There’s an ache inside of me today and it’s not a painful one, it isn’t uncomfortable, and I don’t want to wish it away. When I prod and poke this feeling and try to discover the source of it, I sense it is an acknowledgment of the resilience of our people.
They say the body remembers. My blood runs with memories of ancestors who struggled and triumphed. Who dared to exist when the white world around them told them they didn’t have a right to live as they were.
We, as Indigenous people, are brilliantly beautiful and resilient beyond measure. Our languages still make homes in our Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s mouths even after the tongue was silenced with a language that weighed heavy upon the tongue and spirit.
We are still here.
Think about that.
Indigenous people have survived the barrage of attacks and genocide. We survived the betrayals of colonial people that we had made agreements with. Our ancestors agreed to exist alongside each other as two separate paths, they did not plan for them to converge and become one. Most, if not all, Treaties were signed on the assumption that the way of life known by the Indigenous peoples would not change. Translator’s that assisted with explaining the Treaties to the Indigenous people were known to use language twisted the words just enough to coerce agreement.
An elder told me a story of his Grandfather who had signed one of the Treaties, and how he was clearly explained to that “nothing would change, you will live like you had always lived”. The elder then recounted how as a young child he would lay on the top of a hill with an older relative of his and they would stare into the skies above and watch the geese fly. They could spend an entire day there, on the land, watching these birds make their long seasonal journeys and tell stories and drink tea. He told me how that same piece of land they used to lay upon has roads through it now and how everything has changed.
Indigenous people have survived land, identity, and children being stolen from them.
We have not only survived it but now we are healing from it and becoming strong again.
This ache that I have inside of my chest is a humble acknowledgment of the strength that I have seen in those that I have encountered on my short journey.
Every time I hear a young person introduce themselves in their traditional language my spirit sings. Every time I listen to an elders story of healing from the pain that they carried from residential school my spirit dances. Every time I meet someone who has overcome alcohol and drug addiction my spirit gathers light. Every time I hear a traditional song and witness its’ power my spirit strengthens. Every time I meet a teacher who passes on knowledge my spirit is grateful to be alive.
We are resilient. Acknowledge that and give thanks for those who came before you and those that have laid the groundwork to get where we are today. Give thanks for those who are working today to change things and reclaim our identities and revitalize culture.
I know that it can sometimes be hard to see it this way. I was very different once upon a time and my outlook on my people was not as such. A few years ago I wrote the poem that I am going to share when I was frustrated with some of the things I seen going on around me. I am sharing it because I feel it is important to unearth our own negative feelings about Indigenous people and let them see the light so they can be transformed into love.
To those who are mine,
I love your stunning darkly pigmented skin
I love the almond pearls you have for eyes and
how they hold the stars our ancestors once looked upon
I love you because when I look into them I see my people
I see home
I love your unruly thick hair
braided and bound with pride and tradition
I love you for your unrelenting resiliency
I hate you for your blatant weaknesses
I hate your glossy eyes permeating my being with outstretched hands
I hate you for losing sight of the stars
I hate you for your skin is the colour of poverty
I love you for your charming satirical laughter
and your keen resourcefulness
I love and admire you for overcoming obstacles
higher than young mountain peaks
and deeper than ocean bottoms
I love your beautifully crafted warrior spirit
that holds no fear and knows not of limitations
I hate you for showing up on doorsteps in the middle of the night,
breath whiskey laden
I hate that as the sky cradles the moon
you cradle your addictions
I love you for giving me the voices of my ancestors
through sacred song and dance
I love you for letting the beat of the drum
merge mysteriously with the beat of my heart
I hate you for beating your fists
into the malleable bodies
of your own women and children
I hate you for unknowingly passing on
your disease to those you love the most
I love you because you are mine
I hate you because you are mine
Love is the ultimate path to healing
and as my hate dissolves
I find pain shrouded in unwept tears
for the would be warriors we lose
There is a war that is waged within me
I hate the sickness that has infected our nation
The people are beautiful and the spirit is good
but trickery tries to get me to see and believe otherwise
If love will revive your spirits
then I will always love you
You are mine