This article discusses the atrocities committed in Residential Schools and may be triggering for some readers. Those seeking support may contact the Office of Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation or Four Directions. For immediate assistance, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.
Kingston Frontenac Public Library (KFPL), in partnership with Queen’s, hosted Clayton Thomas-Müller, author of Listen, Learn and Engage on Mar. 23.
Thomas-Müller spoke to what he calls “the global triple threat,”—the global pandemic, economic recession, and threat of climate change.
“Wherever you are in Canada, when you think about climate change, I think it’s becoming more and more real every day. We even see the corporate media beginning to cover this issue more,” Thomas-Müller said at the event.
In an era characterized by unprecedented access to knowledge, Thomas-Müller said these anxieties aren’t simply experienced on a minute level.
According to him, there are only “seven years left to turn the taps off” on economic frameworks driven by fossil fuels. To capture the urgency of the climate crisis, he pointed to his study and experience in fighting for Indigenous rights and pipelines that threaten sovereignty.
“I wanted to not write a book about my experience necessarily just in the movement, fighting for climate justice, fighting for Indigenous rights, and recognition of those rights, but it was also more directly [tied] to my experience within the world of neo-colonialism,” he said.
“Many of us think we live in this post-colonial, post-racism world, they think that residential school is over when, in reality, the last residential school closed in the late 90s—not too long ago.”
The lasting impacts of residential schools can still be felt today and are part of a massive collective experience that hasn’t ended.
Thomas-Müller added that, despite his achievements, attacks on Indigenous sovereignty and intergenerational trauma have led to deteriorations in his own mental health.
“What it began to do for me, and my own household, is I found myself blinking out—I’d go into autopilot and just not even be present,” Thomas-Müller said.
To alleviate some of the trauma he faced, Thomas-Müller began writing a manuscript, one that was difficult for him to publish.
“Through telling the story, not just through the written book but also digital media assets, I could model a process of normalizing us, as a society, having conversations about hard topics,” he said.
“I talk about domestic, sexual abuse, substance dependency, a lot of things that make people feel uncomfortable, but they are issues in our shared community. I talk about a lot of those things and how I overcame them to still be here today.”
According to Thomas-Müller, young people are propelling restorative models of healing and economic development that aren’t about dominance and power, but also “creation” and “life.”
“A great awakening or a great remembering is happening now,” he said.
“There’s something with the young people today that’s happening, that’s pretty wild […] There’s a level of intersectional analysis, critical race theory that I see young children presenting.”
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