A holiday message from our Executive Director, Susan Smitten.
I’m writing this on the ferry back to Victoria, following an uplifting and powerful few days of listening and learning with Gitxaala and Gitanyow leadership in Vancouver.
Our Groundswell Mining Justice Summit was one of our first in-person events where we were able to gather in a room in almost three years, it was all I could have hoped for. Seeing your faces and feeling your presence — with folks tuning in via webinar from Nunavut to Nova Scotia to Bella Coola — motivates me to keep striving for a time when we all honour the ancestral stewardship of Indigenous Peoples and their equitable access to justice within a thriving natural environment.
RAVEN has been the longest passion project of my life: 14 years, and counting! Some years keep us running from start to finish with campaigns that are active in court and require intense support and lots of energy.
This past year was different. Instead of a sprint, we experienced a deep, soaking in and spreading out. We have many campaigns that are simmering: cases waiting for judgments, scheduled for hearings, or for the Nations to choose a moment to file and launch. We are no less busy, but the work is more in the background. That can look like preparing webpages and materials for the inevitable moment when it all goes live, meeting with partners and allies to plot strategy and lay plans, and building our capacity as an organisation to be ready to leap once the starting gun pops.
2022 also gave us the space to bring on new staff, complete strategic planning with our board, and build out our newest project: the 10-lesson free online learning platform that we call Home on Native Land.
I’m so proud of our work — in partnership with an Indigenous team of superstars — developing and creating Home on Native Land. The project took nearly three years, a lot of research, and even more time writing and filming. The result, which launches nationally in January, will allow you to hear from Indigenous legal experts whose knowledge flows from a place of enduring generation-spanning commitment. It also creates a space, with Anishnaabe comedian Ryan McMahon conducting interviews, to actually laugh in the discomfort as we learn about our flawed system as we hope for a better future.
For RAVEN, creating and sharing Home on Native Land is us taking a big step towards fulfilling another part of our mandate, which is to provide education about available legal rights and remedies to the general public. As one monthly donor who helped us with an early review of the program wrote:
Given the way that the colonial system is working (or stalling) it seems that the court system is where change is happening…from what I have learned, donating to RAVEN is an act that is open to Canadians who are asking “what can I do?”…These court challenges are for the good of all of us and we should support the cost of that. That is something we can do.
Want early access to Home on Native Land? Become a monthly donor now.
We are close to wrapping up this year – not with a ribbon, but perhaps with some sturdy strips of cedar bark. As of Friday our offices will close to allow our hard-working team to rest and recuperate. I reflect on the last 12 months with gratitude in my heart because even though we saw the loosening of pandemic restrictions, we also saw the tightening of an economy on the brink of recession. And even so, our amazing RAVEN community continued to stand with the Nations we support. “Support through thick and thin” is RAVEN’s promise to Nations, and thanks to you, we are keeping it.
I want to personally thank you for your support of our work, in whatever form that takes in these fraught times. Next year among other things we will be launching two new campaigns in Ontario, standing with Gitxaala and Neskantaga in court hearings, and continuing to work with Beaver Lake Cree Nation as they prepare for their massive legal action to start trial in 2024.
Your donations have, and will continue to help us to change the world, create better laws and ensure Indigenous rights and our planet are protected.
In peace and respect,