Truth & Reconciliation in Canada - A reflection from Founder Michael Sacco

Good morning Chocosolistas:
As I sit to write a few meditative thoughts to you all on the work of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada first let us start by recognizing that the land upon which we sit, stand, and work is the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnabig, and millennia of other Indigenous to Turtle Island people's whose oral history is still just being re-discovered.  
When European settlers came to North America they would not have survived without the help of the Indigenous peoples, and this is the source of our Thanksgiving tradition.  However, thanksgiving at its core is an address that reminds us to begin all our gatherings and ceremonies with the words that come before all other words...the words of thanks giving...the words that remind us to be deeply grateful for the sacred and beautiful gift of life, and to work together in the good mind to cultivate beauty in creation.  This core teaching is a gateway teaching to understanding Indigenous ways of knowing.  The Dish with One Spoon Treaty is a recognition of the shared land and right to dignity of different Indigenous peoples to be on the land.  However, this same treaty was used to frame the relationship between Europeans and Indigenous nations.  Two years ago while visiting Mohawk elder Tom Porter at his traditional home in New York and doing some research, he took us on a tour of his ancestral valley, and told us many of the oral teachings.  One of them he shared was about this treaty with the Europeans made by his great great grandfathers who were the condoled chiefs of the Mohawk nation.  Tom told us of how after a time of sharing the land, the Europeans came and said, and asked to be able to take a little bit more than they directly needed. They recognized that this was not in the spirit of those original sharing treaties and for that reason they offered a treaty that compensated the Indigenous communities for taking more than they needed for their direct community.  This teaching and oral history opened my eyes to part of that historical understanding of honouring the treaties and making restitution to first nations peoples.
Today's new national holiday in particular is a very un-settling one for many Canadians of non-Indigenous descent.  It is a moral imperative for all those of settler descent to look at Canada's colonial past and the genocide history of the state, institutions and settler communities.  These terrible, unjust, and painful acts of systematic hurt, torture, and institutional attacks on Indigeous culture like the residential schools run by the Catholic Church are painful and ugly scars on Canada's history.  Only now with the discovery of the bodies of those poor children are we as a nation stepping up to truthfully and painfully dealing with these histories as a nation.  This is part of the "truth" in the truth and reconciliation.  I would suggest that guilt is not the appropriate first step, but that courage and empathy to see with open eyes these black spots on our history, and elevate Indigenous culture and ways of knowing to a place of honour on the other hand.  
As Canadians many of us are all struggling to understand how we should honour this day, and how we can productively use it as a way to advance our hopes for truth and reconciliation.   Opening our eyes to the terrible history and the ongoing hurt of these legacies is a key first step.  Unsettling the settler, and recognizing our duty to be allies in this social and political movement I encourage all chocosolistas to embrace personally and professionally.
On the other hand, let us not forget to have a real and personal connection to this knowledge. The relationship to the knowledge is where the deep and healing reconciliation will come from.   
Gustavo Estave and Wayne
Over the past 10 years of doing a doctoral dissertation in Indigenous Studies at Trent, I have had the opportunity to meditate deeply on these questions.   During the past 20 years I've had the great opportunity to be mentored by many Indigenous elders from Southern Mexico like Gustavo Esteva, and our beloved Don Flor who passed away last week.
For me personally, I see the importance of not only being an ally, but on the personal level of being a good friend, a good helper, and a good apprentice.  Friendship is not a political construction, it is a gift, and one that breaks down the social, political, and cultural barriers that separate us.   Friendship transforms us, and even more so when it is an intercultural dialogue and encounter rooted in love and respect.   I encourage all of the chocosolistas to use our amazing friendship network here in Ontario, and in Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru as a way to deepen our solidarity, and transform our lives through personal friendships and relationships.
On this day, remember to offer tobacco, burn cedar, burn sage, and braid and offer sweetgrass in memory of these and other insights and truths.  Do not simplify these hard or these beautiful teachings.  Remember that history like the present is not reducible to a simple narrative, and do the work of holding both the truths and the many paths of reconciliation present in our lives and actions in a way that will continue to live, that is to say to evolve and re-evolve. We at Chocosol encourage you all to take some time today to meditate and recognize these teachings and knowledge in a personal ritual and ceremony that embodies your way of struggling with these questions.
Please, let us come together as a learning community and social enterprise to propose the ways that going forward we would like to honour, recognize, and participate in this important work.  I am grateful for the opportunity to learn with all of you, and to share these amazing relationships with Indigenous elders and knowledge holders that the work at ChocoSol has allowed me to cultivate over 20 years.  
Today, my thoughts go to my beloved Tojolobal elder and father in the jungle, Don Florentino Gomez.  Don Flor you were a generous and wise man of your word.   You loved the land and the land looked after you.  All those who came to your home were treated with love and respect and shared in your humble hospitality.  I am so sad for your family now 4 generations deep under one house that have lost you to this plane of existence, and now we honour you on our altars and in our hearts, and tell your stories as a way to remember you.  Our little social enterprise and learning community would not have been the same without you and your deep wisdom and friendship.  Our hearts break as they overflow with our love and gratitude, and your deep and traditional way of being remind me of the transformative power of friendship and intercultural solidarity.  May the good soil good heart and good mind of your generous spirit long flourish in this meaningful work and mission that we are undertaking and continue to undertake in your memory.  Today is also our beloved Wayne Roberts birthday, which is now this national holiday.  Wayne's first birthday without him is a bittersweet day, and our beloved elder Wayne would be proud and honoured to share this day.  Wayne reminds me personally to see the beauty and the opportunity in fostering deep and meaningful intercultural relationships as we struggle for truth, reconciliation, and an abundant spiritual ecological future.   Keep these teachings and these elders close to our hearts as thanks giving and the days of the dead roll by, and let us not isolate them to only one day a year.
-Michael Sacco
Lead Goose of the ChocoSol Learning Community and Social Enterprise.
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