others. The fee for the retreat, a room, and meals is $300. Extra costs could include travel and redistribution funds. Pricing structure is as follows:
$325 – Ensuite Room – private single bedroom with 3-piece washroom, desk and chair
$300 – Standard Room – private single bedroom with sink, desk and chair, access to a shared bathroom
$195 – Commuter – a private room is not included.
**** For those of us who are working in organizations that talk about ‘decolonization’, we hope this intention can be matched with capacity and funding. If your employer is not able to fully fund your time and expenses, then it falls to others to make up the difference. While we don’t want funding to limit anyone’s participation, this work requires resources. In case your employer needs more information or context about this ‘community of practice’ in order to more fully fund your experience, a few notes:
- In 2022, DEW members have deeply invested a lot of their time and energy to build a trusted circle of shared experience and expertise.
- Informed and embodied professional work towards decolonizing water governance can help rejuvenate mainstream environmental efforts at the personal and systemic levels.
- The non-profit sector is predominantly white and this sector benefits disproportionately from charitable wealth (often wealth gained via the settler-state). How we actively redistribute some of this wealth is a core element of decolonization.
- Some first steps for our organizations can do to commit to decolonizing efforts is to commit resources to this work - to supporting staff in the ‘unlearning/relearning/exploration’ of what decolonizing might look like, and also to allocating resources for important reciprocity work for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in this process of decolonization (honorariums, speaker fees, support of work done on behalf of us all).
Please email Arlene ([email protected]) with any food allergies. The centre has an array of options available at each meal and can accommodate allergies and trust that food preferences can be self managed from the available options. From the centre’s website:
- CAN YOU ACCOMMODATE MY DIETARY REQUESTS? Our kitchen staff are well versed in vegetarian & vegan, celiac & dairy-free foods. We are unable to accommodate food preferences.
- DO YOU USE FOOD GROWN BY THE IGNATIUS FARM? Absolutely – every chance we get!
WHAT TO BRING:
- bring in an artifact that represents your ancestry to add to our “Ancestors Table”
- bring in resources that have been useful to your learning journey to leave on our “Honouring our Teachers” table. These items can be collected to return home with you.
- Bring a Vessel of Water from your watershed
- Bring, songs, poems, dances etc. that are inspired by water
- Instruments and your singing voice for jam time
- Bring hiking boots, snow shoes, and/or cross-country skis for on-site trails
- Bring your personal toiletries
- Slippers might be nice!
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