What’s Under a Fight to Do Right?

Sometimes I’m asked why do I bother to work for Indigenous causes, or any cause really, when it seems the odds against achievement are so damned overwhelming or insurmountable? Someone asked, “Why are you bothering to waste precious time”? It’s a question I’m not sure I can fully answer because how do you describe a longing intensely emanating from your very core? How do you describe desire that overwhelms your own overawed senses and fatigue to work to make something right?

Why do we push on even when it feels like we’re only speaking into a complete void of apathy & disinterest or even in the face of real, ruthless retaliation? I suppose sometimes it does seem futile and somewhat Don Quixote-ish. I know it certainly feels like that from time to time. Maybe it’s more simple than we can know. In some way in our lives, something was triggered by an act of inequity, a brutality, and/or a fear.

I’m not sure when the force was set in me to eventually strive to become an agent for action. Maybe it took a culmination of events to instill a sense that attaining justice was about more than writing letters to the Editor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s just that real change usually requires that step and a dozen more to make a dent in an issue.

What kind of events does it take to wake a burgeoning fire for equity? My experiences started early within family abuses based in the consequences of inter-generational traumas inflicted by colonialism. They were enforced in incidents like the group of men who – for a laugh – sicced a dog on 7 yr. old me to, “get that little redskin” and who enjoyed the moment their dog gripped onto my ankle; or the neighbor screaming, “get out of here, you dirty little Indian” as she chased me down the street when I was 10; or being cheated out of the fruits of my labor as an adult &/or having false accusations leveled at me.

I suffered through much of that pain on my own, until I could learn how and where to turn for help. I didn’t get help all the time, but when I did, it was searingly potent & it was that, I believe, that triggered the move from thinking I could be a difference to working on it.

How could I possibly stay silent in the face of inequities to which I can speak, when the people who I hold in the highest esteem today, are those who stood with me and for me, when I couldn’t? How could I possibly dishonor their teachings, their strengths of conviction, & their compassion? How could I possibly ignore the work they took on to show me how important it is to take a stand for what’s right, so I could stand for myself? How could I keep all that conviction I learned and earned for only myself?

These lessons didn’t come easily, there was a lot of hard work with many, many doubts, and certainly, I don’t win at everything. But my heroes showed me what strength of character is and in its most defining word, their power. They helped bring me to my own esteem and value. Although I’m not professionally trained in many aspects of what I do, my passion & willingness to learn is the biggest driver of change – for the good, preferably. So it is for all of us.

One of my efforts entails seeking real sovereign recognition and benefits for Indigenous communities. For that to happen, Canada has to step back and re-create its foundation in the honor it already earnestly claims. Technically, legally, there is no Canada without this relationship. The time is now for Canadians to put their money where their heart is and state with us, as the truest powers that be, that the partnership with Indigenous peoples precedes the enrichment of only some people and/or corporate interests. The inherent rights of the Indigenous greatly bolster the effort to serve the whole.

One crucial aspect my heroes provided was taking the mystery out of those intimidating forces called – “the Government”, or “the Principal”, or “corporate executives”. They’re no one other than our own neighbors who may have had a few more lucky breaks. Outside of those suffering from psycho/sociopathy, they have the same issues, fears, needs and flaws as the rest of us. And just like the rest of us, they sometimes need to be shown when their work could be better or is just plain destructive.

There’s only one group of people capable of that. That would be me – and you. Anything we can lend to this cause or any other to do life better is valuable, & I guarantee, so is everything we get back for that. It all begins and ends within ourselves; where there is decency, lies the fire.

RL

Indigenous Prayers – Poetic Haikus In Motion

Youth dancer – Jingle  Dress dancer, Nekwakwas,  Squamish Nation PowWow, July 2018

Softly she enters
The prayers of her music
Ancestral healing

RL

——————————————–

Youth dancer – Fancy Dancer,  Skweltapis Megmagalus Ned      Squamish Nation PowWow, July 2018

A bold soul dances
Rejuvenating spirits
The grandfathers smile

RL

——————————————–


Traditional Dancer, Denise Ann John, & fave Nova Scotia sis, August 2018

Ethereal calm
Calling to the grandmothers
Replenishing gifts

RL

——————————————–

bert dancing 2

Traditional Dancer, Bert One-Breath Milberg, & fave big bro, Nova Scotia, August 2018

A Warrior’s heart
Gifted reverent power
A shelter of strengths

RL

——————————————–

For non-Indigenous friends, a little info note about powwows…  A powwow is a social event where we sing and dance in honour of our ancestors; to pray to, for & with them and Creator, and to enjoy the good humour, kindnesses and company of our relations.  The day’s highlight are the competitive dances that enthrall with their colours, intricate detailed regalia, and the sheer physical power put into the dancing. Then there are various food vendors that’ll test your capacity to eat heartily.

All are invited to share in these events to not only enjoy the day’s events, but also to support Indigenous artisans and craft makers, who provide beautiful, genuine Indigenous work in all sort of art genres for sale.

You won’t have to wonder about the protocols, i.e. how one may participate in the dancing or when you may take photos, or when to stand for a prayer, etc. All powwows have an MC that announces or directs these points as they arise.  A quick tip: the standard invitation for anyone to join the dancing begins with the call: “Inter-tribal dance”.

Hiy hiy and congratulations to all for a really wonderful 2018 Powwow season.

RL

Headline to Headline; Let’s Play

Big day in Canadian news today and this makes it a good day to play, which headline is real?

“City of Victoria To Remove Statue of Depraved, Racist Drunk and Canada’s 1st Prime Minister”

or

“Sports Officials Unable to Find Non-Indigenous Team Names, Despite Entire Universe”

If you said neither, you’d be wrong. Well, almost wrong. Headline one is all truth, but only part of it was actually published. You can probably guess they didn’t print the “Racist” part or the “depraved” and “drunk” parts either. However, Victoria, BC did elect to take down the statue of John A. MacDonald, with the city’s Mayor explaining, ‘Indigenous people do not need to walk past this painful reminder of colonial violence each time they enter the doors of their municipal government.’  See the story details behind this move at “RECONCILIATION AND REMOVAL OF JOHN A. MACDONALD STATUE FROM STEPS OF CITY HALL“.

Of course, reaction to this event is fairly predictable. Outrage about ‘erasing history’ and insult to Canadian history, which might have deserved a hint of sympathy if actual history hadn’t of course, already been erased and ignored. Particularly the parts about the brutal terrorism and murder committed by MacDonald in the name of cleansing the “Indian problem” from the landscapes of their home in favour of European settlers looking to escape the tyranny of their own homeland.

The United Nations have a name for these acts that many Canadians are unable to accept for the black mark that it is, because it firmly rests upon their ancestors. It’s genocide, and just that one word alone is enough to cause shudders of distaste from the capital city that’s removing the statue, to the cliff edges of Newfoundland. If pushed, these people will make some allowance instead, for the term: Cultural Genocide.

In the end, as far as the descendants of ongoing traumas are concerned, the Indigenous Peoples, semantics do little for the scars of the policies then or the ones still being created in the name of “Reconciliation” today. That there are some Canadians who recognize their own real history and want to begin anew in how to present it and make amends, I raise my glass and hands to them.

No one, in the name of decency, wants to venerate genocidal sociopaths. The real history is that it took that kind of person to build Canada’s foundation. If Canada wants to change its historical record to the decency it claims world over, recognizing this is a start. Desires to instead teach Canada’s history from a realistic place in a real effort to uplift the marginalized and defeat repeating history, are the real heroics of this story.

The second headline is from one of my favorite Indigenous satire news magazines ever, Walking Eagle News!  Read Tim Fontaine’s take here, on our ongoing efforts to inform North America that it’s long past the due date to retire the remaining team names, logos, & mascots depicting caricatures and stereotypes of the Indigenous/Native Americans.

This work began in the 1950s, but it has only been since the advent of social media that we’ve been able to make a dent in the social consciences of both Canada and the U.S. I encourage you to read more in detail at the Change The Mascot organizationThe American Psychology Association has published several reports on how these images perpetuate harm to both Indigenous people and the communities that surround them.

To anyone who recognized both headlines are the truth, you win. Spread the word.

RL

 

Getting Arrested? Piece of Cake; The 2nd Dino Age Is Over – Part 2

In Part 1, I shared my unintended practise run in taking ‘bold action’, as it’s called when one is willing to step in and interfere with business as usual. I’m referring to the Kinder Morgan (KM) case to build a bitumen pipe through Burnaby Mountain.

The plethora of issues surrounding that are really only now becoming more widely-known. Some include highly unusual, if not illegal government proceedings; significant spill dangers for the inlets surrounding Vancouver; the lack of emergency plan and no way for an entire university, an elementary school, and several neighbourhoods on that mountain to escape in the event of a fire or explosive emergency.

These buildings and neighbourhoods are all situated within meters to blocks from the current 60 yr. old oil tanks and potentially new ones that would hold the highly toxic bitumen mixture. The economic story is yet another picture that’s been distorted in the name of “national interests”. As, Sue Andrews noted, “For the addition of 2,500 temp jobs mostly to foreign workers, 90 permanent jobs and $50M a year in taxes. Pathetic. One TV series brings in $60M a year”. Also for the record, Alberta made more money from liquor and gambling over the last 2 years than selling 3 million barrels of bitumen per day.

refinery fire wisconsin

April 27, 2018, Fire rages after explosion at Canadian-owned oil refinery in Wisconsin https://globalnews.ca/video/4171316/fire-rages-after-explosion-at-canadian-owned-oil-refinery-in-wisconsin

Next is the issue of getting arrested for protesting unjust decisions or actions. In protection of Kinder Morgan interests, politicians, some media (who have thrown-out all pretense of non-biased reporting) and employees of the Fraser Institute writing op-eds have been working overtime to inject the fear of action by inferring that exercising our right to protest is akin to terrorism.

They have loudly and widely reported that the process is now ‘criminal’ without explaining what civil and criminal disobedience means. They have resorted to referring to the: accountants, writers, grandmothers, high school cooks, students, truck drivers, fishermen/women, teachers, etc. as, ‘eco-terrorists’.

They choose these words purposefully, the smoke and mirrors of swaying public opinion. They trot out recent polls that say ‘most British Columbians support the pipeline’, while ignoring that their simplistic polls asking ‘for or against’ does not take into account that many of those who are for it initially, have a change of heart when they get more information.

Many are under the impression this pipeline is about getting gas for their own cars or fuel for their homes. When they realize that pipeline has nothing to do with that nor providing ‘huge economic opportunity’, plus our having to pay KM major subsidies, they change their vote. (See the recent poll on the 574,000 BC citizens willing to be arrested).

So, what does this process of action and arrest really look like? It’s all a fairly simple event, really. On this typical day, we began by meeting on the field where the base camp is situated. We received instructions on the rules & what the process looks like. The rules for engagement: say or do nothing to KM employees or the police, stay peaceful, be sober, discard anything that could be construed as a weapon, even a nail file.

We then walked a short distance to the KM gate where some of us chose to sit in front of it, knowing the KM employees would call the police. Arresting officers came out, read the injunction out loud, then warned us of imminent arrest if we didn’t leave. They gave us 10 minutes to think about it.

We used that 10 minutes to stand up and voice our thoughts to the supporters and media that surrounded us, then 2 of us chose to walk away and take our arresting action another day. The other 2 were escorted down a short trail to the side of the KM gate to a temporary outdoor office cordoned off by police tape. Their personal contact details were taken and they received a notice to appear in court on specified date. Then they re-joined us. That process took approximately 15 minutes.

From that point, you can expect to be supported in court by legal advisors to various groups involved in these actions and general supporters. It’s then you will learn if the outcome includes charges dropped or stayed, or a $500 fine and/or 25 hours of community service. Help is available for those unable to pay the potential fine.

Donations are welcomed at Terminal City Legal Collective  or the Raven Trust Fund.

We all need to be aware Canada is a corporation. We are its shareholders and we have a right to speak out when the executive screw up. I raise my hands to all who have warriored up on behalf of their family members now and those to come.

RL

 

The 2nd Dino Age Is Over – Part 1

I went to Burnaby Mountain on May 5th with the intention to support efforts and possibly even get arrested in protest of Kinder Morgan’s plan to build a new pipeline. However, by the end of this day, what I’d received instead was an unexpected teaching on respect and humility. This teaching centred on awareness that our actions are rarely about only ourselves.

The call to come out asked for us to take, or support those taking, ‘bold action’. Bold action is taking a spot in front of Kinder Morgan’s gates to halt movement in or out of their yard – a simple disruption of business. Kinder Morgan sought to halt these disruptions by requesting an injunction to keep all non-employees or contacts away from their gates and fences by 5 meters. If you disobey that injunction order you’ll be arrested for civil disobedience – recently revised to criminal disobedience. It’s not as ominous as that sounds.

The difference between civil & criminal disobedience is that civil means Kinder Morgan is essentially suing us for disobeying their injunction. It was a process too expensive for Kinder Morgan, so Canada acquiesced to pressure and moved it to ‘criminal disobedience’. This means the cases will be heard by the Crown as opposed to ‘Kinder Morgan’ in a civil case.

Don’t misunderstand, this is a serious step and there’s no guarantee how an eventual judge will deal with your case, but the fears of criminal record for life that will inhibit your ability to cross borders, volunteer, get a job, or a place to live is a very unlikely outcome. Several people told their stories of being arrested up to 10 times in various events and life carries on quite normally. Although we learned today, if you’re arrested 3 times in regards to this injunction, they’ll escalate your court date and you could even face jail time.

What you can expect as an arrested protector is a court appearance to plead guilty or not and make your statement about why you were on the protection lines.  The likely outcomes are at most, a $500 fine and/or 25 hours of community service. Support and help is available for those unable to pay the potential fine.

I know what my community envisions when an Indigenous person is arrested. They know it’s rarely the gentle handling we see other people get when they’re arrested. They know we are typically held longer and the appearance of lumps and bruising after being released is common. Despite this and after the education, I joined the willing to be arrested. I mentioned this to a friend sitting with me and his hesitant reaction surprised me. As he began to explain, my phone rang. It was my mother. She asked what I was up to; I told her where I was and that my arrest was imminent.

I’d thoughtlessly made my mother panic. I’d forgotten to let her know what I’d planned and learned about the process. I simply blurted out my intentions.  Her reply to me was simple. “Not today, Robyn. Today is not your day”.

I was taken aback at the finality in her tone, but I’d heard the fear under the certainty of her statement. I wasn’t in the place to take the time to explain and I knew then I had to do that for her and other family members in the right way, before I took that next step. I chose to step away, but not without affirming to all that I’d be back.

This isn’t about ruining lives, mine or anyone else’s. This isn’t about ruining oil industry livelihoods or their employee’s ability to feed families – stopping this extraneous pipeline is not going to stop the industry. We’re evolving. It’s just simply time to move onto avenues already available to take the place of oil and oil products. We need to remember industry has always been a process of evolving, especially when we learn a process is failing us.

We know enough now to do better. We can be just as, if not more, successful with those sustainable and healthier alternatives. We didn’t all switch from unleaded gasoline on a lark nor in a day.

The oil industry served us spectacularly, but we keep learning of its equally destructive powers and effects and they’ve been overlooked for too long. There’s no time left to ignore that. The damage to entire communities, to waterways, to land bases all over the planet must be seen for what it is.

I know what my great-grandfather meant for us all, when he signed treaty. I know it didn’t look like what Kinder Morgan is proposing, nor the “Eagle Spirit” pipeline, nor the Site C Dam. Our grandfathers stood up then for us and now, it’s our turn to do the same for their grandchildren. They meant for us all to live in success, but not at the cost of the very riches that provide that.

This isn’t an us or them scenario; we’re in this together whether we actively participate or not on any side. We will all succeed at maintaining our bounties or we all lose by ruining our own life-sustaining gifts. It’s really about the same lesson of respect I received; in the end, like our grandfathers on all sides then, our actions and intentions will affect all. It is our choice however, in what we choose to serve now.

RL

Part Two:  Getting Arrested? Piece of Cake; The 2nd Dino Age Is Over

If you want to support those taking bold action, please donate to:  Terminal City Legal Collective  or the Raven Trust Fund

What is Metis Again?

Updated September 22, 2018

There’s unfortunate long-held misunderstanding of what being “Metis” means. That confusion has only grown messier in the last few years by increased numbers of various groups looking for recognized Metis identity, if not as entirely new nations altogether.

The misperceptions have lead to outright strife throughout communities, acted out in mild contentious chats to vicious trolling attacks on social media to threatening job losses and lawsuits.

Canada didn’t help this confusion when it formally recognized the western Metis Nation without clearly spelling out that following the steps to ‘self-identification as Metis’ also requires proving that you’re related to this nation. In other words, your relations must be of the known Metis ancestral names on record, language, history & culture from within this western Indigenous community. Thus, I could not put my Cree or other relations on my Metis application.

Canada’s not clearly stating that serves to inspire some to claim their Indigeneity by choosing to be Metis, a very mistaken concept. It is the Metis Nation itself that chooses who to accept in their nation – as does every other nation in the world.

People of no Indigenous ancestry have also been re-inventing their heritage in order to apply themselves, unchecked & un-vetted, to positions meant for the Indigenous in work & arts opportunities, education grants, and governance. Several of these interlopers have been uncovered within the last decade.

From there, groups work by literally re-writing history to usurp harvesting rights from First Nations and to demand retailers provide them rights that even the recognized Metis Nation don’t have – tax free gas & merchandise. Copies of meeting minutes from the “Eastern Metis”, detailed concern mainly for those ‘goodies’ and did not address a single issue plaguing the Indigenous in Canada today.

These groups are prolific, overwhelmingly white, many racist-based including three that merged and changed their name from the “Association for White Rights” to the “Eastern Metis”. They claim well over 20,000 members in Quebec & contest Innu land claims.  In Nova Scotia the self-identified Metis are fighting to claim the harvesting rights of the Mi’kmaq. The Mi’kmaq vehemently oppose those claims because they state, as does the Metis Nation, that there never were historical Metis settlements in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

Currently most people, even some indigenous people, believe ‘Metis” simply means a mix of any Indigenous with non-Indigenous ancestry – generally something European.  While the Metis Nation is comprised of some French & British men and the word ‘metis’ is French for mixed, this is not what is meant when it comes to defining the formally recognized Metis Nation.

This nation began forming in the 1600/1700s, solidifying in the early 1800s between a relatively small group of specific and well-documented Indigenous women, generally from the Plains Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine, and Dene nations and their French, British/Scot men. Their following generations went onto marry other members of this Metis grouping or their original First Nation tribes. The recognized Metis Nation’s battles alongside their ancestral nations for Indigenous rights, and having been persecuted and killed for doing so, is a well-established record.

The idea that being Metis is the simple work of dividing each generation by another half with white people is incorrect. That ancestry is currently known as mixed or “non-status First Nations” people, known as part whichever original nation(s). It is not, at all, the romanticized idea that the Metis lived one foot in the ‘white world’ and one in the ‘Native world’. The Metis were and are Indigenous.

Just to clarify further, there are also mixed ‘Status” First Nations people. Many of these cases are from families where a First Nations man married a white woman and full status was granted to she and their children. Not so for Indigenous women, who lost all status for herself and her children if she had children with a white man – the original non-status First Nations.

I understand why many want to identify as Metis because of the western Metis Nation federal recognition as ‘Indians’, but wanting it and being it is not the same thing. I do however, strongly believe verifiable non-status First Nations fully deserve the sorely lacking recognition and representation. This is in contrast to growing groups who feel it’s their right to claim Indigeneity on face-value, claiming persecution when asked for bona-fides. They seem to feel they’re above the routine requirement of all Indigenous to provide records of proof to claim status or membership into nation. No nation is obligated to accept anyone.

I’m not entering into the role of declaring who is or isn’t Indigenous. That’s not my fight. My personal expectation is that any individual or group looking for formal Indigenous  recognition have to meet the standards of nationhood that the western Metis Nation did: a distinct language, unique & established customs and traditions and a documented current line to historic Metis communities. If there are other mixed ancestral groups meeting these standards, by all means pursue it, but without denigrating the western Metis Nation for having achieved it. Your fight is with Canada.

Many groups asserting they’re Metis, regardless of the known parameters explain their line to the Metis is based in the claim they were ‘especially’ discriminated against, and so ‘hid out in plain sight’ all this time as a life-saving measure. How do they then square this with their claims of holding ‘known historical land bases’ that tie to them even today?

How does one publicly renounce their heritage for several generations by hiding out and living as and in non-Indigenous communities then come back now to claim their presence in those communities constitutes making those communities now Indigenous?  Qualified historians cannot establish these claims.

I’m very aware of the difficulties some of us have in finding our roots, however most indigenous families were well-documented by Canada for its own nefarious purposes. It’s not as easy to ‘cheat’ one’s way through Indigenous ancestry as one might think. To those who try, I can only say – shame. Shame on you for stealing the only thing any one person undeniably has a right to – their inherent identity.

If one is only seeking status in the hopes of attaining the mythical understandings of Indigenous rights, I’ve little sympathy for that. If you haven’t lived a day as an average Indigenous person in Canada, you are far removed from rights still being ferociously fought for, even as they are actively being reduced in Canada.

For those genuinely feeling the call of their Indigenous grandmothers in their hearts, do seek the home fires of your true nations. Honest peace and celebration is found within the real teachings of our culture(s). Programs dedicated to these efforts prove that.

We would all like easy resolution to our issues, but despite how some want to define Metis, there is more to it than simply throwing any and every nation into the mix.

RL

August 1, 2019: A guide to eastern organizations claiming to be Metis and their histories.

November 1, 2018Self-made métis, by Dr. Darryl Leroux.

Tens of thousands of Canadians have begun calling themselves Métis, Darryl Leroux finds, and now they’re trying to get the courts to agree.

Oct 24, 2018:  ‘Alternative’ Metis Nation Alert; Frauds exposed from the west to the east

Oct 3, 2018: Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and Métis sign historic Memorandum of Understanding affirming both Mi’kmaw and Métis nationhood in the face of proliferation of “Acadian-métis” claims. Commit to support each other’s sovereignty into the future.

Oct 1, 2018: A 2007 list of known organizations usurping the rights the Indigenous across Canada.

Because He Was Brown

Like most Indigenous paying attention to Canada’s recent handling of two murder cases – 22 yr. old Colten Boushie, shot while he was asleep in the front seat of a vehicle and Tina Fontaine, 15 yr. old, 72 lbs, killed and thrown into a river – I held both expectations of hope for justice and resignation that the likelihood was slim.

Canada’s record of injustice for the Indigenous speaks for itself in a long line of documented reports. Then, in this era of “Truth & Reconciliation”, Canada lived up to its ability to crush that hope & affirm our worst expectations. Both murderers were fully acquitted, helped by incredible systemic failures and incredulous inept investigation and court service.

We were further leveled with the announcement on March 7th, that the expected call for an appeal in Colten’s case was flatly rejected. The Saskatchewan Attorney General sat in front of news cameras and gave his clipped announcement that their legal system worked as intended; they could find no wrong with the way their system was employed and then he bolted from the table. This was despite weeks of lawyers across Canada detailing the reasons why there was a miscarriage of justice that merited an appeal.

My heart aches for Colten’s mother, for Tina’s family. There’s no level of sympathy I can offer that will do justice to what they deserve. My head aches for all their loved ones struggling to grasp all the realities those verdicts delivered to them.

I can’t work my way through the pain in my heart when I go over in my mind the last week of Tina’s life and the last senseless moments of Colten’s, and that their families will live with this forever.

I struggle with them & I empathize, but even in that I know I’m two layers insulated from their pain. I’m devastated and ashamed in the knowledge that I can take relief too, even within these hideous, tragic events. My fears of losing my boy are eased from their reality because of one huge fact and that is, he looks white.

It’s horrifying to know that this is an actual life-saving truth in Canada. I won’t have to worry about some racist reflex that’ll see my boy shot in the back of the head; then abandoned while the killer sits in his kitchen having a coffee, just waiting for clean-up on aisle: driveway, as did Colten’s murderer.

I can feel this fury, but I won’t have to absorb the darts shot directly into the heart that only their babies have heard on the inside. I won’t have to feel the cuts of gleeful cretins rejoicing in the system that allows one of their own to get away with murder.

…because the victim lacked regard as a valued human being – because he was brown.

I can cry deeply in empathy, but I won’t have the agony of knowing my son would still be with me if only he wasn’t brown, or brown & drinking, or brown & screwing up in the same way white boys have for centuries…

I’ve always worried about my child’s safety. I’ll always pray for his journey to be in ease and peace, but I get to know, in this insidious, despicable way, that the only reason he’ll be that much safer is because his draw in the DNA colour lottery came out white.

I can’t change a thing for Colten’s mom. But I will stand with her, and with every brown mother that has had to feel the pain of that senseless, useless, unnecessary terror that is real for her babies, and used as an excuse for execution by white people.

I will remind any & all the (former) Prime Minister Paul Martins who phone me to lecture that Canadians are not racist, that they’re being willfully blind. I will never stop letting white people know this is their work to undo. I will never stop fighting for justice & defying inequities. And neither will my son. Neither should you.

Heather is one of the finest people one could ever hope to meet. She doesn’t deserve this fear. None of us do.

RL

I Looked For You

 

 

I wondered and waited for you…

I wondered who would show up, I wondered who would stand.

I wondered if my words or calls for help would bring you to us. I worried my anguished voice would just fall flat.

I looked for you; I searched through the faces to see if there was someone, that one unexpected person to stand with me because they see and despise the injustices too.

I looked for someone to say, I heard you.

I looked for you to hold my hand while I cried about our babies being shot or strangled, then tossed away like litter.

I willed you to come to my side while we spoke about the broken promises and horrors that are inflicted on all my relations because we refuse to die off for the convenience of Canadian business moguls.

I silently begged you to show up for every possible reason I could think of, but mostly… mostly because you wanted to stand for and do, what’s right.

I waited for you to come to me to say you are part of our community and we are part of yours.

I watched for you to speak up and say, this isn’t my Canada. We will change a country that would treat anyone this way because we cannot, we will not, call a country that treats people like this, good enough.

I watched and waited and wondered about you.

…I looked for you…

RL

We Didn’t Become Who We Were Supposed To Be

There’s a call-out right now from the Province of Alberta to Indigenous people who were apprehended by Child Family Services (CFS) during the “60’s Scoop” specified as: “a period of time when an unknown number of Indigenous children were taken from their parents and communities by child intervention services and placed with mostly non-Indigenous families.” The time period is the 1950’s to the early 1990s, but let’s be clear, this counts to even today.

I answered the call and submitted replies to four questions on the online form for those unable to attend six meetings set in Alberta from January 1 to March 1, 2018.

They want to hear, (anonymously if preferred) how you & yours were impacted by your removal; what a meaningful [official] apology looks like; how you feel about apologies; and what you hope will come out of an [official] apology.

Who knows what differences will come from this; there’s been so little change in decades of official government reports on the consequences of colonialism. We’ve yet to see appreciable differences in Child Family Services across Canada, nor in any other Indigenous issue of equity.

I know the opportunity to get on record may not change much, but I fervently hope those of us who get to hear each other’s stories will feel enough understanding to fill a bit of that hole in our hearts. I hope that our combined voices will keep rising until no one can conveniently ignore us again.

I’m sharing part of my replies to Alberta and the Canadian Government as a part of those hopes.  I don’t expect my answers will be much different from others, but this is the point. Our stories began and end in the same ways…

My family lost everything in connection to our relatives. We lost who we were supposed to be. We lost any Cree or Michif language we had, we lost contact with all our relations, we lost our sense of selves & in some cases, permanently.

Because we were six kids in my family, we lost contact with each other when we were split into different homes. In the long run, we irretrievably lost our relationships to each other.

In one round of apprehension, five of us were put together in one home, but it was to be a brief arrangement. One day I was told I would be moving within days and over a 24 hour period, I was made to choose which single sister I could take with me. All four of them stared at me and begged me to choose them. I tell people it was then I knew what it felt like to feel your soul crack. I was twelve yrs old.

Abuses were common in some of those homes. It ranged from the psychological, i.e.  being told our mother was a drunken Indian whore or some variation to physical hitting. We were also warned, without explanation, that it was likely we’d never see our own mother again.

There was not a single time in all those years that anyone thought to ask us how we were feeling. There was no one who would explain what was happening or why. We were picked up and forced into the back of a car and simply driven away with the explanation that it was time to go away for a while. Not even the good homes, where the people were decent and lovely, thought to ask.  No one, it seems was aware of the need, never mind the how, to rout and heal the damages of apprehension & abuses already ingrained.

I ran away from my last foster home when I was 14 yrs. I ran to my mother who was even less prepared for me than before. She’d been broken down to survival level so many times by then, she’d retreated into full-blown alcoholism.

Her life as a single mother escaping from abuse with her babies had been turned into a hell of oppressive orders and judgement by and from the government ostensibly ‘helping’ her. They had a lot of orders for how she was to conduct herself, but not how to protect herself.  She was to blame if her abusive ex-husband found her.  She was to blame if the kitchen sink had dishes in it when a social worker dropped by and claimed neglect. She was to blame for not holding it all together while enduring such enormous psychological threat every minute of her life.  Any infraction would cost her the custody of her children and then did.

My mother managed to turn her life around with a strength of herculean effort and success and decades later she still doesn’t have the family relationships she dreams of, craves and aches for. She doesn’t seem to fully understand that her family brokenness is beyond even her own apologies to fix.

Meaningful apologies? We’ve seen apology after apology for the barbaric practices toward the Indigenous for years, but there is at most a small shuffle in government procedures, mainly re-naming current processes.

Meaningful is the government instituting the recommendations made by Indigenous people. It means replacing “foster care” with more in-home family restoration/counselling services.  Fund those programs directly within communities to restore in-home family & relationship skills, cultural understandings and history. Restore what is being stolen for 150 yrs so far. We see the billions spent on the CFS industry across Canada. We know how much can be replaced back into our communities – where it has always belonged.

I hope all the families who’ve been so torn apart and hurt, so damaged – will find a place to earn some peace.  I hope the reparations of a genuine apology and its processes will provide all the means necessary to get to that place of peace. I hope that we all get something that allows us to pass on good health: mentally, emotionally, and physically to our families for now and all the coming generations.

I hope Canada will finally learn of its every dirty detail of governance hidden under the red and white sleeves of pride and keep teaching about all the wrongs of it.

Never do these things again to Indigenous families, or any families.

That is what a meaningful apology looks like.

RL

Sixties Scoop apology engagement. For survivors of the Sixties Scoop to inform a meaningful apology from the government.  Be forewarned, once you submit your thoughts, you will not be able to enter the site again for any amendments.
ps://www.alberta.ca/sixties-scoop-apology-engagement.aspx  – online submissions
RE: Alberta 60s Scoop class action lawsuit, by Koskie Minsky LLP | Barristers & Solicitors or others. This lawsuit applies only to Status FirstNations  & Inuit .
Non-Status First Nations &  Metis can offer their story for the apology

Clean Houses & Terror

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.

copy missing family

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.

RL