Reclamation and Reconnection: Jordan Cahoose Shares Cultural Teachings For Balance and Harmony
“If the disconnect of our language traditions and practices causes disease and illness, then the reclamation of those traditional practices, languages and knowledges creates balance and harmony,” says Jordan Cahoose. He lives in Burnaby but comes from Anahim Lake, a member of Ulkatcho First Nation. He was born in Bella Coola and shares Indigenous style teachings, working with the Native Courtworkers and Counselling Association of BC.
“From my understanding of colonization, the process was to disconnect us from our bundles that kept us being a good relative, and living in a good way and being self-sustaining,” he explains. Cahoose learned about this during his educational journey and his spirit helper has guided him to help work towards linguistic and cultural revitalization in hopes of returning to those ways of living. He shares creation stories to tell about the historic agreements Indigenous people made to be a good relative, live in balance and harmony and give respect and kindness when possible.
“As Indigenous people, we’re responsible for taking care of the land, and sharing the bundles that helped us be a good relative.”
For the work he does, typically high school graduation and a two year social services diploma is needed but some organizations are open to hiring people who are engaged in cultural practice and hold traditional knowledge. His approach as a helper, healer, and leader is based on respect, kindness, sharing, honesty and generosity.
His advice to someone thinking about leaving their community to go learn abroad or travel is to listen to the voice inside them as a guide, like his ancestors have instructed him to do for himself. Growing up, he understood the role of spirit helpers as guides sent by the Creator to create experiences needed to change. Cahoose had some painful experiences that were confusing that he now sees as necessary to receive guidance and to be put on his current path.
“As an Indigenous worker, I just recognize that our people need our languages, our knowledges and our practices to help us feel connected to ourselves and to the community in a good way. As a person who knows that gift, it's my responsibility to share that gift with the people so that they can pass it on,” Cahoose explains.
When he was going to school to prepare him for this work, he found the assignments he received overwhelming and was often late in handing things in. The staff were understanding and lenient, pushing him forward while he was struggling in his program. “They knew that my potential was worth more than the status quo of the curriculum so I received a lot of kindness and respect from the teachers and educators and support, giving recognition of the brain impairment that I have, and how that came to be and how that impacts me,” he recalls. The educators he was learning from recognized the value of what he had to contribute and helped him along so he could pay it forward.
If he could give a message to his younger self, it would be to discourage shaming, blaming and guilting himself and others. “When I think poorly of my relatives, my own spirit pays with retribution,” he shares. Instead of coping with alcohol and drugs, he would encourage himself to meditate and live in the moment, letting go of painful and hurtful thoughts which he feels contributed to his mental health challenges.
It’s a practice he’s still working on and struggling with and he turns to smudge, prayer and song to shift his focus away from what doesn’t serve him. To maintain his mental health, he gives himself kindness and respect, letting go of critical or judgemental thoughts. He tries to focus on processes and relationships instead.
When he needs inspiration, he looks to the guidance he receives from his ancestors,the rocks, the land, the waters and ancestors of other nations. Engaging in Indigenous literature, receiving teachings and internalizing them also provides fuel for him to keep going. He loves learning from the observations of others and sharing stories and practices.
In sharing his own words of inspiration, Cahoose suggests investigating feelings of being triggered and determining if you are actually in danger and to remind yourself that you are safe. At the same time, he encourages validating feelings of danger which can be very real. He believes in acknowledging the reality of the challenges many Indigenous people face with poverty, drugs and violence, seeing no purpose in denying them.
Knowing the disconnect of Indigenous language traditions and practices causes disease and illness, Jordan Cahoose is engaged in the reclamation of those traditional practices, languages and knowledges, with a goal of creating balance and harmony. With respect, kindness, sharing, honesty and generosity, he is helping, healing and leading, as he’s been called to do. Led by his ancestors and spirit helpers, he shares what he knows so that his people can reconnect to their cultural strength.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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