Ep.65 - Decolonizing Identity & 'Capital-C' Cult Recovery | Aleyah-Erin Lennon - Part 1 of 2Candice is back on the main feed, asking for help as she deconstructs the striking overlap between cult dynamics and colonial harm. Inspired by the work of BIPOC educators and anti-racism activists, she explores how social location factors into collective cult recovery. Then, artist, activist, and educator, Aleyah-Erin Lennon joins Candice for the first half of a two-part conversation that explores what it might mean, if we, as white women in the world were to take radical responsibility. Aleyah identifies as a second-generation diasporic Irish descendant and white settler Canadian who has lived her entire life in the territories of Anishinaabeg nations. She has been privileged to work alongside and learn from Indigenous communities across the Great Lakes region for the last 15 years in service to their ecological and educational visions. Together, Aleyah and Candice explore what unconscious colonial identities have in common with the cult mindset, picking apart what it might actually mean to break free from the cult of whiteness. Aleyah shares about her background and how a search for spiritual community inspired her to take up decolonizing identity work, and she cites the wisdom of Indigenous mentors who have generously offered their consent and support for this conversation. Decolonization is defined in the context of intergenerational healing on all sides of the colonial and racial divide. Aleyah shares how a threefold methodology of deep listening, critical self-reflection, and embodied action can guide us toward relational accountability. Aleyah shares how reclaiming a connection to her ancestral roots has been pivotal to her living activism and points to how we all might find a deeper sense of meaning and recovery as we grapple with where we’re headed.

Aleyah-Erin Lennon (she/her) is a scholar, speaker, poet and musician. Through an anti-colonial and trauma-informed lens, her focus is on healing the disconnection and abuses in the trilogy of our relationships to Self, Others, and Land. Created in partnership with Indigenous Elders, knowledge holders, and friends, her published work weaves diverse cultural narratives, story sharing, and poetry into a landscape of questions concerning our sense of identity and belonging.

Referenced in this episode:

Ep.65 - Decolonizing Identity & 'Capital-C' Cult Recovery | Aleyah-Erin Lennon - Part 1 of 2

Candice Schutter: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of The Deeper Pulse and the continuation of the 'cult'ure series.
Before we dig into this week's content, I'd like to, once again thank patrons of the pod whose monthly donations make this work possible and help to keep the main feed of this podcast ad free.
Bonus conversations continue to roll out over on Patreon in the ongoing Deconstructing Dogma bonus series, which is getting meatier by the moment as more and more of you are showing up to take this 'cult'ure series content even deeper.
It's a space to gather and access all the extras for as little as $5 a month. Patreon memberships can be canceled at any time with zero questions asked.
 Last week I dropped the second half of a two-part conversation with former 'Org' [00:01:00] trainer, Jill Pagano. In this latest bonus episode she shares about the "lost years" she spent investing time and loads of money in a one-sided business model that never really panned out. Jill is infusing a lot of courage into this larger conversation, and she's been doing her own accountability and repair work publicly.
And if you'd like to listen in, head over to patreon.com/thedeeperpulse.
All righty, onward.
Please be advised today's episode contains reference to cultic abuse, systemic inequities, and racial trauma. Listen with care.
 It's really great to be back on the main feed with you, and I would love to say that I've returned to the mic well rested, but the truth is, things have been pretty busy behind the scenes as I've been playing catch up on production and fielding growing correspondence with listeners. I do my very [00:02:00] best to respond thoughtfully to each message. Because I care. And also because I know what it feels like when this work hits you smack dab in the face outta nowhere. I've been there. Let's not forget that I'm pretty new to all of this, too.
In fact, everything I've shared over the past year or so has been me learning in real time with you as my witness, paying forward knowledge borrowed from others.
So yeah, it wasn't all that long ago that I was simply reeling around all of this cult recovery content. So I'd like to offer a gentle reminder, especially for anyone who is somewhat new to deconstructing wellness culture indoctrination. The topics covered in these episodes can be activating. Binging this content may not be the best idea. It's important to remember that our mental health matters most, and that when we are dysregulated, we're not even fully receiving the information we hear.
[00:03:00] If, while listening to The Deeper Pulse content, you begin to feel emotionally overwhelmed, or if you catch yourself spinning out in regards to what's being said, please take care and step away. Take a literal breather and a timeout. And should those feelings persist, please consider seeking the support of a mental health professional.
There's no shame in asking for help. In fact, shame tends to cling to us most when we don't. Therapy has been a personal godsend for me. And it's really thanks to the therapeutic work that I've done over many, many years that I'm even able to have these conversations week after week in real time.
And really, in full transparency, I'm saying all of this right now due to the recent surge in listenership and the fact that the demand for support is beginning to exceed my capacity.
 Okay. PSA over.
Thanks for hearing me on all that.
Today we are shifting our attention away from the Org and [00:04:00] the go-to topic of wellness culture in general, because I wanna take some time to zoom out. Way out.
For a long time now, I've been longing to shine a light on where I suspect all of this culty business first originated. I mean, why is culty culture so damn prevalent?
Human nature to be sure, but that's just the lazy answer.
What about intergenerational systems of influence that have been shaping the collective cult psyche and our ongoing behavior for centuries?
Small group cult dynamics are really, in many ways microcosmic reflections of more systemic cultural biases. In the mainstream, cultiness very often shows up through internalized prejudices - racism, sexism, ableism, isms of all sorts that have been passed down for generations through supremacist [00:05:00] cult community credo.
While we've certainly had our high points, human history is by and large a collection of traumas. Many of which, sadly, are history books whitewash and or don't even dare speak of. Trauma and shame without a voice poisons connection. And so it's really no wonder that as a human culture we continually repeat the same old patterns of oppression, just dressed up in modern garb.
One of the ways we do this is through both conscious and unconscious reinforcement of social hierarchies. This higher-up lower-than cult mindset is ubiquitous in modern culture and social media clicks aren't helping.
In this day and age, leaders and influencers can buy into a system that leverages visibility to mobilize and radicalize more people than ever. It's a modern souped up version of cult creation, but it's the same formula. Manipulate love bomb [00:06:00] loyalty, weaponize value-driven beliefs, and then use them to justify the dehumanization of others.
This sort of culty BS has been going on for centuries, and I would argue that it was cult dynamics that fueled the colonial mindset. That explain why the land that I live on was stolen via cultural genocide and the attempted erasure of indigenous populations, which has since evolved into a more invisible violence. Occurring systemically in my backyard and globally.
And there are many other examples. Legislation removing a human's right through their own bodily autonomy. Racial profiling, and the militarization of law enforcement. Widening divisions between red states and blue states in the un-United States of America. Tone policing of progressive social activism, and the ongoing destruction of planet Earth. The list goes on and on and on.
And [00:07:00] I'm not trying to be a downer here. I'm simply naming the facts that when it comes to collective cult recovery, the stakes are really fucking high.
And as we've seen repeatedly, regardless of the role we play, leader, follower, inner circle enabler. The storyline is very often the same.
So I guess I'm suggesting that the small-c cult experiences that we've been exploring throughout this series, that they might just be behavioral reenactments of collective colonial trauma. Similar to how we can repeat patterns that we experienced within our families of origin in our subsequent romantic partnerships, so too, do we cycle again and again back through our collective dysfunctions.
Things like racism, sexism, ableism, classism, heterosexism; again, the list goes on and on. These socially constructed frameworks are culty because they quite [00:08:00] literally dictate who has more power over whom, what, when, and for how long. And until we do the hard work of dismantling these oppressive ideologies, both internally and systemically, these biases will continue to operate reflexively in the background of all of our daily interactions. And in this way, we are each one of us, reinforcing longstanding colonial power over dynamics.
And when I say 'us', in this instance, I am very much speaking as a white woman.
Race is going to be an important part of today's discussion. And it is a topic that may be triggering for some white skin folks who are listening. If that happens to be you, and remember, I'm in the feels with you here. If you're already feeling squeamish and lead bellied around even the mention of this topic, I wanna invite you to consider overriding any urge you might have to skip over this episode. Because today, my [00:09:00] guest and I are speaking as white women, and we're speaking directly to you.
And also, and again I'm speaking through a cult recovery lens here, I wanna remind you that your feelings are very much to be expected. Make no mistake, race is a culty social construct that like it or not, we have been conditioned to buy into. And the impulse to back away when we're invited to look our indoctrination square in the eye, it's perfectly normal.
Very much like the first time, and probably even the eleventy-first time, someone said to me, hey, Candice, I think that group that you're in is pretty damn culty. I was like, nuh, uh, no way. I took great offense even to the suggestion of such a thing, and rather than engaging in self-inquiry around it all, I pushed back hard. And then I dug my head deeper into the sand in denial.
This is part of the process. Cognitive dissonance is real, y'all. It's the [00:10:00] self-protective reflex that kicks in when our strongly held beliefs are challenged. And it often looks like an urge to bolt, rather than to turn and look at the internal tension that results when new, and often more complex, information is presented to us.
Because the cult mindset is by definition very fixed. It doesn't much like being challenged. So when our blind spots are illuminated in new ways that run counter to our view of ourselves and our place in the world, it's pretty natural to feel some resistance.
And I'm really hoping that acknowledgement of this fact is enough to encourage you to stick around, because this conversation connects to the very heart and soul of this series.
I wanna talk for a moment about social position. Social position, which is sometimes also referred to as social location, refers to our personal placement in a specific culture or social hierarchy. [00:11:00] When we understand and name our social location, we are able to speak with great clarity about privilege and/or our lack thereof.
 Privilege is by definition, culty AF. It's defined as, "unearned access or advantage that has been granted to specific groups of people because of their membership in a social group." And it's important to note here that privilege isn't awoke culture soundbite or even a belief. It's a quantifiable measure of very real systemic inequity. See the show notes if you'd like a link to an article that features some of that data.
The point is proximity to privilege quite literally matters, as it relates to gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic class, physical health, and body size, just to name a few.
Obviously, or at least I hope it's pretty freaking obvious, there is [00:12:00] nothing inherently better or worse when it comes to the granulation within each of these categories. But like it or not, and whether you choose to believe it or not, capital-c cult hierarchies grant privilege to some more than others.
 The patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism. Many of us unconsciously shape our lives and our expressions around these culty cultural ideals, which were long ago defined by angry white men in power. And when we do so, whether we mean to or not, we reinforce systems of colonial oppression.
And contrary to what's been written in self-help circles and new age gospels, good intentions do not always lead to positive results. In fact, more often than not, this overemphasis on intention results in a sort of apathy when it comes to actual on the ground impact. And in many cases, and I'm, I'm speaking for myself here, we're just repeating the same culty [00:13:00] bullshit, just all cloaked in love and light.
For nearly two decades, and in the name of wellness and empowerment, I personally and professionally reinforced white women in wellness fitness ideals that center white supremacist metrics, appropriate indigenous teachings and inadvertently, and sometimes explicitly, body shame those who don't fit into a purity obsessed, fat phobic narrative of what thin white folks call quote unquote health.
That's a lot, right? And, and this is what I mean when I say that we're all in collective cult recovery. And that the more privilege and proximity to power that we possess, the more culty indoctrination we have internalized, that we must untangle ourselves from. And understanding our social location helps us to determine to what degree we're benefiting from, or are being disenfranchised by, these capital C cult dynamics.
[00:14:00] In 1989, Columbia Law School Professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality, which essentially refers to how to or more social constructs intersect to shape our social location. So, for example, due to many intersecting systems of oppression, a Black trans woman, simply based on her God-given identity, is at an exponentially greater risk of harassment, discrimination, and violence, than your average white cis woman living in suburban America. Both of these women might carry a can of mace in their purse, but one runs a statistically higher risk of attack. That's just a fact.
And since I'm speaking as a white woman to a mostly white women in wellness audience, I want to just for a moment, touch upon my own social location.
I am a white, thin, middle class, able-bodied, hetero-passing, cis woman who was born in the United States of America, where I have been able to [00:15:00] leverage my social position to achieve status and upward class mobility.
Acknowledgement of my unearned privilege does not in any way discount from all of the hard work I've done. Nor does it suggest that my life has been without hardship. I suffered childhood abandonment, sexual abuse, and developmental trauma. I grew up in a low-income family with a raging alcoholic stepdad who was doing the best he could after serving two terms in the Vietnam War. I was the treasured daughter of a young mother who felt she had no choice but to stay put in a dysfunctional marriage. I ended up with a panic disorder at age 16 and complex PTSD was my diagnosis later in life.
Life wasn't easy, but, and also my life wasn't made even harder due to the color of my skin, the shape of my body, or an undiagnosed learning disability, for example. Some shit happened to me, yeah. But relatively speaking, I grew up with considerable privilege. There were a great [00:16:00] many things I was able to take entirely for granted. Things like food, shelter, physical safety, positive loving attention, social acceptance, higher education, healthcare, mental health treatment. And when push came to shove, my looks, blonde hair and blue eyes granted me the unearned benefit of the doubt.
And that's the thing about privilege. It's when we have it that we're the most blind to it. When life is working for us and 'our people,' we tend to not notice how others are faring. Or I guess it's more honest and accurate to say that we pretend not to notice because naming and acknowledging systemic harm very often comes at a personal cost.
And here's again, where the invisible cult mechanics are at work. When it comes to cult hierarchies, anytime we advocate for those in a different social location than us, we compromise said position. And we're very often gaslit, shamed and silenced.
This is [00:17:00] both a very big and a very small deal, and I'll tell you why. It's a big deal because belonging is so critical to a sense of grounding in this world.
But the fear of being socially outcast for standing up for what we believe, that's a fear that is entirely surmountable. We can open our eyes to privilege, override internal resistance and social indoctrination, and develop the psychological capacity to take on the, relatively speaking very minimal risk, that we need to take on in order to stand up for those who are experiencing harm.
Doing the right thing often comes at a cost, and it's a price worth paying. Especially in this case, because saving face isn't anywhere near as important as saving lives. We're talking about patterns of systemic oppression here, which quite literally means that people's lives are on the line.
And so truth be told, it's with more than a little [00:18:00] trepidation that I'm stepping into conversations around these topics. But similar to when I first started my cult recovery journey, I feel more committed to the truth than to the cult minded identities that have kept me silent around these topics for so long.
And so I'm going to embrace the imperfection around everything I just said and lead us into this conversation with one more quick definition, which is around the topic of decolonization.
Now, I wanna say that my guest is going to speak to this, and she has far more expertise in this area than I do. But I wanna make a quick attempt at defining this concept in ways that directly relate to the work that we've been doing throughout the 'cult'ure series.
Colonialism isn't just something out of a history book. It's an ongoing global project, and I would argue a psychological headspace, wherein 'settlers' continually occupy and or appropriate that which belongs to those they have socially positioned as [00:19:00] less than.
It is not at all hard to see that colonialism has all the hell of a lot in common with cult leadership. Colonialism and high demand influence, they are both all encompassing. Ongoing projects of ideological supremacy where there is a power over flex, a consistent offloading of trauma, and hierarchical domination. Both are coercive and oppressive impositions that exploit and dehumanize, systematically robbing people of agency and resources.
And so to 'decolonize,' at least as I am speaking of it here in this series, I see it as multifaceted. First and foremost, it is about centering those who are or have been exploited and marginalized. It's about stepping back, listening and spotlighting diverse perspectives.
And yet, the more I learn from anti-racism educators, the more I've come to believe that this [00:20:00] decolonization process must begin within. Which brings me to the second piece, which is a lead in to the purpose of this whole two-part conversation. And my guest this week is doing important work that's really helping me to understand all of this a bit better.
Decolonization is also about critical self-examination and looking at how as a descendant of white colonial settlers, I have inherited the trauma of their colonial displacement and also they have passed down to me the responsibility and the hard work of relational accountability.
In his book, My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, Resmaa Menekam writes:
"White Americans can create culture that confronts and dismantles white body supremacy. Any suggestion that they're unable to rise to this challenge is a lie. White Americans are anything but helpless or fragile. They are, of course, precisely as [00:21:00] capable as any other human beings. But they need to refuse to dodge the responsibility of confronting white body supremacy or the responsibility of growing up."
Yes. Growing up.
It's true, we don't choose the culture that we were born into. But I would argue that it is our responsibility to heal it.
And this week's guest is here to help us figure out how we might go about taking on such a daunting task.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon identifies as a diasporic Irish descendant and white settler Canadian who has lived her entire life in Anishinabeg territories. She's an artist, activist and scholar who has spent the last 15 years working for and learning from Indigenous communities across the Great Lakes region in service to their ecological and educational visions.
Aleyah's graduate work involves ongoing partnership with Indigenous Elders, knowledge holders, and co-conspirators with whom she has been learning from and working [00:22:00] with in community. Through an anti-colonial and trauma-informed lens, Aleyah practices what she describes as living activism. Her goal? To strategically understand her roles and responsibilities in healing disconnection and abuses in the trilogy of our relationships to self, others, and Land.
Navigating the complexities of decolonizing identity work and intergenerational trauma recovery, Aleyah, like many white women in wellness spaces, has long been searching for a sense of identity and belonging, and for spiritual community. Her work weaves poetry, story sharing, and diverse cultural narratives into a landscape of questions concerning our sense of identity and belonging.
She's here today to share openly about her personal experiences in wellness spaces and her years working for indigenous communities, which has afforded her a unique and informed perspective [00:23:00] as a white woman growing into embodied understanding around a relational accountability and healing.
In this episode in the next, Aleyah and I will use language inspired by the hard work of Indigenous, Black, and brown teachers and activists, who have once again done the grueling labor for us white folks; in this instance, by providing us with context, language, and intellectual frameworks that make conversations like these possible.
As we've touched upon in earlier episodes, BIPOC folks are very often tokenized in DEI circles and in white-led spaces such as these. They're expected to lead conversations on these topics; to help us deconstruct the racism that our ancestors invented and inflicted upon their people. And I've heard many anti-racism educators reflect back an understandable resentment that this has become yet another privilege that we white folks expect to be afforded.
And you may have noticed a lack [00:24:00] of diversity in the podcast lineup. Some of this is due to the segregation that exists in the white wellness spaces that I've long occupied. And part of it is also that I'm very reluctant to tokenize and potentially re-traumatize a person of color by inviting them on to talk about these topics. I really don't think it's much of a stretch to say that it's a little bit like asking a traumatized person to sit in therapy alongside their abuser. Which is again, a scenario that is very familiar to those of us who have been involved in so-called accountability in culty circles.
So I guess I wanted to name that out loud for those of you who might be wondering why two white women are sitting down to talk about these things. And I wanna say to any BIPOC listeners that are out there, I'd love to hear from you if it serves you to reach out.
Also, I wanna say on behalf of both Aleyah and myself, as two white women, we are not here to deliver a lesson on anti-racism.[00:25:00] This is us having a public facing conversation, exposing our own process and shedding light on the messy imperfection that is inherent in this work. Aleyah and I come together today with the shared belief that we each must take it upon ourselves to do the personal work required to dismantle colonial consciousness in real time. And specifically in this context when it comes to wellness cult supremacy, and rampant issues around cultural appropriation, which we'll move into in the second half of this convo.
Since I'm so new to conversations around these topics, I'm coming into it with as much of a beginner mind as possible, leaning heavily into Aleyah's academic field work and ongoing collaboration with Indigenous Elders who have, by the way, offered their blessing for us to share this two-part conversation with you here today.
We appreciate your grace as we learn and unlearn out loud together around these understandably sensitive topics.
Here's part one of my conversation with Aleyah-Erin [00:26:00] Lennon.
 Is that a painting or a picture behind you?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: It's amazing.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: It is amazing. I'll move my camera around. This is a photo my friend Natalie took. She's an amazing filmmaker and photographer. And that is what I call a great-grandmother cedar from the west coast of Turtle Island. I think a human would be like as big as my finger next to her. Like she'd just like so old and massive and amazing.
And It's a source of deep, calm and soothing energy for me.
Candice Schutter: That's so great. Well, thank you for, for being here with me today.
How are you feeling going into this conversation?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: I'm excited and a little bit nervous.
Um, but I've done my kind of um,[00:27:00] embodied self-care. And I've prayed, that's a bit of a trigger word. What I mean when I say that is, kind of, just centered and clarified my intention and called upon my well ancestors to kind of just have the intention to first of all enjoy this.
Candice Schutter: Yes.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And to speak honestly and clearly about what needs to be said.
Candice Schutter: And we're in this together. I mean, all we can do is the best we can do in this moment. Expressing around things that for a very long time haven't been talked about. So, of course.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: By us, maybe.
Candice Schutter: By us.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: By white folks.
Candice Schutter: Exactly. Exactly.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yeah.
Candice Schutter: That's right. That's exactly right.
Which is really part of the point of why we're here. So before we dive into all of that, would you like to introduce yourself to listeners?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Sure, sure.
So I guess I'll preface it with saying that my introduction may be a little different than what some [00:28:00] of your listeners may have heard. But it's, um, in the tradition of how I've been taught by the people in whose lands I live.
So, Aaniin, Boozhoo. Aleyah Erin Lennon nindizhinikaaz. Zaginaashii-kwe ndaaw. Ireland ndoonjibaa. Omàmiwininiwag nidaa. Gchi-miigwech Kitigan Zibi [1].
[1] Anishinaabemowin to English Translation: Hi. Hello. Aleyah-Erin Lennon is how I am called. I belong to the Boat People (who are not from here originally). Ireland is where my people are from originally. I live in the territory of the Omàmiwininiwag (downriver people). Profound thanks to Kitigan Zibi (River Desert People).

So that's, um, a little bit about me, where I am, and where I come from in Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Ojibwe people.
And I'd also really love, cuz this is a big part of my journey and what I'm a bit about here to talk about is to use my ancestor language of Irish Gaelic to say a few words of welcome.
Candice Schutter: Please.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Dia Dhuit. Is de bhunadh na hÉireann mé. Thuig mo shinsir go bhfuil an talamh naofa. Agus go raibh orthu meas a thabhairt don saol ar fad. Tá mé i mo chónaí i gcríoch Kitigan [00:29:00] Zibi [2].
[2] Irish to English Translation: Hello (May God be for and with you). I am of the tribe/folk of Ireland (or) My origins are in Ireland. My ancestors understood that the land is sacred/holy and that it was upon them to give respect for all the things in the world. I am in my place of living in the territory of the Kitigan Zibi (River Desert People).

So basically, acknowledging the land, her people, and my relational responsibilities. And telling your listeners a little bit about where I'm coming from.
I live in Kitigan Zibi, which is the territory of the Algonquin nation. The Omàmiwininiwag. And I acknowledge that I'm an uninvited guest. So it is upon me to know, respect, embody the responsibilities of my treaty relationships. I wanna shout out and honor the Algonquin and Anishinaabeg nations in whose lands I've lived my entire life. This land is not my own, and yet it is the only home I've ever known.
My ancestors came from Ireland two and four generations ago. And they were fleeing genocide, colonial abuse, and enforced poverty only to become complicit in the same violence here.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: So today I'm choosing a different way of relating here. One that draws on the [00:30:00] teachings of the first peoples here, as well as the gifts of my own Celtic ancestors. I'm committed to dismantling systems of oppression, to listening, learning, and taking accountable action towards building relationships of respect, peace, and friendship within the places I call home. 
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: So, Miigwech [3]. Thank you for letting me share those words.
[3] “Thank you” in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language or the language of the Anishinaabeg).
Candice Schutter: Yes. Thank you for sharing them. It's so beautiful.
And I just feel really moved by the sense of integrity I feel that you come into this conversation with. And it's a conversation that I've been wanting to have for a while. And also am just so very much in the process of learning and unlearning. And so.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Me too.
Candice Schutter: Yeah. Right.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Me too.
Candice Schutter: Right. We are. And just being in, just even in the presence of that much. Just your introduction and noticing [00:31:00] all that comes up within my body, the moments when I dissociate, all the things.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Um, I just wanna thank you for laying the foundation by bringing just so much forward from the very beginning, which is, you know, the integrity we're after. And I just wanna name that I have had that experience as I'm hearing you. And I'm just naming it in case some of the listeners have that experience, too.
And do you have any thoughts around even just that, cuz I see you responding to that comment, say more.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yeah.
Candice Schutter: About how that lands for you.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Well, I'm just so grateful for you. And I, I love how evident your heart centeredness and the work that you're doing comes across. I feel so safe in your hands on this podcast.
Um, and you remind me of the first time I heard a white woman introduce herself in an indigenous language. And when I first heard somebody speak Irish, it was very impactful. It was a real kind of [00:32:00] Whoa. And I had tears. It was, it was just really powerful and.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Um, I can also say, you might be able to hear it in my voice.
I get filled with, I mean, it could be nervousness, but it's a power. It's something deeply vulnerable and shaky. And I think it's powerful. What I've learned, mostly from the Anishinaabekweg [4]. Or the indigenous women who have supported me on my learning journey in a big way is, culture lives in language. And that's why colonial forces the world over have, that's one of their tools is to ban language.
[4] Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) women
And the words we use, the language we speak completely shapes our ability to perceive the world around us. And to relate to it. Even in the grammatical structure of our languages, let alone even just the words in English that we choose.
Candice Schutter: [00:33:00] Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: So it's something I try to embody and bring forth cuz these languages, indigenous languages in North America, Turtle Island, Canada, US, however you wanna term them, are endangered. And they need to be supported to, to resurge and thrive.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: But then in, in another hand, it's like respecting the protocols of the place I live, right?
Hi. My name is. These are my people. This is where I come from. This is how I got here. You know, and it's a little bit about me, so you know more about me. That's something I've learned directly from Anishinaabeg People.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: So just for folks who haven't been exposed to your work, and we're of course gonna link to your, your website and all the, the wonderful writing that you've done.Tell us who you are, what you do and, and what you love, where your passions lie.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Well, I'm a 40 year old woman. I identify as [00:34:00] a second generation diasporic Irish descendant and white settler Canadian. I live in Canada. I have a day job currently. I work as a senior policy advisor in the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and health and wellness space. And I'm only remotely qualified to be doing that kind of work because of the last 10 to 15 years of working for and learning from indigenous elders and communities, um, whether it is activism work, solidarity work, walking for the water with Nibi Emosaawdamajig [5] the Sacred Water Circle, or community voices from a Mnoomin [6] in Michi Saagiig [7] territory.
[5] “Those Who Walk for the Water” in Anishinaabemowin.
[6] “Good Berry” in Anishinaabemowin, also known as Wild Rice.
[7] “The people of the big river mouths” in Anishinaabemowin.
And alongside that, far too many years in academia, dedicating myself to really learning, this stuff as well.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Um, my masters was in Sustainability Studies, but really my home was the Chanie Wenjack School of Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Environmental Science. I'm really [00:35:00] indebted to the staff and students there and, that whole community for a lot of the transformative learning I've, I've been able to do. Which for me is what I conceive of as like my embodied spiritual practice.
I also, you know, I'm a survivor of trauma. We have intergenerational trauma in my Irish line; quite a lot of complex stuff, mental illness, suicide, alcoholism, you name it, we got it.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And so I've been on a journey to kind of save myself in a lot of ways and that's a very, very key piece of I think who I am and, and what my days consist of.
And I'm also, an artist. I sing. I write poetry. And I am currently collaborating with a number of the folks I've just mentioned to turn a lot of the journey I've been on into a book for wider audiences.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: So that's, that takes up a fair bit of [00:36:00] time and energy as well.
Candice Schutter: That's so exciting though.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: I'd also say one of the most important things about me is I'm a tree hugger and an absolute, like a legitimate tree. You will find, I'm that woman.
Candice Schutter: I've been known to do some hugging of trees myself.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yeah. I you, at any given moment, you can see me kind of wandering around, talking to bees, singing to the water. Um.
Candice Schutter: That's so great.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: So yeah, full disclosure.
Candice Schutter: So tell us how you, well, first of all, is there anything going back and looking at your life and who you are, maybe even your upbringing and how it shaped you as a person that led you into having an interest in this and longing to study and learn from all the wonderful mentors that you're influenced by.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: That's a really beautiful question.
Thank you. I, my brain kind of goes [00:37:00] through like a rolodex swirl of images and memories, and, in no particular order.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: I would throw out, I used to earn some of like my living by being an adventure nature guide, like taking groups of folks into the back country of Algonquin Park, for example. And kind of, keeping them safe and just kind of facilitating their getting to know the land.
And I remember on a Portage, which means just like walking from one body of water to the other and everybody was loving it. And it was a beautiful day and a beautiful space. And I remember kind of having this, it's like an echo or a memory or a feeling. Um, like a, like a, just a slight twist to the left, where even though we were surrounded by trees in a protected area. I knew that these were new trees and the old growth trees, like the one you see behind me had all been clear cut. [00:38:00] And the land had been shaved bare, you know, a few generations ago for logging and such. And the grief, like the real fall to your knees and weep grief of that loss haunts me.
I've since learned a lot about my ancestral, you know, tradition of the keening women and the grief carriers and, and how profound that work is. But we don't need to really get into that. But I've always longed for a deeper connection. And I've always had some kind of sense that something's not well here.
So I think that's the most honest and direct answer. A more woo slant on it could be that some part of me somewhere said yes to ancestral work, to accountability work. And there are ancestors of this place and there are ancestors [00:39:00] of the place my people came from. And, they speak through those mentors. And they speak through my dreams and poetry. I call them liminal points on my journey, like, you know, transformational education, these liminal spaces or points of possibility that change the course of your direction in life.And one of those was in 2008 I was invited, uh, by a Haudenosaunee [8] man by the name of Danny Beaton to the Circle of All Nations in Manawaki Quebec, on the land of, um, Algonquin Elder Grandfather Commanda-ba. [Ba] is a grammatical addition you put on the end of somebody's name when they've passed over. When they've, they're no longer earth side. Grandfather, William Commanda-ba was an incredible person and he had a vision. And he called it the Circle of All Nations [9].
[8] “People of the Longhouse” in the Kanyen'keha language. Haudenosaunee people are also known as the Iroquois or Six Nations. 
And it was, [00:40:00] what I experienced when I went there was, um, like four days. Tent city. Sunrise ceremonies with elders from all over the world. There was Abuelas from the Hopi nation. And there was, you know, elders from eastern European nations. And, it was a time to learn and listen. And I was invited to, for example, help the abuela within the community there to build a sweat lodge and to experience that profound ceremony. And cook in the outdoor kitchens and learn the teachings as we made bannock.
And I think one of the most profound parts was just being invited into the giveaway blanket. It was just so lovely. There was so much kindness. And coming from a pretty chaotic, displaced background personally, it felt, uh, weird. [00:41:00] It felt like, whoa, this is a very different way of being treated and being welcomed.
And when I was driving home, it was around the time that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission here in Canada was, going around and hearing the stories and the truth of survivors of the residential school system, which is essentially genocide.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And I just remember pulling over and sobbing just being overcome with grief.
And I had found a piece. I had found a piece of this vague haunting sense that something wasn't, well. You know, I had been exposed to what, we, as I guess, white people, or at least me as a white person growing up in suburbia, had never been exposed to the indigenous people in whose lands I was living.
Um, I think there's like a sense of erasure like they used to exist.
And [00:42:00] they certainly still do they exist.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And, um, the grief was an anger, like outrage. It was outrage about what we have lost and what we are a part of. Um, like the harm. And how damaging it is for not only these wonderful people I had just met, but for the world and me personally.
Yeah. So I got something there that I didn't even fully understand I was starving for.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: So I think that was the moment where I kind of like wiped my tears away and I was like, okay. I'm gonna figure some of this shit out. I have a direction now I'm gonna go do some learning.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And see how I can maybe dedicate[00:43:00] my cunning to the cause.
Candice Schutter: And you've been doing that pretty much since. And when we spoke in preparation for this conversation, one of the things you really wanted to emphasize was really that even so that doesn't make you an expert on any of this. And.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yeah, so I just wanna say like, even though maybe by Western standards I've got some advanced degrees and I've been doing stuff for a while, I really am not an expert. I'm deeply uncomfortable with that term. And I also wanna say that, like everything I can speak about, you know, de-colonial pedagogy, anti-racist work, like all of that stuff I have learned from BIPOC folks, from indigenous elders, from black writers. And I don't want to, you know, paraphrase and package and you shouldn't get that information from me.
My, I think what, what I am trying to offer is my story and what it has felt [00:44:00] like and, um, been like to, to embark on this journey of, I guess, decolonizing identity work. And deep critical spiritual work.
So yeah, I guess with my research and writing, I have described it as kind of just mapping the landscape. Kind of dumping out all the puzzle pieces and flipping them all over and being like, okay, this is like the basket of shit and beautiful treasures that we have to sort ourselves through and locate ourselves within.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: That's what I've been kind of busy doing for the last number of years. I don't claim to have many answers. Actually, one of the biggest parts of this work is to embrace uncertainty and messiness, and it is emotional. So it's just kind of a landscape of questions.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Well, I [00:45:00] really, really appreciate you saying that. It's important for us to all be reminded of our role in this. And also for folks who are listening and they're like, what does this whole conversation about decolonization and anti-racism, what does this have to do with cult dynamics?
And I know that you and I, part of why we talked for two hours cause we have lots of thoughts on that.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: It's an awesome question.
Candice Schutter: Yes. Such a good question.
And that's part of what I'd like for us to just take a moment. Cuz as we're going into this whole, this whole entire conversation answers that question in my mind and in my heart and maybe if you and I could just lay the foundation of that. Like where did you first start thinking about that overlap?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Was it obvious to you from the get-go? Is it something that you were introduced to? Tell us a little bit about that and then let, let's trade back and forth kind of how we came to see that connection and maybe we can help listeners to do the same.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: [00:46:00] Sure. Yeah.
So no, is the answer to your question. I had never really thought in cult dynamic frameworks, until I started engaging with a very dear friend of mine. We've known each other, um, I think for more than 15 years, but lots of time and space and geography between, meeting and now reconnecting. We both found ourselves moving to the same city at the same time without any planning.
Candice Schutter: Oh wow.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And so we've become very close. And they are doing some graduate work in post cult trauma recovery and we were just talking, cuz she's so supportive and she was helping me, prepare for this conversation. And we were just talking about the cross pollination of ideas. My work, which I've been doing for a long, long time. I don't separate my scholarship with my activism, with my art, with my spirituality. It's really the same thing for me. So I talk about it a lot if you let me.
And so my [00:47:00] ideas were kind of pollinating how they were conceptualizing of their work, which is now totally unfurling and flourishing.
And then being exposed to her scholarship really kind of gave me this kind of insight like, oh wow. Cult recovery is a key audience to what I'm speaking about. I didn't even realize this is what I was talking about. Because I do talk a lot about cultural appropriation and spiritual appropriation and, like the hunger that drives us.
And I'm speaking from my positionality, which is as a white woman in the wellness space, you know, in or out or post or whatever. Um, and the ways in which genuine, valid, beautiful, and important longings can lead us down some tricky terrain. Cuz the terrain is sick, you know? We live within systems that are, that are sick. And [00:48:00] we aren't always aware of it.
Um, so yeah. What bell hooks calls the imperialist capitalist white supremacist patriarchy. Uh, I might be.
Candice Schutter: That's right.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mixing up those words. And those are like whoa words for a lot of us. It's like, what do you mean? And my journey has been largely like, what does that mean? What does that mean? And why should I care?
So I take a really trauma informed approach. And this is a silly metaphor I sometimes think, but, if I'm serious about how I see trauma as germinating this whole system that we're a part of. And woven all throughout our personal and familial narratives, let alone our societal, racial, you know, dynamics.
Trauma is so much a part of how we are operating and the water we're swimming in, in a lot of ways, that if I wanna be strategic and effective in the work I've been tasked to do, speaking to folks like [00:49:00] myself. Then I, I wanna take an approach that honors and uplifts folks rather than tears them down. So it's like a spoon full of sugar you know, I don't know that I'm explaining it correctly, but like.
My life, you know, growing up with, some hard stuff, I'll, I'll say that. Shame and ridicule and blame and resentment, really didn't help me do better or be better.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: So it's kind of straddling two worlds doing this work. Like, we wanna hold ourselves accountable. We wanna look at the damage and the harm. We wanna own our shit, you know. And we want to love and be tender with ourselves, our, our inner children, our wounded ancestral scars, you know, and how do we do that? How do we talk about it?
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: You know, in a way that is [00:50:00] sensitive to the ongoing colonial dynamics and trauma that, um.
Like it's one thing I, this is something I wanna say too, like, I don't wanna co-opt any narratives of trauma from like, let's say Indigenous folks or Black folks. That is not the same thing. You know? It's not the same.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And yet, but also.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: What I'm learning about relational dynamics, recovery, healing, family systems, we can't expect to show up to our relationships and help heal them if we aren't doing our own work, if we aren't owning the ways in which we are broken and terrified and lacking something essential that we need.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Um, so that's kind of where I come into to this conversation with your audience.
Candice Schutter: So just this morning,[00:51:00] I was reading an article, just a really beautifully written article that was about the distinction between accountability and punishment.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And this is gonna circle us back to the original question I asked you around cult dynamics, because this distinction between understanding the difference between accountability and punishment, I'm realizing is so key to us being able to do anything about all of this.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Um, there's, it's a beautiful article. I'll link to it. One of the things she really emphasizes is, you know, punishment is about retribution and accountability is about stopping harm. Like at its core that's what it's about.
And that's really what I hear you describing is, we hear this word accountability. It's like a buzzword lately.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And that's a good thing.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And at the same time though, I think a lot of us, us being again, from the position of being a white woman in wellness, who's also been conditioned by a tone [00:52:00] policed, anger phobic way of relating to the world.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: We think of accountability as retribution. As this, you know, victim, villain, perpetrator, you know?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Cycle when in fact, that's not what accountability is. That model of punishment actually is, and this is where I get all fired up. But like what you described in terms of the, I call it capital C cult dynamics.
Like when I speak about cult dynamics, there's cult dynamics and then there's capital C cult dynamics. And to me, the capital C cults are what you described, white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism. There's more, there's quite a few. Those capital C culs created the model of so-called accountability that we know as punishment. And we sort of think that that's what it looks like.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And there's so many other ways that, you know, indigenous populations have been practicing since well before we colonize the land that we now live [00:53:00] on, where there's a process of accountability that looks nothing like that. And that the way that we do accountability, culturally speaking in our colonized cultures that we occupy is this punishment model that's based on the way that we inherited the colonizing mindset.
And this is where I feel so drawn to the work you do, and I feel it's so important and it's so, I just can't emphasize enough how connected it is to the purpose of this series.
That decolonization of ourselves that you and I are gonna talk about, this process that you've been in that I'm just barely beginning to embark on, is part of how we create a social structure where we're waking up from capital c cult dynamics, as well as the small cult dynamics.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Like it's happening simultaneously. And like we can't actually heal the small c cult dynamics unless we address.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yeah.
Candice Schutter: Where we learned how to behave this way in the first place.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Exactly.
And what [00:54:00] was stolen from us on a cultural, spiritual level, that left us with such a ravenous longing?
Candice Schutter: Yes.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And that's the trauma informed piece.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: That is so important I think, to really catalyze this work for white folks.
And I wanna just, like, my work is always like, it's really nuanced. It's hard for me to sometimes proclaim some of the good sounding, feel gooding things without really laying the groundwork. Because as the elders I learned from say like, we're not there yet. We're not all there yet.
And so there's so much learning and unlearning that has to happen. But it's not linear. It's not like it has to all happen before we like, give ourselves permission to honor what we ourselves have lost. The fragmentation we are experiencing within these systems of domination and oppression, you know.
I think that getting in touch with that helps build our compassion and our empathy.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And our, and [00:55:00] our accountability. I talk about relational accountability and the trilogy of our relationships to self, others, and land. And I love what you just illuminated there, like versus punishment. Because I think in some of the ways in which we as white folks perceive the conversations around critical whiteness, white supremacy, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, is that we are being told we're the root of all evil.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And we suck inherently. It's all our fault. We're like, no spice losers. You know, I'm being facetious. But that is, I think, what folks hear.
It's about learning to listen differently and becoming willing to tell ourselves maybe a new story. And I think in order to do that, and this is what I've learned, this, this was the germination of, of my journey, was hearing [00:56:00] grandfather William Commanda-ba say: "Remember your original instructions."
Remember your original instructions.
And Elder Doug-ba from Curve Lake, who I was so, so many of us were blessed to know and learn from, wrote in his book, This Is Our Territory, he wrote about the Ojibwe, Anishinaabeg teachings, ancient teachings about there will come a time when the world hangs by a spiders thread, when life on this planet is close to collapse, unless the original instructions are remembered.
And so my, um, thesis journey back in 2016 was like, what would happen if white settlers such as myself began to remember our original instructions? Do we have any?
Candice Schutter: Hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Where would they be located? And what would be the [00:57:00] potential implications of that "hard heart work," which is what Georgie calls it.
I guess I'd say to decolonize is to heal. And so what does this word decolonize mean? Well, first and foremost, like literally it means to dismantle the systems of colonialism. And that means for us folks who have unearned power and privilege here, or like power relative to racialized folks as an example. Cuz that's just how the system works.
What would be important? What's the missing ingredient that will allow us to become ready to even consider that, right? Because it, that sounds scary.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Um, the paradigm of thought, the consciousness that created these systems, like western ways of knowing, and these aren't bad, these are not bad, they're [00:58:00] just one way. But they tend to be binary, we think in binaries, like.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: If I'm supposed to Land Back, if I'm supposed to give land back, I'm not stolen land. Does that mean I'm homeless? I don't get to be here? And the answer is like, well, no, no.
It's like how feminism isn't anti-man. It's just like, you know, it's actually a different paradigm where more things can be true. And more beings can be fed and safe.
I think we're all suffering from collective colonial wounds. And I've heard Marie Batiste, for example, who's a Mi’kmaw scholar say: "We all must become healers in this wounded space."
So some of the questions I'm a little bit obsessed with is like, how do I as a white woman become a healer in that wounded space? Be [00:59:00] like, be in service to the healing of these crises of disconnection, without falling into the same traps we are here to talk about basically, without being a little bit culty, or spiritually appropriating or, you know, being just a super eye roll stereotype.
What does that look like?
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Um, and the answers I have found lie within doing exactly what those Elders have been telling me to do this whole time is remember your original instructions.
Who were you before you came here? What have you lost?
Candice Schutter: How are you remembering?
What does that look like for you?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Great question. Oh my gosh.
Um, no straight answer really. But I mean, I'm, I think, blessed to have the certain amount of clarity I have. Like, both sides of my family, my mom and my dad, big Irish clan families, big Irish catholic. Um, my, [01:00:00] my, um, maternal grandfather came over, I think he was still in the womb.
So, he came over from some Dublin slums I'm told, where that line had been chimney sweeps, for example, for a number of generations. And my dad's line came during the genocide, otherwise known as The Great Hunger or The Potato Famine.
So just remembering that, just like learning, when did we actually come here?
Um, and that's not necessarily possible for everyone. There's some folks who've been here for multiple, multiple generations who come from many different lines, you know? So I'm not saying this is a straightforward process. And I think that's actually kind of the point in a lot of ways when you start to try to remember your original instructions and whatever that means, in a lot of ways, it kind of puts you really in touch in a real way, in a felt sense way [01:01:00] of what a mess we're kind of in. It illuminates some of the like chasms and loss. I, I've found personally.
Candice Schutter: Yeah. I think it really points to the point you made earlier that we talked about in our first conversation around that gaping hole, that desire, that the yearning that we have that leads us to appropriate and mean to borrow and then steal things that.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: That, we, we have a yearning. I mean, I know for me, I'll speak for myself. You know, I grew up in a home where my mother was Protestant. But she wasn't an open Protestant in our home because my stepdad was atheist.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And so, I was mostly influenced by the atheism. And then by the time I was in my twenties and I was searching and searching and when I found new age wellness communities that were willing to give me simplified answers to questions, I was so [01:02:00] ravenous for that clarity.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And the practices and the experience of, of depth in some cases. In other cases, just glorified dissociation. It was a mixed bag for sure. Um, but that yearning that you speak of, it's like when we don't know and have access to that information and, and where to get those instructions, there is a deep yearning and a hunger.
And I'm just, right now, even as we're talking, just connecting dots, like when I separated from wellness circles because of cult dynamics and just the discomfort I had around it, I was searching it again. And I actually traveled to the country from which my great-grandparents immigrated and walked the streets of this little island Vis, off of Croatia. That was Yugoslavia at the time.
And I was so needing to be there. And being there, it was like a full body experience of coming home to something. It, and my dad [01:03:00] and I jokingly refer to it as the grandmother land. It was my grandmother land pilgrimage. And I went to the registrar's office, and look through books to find more about my family.
And I didn't really understand what that yearning was about. I lost my grandmother before I was born. She took her own life. So I thought it was about that trauma imprint. But talking with you, I feel like, oh, this goes much deeper. The healing that I was reaching for and the understanding. And there were a lot of questions that went unanswered, but just the little bit of information I had that I did get, and the experience of being on the, the land.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Of ancestors that I never met, was deeply spiritually grounding for me in a way that I think it's part of what I was chasing. So I'm just fascinated having this realization, just sitting here talking with you and being like, oh, like this. Is this what you're talking about?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yes.
Candice Schutter: Yes.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Exactly what I'm talking.
And I had a very similar experience. I've been dreaming of [01:04:00] going to Ireland my whole life. And I just turned 40 this year. And, um, although I'm still paying it off, I just took myself there, finally. And when I came to Connemara in County Galway on the, the West coast, which is where my, my father's family is from, it was full body sobbing.
Like it was just, I felt like, I don't know. It broke my heart. It was like meeting a god, and I couldn't handle it. It was so brilliantly beautiful. It was heartbreaking. And yet also I really did feel the grief of the people who had to leave that place because of colonial imposed starvation and all kinds of things. Like it, the grief of having to leave that place of having been grown up out of a place. Of having a language, a [01:05:00] culture.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: To be held in the arms of that place the Cailleach, which is, like the old wise woman in Ireland in a, in a very kind of creatrix way. Similar to Glooscapi of the Mi’kmaw people, or Nanaboozhoo of the Anishinaabeg people.
It's devastating and you know, we forgot at least my family, but I think it's really a very common story. Um, and certainly thinkers and writers taught me this. You know, we're shipped here a lot of times. Like the Irish in that time, it, it wasn't always a choice. Some did have that choice and, and fled. And we got to become white. When we first got here, you know, we were definitely low rung and, and not well treated. Um, similar to black folks. Not at all the same. We didn't experience slavery the way black folks did here at all. But it was a pretty, shitty time for the Irish refugees.
[01:06:00] But then we got to become white.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: We got to buy into whiteness. Um, and whiteness really doesn't have the most to do with the color of our skin or the pigment, you know? It's a system of power over. And.
Candice Schutter: Which is what makes it so culty. Cause it's not a real thing.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: It's also why reverse racism doesn't exist, which I think some people, people struggle with.
Candice Schutter: That's right.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yeah. People can, um, be rude or mean or say stuff that hurts our feelings about whiteness. But, it's not racism. Because racism is a system of oppression or power over. And people from all over. Like, your ancestors are from an island off Croatia. Mine are from an island off of the UK, and like there's Italians and all kinds of folks that have a complexion that gave them an immediate ticket to the front of the line here.
You know, that's all it means. And it doesn't also mean that we don't struggle. And we don't [01:07:00] experience poverty and abuse and, horrible things.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: The point is this system harms us all.
Candice Schutter: Yes.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: To certainly different degrees.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: But that's why we need, we need a paradigm shift.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: You know?
Candice Schutter: Yeah. I mean that, that ability to assimilate, which is true of, of my ancestors. Um, interestingly enough on, on one side of like, there's one lineage on my dad's side that's from this little island that was Yugoslavia, that they did have to flee the island. It was occupied by the military during a war, and a lot of people from that island fled to San Pedro, California. And they came and were able to assimilate into the system of whiteness.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And I think that this piece around whiteness, I just wanna hone in on for a second. Cuz I, I realized for me, I was speaking with a white person who was having the [01:08:00] common sort of flooding of the body when hearing the words white supremacy.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And I was saying to them that that was an experience that I had for a very long time.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Until I began to learn about anti-racism and the systemic nature of what you're talking about, that it's a system.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: That now I can hear whiteness and white supremacy and understand. I don't have a visceral reaction to it because I don't identify with it in the same way.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: I'm able to see it as a system that I'm a part of, that I benefit from, that is not me.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: And that key distinction, if I go all the way back to the ancestral line, they needed to identify with it in order to assimilate. The sacrifice is inherent in that, which goes all the way back to what you said before. You said something to the effect of language is the carrier of culture that one of your.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Mentors had said that to you.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: That assimilation process was about stripping away the Slavic language that they spoke. And I [01:09:00] don't know a word of the language of my ancestors, by design.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Mm-hmm.
Candice Schutter: Right? I was assimilated into the cult of whiteness.
And how do we, when we're a part of it, and in it, deconstruct it? I don't have a freaking clue that's why we're here. But I guess I'm, I'm feel like I'm going in a million different directions, but it's just.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: No, I love it. I'm with you.
Candice Schutter: Yeah. Ok.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: It's hard to speak linearly.
Candice Schutter: No, cuz it's not.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: About all this stuff. And what I do, I'm like, I love that we're on video, this is the, um, it's actually pre-Celtic triskele or Triple Spiral.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: I love it so much. And it became such a huge part of all of my work.
Candice Schutter: You can find it on Aleyah's website if you're curious to see the tattoo that she's showing me.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: The triskele. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. It's, um, it's, it's an ancient pre Celtic symbol. For folks here, the easiest analogy I say, is like, it's the Celtic version of the in Indigenous medicine wheel. Um, which is a teaching tool.
[01:10:00] It's, it's a, it's a simple graphic that, different [Indigenous] cultures can layer a lot of teachings into. And this triskele, this triple spiral for me, it's like, it's all connected.
Candice Schutter: Yes.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: It's all connected, you know?
Candice Schutter: Right.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: In terms of like the crisis of disconnection personally, you know, intergenerational trauma, isolation, mental health conditions, you know, that are so rampant, socially, societally, racially. And with the earth. Like, I don't wanna be a bummer, but we are on the verge of collapse and extinction and capitalism is literally killing us.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: But I just wanna back up and, and just, if it's not yet clear. I loved how you said it's so, um, it really crystallizes it for me, like when we assimilated into the cult of whiteness.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: That does [01:11:00] not mean that we are bad.
Candice Schutter: Not at all.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: It could mean that we are part of some bad things.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And that we are in some bad habits of mind and relating.
But ultimately, it's because we don't yet know better, you know?
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And if we're willing to listen and learn. It can be uncomfortable. It can be messy. It definitely, for me, involves profound grief work.
But it's really nutritive. It's really nourishing. It's really grounding and orienting. And it has gifted me infinitely more than it's taken away, you know?
Candice Schutter: So what I'm curious [01:12:00] about, because you're saying it's all connected and, and I feel that even as we talk, it's like going in all these, these different directions that are all like speaking to this one core.
How, so when I look at your path as a white woman, decolonizing, taking back authority, and I mean that in the sense of authorship of your own life, like your, what's the real story of your lineage and your, your culture? And your, you're reconnecting to that. And simultaneously though, you are spending a lot of time in spaces with other cultures and learning from them.
How are those two things connected? Because I know they are, um, in terms of this process. Because I think we do in our culture think in binary like you said. So Aleyah, are you saying I need to go over here and be focused on learning about my ancestry and that's what I need to do? Or are you saying I need to [01:13:00] engage with people, you know, who are, I can learn from, like BIPOC folks who have an understanding of anti-racism. And which one should I do? And, and I feel like your answer's gonna be both and. So I guess I, the reason I'm asking this question is because I see this in wellness spaces a lot. It's like, go do your inner work. And it's like I know you talk about, you describe it as living activism. And so I want you to speak to that, I guess is the real question I'm asking. What is living activism? How does that, how are you shaping that in the way that you're doing this work?
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Where I'll start is with the words of Dr. Elder Shirley Williams. I call her auntie. We, many of us call her 'da boss. She's an amazing elder language speaker, teacher. And she was one of the Anishnaabekweg who supported this work and, and is supporting this book. Um, and she says, "they made you forget." That's what they mean by you have to start with yourself.[01:14:00] And so that's part of it.
But like this triskele reveals to me, my methodology, my way of doing this work is threefold. It's Deep Listening, Critical Self-Reflection, and Embodied Action in Community.
Candice Schutter: Say those three again, so we can.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Sure.
Candice Schutter: Take them in.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Sure. Deep Listening.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Critical Self-Reflection. And Embodied Action.
And together those three things, which, you know, you can map onto this triple spiral, is my embodied decolonial praxis. Praxis is a, is a fancy word that I learned from, um, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire. My understanding is it's like learning and then putting into practice what you learn, and then learning from that, and then coming back and like it's a constant dance between learning and acting and reflecting. That's [01:15:00] essentially what it is.
And so, it's not linear. It's a swirl. It's a, it's a messy uncertain. Show up. Try your best. And keep going type of thing. Um.
Candice Schutter: Yeah.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: Yeah, so like, you don't wanna just naval gaze and just, and I think that's kind of the trap a lot of us fall in with the wellness stuff. And, and a little bit culty healing spaces is it's all about the self. And it's not accountable to the other relationships that are inherent to being human in place.
Candice Schutter: Mm-hmm.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: And so another mistake we often make is like, getting the message: you're responsible for, you know, being a part of the change. So you show up and you're like, I have so many good ideas and I wanna help. And, there wasn't enough listening and critical self-reflection first.
And so, yeah, each of the, those headings on that spiral path has a real lot of [01:16:00] subsets of learning, which I hopefully will be able to capture coherently in the book version of the 300 page thesis.
But yeah. Does that answer some of that question?
Candice Schutter: It really does. It really does. I think. I, I love that it not only answers the question, but it gives us some touchstones. Yeah, that was beautifully put.
 Next week, Aleyah and I continue our conversation on decolonization, engaging in a deep dive deconstruction of cultural appropriation and why it is so damn important to attend to nuance when offering relational accountability.
Here's a quick preview.
Aleyah-Erin Lennon: I am not saying, and nor is anyone saying that white people should have no spiritual practice and no spiritual tools and no spiritual community.
In fact, a lot of Indigenous and Black and People Of Color, [01:17:00] Elders, knowledge holders, authors, speakers who I've interacted with are like, it's vital that we have and remember and use spiritual tools. Because we are spiritually sick. Personally, culturally, socially, ecologically, we are dying. And so no wonder there's such a hunger and a search for what feeds us. We're going out and seeking.
And what I think is even more important is that if you fancy yourself a good person who, you know, has maybe heard about this stuff called racism and colonialism and white supremacy, and you're like, well, that all sounds terrible and I don't wanna be a part of that, so what should I do?
Maybe it's worth just taking a step back and going like, maybe there's something to this.
Candice Schutter: Thank you again for listening. And check out the show notes [01:18:00] for links to individuals and resources that were referenced in this episode. And if you'd like to reach out to me personally, you can find me at thedeeperpulse.com/share.
I'll see you back here next week.

© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter