Mother, Nehiyaw, Metis, & Itisahwâkan – career communicator. This is my collection of opinions, stories, and the occasional rise to, or fall from, challenge. In other words, it's my party, I can fun if I want to. Artwork by aaronpaquette.net
I can’t complain too much. Life’s been a whirlwind of some of the coolest experiences of my life and only mildly tempered by my amazing talent to step in it once in a while.
That’s yesterday’s news. Today, it’s about letting go and living for a ha-ha or two. Apologies in advance for any lame jokey joke efforts; the year’s still been a bit long, eh? 🙄
So, if you’ve ever wanted to wish me a broken leg, now’s your chance. I got a couple little acting jobs this year – for a continuation in the life file labeled: Things I never thought I’d do. It’s been loads of fun and this latest one is a Christmas play, natch. It’s an original around the idea of decolonizing Christmas, which may sound bigger than it need.
The simple truth of it is, winter solstice celebrations have occurred all over the world for millennia. Most didn’t look like the current idea of what traditional Christmas looks, not even actual Christmas, and that’s a point worth reviewing. I won’t give away the plot here, but I would wonder what some might guess what a decolonized Christmas would look like?
I know it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, there will always be people who will ridicule you. They’ll talk about you, jeer, dismiss, and even attempt to undermine you. A good number of times, one will endure that from their own family. I’ve encountered all of that and I suppose I could always be a target for that mentality at any time and in any place. That’s just the really shitty side of life. That side comes from people who have yet to really dig deep into their own issues. What I’ve learned about that is, I’m not obligated to stay in that place with them – no matter who they are.
Despite a lifetime of being told it was a fruitless endeavor, there was good reason why I headed back 20 years ago to the community of my childhood. The fact that the community happened to be Indigenous was both inconsequential and utterly life saving.
I’d spent years looking for ways to understand why there was such a messed-up history that wrecked my nuclear family. Yes, it’s wonderful that much of the generation after mine has made great strides in the efforts of home ownership and good jobs, but behind all of that is that big black hole that still trails us. None of that is resolved by a good job, a nice home, an education, nor in running across or from the country. I did all of that first.
That black hole was borne in place of my familial history when I was taught my community, my relatives, my grandmothers and grandfathers were the cause of our life’s woes. Much like they are still said to be the bane of Canada and ‘its purse strings’. Because of that, I was meant to deny my own heritage and I followed through with it, like many in my immediate family still do.
I did my best to be a good Canadian woman who strives to be a success. Except, when your foundation is based in a self-loathing that no one, including myself, seemed to understand, all that hard work can go up in smoke as quickly as it takes to get into a really bad relationship or receive a phone call that informs you are seriously ill. Those were my turning points.
I’d spent years trying to figure out the basis of that self-loathing. Counseling helped me deal with emotional ups and downs and during the moments when it would intensify to unbearable, but in too many instances, it only served to confuse me further. Applying standard accredited counseling services to an Indigenous inter-generational trauma survivor was woefully inadequate and sometimes even more harmful.
An example was a group therapy effort where I was advised the point of my issues was a deep internal desire to be in a sexual relationship with the woman who had driven me to the ‘retreat’. Another was asking me to not only re-create a scene of sexual abuse, but to do it in front of an entire group. I left any support services for quite a while after the work of that eye-crossing frustration. Therapy created in absence of truth, the truth – still mostly unknown to all even today, is just more marginalization of Indigenous peoples.
When those old moments of inexplicable fears arose again, I turned to other methods of coping. Art projects, writing, loads of volunteering or Al-Anon – which was great support, but incomplete. Then I went back to the idea that a super, new job title was the answer after all. Three additional years of corporate abuse dispelled that notion for good.
As it turned out, underneath it all, I did know what I feared most– being seen for who I really was. That was one of the concepts they’d told me about years before, but the thing is, that was wrong too. Because as it is for most, it really all boiled down to being seen for all that had happened to me – and my mother, and her mother – for generations, and for what I’d done in all the processes to cope with that.
So, despite all that running, in the end, I edged my way back to that place I feared most – that black hole. To the source of all the pain and rage and searing sadness. To that place that is my Indigeneity. To that place where apparently, any value as a realized human is only partial for us, according to school, neighbors, Canadian politics, and the punitive digs by a few of my own chosen relationships.
I was never going to know about me until I saw the real me, the whole me, desperately in need of being heard by anyone who could truly know the very real and distinct intricacies of the Indigenous journey in Canada – and that sure as hell wasn’t on the couch of a Freudian-oriented psychiatrist.
It could only be found back among my own, with my own relations where they knew what I was saying with only a third of the words. Where they knew what I was feeling without having to provide every denigrating detail, and far more importantly, they knew everything behind the whys. They carried the key and it was what I needed to finally fill in that hole of debilitation.
I wrote this because despite reams of paper trails to show what this journey entailed and why I am where I am today, I am still in the line of fire for derision. Despite the triumph of being armed with the understanding of my own culture and its incredible value, I am now ridiculed for standing up for it, even from some family.
Canada has claimed dominion over many of us, and I understand the ease of giving in, but I carry centuries worth of family knowledge. That history matters. I understand exactly why the events that occurred happened. I understand them on multiple levels and that’s what killed the shame that was never mine to carry in the first place. I stand up for my mother and my grandmothers because I am them and I was always meant to embrace that.
This is a country that still must answer for my family and so many others who are still swept away in the daily mixed messages of what it means to be Indigenous within it. It’s a horrible shame those messages remain; it’s devastating to know they’re still being internalized at all – on both sides of the equation.
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…
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 😀 …
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.
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.
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.
Imminent fly-by looting…
The last of the stragglers. Little worse for wear…
This is an issue so big, I’d consider it criminal if we didn’t do our best to make sure all our relations are aware of it. I don’t know how many people truly understand what Trudeau’s “Indigenous Rights Framework” is. I know we’ve all heard the name and a lot of big words about it, but what does it look like in its bottom line?
This issue is what previous Indigenous
leadership had been fighting against for decades. There are so many Chiefs
signing onto this for their people now and I don’t understand how they can do
this if they honestly understand what that paper means for all of their
generations to follow.
The “Framework” created by Canada without Indigenous input, offers a lot of money today while throwing out those big words about ‘self-determination’ and ‘self-generating revenue’ for tomorrow. They intend to do this by privatizing reserves. Reserves are community property, as was once all of Canada, including what’s now called “Crown lands”. That new revenue is called ‘taxes’.
That means the people who live on reserves would now have to pay taxes to their bands to keep their houses. If they can’t pay the taxes, the band can then sell the houses to anyone who has the money to buy it. Anyone. This is how Canadian developers will get the last of Indigenous lands.
This is how Canada finally gets rid of its “Indian problem” and breaks the original treaties for good. This is the ‘final solution by paper’. We will no longer have our world-recognized nation to nation rights for good. Every reserve would then be less than a provincial municipality. Something many Canadians advocate for, despite the facts of history and it being against the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
That’s a good enough reason every Chief and Council should question why they’re signing onto this, because they are throwing away every tie we have to these lands. Our own teachings tell us we are inextricably tied to our lands. This is why the ceding terminology Canada claimed was in the treaties makes no sense whatsoever. Our ancestors would never untie who we are from our lands. The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld this knowledge.
Some people are saying this is part of the reason Jody Wilson-Raybould, a We Wai Kai Nation citizen, was moved from her role as Attorney General for Canada, because she was fighting this Framework’s details. I don’t know if this is true, but a lot of our Indigenous lawyers & scholars are speaking against this Framework because of what it does.
Canada is trying to get away with not paying the huge debt it owes us. Remember the original treaties – they are about sharing not ceding. They are to be honoured, not stripped. Canadians and the Canadian political landscape have to learn what honour is, and we sure don’t need to be begging for Canada’s scraps.
Here’s an example of how that Framework plan works. The people on this reserve get no more funding transfers from the “Indigenous Trust Funds” to suffice home ownership, (as per the treaties & supplied by a portion of resources extraction from Indigenous lands), so now taxes are expected from the residents of reserves. When taxes couldn’t be paid and the band couldn’t ‘generate funding from people who couldn’t pay taxes’, they were all left in a Canadian lurch.
I’m more than aware of how much of a corner First Nations leadership has been backed into by the chronic underfunding that the Canadian Government employs in their carrot & stick approach to bring the Indigenous to heel, but this is the point Canada has been waiting for to take all our legacies. We must stop this. The end of the Indian Act is not a one-sided deal that Canada gets to decide and sort on its own.
A further side note: the great fight currently underway in Canadian election politics will leave this issue mostly ignored, but when people damn the Indigenous for not stumping for their guy in the Liberals or Conservatives, know that both parties implemented this despicable policy. They only dressed its title & taglines differently.
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…