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5 Questions for Idealists: Ishbel Munro

5 Questions for Idealists: Ishbel Munro - Idealist Days Blog
Women debriefing after 2019 gathering. Discussing sovereignty.

Ishbel Munro

Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Member of the Idealists of the World Facebook Group Since March 2018

What does it mean to be an idealist?

To be an idealist means dreaming the world can be a better place and working to achieve that. It means even when the odds look horrible for bringing about positive change, that you keep working at it anyway. It means holding hope in your heart. I believe we all have gifts to share. Often society has caused people to lose faith in themselves and so their gifts are not shared. Part of our work is building each other up, providing healing opportunities and chances to stretch and grow in confidence and skills so that we can share our gifts with the world.

When did you realize that you were an idealist? What moment or event sparked your desire to make the world a better place?

I was quite young when I first took action. It was grade 5. I went to the local YWCA and asked for a program for girls in grades 5 and 6. I saw that there were programs for teens and younger ones but nothing for my age. We did crafts, team building, discussed issues. Then when I was 13 I went to an experimental free school in the country. I was already concerned about racism. I learned a lot about social justice issues including attending the trial of 14 priests in Milwaukee who burnt draft cards to save young men from going to Vietnam. We also met with Staunton Lynn in Chicago who was involved in the peace movement. We marched with the Black Panthers in Chicago who were protesting the shooting of a young man by police. Both experiences were huge eye-openers for a 14-year-old. I remember one priest, Fred Ojile, at the trial explaining why he had burnt the draft cards. He said, “You can’t live a half-truth. If you know a truth in your heart, you have to act upon it.” I have strived since then to live my truth–that we can build a better world. We can be the people we dream of being.

What keeps you optimistic, hopeful, and motivated?

I think it is my faith in the Creator that keeps me hopeful. I think it is also in my nature to be optimistic. Since I was young, I believed thoughts and words have power, and so I keep my thoughts and words positive. I have been blessed to see good changes in the world. Back in the 70’s, I was recycling–hardly anyone was then. Now almost everyone does. In the 80’s, I was involved in the struggle for freedom of religion for Indigenous people–that First Nations in Canada could Pray in the prisons with pipes, elders, and sweats. After 5 years, it became a reality. Now I see Indigenous women and other marginalized women becoming empowered, speaking out and leading from the heart. That gives me hope!

What keeps me motivated is that I believe we are at a critical point in human history. There is the climate crisis and too much hate. Juxtaposed to this, we have grassroots people around the world coming together, learning how to shake off the colonial mindset and re-learn the way we are meant to treat each other. We are working to create right relations with all people and all life, to love unconditionally.

5 Questions for Idealists: Ishbel Munro - Idealist Days Blog
Left: Closing Give Away Ceremony dance from May 2019. Right: 1st gathering of Apajo-wla'Matulinej, May 2017.

Do you believe idealism is learned or is it inside of everyone?

Look at a child. They are full of wonder and awe at life. All things are possible. People become negative from learned behaviour, and I believe it can be changed. I have seen Indigenous teenagers who felt little hope and had put up thick barriers to protect themselves. By coming to a culture camp and learning about their traditional ways, even their faces changed. The wonder came back, and they felt proud of who they are. They belonged. They felt positive about life and the future.

What are your long-term goals, and how can the Idealist community help?

My long-term goals are around manifesting and modeling the way the Creator intended us to be–unconditionally loving each other and all life. For me, that work means empowering women to lead from the heart. Women are concerned about future generations and all life. Women think of the impact of decisions in the long term. What will this do to the water in 15 years? I want to see the Clan Mother systems brought back again. We have been working on that for the last three years and are making progress in Wabanaki Territory. Many cultures were matri-cultural before colonialism and this is true around the world.

Goals include having a land-based centre where youth at risk can go and learn about their culture and gifts. A big dream is to have an Indigenous University and one step along the way is to establish a Department of Indigenous Women’s Studies where students get credits for being out on the land learning ancestral knowledge. Another is building healthy sustainable communities through bringing back gardens and harvesting of natural foods. And a very big dream is that there be no more missing and murdered Indigenous women, men and children–this takes causing a societal shift where we root out systemic racism through education.

How can the Idealist Community Help? Learn about whose land you are living on. Who are the original peoples? Whether you are in New Zealand, the highlands of Scotland, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia, or Northern Sweden, learn about them, and how policies have impacted their lives. This is not meant for you to feel guilt, as it is a useless emotion. It is meant so you can have compassion and understand a little why people struggle to live a good life. When you hear someone speak disparagingly against a race or group of people, speak up and help educate others.

Self-reflection is so key. We all have blind spots and need to continue to grow and evolve. My father was a great example of that. If he found himself uncomfortable with a person from a foreign country, he would go out of his way to get to know them and become friends to overcome his prejudice, which back in the 50’s and early 60’s was not very common in North America.