When the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould was asked by her constituency youth council about how she overcame discrimination while working for the position that she holds today, she replied, “I was always taught to remember who I was and where I came from. When I say something in a room, I mean it, and I believe in my words completely.” Being proud of your culture can be extremely difficult when society often tells you not to be––whether this is directly, as I would assume it was in the Minister’s case, or indirectly, as I would say in mine, being a minority and owning your culture can be a feat.
Indigenous peoples have been treated atrociously by the Canadian government, and this has been translated into our society immensely. One example of this is the Colten Boushie case, where a young Indigenous boy was murdered at a farm in Saskatchewan in August of 2016, and the man charged with the murder was acquitted. I cannot even begin to comprehend the implications of being an Indigenous person in Canada, and knowing how privileged I am in my position, I am still inspired by the Minister’s words. I understand how difficult it can be to own your culture and background; there have many times in which the education I was receiving in school and through my peers, conflicted with the education I had been receiving from my culture. As I have grown up, I have been presented with the opportunity to build my own base of knowledge according to what I have been exposed to, and this process can easily be perceived as abandoning my culture, or not remembering where I come from.
Finding the balance between becoming an independent person and keeping in touch with cultural roots is something I constantly work on. However, through trial and error, I have noticed that it is a lot easier to own my roots than to resist them. Although I do not identify completely with what I have been taught in terms of my culture, I have learned that instead of pushing these aspects of how I’ve been brought up away, it is more empowering to acknowledge their existences, and to openly choose not to apply them in my way of life. This can seem impossible when familial pressures are present, and I understand that proclaiming a difference of opinion to family members is an unappealing and sometimes unsafe situation to be in. However, it is okay to take your time in finding who you are. It is okay to not explain why you choose to live your life the way you do. Owning where you come from and figuring out who you are today is a very personal journey, and it is one that has the ability to empower people to be their authentic selves, but there is nothing to gain by rushing the process. Slowly but surely, practice accepting who you were, and practice getting to know who you are.