Remember That Thing Called, ‘The Canadian Way’? Yeah, Not So Much

When it comes to the past, the quotation, “History is written by the victors” is supposed to be the bottom-line. But the truth is, history is more often true only until it’s uncovered. Unfortunately, often such revelations induce intense reactions. Especially toward people who now have a magnified voice to speak about their place in that history. We’ve seen plenty of this recently with Indigenous perspectives brought to light far more widely in Canada.

When I was a little girl, I remember how proud I’d feel when tested on Canadian history. I’d swell with pride the most at knowing who our heroes were.

Robyn, who was our first Prime Minister? “John A. MacDonald, ma’am”!

And what did he do for Canada? “He built the railroad, ma’am and he built our great nation”.  Good girl. Oh yes, a proud little brown girl in braids staunchly saluting the man and country.

Then my world shifted, with a decidedly brutish thud. I’d be well into adulthood when I learned who J.A. MacDonald the man, really was and what this first Prime Minister of Canada did to my grandparents for 6 generations and counting.

John A. MacDonald – venerated on Canadian money, statues and plaques across the country was a depraved, racist drunk who did his level Prime Ministerial best to wipe out my grandparents, my heritage, my culture, my status of equal standing even within the Indigenous community, and my God-given inheritance rights of our lands and resources.

That’s some ‘uncovered history’ and I suppose I went through stages of grief following – full disbelief at the absolute betrayal – by MacDonald, my teachers, the entire country’s standings. Although, I have yet to truly get past that anger stage. Not because I haven’t yet processed the often requested, “taking into account the mentalities of those days”, but because most of his policies are still being enforced to this day, by the more than willing.

The number of inequities and prejudices still leveled at the Indigenous in Canada are documented daily – news stories, opinion pieces, every social media platform, and via self-appointed trustees of the Canadian taxpayer, (who completely ignore that the Indigenous majority pay taxes – & that irony).

So, Indigenous history aside for the moment, it’s not very surprising to see what happens when more truth-hammers come down onto mythic Canadians of account. I understand that sense of shock, even for the side that hasn’t suffered the injustices their heroes perpetrated.

Canada maple leaf flowers

What is surprising, given the monumental (no pun intended) work to promote it is, the lack of that famous ‘Canadian fairness/niceness’. Because not only is there justified, understandable shock, the amount of immediate outright denial and shutdown is stunningly disappointing.

Too often, every excuse to pardon the atrocities and buff the edges of inhumanity are trotted out. Regardless of credible citation provided, every rationalization possible is provoked. Case closed. Nothing to see here, folks.  Oh and, “We’re not racists”!

Although, also often ignored are the denials especially loudly voiced if the research is supplied or written by an Indigenous person. That right there is proof of merely ‘biased opinion’. Only the ‘white science/history’ need speak to history, thank you very much.

When I received that J.A. MacDonald reality check, the ground shifted and my world changed forever. I learned that not only what I’d been taught was a lie – especially the parts that said my ancestors and I were from an empty, useless abyss, but I was to see how much the world around me was still promoting that abysmal record of inaccuracy.

It’s scary as hell and ugly. It’s frustrating and infuriating, but like most pasts of bad behavior – it can be changed for the better. However, it can’t be changed, cured or healed, nor grow into something genuinely good for all, until it is really seen.

It’s time to own up to the fact that Canadian atrocities are real, no matter how poorly that reflects on Canadians. The reflection can’t be clean until we get clear. We can’t hide our heads in the sand and allow professional or neighbourhood deflectors to speak for us anymore.

We can’t be called decent until we behave with decency. We can’t let fears of losing face for not being good people over-ride actually acting in decency. When we know better, we do better. Well, right now we know enough. Take responsibility for the price of the benefits still received from that history.

Opportunities present daily, requiring little effort. It’s as simple as reading the Truth and Reconciliation Report and its 94 calls to action. Act on the ones you can.

Addressing history isn’t about changing it. Homages to Canadian atrocities belong in museums from where we can learn. Let’s place pride in seeing, cleaning and dressing the wounds. Place pride in those who build honourably and for those who overcome atrocities. In honesty; why shouldn’t that be the ‘Canadian way’? Honestly.

RL

 

MMIW/G… Tears of Sorrow, Frustration & Sometimes Hope

The ongoing frustrations regarding the $53 million MMIW/G national inquiry often result in the  impulse to throw up our hands in defeat. We won’t though, not ever, because we will never forget our lost; all literally coursing in our DNA. That’s the source of the strength that lifts our hands even higher for justice and equities. We also from time to time, get a glimpse that the painful work has opened another sliver of recognition that says, maybe this mountain has moved another millimeter. It doesn’t matter, where these slivers come from, this is enough to offer another breath of hope too.

The Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women/Girls (#MMIW/G) inquiry has been a dismal effort from the start. From the incredible decision to omit any police involvement, therefore no questioning of culpability already demonstrated by their history of ignoring or dismissing the concerns of family of the missing or murdered, to ignoring the several reports of direct police misconduct toward Indigenous women. Then onto the bad news of the inexplicable lack of coordination for how the inquiry would run to nearly non-existent communication with the families of the MMIW/G.

There are too many Indigenous families touched by this issue; mine included.  We have lost a cousin, 19 yr old Roberta Ferguson, missing for 28 years now without a hint of what happened to her. My mother has also inexplicably lost two good friends, also never found.

The work to get to this point has taken over 20 years. Twenty years of women bravely standing, shouting, and marching to every government service door possible to be heard. They, we, all deserve better than this. So, we raise our voices in media and in front of commissioners and to the inquiry heads, hoping that now is the time, we will matter. That now is the time we will matter enough to have systems genuinely and permanently altered to stop at least most of the behaviors and policies that leave us adrift, and for some of us, lost forever.

People ask, what can we do? Well, there are so many issues that need help, but at the least, for every issue, we can sign those petitions, we can write/email/tweet a simple note to PMs, MPs, legislators, and even the National Inquiry directly to say, we care about this and we want to see the work done. Donate to groups like Families of Sisters in Spirit, to assist in the battle for legal and media representation.

Don’t be shy, have a crack at the racist comments in every news story about the MMIW or Indigenous in general. Speak back, not to them necessarily, but to the publishers and editors who cater to whomever speaks loudest in their comments. Arm other readers with solid knowledge. Or find another way to demonstrate solidarity that helps all our hearts feel a little less isolated and unheard.

Like this group who did just that recently. A dance company called, Generation Dance Studio in Ft. MacMurray, AB. They brought their message to the public in a very moving way. They created a dance tribute to the MMIW/G. It’s very touching to see their effort to show they see us and they care.

I invite you to watch their performance added to their Facebook page linked here. Within these discouraging days, these hearts sought out ours, and it added to all the difference for another day…  Given the same ol’ recent events of the inquiry, we could use every lift we can get.

Hiy hiy,

RL

https://www.facebook.com/generationdance/videos/760718694087565/

For those unaware, a red dress represents a missing or murdered Indigenous woman.

 

Nice Folks 2.0

This is the follow-up story to the article “Nice Folks” which was published on March 9th. These stories are about a gang of seemingly average folks who are taking over multiple Facebook groups, in the guise of free speech, in order to push what very much looks like an anti-minority agenda.

Following the publishing of the first story, despite all pleas in contrary to the story by these people, that they are only exercising free speech of tastelessness – no real foul, they persisted in harassing people as usual. I was one of the people they contacted in an attempt to intimidate me into haranguing the AuntieThis writers to take down their story. True to their historical form, they seemed to pointedly revel in harassment toward people of color, in particular Indigenous women.

It was rather interesting to watch this reaction of concern for themselves, considering their own direct and very public harassment was seen by hundreds for sure, but more likely by thousands. In any case, there is nothing within these story details that has not been put out in the public realm by themselves and their friends.

I find it interesting that people continue to allow these people to fly with their vitriol. I have to wonder if this is in fear or with the view it’s cheap entertainment. Whatever the motives for sitting back, I am very glad to know there are other groups of people willing to step up and counter these growing voices of prejudice.

RL

auntiethis

Nice Folks 2.0
Last week we had a conversation about one of those “Nice Folks” problems: the kind you have when Nice Folks say the things that run around in their head out loud – and are surprised when people get mad.  Surprised and confused; cause they’ve been talking like that for years, and nobody said much about it.  If you need an update, you can find it here

Long story short: Margo pulled herself off-line; was in tears for days; worried about her kids – a lot; and went to the police.  Or not.

Because she stayed online the whole time – under one of her “alt” profiles, and just kept playing for attention; was laughing about it the day it happened – and ultimately had this to say:

Margos Wish

Because, ultimately, it was all about getting the attention.

What Margo was doing was using hate-speech to get attention; and that’s a big…

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Nice Folks

A very worthy read; a must-see to the end: when “Nice Folks” act on racism… This could be Anytown, North America. I see the comments featured in this story every day on social media in various groups, within news story comments, even within the legislative assemblies of our allegedly finest citizens, as happened yesterday when one of Canada’s Senators let it be known in chambers that the horrific residential schools that tore Indigenous / Native American families apart and subjected them to the same horrors and deaths as the Jewish encampments, were ‘good for the children’ and why aren’t the ‘positive stories being the focus’?

I won’t expand on that now, but you can follow this link to read that story.

This story is about your everyday folks, healthcare workers, school volunteers, your neighbourhood mom and dads. These are the people that support the most vile of society, who desire to revel in racism in the lowliest ways to work at reinforcing their need for a sense of superiority… Oh, and they’re your neighbours too…

PostScript: Following my sharing this auntiethis blog story, and applying a comment to it, I was contacted on Facebook privately and publicly by members of the group featured. They insulted, denigrated and attempted to intimidate me into taking this post down and removing my share on Facebook. They threatened to use my public photos for their nefarious purposes to implying they would sue. The only reason I am caught up in this one is, the auntiethis blog republished about 4 or 5 of my previous articles and these Sherlock Holmes deduced that since I’m noted on their past publishing, I must be ‘the writer’ – of this story and of the auntiethis blog. I am neither, but I would have been proud to put my own name on the story. My response to their harassment is, I can’t wait for the next installment of their story to come out.

RL

auntiethis

Nice Folks

Nice Folks are a problem: usually because their greatest aspiration is to be nice.
To be “nice”, they are specialists in “going along to get along” – or is that “getting along to go along”?  They’ll literally join any crowd; go in any parade; accept anything that’s going on around them to – well, to simply make sure they don’t stand out.  They just run their lives based on something called “Common Sense”; which they think means the same thing as “Reality”, and practice like a religion.  The fact that their common sense is simply a mix of myths and legends that they learned in school – or the movies – or on TV – doesn’t seem to intrude on them.  Common sense is easier that Google, and serves them to get through their lives; walking with the herd; not getting into any kind of trouble.

The picture above is…

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I Would Die For My Words, But I’ll Stand With My Superpower

i-am-my-words

“Why are you speaking out so much? You’re going to get hurt”.

Going to get hurt? I’ve been hurt my whole life, what don’t I already know about hurt?  I’ve been hurt deeply enough to have died.  Literally.  (Life skillz pro tip: I highly recommend dying near a handy defibrillator; CPR hurts like a bitch – for days).

As a matter of record, this year has been one of the most painfully tumultuous for me and yet, I’m still here and I’m still talkin’ – unflinchingly.

I wish to continue asking people to step out of what they’ve learned is ‘success’ and question if it truly makes their heart sing, keeps them at peace and benefits anyone/anything else outside of constant, immediate personal gratification.

Well known, feminist activist, Gloria Steinem said, women become more activist conscious and engaged as they grow older because they lose power. I agree with her, re: our current paradigm.  We are prized for our beauty, our ‘niceness’; especially our willingness to ‘pleasantly get along’ regardless of any inequity levels in front of us.

She also said, men gain power as they age; that many tend to become more conservative – because they become more fearful about losing that advantageous power and so will use whatever manner to constrict others to protect that cushion.

I believe her words. I’ve lived them, but I refuse to accept them for me and my son.

This year especially highlighted my weaknesses, particularly from a genetic disease that doesn’t allow me to march or dance in all the ways I love, and from profound losses that reshaped my life, but I found ways to help change old paradigms anyway.

I’ve been gifted words and words are a superpower.

My words burst or seep in all kinds of form. I’ll write statement after statement about injustices that ignite my passion or calls to fierceness.  I often confess my words can be a stream of the most colorful profanity, that I could be speaking 6 other languages I don’t even know. Sometimes my words just want to be heard in the softest tones of poetry.  Sometimes my words are filled with laughter, and sometimes my words can embarrass the hell out of me.

What my words mostly are though, are a life source; a critical part of my purpose.  It’s been said so since I first spoke (a string of 3 expletives). My family gleefully and variously confirmed it with all sort of eye-roll inducing teases.

So, in answer to my concerned friend that I may get hurt by my expanding work to speak up against injustice – yes, I may, but since when is stretching not painful? On a personal level,  I’ve turned that around. I now refuse to spend any unnecessary time with anyone over 30 who refuses to relate in a straightforward grown-ass manner. I can confirm, time is precious. As Betty White said, “Vagina up, man”. She explained, why say,  ‘grow a pair’, when testicles are really quite fragile? We’re talking about actual birth canals; talk about taking a beating”! Man, I love that woman! Anyway, maybe this’ll net me fewer conversations, but saving time and connecting with people in a more real way for purposes greater than myself seems in fact, to be the point of my life.

I know that’s not entirely the pain my friend is concerned with, but – I can speak with some fair firsthand authority now, to assure that the most painful hurt, is not harsh words or bruises, broken bones, CPR or even dying. Outside of losing loved ones, what hurts most, is indifference.

So, I’ll continue to ask, which of our success representations are truly so valuable that we couldn’t live without them?  We don’t have to die to learn most of what we fear losing is really, not so much after all, but many do die because we refuse to look at the question.

We do everything we can for the safety and comfort of our loved ones, but will we extend that to include those who have suffered on any level for that comfort? If you don’t know who that is, please, please seek to learn; we need to look beyond our own small space in this great big world. Indifference is the poison that is instantly diluted by even the simplest act of compassion.  Just do it. I know you want to.

RL

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

REDress Day of Recognition #MMIWG 2016

This is a day to pay tribute to those women and girls we’ve lost from Indigenous communities, and to honor those we have hope will one day return home. October 4th is chosen to honor the lives of over 4,000 Indigenous women tragically taken from their loved ones, most often with little awareness of the circumstances between 1980 to 2016.

This day is meant to raise awareness about that and of the ongoing violence, at significantly higher rates toward Indigenous women and girls than any other demographic on the continent. With awareness comes greater hope and opportunity to get to the root of all the issues that encompass these losses.  We remain diligent and attentive as a national inquiry is now underway in Canada.

It’s the 10th year of this recognition started by the Sisters In Spirit Vigil (SIS) organization which, along with an idea begun by artist Jaime Black for public displays of red dresses to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women, includes marches and candlelight vigils in many towns and cities across the country.

Last year I hung my red dress under my weeping willow tree.  This year I hung a dress in a location that holds the memory of many women. The entire effort took some interesting legwork and cost me some scratches and torn clothing, but I wanted to speak for them. I wanted them to know we remember, I wanted them to know they are loved.

I held out my tobacco offering and prayers and hung up the dress while a friend took pictures of my appeal for awareness.  He edited out the hanging stand, lending an ethereal effect. It seemed to make the dress feel free or freed.

Within this all, I send my love and hope for all our grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, and our daughters…

(click or scroll over photos to see entire picture)

Update October 6th: Photographer Darren Quarin drove by the farm and found that the chair had been thrown off the hill it was photographed on and the red dress was nowhere to be found…

RL

Photo & Editing Credits: Darren Quarin, Quarin Photography

When Bunk Is Passed As Progress For All, We All Fail, Site C Dam Failures

I attended a rally yesterday to protest the continuing efforts to raze the land within the Peace River district of British Columbia and Alberta also known as Treaty 8 territory.  The protests are not about ‘hindering progresses’, they are about speaking against an incredible sense of depravity within the desire to forever ruin the lives of people and all the history of their ancestors for the simple purpose of serving big money. It is unconscionable and especially so because it is unnecessary.

The publicized intention is to flood that area’s prime agricultural and hunting/gathering grounds for the purpose of generating much-needed electricity.  In a word, that’s bunk. Typical BC Liberal & big business bunk.

site c protest july 9

Grab A Paddle- Stop Site C Vancouver protest gathering, July 9 Photo by, Devin Gillan

The basis is greed… spending billions of dollars to build a dam that will serve international need in industries that many people are coming to realize are relics of progress past and are in the midst of being turned away from for the betterment of the entire planet – the purpose is mostly for moving bitumen and tar products overseas.

Story after story has been published about the facts and figures of these points and still the BC Liberal government (a misnomer if there ever was one because this political party is as conservative as the former ruling party of Canada, the Progressive Conservatives) bulldozes on.  Links to a few of these stories are noted below.

I speak to the human side of this issue, about the real people who live there and who are somehow meant to be mere side effects of big business allegedly on behalf of the majority of the population which lives in BC’s lower mainland.

BC Hydro says 73-77% of BC residents support this project. I find it extremely hard to believe that many BC residents support this when most Vancouver residents already understand it is not the clean energy being touted:  “The Site C dam is being built with taxpayer dollars to generate energy for expansion of fracking and the tar sands, contributing to life threatening climate change and destroying precious farmland and artifacts,”  said Audrey Siegl, Musqueam Band member and community organizer, in a release.

Treaty 8 is my ancestral homelands.  In fact, my great-grandfather was a signor on that 1899 Treaty.  Do I think that he and all Indigenous signors believed they’d be signing away their homelands, the very source of life sustenance for their children and children’s children in any manner and for any reason close to what has been happening ever since?  I will ask you instead.  What do you think?

In only one of many examples of what this project for China et al is all about: when a government is paying out $55 million per year to turn off even one working electricity generator that means we have no power supply shortages now or for the immediate forseeable future. In fact, electrical consumption has been going down.  This is a make-work project for some people at the expense of generations of others.  It’s a get-rich project for even fewer.

I do not believe, I simply cannot believe, that the majority of BC and even Alberta residents think they are more important than the grandmothers, grandfathers, their children and their children’s children in northern communities. I think if it were about the devastation of their families and stunning landscape, they’d be vocal and taking action to stop this insanity too.

So, that’s what I’m asking for… that’s what I hope for – that people will help people in their own back yards not have to suffer and succumb to the utter havoc being wreaked against an area and the people who live there for no damned good reason.

Sign the petitions of the noted organizations working on behalf of this critical issue. Send your own letters to the provincial and federal governments. Sign the online works and forward the pages on. It’s that simple.  Surely to God, people can do that much to help their fellow neighbours…because eventually this greedy madness will affect everyone when the bills for it come due.  Remember when so many doubted the effects of climate change? Well this is part of the reason for it.

Please, for the love of God’s green earth – do something.

RL

Organizations you can look up to read about the issues or sign a petition:

RAVEN – Urgent Cause: Stand with First Nations against Site-C – Raven Trust
LeadNow – http://www.leadnow.ca/stop-site-c/
PVEA/Sierra Club/Y2Y – http://www.stopsitec.org/
Amnesty International – http://bit.ly/28Jvlpa
Official Government of Canada petition – https://petitions.parl.gc.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-324
Wilderness Committee
COPE
The Council of Canadians
KAIROS Metro Vancouver
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Fight Site C – dedicated group

Vancouver protest of Site C dam at Vanier Park

Vaughn Palmer: NDP government would demand independent review of Site C

BC HYDRO SEEKS AN INJUNCTION FOR SITE C

So, The Right Honorable Paul Martin Called Me Up On Calling Him Out On CDA’s Racism

Revised June 8, 2018

2016 AvatarFormer Prime Minister, the Right Honorable Paul Martin called me in response to an email I sent him in reply to his comments made in a May 12th CBC story headlined: “Canadians not racist but Aboriginal issue ‘invisible’ to many, says Paul Martin”. While I’d assumed he was calling in some effort of support, I was disheartened at the realization he actually wanted to correct me on what Canadian racism is, or rather, isn’t.

While Mr. Martin did strongly point out in that and subsequent stories, the various awful inequities thrown at the Indigenous that cause significant and terrible consequences, I could not let that one sentence go.

“Racism isn’t the culprit, but that doesn’t change the fact that the challenges faced by Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples have long remained out of sight and mind to many”, says former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

I was stunned. Not only because the very fact that we still have an active piece of legislation called the Indian Act, which is all about the business of managing the Indigenous, but every day we read stories of the examples of racism in action.

Every day I see other examples such as a recently posted widely-watched video put out by a very stridently racist Vancouver woman that compared AFN National Chief, Perry Bellegarde to Hitler, demanding that the AFN members be arrested for treason, and complaining that all “natives are obsessed with white people”.

This is all enough to question just the idea that Canada is not racist, a country built upon the lies of trade and/or conquering as most Canadians believe, but to have had that statement come from a high profile public servant widely seen as a friend to the Indigenous?

It was incredible to me.

So, I wrote Mr. Martin.  I noted the points above, of others and attached the link to the despicable video.  I wrote to say I was disheartened along with outraged because his background as friend to the Indigenous was precisely why it was especially important to not let stand yet another whitewash of history to make Canadians feel better, despite the fact they have all benefited from taking the lion’s share of Indigenous resources.

I admit I had no expectation of a response as I’d yet to get one from any of the fine members of Canada’s upper echelon in all my years of writing to them about Indigenous issues. However, 24 hours later I received an email asking if I would like to speak with Mr. Martin.

Stunned for a second time in 24 hours! Of course I said, yes, and within minutes my phone rang.

I was a little surprised by the opening of the conversation.  I found Mr. Martin to initially be quite defensive, not quite ready to recognize why I could be upset. He said it was hard to accept that people wouldn’t be able to see his message’s point, especially given his personal record of working to undo the wrongs against the Indigenous over all these years of service. This ignores the point that it was he who implemented the annual 2% funding spending cap for INAC in 1996 that imposed harsh consequences on the ability of Indigenous communities to thrive since.

He asked if I watched the actual interview, and I admitted I did not, however there was no video linked to the story. He specifically mentioned crafting the Kelowna Accord with Indigenous leaders that former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, crushed the minute he came into office.

Of course I am aware of Mr. Martin’s efforts; I absolutely acknowledge Mr. Martin’s role in that Accord and I would note I have used that Accord as an example in several conversations on the potential for moving forward (and it’s the third reason I came to despise Harper as PM). But, again, that’s precisely why I took especial exception to his words.

To get to his point, he said the Indigenous problem with Canadians is based in ignorance, a lack of history knowledge moreso than racism.  I said I do understand that as in large part, I believe racism is ignorance, however we have to be careful of how we state things too. I sensed this thought wasn’t particularly appreciated.

It was at this point he had to go and his final comment was that he feels that calling Canadians racist will not help in the work to help the Indigenous.

After we hung up, I thought about all the people my friends, acquaintances, and anti-racism workers encounter on that daily basis.  I thought about all of those who, like that racist video creator, remain fully and willfully ‘ignorant’ of facts, I wondered about the rest of the Canadians who actually are aware of the inequities, the injustices, the utter horrors of their country’s history.

I wonder what Mr. Martin would say about them, and how would he’d reply to questions such as:

What happens once the ignorance is dispelled, are these same Canadians then standing up for us?  Do they protest the inequities?  Do they even just move out of the way of progressing forward?  How many of these same good people are still exercising their right to indifference?

How is inaction or indifference not complicit racism then? Isn’t that what Edmund Burke was speaking to when he said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”?

I mulled the conversation around with my aunt, Elder Maureen Kennedy.  She said, “Yes, we have our own hard work to do to get over and through everything, but they have their own hard work to do too”. I agree with my aunt, except I’d say I don’t agree that they should be expecting our comfort for them on top of it all.

Mr. Martin also sits as board member for the *Canadians For a A New Partnership (CFNP) – a group of prominent leaders from both sides of the equation to “build a new partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada”. I envision the Indigenous partners having to dance around the elephant in the room while seeking justice.

…And do Canadians really need to ‘feel better about themselves’ before they do the right thing?

RL

*In early January 2018, Paul Martin quietly closed the doors of the CFNP, the only announcement appearing to be an email to their website subscribers. Shortly after that, he created his own private charity foundation, ostensibly in support of Indigenous education. He requested funding from the Canadian government. They responded with a $30 million cheque for him.

June 8, 2016 – 87% of Canadians believe aboriginal people experience discrimination: survey

An Indigenous perspective on the realities of racism:

Wab Kinew On Canadian Racism, Relocating Attawapiskat, And The ‘Criminal’ State Of Aboriginal Education

Martin email exchange

 Paul Martin reply May 16, 2016Email 1 to Paul Martin May 15, 2016 Email 2 to Paul Martin May 16, 2016

Half-Breed to Metis – My Return from a ‘Savage’ Wilderness; PART 2

 Click here to read part one – How I acquired the title of dirty Indian…

Aside from having to dream up a name to match any exotic ancestry I could claim, my real family history was more colourful than that anyway. We were the stereotypes of typical Indigenous life. Those lives scorned without understanding of the history behind the creation of those stereotypes.

It was a life loaded with issues around unsteady work, alcohol abuse, abuses under every heading, police visits, child apprehension, foster homes and a single mother on welfare. We moved a lot – always new towns, new friends, new crosses to bear.

So, by the time I could think a little for myself, I couldn’t wait to move on.  At nearly 16 yrs. I did move – onto a grown-up job and night school to get a better job, all in the name of getting as far away as possible from my childhood hurts.

Several years later my life had taken shape in a measure of success and definitely I thought I’d finally escaped being a poor and dirty little Indian. It seemed like I’d escaped the legacy of that drama. As it turned out, despite education and job titles, that wasn’t exactly the case. The various abuses never really ended regardless of the dressing I put up around them. I became even more desperate for a sense of value, meaning and peace. 

It was a bit incredible and maybe even miraculous from where the answers to my prayerful pleading would begin – searching the internet for a history project.

While I was doing that search, I stumbled across some family tidbits in the history records. It was astounding to me to see names I knew connected to others I’d never known about. Inexplicably I began to hear the call of my grandmothers in them and I quickly became obsessed with genealogy. Something was being filled in me that I’d been completely unconscious about missing.  I found the past. I continued in my search for years, able to trace my family back to the 1700s.

The uncovered voices of my ancestors undid the pain of my childhood humiliations.  Unlike the shame-based history the old input and my fearful imagination had originally filled in for me, I learned that we came from fiercely able, independent, inspiring Peoples.  I learned, in addition to Cree and Metis, my people were also Mohawk, among other nations.

I learned my ancestors were skillful and adept providers who worked the land, and they were warriors – from the war of 1812, to the Louis Riel uprising, to World War 2 and the Korean War.   They were explorers and guides for famous European explorers; they were leaders and treaty signors.

They were exactly what one might dream their forbearers are.  It was breathtaking discovery for me, but I later realized that, as wonderful as it was to feel the pride of their accomplishments, they didn’t need to be all that for me to feel found.

It would have been just as healing simply to find where I came from; to learn who my people were as a people, not as the butt of the jokes so common then on the western prairies.  Not as the people we learned about in school who were so low that even as kids, when we played cowboys and Indians, none of us wanted to be the Indians.

Fast forward some decades to when my son and I were going to a western-themed party.  We got all geared up in our cowboy boots and hats, jeans and checked shirts.  When we got home, my son was a little miffed.  His history lessons have been quite different from mine. He wanted to know why we hadn’t instead dressed up as Indigenous.  It was a good question, but I couldn’t find a good answer.

Although I’d identified as my Metis and First Nations ancestry for several years by then, I began to feel I was falling too short on the allegiance that my grandmothers deserved. Especially with the amount of public misinformation about the Indigenous still the norm in general.

However, despite the longing, I still had one foot out the door, just in case.  Old fears take a very long time to heal, if they ever do.  When I finally decided to stand up and be counted, I applied for a Metis citizenship card.

I’d like to set the record straight about how one goes about claiming that card.  Many comments in those newspaper and social media arenas revolve around thoughts like “well, pretty much everyone in Canada can claim some kind of Indigenous status now”.  No, they can’t.  You can’t just make a call and say, “Hello Government, I’m part-native, send me a card, thanks, and can I get free gas now like that Beiber kid”?

The application process took several months.  Actually, it took years counting the time it took to accumulate the various required records. I had to provide a genealogical history of 5 immediate generations of Indigenous ancestry with proof that included birth, baptismal, and marriage certificates.  It included scrip records, Hudson Bay Company work records, and other various historical records.  At a minimum, I had to link my direct ancestors to records known in western Canada at approximately 1860. Then all of this had to be verified by the society historians.

So that’s what I did, and now when I look into my mother’s eyes, I proudly see my history for thousands of years.  When my son looks in mine, he will see his own.  I turned away from that all those years ago when I thought I was meant to disown my heritage.

We talk a lot about how much the entire continent needs the true education on its own history, and that is absolute fact, but that’s just as true for many, if not most, of the Indigenous too.  We had our history taken from us long before we were even born and we know how terribly that changed us.

I can only feel sadness for that walk in the wilderness now, mine and all my relations of the last 5 generations who actually had our culture taken and even made illegal.  I know it doesn’t do any good to wonder about things that might have been, but sometimes I do.  I still have far too much to learn about them, and our ways.

On the day I received my official stamped Metis card, I stared at it and cried.  It was real, it was done, I’d stood up.  I really didn’t know then or even now, what difference in my life this official recognition will make.  I only know how I feel in those old wounded places in my heart.  I feel my grandmothers surrounding me now.   My grandmothers called for PiPiSiw and I’ve come home.

Grandmothers

kakiyaw niwākomākanak
(All My Relations)

RL

I want to add a little thank you so, so much to the people who have emailed me to tell me how glad they are for any of us able to speak out. You are a huge part of what makes these efforts meaningful. You are the people who allow my heart to feel full and worthwhile.
Hiy hiy….

With great gratitude to Dick Garneau, whose years of work compiling centuries of First Nations & Metis journal entries led me to more family discoveries than I ever dreamed I’d find. Hiy hiy, Dick. Thank you for your amazing work and generosity. May many others be as blessed as my family was with his work.  http://metis-history.info

21 things you may not know about the Indian Act – The Indian Act has been in place for 140 years:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/21-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-indian-act-1.3533613

Artwork credit, with permission: Grandmother’s Prayers:
Simone Mcleod, http://www.fisherstarcreations.com/simonemcleod-acrylics Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anishinaabepaintersimonemcleod/info/?tab=page_info