Dawne Fraser (Soaring Eagle) created this article at our
request after delivering an impassioned plea for inclusion
of all "uniquely abled" persons in society during a Talking
Circle at our Spiritual Gathering in 2009. Dawne raised a
number of issues that were new to us, and provoked a great
deal of thought, and we wanted to share it here with you.
Do you see the dogs
first, then the wheelchair, then the person?
Shouldn't we relate to the person first? Experience
inclusion as you relate to the person first, not
their mobility aids.
(Photo of Dawne Fraser)
Discover through the Mi’kmaq tradition, the
living spirit of inclusion. The last frontier within each one's
heart is the generosity of natural inclusion. Everyone is a
uniquely abled person, there are no disabilities! It is a label
of convenience to provide service. This label has perpetuated
the underlying inability of individuals to accept that everyone
is a valued, uniquely abled human being.
Nova Scotians might like to take notice that
in 1998 a law of Accommodation was established in Canada,
extending the human rights laws by ensuring each one of us has
access to all services. This law was established to combat and
reduce unconscious system wide discrimination. However, Nova
Scotia has the highest incidence of persons with limiting unique
ability due to accidents, illness, disabilities, poverty, age,
educational needs, and language access. With this situation Nova
Scotia also has the highest incidence of violence and neglect
against those who are vulnerable. This seems unimaginable when
such kindness, generosity, creativity, industrious, and the
educational goals of diversity reflect the efforts of our
goodness. And so this may be the very reason it is hard to
accept the truth and take inclusion action to remedy the
In 1970, Nova Scotia was Canada's first
province to provide a fully integrated recreation program. It
was designed and the directed by a young Nova Scotian woman (Dawne
Fraser) and modeled natural inclusion on every level. The
program was for deaf or hard of hearing, children, teens and
youth and their hearing peers. Some events were held at Keji
Park and educational activities included aboriginal culture,
land conservation, wildlife habitat, canoeing, camping, fire
making, basket weaving and for full accessibility all activities
were conducted in total communication (ASL, SEE and speech).
Now consider only two of many examples from
around the world, in Canada:
1. Slavery was first abolished in 1834, and
the ongoing re-education of society's expectations has been an
intensive challenging process to reduce racism.
2. The restoration of aboriginal rights
began officially in Canada in 1876, and still our aboriginal
brothers and sisters struggle for natural freedom, beyond the
expectations of conformity and submission.
The last frontier is basic rights for
‘Disabled persons’ officially started in 1998, as per Canadian
Human Rights Commission (S.2: S.15(2) 1998 Duty to Accommodate)
Accommodation is not a courtesy - now it is the law.
The battle for real inclusion is just
beginning for ‘disabled persons’ this past 11 years,
compared to the 175 years of battling slavery and racism. There
are many similarities and differences between disablism and
racism. For example slaves (African and aboriginal) were valued,
whereas those who were disabled were hidden away and had no
social value. Both groups experienced rampant violations against
them, and the vulnerable have no real voice of safety even
‘Disabled persons’ are rising beyond the
obvious social prejudice into a distorted view of inclusion,
which is when the disabled person is treated as a ‘hero’ or
‘loving pet’. This is a reflection of society's search for ‘the
way to value disabled persons’. Many individuals are still
shamed for their differences by ignorance or indifference and
devalued so they can be denied the same privileges as the abled
bodied of language access and physical access to medical and
government services for basic survival.
The right of full accessibility – inclusion
– is an extremely challenging issue to clarify for one's
community because the privileged individual (both abled and
uniquely abled) are often very reluctant to step outside their
comfort zone to truly understand the consequences of racism and
disablism. Many privileged individuals require a very safe
environment for them to see beyond our differences and risk new
behaviours of real inclusion.
The privileged person can never ‘learn
enough’ to satisfy this need for security and to protect
themselves from their own projections to label and alienate
others. The privileged do not need endless information to pad
their comfort zones, rather they need the experience of how to
simply provide attitudinal acceptance.
An explanation to satisfy understanding can
be helpful to relax one’s own fears and cultivate inclusion.
Still it is the suspension of one's judgments in the first
moments of contact, resting in that gap of silent kindness where
natural inclusion spontaneously manifests.
“Natural Inclusion is a spacious
encounter within relationships where true compassion is
experienced and each of us has the rightful opportunity to
independence, communication, learning, employment,
diversity, leisure, relationships, spiritual expression and
the empowerment of real inclusion.” – Dawne Fraser 1990
“By cultivating genuine connections to
each person’s uniqueness, one discovers the essential
essence of real inclusion is beyond words; it is the direct
experience of naturally allowing each uniquely abled
individual to be perceived as a whole person.” – Dawne
call of Soaring Eagle:
Here at Keji - I have always experienced the acceptance of my
Here at Keji - my unique abilities are naturally included as
I honour the Mi’kmaq spirit
Here at Keji - the Keji Gathering embodies the true spirit of
ALL MY RELATIONS.
Dawne Fraser, Sept