As I sat in my office today on my break, braiding my hair to get it tidy for the remainder of the day, I was reflecting on the past month, June 2023, National Indigenous History Month, National Indigenous People’s Day which was June 21. As I remove some of the tangles while sitting by an open fire in the rain during the sunrise ceremony prior to heading into my office for the day, I am grateful.
I silently give gratitude to my ancestors who sit with me as I perform this honour. I say honour because so many of our people were not allowed to keep their hair throughout their life. It was taken from them without consent like so many other things sacred to our Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
As I finished my humble act of linking me to my identity, I looked across my desk at my business card that has my given name as well as my spirit name that was found for me in November of last year. In this month of June in the year 2023, I get to have both my names on my business cards. I get to attend a sunrise ceremony before I head into my office and connect with my community in a way that has meaning in my life. And why is that? The teachings that may have otherwise been lost are being shared with us by one who learned them. One who is strong in her journey and has gained knowledge that was almost forgotten.
As a Career Development Professional, I strive in all the work I do to hold the mirror up to those I support to find employment in order to dissipate the fog and to help them see within themselves who they are and what they have inside that can make them strong. Weaving together the four quadrants of well-being that must be in balance for us who are Indigenous to be at balance. I reflect on the business owners, employers, and advocates in the Durham Region who are champions for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and recognize the need to help with the acquisition of knowledge and the understanding that no matter the day, the month, or the chosen event, we must uphold those principles of inclusion, acceptance, and understanding of the diverse backgrounds in which our colleagues, employees, and community partners come from.
I am Indigenous, Irish, and English descended from Newfoundland every day that I walk my path. The way we walk forward in the business community to build trust, resiliency, and retention in employment and support of our Indigenous employees and potential employees is through learning, sensitivity training, active community engagement, and the ability to share who we are in the way we need to, while feeling safe to do so. 365 days of the year not just for 30. Not just in May, June, or September.
We hope that the companies in which we work will engage in calls to action that have meaning and weight behind them and are followed through on. Actions that are seen and felt, coming from a place of deep commitment with the true intention of wanting to know and understand and not just to meet a hiring mandate or check a box.
When we weave the strands of the community together, we are stronger because we have everyone woven together. Offering support, understanding, patience, and shared knowledge. We all benefit and learn when we offer mutual space to witness the organic growth and ability to flourish in a way that is unique to one person or group’s history, philosophies and strategies. Businesses will thrive because they can be proud of their ability to authentically have diverse hires that are an integral part of their organization. Listening to one another to hear and not to respond, but to truly understand. When I think of my vision of how business in Durham Region and Indigenous people is in the future it is bright. When we commit to understanding, we can be strong.
Susan Byrne | Agilec
Katsioianere (She Gathers Flowers by the Water)
Employment Coach/Community Outreach Co-Ordinator