Wab Kinew’s book, The Reason You Walk, Viking (Penguin Group) 2015, is a read that will give you a deeper appreciation for the experiences and eventual resignation tendered by The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould. (February 12, 2019) As an indigenous member of parliament much of what it entails being a member of the Liberal Party of Canada went contrary to her cultural roots. Kinew also gives some insight into why she did not simply sign onto another party despite being warmly invited.
Wab Kinew has given us a book with profound insight into living as an indigenous person in a dominant culture in which the quest for mutual understanding can be a life long quest. In the process he shares some insight that is applicable across cultural lines that forms the building blocks for a strong community, namely a strong family.
I asked him to repeat himself.
“If a son helps his father when he is sick, then his son will help him when he is old.”
Ndede had stood by his father in the residential school cemetery all those years ago. In turn , his son and daughters has stood beside him as he walked to the spirit world. Standing for him there, waiting on that side, were his two eldest boys. Now, in this place near the Gulf of Aden, on the other side of the planent from Lake of the Woods, another child stood beside his parent.
We stand by those who came before us, hoping that those who ome after us will honour us in the same way. We love, and we hope to be loved.
Whether we are young or old, whether our skin in light or dark, whether we are man or woman, we share a common humanity and are all headed for a common destiny. That should bind us together more strongly than divisions can push us apart. So long as anything other than love governs our relationship with others, we have work to do.
When the division s win out, we need to work hard and bring that which has been broken apart back together again.
We ought to recognize that our greatest battle is not with one another but with our pain, our our problems, and our flaws.
To be hurt, yet forgive. To do wrong, but forgive yourself. To depart from this world leaving only love. (page 268 Wab Kinew 2015)
Wab Kinew explains the title of the book with four interrelated ideas:
In the little roundhouse in Wauzhushk Onigum, I had been taught the song when I was young. Kwekwekipinessiban explained the lyrics in Anishinaabemowin, and Ndedeiban (‘iban’ is added to the person’s name in referring to them after they have died.) translated the teaching to me. I had been told the four layers of meaning to the words “I am the reason you walk.” delivered as though it is God speaking to you. Now the Creator was speaking to my father.
I am the reason you walk. I created you so that you might walk this earth.
I am the reason you walk. I gave you the motivation so you would continue to walk even when the path became difficult, even seemingly impossible.
I am the reason you walk. I animated you with the driving force called love, which compelled you to help others who had forgotten they were brothers and sisters to take steps back toward one another.
And now, my son, as that journey comes to an end, I am the reason you walk, for I am calling you home. Walk home to me on that everlasting road.
With a loud, echoing drumbeat, I brought the song to an end.
(page 252 Wab Kinew 2015)
Wab Kinew’s vision for the future against the background of colonization and the attempts to take the ‘Indian out of the person’ by way of the genocidal policies of the Indian Act that resulted in the ‘residential school system’ is a complex issue that puts a lot of responsibility on indigenous people.
Challenges remain. First Nations children begin life facing longer odds on the road to success than others, because they lack equal access to education , health care, and social services. We must correct these problems where they exist. Indigenous people must also take more responsibility for our own affairs, which is something most members of my generation strongly believe.
As a result of colonization, many Indigenous peoples have been prevented from contributing fully to our globalized society. Consequently, the Indigenous cultures practised by thoses peoples have not been able toshare their stength, wisdom, and beauty with the rest of the world.
I envision Indigenous people rising above their challenges to become the leaders this world desperately needs. I see them helping to chart the way to a more sustainable society and a more meaningful way of life.
Many solutions to the challenges of our time – from income inequality to environmental degradation – can be found in Indigenous cultures. If we start to see the earth as our mother, we will likely chart a course to a more environmentally friendly way of life.
If we grow up hearing that the chief ought to be the poorest member of the community and that true leadership is about service and sacrifice, we might think harder about income inequality.
And if people on opposite sides of seemingly intractable showdowns over land and resources began to take one another as kin, perhaps we might find peace in situations that we currently consider lost causes.
While there are political and economic lessons to heed, we cannot forget that, at its core, reconciliation is a spiritual and emotional journey.
My heart still aches for the man who walked ahead of me on this path, that man I see now only in visions. (page 266-7 Wab Kinew 2015)