On a recent walk in a wooded area my wife Pam and I were admiring the Spring wildflowers. Upon our return home we were shocked when she looked online to identify the flowers seen and discovered some of our favourite, beautiful wildflowers are invasive species—WEEDS.
Several days later we were walking on the Mission Creek Greenway and saw a field shimmering in one of these yellow beauties. Weeds seems such a misnomer. A little further along the trail we saw another field beautified by a profusion of invasive blue flowers. Pam commented, “I wonder if the indigenous people view us like an invasive species?”
There is no doubt that we, the offspring of settlers from outside Canada, are not native, but we have flourished numerically to spread over the land and banish those who first loved this land. The indigenous nations respected Mother Earth and were its wise and devoted caretakers.
The settlers, however, saw the land’s richness and declared ownership, and discovered resources that could be raped from the land for tremendous profits. Like invasive plant or animal species, we have changed the ecology of the land and have marginalized its original caretakers.
To our shame we have expected these indigenous peoples to be happy with what was decided was left for them . . . until more valuable resources were discovered to be on those lands. They should move along and not thwart progress and profitability by impeding plans to develop and exploit these newly found treasures. Settlers as an invasive species, weeds? Hmm.
For generations a pattern of exclusion and exploitation has dishonoured the indigenous people of our country and sought to change them to become more like us. How do we even begin to right these wrongs, to live into Reconciliation? How can we make our invasion of their land less noxious?
I do not believe the indigenous peoples are seeking a quick, overnight “fix” of the wrongs, but a shared process of entering reconciliation. They are the keepers of the wisdom and the perspectives that will make this possible. Thus, to begin to live into reconciliation, we must listen, learn and be guided by their wisdom. They will coach us on how to live respectfully with them and with Mother Earth, to avert catastrophic climate change and loss of biodiversity. They will open our eyes to see the spiritual connection uniting all aspects of Creation that we should be respecting and preserving.
Another step toward reconciliation will require us to own their right to live their traditional lifestyle which has sustained and nurtured them for centuries. This will also challenge us to grant them the right to manage and govern their traditional territories, protected from invasive development plans.
It seems weeds can be a beautiful addition to the landscape. May we learn to be so.