I have received a request as Poet Laureate to give a recital at the inauguration of the Courtenay Council. In doing my research for this week’s newsletter on reconciliation, I came across this article which also seems to relate to my poem to the council. In the broader sense reconciliation is not just about reconciling the evils of the past, but it can be about what is happening in the now, and what we want to fashion in the future. We have an opportunity to get away from this thought that we are the superior race trying to soothe an inferior race. We can begin to see the two races as equals with each having a contribution to make to the whole. Our society is great at organizing, building, and expanding, but in the process, we may be losing the humanity that is so evident in the traditional beliefs and values of our indigenous countrymen.

The following is part of the code of ethics and philosophy that was a consensus decision by a group of First Nations Elders from across North America who met for the Four World’s Development Project based at the University of Lethbridge. I have chosen four items that seem to be appropriate for my presentation to the Courtenay Council.

3. Respect the wisdom of people in council. Once you give an idea it no longer belongs to you; it belongs to everyone.

4. Be truthful (with compassion) at all times.

9. To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, or nation are the main purposes for which people are created. True happiness comes to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.

12. Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms: in prayer, in dreams, in solitude and in the words and actions of elders, friends, situations and happenings. (1)

This is the poem I have written for the Council which also seems to be appropriate for the process of reconciliation.


We are together in this, you and I.
We the people have chosen you to lead.
Where you lead we will follow.

When we work side by side
we can do what must be done.
When we choose to work together,
we are a fine-tuned instrument:
we wield a power to do the impossible,
we create compassion out of indifference,
we construct warmth for those left in the cold,
we establish hope in a world dying in despair.

We are emboldened by desire,
to be the best we can be
and to do the best we can do,
to make a place to play
when the work is done,
to create beauty out of devastation,
to build a space for those
who wish only for an opportunity
to feed themselves and be themselves.

It is time to think big thoughts.
It is time to dream big dreams.
We can put aside the voices that would say
we are not good enough to make a difference,
too fragile to hold the overflowing energy,
too week to run the race to the finish line.

But we are guided by a force
much greater than you and I,
a force that we have created
a force that has created us.
We give a part of ourselves to each other,
and, by so doing, we expand
to be yet more than we were.
We become a community
where no man, woman, or child
is ever left behind.

My thoughts go with you.


[1] Stillman, David. Traditional First Nations Code of Ethics: An Ideal. November, 2013.https://davidstillman.blogspot.com/2013/11/traditional-first-nations-code-of.html

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