Lessons from Indigenous Culture

A Conversation with Lindsay “Swooping Hawk” Kretschmer

June is National Indigenous History Month, a time to reflect on the importance of listening and engaging with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across Canada. 

Surrey Place is committed to increasing Indigenous inclusivity, indigenizing our practices, and building Indigenous partnerships to better work with and serve Indigenous people and communities. 

In honour of this special time of year, we sat down with Lindsay “Swooping Hawk” Kretschmer, Indigenous Strategic Advisor on Indigenous inclusion and reconciliation at Surrey Place, and Executive Director of the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council. 

Thanks for chatting with us, Lindsay! Can you tell us more about National Indigenous History Month and why it’s important to learn about Indigenous peoples’ history? 

Lindsay: National Indigenous History Month, which includes National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, is a time to commemorate and celebrate the First People of this land. It is a time to learn, unlearn and acknowledge our original relationships, agreements, treaties and to deepen our collective awareness about the key historical issues Indigenous people in Canada have faced. We are not a people of the past, but rather a vibrant and present people. This month creates space and brings prominence to the rich contemporary cultures of First Nations, Métis and Inuit today and encourages each of us to be good allies. 

We know that language matters. When is it appropriate to use Indigenous or Aboriginal? 

Lindsay: The terms used to describe the First People of this land have shifted over time. We were once referred to as “Indians,” a term which many believe to have derogatory connotations. Later, the Government of Canada settled on the word “Aboriginal,” which by many accounts is used to describe the “original occupants”, though in 2021 we find ourselves leaning toward the word “Indigenous,” which for many is more widely accepted. 

What lessons can we learn from Indigenous cultures? 

Lindsay: The three primary Indigenous groups recognized in Canada are First Nations, Métis and Inuit. We are a collective of many diverse and sovereign nations, cultures, languages, locations, histories, customs and identities. We must first recognize that no two Indigenous cultures, languages, customs, histories, geographies are the same. However, we do share some common values and world views. We regard each living being as having an important role in the cycle of life, and so we see ourselves as equal, in balance and in harmony with all living things. We have always known that caring for each other, the land, waters, plants, animals, and more is how we could maintain and restore balance with all of Creation and respect for our first mother, the earth. This ideology comes from many generations of seeing, being, knowing and understanding the sacredness of the connection. While difficult to maintain in a modern or urban context, we endeavour to try by walking softly for those future generations yet to arrive, so they do not have to be the caretakers of a mess we leave behind. 

“Lastly, many of us share the view that every person is born with unique and natural gifts, and this help guide us on our journeys toward understanding our roles, responsibilities, and common purpose. We are reminded to express gratitude often, to be kind, honest and to be mindful of reciprocity in all its forms.” 

How can non-Indigenous people support Indigenous peoples in our community?   

Lindsay: There are a couple of steps you can take: 

  1. Be a good human. Pure and simple. Suspend judgement and be open and willing to listen and learn with not only your minds but your hearts. 
  1. Forget everything they told you. Many of us have been trained to respond with the brain, not the heart and spirit, and these are not mutually exclusive. To truly connect with any human or living being, you must be willing and able to do so on a spirit to spirit and heart to heart level. The mind, body and spirit are interrelated, and connection must occur by way of all three in harmony. 
  1. Commit to re-learning and un-learning. Canada failed generations across an entire nation on the true history of Canada. We must work twice as hard to commit to a journey of learning that de-conditions our thinking and expands our minds to see the truth through the eyes and experiences of Indigenous peoples. 
At Surrey Place, we support children with developmental disabilities. What is Jordan’s Principle, and why is it important?   

Lindsay: Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson. He was a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba who was the subject of a jurisdictional dispute between governments who opted to wrangle the financial responsibility of a child’s well-being rather than put the child first. This resulted in the untimely death of Jordan, who, like so many other Indigenous children across Canada, was failed by a discriminatory system that treats children of Indigenous descent differently because of “who they are.” 

In honour of Jordan River Anderson, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, led by child advocate Cindy Blackstock, pushed the federal and provincial governments to create legislation that honours and recognizes the distinct needs and rights of First Nations children. From these hard-fought efforts, Jordan’s Principle was born. 

Jordan’s Principle ensures all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services and supports they need, when they need them. Funding helps with a wide range of health, social and educational needs, including the unique needs that First Nations Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA children and youth and those with disabilities may have. To learn more, visit Surrey Place’s Resource Library

You have been working with Surrey Place for the past year – can you tell us about the focus of your work? 

Lindsay: I have been supporting Surrey Place in training and advising roles for nearly three years. I work with the tremendous people at Surrey Place toward creating space for greater inclusion. We have trained over 460 staff to date, including the Board of Directors on indigenous awareness. I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to work with such amazing people at Surrey Place. 

Thank you for sharing, Lindsay. Any final thoughts? 

Lindsay: It’s my pleasure. I’d like to add that while the steps towards Indigenous inclusion and reconciliation may seem small, changemaking of this magnitude takes time. I believe fully in the process, but more importantly, the people and the commitment that is guiding us on this journey together. We will get there together, and we will do so with love, compassion, understanding and great humility. 

Nia: Wen Kowa 

To learn more about Surrey Place’s commitment towards Indigenous inclusion and reconciliation, read this statement from Terri Hewitt, our CEO.

By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO