Into the HEaRt of De-Criminalizing Indigenous Worldviews by Margot Van Sluytman

In prisons in Canada and around the world, a large percentage of criminalized people, who are more often than not, victimized people, Indigenous people make up significant percentages. In a recent *talk I gave, accompanying Indigenous Elder and Artist Philip Cote, we addressed what happens when colonial narratives and patriarchal narratives collide. The result is that our worldviews are shattered. When our worldviews, which are our foundational way of meaning-making, are dismissed, denied, and in the case of
cultural genocide: decimated, our heart health fails. Our bodies, our minds, our souls become disconnected become dissociated. Become imprisoned. Imprisoned in the figurative sense and eventually over time, in the literal sense.

What becomes imperative then, is that we step into re-languaging justice within crucible of feminine and feminist principles, which are awash with HEaRt energy. HEaRt energy that underscores the importance to return to the source of fundamental connection with and to Sawbonna. Sawbonna which is our sharedhumanity. Sawbonna which is a call to action. An action to re-story justice itself. Sawbonna which is keen kindred of The Eighth Fire which Philp, via Indigenous wisdom teaching states is, “Two cultures coming together to make the new people.” The time wHERein Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people begin to journey togetHER with kindness and shared-justice, which is expressed by actions, activity, activism, advocacy, walking together to eradicate brutal injustices that reduce each human and humane
being to seemingly sterile souls. The Eighth Fire is a time of lifting up, lifting out of shame-full and shamefilled habits and ideologies.

Victimized and criminalized people, all of us in fact, share several commonalities. One stark and cherished one is the precious, life-giving, red, beating, beauty-filled, burgeoning HEaRt. A flesh and blood part of our physical bodies, that can be destroyed when our HEaRt health fails. The HEaRt is also an
aspect of our societal psyche, which is seeded, supported, nourished, and ultimately expanded by, for, because of, and with Community.

Our HEaRts’ Wisdom speaks for us and speaks to us, inviting us to ask ourselves how we can address the horrendous injustice of the victimization and criminalization of Indigenous people. Some simple, clear, and effective ways to do this include: to choose to learn tHEiR worldviews; to choose to learn tHEiR
justice structures, tHEiR spiritual beliefs and practices. Further to dismantle the patriarchal systems that as yet make it possible for this atrocity to be perpetuated. In so doing, we can begin to address and to incorporate our learnings from Indigenous people into Western contexts and concepts of justice; tHEReby re-structuring and re-storying the roots of justice itself, stepping into The Eighth Fire in the crucible of Sawbonna.

In the poem below, with which I ended my sharing with Philip, I offer an invitation to enter into this conversation. To enter into the personal, the professional, and the political aspects of how to re-structure and re-story justice with the framework of the HEaRt. The very HEaRt of lived and living shared-humanity.

Into the HEaRt
Into the flame of fired-calling
Our voices lift us.
Our fraught and fragile shames
Transform to light.
Light, fresh as crystalline
New-fallen snow.
As each new step we take
Into the HEaRt of justice
Spells the knowing that
Our HEaRts speak: shared-humanity.
Our HEaRts speak: Sawbonna.
© Margot Van Sluytman, 2023

Links for more information:

The Criminalization of Indigenous World Views: Colonial Narratives

Eighth Fire – This is a film that Philip made with Reverend Anne Hines and their community in which he speaks of the eighth fire

BIO: Margot Van Sluytman is an award-winning Poet and award-winning Therapeutic Writing Mentor, and Justice Activist. She teaches Global Citizenship in the framework of Sawbonna at Centennial College in Toronto, Canada. Her books include: Birthing the Celibate Soul; Sing My Spine-A Response to the Song of Songs; Dance with Your Healing-Tears Let Me Begin to Speak; Breathe Me: Why Poetry Works; Hope is: The Pandemic Poems; Wild Self Real Self: Surrender Not Control; and, How Mining Meaning Leaves its Mark. She is the Poet Laureate of Roncesvalles United Church in Toronto, Canada. She was nominated for Ontario’s First Poet Laureate. In the year 2000 Margot was gifted with the Spirit Name: Raven Speaks.

5 thoughts on “Into the HEaRt of De-Criminalizing Indigenous Worldviews by Margot Van Sluytman”

  1. As a woman with Indigenous roots I have struggled with this question for most of my life as the Outsider. Indigenous peoples learned by observing their elders – the rest of the species that had been here long before humans – because they considered all nature as animate and all species as relatives a heart connection was the tap root that directed behavior. Today we live in a rational/ dead world where abstract thought is privileged over feeling. That we need to marry heart with mind is obvious if we are to survive, but HOW is a question I cannot answer. Every discipline – and most academic institutions are still teaching Plato’s principle – the idea is more real than the thing itself. Thus mind slays body over and over.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The colonial mindset is an estrangement mindset that isolates us from our humanness. More and more, it’s leaving us morally and spiritually bankrupt.
    In turn, the dominant worldview of our society is unsustainable, and the negative effects are becoming more noticeable as time moves on.
    The Christian teachings of the Bible have so much in common with traditional Indigenous teachings.
    Sadly the colonizers had such a distorted understanding of biblical teachings, using those teachings to justify their greed and dominance over other life sustaining cultures.
    I find hope in learning from my Indigenous friends and helping one person at a time to start respecting Indigenous Peoples living among us.
    Change will not happen at the political level unless there is a growing grassroots understanding and will to bring an end to the injustices of the colonial mind set.


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