To our AGP Community,
I will begin by thanking Mimi for her heartfelt Open Letter to the Emily Carr Community and advocating kindness and compassion towards each other during these difficult times of uncertainty. I was inspired by her unwavering commitment to respect and reciprocity.
Chief Leon Shenandoah words and actions have influenced my imperfect journey to become a good human being on this path called life.
“Everybody is on a path. What you think about the most tells you which path you are on. The best path is the spiritual one. It’s the only one that helps you become a human being”
We are busy preparing the Aboriginal Gathering Place for accommodating new and returning Aboriginal students in September (adhering to provincial COVID protocols) and it has been challenging to maintain our cultural connections while being physically disconnected. I am encouraged that my Indigenous knowledge continually reminds me that our spiritual, cultural and physical world are all inextricably interconnected.
I would like to acknowledge the support and leadership of our local Indigenous healers, cultural advisors/leaders and knowledge keepers who are deeply connected to this land. Laura Wee Lay Laq is a graduate of Emily Carr (Vancouver School of Art) and continues to provide ongoing support to the AGP. Prior to the new campus construction Laura blessed and cleansed the land to provide a cultural foundation for the work being done within our institution. Thus…we are accountable to the land for our words and actions.
Eugene Harry is a healer and spiritual guide and has supported us in moving forward in a path focused on “good hearts and good mind”. Xwalacktun is also a graduate of Emily Carr and his son James is a graduate as well. In recent weeks we have connected with all of them for their ongoing guidance, strength and wisdom. Their guidance and support inspired me to share our teachings and protocols deeply rooted in our current and ancestral connection to this land.
In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the destructive actions and policies of the past and aspire to do better in the future. Often it’s as much about unlearning as it is about learning. I am often frustrated with the pace of institutional change but I’m also encouraged by the number of initiatives and projects we have accomplished and are working on. I believe that collaboration, collegiality and commitment can create an environment of transformational change. While we cannot escape or deny wounds along the way we can move forward in the spirit of reconciliation.
In a recent essay I wrote titled What Becomes of the Broken Hearted (published by the Or Gallery, Dana Claxton, editor) I share my 21-year educational, cultural and artistic journey at Emily Carr University. In it I share my strengths and weaknesses and more importantly my personal family history of Residential School trauma including the death my father’s sisters, Gladys and Margaret. The ancestral teachings I carry with me are from our beloved matriarch Thiapan who remains the strength of our family long after her passing in 1973 as well as my father Nekastte who was one of Thaipan’s seventeen children. It is an important protocol for me to share my ancestral roots. It holds me accountable to my family cultural teachings and responsibilities of perpetuating and honouring traditional knowledge in a productive, meaningful way. I am continually learning new ways to move forward within the context of working within institutional procedural and policy driven frameworks. It takes patience and resilience…and is often exhausting but I remain committed to the voices of our ancestors.
Activism and persistence are important methods of facilitating meaningful change within our academy and I believe it can be and should be done in a respectful thoughtful exchange. I don’t always get it right but it is my intention to apply the basic tenets of respect and reconciliation as I continue on my imperfect journey to become a good human. Indigenization, decolonization and reconciliation work continues to evolve and move forward at Emily Carr.
I end my essay with a quote by Rumi – Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there…
For me…our Emily Carr community is that field and I would like to meet you there.
Brenda Crabtree (Xyolholemo:t)
Proud member of the Spuzzum Band (Nlaka’pamux Nation)
Proud daughter of Nekastte and granddaughter of Thiapan
“Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity.
It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice,
the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer,
the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight
but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice.
It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both
the oppressed and oppressors free.”
Shane Claborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (2010)
Brenda Crabtree (Xyolholemo:t) MA (she/her)
Director, Aboriginal Programs + Special Advisor To The President On Indigenous Initiatives
Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Emily Carr University is situated on unceded, traditional and ancestral xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories.