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Global Affairs is Pearson College UWC’s premier speaker series that draws compelling and engaging experts from around the world and from our own backyard. Pearson’s Speaker Series is free and open to everyone. As resources allow, Global Speakers Series events are livestreamed or otherwise made available by the College for a wider audience. We will endeavour to provide advance notice of livestreaming viewing opportunities.

The next event in this series is scheduled for 7 November at 10 am (Pacific Standard Time) in the Max Bell Centre and features tSouke First Nation member kQwat’st’not (Charlene George) together with Sierra Club BC Executive Director Hanna Askew. kQwat’st’not’s interactive art piece, “Through the Watcher’s Eyes,” invites learners to confront the climate crisis by finding a new way of seeing and relating to the natural world.

Later in the month, on 28 November at 2:45 pm (Pacific Standard Time), our speaker will be UVIC paleoanthropologist and rock art researcher Genevieve von Petzinger author of The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World’s Oldest Symbols, TED Senior Fellow, and Anthropologist of Cognitive and Symbolic Evolution in Humans. 

To share some of the flavour of why the Global Affairs Speaker Series is relevant to this campus, we asked Faculty member and Global Politics IB instructor Shefa Siegel if he would share his opening remarks to the September event. Edited highlights follow:

Welcome to Pearson College Global Affairs, our first event of the year. I am Shefa Siegel, a Global Politics instructor here at Pearson, and I am pleased to introduce today’s speaker, Sarah Morales.

Sarah’s talk today is, “stul’nup: The Importance of Place in the Coast Salish World,” and we asked her to start our Lecture Series, this year, to help us situate ourselves in space and in time.

Pearson College UWC is a global Knowledge Community. We come from 80 countries. We are privileged to be able to come together, in a spirit of civic friendship, in a place where we are free to learn, a place that is peaceful, a place where the air is still clean, and a place where, on Sunday mornings, there are two, not just one, but two wafflemakers.

But where are we right now? What is the sense, spirit, history, and culture of this place where we are living?

We are, most of us, guests on this land. The land is the unceded home of the Scia’new Nation. And as guests, our responsibility is to reciprocate by being “good guests.”

To be a “good guest” is to be a “reciprocrator”—not just to take, but to give back. When we do this, we develop what the philosopher James Tully calls virtuous circles of relations, creating a web of gift-and-gratitude-and-reciprocity. One way to contribute to the web of gift-gratitude-reciprocity is through sharing knowledge.

Some of you might be asking: Why do we have something called Global Affairs? What are we hoping to do with our time here?

One kind of answer to this question comes from the famed French historian, Fernand Braudel, who for a large part of his career taught in a college not unlike ours. “Around the age of 18,” Braudel said, “our young people should be initiated into the problems of the society and the economy today, the great cultural conflicts in the world, and the multiplicity of its civilizations.” Global Affairs, for Braudel, was a kind of coming-of-age ritual, a rite of passage into the messy adult world.

A second kind of answer, one that comes more from the heart, is that in gathering together for Global Affairs, we are trying to be “good guests.” We are opening up our community and inviting all our friends and neighbours who may wish to join us, to share some knowledge with us. Sharing knowledge is an act of Reconciliation.

The thing is, if we want to create circles of virtuous relations, then our actions need to be genuinely transformative. We cannot just talk about Reconciliation. For Reconciliation between peoples, and between peoples and the earth, to be transformative, it has to be practiced.

Globally, humanity is entangled in vicious social relations, and the Great Untangling starts with changing the mode, right here, where we are, now. We can’t wait for some other time, or some better place.

In this spirit, and following in the footsteps of the Great Racim, let’s change the mode.

There is an old liturgical poem, in Hebrew, about reconciliation between humanity and the earth—a song offered every Lunar New Year on the Jewish calendar, which this year falls this coming Monday.

The poem is an annual reminder that, contrary to everything we study together in Global Politics, no human is ultimately sovereign over the earth. Instead, we are all guests on the earth, and it is the earth that is sovereign over all of us.

It goes:

All the sweetness and splendor of the Earth,

Should be sovereign within and around us.

All the Actions and the Forms of our humanity,

Should be indistinguishable from those of the Earth:

Our hearts pure and ready for this endless moment.

Our guest today, Sarah Morales, is Coast Salish, a member of Cowichan Tribes, and is a professor of Aboriginal Law, Indigenous legal traditions, and international human rights at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law.

Her research concentrates on Indigenous legal traditions, specifically the traditions of the Coast Salish people. She is committed to the recognition and reconciliation of Indigenous legal traditions with the common law and civil law traditions in Canada.

She is also actively involved with Indigenous nations and non-governmental organizations across Canada through her work in nation building, inherent rights recognition and international human rights law.

Her community-based research has resulted in the creation of policies and procedures that are reflective of the laws and legal orders of the communities that utilize them.

Thank you, Sarah, for coming out to Pearson College to be with us this afternoon. We are grateful for the opportunity to learn with and from you.

Please welcome, Sarah Morales.