Shameless

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.

RL

Rare is the Warrior

Aye, it was only a matter of time,

as it’s always been;

when promises of stand by me,

inevitably return to the pale,

where comfort is found most,

in familiar bleached power.

She will always wait,

for warriors worthiest of Her heart & light.

RL

Jamie Mitchell, Bear Art, Design – Valkyrie by Jamie Mitchell

Feather In Our Hand

I do what I can to help where I can, but the truth is that often, if not most of the time, I really don’t feel seen or heard. I feel as effective as a tiny chirp at the back of the cacophony that earns maybe a slight eyebrow raise from some bored listener on Facebook.

I resist the urge to screech louder. We’re supposed to be cautious about over-sharing or zealotry… Even so, I know at times I push that envelope – so bewildered that so few seem to understand or see what I see, even though what I end up screeching about is very much about their world too – equity and equality, corrupt industry and leadership, preserving clean waters… This is OUR world, damn it.

Realistically, of course I know I’m not really an island and I’m definitely not alone in my concerns nor alone on the front lines of a march or rally. Still, while people outside of those rallies, on social media et al, may seem not to notice, I think some, at least do. But what can really be said in response? How many times will people say, yes, I agree, before moving on?

So where do I or anyone else who desire to influence or create change for the better go from there? I suppose it’s at this point that some of us quit and maybe go look for whatever peace is available in our daily survival struggles. Or maybe we push even harder, hoping more serious agitation will move greater numbers. Or maybe like me, regardless of how despondent, quitting is impossible, (trust me, Cree blood is hot!). So, we continue to push for some semblance of balance in all options.

Having said all that, once in a while something happens out of the blue, maybe even something really quite sweet or even astonishing. Like an old friend and Juno Award winner writes a song and he says your efforts inspired him and all you can think is… holay!

What a beautiful event, this unexpected gift from a friend’s heart. He told me I could sing and record it; it’s mine to do with as I wish. Maybe I will sing and record it. Maybe I’ll just sing it with him some day – and I’d love that, but for now, I’d really love to share it with all the other dreamers who dare to strive. We can’t possibly know all who actually see or hear us, but someone is there and maybe, no matter how many, they’re all we’re meant to connect with. Maybe that really is enough…

A Feather In Our Hand, by Lawrence S. Martin

Kininiskimotin, my friend.

RL

Indigenous Funds Are Not ‘Federal Funds’ – A Quick Educational Reality Check

There are a host of historical reasons the Indigenous remain at arm’s length in relationship to Canada. The stories shared daily about the inequities are solidly documented. One of the most offensive statements the Indigenous hear repeatedly is, “the Indigenous are financed with ‘federal funds'”.

Those funds have always belonged to the Indigenous; they are not Canadian largesse. Treaties were begun in the 1700s & the 1763 Royal Proclamation acknowledged the land and resources meant for the Indigenous, along with the order to leave us ‘unmolested’.

It’s not a conspiracy theory when we say it’s critical that an audit needs to be done on the federal ministry, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNA/INAC). There are decades of explanation owed to the Indigenous nations. No one seems to know a full and detailed account of the funding set aside for the Indigenous since the original trust funds were set up in the east. CIRNA/INAC – which is so closely tied to the resources extraction industry that from 1936-1950 the Ministry of Mines and Resources ran the lives of the Indigenous. Even, and perhaps more oddly, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration had a crack at that, (1950-1965)

It explains a lot in many respects, but especially in the current sense of ownership and entitlement of the resource extractions industries. They’ve had the inside track on everything regarding the Indigenous since the beginning of Canada & we should all be very suspicious about how that dept. has been run – particularly against the Indigenous.

We also know Canada has used the Indigenous funds for its own economic stimulus efforts and infrastructure such as ‘loans’ – never repaid to Six Nations to build Upper Canada College, McMaster University, Osgoode Law School, and McGill University.

These details have been coming to light more and more and it’s important not only for Canadians to understand what their foundation is built upon, but to reverse the decades of harm caused by the caustic denigration built into the Canadian education on the history of the Indigenous. These views remain taught today, particularly by various right-wing policy influences like the insidious Fraser Institute and its asinine teachings and public announcements, still readily accepted by much of the Canadian public.

There are reasons why over 50% of First Nations children remain living in poverty; why a basic right like clean water is denied in several Indigenous communities; why nations refuse to grant permission to resource extraction corporations intent on building through them, and rounds of further issues too numerous to cite in one essay. These issues were begun and have been maintained only by Canadian policy.

These details continue to come to light and they must. We will not stop turning these rocks over. We simply can’t; there is no healing without truth. There is no reconciliation without acknowledgement of all, followed by the necessary reparations. Ignorance has cost far too much, on both sides of the treaties.

RL

https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/…/1370355181092/1370355203645…

https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/…/disc…/aboriginal-heritage/first-nations/indian-affairs-annual-reports/Pages/introduction.aspx#b

What is the “Indigenous Rights Framework” and Why Do All Indigenous People Need To Know It?

This is an issue so big, I’d consider it criminal if we didn’t do our best to make sure all our relations are aware of it. I don’t know how many people truly understand what Trudeau’s “Indigenous Rights Framework” is. I know we’ve all heard the name and a lot of big words about it, but what does it look like in its bottom line?

This issue is what previous Indigenous leadership had been fighting against for decades. There are so many Chiefs signing onto this for their people now and I don’t understand how they can do this if they honestly understand what that paper means for all of their generations to follow.

The “Framework” created by Canada without Indigenous input, offers a lot of money today while throwing out those big words about ‘self-determination’ and ‘self-generating revenue’ for tomorrow. They intend to do this by privatizing reserves. Reserves are community property, as was once all of Canada, including what’s now called “Crown lands”. That new revenue is called ‘taxes’.

That means the people who live on reserves would now have to pay taxes to their bands to keep their houses. If they can’t pay the taxes, the band can then sell the houses to anyone who has the money to buy it. Anyone. This is how Canadian developers will get the last of Indigenous lands.

This is how Canada finally gets rid of its “Indian problem” and breaks the original treaties for good. This is the ‘final solution by paper’. We will no longer have our world-recognized nation to nation rights for good. Every reserve would then be less than a provincial municipality. Something many Canadians advocate for, despite the facts of history and it being against the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

That’s a good enough reason every Chief and Council should question why they’re signing onto this, because they are throwing away every tie we have to these lands. Our own teachings tell us we are inextricably tied to our lands. This is why the ceding terminology Canada claimed was in the treaties makes no sense whatsoever. Our ancestors would never untie who we are from our lands. The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld this knowledge.

Some people are saying this is part of the reason Jody Wilson-Raybould, a We Wai Kai Nation citizen, was moved from her role as Attorney General for Canada, because she was fighting this Framework’s details. I don’t know if this is true, but a lot of our Indigenous lawyers & scholars are speaking against this Framework because of what it does.

Canada is trying to get away with not paying the huge debt it owes us. Remember the original treaties – they are about sharing not ceding. They are to be honoured, not stripped. Canadians and the Canadian political landscape have to learn what honour is, and we sure don’t need to be begging for Canada’s scraps.

Here’s an example of how that Framework plan works. The people on this reserve get no more funding transfers from the “Indigenous Trust Funds” to suffice home ownership, (as per the treaties & supplied by a portion of resources extraction from Indigenous lands), so now taxes are expected from the residents of reserves. When taxes couldn’t be paid and the band couldn’t ‘generate funding from people who couldn’t pay taxes’, they were all left in a Canadian lurch.

I’m more than aware of how much of a corner First Nations leadership has been backed into by the chronic underfunding that the Canadian Government employs in their carrot & stick approach to bring the Indigenous to heel, but this is the point Canada has been waiting for to take all our legacies. We must stop this. The end of the Indian Act is not a one-sided deal that Canada gets to decide and sort on its own.

A further side note: the great fight currently underway in Canadian election politics will leave this issue mostly ignored, but when people damn the Indigenous for not stumping for their guy in the Liberals or Conservatives, know that both parties implemented this despicable policy. They only dressed its title & taglines differently.

RL

Phoetic February: Missing You

February 14th was changed forever for Indigenous communities 28 years ago. While we still share in acknowledging and celebrating love, we also use the day to recognize and memorialize our  mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, aunties and grandmothers lost to us inexplicably and/or violently.

We memorialize them in a march through town and city streets to remind all of those still missing and that despite calls for justice and formal inquiries, we have yet to receive any for those murdered. It’s a national disgrace that, as Indigenous women, we remain the most vulnerable demographic in all colonized countries.

A million smiles
Crossed our hearts before goodbyes
Home longingly waits

My cousin, Roberta Marie Ferguson, age 19 yrs, missing since August 24, 1988

RL

Mythical Drops of Blood; Pan-Indigenous Nations Don’t Exist

Calling oneself Indigenous or First Nations is equal to calling oneself European or African. Neither of these regions are a single culture. They are a multitude of nations, customs & traditions. So it is for the Indigenous in North America.

It’s often asked in Canada, “what makes someone Metis”? Asked & answered by the Metis Nation who received recognition for it. The real question should be, “what makes one Indigenous”? Who believes an ancestor from 100 yrs ago or more now qualifies anyone to be recognized as Indigenous? You might be surprised by the number in Canada who think they are – in the hundreds of thousands.

When one says they want to connect with their Indigenous culture, but can’t name the nation they’re from, what then? This is where the Metis Nation is often chosen because of the misinformation it’s a culture that accepts any mixed ancestry. That is not the case, as is being spoken about frequently now by design to educate the public.

The Metis Nation has specific unique languages and customs & traditions of its own. There is a verification process in place for this nation. It is being enforced now because of widespread fraud (intended or not) that takes from the Metis Nation reputation and all opportunities meant for them as an Indigenous people.

So, what about those who got lost in the diaspora caused by Canadian policies? I’m well aware of the separation from Indigenous culture by events like residential schools and the 60’s Scoop. I was one of those kids. I’m also aware that I was lucky to know exactly what my nations are and the names of my grandparents, but I had to search for everything from there to know where I came from, including the customs & traditions of my nations.

Re-connection to one’s culture can only be attained by connecting with cultural centres or relations who can help guide anyone who knows at least their nation. Otherwise we’re really only learning about someone else’s nation and customs, aren’t we?

Although the Cree Nation is well known, I knew I came specifically from the Plains Cree. That was important because there are different Cree nations: Plains, Swampy, Woods, Moose, etc. They all have differences in their languages and customs in the same way any European grouping like the Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian do.

So calling oneself First Nations or Indigenous is not an automatic entry into a grand, pan-Indigenous experience. It certainly looks like that from many people’s promoted experiences of doing just that, but there is dishonesty in that; it does nothing in honouring one’s ancestors or culture.

These efforts only sustain and cement stereotypical ideas as often taught by ‘self-identified/proclaimed Indigenous people’ and onto those Canadian promotional materials using the Plains nations tipis and headdresses to depict an entire culture of cultures. This is rather insulting considering these items were never used in most Indigenous nations.

There are millions of people on this continent from Africa. They have no idea where their families originated from there; a continent of nations. They do not and cannot assume to know which nation is theirs. Some have been very lucky to learn their own historical truths, but most will never know. Unfortunately, this is the case for some people of Indigenous ancestry.

It’s criminal that this sad history persists, but no Indigenous nation is responsible for this horrific stain on Canada’s history. Neither are they obligated to let in just anyone who comes knocking on their door. This includes the Metis Nation. This seems to seriously antagonize a lot of people who want to claim themselves Metis regardless of their history. It may be infuriating and heartbreaking, but that is not the responsibility of the Metis Nation and its people.

So, where do people who don’t know their nations go? I don’t have an answer for that any more than I’d be able to tell African Americans what to do for representation. The only thing that can be done is an ancestral hunt to the best of one’s ability with a heap of good luck thrown in. This unfortunate diaspora is Canada’s doing and what they will do to make it right is the greatest unknown. In all honestly, I doubt it will be much.

RL