Show­case: Open­ing Doors

Trav­el­ling our coun­try — and the rest of the world— brings un­der­stand­ing and knowl­edge

Our Canada - - Features | Departments - by Roseanne Supernault,

Meet an award-win­ning ac­tress who, in the course of her trav­els, spreads a mes­sage of peace and un­der­stand­ing to Abo­rig­i­nal youth.

Does trav­el­ling unite us all as hu­man be­ings or does it make us drift far­ther apart? For many years as a young­ster, I felt con­flicted by the widely ac­cepted be­lief that Canada was a cul­tural mo­saic as op­posed to a melt­ing pot. Although I rev­elled in the no­tion that a space could ex­ist where peo­ple of dif­fer­ent back­grounds could come to­gether and cel­e­brate one another, I also felt this tinge of in­ner con­flict.

I sup­pose that this in­ner con­flict was from the lack of co­he­sion that ex­isted, where I would hear this “mo­saic” con­cept re­peated to me over and over in school, rec pro­grams and the me­dia. It is a con­cept meant to dif­fer­en­ti­ate Canada from other na­tions. But this idea that we were cel­e­brat­ing one another’s cul­tures was not con­sis­tently re­flected in the world around me. I sim­ply had too many neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences due to my be­ing In­dige­nous in Canada. I felt that I stuck out like a sore thumb just for be­ing my­self, or like my pres­ence could make peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able, and thereby made me feel un­com­fort­able.

As I grew, I came to a cross­roads and a ques­tion: Would it truly be pos­si­ble for us to main­tain this con­cept of a mo­saic when so many peo­ple are un­com­fort­able with any­thing that is dif­fer­ent from them and their be­liefs? The mo­saic con­cept is one of beauty, and I would like to see Canada in that light. But it is go­ing to take much ef­fort—from all of us.

I re­main a crit­i­cal thinker but have moved be­yond the con­fines of Edmonton, where I spent so many years of my life, to an ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pan­sion of con­scious­ness through travel.

I’ve loved the amaz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties the craft of act­ing has given me, and be­ing from a small

Métis Set­tle­ment in North­ern Al­berta has re­sulted in a trans­for­ma­tional tra­jec­tory of what many term a “call to con­scious­ness.”

Cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance is a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence in this “cross-pol­li­na­tion” of knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. You will al­ways make mis­takes when trav­el­ling; you are pulling your­self out of your reg­u­lar habits, and you leap from your com­fort zone into the un­known. I see my­self as a mes­sen­ger of these ed­u­ca­tional, some­times awk­ward, ex­pe­ri­ences had abroad: The time I was met with ill re­gard ( and ter­ri­ble ser­vice) in a café in Bu­dapest be­cause the barista thought I was Romani. Or when I got a scold­ing from an In­dige­nous woman for not yet know­ing the nu­anced ex­e­cu­tions that be­long to me as an In­dige­nous woman in a kitchen. Or the time a woman in San Fran­cisco saw that I was hav­ing a bad day with my head hang­ing low, so she told me to al­ways keep my chin up, and sang to me in an an­gelic voice as I cried pub­licly on a train.

This world has opened doors for me and it has changed me for the bet­ter. It has brought me home to Canada, where I see more clearly, where I once saw my ex­pe­ri­ences as iso­lated or unique.

It is these minute ex­pe­ri­ences, which, when we are not pay­ing at­ten­tion with all of our func­tion­ing fac­ul­ties, can be missed, and of­ten are the most nu­anced and great­est lessons of life. These ex­pe­ri­ences teach us how to build bridges in­stead of walls, if we can tol­er­ate the ex­pe­ri­ences them­selves.

As an In­dige­nous per­son who par­takes in the na­tion-to-na­tion re­la­tions that hap­pens in Canada, I de­mand of my­self that I strengthen my tolerance—

that I al­low my brain to hurt from con­fu­sion that’s a by- prod­uct of ed­u­ca­tion (not nec­es­sar­ily in an in­sti­tu­tion) or for my body to feel dis­com­fort from hear­ing things that dif­fer from what­ever un­der­stand­ing I think I’ve had prior to new knowl­edge re­ceived.

At the end of the day, tolerance is learn­ing to ac­cept that you can be wrong; the ego can­not pos­si­bly know ev­ery­thing in this world.

Any one of us who live in Canada can as­pire to­wards tolerance and ex­pan­sion of con­scious­ness through travel, even if it is within Canada. I in­vite you to visit a Na­tive com­mu­nity or visit specif­i­cally with In­dige­nous Peo­ples.

My be­ing In­dige­nous has only ever been im­mensely chal­leng­ing when I am in spe­cific en­vi­ron­ments in Canada. Iron­i­cally, most peo­ple in Canada think I am an im­mi­grant. I used to be of­fended by that be­cause I am so proud to be First Na­tions, but now that I’ve seen some things, it’s usu­ally amus­ing.

Trav­el­ling is one of the ben­e­fits of be­ing an ac­tress. It has al­lowed me to have the worldly ex­pe­ri­ences I de­sired as a young­ster—and, in­ter­est­ingly, be­ing away from my home (Canada) has taught me to have an im­mense ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Canada it­self. We truly are a spe­cial na­tion.

This past year, I trav­elled to France, Spain, Eng­land, Ger­many, Hun­gary, Hawaii, New York, Cal­i­for­nia and Mex­ico. And the list goes on. It was also done on a very fru­gal bud­get!

The work that can be done abroad is also ex­cit­ing. I was able to present my film Maina, which is done in Cree and Inuk­ti­tut, in Ger­many and France. There, I was able to work with youth as well and talk to them about the im­por­tance of tolerance and love. I firmly be­lieve that if we learn to be okay with dis­com­fort, we will be able to make changes in this world with­out us­ing fear, ha­tred or vi­o­lence.

If you see me on so­cial me­dia, I hope that I can in­spire you to take a look out­side your win­dow, a look out­side your 9-to-5, a look out­side of your na­tion. And if not, I hope I see you on a plane or abroad and that you will share your sto­ries with me, and then we can bring them back home to Canada and tell our friends and fam­ily what we learned.

Un­der­stand­ing builds bridges and not walls; it tears down res­i­den­tial schools and ar­chaic so­cial po­lit­i­cal struc­tures; puts clean drink­ing wa­ter of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions be­fore the bot­tom line of dirty en­ergy; ac­tively launches and en­gages in ac­tion of seek­ing MMIW and/or bring­ing their vi­o­la­tors to jus­tice; and brings re­al­iza­tion that our life here on earth might be more valu­able than mere money.

Travel makes us see our place in this world, ex­pands our con­cept of hu­man­ity and life it­self, makes us re­late our is­sues to is­sues of other na­tions on this planet, and can of­ten help us solve them. It makes us re­al­ize that the world is big, but it’s also very small—and we’re all not so dif­fer­ent af­ter all.

Maybe Canada isn’t per­fectly a cul­tural mo­saic yet, but it is prob­a­bly the one place on this planet that has the best chance of be­ing a mo­saic, and we can cer­tainly set an ex­am­ple for other parts of the world.

I’ll see you on that jet plane or a café or rally or con­fer­ence cen­tre or park or museum some­where in this world. Tap my shoul­der and let’s talk. n

Roseanne be­gan trav­el­ling at an early age, here, she’s pic­tured vis­it­ing Ger­many while in high school. She took her first plane ride at age seven (right) to Vic­to­ria.

Clock­wise from top: Giv­ing a mo­ti­va­tional talk to youth in Gift Lake, Alta., med­i­tat­ing on a mountaintop in Ari­zona; at­tend­ing a rally for miss­ing and mur­dered In­dige­nous women in Van­cou­ver.

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