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Online Valentine’s gathering explores Indigenous conceptions of love

The three-day series takes place this February 12, 13 and 14
A winter sunset in Tofino and the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. (Westerly File photo)

Teachings on love, conservation, and reconciliation will be shared this Valentine’s Day via a three-day virtual celebration and discussion series hosted by the IISAAK OLAM Foundation and Reconciling Ways of Knowing.

West Coasters can join for free or by donation by visiting:

In Ojibwe language the word Zaagidiwin means love. Eli Enns, event moderator and co-founder of the IISAAK OLAM Foundation, says Zaagidiwin represents an Indigenous concept of love derived from relationships with nature.

“Water always wants to reunite with the ocean. When that river penetrates the lakes and deposits the nutrients at the estuary this is where we find the most biological diversity and abundance in nature. And so when the Anishinabe say, ‘let us have a relationship of Zaagidiwin of love’, they are saying let us have an abundant relationship,” Enns said.

“It’s not transactional. It’s not I win, you lose. It’s let us have a relationship of abundance where we are actually increasing our shared wealth.”

Enns told the Westerly that three big announcements will be made with love or Zaagidiwin over the three-day event.

The IISAAK OLAM Foundation is a nominator for the Earthshot Prize, an award so prestigious its been dubbed the Eco Oscars, and during the opening session on Feb. 12 participants will learn about the public application process and how Canadian Indigenous conservation and land use efforts can make a mark on the world stage.

On Feb. 13, a discussion panel will navigate the new frontier of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) that will be created through dynamic relationships at the watershed level between Indigenous and municipal governments.

“Reconciliation doesn’t happen in hoity-toity conferences with wine and cheese. Where reconciliation has the most realistic traction is at the watershed level where Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities have to collectively live with the results of their decisions. We see each other at the post office or the grocery store every week. That’s were deep, meaningful reconciliation is possible,” said Enns, noting that MLA Josie Osborne and former minister of environment and climate change Catherine McKenna may be gracing the session with their virtual presence.

The Feb. 14 Valentine’s Zaagidiwin Day main event features a panel on Indigenous Love based Economics Theory and Practice with Carol Anne Hilton, Eli Enns and host Dr. Megan Youdelis.

“The word economy is related to the word ecology and ecosystem. These are cousins and they all come from the same root word Oikos, which is Greek,” said Enns.

“This is where the word economy comes from. Oikos means house, but it includes geological systems and hydrological systems. It’s an all-inclusive concept of interconnection. We will be learning about the true understanding of the word economy,” he said.

The IISAAK OLAM Foundation was created in 2017 to share knowledge and build capacity for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). This historical Valentine’s Zaagidiwin Day is a national online event that promises to enlighten attendees about how Indigenous concepts of love can transform our understanding of wellbeing and economy.

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