We are More Than Driftwood

Join us every Friday in July and August and learn about the Decoda staff’s summer reading. Today Fanny Romeyn, Decoda’s Controller, is sharing her summer reading pick.

It is a wonderful coincidence that Trish Weatherall and I picked the same book to share. I don’t have to introduce the book as she already has. Instead, I will provide some personal thoughts about the Chief Joseph that I know and what I have learned from Namwayut.

As some of you might know, I have been working with Reconciliation Canada on a part-time basis as its Financial Controller since September 2017.

Before I started working with Reconciliation Canada, I read Chief Dr. Robert Joseph’s profile on their website. I thought it would be a great fortune to work with such a well respected and wise man. But I didn’t know why he was so well regarded. At that point, I only heard a little bit about residential schools. I certainly didn’t know anything about Indigenous people or their culture. To begin with, I felt intimidated being around Chief Joseph. I always tried to behave around him to impress him. He laughed when I told him that later.

My first impression of Chief Joseph was that he was very easy going, had a great sense of humor, liked to have fun, and was a very wise, gentle, and loving person.

I thought he was smart to approach Reconciliation Canada in a respectful way so people would listen to his message. Little did I realize that it isn’t a strategy, but rather who he has become and continues to be.

In Namwayut, Chief Joseph wrote enough about his past experiences in residential school for us to appreciate the damages it has caused in his life. His real message is how he has moved forward and how we all could and should move forward collectively from the past that we share.

He wrote about the people in his life that have helped and shaped him. Chief Joseph talked fondly about his granny and how she taught him that love is the foundation of everything. He learned a great deal from Chief Tom Dawson, who, in my opinion, had the greatest impact on shaping the person he is today. Chief Tom Dawson taught him about work ethic — working hard, avoiding the urge to tackle everything at once, and emphasizing the need to maintain steadiness and perseverance — to stay the course.

Chief Tom Dawson also taught him that, “We are more than driftwood, all my relatives, Namwayut. We are more than driftwood. We have value. We have purpose, all of us in this sacred circle.”

Reconciliation must begin with the self. When Chief Joseph started seeing himself as part of a whole — when he reconciled with himself — everything changed for him. He transformed from a person who did not know love to one who felt only love. A remarkable transformation that he believes we all can do and should do. I guess there is only one way to find out!

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