Lead Article

Listening to the Land


“The greatest distance a human will ever travel is the distance between their mind and their heart. When they can make that journey, they will discover what is needed to do the work needed in the world — the work of truth and justice”  

Dr. John Borrows, Anishinaabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Professor of Law

While the world around us may not exactly reflect the post-apocalyptic world written by Yvette Nolan in The Unplugging, it is safe to say that humanity is currently experiencing a time of collective disaster and chaos. Pandemic, climate crisis and war continue to fuel global grief. Not unlike what the characters in Nolan’s play experience, political and societal fractures across the world isolate us from each other, allowing division and even hate to flourish.  

And yet, I have hope. 

Many of us have been encouraged to live our lives separate from each other and disconnected from the natural world around us. As a single mother with a young kid, I see the urgency to close these divides in a new way. In my lifetime I have seen destruction at the hands of governments and corporations. I have seen attempted erasure of whole cultures and communities. I have seen racism and white supremacy reignite hatred in the western world.  

I have also seen people come together to take care of each other. I have seen mutual aid flourish amongst disaster and chaos. I have seen young people emboldened to reconnect to their cultures and uplift wisdom and knowledge held by elders.  

Indigenous culture does not disappear if traditional knowledge is lost. Indigenous peoples are here and they continue to resist despite the apocalypse of the Indian Act, colonization, and the attempted eradication of Indigenous peoples, culture and ways of being.  

As John Borrows expresses, the language of the land and the lessons it teaches us are also still here. If we listen, the lessons are still available to all of us whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous. These ancestral ways of being are rooted in good relations. We cannot go back and undo colonialism, or undo the destruction humanity has inflicted upon the planet. But, we can listen and we can change. The teachings from the land are here for all of us. They can be adapted to what the world needs most now. And, we all have to do the work. 

So, how do we close the distance between our heads and our hearts? And between ourselves and the land? In The Unplugging, Nolan explores this for us: an Indigenous woman and a white woman come together to care for the next generation, despite how the community has exiled them. Can we begin to forgive? Can we change our relationships with each other and to the land? Could intergenerational healing be possible?  

I believe we can. But it will take a lot of trust.  

Amongst all this chaos I have often panicked about my choice to have a kid in these times — but it is actually his enthusiasm and creativity that ignites my hope that he and his generation will find solutions or ways that we haven’t even considered yet. We will have to let go of our own expectations and allow the generation that is here now and coming next to shape culture and ways of being — but we have to give them the tools to thrive and to be able to listen to the land.  

This is where my hope is rooted. When we do come together in this new way, we can move toward a more just and sustainable future. 

Jamie-Leigh Gonzales is a Portuguese and Sḵwxwú7mesh mother living on the stolen lands of the lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ People. She is a co-founder at Grounded Futures: a media production and mentorship collaborative, and a Communications Manager at RAVEN. As an artist, she roots her work in storytelling, collaboration, and trust. She is a mentor and mentee across many disciplines, but most notably is learning from her 3-year-old on how to be a rad human.