Indigenous peoples and Muslims in dialogue

Indigenous peoples and Muslims in dialogue

Report by DawaNet

{“Not too many generations ago we didn’t know one another….but here we are [now], sitting together….” Elder Joanne Dallaire}

A diverse group of leaders are gathered in the auditorium at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto on April 29, 2017.

We are immigrants, refugees, and Indigenous to Turtle Island, and we have come to learn from Elder Joanne Dallaire, and from one another.

What follows is a powerful conversation about what settler Muslims can do in our respective capacities as educators, organizers, social workers, parents, academics, and students, to start correcting our relationships with First Peoples.

The event, titled Know One Another, and organized by DawaNet, aimed to explore the question of starting points in response to a growing consciousness among many settler Muslims that our current conceptualisations of justice from the Islamic tradition (“adl”in Arabic) and Canadian-ness needed to be challenged.

The event featured a keynote by Joanne Dallaire, Elder at Ryerson University, a healer, wisdom keeper and leader in transforming relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.

This was followed by reflections by Jeewan Chanicka, Central Coordinating Principal, Equity and Achievement at the TDSB, on his experiences promoting reconciliation efforts as a non-Indigenous Muslim.

One of the most striking moments of Elder Joanne’s talk included her heartfelt recognition of the struggles of visible Muslim women, who have increasingly become targets of violence in the public sphere because of what we wear and what we believe.

Elder Joanne emphasised that many Indigenous people can relate to this experience.

Below are some of the principles for nation to nation dialogue and relationship building that Elder Joanne shared with the group, from her vantage point as an Indigenous leader:

  1. Know the treaties made on the traditional territories you occupy. This will help you with understanding your treaty obligations.
  2. There is a history of Indigenous nations being told what to do by outsiders, and this is something that settler Muslims and other well-meaning people who wish to engage need to resist. The best way to go about supporting communities is to list strengths and expertise and ask Indigenous organizations and groups how they would like to use your skills.
  3. Before asking, it is important to give. So give gifts when trying to build relationships.
  4. Find out what protocols you should know, as different nations have different protocols.
  5. Seek the advice of elders and leaders from the nations you hope to work with and build relationships with them before trying to work with the rest of the community.
  6. Think about how you would like your community to be treated in similar circumstances and use this to inform how you act.
  7. Don’t get caught up in what the engagement should look like, as this can prevent you from acting. But if you make a mistake, own it right away.
  8. The best way to know and understand one another is to share stories. We [Muslims and Indigenous Peoples] need to remind ourselves of our similarities as this brings us together and makes us stronger, and sharing stories is one way to do this.
  9. Always think about how you can leave an individual or community better off through your work.
  10. Plant good seeds. You have the power to change someone’s life in an instant, through good words and actions.

Want to be part of the conversation? Tweet, @muslimfest and @IRCanada using #KnowOneAnother #cdnpoli #TruthAndReconciliation.