• Caprice D. Hollins

But What if I Get it Wrong?


About a year and a half ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would open all my workshops and keynotes by first recognizing the tribes of the land we are on. Ilsa had brought this idea to my attention when planning one of our workshops together. She created a slide in our Power Point to acknowledge the Duwamish Tribe for workshops in the Seattle area. Whenever I witnessed someone practice this way of honoring Indigenous people, it felt right to me and I wanted to be a part of it.

But even though I told myself this was something I would start doing, I never did. The truth is, I was afraid. As easily and as often that I speak about this work being, “a journey not an event,” that, “none of us are experts,” or that, “the very definition of cultural competence is our willingness to continue to grow and learn,” I rarely enjoy the process of my own development. I much prefer to look like an expert, while at the same time conveying to my audience there’s no such thing. I have so many worries when learning and changing my practice. “What if I get it wrong, mispronounce a tribal name, or offend? What if I appear inauthentic, like I’m just checking a box?” I could go on and on. Sometimes I would simply forget to make this important acknowledgment and other times, when I did remember, my fears got the best of me and I avoided it.

As a Christian, I sometimes feel like God keeps putting important things in front of me until I work through them. Whether it’s God or the universe, or just the way life is, it appeared that this commitment wasn’t going away. One day Kaleb Child, a member of the Kwakiutl First Nations approached Ilsa and I before our workshop and asked if it would be okay with us if he opened with a song. Other than emails and phone calls, we had never met our brother Kaleb before. I was ecstatic by his offer, thinking, “Would it be okay? Of course, it’s okay! It’s more than okay!”

I was brought to tears as he spoke, then sang and drummed to welcome everyone into the space we were about to share as we embarked on a journey of learning. His grace, his love, his forgiveness and giving stirred something in me. I left that day feeling recommitted. And yet time passed, and still I had not allowed myself to be changed. I was still too afraid. "How do I do it? What do I say? How do