pihêsiwin ᐱᐦᐁᓯᐏᐣ

I need to get serious for a post.

I had a tough conversation at work yesterday about racism.

One of my coworkers had been slurred while out walking in our otherwise beautiful trails… because of his visible ancestry.

Really. I mean… *ugh*

I have a lot of conversations like this recently. Simultaneously not enough talk but sadly too many instances. I guess I should feel good that a work friend feels he can confide, and give me an honest ask of “as a white guy… what the heck is up?

(Not that I have an answer.)

I try to use this blog to write about positive things. After all, like me, I’m sure you have all had enough of folks veering ever-more divisively on political topics throughout your social feeds. But here’s the thing: I go for many walks in the woods, through the trails, around my city, and rarely do I feel fearful. Learning that anyone, but maybe today and particularly a guy who I work with, who is essentially my professional contemporary in position, age, and education, feels threatened walking through those same spaces… that sucks. It compounds the negative and works against the vibe I’m trying to create here.

This morning yet again I was reminded of this.

In a meeting someone suggested, as a election approaches in the fall, that we learn to pronounce our ward names. Over the last couple years, Indigenous Elders and urban Indigenous community members worked to tie some historical indigenous naming to what was previously a numbered collection of electoral districts.

I now live in a ward named pihêsiwin.

Pee - HEY - sa - win

The name pihêsiwin means Land of the Thunderbirds and was given to this ward because from an aerial view it is shaped like a pihêsiw (thunderbird).

These trails I explore, that weave through and between and among the places I work and play and live, they have a long history. My ancestors may have come to live here many, many years ago but on cultural timescales it has been such a short time that I’ve been a part of this space. I share this Cree word, pihêsiwin, because it reminds me of a bigger story hidden among the poplar trees, swimming through the river, and swooping through the skies above me.

I may spend my entire life here. I may live here and call it home. I may hope to shape it and build in it, and enjoy it, but like everyone before me and everyone after me, I’m just passing through. I hope I can leave something of a mark upon this space, but only if that mark builds upon all the great stories that preceded it and made this space what it is today.

More importantly that story takes everyone to write no matter your history, shape, colour, or philosophy, all of us shaping it together. And I like it that way.