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Musqueam matriarch Rhiannon Bennett reflects on personal journey of truth-telling in Delta

The truth can be painful to face, but it’s the first step toward Decolonization, she says
Rhiannon Bennett
Musqueam matriarch, activist and Decolonization educator Rhiannon Bennett, pictured with her daughter, shares her journey of truth-telling in Delta.

At her very core, Rhiannon Bennett is a truth teller – even when that truth is hard to hear.

As a Musqueam matriarch, activist, Decolonization educator and community figure, most of us in Delta know Bennett for her work around equity, justice and accountability.

We perhaps recognize her from hosting Decolonization workshops with Andrea Hilder as part of their consulting firm Hummingbirds Rising, from speaking at community events or perhaps from her time as a Delta School Board trustee.

But Bennett hasn’t always been this visible in Delta.

“Honestly, for a long time, I didn’t see myself in the community. I felt very invisible, parts of me were invisible. It’s messed with my identity, growing up in Ladner ... For most of my life, it’s like there are parts of me that are welcome and are seen, but then there’s other parts that have to be not talked about,” says Bennett.

This feeling of conditional acceptance from the community is one that still lingers with her to this day. And because of this, she’s still deeply invested in making Delta a safer, more inclusive space for everyone to live, work and play in.

“I often wonder what other people think that my intentions and my goals are ... because all I’m trying to do is to be able to stand in the wholeness of my identity. My family has been here since this land has existed and we are worthy of being able to be ourselves and to be recognized,” says Bennett. “I just genuinely just want the world to be a better place.”

Through her years of Decolonization work and relationship building in our community, Bennett has observed the Delta community brushing over conflict with the Musqueam Indian Band and Tsawwassen First Nation.

“It feels like there are secrets in town that people don’t want to talk about, and people still go to great lengths to detach themselves from it,” she says.

She highlights how Delta has been ground zero for Musqueam and Tsawwassen victories, but that these victories, like the Sparrow Decision and the Tsawwassen Treaty, happened in spite of the community’s opposition.

For reference, the historically significant “Sparrow Case” was based on Musqueam member Ronald (Bud) Sparrow being arrested in 1984 for fishing with a net that was longer than his government-imposed fishing license permitted.

Six years after Sparrow’s arrest – after the Musqueam community argued and repeatedly appealed his conviction in defense of their own and all Indigenous peoples’ rights – the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Musqueam’s right to fish was still intact before the 1982 Constitution and therefore still existed at the time of his arrest.

It was a defining moment for recognizing and affirming Indigenous rights in Canada, reads UBC’s Indigenous Foundations information resource website.

But in this age of Reconciliation, it has become increasingly clear to Bennett how some folks want to skip straight to a happy ending without acknowledging the history and their own complicity in systems that continue to harm Indigenous communities.

“Now, everybody’s celebrating Indigenous peoples, but people in this town fought us ... Actions need to back up the words. So, what are you doing? How are those relationships being repaired?” she says.

Despite the pushback and the exclusion she’s faced, Bennett remains committed and passionate about her work because it truly is an extension of who she is and what she’s about.

“I see flashes of change, and I see flashes of opportunity and I see the desire that all those little ripples will turn into bigger waves and the waves will keep getting bigger and bigger ... When I think about the connections and the relationships I’ve made through this work, it’s been so incredible,” she says.

If you’re interested in the work Bennett is doing within Delta or are interested in Hummingbirds Rising Consulting’s services, visit: