Mother, Nehiyaw, Metis, & Itisahwâkan – career communicator. This is my collection of opinions, stories, and the occasional rise to, or fall from, challenge. In other words, it's my party, I can fun if I want to. Artwork by aaronpaquette.net
Over the last few years, I’ve learned “pretendians” vary in reason for desire to be Indigenous and that they cut a wide swath in professions, learning institutes, and even within Indigenous communities. When we point out an uncovered discovery publicly, this is about far more than ‘shaming’. This is more than ‘gate-keeping’. This is protection and an effort to stanch the continuing effort to dilute, diminish and degrade the teachings and traditions of entire cultures.
These people aren’t readily identifiable as terrible trespassers. They are neighbors, co-workers, friends and sometimes, family. Many are mostly exceptionally friendly, articulate and some are very charismatic, which makes for frustrating, vigorous protection by those around them when questioned.
The above excerpts are from the post I published at Medium.com
This could be a Spring of retreat; a step or two toward the past. Maybe time on our hands and loads of room for reflection. My own longings lean toward the masses questioning all the holes in all the systems that Covid-19 surged right up to our every sensibility.
My next prayer is that all this new-found realization of what matters, this renewed knowledge of what essential is, will not get tossed and lost for good by most.
Reflection choices can be simple too; in fact, the majority of mine certainly are. I can’t believe how much it means to walk in the woods right now. All the smells of Spring are especially entrancing, and I am so in beyond land when I look at the tender shoots that replaced the tiny seeds I planted weeks ago. I’m so excited to be a back deck farmer this year. Small things. The every things.
It was within these lines of thought on this lazy Thursday, I was reminded of a sweet and lovely moment of 3 years ago, when we were allowed more fearless touch.
Wishing all a gentle and inspiring weekend.
I am the first thought
On his mind as daybreak blinks
Sunday morning bliss…
Five years ago, I went through a set of circumstances similar to what I’ve had to navigate through this year. A year later I had some small moments of reflection that I see are as relevant now as they were then. I can’t help feeling that most of us are at that place now. So, here’s a re-tread of those thoughts. Hiy hiy for this indulgence.
Sooo, did I hear you type the word, cookie?
No matter what kind of curve ball life throws, even those 359 degree ones, there are two things that demand focus in any way they can get it – cookies and bacon.
Okay yes, I’m kidding… it’s whatever requires you to be relevant. In my case, those anchors just happen to be fairly typical – children and animals, not necessarily in that order…and thank you sweet, Geezus for typical anchors.
They see me at my best, and my worst – which they generally run away from – fast, usually to retain the emergency services of a stylist or a good martini mixer, but even so, they will love me again within minutes. If only that were true of the rest of the world…
They do see me cry and rail at times because I don’t often try to shield them from those moments because life is also an awful lot about ‘shite happens’.
My last few posts have reflected some recent hard knocks and I expect I will write in and around those events for a little while too. Writing is a critical component of healing for me, as much as talking things out with my son is needed to help his understandings.
We’ll go over what’s happening to whatever appropriate extent and then, what it’s going to take to cope and keep moving. My Jack seems to understand that, so he pretty much behaves accordingly – he’ll lick my face, then throw a paw at it for priorities – which incidentally are the same as my son’s – cookies and bacon.
My son, on the other hand, seems to have grown some pretty thoughtful insight for his age, which he occasionally jolts me with. He reminds that a laugh is good medicine or that I am forgetting to see my own value, regardless of anyone else’s assessment, and that he’s willing to stand up for me to anyone. It’s those moments that remind me that no matter how hard I’ve been hit by the challenges of life, underneath and overall, I have done some things right.
I’d like to think that I’ve mostly lived for the greater good. I’d like to know that I didn’t live in my own head as much as, or more than, contributing meaningfully to community. I hope that no matter what happens, most will remember me for living, giving, and seeing the worthwhile. I’d like to believe this is true for most of us.
At the end of the day, no matter what kind of day, I hope I will have earned the right to my own share of cookies and bacon. And poutine. God, I really love that stuff, way too much.
As a matter of noting impactful history as it’s occurring, a report presented at the March 9/10 Metis National Council’s (MNC), “Métis Identity, Citizenship & Homeland” conference in Saskatchewan, shocked many in attendance. It uncovered a troubling history that has led to serious issues for the Metis, now currently embroiled in what amounts to a ‘hostile takeover’ of their nation.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, let alone shocked about what we learned, because I am already well-aware of the immense issue for the Metis Nation in having to defend its identity and rights again. I’m well-versed in the history of the thousands of Canadians who more recently claim to be Metis, although many are seriously mistaken at best and others are purely fraudulent at worst.
Many already knew the MNO was fraught with membership filled with illegitimate claims of Metis ancestry and in 2019 they admitted to an overwhelming number; perhaps 90% of their membership, they said.
That’s an astounding statement and regardless of the accuracy of that estimation, what percentage would they consider acceptable? That wasn’t the only issue at hand. The affiliate was also called into question after working unilaterally with the Province of Ontario government to grant ‘historical Metis settlement’ status to 6 regions in Ontario outside of the Metis Nation historical homeland boundaries. The MNC, its other affiliate presidents and the Metis citizens were not included in that process.
Essentially then, the MNO is therefore mainly comprised of Ontarians of various ancestry who self-declared they were Metis and were accepted and seemingly legitimized by the MNO. If there are enough of these individuals in a particular region, this is taken as proof of the existence of a historical Métis “community”.
In November of 2018, the MNC and the other affiliates, with the exception of Alberta – which apparently has serious leadership [and membership] issues according to statements made at the March 10 meeting – voted to put the MNO on probation for one year to allow time to sort and re-register their members to fit the criteria of Metis Nation identity. Incidentally, that criteria aren’t different from any other world nation, which include immediate relation to the ancestry of the known Metis Nation families. The criteria was unanimously ratified by the Metis Nation in 2002. The MNO participated in that ratification.
Back to 20 years later, and the one-year MNO probation term is over. The MNC, for which leadership is voted for & provided by its affiliate presidents, requested to review the new registers. The MNO responded with an incredulous refusal, stating they had their own ‘independent oversight’ and that the MNC were unwelcome ‘outsiders’.
They’d essentially announced they were a nation unto themselves and they went to Canada directly to try to create that into fact. They called it a ‘self-governance agreement’, which the government called ‘a step toward self-governance agreement’. What that will turn out to be is another story, but a main point is a clause in the agreement that states the MNO will get to decide for itself who is “Metis”.
An easy out compared to having to tell thousands of Ontarians they’re not Metis, some of whom hold influential positions in general society. There are also millions of dollars at stake in annual funding to oversee programs meant for the Indigenous, and specifically for, the Metis. If the MNO were to fail at attaining a new, unrelated pan-Indigenous nation recognized by Canada, that would make some of those members, not Metis, but non-status First Nations. Likely a good number would simply be recognized as non-Indigenous Canadians.
That’s the background to the March 9/10 MNC meeting. Here’s part of what’s stunning. The background historical research used by the MNO and the Ontario Government to justify inclusion of Ontario-based regions/people sometimes reads like a middle school copy & pasted book report. The conflations of ancestral claims are so flimsy in places, that at one point they barely bothered to provide evidence before bestowing the Metis flag to one region.
As is commonly practised by ‘self-identifiers’ in the further east, the Metis titles given by the MNO were based on claims of ancestry in nations unrelated to the Metis; on ancestors who were Europeans re-made into Indigenous; on ancestors that were and still are known as First Nations, whose descendants still live on the same reserves; by claiming First Nations villages were Metis; or as one person at the meeting stated, if a picture of their grandparents ‘looked Native’ to the registrar, they would be accepted. These people now outnumber the legitimate Metis in Ontario.
Excluding the MNO, the fight today is from within, from those who would allow anyone of any Indigenous ancestry to claim to be Metis vs. those who denounce the pan-Indigenous idea over their own unique, rich and richly established history, which included the herculean win in 1982 to achieve the recognition and rights to Section 35 of the Constitution for that nation.
To my mind, it should be abundantly clear. I am a Metis Citizen. Like those in the other affiliates, I proved my ancestry according to the legitimate standards. I know my ancestors stand with us.
The MNC invite citizens and the public to read the report provided by Dr. Darryl Leroux, doctorate in Sociology and Anthropology, Assoc. Prof., Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University and Prof. Darren O’Toole, Metis, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
It was never a post I’d expected to write and this is hardly what I’d imagined as a post to mark my blog’s 7th anniversary (March 17th), and with apologies to my regular readers, some of this will be a bit of a repetition of circumstances previously written.
I know most of us never dream we’d write or live through the events I’d laid out. We know terrible things happen, but generally we feel safe that they happen to other people – over there. There is simply any place that helps us hold onto the fantasy that any distance from them is a protective cover for the rest of us.
When I got the call in January that my sister in Arizona was found on her bedroom floor unable to stand or speak properly and the concern revolved around possible strokes, in short order, I went into numb mode. That place where we don’t know what to feel, or maybe there’s too much feeling and there’s an *overwhelmed* switch that’s automatically tripped. We’d just been unwinding the numbing shock of the loss of one of our children only 20 days earlier. Maybe it was just continued numbness.
Some hours into news like this, we realize we must act and then thinking revs up again. What’s needed? Who will do what? When do we do whatever it is we figure we need to do? How can we support her kids? How will we do any of it? Then there are the really hidden thoughts, like, nope, I don’t want to be doing anything. This isn’t happening. This can’t even be real.
But, it is real, and very shortly after, we learned the real issue was a brain tumor. A very nasty, aggressive beast of a tumor. The scans showed it nearly covered a quarter of her brain, literally pushing it to one side. She had emergency surgery within 48 hours of being found on her floor and they were able to take out 99% of it. The surgeon said if she hadn’t made in when she did, it was unlikely she’d have lived another day or two. God, real, is a bitch.
Her cancer is never going away though. That’s a hell of a new normal to adjust to. They hope to help us keep her for up to 18 more months with heavy-duty radiation and chemo over several weeks. The days seem to fly by faster than ever. I avoid morbid activities like looking at calendars and counting back. I’m not always successful.
A rising sense of panic pushes me back to the questions about action. The more recent events of her world make sense now. Like, why did she suddenly quit her job and lose her health insurance and benefits? She couldn’t remember. It didn’t make sense to her either while she attempted to retrace her steps before the surgery. She couldn’t remember anything from 3 months prior. They have no idea how long ago that thing invaded her head.
We clearly had some heavy-duty work to do to sort how she will live until the end of this new normal inevitably. There was no way we could manage this on our own; we put out calls for help. That’s another exercise in faith and hope. When catastrophe strikes and you realize how bound you are in immediate helplessness, fear introduces itself in yet another incarnation. Who would even answer that call? Would anyone and if they did, would it be enough?
It turned out I wasn’t as alone as I’d feared. Friends responded with a generosity I couldn’t have imagined; even from a few that I’d never dreamed would be able to help. Yes, your $5 mattered, just as much as the gifts of $100 or more. I was on a plane within 3 days to get to her. They helped me get to her and hold her. They helped me get to look into her eyes and tell her, I love you. … It’s too hard to describe what all that feels like.
Those caring superheroes helped me get to the myriad mounds of paperwork needed to apply for assistance from myriad areas with their myriad requirements. Let me tell you, I don’t know how any of these agencies expect a patient to manage this. There was no way my sister had the ability to read through all the materials, let alone sort, fill-out and acquire the necessary documentation. Getting to that work alone was a huge step. After that, we’d had most medical and home expenses taken care of until at least the end of April.
How do you describe how much that means? I don’t know how to tell people just how much of a difference, how much of an impact their gifts create. I don’t think it’s possible to thank them at par value, I’m just so grateful that they accept my pitiful attempts anyway.
It was so hard to leave her. I wish it could be me that’s driving her to appointments, or shopping for her groceries, or just sitting next to her while we zone out in sister land in front of Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for the services that we got to help her with that much, but I think you know what I mean.
I don’t know what the next steps will be, and we do know the calls for help will continue, for as long as it takes, but we’re taking it one day at a time. These are the experiences that crystalize that notion for us. Day by day, minute by minute. I can only pray that we’ll receive what we need and that we see the beauty there is to see and feel the grace we’re meant to, while we can. One day at a time.
On December 31st, I wrote about hopeful expectation for the newest decade. I’d said I felt sizable hope but tempered with the need to tread carefully for a while. That thought was focused on the large-scale issues surrounding us: things like Indigenous treaty, territorial and sovereign rights; climate change; alternative energy fights; the lack of decency in all political governance and so on.
By January 1st, it was clear any trepidation about those big issues was not going to match the colossal wrecking ball coming much closer to home.
Today, I beg you to read my words to the end.
My last previous post was a small tribute to my beautiful, 22 yr. old. nephew who’d become a victim of the opioid crisis on New Year’s Day. Twenty days after that, we got devastating news about my sister.
Tragedies happen every day to families and as a family with solid membership in that pool, there are many days I wonder how we manage to keep going at all. But this takes me back to that sense of hope I’d mentioned. Maybe it’s something not fathomable at all. I don’t know what to make of it, but maybe what emerges from that hope is a greater good. I have no idea what that looks like either, but my heart is saying, hold on and do what you can. Do it with all the love you’ve got and wait. Apparently, that’s all I get to know. I’ll live with that; because we all do. That’s all we’ve got.
The rest of this post is the wording I’ve used for her fundraising campaign. Living in the U.S with little health insurance means this is what we get to do and in the very act itself, it’s clear this is something we have to do. I hope you’ll read this small part of her story, and I hope you will help in sharing it.
She was always fiercely independent and she’s still on her own with her youngest son, 14 yrs. old, but this is a fight no one can do on their own.
She lives in Arizona, where the beauty of its big sky and desert landscapes drew her years ago. She had a great job. She had a great apartment and a great car, but what does that matter when a tumor pushes your brain toward the other side of your skull and you no longer think with a healthy logic?
She’d inexplicably quit her job, which canceled her health insurance and benefits. She couldn’t remember why, nor when she’d last paid bills or even if. She didn’t know how to feel. As in, how to react to what was happening around her. She still made sure her boy got to school and had food on the table though. Carrying on was always the order; until he came home from school one day and found her laying on her bedroom floor, dis-ordered. She was unable to stand or speak properly, making only nonsensical short sentences.
Within 48 hours of that shocking discovery, on January 22, my sister received a diagnosis of a glioblastoma tumor, in phase 4. That’s her scan in the opening image; it’s clear where the tumor is. It’s very aggressive, incurable cancer. She couldn’t and still can’t, remember the entire 3 months prior. They removed 99% of the tumor, but it’ll never stop growing. We learned on February 20th that surgery bought her 12-16 more weeks without treatment, of which 4 weeks had already been taken. They said she could have up to 18 months with treatment. She begins those treatments on February 27th.
Terminal cancer patients should have time to prepare with their children for the inevitability. The dying should have peace to make proper, or frankly any, arrangements. They should be able wrap their arms around their family and talk about their love for one another and even, if blessed, have time to close wounds created within the damages of life.
$25,000 is to cover what we can for an estimated period of 6 – 12 months. This is the minimum calculated to supplement the assistance we’ve applied for including insurance premium funding. This is for rent, food, medications and seemingly endless unexpected/unknown incidentals. She will have to move by March 31, 2020 if we don’t have the rent for April 1st. Please help us get that rent, and God-willing for any months she has left after that.
This will give her time; precious, precious minutes, to work out what she can, to make whatever arrangements are necessary, especially for her kids. We just want to give her some peace and a few more months of hugs. We just want to help. We just want to show her our love, before she says goodbye. A lifetime for $25,000.
$5, $10, $20, whatever number, helps. Thank you, for any and every cent that comes her way. Cancer societies around the world always say every cent counts, and it does. It really, really does.
The whirlwinds of life have been carrying me across a map of wonder and occasionally, just plain confusion. The decade of 10s has left me wide open; it dumped me into a sense of knowing, but bereft of detail. Oh, how I despise the statement, “I know, but I don’t know”, and yet, here I am…
I have high hopes for 2020, and though I don’t know what the shift is going to be, I sense it. A large one and it’s going to be interesting. You feel this too, right? It’ll maybe even be pretty bumpy, but the ends will justify the Universe’s means – and let’s face it, we asked for it.
Perhaps, that’s why I’d like to usher in this new era lightly, maybe even a tad timidly. Nah, I’ve outgrown timidity; long ago. Damned long ago. Still, it feels right to simply step in softly and a little carefully. Boldness will eventually be called for, of that I feel certain, but in a bit.
For now, I revel in the small pleasures, like the smile that crosses my boy’s face when he’s told meatloaf is for dinner. ( I make a good meatloaf. Just sayin’.) Or, when I get to look at photos for the year and they inspire a small dive into humble poetic pleasures. …
Winter’s moon calls for rest Centering contemplation Replenishing growth
A heart’s library Body of knowledge embraced Contentment attained
Pushing boundaries A cast and crew of courage Therapeutic art
And finally, my boy’s choice for my 2020 profile. Of course, he took the photo, so his bias is likely far more basic than the object of his artistry 😉 .
As always, I remain grateful to those who follow my meandering thoughts & trials and to those who reply with the most gorgeous dollops of kindness and insight. I look forward to continuing to learn and then, with the best of success that my prayers allow, share that education meaningfully. And when it isn’t education, may all our poetic and humorous days flourish! I also look forward to reading as much as I can within my writing communities. The amount of talent to sort through is the loveliest of problems.
To all, I wish a healthily successful 2020 and a courageous, joy-filled new decade.
I can’t complain too much. Life’s been a whirlwind of some of the coolest experiences of my life and only mildly tempered by my amazing talent to step in it once in a while.
That’s yesterday’s news. Today, it’s about letting go and living for a ha-ha or two. Apologies in advance for any lame jokey joke efforts; the year’s still been a bit long, eh? 🙄
So, if you’ve ever wanted to wish me a broken leg, now’s your chance. I got a couple little acting jobs this year – for a continuation in the life file labeled: Things I never thought I’d do. It’s been loads of fun and this latest one is a Christmas play, natch. It’s an original around the idea of decolonizing Christmas, which may sound bigger than it need.
The simple truth of it is, winter solstice celebrations have occurred all over the world for millennia. Most didn’t look like the current idea of what traditional Christmas looks, not even actual Christmas, and that’s a point worth reviewing. I won’t give away the plot here, but I would wonder what some might guess what a decolonized Christmas would look like?
I know it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, there will always be people who will ridicule you. They’ll talk about you, jeer, dismiss, and even attempt to undermine you. A good number of times, one will endure that from their own family. I’ve encountered all of that and I suppose I could always be a target for that mentality at any time and in any place. That’s just the really shitty side of life. That side comes from people who have yet to really dig deep into their own issues. What I’ve learned about that is, I’m not obligated to stay in that place with them – no matter who they are.
Despite a lifetime of being told it was a fruitless endeavor, there was good reason why I headed back 20 years ago to the community of my childhood. The fact that the community happened to be Indigenous was both inconsequential and utterly life saving.
I’d spent years looking for ways to understand why there was such a messed-up history that wrecked my nuclear family. Yes, it’s wonderful that much of the generation after mine has made great strides in the efforts of home ownership and good jobs, but behind all of that is that big black hole that still trails us. None of that is resolved by a good job, a nice home, an education, nor in running across or from the country. I did all of that first.
That black hole was borne in place of my familial history when I was taught my community, my relatives, my grandmothers and grandfathers were the cause of our life’s woes. Much like they are still said to be the bane of Canada and ‘its purse strings’. Because of that, I was meant to deny my own heritage and I followed through with it, like many in my immediate family still do.
I did my best to be a good Canadian woman who strives to be a success. Except, when your foundation is based in a self-loathing that no one, including myself, seemed to understand, all that hard work can go up in smoke as quickly as it takes to get into a really bad relationship or receive a phone call that informs you are seriously ill. Those were my turning points.
I’d spent years trying to figure out the basis of that self-loathing. Counseling helped me deal with emotional ups and downs and during the moments when it would intensify to unbearable, but in too many instances, it only served to confuse me further. Applying standard accredited counseling services to an Indigenous inter-generational trauma survivor was woefully inadequate and sometimes even more harmful.
An example was a group therapy effort where I was advised the point of my issues was a deep internal desire to be in a sexual relationship with the woman who had driven me to the ‘retreat’. Another was asking me to not only re-create a scene of sexual abuse, but to do it in front of an entire group. I left any support services for quite a while after the work of that eye-crossing frustration. Therapy created in absence of truth, the truth – still mostly unknown to all even today, is just more marginalization of Indigenous peoples.
When those old moments of inexplicable fears arose again, I turned to other methods of coping. Art projects, writing, loads of volunteering or Al-Anon – which was great support, but incomplete. Then I went back to the idea that a super, new job title was the answer after all. Three additional years of corporate abuse dispelled that notion for good.
As it turned out, underneath it all, I did know what I feared most– being seen for who I really was. That was one of the concepts they’d told me about years before, but the thing is, that was wrong too. Because as it is for most, it really all boiled down to being seen for all that had happened to me – and my mother, and her mother – for generations, and for what I’d done in all the processes to cope with that.
So, despite all that running, in the end, I edged my way back to that place I feared most – that black hole. To the source of all the pain and rage and searing sadness. To that place that is my Indigeneity. To that place where apparently, any value as a realized human is only partial for us, according to school, neighbors, Canadian politics, and the punitive digs by a few of my own chosen relationships.
I was never going to know about me until I saw the real me, the whole me, desperately in need of being heard by anyone who could truly know the very real and distinct intricacies of the Indigenous journey in Canada – and that sure as hell wasn’t on the couch of a Freudian-oriented psychiatrist.
It could only be found back among my own, with my own relations where they knew what I was saying with only a third of the words. Where they knew what I was feeling without having to provide every denigrating detail, and far more importantly, they knew everything behind the whys. They carried the key and it was what I needed to finally fill in that hole of debilitation.
I wrote this because despite reams of paper trails to show what this journey entailed and why I am where I am today, I am still in the line of fire for derision. Despite the triumph of being armed with the understanding of my own culture and its incredible value, I am now ridiculed for standing up for it, even from some family.
Canada has claimed dominion over many of us, and I understand the ease of giving in, but I carry centuries worth of family knowledge. That history matters. I understand exactly why the events that occurred happened. I understand them on multiple levels and that’s what killed the shame that was never mine to carry in the first place. I stand up for my mother and my grandmothers because I am them and I was always meant to embrace that.
This is a country that still must answer for my family and so many others who are still swept away in the daily mixed messages of what it means to be Indigenous within it. It’s a horrible shame those messages remain; it’s devastating to know they’re still being internalized at all – on both sides of the equation.