My favourite thing to do outside is sit in the sun and read a book. Every summer for as long as I can remember, I spent the majority of my free time outside with a book. I love to read but over the past few years I have been finding that I don’t get as much time to do it anymore. As Robin Wall Kimmerer poses the question, “what are your homemade ceremonies, your offerings to the earth?” (p. 36), I was very puzzled in trying to determine whether my family had any at all. We don’t pray before we eat because we are not very religious, we don’t go camping and leave firewood for the next campers, we don’t really do anything as an offering to the Earth.
Then I began to think of my favourite outdoor activity and if it could connect to this question to my love for the sun’s warmth. As we live in a place where is gets quite warm in the summer and quite cold in the winter, we rely on the power of our air conditioners and thermostats to keep us at the right temperature. In the summer, it is always a fight at my house whether to turn on the air conditioners or not; my dad gets very hot and needs it on but my mom is always cold and wants it off. I take my mom’s side in this dispute because I hate being cold and since my room is in the basement it gets very cold down there when the air conditioner is on. This is part of the reason why I love to sit outside in the sun; it warms me up. Air conditioning is beneficial for those super hot summer days, but also carries some global and personal health consequences along with it. Air conditioning uses electrical power which requires the burning of fossil fuels such as coal for the supply of electricity. The power plants that supply this electricity discharge pollutants into the atmosphere.
As don’t overly have much control of my families air conditioner, when I get my own place I don’t think I’ll have an air conditioner. I will open as many windows as I can to let the Earth’s natural winds and sunlight in. That will be my offering to the Earth. As I love to soak up the sun’s warmth, I will use the natural resources the Earth provides to cool my home in the summer. I will be giving back by reducing my carbon footprint as I will not have an air conditioner contributing to pollution.
As this creative journal is centered around the sun, I decided to do my own visual representation of the sun. I wrapped some fuzzy pipe cleaners around an old ball for my makeshift sun. I used these fuzzy pipe cleaners because they are so soft in texture and give off warmth just like the sun. I wanted my sun to be soft, warm, and fuzzy because that’s how I think of the sun. It’s base is a recycled plastic lid painted with bright yellow and orange to reflect the brightness the sun gives off. I drew a comforting smiley face on this sun because when I am outside enjoying it’s warmth I feel comfort and happiness which this little smiley face suggests.
How do you give back to something that gives you so much? Robin Wall Kimmerer recommends an offering. Reflecting on my own personal spirituality, I have realized that I am lacking in the offerings department. I do not regularly offer a prayer, an act of service, or gifts. What I do offer, however, is a commitment to a particular thing, universe, Earth, or individual, that I will do my best. I want to show them that I am thankful for the opportunity I have been given to receive something, to be with someone, or to connect with something and will, therefore, ensure they understand my gratitude for such. I offer thanks.
The following images have been compiled from moments I have captured in nature. I realize now that these spaces often exist in one-sided relationships with the individual visiting them. We take, we receive, we offer nothing in return. If I find myself in these spaces again, I will be sure to offer them something for their beauty, solace, and willingness to give.
My Offering to the Environment
Reflecting on what my own homemade ceremonies are for my last journal entry, I have decided to talk about my family religion and how it relates to the ceremonies that we do. On an honest note, my family doesn’t have any traditional ceremonies that offer anything that directly relates to Earth, but let me tell you, my mom loves taking family pictures outside for many holidays to remember ceremonies or celebrations. We do love being outside when it’s possible for our ceremonies if the weather cooperates. We like to do lots of family skating in the winter when it’s cold and celebrate birthdays outside when its warm. We are a pretty traditional Catholic family. Our ceremonies are basic catholic traditions such as celebrating Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and others. When we go to church, a tradition is always going for Sunday brunch after and hanging out taking time to relax.
When looking at the quote “Ceremonies large and small have the power to focus attention to a way of living awake in the world”, for some reason, it really made me realize that ceremonies are a good way to connect with the people you know regardless of the circumstance. Everyone has busy lives and I think, especially when my whole family gets together, it is a lot of catching up with each other and talking. Ceremonies “awake the world” by uplifting connections between people. In my families case, in regards to being catholic, our Easter, Christmas and thanksgiving celebrations are a happy and good time. I think that the good intentions that my family ceremonies have really wake the people in my family by getting away from the reality of our everyday lives.
Regardless of what religion or anything you celebrate or believe I think it’s important to realize that there are many beliefs in the world and everyone has their own opinions. With that being said it’s important keep that in mind and respect everyone’s beliefs. When we were at the Residential School First Nation Burial ground, it really made me think about what my family traditions and ceremonies were in collation to what First Nations people believed or other people in the class and it was interesting to see that there are lots of variety in beliefs. It was great to see the variety of similarities and differences.
I chose to make a paper tipi. This is a key symbol people that are not familiar with indigenous culture relate all indigenous people too. Most people do not realize the sacred nature of the tipi. You can go online and but tipis for pets and humans; this exasperates the issue of cultural appropriation. I understand that my version also does such things but it is created to make a point.
When I worked at the provincial parks there was a traveling tipi that would go from park to park. It was the job of the interpreters, who were normally from a euro west background, to set up the tipi for “indigenous days”. A common concern that interpreters had was that they felt uncomfortable with building the tipi. The uncomfort came from the lack of connection to the tipi itself. We, as interpreters, did not want to offend someone whose belief system was rooted in the tipi. I believe we had permission from one member of an indigenous tribe but their word cannot encompass the word of every indigenous, Métis, and Inuit person out there.
Although putting up tipis are a great way to create hands on learning related to culture it is my belief that it would only be appropriate to have someone of indigenous belief build it. Better yet, have that same person talk to the students about the importance of the tipi. As Ho writes, “The dominant industrialized culture has resulted in a false dichotomy manifesting
a metaphor of hierarchy that promotes human over nature, industry over subsistence,
mind over body, reason over emotion, white body over black and brown bodies.” If I were to blindly build a tipi without advisement then promote the white body over other cultures.
In terms of homemade ceremonies, my family does not have many. I grew up in a roman catholic household so some of the “ceremonies” we performed was things such as praying before meals, going to church on Sundays, and celebrating Easter and Christmas with my extended family. This was more or less all we did in terms of ceremonies. I do not think this is wrong at all, but after visiting the RIIS and speaking about spirituality, I am able to recognize that there are other ways of knowing/other ceremonies that exist and I feel as though this allows me to better appreciate views other than my own.
A small thing me and my dad do that feels to me as a type of offering or more so appreciation for the land is taking walks through our pastures. When the water is running and the sun is shining, every year, without fail, we will put on our rubber boots and walk through the land. As stated in the Kimmerer text, this something that I feel is “a ceremony that makes it home”. We take time from our busy days and completely soak in our surroundings. My dad has always had an appreciation for the land we use and I can see this in him when we go on these walks together. So, though he does get caught up in the western side of his job frequently, doing these small things reminds him how grateful he should be for all the land has given to us. For this reason, I think that as a family we can take more steps towards physically and mentally giving back to the land on a regular basis or maybe go on these walks more often because it really allows us to take a step back from all the numbers and it increases our appreciation.
My family is full of cattle ranchers and farmers and, without the land, I would not have the opportunities I have today. My family, and in the past myself, can sometimes take the land for granted and get caught up in our profits and efficiency over anything else. We need to, somehow, give back to the land that we take so much from and overall truly appreciate it, because I now realize that we have without a doubt, failed to maintain a healthy relationship. The quote from Kimmerer’s The Offering that resonated with me was when the mother said, “Leave this place better than you found it”. This is something my family can definitely employ. A way that this can be done is by making sure that we are not over grazing the land we have our cattle on, rotating the fields we use when harvesting, employing the most environmentally friendly practices we can, and really taking a moment out of our day to give thanks to the land.
My visual seeks to represent the fact that I am nothing without the land. My body is made up the land and for this reason, I need to give back and practice offering more frequently. I would not be where I am today and I now recognize this. I need to, in some way, reciprocate all that it has given to so that I do not take and take until there is nothing left. I hope to inspire my family to practice this reciprocity as well and practice more offerings with them because this really does change a person’s perspective. I need to make sure I am doing everything I can in order to preserve, appreciate, and give back to the land through my everyday practices.
My parents were both raised in Cristian homes and my father was even a pastor for most of my childhood. Church was a very common thing and even after my siblings and I were old enough to make the decision on if we wanted to go to church in the mornings, we still would out of respect for our parents.
We didn’t do much apart from church for any type of spiritual enlightening. It almost seems boring to compare sitting in a building for 2 hours compared to the hands-on teachings that the First Nations beliefs and relationships with the land where they have a more hands on approach to their teachings.
The closest thing my family might have to our own spiritual tradition would be when we would go out through our trees and relocate the smaller baby trees to a location that doesn’t have as many so that the little ones aren’t killed by being so close to the large ones. After we had relocated and watered them. We would sit on the grass looking at them and talk about all the benefits that come with having trees and all the things that the trees do for us. Though it was only really a summer thing for us, it was still something that we all enjoyed and was “our” thing.
For my creative journal this week, I focused on an outdoor experience that resonates with me a lot. When I was younger, I went camping with my family quite a bit. We would go for one or two weeks at a time and we often met up with my unlce, aunty, and cousin. We connected with the environment in many ways, like fishing, boating, mini-golfing, sitting on the beach, etc. Although all of these activities are fun for my family and I, we are using the environment to our advantage, and for our own benefit. We are ignorning the fact that this land is claimed by the governmentand trandformed into a provincial park. We are ignoring what it took to make the land what it is, a public campground.
This weeks prompt made me think about how we experiences these encounters so easily because they are based around colonization. We feel entitiled to these places and these parks, but we never question what was taken from others to transforms these lands into places for the colonizers to enjoy.
When you think of camping, one might instantly generalize the term to only emcompass white, middle class families. This idea that only these types of people go camping contributes directly to colonization. But what was that land used for before it was a campground?
This creative journal makes me really reconsider my exeriences when camping. Ho’s article “Traveling with a World of Complexity: Critical Pedagogy of Place and My Decolonizing Encounters” states that there is an “inseparable connection between environmental and social justice issues” (pg 2). This idea that the environment is also realted to social justice issues can be seen in so many ways within society. Relating to camping, the environmental aspect is directly related to the social issues of colonization and how “unclaimed land” can be claimed by the dominant culture or group. This land is then used by the dominant culture, for the dominant culture.
For this creative journal, I thought back to when I was in elementary school. In the winter, the caretakers at my school would dig huge snow blocks out of the ground. My old friends and I would take these snow blocks and make forts with them. These forts were more like houses in our play; we called this little game we created the “Puppy Club.” We would all pretend we were puppies and make our houses out of these big snow blocks that the caretakers dug up in the winter time. I played this game back in grade one and from I remember of that game, it would always turn into a fight. I remember that the blocks for my house would always get stolen and if you did not have a good enough house, you got kicked out of the “Puppy Club.” Thinking back to this game I used to play as a child, there were so many elements of colonization and living in a colonial world incorporated in it. I do not think any of us meant to portray this game in this way, we were just grade ones minacking what we knew about the world. This is much like the quote used in Yi Chien Jade Ho’s paper “Travelling with a World of Complexity: Critical Pedagogy of Place and My Decolonizing Encounters,” on page 3 and 4 which explains what “fort time” looks like for typical school aged kids. Ho states that this “fort time” has adopted an economic model that resembles the exploitative nature of capitalism (p. 4). Now that I am working in an elementary school I see “play” that resembles the nature of capitalism all the time. Children drawing images that involve punishment and violence, they compare goods like sums of money, and work on trades with the objects they have.
I wanted to focus on this “fort time” described in Ho’s paper for my creative journal. I wanted to incorporate elements of my connection in participating in colonial based play and what I am able to observe with the children I work with. I made a collage-like representation of this colonial based play. I used popsicle sticks to represent sticks and other elements children often use to build forts. On these popsicle sticks I wrote words that, in my opinion, describe this colonial based play many children have, or are currently, participate in. These words are a combination of what I engaged in as a child, what I observe, and my knowledge on Canada’s history with colonization. Some examples of the words I used within this creative journal are violence, greed, capitalism, pollution, trading, assimilation, capitalism, disrespect, and so on. I assembled these popsicle sticks in a way that resembles the beginning, or the ongoing makings of a fort. Creating this creative journal, I found myself thinking about the colonization of the Indigenous Peoples of our land. I thought of their cruel history with colonization. I incorporated some words in my creative journal like assimilation, negative effects, and colonialism that I found myself thinking about as I was creating this creative journal.
As children are seeing more and more of this capitalist-based cultures within things like video games and television shows, teachers need to be aware of this dominant view and create ways of learning to disrupt this way of thinking. Ho mentions that educators must find a way to help their students recognize the dominant oppressive ways and provide a space for possessing and finding alternative ways (p. 14). I think it is important for educators to recognize the practices of colonial ways within their lives in order for them to teach this disruption to their students. Educators not only have to educate and create awareness of this concept among their students, but also for themselves. That way I believe this narrative can be as disrupted as it can.