Introducing Levin Chamberlain: RAVEN’s newest Grant Writer and Project Coordinator
As a settler raised on the territories of Secwépemc Nation, Levin spent his childhood in and around an old-growth cedar forests. That helped shape the person he is today and inform his ongoing work in defense of climate justice. After interning with Mosqoy, a non-profit set up through the University of Victoria that works with Indigenous Quechua and Amazonian communities in Peru, Levin felt a disconnection from the Indigenous folks whose territories he grew up on. Wanting to bring his passion for environmental and Indigenous justice to the place he considers home, Levin returned to Canada, which ultimately led to him becoming RAVEN’s newest Grant Writer and Project Coordinator for the Home on Native Land project and other exciting projects coming in 2022.
Keep reading to learn more about Levin and how he’s weaving his passion for justice into his work.
What’s most exciting about working with RAVEN?
“I think what’s most exciting for me, on a personal note, is that all of these years of work and time and effort from so many different people in my circle and with myself feel like it’s all coming together to be for RAVEN. To be of the best service for RAVEN feels like this deep sort of thing that has clicked inside of me. From a societal perspective, RAVEN is really exciting to work for because they’re involved with so many groundbreaking legal cases and are actually funding and helping with creating history in Canada through Aboriginal law, title and rights. So that to me, from a group perspective and a collective perspective is extremely exciting, especially after studying history. It’s like I can see the writing on the wall. So that’s pretty cool.”
What does Indigenous sovereignty mean to you and what does it look like?
“Indigenous sovereignty for me, and what it kind of looks like for me, is for all Indigenous Nations to have the right to self determination. So that means that they have their right to pursue social, cultural and economic means on their traditional title lands without restriction. And that includes restriction from certain colonial governments, like the Canadian government and provincial governments. For centuries, those colonial governments have been giving those rights to certain corporations to go extract resources on stolen land without consent. So I think in going forward and for justice to occur, we need Indigenous Nations to be recognized properly. So their sovereignty holds the laws for the land to be healthy. And with that, we can then find — well, we don’t need to find… we have the solutions to climate change. They’re right there in front of us with Indigenous sovereignty! It’s just recognizing that, and then also providing the time and space for Indigenous Nations to basically hold sovereignty over those resources and sovereignty over the laws that are of the land too. And then bring that into Canadian society.”
What practices do you have that connect you to the Land?
“One of the big ones for me is rock climbing. I really love rock climbing. I’ve been into it for quite a number of years now. And the more that I learn about rock climbing, about being safe on the land, while being in the vertical realm, the more it grounds me. It also has a self-reflection component while I’m on the land. So it’s not even just connecting with the land and the water itself —which I mean, it takes you to absolutely phenomenal and beautiful places, don’t get me wrong — but it’s like a mirror into myself and connecting with myself too. So then with that interface through a sport or through something that I’m doing out on the land, I’m able to connect with so many different aspects of myself So that’s definitely one of the biggest ones for me to connect to land and water as well.”
Are there any specific life experiences that led you to working with RAVEN?
“The thing that I think about the most is my childhood, and how those childhood experiences of being on the land myself, either in the garden with my mom, or just from going around in the forest, even solo a lot of the time, bring a lot of passion into me. Also, when I was a child quite a lot of my teammates in hockey and community members were Indigenous as well. So then learning about their perspectives and not having society’s judgement in the way and just being kids together, I think there’s such a beautiful and raw connection to those people. But then there was also the flip side of how racism would come through during hockey games as a kid and with parents and also, even my own parents’ actions around things. So then, to experience both sides of racism and colonialism and toward Indigenous folks I knew, and just the beauty of these landscapes and those relationships that they have and that I feel like I touched upon that as a kid: that’s kind of how it’s been brought into RAVEN and the rest of my life.”
What is something that brought you joy in 2021?
“2021 was a pretty intense year, kind of like 2020. I definitely have to fish a little bit…but I moved in with my partner this year. And we have a dog together. So, finding and nourishing that family aspect of life is really kind of cool and new to me. Probably one of the best things that happened to me in 2021 was to be able to actually create a family.”