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As a lifelong settler in Victoria, B.C., I recognize I am a visitor on the traditional territory of the WS’ANEC’ (Saanich), Lkwungen (Songhees), and Wyomilth (Esquimalt) peoples of the Coast Salish Nation. As such, I recognize that my presence on this land is rooted in the system of colonization that gave my ancestors privilege which I continue to enjoy to this day. I choose to recognize this history because much of that same system of colonization persists to this day. This instills a profound sense of responsibility in me to reconcile the lives and culture that were stolen from so many.

As a lifelong student, activist, and artist, my goal is to prioritize decolonization as I work in solidarity to fight for a sustainable future. Part of that action means creating a space to give recognition to the injustice that has taken place and continues today.

Having traveled to 9 countries and living in 3, I have becoming explicitly aware of my culture, history, and privilege. It has shaped the way in which I interact with the world and the responsibility I feel to create a more inclusive place that respects all life. In 2011, I moved to Northern Spain where I learned Spanish and in 2016 I lived in a Puebla, Mexico. These experiences living abroad gave me the skills to see how culture and language shape human reality. In 2014 I traveled to South East Asia, where I saw the impact of industrialization and human power dynamics manifest as poverty, child labour and climate change. These three experiences have been instrumental in the action that I take to fight the injustices so prominent in society.

Despite the many places I’ve lived, growing up in B.C. is an integral part of who I am.  The oldest memories I have are images of my little blond body playing in the trees, swimming in the ocean and walking barefoot in the dirt. My parents had a home on the Saanich Inlet and our regular canoe fishing trips made up our text book west coast lives. I admit this privileged history has been one of the leading reasons why I work to protect the environment, but it wasn’t until 2014 sitting around a small table in a coffee shop with 6 other activists that I realized how important this history is to me.

That is when I realized the power of connections to make change in the world. Those activists showed me how face to face conversations can take binoculars and turn them into mirrors. Since then I’ve hosted art builds, exhibitions and workshops to use art to engage people to take action and give back. I’ve organized auctions, presentations, and rallies to get people to show up and speak up for what they love. And I’ve dug deep into my own experiences to uncover some of the most limiting and eye opening beliefs to gain a better understanding of how important the integrity of my own voice is when taking a leadership role.

Arielle Chiapas 2016