Last week I had the honour (& brief stomach churning fear) of hosting IndigenousXca on Twitter. As the forum notes: it’s a rotating Twitter account presented by a different Indigenous Host each week. Their hosts have included actors, activists, authors, academics, politicians, teachers, doctors, students, and one Pipisiw – me.
This forum was started in Australia in 2012 and in Canada in 2014 as a platform for Indigenous people to share their knowledge, opinions and experiences with a wide audience which is now a following of several thousand.
As I was getting my feet wet with a few opening tweets, one of the administrators posted a point about clean houses. What about ‘em? Well, let me share my tweets on how a clean house affected my family. No hyperbole, no “other mitigating circumstances”. …
I saw @apihtawikosisan (Chelsea Vowel) post about fears for Indigenous people around a clean house. What that means, as she pointed out, is a clean enough house. As in clean enough to not have your kids taken away. Her post tightened my belly…
It took me back to those moments when I was a child & the air all around us got thick & tight, while my mother would fly around the house with sweat falling off her face from a mix of the physical labour of madly cleaning & terror.
Even as little kids, my sisters & I would instinctively jump to help because we knew this kind of cleaning meant a social worker was coming. We didn’t even know what the consequences of not having “a clean house” really meant, but we knew what it felt like. Breathing was hard.
The government had a power over my mother that terrified her, until it broke her & then we learned “or else” meant we were going to be taken away.
My mother had already lived enough in terror, my father was a broken man & he alone put her through enough by then. She got away from him and what she needed was help – not constant judgement, especially for pittances that kept her on another tight leash.
I remember she was often told she was not to drink. She was not to have any contact with my dad, no men at all, they said, & she needed to keep a clean house. Or else.
Today, I wonder what might have been had any of us been offered a place for our fears then. If my mom had been offered support for coping and maybe even a pat on the back for having got her 6 babies away from an abusive situation by herself.
Maybe supportive, restorative measures weren’t well understood back then, but they are now. All this money poured into employment for provinces in the guise of social work. All the training for foster parents and adoption processes…
All the money given to municipalities in support of those foster parents & restoring municipalities, like the re-opening of schools in New Brunswick because the loads of Indigenous foster kids revived their town to that degree.
Why isn’t this money used for family restorative healing in our communities instead? I feel I answered my own question with my question, because Canada uses the Indigenous not only for land & resources, but constant make-work industries that still terrify mothers (& fathers) to this day.
I hadn’t thought about these particular experiences for years and my visceral reaction to reading Chelsea’s words was very unexpected. What’s still infuriating is that these Indigenous truths are still happening to many families even as I type these words. The stories are noted on Twitter, social media and news media daily.
Yes, it’s all real, and most Canadians remain blissfully unaware of such threats. They can’t even begin to fathom that the dishes sitting in their sink and the dirt on their floor could be enough cause to lose their babies, and in some cases, for good.
Most can’t grasp the depth of Indian Act-induced poverty, and the effects of life under constant judgement and duress and the numerous consequences; the falls into addictions, the escalating abuses in homes, the needs for mental healthcare and on and on and on.
A messy house still terrifies my 75 yr. old aunt. She became OCD about it to this day. My 75 yr. old mom has learned to relax about it – a little, finally. Me? Years of counseling to work out those terrors and I’m now a certified horrible housekeeper – and I don’t give a damn. Of course, my child is now 16; we are reasonably safe.
There’s a similar sort of fear for any family who has a social worker. The fear that if the house isn’t clean and tidy, it means you’re not coping, you’re not measuring up, and your children will be taken away. It’s horrible that a system which is supposed to be there to help ends up instilling fear and panic instead, and even more horrible that this system does get abused by some of the people who work for it.
I’m glad that you’ve managed to rebel against it, Robyn. Xxx
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Thanks, Lou. Yeah, I might have started rebelling long before therapy was involved, but the fears were the real squeeze. I am more than happy to be out of that cloud. xo… wishing you a great week.
Am glad to hear you can have a cluttered home! The “child protection system” still fails indigenous people and others as well. I find myself struggling to contain my frustration, even as I know most of the workers are good hearted but dealing with a politicized system.
Oh, Michael. Don’t even know where to start in reply. Yes, you know a great deal of how these systems work – still. What an awful existence for so, so many. Many hugs to you.
I remember hearing a chief from the west side of VI saying ‘you could eat off the kitchen floor’, because it was so clean. That’s how his mom was taught to clean in the residential school, by straight bleach. Never mind the overkill, skin damage, the environmental damage. Then next, even with cupboards full of canned salmon and seafood, the social workers would exclaim, ‘you poor people’, and introduce the family to poor nutrient foods.
Ugh! Yeah, there is nothing but damage since the “invasion”. Thanks, Laurie.