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Two-eared listening

Gathering an opportunity to listen to Indigenous life experiences in N.L.

By Jared Hogan and Sarah McDonald

It’s time to listen deeply to Indigenous people of this province.

Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples throughout the world have practised deep listening and restorative justice in the building of strong, honest relationships. The benefits of this practice cannot be understated.

An innovative upcoming event offers an opportunity for participants to learn about and practice authentic “two-eared listening.”

Two-Eared Listening for Deeper Understanding: Restorative Justice in Newfoundland and Labrador is a gathering that seeks to emphasize the importance of community-led justice and Indigenization in Western governance.

The event will take place from Nov. 18-20 at the Emera Innovation Exchange Conference Centre at Signal Hill Campus, with the added option to attend via Zoom.

‘Authentic Indigenous leadership’

This collaborative event, led by Chief Mi’sel Joe and informed by other Indigenous leaders and elders from throughout the province, offers an immersive experience in restorative justice along with musical performances, shared meals and meaningful keynote addresses.

Dr. Dorothy Vaandering wears a blue jacket with grass and cliffs behind.
Dr. Dorothy Vaandering
Photo: Submitted

“This gathering aims to help attendees explore the roots and practices of restorative justice by amplifying the voices of Indigenous Peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador and allowing for authentic Indigenous leadership,” said Dr. Dorothy Vaandering, a non-Indigenous researcher and associate professor, Faculty of Education.

Indigenous elders, Indigenous leaders and various leaders within the provincial Justice, Community and Education departments will speak on the inequities faced by Indigenous Peoples in the province and their insights for living in more just and relational ways.

Speakers include Indigenous Elders Jean Crane, Emma Reelis, Ellen Ford, Calvin White, and Elizabeth Penashue; Indigenous leaders Chief Mi’sel Joe, Chief Brendan Mitchell, and Catherine Fagan; community leader Sheila O’Neill; justice leaders Judge James Igloliorte and Andrew John; education leader Kanani Davis; Premier Andrew Furey; provincial ministers John Hogan, Tom Osborne and Lisa Dempster; and Dr. Florentine Strzelczyk, provost and vice-president (academic) will also be in attendance.

Restorative justice

The restorative justice movement is steeped in teachings and traditions from Indigenous peoples of North America and beyond.

Restorative justice advocates challenge themselves to focus on interconnectedness and deep listening as foundational to the practice of restorative justice.

“This [approach] is critical as we need to understand that restorative justice begins by nurturing the capacity of people to engage with one another and their environment in a manner that supports and respects the inherent dignity and worth of all,” said Dr. Vaandering.

Two-eared listening

Traditional Indigenous knowledge passed down by elders teaches that we all have two ears and one mouth so that people listen twice as much as they talk.

Saqamaw Mi’sel Joe explains this as “participants listening deeply with the intention of learning and understanding. Deep listening requires the listener to receive new information through an open mind and to suspend judgment with an open heart.”

Two-eared listening is integral to the practice of restorative justice that has been and continues to be central to a way of life in many Indigenous groups throughout the world. It must become integral to the Western perspective of restorative justice going forward.

This gathering is an opportunity to learn and practise this deep listening.

In so doing, the goal is to bring Newfoundland and Labrador closer to meeting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations 27, 28, 31, 42, 60, 61 (i-iv), 62 (i-iv) and 63 (i-iv).

Community partnerships

Led by Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Miawpukek First Nation and informed by a committee of Indigenous advisors, Two-Eared Listening: Restorative Justice in Newfoundland and Labrador is a collaborative effort between Miawpukek First Nation, Relationships First – Restorative Justice Consortium and Memorial University.

Co-applicants include Drs. Dorothy Vaandering, Suliamon Giwa, Rosemary Ricciardelli, Sylvia Moore and Joelle Rodway.

“By working together and listening with two-ears, an opportunity for Newfoundland and Labrador has been created that is fundamentally rooted in Indigenous pedagogy and leadership crucial to Indigenizing modern governance that could lead us all closer to true reconciliation and healing,” said Dr. Vaandering.

For more information and to register, please visit online or email twoearedlistening@gmail.com.

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