Indigenous Roots Day Keynote Speaker Denise Cole Talks Stewardship and Resistance

"I have to navigate a colonial world that looks at land, water, and lives as resources to be extracted or exploited,” Cole said. 

Memorial University Students’ Union (MUNSU) is hosting Indigenous Roots Day today, as part of their Welcome Weeks 2017 events.

The day will begin with a Drumming, Smudging and Craft Fair on the third level of the University Centre from 11:00am to 3:00pm, followed by a Dream Catcher Making Session in The Landing at 12:00pm. Indigenous Roots Day will finish with a keynote speech by Labrador Land Protector Denise Cole in The Landing (UC3018) at 7:00pm. All of the events are free and open to everyone.

In her speech “Water & Fire: Balancing Stewardship and Resistance in Land Protection from a Two Spirit Point of View” Cole will draw on her own experiences as an Indigenous activist to explore what it means to maintain a connection to the land while also fighting to protect it.

“As someone who is very much involved as a Labrador Land Protector, as an environmentalist and an indigenous person, I believe that I am caretaker of the land and the water and of future generations, but I have to navigate a colonial world that looks at land, water, and lives as resources to be extracted or exploited,” Cole said. 

Cole has been part of the Indigenous-led resistance to the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric project since 2011. She will talk about what it looks like to sustain a resistance movement over a long period of time, and what it means to continue speaking up when people are facing legal reprecussion for peaceful protest.

“We’re trying to light fires of action, and many of us, myself included, are facing charges and are caught up in the court system. How do we make sure that we’re still mentoring and taking our responsibility of stewardship very seriously? How are we making sure that we get out on to the land?” Cole said.

For Cole one of the most challenging things about finding an equilibrium between resistance and stewardship is finding time to prioritize ushering in a new generation of stewards.

“We need to get back to intergenerational thinking and teaching and understanding that we have a responsibility … to inspire and teach and to share. We have to figure out a way to plant seeds and talk with the next generation,” Cole said.

Along with talking about her own experiences, Cole will be opening the discussion up to the audience. She hopes that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come to the event and join the conversation.

“I’m hoping it’ll be a really good interactive session where people are able to connect their life journey with my life journey and see how we share that story. Really all of us are part of a story, and sometimes we forget to slow down and share, we all have a message for each other,” Cole said.

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