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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Knowledge gained and hearts changed at the HBA Sustainability Certificate field trip

  • Catherine Goncalves
  • |
  • Oct 11, 2019
Knowledge gained and hearts changed at the HBA Sustainability Certificate field trip

Catherine Goncalves is a 2020 HBA candidate enrolled in Ivey’s HBA Sustainability Certificate Program. She attended the certificate field trip on September 27th.

How I stand will not be defined by who I stand against – but rather what I stand for and who I stand with. On September 27th, I stood with the current cohort of sustainability certificate students engaging in powerful conversations and activities centered around Indigenous communities, truth and reconciliation.

An impactful lesson in history

Our morning began with the KAIROS Blanket Exercise where we experienced Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective. From mutual respect and partnership to paternalism and attempted assimilation, we learned about the complex and tragic nature of Canada’s history with Indigenous communities and culture. We began the exercise standing on blankets laid out on the floor to represent Turtle Island – or Canada as it’s now more commonly known. Over time, the blanket representing First Nations’ land became smaller as land was taken and people were removed.

Although I remember learning about the impact of colonization, enfranchisement, residential schools, and the 60s scoop in school, this exercise moved me in a way my textbooks never did. After debriefing our experiences in a talking circle, we moved into smaller groups to discuss possible working towards truth and reconciliation. Our conversations and strategies revolved around creating greater awareness for ongoing issues currently facing Indigenous communities, and ensuring First Nations peoples have representation and decision-making power to engage individuals in meaningful solutions.   

Lessons to be learned from nature

We spent the afternoon at Harris Park with Amanda Kennedy from Positive Voice learning about her resilience in the face of adversity. Although I’ve lived in London for more than 3 years, I had never visited this park. When Amanda instructed us to go on a walk and take notice of our surroundings, I took the opportunity to practice curiosity and gratitude for the beauty around me. When we each returned, we were asked to state what aspects of nature we identified with. Statements such as, “I am the flower that turns towards the sun”, “I am the wind that moves the trees”, and “I am the plants that grow where they’re not supposed to” stood out to me. There are so many lessons we can learn from spending time in and examining nature. After all, don’t we all want to turn towards positivity like the flowers, be change makers like the wind, and rise in adverse environments like the plants?

Learning about myself

The most memorable part of the day for myself was the sweat lodge, led by Bill Hill, Ro'nikonkatste (Standing Strong Spirit) and his son. Bill explained that the sacred heated dome shaped structure we would be entering is a sacred practice that is used to give thanks, heal, purify and gain wisdom. We stood around the fire, both nervous and excited to begin. Although we entered the sweat lodge acquaintances, we left feeling connected in a way I’ve struggled to communicate to others afterwards.

While our morning focused on building relationships with others, sitting in the pitch black and heat of the sweat lodge encouraged me to reflect within myself at a deeper level. Bill asked us, what we were seeking during our first round, and what we needed during the second. I was surprised at how different my own answers to these two questions were. Often times in my own life, I was seeking distance, when what I truly needed was depth.  Rather than seeking adventures far from home, It’s the people and the impact I’m able to make right here, that brings the most meaning to my life.  Even as I strive to improve my immensely imperfect life, one of my favourite things about being human is our capacity to be vulnerable with ourselves and one another, as we were on that day.

For many students at Ivey, the two to three years spent here are periods of change and can often be challenging. Throughout my experience at Ivey, I’ve learned that stepping out of our comfort zones, although uncomfortable is worth doing, and doing often. Each of us was impacted very differently by this exercise, but we were all thankful for being welcomed so fully into Bill’s cultural traditions.

There are so many lessons I learned from this day that I will apply in my professional life. As business leaders, we have a responsibility to bring our humanity, curiosity, and vulnerability with us to work. We have a responsibility to take care of the earth and one another. We have a responsibility to not only see the bottom line, but see with the bottom of our hearts too.