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

Monday Mirth; ‘Cause You Can’t Think That Hard On Vacation

Is it me, or are holidays as much work as regular ‘ol days? Before I’m reminded that compared to real life problems, this isn’t one of them, let me state – I know, I know. It’s just a little kvetching – I’ll blame it on the climate changing heat, but the planning, the supplies round-up, the prep, then the actual execution to get to that intended utopia – ugh!

I’d thought I’d laze by the water and let the whirlwinds of the last few months recede from my mind like a raft in meditation on a barely conscious flowing river, unleashing my creativity in rapturous waves and thus I would finally finish a script due approximately three weeks ago. Nope. (Sorry, boss).

So, here I am, once again dumped into the realm of life that throws me into the pursuit of the most simple of pleasures – memes! What I get, is what you get 😀 …

I wonder if this make-up is available online? There’s a couple people I’d like to try it on.
Seems pretty clear to me…
Did it take you as long to clue in as I did?
Jurassic Park; Madagascar version. The fear is real.
Don’t you? Don’t you, Don’t you?!
Bad boy, bad boy, what you gonna do when they come for you? Also, it’s OK to reduce a little of the sunscreen.
Fire up the bar-b; that catch ain’t gonna sear itself
This is a friggin’ steal for Majestic Ass!
I fear this is still me.
That moment when you realize you would have been way better off to just offer a Majestic Ass biscuit.

That’s all she wrote this holiday, folks. Stay hydrated, wear reasonable sunscreen, dance in moonlight, or whatever the hell it takes to enjoy any part of this latest summer…


…And I’ll get back to the script soon, boss. Just as soon as I finish packing up all the necessities for the beach.

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

Blackbird Fly…

This is a re-run of a little story from a year or so ago. I’d made a bit of a startling discovery that would provide me with an amusing relationship until this Spring. 

At that time, I realized I’d entered a murderous circle, a plethora of new friends, and an opportunity to crow a little about it, if you will…

… The story of how I’d met my latest gang and a renewed sense of awe for their amazing wits began over a series of 8 Wednesdays.  I’d shared a snack with a few crows that hung around my parking lot. All was a few minutes of cool amusement and then I went on my way.  I didn’t see them again until the following week, another Wednesday. So, I again shared my snack.

The third Wednesday I came out to a whole row of them on the power lines above me, waiting. That made me laugh, but alas, I had no snacks. I couldn’t believe they learned in only 2 sessions which day of the week I’d likely have snacks and about the fact that they knew which day of the week it was!

The next Wednesday, they were there again. Not the day before nor after. Of course I came duly prepared. In the weeks that followed, they changed up the timing a little. As the days got warmer, it seemed as though they decided it was better to come by for a cooler morning treat, so they waited for me to arrive instead. Not one to be seen during my departure in the hot afternoon. Now, about that fact they knew what time I’d arrive!

I guess I could say they trained me as efficiently as my dog has. Absolutely nothing bird-brained about these amazing educators. They paid me back for the sustenance devotion with regular rounds of laughs at their antics and their propensity to show off how they easily outwit other birds.

They got quite brave, or comfortable with me as they’d confidently land at my feet. I especially enjoyed their calls to me as they came down. They alternated between this loud repetitive clicking and what sounded like tongue clucking. Maybe they were just swearing at me in Crow, but I’m choosing to believe they were saying, hey, good to see ya.

They continued their visits faithfully until later this Spring. For the most part, they just stopped showing up. Now and then a straggler or two would come, but then even they finally disappeared.

That’s life, isn’t it? Friends come, and then they go, and these fellas were no different. They definitely changed the drift of  ‘hump day’ for a while though.

I miss them.

You need to click on this pic to get the detail in his glorious face. This fella is the ring leader. He seems to be in charge of summoning the troops and declaring when it’s safe enough to pick through my offerings. He also seemed to be in the mood for this photo shoot. He posed this way and that as he watched for me to toss treats and coos of praise for this grand handsomeness.

RL

 

If Hell Holds a Promise…

Healing is not for the faint of heart. It’s a contract built on a vow to harness and clutch only at ironclad strengths.

It’s quiet now; calmed are all those bouncing cells of thought and feeling that ricocheted through my panic borne in another round of ‘growth’.
I have been brought to this hushed place only by the grace of my Relations.
They, who took the suffocating lifetime of pain and lifted it to the skies – where our Ancestors tenderly pulled it into their own hearts.
Toward the centre of the Ancients where such things are cleansed; healed and rendered harmless.
To the place where all things are made sound again and holds a promise that surely
we’d all choose, if we knew.

This painlessness was not instant, oh God, not hardly. I wailed all through their processes.
They let me feel every piercing facet of what we’d endured, and then they mercifully
returned with understanding.
Every sting was an exposed hurt that hadn’t been acknowledged, sometimes for centuries.
Every prickle that scratched through my soul was a reminder to honor it and to turn toward where to offer it.
With every step in every ceremony they led me to, they walked me out of the darkness.
They didn’t need me to believe in them; they already knew I was too lost to know what to believe.

I only needed to follow what was offered, including the smallest fragments of feeling
that said – maybe.
I am a blank slate, as clean as the newborn, my future standing right in front of me, unseen.
I don’t know what to wish for anymore; I don’t know what my dreams are.
I only know I’ve been brought to this place, where every moment is a choice that I can feel only in my heart; a knowing that prompts me to accept it without even a clue as to why.

My canvas is a wide open space and I observe in wonder at what and at who is being placed onto it.
I don’t feel the immediate inserted images are the story, I only know that the reality, which traces to every soul that follows, is so much bigger than my pitiful imaginings.
They’ve taught me the reasons behind the hurt and soothing are far bigger in purpose; every healing moment is for every generation before me and all to follow.
It’s the only teaching I’ve ever been given that I know some day, will permanently alter everything.
It’s quiet now, and I know this is a gift – a treasure granted for maybe only
5 more minutes…

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

Phoetic February: Sunday Moody Sundays

It’s been about a month’s worth of thoughtful weekly beginnings. Something in the air… change, newness, the call of Spring? I don’t know. I do know each one gave me something personal; something not quite typical…

Heralding Hues

Waning assurance?
Maybe merely fine-tuning
Imminent promise

#haiku #rainbows

RL

Moonstruck

Reverent howling
Eerie, the Blood Wolf Moon Eve 
Neighbourhood braced

#haiku #lunareclipse

RL

Sunday SoftlySunday night refuge
Musical libations soothe
Under homemade stars

#haiku #pubdreams

RL

Singing Our Lives With His WordsSong flows like whiskey
Tenderly trickling around 
Fading memories

#haiku #musicalpoets

RL

Monday Mirth; ‘Cause Friday Was 3 Days Ago

Τhe days are shorter and darker now, but we’re past the point where the light is back on its way so, yea, feeling a little on the lighter side. There comes that time in the year when you realize you’ve done what you’ve can in all the months prior. It’s all that it is and all that it can be until the new year opens up other opportunities.

I like the teachings of my culture and its relation to nature that tells us winter is a season of rest and replenishment.  Let it all go for a bit, breathe and grab a smile wherever and whenever…

I swear, this was what my neighborhood looked like November 1st. No damned joke.

When the tree has to match the size of the ego…

Just a little somethin’ for my Neechie friends. It’s an oldie, but I just love these little fellas

The obligatory PSA

It was only then Rudolph’s mom realized her error…

Damn those milky trenches

They say Christmas is really for the children, right?

Do it. Much happiness guaranteed. May not apply to real trees.

Ha! Jokes on you dude, that’s a summer shirt he’s got on.

The bonus meme: 10 extra points for getting the joke

 

Wishing all a fab Christmas, a wonderful holiday season, a terrific however you want to celebrate any extra days off with all the people that are dearest to you or in any solitude you may crave.

See you again closer to New Year’s Eve. Feeling up for a little light poetry by then, I think.

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 in 2002 and received Canadian recognition of it. The real question should be, “what makes one Indigenous”? Who believes a distant ancestor from a generation over 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

Second Chances

25 years ago on this day, the impact two special friends had on my life was solidified. I send my love to all who knew them and felt the same. This is a reprise of something I published a few years ago…

————————————————————————————

There was an article in 1998 that warned young reporters were getting their careers turned around by getting too involved with their stories, sometimes even making up details.  I know it seems like a simple case of common sense to just not do either, but if you’re in touch with emotions and recording certain events, that’s not always do-able.

When I wrote as a correspondent in the wilds of northwestern Ontario 25 yrs ago, I experienced something similar. Despite the seemingly tranquil setting of an aurora borealis framed mini mecca of 600, called Pickle Lake, I actually wrote quite a variety of stories around events that would rival any city. To be fair, there were another 600 or so around the town.

My ‘beat’ covered a collection of assaults, robberies, and murder, and my community profiles provided just as much color.  All of this belies the fact that despite that record, most people in the area couldn’t be a stronger, kinder, and more generous humankind sample.

I want to recount one story that I wrote then, that I wish I could re-write now.

One of my favorite “P.L.” adventures, which took even me by surprise, was joining the town’s volunteer ambulance service.  I studied the necessary courses until I qualified, completed by also getting the license to drive the ambulance aka the ‘bus, which incidentally also qualifies you to drive an actual bus.

One of the senior attendants was a fellow by the name of Dave Halteman.  Dave was one of those friendly folksy type that make a name for themselves by being ready to help anyone, any time. He owned the local auto repair and service station, which also served as the base for all kind of local rescue.  I think one of his favorites was pulling my car out of a few snowbanks and ditches on those bitter winter roads, and for the record, local jeer-ers, I was not the only one.

Dave was up for anything, which he was called to do often, but most of his town volunteering was devoted to the fire and ambulance departments. He did a fantastic job assisting the oversight of those critical services.  Of course, it goes without saying those jobs take some bravery, and it turned out his personal bar was set at -quite high-.

He willingly took on the job to train a skinny, completely citified, 115 lb. greenhorn. Think about what it would take to teach that winning combo how to hoist a 95 lb. stretcher holding a 200 lb. patient into the back of an ambulance and then drive back to the clinic without skidding off the icy roads, and without breaking a nail.  Yeah, he was cool with priorities like that.

Dave’s easygoing nature didn’t mean easy; he made for darn sure I knew we were working for lives, for real.  Luckily, his patience level was set at -infinite-, because I definitely tested that bar too.  When I bungled, I got a stare that I would answer with my own mortified gape. Then this laugh would ring out.  Anyone who ever heard it, would agree – one of a kind.  Infectious. Unforgettable.

Whoever was treated to that laugh was also served by his decency.  He made a friend out of pretty much everyone who crossed his path because of his honest belief in ‘do unto others’.  Despite all the heroics of his emergency work, this was probably what earned him the most and deepest regard overall.  To say he was beloved to many is not an overstatement, his personality filled a town.

So on that December day, when the news came that his plane went down on the way home from a hunting trip, shock reverberated throughout the region.  No one could believe it and no one wanted to. Many of us held hope that there’d been a mistake. We would learn that the crash took not only Dave, but also his endearing and respected son-in-law, Everett Moore.  Ev was soft-spoken, tall, handsome, filled with kindness, and so young.

The town became still in the days that lead up to the funeral service. As everyone struggled to comprehend that what happened was real, the two caskets at the front of the community hall laid down all hope for good.

Those of us who served with Dave were privileged to stand in observance as his Honour Guard. The hall seats filled quickly, and everyone else stood outside on a bright, but frigid day listening through speakers.  There were several hundred who stood in that biting cold for the entire service and the interment.  I’m sure desire for relief from that cold was strong, but it couldn’t overcome the desire to pay those deeply felt respects.

The town took a while to rev back to some kind of normal. We learned there was a lot of navigating to figure out how to carry on without the steady assurances and answers of Dave.  We did though, because in many ways, the footprints he laid down were clear enough for us to follow, and so he still shaped worthwhile aspects of our own capabilities.

I wish I could have written all this in that memoriam story years ago, but I was too involved in my own grief. I couldn’t get myself to the place that does justice to the role of reporting, and in service to people who knew he deserved so much more.

I hope what I can put down now, this little bit more, will add to the legacy of how well Dave and Ev impacted people.

One last thing still bears saying too.  For a long time, many of us would often say how we’d give anything to hear that Dave laugh again.  The truth is, when I think of him I still do, and I believe that whenever we think of him, most of us still do.

RL

PostScript: I also owe a debt of gratitude to former Managing Editor, Thunder Bay Chronicle, Nick Hirst, for helping me cobble together the part of the story I did then.

Hello to my old friends in Pickle Lake and Mishkeegogamang First Nation who stood out in the cold with us that day.