Showcase: Opening Doors
Travelling our country — and the rest of the world— brings understanding and knowledge
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.