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  • Tracy Sherlock

Namwayut book by Chief Robert Joseph a beautiful reconciliation message

Namwayut—We Are All One

A Pathway to Reconciliation

Chief Robert Joseph

Published by Page Two

The title of the book Namwayut means “we are all one” and there could not be a more profound message.

“When we speak the word Namwayut, we are talking about the forests, the animals, those that fly and those that swim in the ocean and the things we can’t see or feel or touch in spirit. That which is everywhere and that which is nowhere.

“Namwayut is a simple little word. It is an old-fashioned greeting. But this word also evokes the universe and the universal. This word evokes the music of the interconnected, the everything that we are together, all of the elements, all of the dimensions of what we know and do not know,” Joseph writes.

If we are all one, all the same, we must love each other and act from love, he writes. Imagine how different the world would be if every action started from love.

Author Chief Robert Joseph is an ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and an honorary witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He’s a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia and has received several honorary degrees, including an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from the University of British Columbia.

When he was just five years old, he was sent to residential school at St. Michaels in Alert Bay, near the northern tip of Vancouver Island. He didn’t speak the language and wasn’t allowed to speak his own Kwak’wala language. It was the first time he had seen a white person up close, and he didn’t understand why he was there or how long he would have to stay. Just thinking of my own children at that age, being torn from their family, their language, their culture is enough to bring tears to my eyes. To think of several generations of children being forced to go through that and worse is truly heartbreaking.

Joseph’s story isn’t always easy to read, but it’s important. When Joseph leaves residential school, his early adulthood is difficult too, with alcohol playing a prominent role, due to unresolved trauma. But he describes a vision early on in the book, one that caused him to stop drinking and take up a different path, getting involved with residential school survivors.

He writes that even though schools are now teaching about residential schools, they often “sanitize” the stories.

“…Even today, there is no reflection on the reality of the dark and hurtful places in life in our schools’ learning modules. We celebrate joy. We recognize history. We learn mathematics. But we do not actually learn about what is truly painful, and what it means to emerge from pain,” he writes. “Until we start talking about it, nothing will change, nothing will improve.”

Joseph describes a path forward toward reconciliation. I encourage anyone hoping to promote that to read this beautiful book.

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