Written by Charlene Hellson, WAVAW Aboriginal Women’s Counsellor
WAVAW was invited to Alberta to share our Decolonizing Praxis at the Knowledge Exchange on Supporting Families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women at the conference panel hosted by the Policy Centre for Victims Issues. We were also invited to deliver a 90 minute session the following day at the ‘Exploring Challenges/Creating Solutions: Supporting Families of Missing & Murdered Persons Conference’ hosted by the Edmonton Police Service.
Rebecca Brass, the counsellor for families of Missing & Murdered Women, and myself, Charlene Hellson, Aboriginal Women’s Counsellor, had the great honour of representing WAVAW and herstory of Decolonizing Praxis. The responsibility to carry and transfer this precious knowledge was at once exhilarating and intimidating. Rebecca and I are new to WAVAW…would we be able to respond to challenging questions? However to be entrusted with this important task was empowering. This was to be an important part of our WAVAW journey.
At the panel presentations, we awaited our turn listening to Q & A…a young Indigenous woman stood up, took the microphone, and articulately challenged a presenter. This set our nerves off, but we grounded ourselves, and conveyed our message clearly, and were met with supportive comments instead of challenges. One woman stood and shared her story of coming upon by chance the Downtown Eastside Smudge Ceremony when she was visiting Vancouver and how amazing it was to witness and experience WAVAW’s Decolonizing Praxis in action. A police officer commented on the definition of Decolonization that our Clinical Supervisor offered before we left: “Decolonization is unlearning Colonization…it’s changing the conversation from ‘us and them’ to ‘we’”. This definition resonated so deeply for him that he was moved to tears. The opening keynote for the conference was delivered by Native Women’s Association president Dr. Dawn Lavall-Harvard. She reminded us that as Indigenous women we are born with a cause. We were moved and inspired.
The next day we delivered a powerful 90 minute session to a full room, although the room was hot, our audience was engaged because we were proud to promote WAVAW Decolonizing Praxis, and proud to call ourselves WAVAW women.