For many years, I thought of my ancestors as hard working, salt of the earth pioneers who escaped difficult circumstances in the Old World and carved their new lives into rugged, uninhabited lands. Even when reading books or watching TV shows about the experiences and perspectives of Indigenous people, I wasn’t able to reflect upon how that applied to my own existence.

The history that we’re taught in school focuses on a few hundred years of colonization and erases thousands of years of vibrant cultural history that existed before Europeans arrived. I traveled to Japan because I wanted to experience a culture completely different than my own, not recognizing the cultural diversity all around me.

Opening up to First Nation's culture can come with the facing of uncomfortable truths about our own identities as the inheritors of an oppressive and genocidal power system that continues to this day. It also opens Europeans up to our own loss of culture and spirit through christianization, industrialization and the many tragedies of the 20th century in Europe.