“essential to finding our way forward”

“I come from a ‘red dirt’ poor Southern (mostly) white settler family on my father’s side who are racist towards African Americans yet romanticize their one taproot among the Creek Cherokee people of Georgia. Troubled by these contradictions growing up, and incubated in the ‘Yankee liberal’ sensibilities of my (partly) Jewish mother, I came to recognition of centuries of settler injustice towards Indigenous peoples first through the long ‘red summer’ of the Oka crisis and then through my reading and teaching of Canadian and Indigenous literatures. I was always looking for an organic way to be involved in Indigenous justice movements, yet even in this period of invitations to settlers to witness and participate by the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission website and by the Idle No More movement, I saw so many Settler people not knowing or caring that this call was even out there. The women organizing Niigaan stepped in to this gap to create wonderful opportunities, events, and spaces where Indigenous and Settler people could meet together, learn together, and eat together. I have been to three of their events from the first Niigaan day of Conversation on the way forward, to an Experiential workshop theatre (in partnership with Kairos), to a Talkshow panel with Indigenous activists, lawyers, scholars, and hiphop stars. Niigaan: In Conversation is essential to finding our way forward towards a more just future in which unlearning colonialism becomes mainstream.”

—Professor Brenda Vellino, Theatre and Redress Studies, English Department, Carleton University