We actually turn on one another, and hurt one another,’ Okanese says
After a lifetime of rejection, an Oji-Cree woman, originally from Saskatchewan, says her walk across Canada is helping her find a family.
Isabel Okanese started her Miyo-wicehtowin (Living Together in Harmony) Walk on May 5 in Victoria, B.C., where she now lives, and arrived in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Thursday.
Her goal is to help indigenous communities understand the roots of the harmful relationships within them, and work towards healing and unity.
“We’re all affected by the government’s policies and society’s attitudes of marginalizing us and so we actually turn on one each other and hurt one another,” Okanese said.
Okanese does not have status as an Indian and grew up away from her home reserve in Saskatchewan where she said she was bullied by non-aboriginal kids for being ‘Indian’ and ostracized by aboriginal kids for being ‘white.’
‘We need to get back to loving each other’
She said her entire life has been “marred by lateral violence.”
“This is the first time in my life when the aboriginal community has actually accepted me,” Okanese said. “But that’s because I’m going across Canada talking about lateral love and saying, ‘you guys are beautiful, I love you and we need to go back to loving each other.'”
At first, talking about love was outside of the 43-year-old’s comfort zone, she said.
“I feel insecure about talking about love because I didn’t come from a very loving place, how I was raised was not full of love,” she said.
But through prayer, she said, she determined that “lateral love” is the antidote to lateral violence.
“People are actually responding to that quite a lot,” she said. “Every community I go to, they don’t want me to leave. As I move across Canada, I’m actually making a new family for myself.”
The walk has turned into more of a tour of First Nations communities where Okanese gives presentations and shares her message.
She’ll be heading to Mishkeegogamang First Nation in northwestern Ontario this weekend and hopes to complete the walk on November 7 in Halifax.
Miyo-wicehtowin Living In Harmony Together Walk ~ resolving Lateral Violence