Namwayut―We Are All One Inspires Hope

Join us every Friday in July and August and learn about the Decoda staff’s summer reading picks. Today Trish Weatherall, Decoda’s Communications Specialist, is sharing her summer reading pick.

Namwayut―We Are All One: A Pathway to Reconciliation inspires hope. I recommend this book to all adults and youth, as background to and inspiration for their own path to reconciliation.

Easy to read and just over 200 pages, you feel like the author – Chief Robert Joseph, Hereditary Chief of the Gwawaenuk (gwah-way-ee-nook) people and one of the remaining first-language speakers of Kwak’wala – is sitting beside you, telling his story of trauma, healing, growth and leadership, while sharing the traditions and values of Indigenous culture.

In Namwayut (num-wee-yut), he shares his early traditional life in Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis (quick-wa-sut-uh-nook / hakwuh-meesh) – now called Gilford Island; his confinement and abuse at St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay (‘Yalis); his resulting struggles with alcohol, depression and social skills; and finally, his journey through recovery and to becoming a prominent leader for Indigenous Canadians and reconciliation.

Even with the painful stories, the overall tone of the book is positive and inspiring.

Namwayut means ‘those with whom you are one’ in the Kwak’wala language of the Kwakwaka’wakw (kwalk-walk-ya-walk) Peoples of British Columbia. That all of humanity is connected.

A key moment of learning for me was the significance of the Potlatch, and that ‘we are all one’ is the foundation of Indigenous culture, values and beliefs.

“The Potlatch emerged as an overarching constitutional framework to live by in the community,” Joseph writes. “… Family laws, marriages, and adoptions were ritualized in the Potlatch. Rites of passage were performed. Coming of age rituals for girls were honoured. Births and deaths were marked. Names and dances were placed on family members.

“… Among other things, the Potlatch and its practices through ritual and ceremony taught us to honour universal laws of Namwayut.”

Today, Chief Robert Joseph is ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and chair of the Native American Leadership Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation. He was Executive Director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and an honorary witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He has received the Order of British Columbia and a Indspire Lifetime Achievement Award.

Namwayut builds empathy, understanding and inspiration for reconciliation, for a better Canada for us all.

As Joseph says: “Reconciliation happens where we live and work. Reconciliation happens in what people do to recover from the past. Reconciliation happens from the ground up, the real ground, where we are able to knock on each other’s door, to stop each other on the playground, and say hello.”

Reconciliation belongs to all of us.

To learn more about and support reconciliation, check out the resources below.


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