Dr. Shauneen Pete is a professor in Leadership Studies at the University of Victoria. She is from Little Pine First Nation in Treaty 6 territory (Saskatchewan, Canada). I am supporting settler students to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of ongoing settler colonialism. My goal is to expand their understanding of Indigenization and decolonization in higher education with a view toward reconciliation. For me, that work must focus on how we view our relationship with land and non-human others.
I went out to my dad's porch where I like to sit and stare at stray cats while making noises to summon them because it felt like the perfect place to engage in this provocation. As I recited what I saw My mind went on a train of thought connecting the words I was saying. I’d note something like the sewer drain and think: drain to rain, rain to water, water to plants, etc. I formed mental venn diagrams of how the different objects around me related to each other and felt more interconnected with the scene as I asserted that I, too, was the gray cat with yellow eyes. When I asked who called me here today, I felt as though the answer was something communicated in a different kind of language. The way patterns emerge in nature can be a way of communicating a message, just like how math is considered the universal language. I thought of what I saw and doodled the imagery that came to mind, connecting everything to each other just as I’d observed everything was related in nature. The result was a bizarre and cluttered tapestry which reflects my mind mapped out onto the world.
Shauneen’s provocation builds awareness of our surroundings and what we can learn from them. Her provocation centers around land as our teacher. When listening to her audio recording it reminded me of guided meditation. The difference was she was guiding me into an awareness of the land around me.
The space I chose for her provocation was my outdoor patio. This space is special to me because it is where I create and where I relax. It is my little slice of nature when I do not have time for a hike or adventure. When listening to her audio recording, I attuned myself to this space. I felt myself become part of this space. I saw my beautiful-raised garden with flowers and new growth stretching toward the sky. I saw the wind chime my mother gifted to me. I saw the table where I sit and have my coffee in the morning. I saw the sculpture I created. I became all these things in which I surrounded myself with.
I believe the point of this exercise was to re-center myself in the present and realign with nature. I could feel my focus shift from the many homework assignments and tasks that needed to be done today to just being. All my hurried thoughts dissipated, and I just existed. I existed within and as part of my special space. The world gets quiet, and you feel a pull from the very earth you are sitting on. In that moment you are a part of that space and nothing else. This is the same feeling I get when I hike a mountain, kayak a river or scuba dive in the ocean. I exist only with and as nature. I am no longer bound by the rules and demands of society. I am this organic being that is part of nature. I am no longer separate from it.
I Am Here
These past few months, I hardly had the chance to go to my favorite places, out of the city. Away from being stuck in my apartment. Always on the go, without a chance to slow down. I did a quick visit to Bullhead City, Arizona, where a few family members live. Right next to the majestic Colorado River. It was nice to really look and appreciate it for the beauty that it is. I’ve got so used to visiting and just driving by, I wasn’t really seeing and listening to nature. My mind is always racing to my daily life schedule. I was called to the river to find peace and connect with the land. To say I was all the things that I saw, I noticed the change in me. I felt peaceful, and relaxed. My current everyday life worries gone. I felt as if I belonged. Not just someone who passes by, not just a visitor. I am part of the beauty of life around me. I AM HERE, IN THE NOW.
I see grandma’s spider web
I see fallen baby leaves
I see three cousin’s the trees
I see father sky in blue
I see my protector rocks
I see my twin shadow
The shift has me thinking I am of all that surrounds me, I am not different but apart, connected to this beautiful existence.
Connecting to land
Soft gentle/tender touches of the wind, the sun warming my right leg, the shadow cooling my left leg, who’s calling me?
The wind with its freeness, begins to sing a melody not only for my ears to hear but my mind body soul and what surrounds me. As long as there is wind life is present.
The shift brings my brother pencil to dance freely with scribbles but not carelessly. A message that takes meaning only for me. The wind has taught me to take flight in the mist of chaos, I take a deep breath…
Close my eyes
Thank you, Axhe’hee’