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Embracing a New Norm

By: Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire, Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
February 28, 2022

A teaching from Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire (iskwao/woman), Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation on embracing change and dreaming big.

Wacheeya *speaks in Cree

Hello, my name is Shadow Hawk Woman, and I'm from the Wolf Clan and my ancestry hails from Attawapiskat.

I want to talk to you today about setting a new norm and just what that entails — sounds like a big task, but in actuality it isn't.

To get to that answer, we have to go through a couple of other things, or I want to take you through a couple of other things. It kind of fell into my consciousness, when I was thinking about this:

Is how do we gain courage?

You know that's one of the things we require in heaps whether we recognize it or not, is a ton of courage.

It's taken us a lot of courage to get through all the things that we've gone through over the last two years, all very personal to each individual.

All just as important as anyone else's stuff that they're going through, it's taken a lot of courage to face our fears, to face the isolation, to face all the uncertainty around our health.

All the mistrust of information that we're getting; it takes a lot of courage to keep going, and that's what I want you to understand, is the incredible amount of courage you'll have gathered and used on a day-to-day basis the almost two years that we've been in this pandemic.

And we're going to continue to be affected by the pandemic for some time.

However. If we continue to play it smart, individually and not worry about whether anybody else is doing their due diligence, by taking the vaccine, getting the boosters, wearing a mask whatever — it doesn't matter really what anyone else is doing, what matters is what you're doing to keep yourself safe. 

We really can't depend on anyone else to do that and that is one of the things we've gathered from this; that it really comes down to a personal choice.

And so, make the best choice for yourself. Understand that that's what you're doing anyway, and to get caught up in why others do what they do, what they should or shouldn't be doing is a waste of your valuable energy and certainly a waste of time that they'll never get back.

Our focus now needs to be on our individual lives and our individual success, and if we each do things that will make us successful, my guess it's going to be for the greater good.

You need to recognize and honour all that you've done so that you can really recognize your strength and your abilities — that's confidence.

You need to label confidence, you need to start having chats where you're using your name when talking to yourself and really drive the message home.

“Ah geez Joanne you you've made it here, you're here, look at all that it took, the challenges that you had, Joanne”

Use your name, really talk to yourself, when you're having those thoughts, when we're having that inner dialogue. We certainly have got familiar with that, sometimes that's been the only person around to hear us is ourselves and it's the most powerful person for us to listen to.

So, once again I pass on the message: pay attention to your self-talk — make it positive, we don't need any more negativity, it's all around us.

But you need to make yourself feel confident in your decision making abilities and you doing what's right for you and doing what's right for people that are around you because you're doing what's right for you.

It has a cascade effect and it's the right thing for people around you.

Remember that.

Remember, to put yourself as a priority.

You know, it's interesting, I find it very interesting our work environment.

We have less face-to-face meetings. They've gotten shorter — we used to have two hour meetings that are now one hour meetings, because we're not sharing food and sharing information and checking in with each other, we're just pushing and pushing and pushing and getting through meetings and more meetings, it seems to me twice as many meetings as we've ever had before, but very little personal connection.

So make sure you have a personal connection first with yourself and then know a few people that you can reach out to and just kind of chat, check up with, especially those folks that work with people where you share common knowledge and common experience.

Find your allies within your workplace, you know, everybody no one's right and no one's wrong, you know, some people handle these very difficult situations differently than each other and that's as it should be so we have to pay attention, make sure we're seeking a conversation with someone who can actually have that conversation with it — practicing the art is don't discern knowing what to say to who and when.

The other thing that sets a new norm is, I think we may have forgotten how to dream big.

How to look into the future. How to think about tomorrow, next week, and “gee, what do I want? Where do I want to be in six months from now?” Because we've been so confined and restricted with that, even within that restriction we can still answer those questions.

And it looks like things are going to be opening up for us, where we can go about our day-to-day activities differently; that's the new norm.

There will be masks there will be booster vaccinations, there will be probably maybe another strain that we’lll have to deal with, but if we do what's right for us then we're doing what's right for everyone else, and we have to find a way to be in our life more than sitting and thinking about our life, we need to be in our life.

We need to establish a new norm for ourselves. And to do that, we have to have courage of our convictions.

Don't forget you've already learned together a ton of skills around courage. So, if my one message, if I can boil it down into one sentence, which is hard for me to do as you know, is establish your norm. 

It doesn't have to be like anyone else’s, this is yours, and then get involved with your life, live your life and dream big. That's my hope and my dream for you, myself and all the other people that are around me that I don't know.

So please take care of yourself, please remember to build your confidence by promoting what you're good at within your own mind.

Tell yourself a job well done when you get through all those emails that you wanted to get through today.

Be the person in the back of your mind.

Wishing you a really, really wonderful day and until we talk again I say chi miigwetch, chi miigwetch, chi miigwetch, chi miigwetch, aho, all my relations Hiy Hiy. (Traditional Cree salutation)

Thank you very much. Wacheeya. Bye.