National | Media Release

Caretaking is at the Heart of Relationship Building and Decolonization

Sept. 30th National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

For many years, the NFU has made honest and truthful statements in good will calling on members of the NFU community, our provincial and federal governments, and the general public to meaningfully implement the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action. On this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we stand by these statements and we would like to add to the discourse by offering reflections on matters of the heart. We begin with a story about caretaking gifted by NFU member, Natasha Anderson from The Key First Nation:

This summer when I traveled to my home community of the Key First Nation in Treaty 4 Territory, my Auntie and I held a gathering on the land with women from our community, with the intention to support and uplift each other during our times of struggle. My Auntie led us in a ceremony based on what she and my grandmother would call “loving people up” — witnessing people’s spirits and seeing them for who they really are, and valuing and honouring that person unconditionally using traditional rites of passage passed down for centuries. In being a part of this gathering I realized that a lot of us, myself included, grew up without that feeling of unconditional love and acceptance. Most of us in this society haven’t experienced these rituals or ceremonies that show us who we truly are and ground us in community care. I realized how profound and powerful these acts of love can be, and how ritual and ceremony is a powerful way of tapping into this energy. To witness my Auntie being so kind and loving, and really caring for the women and showing them that they are valued and respected, was very healing — not just for me but I think for everyone.

This story contains many gifts for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike. Acts like this can be powerful reminders that we matter, that someone cares about us. For non-Indigenous peoples, such acts also remind us that Truth and Reconciliation requires more than policy changes. Policy change is crucial, and perhaps working on these matters of the heart can help drive the change by opening up different ways of viewing and being with each other and Mother Earth. Such transformation is crucial to bringing about food sovereignty and the redistribution and equitable sharing of the land, what is often called rematriation.

Caretaking is foundational to shifting us from relationships rooted in racist, colonial, extractive, and violent worldviews and systems to those rooted in love, justice, interdependence with all life, and Indigenous ways of being and understanding. Making this shift is critical to the food system and world we envision for ourselves and our communities. This caretaking work, and all the challenges it necessarily involves, both personally and politically, is what we mean when we talk about decolonization.

What caretaking can look like in practice in our organizations and communities includes entering into community dialogue on equal footing and meaningfully responding to what others are asking for. Caretaking doesn’t mean ignoring past or ongoing harms. Rather, it can invite healing by creating a space for truth to be shared. Especially for European descendants, this can involve challenging our political aspirations, ideas, intentions and values and listening to what Indigenous Peoples are saying now and have been saying for hundreds of years. It can also include:

  • Stepping back and taking the lead from Indigenous Peoples in actions and community dialogues.
  • Stepping up in campaigns and actions against corporate plunder and state-based extraction and injustice, both at home and abroad.
  • Mailing care packages or thank you notes or other gestures offering material support to Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous-led organizations.
  • As an organization, providing fair compensation for the work done by Indigenous Peoples in non-Indigenous organizations.
  • Putting on our orange t-shirts and heading out to a TRC gathering, event or action.
  • Sharing Indigenous-created social media content and artwork
  • A whole lot more!

Today, as we observe the National Day for TRC, let’s reflect on the story Natasha shared about her Auntie and her people’s caretaking practices and ceremonies. Today and every day, let’s demonstrate that we value Indigenous Peoples, fully and inherently— their lifeways, cultures, languages, cosmovisions, territory, rights and sovereignty. Let’s build solidarity on this basis and create a food system that values everyone and upholds our responsibilities to Mother Earth.