POSSIBILITY & PANDEMIC Indigenous Wisdom in the Time of Covid-19

Illustration by Mayra Pineda (house) & Isaac Murdoch (landscape)

In the early days of the quarantine, Emilee Gilpin wrote an article for Canada’s National Observer that sparked the idea for an online Indigenous speaker series.

She had interviewed Indigenous leaders from different parts of the world who had gathered in New York City for a conference on climate change.   There seemed to be a general consensus, supported by scientific research, that the pandemic is a direct result of the imbalances in nature caused by human activity on the planet.  A common message was emphasized, that solutions for finding a cure, and for living in balance with the environment can be found in the knowledge that is carried by Indigenous communities and in the biodiversity of their territories (which are currently under threat from the same human practices that led to the pandemic).

Our Indigenous Student Group and Equity Committee at Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies got together online and planned a speaker series to connect our school community with Indigenous knowledge keepers and community builders, as a critical response to the situation we found ourselves in.   We invited a group of respected Elders, storytellers, and leaders from the Toronto Indigenous community and beyond to share what they thought were the most important things educators should be focusing on right now during this time of great reflection while Nature has put everything on pause.  We were thrilled when every person we invited responded with enthusiasm, agreeing to participate in the project.

To watch the talks, click on the images! 


Duke shares his vision for the future of education. He discusses technology, remote viewing, quantum computing, money, the guaranteed annual income, new ways to measure status, and the Food Forest teaching in this first talk during the early days of the quarantine.

The Food Forest Teaching (11:16)
Nyle explains the concept of First Family and shares The Gift of the Stars – a beautiful story passed down to him from his cousin Basil Johnston. Nyle discusses Thunderbird teachings, his experiences of racism in Ontario while growing up in the 90s, and the meaning of his painting entitled “Protection from a Great Sickness.”
Shortly after George Floyd’s murder, we talk with Lee about Black Lives Matter and Black/Indigenous solidarity. Lee explains the culture of racism and the steps we can take to interrupt it. She gives tips from her upcoming book on her approach for using Indigenous pedagogies in her practice.

Isaac discusses how to redefine success, to replace the rights based agenda with a responsibility based agenda, and to work collectively. Isaac explains how his family was impacted by colonial violence, and how the colonial education system was not the right match for the type of learning that he needed. He inspires teachers to work together to lift up the students who will be making positive changes in the near future.

Colonialism & Racism (1:38)
Lee Maracle comes back for a much anticipated second talk, sharing family stories and approaches for writing poetry. She explains behaviours of invader culture, the meaning and importance of being radical, and the transformation process that is required to become a caretaker instead of an invader. She discusses passages from her books My Conversations with Canadians and Hope Matters, provides tips for overcoming fear when confronting systemic racism, and shares insights on police abolition. Thank you Lee Maracle for your guidance!

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