BENNETT: We can start now on our own journey to to ‘idle know more’

Canada was built upon the good will of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples who chose to enter into a partnership with the settlers in which the land would be shared fairly.

As we all know, something went terribly wrong. To reset the relationship, the 96 percent of Canadians who are not from an indigenous background need to understand and be proud of the wisdom of the people who were here first. Going forward in a “good way” means once again learning from First Peoples: Idle Know More.

All New Zealanders have Maori culture as an integral part of their identity.

Maori studies are taught from Kindergarten to Grade 8 and integrated into all subjects. The famous Maori Haka dance is part of the ritual of its rugby team and is even seen performed by members of its armed forces. They have found a way forward in the reconciliation and the repair of the essential relationship between First Peoples and the settlers. Canada needs to do the same.

It is urgent.

So here are seven of my learnings — seven “aha!” moments which made me realize that, for Canada to move forward, we will need the voices and “wise practices” of First Nations, Metis and Inuit leading the way.

1. Sustainability — 7 generation thinking

Indigenous people lived sustainability. They knew not to clear-cut a forest or fish out a lake. The land, the water, the air was a gift from the Creator. The Creator expected them to take care of Mother Earth.

2. Medicine wheel, not the medical model

Tommy Douglas said the goal of medicare was to keep Canadians well, not just patch them up when they get sick. In some ways, this is a reaffirmation of the First Nations medicine wheel, which teaches us that wellness is keeping people well physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

3. Leadership/Democracy

In 1975 Nellie Cournoyea, the first woman premier of the North West Territories, was quoted in Speaking Together as saying “paternalism has been a total failure.” Talking sticks and sitting in a circle are more than symbolic; they demonstrate the very essence of respect for one another.

4. Pedagogy — Learning by doing

I believe that the indigenous pedagogy of learning by doing can teach us all a great deal. We now know that everyone learns differently. Expression of intellect, emotions and spirit through art, music, culture and sports should not be afterthoughts. It’s through participating in a well-rounded educational experience that children find their souls and their many talents.

5. The strength of women

Although not all indigenous societies were matriarchal, there is no question that, as the “lifegivers,” they were held in tremendous respect.

6. Elders, not elderly

I once asked elders at the Elders Centre in Iqaluit: “Why are you called ‘elders’ when in the south older people are called ‘elderly’?” They said: “Because we are the ‘survivors’. Our lives were tough and we were the ones that survived.” They were respected for their expertise and their lived experience.

7. Children at the centre

Indigenous teachings have Mother Earth (sustenance — water and food) at the centre, then the children and then everyone else.

Going forward in a ‘good way’

My new First Nations, Metis and Inuit friends have enriched my life and given me a much greater understanding of what it is to be Canadian.

We invite all of you to join us on National Aboriginal Day, June 21 for the NaMeRes Pow Wow at Wells Hill Park, for the Grand Entry at noon.