I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel and share my perspectives across the world these past few years. After snowboarding, I didn’t really have a huge desire to travel anymore and wanted a more localized lifestyle. But the chance to travel and get to voice my perspectives and concerns regarding my culture and weaving isn’t something that comes along all the time so I take those chances as they arise. I flew over a couple of weeks earlier than my scheduled talk at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Dr. Markus Linder had brought me over with assistance from the Canadian Embassy, after we had met a few years ago at a conference in Berlin.
My boyfriend Alex had flown is from Germany, and flew over a few weeks earlier to tie up loose ends back home. He came and picked me up to go to Jena, where we spent a few days with his family. In planning the trip we stressed at first about where to go because there are so many options in Europe! First we considered driving the coast of France down to Barcelona. In the end we settled on Sardinia, a small island in the North of Italy where the atmosphere is largely relaxed. It was spring times, so blooms were everywhere, and we enjoyed a deeply discounted trip because of the off-season.
I enjoy travelling. It is a luxury in this world to be exposed to other cultures on other continents. In each place it is interesting to compare and contrast what I know and have grown up with back home. In Italy on the island of Sardinia for me what stood out was the way of life on the land. What we often think are stereotypes as Native Americans (pan Indian, I know) are in fact strong parts of the culture that used to exist pre-contact. We don’t identify with them as much because we have had so much of who we used to be taken away, and live such colonized lifestyles. Despite strong ceremonial aspects of our culture, our everyday lives and foods are largely from the dominant society around us. When I was on Sardina, it was amazing to me that those groups of little old men sitting around in some picturesque Italian village actually exist! As does the little old lady with her bonnet and black dress and basket, walking through the village to church. Those are images I’ve seen used on advertising and in Hollywood movies extensively. I always assumed the version of Italy I seen in the media didn’t exist anymore, much in the same way that Native American peoples cultural stereotypes of people riding horses and living in teepees don’t exist anymore to a large degree. In Italy an old traditional world still exists and it is beautiful! People are connected to the culture as it is lived on the land and in everyday life. The traditions related to food are exquisite. That they are able to live out this traditional way of life on their farms and yet co-exist on a world market was fascinating and really beautiful to me. I think that we should have the same cultural privilege and luxury here on the Northwest Coast: to exist in the modern world with our traditional roots, and see them support not only our own way of life but be shared and profitable in terms of a globalized world. What if each village on the coast had their own distinct way of doing fish (we all do), yet we supplied enough for ourselves and for the rest of the world? Instead our fish is mostly owned by a billionaire, who is steadily buying up and out all the licences and percentage of the fishing industry. All of our fish in BC is shipped out to global markets without first taking care of the people from the land it comes from. What if we had our own kind of economy on coastal villages that allowed us to live out our way of life and prosper? I envision a place where elders are put in positions of leadership and teaching the old ways of doing fish, passing it onto the youth. I imagine a place where the independent fishermen who are left on the coast have a venue to sell their product to local distributors who then add value to the traditional food through their ways of processing. I see this as something that could be seriously healing, and celebrated around the world much as we now celebrate artisanal and single estate olive oils, wine, and cheese across France and Italy.
One Day in Rome
On our way back to Frankfurt, Alex scheduled in a one day layover in Rome, as we already had to pass through there. Other than being totally overwhelmed by getting to our accommodations, it felt like I was in Tokyo or somewhere huge and so cool. The apartment buildings were like giant and long standing beings, and there was so much light and it was bustling so much with scooters flying everywhere and people everywhere. We woke up early and found an electric bike rental spot to get around quicker and see some routes. We got lost a few times on the streets, which was fun on bikes, and seen some absolutely incredible architecture. It was far too quick a visit to get much more of a feel for the place than this.
Since 1980 a group of independant scholars have met in a European city to host the American Indian Workshop. This year Dr. Markus Linder of Goethe University settled upon the theme of Knowledge and Self Representation. Through much of my work I enjoy speaking about alternative forms of knowledge or knowing, and I was invited as a Keynote speaker to discuss some perspectives. The other keynote was Susan Sekakuku of the Hopi nation. She has been working for the past five years at forming the Hopi nation’s first self run museum/cultural centre, and is also an established curator and author. It was an honour to meet her and hear her experiences and perspectives. Spending time in the city of Frankfurt was also interesting, as I have never had a chance to do so. Going into the event I was very excited: a group of international scholars all interested in discussing topics that relate to the struggles and histories of those native to the North American continent. Yet I was very sad to see that for such an effort put forth by so many people for so many years that the workshop does not have a very concrete outcome. To what degree does our intellectualizing have a tangible impact? We are all enriched by each others perspectives and work, and I hope the intent is to somehow create change for the better, that results in a richer life for us all. Until next time. 🙂