In the Words of an Elder: Maureen Kennedy Speaks…

Standing tall, for Standing Rock and all our ancestral lands

Standing tall, for the safety and preservation of all our ancestral land (Lummi Totem Pole, that made a journey across the continent )

I used to have a belief that some races were superior to me and for years never even knew I had this belief. So pitiful, as I was not taught the truth.

Now I know that I learned this because of my environment as a child.

Education and/or money does not make anyone superior or more intelligent. These are external and have not much to do with who I really am. I can put information into my computer and it certainly does not make it superior to me. What a pitiful concept.

And so many people have bought into the lie. That is why it is so important to understand our Sacred teaching of TRUTH. Our Ancestors knew that we needed to look at the 4 aspects of ourselves to know TRUTH and that still holds true for all 2 legged.

It is like a person has not fully developed if they are missing 2 important parts of themselves. Not whole. And it is very hard to feel good about selves if 2 parts of self are denied. I know this to be true.

Some people are so pitiful and cause so much pain with the lies. I wonder, if only our Mama Mother can really teach them, because when people think they know everything they are hard to teach.

Also, no one can learn in the mind if they are traumatized, just try it. So how could our people learn in residential schools. Seriously.

Our people are wise when they live in a good way because KNOWLEDGE IS LEARNED AND WISDOM IS LIVED.

See the difference…..

Lets get this truth first inside ourselves and others will feel this.

Hiy Hiy, Creator, as I am so happy about who I am,
Maureen Kennedy

feather-fan
RL

Our Home and Native Braves

Andrea Hotomanie, Principal, Glenda Speight, Constable Erin McAvoy

Andrea Hotomanie, Principal, Glenda Speight, Constable Erin McAvoy

 As Remembrance Day approaches, I am reminded of how profoundly I was moved by the Remembrance Day assembly at my son’s school last year. I found it particularly poignant for two reasons.

What I found initially striking was that the ceremony was presided over by all women, something I’d never seen before.  This brigade of impressive feminine force were school Principal, Glenda Speight, RCMP Constable Erin McAvoy in Red Serge, and Andrea Hotomanie, the district Aboriginal Support Worker.

Andrea Hotomanie was the second reason of note.  She stood up in recognition of the Indigenous peoples who serve and have served in the Canadian military. She wore a magnificent button blanket, borne of the Northwest Coastal tribes, around her shoulders. It was the first time I had seen this kind of Indigenous inclusion at any school remembrance assembly and it brought me to tears.

It moved me so deeply because it was the first time I felt my grandfather and uncles included in these remembrances in a way that they hadn’t before.  It brought them, Cree warriors from northern Alberta, faded from history for so many decades, up to the front too.  I felt they were being honored for the first time as servicemen and not as guests held only in my mind, while all the other heroes were noted up on the screens and in the speeches. Between Andrea’s presence and my son nearby, this acknowledgement brought it all fully home to my heart.

All those many years ago, there was never any doubt that at least three of my uncles would join the military from the time that, as young boys, they stared admiringly at the one photo of my grandfather in his uniform until they were all signed up and fitted into their own.

photo compilation by Robyn LawsonAlong with pride of their homeland and reverence for the uniform, there was another underlying and stirring reason to join up. Uncle Philip finally expressed it after I asked him why he always declared that his favorite job was being in the Canadian forces.  He said, “Respect”.  While he wore that Canadian uniform, it was the first time in his life that he was treated with honest to God respect, and it didn’t matter where he was in the world.  It was his greatest time of honor and pride.  I can’t say so for my grandfather or the other uncles, but I suspect they felt much the same.

Their presence at the Remembrance Day assembly that day was palpable to me, and I have no doubt that they were all there in full uniform.

There is a lot of history about Indigenous participation in the military and the details are available more than ever.  I would encourage anyone to look up that history sometime for some very interesting and enlightening reading.

For now, I would just like to say thank you to my family for their courage.  We will always be proud.  We will always remember.

In remembrance of:

Military family

John Gray-WW1, Frank Gray-WW2, Phil Gray-Korea, Larry Gray-CDN post Quebec

RL

readers digest logoOur Home and Native Braves was published October 30, 2013 on the Reader’s Digest community website: http://www.readersdigest.ca/our-canada/community-blog/our-home-and-native-braves

Recommended link for Native military history:
A Commemorative History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military:
http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/pub/boo-bro/abo-aut/index-eng.asp

I Was Hacked, & By Friendly Fire Too

Unfortunately I was hacked and a post was put up on my page without my involvement today.  Although I am in support of the knowledge contained in the report that was posted, I will not support the tactics used to place it on my page.

I am a strong supporter of Indigenous issues and I speak out regularly on various platforms often and proudly, but I’m sorry that someone felt that placing their view, even if well-intentioned, without my permission would be a viable method.  I will ask for help if I have trouble finding my own words.

I appreciate someone else wanting help in spreading the word about the incredibly uninformed and racist views of Conservative candidates, but ask for my assistance, do not impose your will on me, the way Canadian policies were imposed on our ancestors.

I am aware of these candidates, I speak out about them, I encourage people to seek out the backgrounds of who they may be voting for, but most of all, please use the hard-earned right to do so.

RL

The REDress Project

Red Dress Project 3

My red dress, hanging under the Weeping Willow tree
The REDress project, created by Métis artist Jaime Black, highlights the issue of the missing & murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

October 4th is a day to honor the lives of over 4,000 Indigenous women tragically taken from their loved ones. It is also a day meant to raise awareness about the ongoing violence, at significantly higher rates toward Indigenous women and girls than any other demographic in Canada.

This effort was started by the Sisters In Spirit Vigil (SIS) organization and the Native Women’s Resource Centre in Toronto nine years ago, and includes support services for the family members of the missing and murdered women (#MMIW).

The group began in answer to the lack of resources through any government services and the continuing lack of public response on any meaningful scale.

Current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper outraged many when he said in an interview on the CBC last December,  that looking into this issue, particularly with a national inquiry was “not high on his government’s radar”.  To date, despite a later outright denial of what he said in that recorded video, his government has continued to do nothing about the issue.

In response, artist Jaime Black chose to highlight the issue with her project designed to represent the women with red dresses in a photo display that is being shown in various galleries across the country. In various interviews she said she would like people to hang their own red dresses wherever in their community or wear one on October 4th in solidarity for the women and their families.

The public can also participate in the honoring by attending various candlelight vigils in various cities and/or with a virtual candle online project:  http://www.october4th.ca/

RL

Please see Jaime’s full story at http://www.redressproject.org

For more information about the Sisters in Spirit group, see: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/giving-life/community-happenings/sisters-in-spirit-honouring-the-lives-of-missing-and-murdered-indigenous-women/

Bad Medicine

There was a time I needed to feel safe.
So, I would just be the Italian, Eurasion or Greek.
It was better to be whatever I wasn’t
because anything was better than pain.

I didn’t have my grandmother’s arms to hold me
while she told me where we came from.
I didn’t have my grandmother’s words to tell me who
We are.

Her children went outward and got lost in the White Sea
with only glimpses of shining glory, such short moments,
but mostly they got knocked around and then down,
till the medicine could numb them, and set them free.

Some moved from drowning the sorrows, and doing what we were told,
but I learned the voices in my head weren’t the ones in my heart.
My grandmother’s voice now comes through; she’s been whispering the stories.
that the hurt of the years stood in the way of, for so long.

She’s been telling me to stand up,  to remember and learn who we are.
She’s saying use your voice to teach.
Use your voice to reach the hearts of the other lost.
Let them know they’re not alone, show them lies are not real.

Learn for them; then show them the ways through that White Sea.

It’s OK to not be only safe.

Staying hidden is another bad medicine.

Eagle on perch

RL

Photo credit: Jim Wong Photography

Pathetic and Dense; You HAVE To Be an Indian

There comes those moments when you sit back and assess why you do what you do.  I’ve done this recently in response to the reactions on my posts and comments about Indigenous Peoples based issues.

I originally started writing to throw out my views on general life events.  I worked around what I might write and I settled on the concept that my son would know his mother as a multi-dimensional being.  For the day that he realizes I am an actual person, I want him to know what I stood for outside of “dinner’s ready and is your homework done”?  I want him to know what I learned about the entire human experience.

I wanted to fill in as much of his background for him, in order to spare him and other children in our family, any moment of the emptiness I felt while growing up. There was little knowledge of my family history beyond the shame of what we experienced and what was said to define us.  A number of those experiences were based in the fact that I was born an Indigenous person.

I’ve written about some of my childhood and what it was like to grow up facing some of the ugliness of people who had no desire to hide their disdain for Indigenous anything.  I was called names that I knew were about disparagement of my culture before I had any idea about the concept of racism.  I was only about four or five years old when I first recall being called some of those names:  savage, squaw, filthy redskin, whatever it was, I knew enough to know it wasn’t good.

That was far from the last time I’d be called those sorts of names and treated with equal disdain.  Those overt efforts to denigrate me didn’t end until I was in my teens.  It was most likely the fact that public awareness was growing around the concepts of political awareness and correctness.

It would be three decades before the same kind of voices and sneers would come at me again.  I suppose I could count my last posted column to be the first instance of the return events – which caused a loss of some followers of my blog and my Twitter account. The most recent occasion was this past weekend.   I wasn’t called a savage, dirty redskin or a filthy Indian this time; they went for my intelligence and mental stability levels before they finished off with a reference to my ancestry.

This foray back into the dark happened while I was engaged in an online conversation.  It was within the comments of a national newspaper about the current call for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women.  The comments began mostly as denials for any need for inquiry, because the recently published RCMP report seemed to have all the answers already, despite the many calls showing the disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal women as victims overall.

The reasons for denying an inquiry have been solidly reported already, so I won’t repeat them, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to move from that topic to how it was about time for First Nations to take control of their own lives, to get over the past, and to get off the backs of taxpayers.

In defense, I began in earnest to answer the questions and reply to the statements of derision as quickly as they were being posted.  With each question, I would get another question or asked about something completely unrelated – the old, deflect to another point to avoid having to admit first point trumped – tactic.

With every answer I gave came the demand for proof, and when I provided reference links to support my statements, I was hit with personal aspersions.  Four people at various points each let me know that I was unaware of what planet I lived on, that I was “dense”,  “dumb”, “pathetic”, a “nutter”, and finally in  summation:  “You HAVE to be an Indian”.

National Post  Missing Women Sept 18 2014-3aNow, I don’t have a problem with being “an Indian”, even the sort that man was insinuating; I don’t deny my moments of mental densities, but I survived the years four, ten, twelve and the three plus decades with heart and soul intact.

While, I mostly repelled the sting of those arrows, they did make me question whether or not I was subjecting myself and possibly my son to potential harm down the road. Was I going to lose more people within my friendship and supporter circles?

I am prepared for any lack of interest or opposition to my views, but I can still be surprised by who those contradictions may come from.  It is painful to find out that people you thought gave a damn about you actually didn’t.  It is saddening to learn that people you counted on didn’t really have a backbone of their own, let alone your back, and that even people you admired can walk away with each step feeling like a slap to the face.

Here’s the thing about that stronger constitution I now own – it takes a lot less time to get over the hurt of crossing paths with those sorts of people.  Now I realize I am losing nothing except future moments of wasted time.  Whatever our purpose was to that point, it was served and now, time to move on, God bless.

I wrote a while ago that this was my tap dance, and part of the song is my ancestry.  The fact that my ancestry happens to be tied to very real and important issues for my country matters.

I will continue to write of human experiences, of my own triumphs and failures; I will write about what I find humorous, and I will continue to write about affairs Indigenous.

In fact, my next post is going to be about the answers I gave that caused those biting heads to explode in that online discussion. The part about how taxpayers do not support First Nations people and in fact, why taxpayers should be saying a hell of a lot of thanks instead.

I hope you’ll stay tuned.

RL

Washington Redskins Racism Cuts Far Deeper than Wanted For the Team Fans

It’s all so simple really, what’s at the bottom of the fight over changing the name of the Washington Redskin’s football team.  The real deal point that hits home the hardest about the debate is the word racist.  Not racism; it’s the full-on, take it personally, title of racist.

The idea that they have, for generation after generation, celebrated and cheered a term built upon the bloodied bodies of human beings is incomprehensible.  It should be.

After all, regardless of the mouthpieces who speak in support of it, another truth is that the New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09majority of those team fans are really just your average, basic, decent citizen and neighbors.  They’re the same people who’d help you shovel your walk; they’d rush to help someone in an accident.  They send donation after donation to help people devastated by wrath of nature disasters.  They’re the same people you’d likely enjoy a coffee with at a local school or church event.  Like most anyone, they will move heaven and earth to protect and cherish their children and community.

They will also do the same to protect that inner sensibility to remain good people.  Good people are not racist.  Therefore, that “R” word is the issue, but not really the term itself; it’s about the people who are changing their truth’s history of it.

The campaign to bring out that ‘truth’ is everywhere.  Social media is fully covered by various groups in support of the talking points put out by the team’s organization.  They include the origin of the term, the number of teams with the name, the original honor intended, and so on.  The team has put up a page on their website dedicated to the issue.  There are constant interviews given by their P.R. reps in radio, podcasts, TV, and newspapers.

The team owners created a charitable organization dedicated to the plight of Native Americans – although the altruistic intentions are vociferously debated given the timing of the new generosity and the requirement of highly visible team branding attached to what is given.

The information available for the entire issues’s history is ample and readily accessible, and yet its existence is denied over and over.  The engagement of hundreds of Native American tribes and groups is almost wholly ignored. The organization at the head of the issue, the Change the Mascot organization is never referenced.

The irony in the labor to ignore the voices of Native Americans by declaring this is only an effort by white liberals serving a politically correct agenda is completely lost on them. They’ll state sadness and regret about the Trail of Tears, but if there is such a thing as opinion genocide, there is a good case for this being an example at work.

How do decent people seemingly willingly embrace racism?

redskins fan trail of tears  How is all of this even possible by these same decent people of regular everyday life?

kc  chiefsTo get an idea, we’d have to ask what it would feel like, within the dawning of the realization, that what Native Americans are saying, is true.  What does the evidence of horrible realities behind nearly 80 years of mythical stories of supportive honor do to the average heart?

What does it mean and what does it say about everyone who ever supported the team?  What does that make every celebrating and cheering owner, employee, player and fan over those nearly 80 years?

Despite a likelihood of racism within some of the mindsets, for the most part, for the rest, in a word, it would have to be: ignorance.  We’re talking about mostly just ignorance.  For over two centuries there has been a deliberate effort to hide the history of Native Americans with even more fervor than the attempts to silence them today.

The concerted work to erase the attempted genocide of the America’s Indigenous Peoples includes omitting and revising facts in school history books.  Governments even today will avoid the word genocide despite loads of buildings holding their own records detailing:

  • the creation of reserves, reservations,
  • the breakup of families and the creation of residential schools to break the cultures and assimilate them,
  • the demand to manage virtually every aspect of life on those reserves and reservations.

The most the average citizen learned about Indigenous people amounts to pemmican recipes, tipi making, and how they caused great harm to the poor besieged settlers on their land.  This is just fact, and in truth, because of that even many of the Indigenous peoples have yet to learn their own histories.

So, it is in these cases, that we can say to people:  we understand. We can’t condemn someone for racism unless they are informed and educated about the point of issue.  To be sure, there has been a lot of informing going on and the aid of social media has been helpful in spreading the news even faster.  There have been a good number of successful inroads because of this, but make no mistake, there is still a huge amount of ground to cover in North America.

For those informed and educated, but still insist on the old beliefs, I suppose the notion of change itself is even harder to embrace.  There’s not much that can be done about that by us, but for all the rest, the truth of the words by slave abolitionist, William Wilberforce stands in this as much as all inhumanity:

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you didn’t know.”

RL

Thank you, to Mike Wise – Washington Post Sports Writer, for sharing this piece at CSN Washington Post.

Thank you, to my readers who have shared their own experiences and/or views in reply to my previous piece detailing many of the specific arguments,

Educate, Not Dominate

(Warning:  usage of full racial epithets in this opinion piece, because I don’t believe one is more important or blatant than the rest in this point of view).
 

Our truths are largely based on what side of a fence we grew up on. One side, one truth is largely equal to merely indoctrination as education, and this is not restricted to religion.  It’s about everything we grew up to believe about the world.

Education is not about only learning more about our side of the fence, it’s supposed to be learning about all the other fences too, or as many as we’re able.  This should be a lifelong effort, and if not, why not?

Education has always been key in resolving conflict and ignorance of intents.  The process gets all muddled up with the yeah buts, if you knew what he/she did, we need this or we need that.

So what’s really needed?  What is really needed to live ably and in relative comfort?  The big questions are, what is worth killing children for?  What is worth demeaning their value as people?

What’s worth a walk up to a child and looking her in the eyes to  call her dirty, a camel jacker, a nigger, a redskin, a chink, a honky, or any other of the demeaning terms we need to make up to dehumanize another person?   Nothing?  Thank the Universe you have not descended into madness.  Yet.

Childrens eyes 2I say ‘yet’ because I wonder how many people wouldn’t be able to do that, but do remark loudly and viciously about the lowness of those children’s parents when in disagreement. These are most noticeable in the comment sections of news stories like those about children dying in the Middle East, resources on someones land, or for the change of an American football team name.

Would these same people kneel down to this child and look her in the eyes and tell her that the purpose of their gain is worth her loss of worth or life?  We know there are some who will, and have.  They have become madness embodied.

This is what’s meant to be feared.  They say they do this on behalf of all the people, their people, and unbelievably, they are believed.   What fear is the madness based in?  Loss?   What fear of loss is so great that it’s worth dehumanizing or killing a child over?

That madness spreads like dust, but dust can be cleaned away.  How do we stop the advent of madmen?  We educate all of our children now.  We all have to stop, whenever it’s made possible, to ask if we’ve truly made an effort to look over the top of our fences.  Have we really searched for the reasons behind our fears and anger about something, or most importantly, someone?

If not, why not? It’s never been easier.

RL

 

 

Cherokee Nation Triples in One Week, & Don’t Call Me a Redskin

We should be impressed with how many people are well versed in Native American culture and history.  It’s been amazing and enlightening to see all kinds of average citizens report and comment so expertly on First Nations and Aboriginal issues lately.  Of course, this post isn’t really about how much is known about Native Americans as much as how deplorably inadequate our education about the culture(s) still is.

The story that has caused all the questionable commentary was the news the U.S. Patent Office revoked the name trademark for football team, the Washington Redskins.  The public response has revealed that a number of people feel immersed enough in Native American culture that they can speak for how Native Americans should or do feel about all kinds of issues.  This includes how to react to the use of a term historically known as racist for the sake of sports team logos and names.

I keep reading things like, as a Native, I’m one of the people who doesn’t really care about this, and so why should anyone else.  I most definitely have feelings about this – I feel hurt, angry, and sometimes surges of the humiliation burn I endured at times throughout my life because I am a Native person. The sting of being called a dirty redskin when I was a child is as piercing now as it was then.

peace is our promiseI’ve read over and over that even if I do care, what I feel is beside the point because there are far more people out there who really matter.  I happen to think it’s the ones who stand against racism and discrimination of any form that matter.  I believe in the ones who say let’s make the world a better place without the cost of that being another human.  I seek those who speak beyond the words that filled so many, too many, of the commentaries like this:

BUT – 90% of the Universe Likes the Name!

“90% of Indians don’t mind the name Redskins.” or sometimes it’s stated as, “90% of Americans like the name”.  These statements refer to the often cited, but academically questioned, National Annenberg Election Survey from 2004. They proudly quote that 90% figure, but that’s 90% of the 768 respondents – 691 people who claimed Native American ancestry, not 90% of all Native Americans. That’s part of why people take exception to this poll.  It also took almost a year to find those 768 respondents, which begs the question, which neighbourhoods were they looking in?

If you want to get technical, according to U.S. Census records for 2004, there were approximately 3,000,000 Native Americans in the U.S. then.  The number needed to statistically represent 90% of Natives (with a 3% +/- error margin) would’ve had to have been at least 1,100 people  – preferably Native Americans who live within the culture, or are well-versed in it.

There is a constantly ignored October 2013 SurveyUSA poll that showed 59% of 500 non-Native American Washington DC residents thought the name was offensive.  79% of them didn’t think changing the name would make them think less of the team.

There was something else I noticed in the comments and that was how many Native American relatives we all have. If the number of self-identified part-Native Americans claiming not to have a problem with the name is true, then Native Americans must really represent close to a third of the overall U.S. population. For sure the Cherokee nation’s population has got to have tripled in the last week.

There is tremendous debate as to the truth of the word’s offensiveness.  This is where the vast in-depth knowledge of Native American history appears most in the comments.  The origin of the word is debated to the nth degree with disagreement about the word being born of racism.  Therefore, no racist beginning, no problem.

Origin is not the point

 noun: etymology

  1. the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.   The origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning.

plural noun: etymologies

A paper by Ives Goddard is often cited as incontrovertible proof that the word did not begin as a slur because he cites English and French notes from 17th-19th century journals where they note a chief and some tribal members called themselves red people. First Nations are hundreds of cultures. Some people take exception to those notes because Native historians  – as in the Native peoples themselves – did not record their history in the same way, and most do not historically refer to themselves as red people, let alone redskins.  In any case, the paper does acknowledge the term evolved into a slur, or “obloquy”.

Next, victoriously trotted out are exceptions to the view that most Native Americans are offended and why they shouldn’t be:

  • The first Redskins coach was Native – Disputed as someone who took on a Sioux identity to escape the draft. He also did not name the team.
  • The team was honoring that coach and four Indian players – disputed by redskins owner in a 1933 interview with the Hartford Courant.
  • The Natives have always been proud of these honors – it was Natives who started the trademark revocation in 1992, but overall objections to the name began in the 1950s.
  • Many school teams, even Native ones, call themselves redskins and are damned proud of it.  Most are forgetting when those schools were originally named and by whom, but even so, self identification to claim the name is not the same thing.
  • Oklahoma is Native named and is Choctow for ‘Red People’.  Actually, ˆ“Ogla-ut-homma”, has a different etymology. In the Choctaw language “Homma,” can mean rust, brown, tan, or red. Oklahoma could easily be translated as ‘tan people.’

This may be interesting debate so far, but what isn’t disputed is that the name evolved into a term that evokes centuries of derision, hatefulness, discrimination, and attempted genocide. The term is recorded in historical accounts repeatedly calling for the scalps and genitalia of our ancestors. It’s this part of history that most resonates with the people who are offended by the images and names that dehumanize them to a cartooned existence, i.e. redskins.

Despite that, the reasons given to keep the name run the gamut from derision to the absurd; Natives and white liberals are just whiners and choosing to be victimized. There is simple ignorance of the issue to blaming Obama, who apparently is in need of another distraction.  Some people are very concerned about the expenses this could cost teams if they have to re-tool names or images.  Some people want to cling to tradition, eagerly willing to overlook the horrific and bloody history associated with the term.

Coming to terms with the idea of change can be hard, and for some people, very hard.  Changing something that is eight decades along is even seen as dishonoring “tradition”.  However, if a tradition is based in the highly questionable honor of documentable racism, the time for change is long overdue.

Banning racist slurs may not change everything, but words do have power and standing against words that caused so much damage is the beginning of the end of discriminations, and it says, yes, we do matter.

Besides, there are already cases to show that it can be done without irreparable loss.

  • The University of Utah Redskins became Utah Utes in 1972.
  • The Miami University (of Ohio) Redskins became the RedHawks in 1997.
  • The Southern Nazarene University Redskins became the Crimson Storm in 1998.
  • To date, there were more than 3,000 American Indian mascots and names used in school K-12 athletic programs; more than two-thirds of those have been changed.

Still don’t think any racism underlies the word?  Then why do you suppose that in every single one of those comments – all those stridently opposed to change and steadfastly insistent that the term redskins is really an honor – why did none of them refer to Native Americans as redskins? Not a single one.

RL

Some may have noticed I didn’t capitalize the term in some areas. I did that in order to reflect how that term changes tone even with a simple adjustment of a letter.  I doubt the irony of that was missed by even the most ardent slur defender.

Updated July 7, 2014 Washington Redskins PR Hire is a good idea for Native Americans:   2006 Ben Tribbett Proves Washington Team Name Is Slur, 2014 Ben Tribbett Paid To Defend It

Updated June 29, 2014 to include the Oklahoma reference increasingly cited as self-description for entire Native American nations. With thanks for the information provided by Paula Starr,  Executive Director at Southern California Indian Center.

Our Home and Native Braves

Andrea Hotomanie, Principal, Glenda Speight, Constable Erin McAvoy

Andrea Hotomanie, Principal, Glenda Speight, Constable Erin McAvoy

As Remembrance Day approaches, I am reminded of how profoundly I was moved by the Remembrance Day assembly at my son’s school last year. I found it particularly poignant for two reasons.

What I found initially striking was that the ceremony was presided over by all women, something I’d never seen before.  They were school Principal, Glenda Speight, RCMP Constable Erin McAvoy, impressive in her Red Serge, and Andrea Hotomanie, the district Aboriginal Support Worker.

Andrea Hotomanie was the second reason of note.  She stood up in recognition of the First Nations who serve and have served in the Canadian Military. She wore a magnificent button blanket around her shoulders.  It was the first time I had seen this kind of inclusion at any school remembrance assembly.  It brought me to tears.

It moved me so deeply because it was the first time I felt my grandfather and uncles included in these remembrances in a way that they hadn’t before.  It brought them, Cree warriors from Northern Alberta, faded from history for so many decades, up to the front too.  I felt they were being honored for the first time as servicemen and not as guests in the back of my mind, while all the other heroes were noted up on the screens and in the speeches. Between Andrea’s presence and my son nearby, this acknowledgement brought it all fully home to my heart.

All those many years ago, there was never any doubt that at least three of my uncles would join the military from the time that, as young boys, they stared admiringly at the one photo of my grandfather in his uniform until they were all signed up and fitted into their own.

photo compilation by Robyn LawsonAlong with pride of nation and reverence for the uniform, there was another underlying and stirring reason to join up. Uncle Philip finally expressed it after I asked him why he always declared that his favorite job was being in the Canadian forces.  He said, “Respect”.  While he wore that uniform, it was the first time in his life that he was treated with honest to God respect, and it didn’t matter where he was in the world.  It was his greatest time of honor and pride.  I can’t say so for my grandfather or the other uncles, but I suspect they felt much the same.

Their presence at the Remembrance Day assembly that day was palpable to me, and I have no doubt that they were all there in full uniform.

There is a lot of history about Indigenous participation in the military and the details are available more than ever.  I would encourage anyone to look up that history sometime for some very interesting and enlightening reading.

For now, I would just like to say thank you to my family for their courage.  We will always be proud.  We will always remember.

In remembrance of:

Private John Joseph Baptiste Gray – WW1

Private John Joseph Baptiste Gray – WW1

Private Frank Joseph Gray – WW2

Private Frank Joseph Gray – WW2

Philip Gray Military Photo

Private Philip Sanford Gray – Korea

Private Larry Alexander Gray – Canadian post, Quebec

Private Larry Alexander Gray – Canadian post, Quebec

To an old friend serving in Afghanistan, Deputy Chief of Staff, John Valtonen, as always, thank you, and stay safe.

RL

readers digest logoOur Home and Native Braves was published October 30, 2013 on the Reader’s Digest community website:  http://www.readersdigest.ca/our-canada/community-blog/our-home-and-native-braves

Recommended link for Native military history:
A Commemorative History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military:
http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/pub/boo-bro/abo-aut/index-eng.asp