Shameless

I know it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, there will always be people who will ridicule you. They’ll talk about you, jeer, dismiss, and even attempt to undermine you. A good number of times, one will endure that from their own family. I’ve encountered all of that and I suppose I could always be a target for that mentality at any time and in any place. That’s just the really shitty side of life. That side comes from people who have yet to really dig deep into their own issues. What I’ve learned about that is, I’m not obligated to stay in that place with them – no matter who they are.

Despite a lifetime of being told it was a fruitless endeavor, there was good reason why I headed back 20 years ago to the community of my childhood. The fact that the community happened to be Indigenous was both inconsequential and utterly life saving.

I’d spent years looking for ways to understand why there was such a messed-up history that wrecked my nuclear family. Yes, it’s wonderful that much of the generation after mine has made great strides in the efforts of home ownership and good jobs, but behind all of that is that big black hole that still trails us. None of that is resolved by a good job, a nice home, an education, nor in running across or from the country. I did all of that first.

That black hole was borne in place of my familial history when I was taught my community, my relatives, my grandmothers and grandfathers were the cause of our life’s woes. Much like they are still said to be the bane of Canada and ‘its purse strings’. Because of that, I was meant to deny my own heritage and I followed through with it, like many in my immediate family still do.

I did my best to be a good Canadian woman who strives to be a success. Except, when your foundation is based in a self-loathing that no one, including myself, seemed to understand, all that hard work can go up in smoke as quickly as it takes to get into a really bad relationship or receive a phone call that informs you are seriously ill. Those were my turning points.

I’d spent years trying to figure out the basis of that self-loathing. Counseling helped me deal with emotional ups and downs and during the moments when it would intensify to unbearable, but in too many instances, it only served to confuse me further. Applying standard accredited counseling services to an Indigenous inter-generational trauma survivor was woefully inadequate and sometimes even more harmful.

An example was a group therapy effort where I was advised the point of my issues was a deep internal desire to be in a sexual relationship with the woman who had driven me to the ‘retreat’. Another was asking me to not only re-create a scene of sexual abuse, but to do it in front of an entire group. I left any support services for quite a while after the work of that eye-crossing frustration. Therapy created in absence of truth, the truth – still mostly unknown to all even today, is just more marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

When those old moments of inexplicable fears arose again, I turned to other methods of coping. Art projects, writing, loads of volunteering or Al-Anon – which was great support, but incomplete. Then I went back to the idea that a super, new job title was the answer after all. Three additional years of corporate abuse dispelled that notion for good.

As it turned out, underneath it all, I did know what I feared most– being seen for who I really was. That was one of the concepts they’d told me about years before, but the thing is, that was wrong too. Because as it is for most, it really all boiled down to being seen for all that had happened to me – and my mother, and her mother – for generations, and for what I’d done in all the processes to cope with that.

So, despite all that running, in the end, I edged my way back to that place I feared most – that black hole. To the source of all the pain and rage and searing sadness. To that place that is my Indigeneity. To that place where apparently, any value as a realized human is only partial for us, according to school, neighbors, Canadian politics, and the punitive digs by a few of my own chosen relationships.

I was never going to know about me until I saw the real me, the whole me, desperately in need of being heard by anyone who could truly know the very real and distinct intricacies of the Indigenous journey in Canada – and that sure as hell wasn’t on the couch of a Freudian-oriented psychiatrist.

It could only be found back among my own, with my own relations where they knew what I was saying with only a third of the words. Where they knew what I was feeling without having to provide every denigrating detail, and far more importantly, they knew everything behind the whys. They carried the key and it was what I needed to finally fill in that hole of debilitation.

I wrote this because despite reams of paper trails to show what this journey entailed and why I am where I am today, I am still in the line of fire for derision. Despite the triumph of being armed with the understanding of my own culture and its incredible value, I am now ridiculed for standing up for it, even from some family.

Canada has claimed dominion over many of us, and I understand the ease of giving in, but I carry centuries worth of family knowledge. That history matters. I understand exactly why the events that occurred happened. I understand them on multiple levels and that’s what killed the shame that was never mine to carry in the first place. I stand up for my mother and my grandmothers because I am them and I was always meant to embrace that.

This is a country that still must answer for my family and so many others who are still swept away in the daily mixed messages of what it means to be Indigenous within it. It’s a horrible shame those messages remain; it’s devastating to know they’re still being internalized at all.

RL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RL

‘Alternative’ Metis Nation Alert; Frauds exposed from the west to the east

Updated October 26, 2018:  News reports on fraudulent ‘status’ cards and police investigations, and APTN interview with professor researching the ‘eastern Metis’ groups.

This is not new news, it has been reported in previous years, but it doesn’t seem to quell the ongoing efforts of those who would take advantage of a history not well known nor those who would reward them in the name of ‘reconciliation’ or any other feel-good motivation.

Although I’m aware of several well-known & award winning Canadians who have been exposed as having usurped Indigenous identity on which to build a career, i.e. Joseph Boyden, I’ve just learned of another, the Order of Canada and several other prestigious awards recipient, David Bouchard.

Bouchard, who claims Metis ancestry, was exposed for using the officially recognized Metis (Michif) Nation for his own background and gain, after it was discovered he didn’t meet the required ancestral lineage. He responded by creating ‘alternative metis’ groups, which appear to be based in some idea of a pan-Indigenous society. Let’s make it clear, Indigenous nations are nations as much as any other in the world.

Bouchard originally participated in the 2002 creation of the official BC Metis Nation arm of the recognized Metis Nation, but his application and involvement was rescinded when he failed the organization’s own requirement of meeting a current line of five direct generations to the prairie Michif people, history, culture, etc.

His ancestry was related to one Algonquin woman ancestor born in 1621. In 2008, he added to his lineage, a Chippewa grandfather and a grandmother from the middle-U.S. nation, the Osage,  circa 1800s. The details to these were provided in 2013 by a U.S. genealogist who declared Bouchard a Metis. Unfortunately that’s not how citizenship inclusion works. The research declared Bouchard as having mixed ancestry, but that research must then be taken to the Canadian situated and recognized Metis Nation for verification and then it is they who grant inclusion into the nation. It is understood that an updated application was not submitted to the Metis Nation.

Although Bouchard’s level of involvement in the 2011 creation of the alternative group, the “BC Metis Federation” is unclear, he went on to create his own alternative national group, the Metis Federation of Canada in 2013, with Karole Dumont as first registrar and Sebastien Malette as “legal advisor”.  Neither of these groups require lineage linked to the Michif history.

One does not simply proclaim oneself to be Metis any more than one may proclaim to be Scottish or a Canadian. There are parameters to be met and a connection to any long-lost or Indigenous ancestor is not one of them. Nor does claiming ancestors prior to the ethnogenesis of the Metis Nation make anyone Metis. How is it people don’t recognize there were no Metis until then? They ignore the fact the Michif don’t call their own originating ancestors, Metis. They are recorded as they were, by their original nationhood.

The level to which these people have done damage to the reputation of the recognized Metis Nation and to the people who they sign onto their organizations with the same level of ancestral connections – which is to say non-existent to barely, has many in the Indigenous communities stating these kind of mis-representations could be considered  fraudulent.

They harm the recognized Indigenous peoples by mis-representing history, snatching opportunities in employment, awards, grants, scholarships and any other avenue meant to lend a hand up to the marginalized, and they mislead thousands of people into unwittingly believing they too belong to a community.

They go further though. They have members who seek out and harass anyone who speaks out about them by swarming on social media, contacting employers to claim all sort of reverse harassment, to threatening lawsuits.

The Metis Nation is an established nation with history of verifiable detail for centuries. For example, as a member of this nation, I could only state on my application my “Metis” – my Michif ancestry, not my Cree, Haudenosaunee, or any other Indigenous nation to which I’m related.

The details of these organizations are publicly available, as are the officially recognized Metis Nation on their own and the Government of Canada’s websites, yet award, grant or bursary organizations, employers, and especially the Canadian media have not thought to act on determining who is officially recognized, as they hand out opportunities meant for the Indigenous. The unfortunate result are long waiting lists for recognized nation members often held back for years, if not entirely rejected.

There is no pan-Indigenous society or ‘nation’ that one with any hint of Indigenous ancestry can run to for representation. Any who claim this are frauds. If one feels they belong to an Indigenous nation, then seek out the particular nation you believe you’re connected to.

For those who falsely claim Indigeneity, you are doing so at the cost of opportunity for my child, myself or  my relations, although I suspect you already know that. I can only say – shame on you. May you face the price for impinging on the last bastion of our sovereignty – our identity.

A visual on who may qualify as a Metis Nation citizen

BC Metis Nation order to rescind membership: David Bouchard MNBC membership application rescinded

November 2018 Metis National Council & Manitoba Metis Nation release statements in protection of Metis Nation sovereignty and definition.

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

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

 

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
Maureen Kennedy is a Cree & Metis long-time active community Teacher, Guide, and Practitioner of her Spiritual Knowledges.  She is my Auntie and I am proud to be her relation. I am blessed to receive her teachings and guidance. I am so, so grateful to receive her love.
Hiy hiy, Auntie,
RL