Thursday, June 11, 2015

'Reconciling Our Humanity' with PCWESA guest speaker Dr. Betty Bastien

Dr. Betty Bastien

Toni Lucas

Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter Association held their Annual General Meeting Wednesday June 3 at the Ramada Inn in Pincher Creek with approximately 30 people in attendance. Guest speaker at the event was Dr. Betty Bastien from the University of Calgary - Lethbridge division. Dr. Bastien titled her discussion 'Reconciling Our Humanity'.  She addressed the topics of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and  indigenous practices for holistic health. These are topics Dr. Bastien obviously feels passionate about. "I was made to believe that there was only one definition to 'humanity'," explained Bastien. "It was much later in my life that I realized that different cultures have different interpretations or different definitions of what it is to be human. So our humanity is defined by our cultures."

"In Canada First Nation people only receive acknowledgement and retribution when they go outside of Canada." She said there are currently international pressures to have an inquiry done regarding missing and murdered Aboriginal women. "As a sociology major, I was told 'Don't look for intentions, look for patterns'." She said that across the globe there is a pattern of indigenous women being treated with violence, forced prostitution, sterilization, relocation, denial of services, and poverty that is clearly reflected in Canada. In looking at various groups, and stereotypes that are discriminated against Bastien said, "Aboriginal women continue to hold the bottom of the ladder."

The accompanying power point presentation demonstrated some grim statistics that were grim. "Aboriginal women on a daily basis face all kinds of violence," said Bastien.  She touched on how this breaks down the spirit of the individuals and puts them in positions where they are less and less able to see or seek options or choices. "We ask Why? Why would one group of people be so targeted for such extensive violence historically, and contemporarly?" Abuse leaves more scars than those that are visible. "Our physical bodies can experience the violence, but where it lingers, is in our memories, in our hears, and in our relationships. That's our spirit."

Speaking about how a variety of factors including pollution and climate change are reshaping the planet Bastien said "For decades we have been told that there's ecosystems that are disappearing. That we are now, as a human species we are now at the brink of our own extinction." She said many scientists have tried to bring these concerns to light over years and it has not been made a priority within the culture of humanity. "Yet, we have done nothing. It is because of the narrative that makes meaning of our lives. That's not a narrative that we have accepted, caught in our own lives. Given the narrative of Aboriginal women, their children are removed eight times more, and they account for 69, 73% in Alberta, child welfare. Manitoba, it's 80%. In any other country, in any other situation the population would be asking for inquiries, for immediate changes, to those kind of statistics."

"When I state 'Revisit our Humanity', it's that we're all in trouble. We've severed our connection to the source." Bastien sees this as a larger than an individual issue. "What we see is the stress, the anger, and it really disrupts our connection our synchronization with each other, the environment in which we live, the cosmology in which we find ourselves." Bastien said there is more than one way to look at relationships of any kind. One viewpoint is what can I get from you, how do you further me achieving my goals, and another the strengthening of spirit, one she says is a more traditional aboriginal stance. "It's a state of awareness, of consciousnesses that merges with the greater world, and the cosmos." She said this is experienced and demonstrated through compassion and gratitude, that life was a delicate balance, and it has to be respected. "That will give you joy."

"There's a spiritual intelligence in our bodies." Bastien said this is called 'Ihtsipaitapiiyo'pa', the source of life. She said the human body has approximately 100 trillion cells, that optimally are working together. "There is an instantaneous connection among nature when it's synchronized, and when it's in balance. You know that when you're not in balance, those trillion cells are not in balance, and you're going to feel sick."

She said our bodies are one part of the greater world we are in. "We have these indigenous practices for health and wellness. We look at the relationships between consciousnesses and physical health." Her stance is modern practices have separated the body, mind, and spirit. "Your very thoughts are what creates your world." Bastien maintained that anger, resentment, jealousy, fear, and resentment takes away from the values of respect, love, compassion, generosity, and gratitude. "We advocate towards revitalizing holistic practices." She addressed how aboriginal ceremonies help for the participants to connect "Within the context of what we call the unity conscience".

"There is no separation between what we know, who we are, and what it is that we love." She maintained that wholeness, trust, respect, gratitude, belonging, safety, and experiencing meaningful connections helps one to achieve balance. "You can take 20 years of therapy, and I don't think you'll get to this place. Whereas you can experience it in a ceremony. I did." She had suggestions on how to eat, exercise, sleeping schedules, and creating time for reflection and meditation. "The science of the world, if you want to use that term, is based on interdependent responsibilities. It's not based on individual competition. That's capitalism."

During the question and answer period Bastien was asked how workers could relate to their clients better, help them to assist in their clients to find alignment, and move beyond the cycles that brought them to this phase in their life. "You say you want to know our culture, and when you really get to know what it is, you don't want it. With that opening statement, you have to live it yourself." Bastien said a Blackfoot word explaining it means 'Who I am'. "The very fact that your angry and your resentful, that's your body. Your body is vibrating at that level. If you're creating shame, your vibrating at that level. If you have the narrative that we have that caused the residential schools."

Bastien also spoke about the school system now under scrutiny for the way it treated individuals and tore apart native cultures. "We have these narratives about who indigenous women are. Those narratives are really what is creating the world in which we live." She explained that part of the role of the worker is to assist the individual to transform their own life. "We really need to change our own narrative, and our vibrational content is going to make the difference." Bastien said of the system of social service and the policies currently in place "They foster and perpetuate the disconnection. It really is a lose/lose for everyone. So it really comes back to who we are and how we do our own lives to make a difference in other peoples lives."

"What we are transferring is a narrative of violence.  We are at the point of our own demise. Our humanity, human beings aren't going to survive. What does it take?"

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