Saturday, February 13, 2010

Totem Poles With Arms Upraised

Day 2

It feels so great to finally begin Vancouver's 17 days of sport! They were kicked off last night by a truly stunning Opening Ceremony. I know, for me, the image of dancers wandering an Emily-Carr style forest left an impression that will last a lifetime.

Particularly of interest, was also the strong aboriginal influence in the ceremony, including a welcome by the Four Host First Nations. This is the first games to ever include indigenous people as a partner in the organization and execution, something that I think Vancouver should be very proud of.

The significance of this partnership was made very clear to me this Thursday, when 500 youth and VIPs gathered at the Vancouver Public Library for the final installment of a series of dialogues with The Governor General. Among these youth, were about 300 aboriginal leaders from across Canada.

Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, as always, was calm and smiling and perfectly poised as she delivered speeches on the truce in both French and English. She personified dignity, even while clapping along as breakdancers flipped in front of her, and she partook in a traditional dance.

Michaelle Jean dancing during the opening of the event

Although the conference was aimed at stressing the ideals of The Olympic Truce, it was soon overtaken by the passionate words of youth who have grown up in environment completely alien to me. Yes, I care about the values of The Tuce, but the throughts expressed also held immense value.

We discussed history. Lots. Discussed residential schools and abuse and Indian Status and assimilation. And we discussed what has emerged from these issues - alcoholism, drug addictions, sexual abuse, a flawed foster care system, rascism, and an AIDS epidemic.

We also had the chance to hear about radical changes that people in that room were carrying out - about young leaders making their mark, learning their language and embracing their culture. Many who spoke were true inspirations.

Having no indigenous blood in me, I felt, naturally, a little out of place. My ancestors did not share the harships that the ancestors of many of the youth in the room did (although mine had their own ones: headtaxes and railroads to build, civil wars and revolutions). However, after speaking with some of the youth there, these differences became less important. I left the event hopefully, understanding that:

We do not share our pasts, but starting the moment we struck a conversation, we have begun to share our futures.

Members of Students Live and Sharing the Dream with
new friends Dallas and Sileema

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