Indian Country: A Place Where I Belong

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Initially I wanted to write about why you as the reader, you as the individual, you as the First Nations person, you as the ally, you as the apathetic, should give a shit about what’s happening right now in Canadian politics and how it affects the future of First Nations people (and Mother Earth- so in turn EVERYONE).

I wanted to throw out some information in neat and short paragraphs with well assembled information and links encoded. A skill that requires me to be much more tech savvy than I am. But I would’ve learned if I thought it would have changed somebodies mind.

I wanted to do a call to action but as I sat here staring at this screen, my mind still lurching from subject to subject, from Bill to Act, from paper to reality, I realized I needed to write about something else.

I can only tell you why I care, as a First Nations woman. Why I care as a Dane Zaa and Cree person. Why I, Dishinit Sakeh, of Prophet River First Nations in the Treaty 8 Territory, BC, believe in doing something.

I used to not give a shit. If you told me that I belonged to a collective, a tribe, a Nation, a people’s that existed beyond myself I would’ve told you that you were wrong. I would have sat you down in my living room, next to a heater that had to be going because it’s winter and we didn’t have a working furnace then, and I would have explained to your idealistic ass why I was alone. I would rattle of 10 instances that proved I didn’t need anyone else and shot out 5 stories that proved that the individuals that I knew only looked out for themselves too.

You really feel it though, when you’re young and life seems like it’s happening to you on a daily basis. It isn’t happening in some dream like fashion, or just a little play rough housing, but a full on thrashing with your jaw on the curb and life is ready to give it a big fucking stomp. I know that feeling. That feeling creates a sense of loneliness that is colder than the Northern winter winds and it seeps into your skin, lies in bed with you at night while you listen to people party, or people you love argue and scream obscenities until the walls are punctured with their pain. It’s bloody brutal and it feels like life is one long extended winter.

Of course you manage, or rather I did, and it is easy to succumb to this idea of “fending for one’s self”. Individualism, I believe they call it. Or as that one guy Darwin coined it, survival of the fittest. If you learn by way of experience, that every one is going to fuck you then you better have your own back. Sounds about right?

It’s easy to shift from “we” to “me” and easier to feel like you want nothing to do with the people you come from. But how can this be OUR choice, when the circumstances were not created by us but forced upon us? Riddle me that, genocide gurus.

My Great Uncle lived on the streets since I could remember. Before this era of back alley dwelling, he was a guide in the mountains, a damned good one too, so I have heard. I remember tracking him down in a car as a family on cold nights like this one. I always took such great joy in seeing him, like we played a permanent game of hide and seek. We would pull over and old Uncle Johnny would sing us a song and we would all giggle from our seats and ask for an encore. I never realized until I was older, and he almost died then was placed into a care home, just how dire his situation was. Now I look at his picture, my young Dane Zaa Uncle holding the up the fair-sized horns of the sheep he had just killed. We used to be warriors.

When I am walking down the streets and I am confronted by that level of poverty and addiction that is plaguing a person that is my relation by spirit and I can see that their skin colour of brown is the most damned beautiful brown I have ever seen. I imagine all social constructs removed, all harmful learning unlearned, forced individualism unraveled, and I can catch a glimpse of it in the street light. Warriors.

I didn’t give a shit because I was programmed not to. It’s hard to look at the world with loving eyes when your ability to see in such away has been slowly eroded by abuse, violence, and racism. True story, happened to me, to a friend of a friend of mine, and it is still happening today.

The end.

Just kidding. I always like an unexpected turn in a story. Let’s carry on shall we?

So, I hated how life happened to me, hated how everything was out of control, hated the brown eyes that pleaded after me from alleyways, hated, hated, hated.

But somewhere, somehow, the Creator made me love.

I found people who were proud to be Indigenous, who talked about this thing called “culture” that I didn’t understand. I met elders who hugged me and embraced me by the mention of my Grandmothers name. I found people who gently guided me and explained things patiently to me. I learned that I belonged somewhere, that I have people. This is given that the people I have journeyed with, and I am now a sister in spirit too, are from all different Nations from across Indian Country.

I have an Ojibwe sister who helped me unknot some hard issues when I still drank and spilled my tears into a wine bottle. A Cree sister who told me the only words that could have possibly revived my spirits when I needed it. A Micmac sister, or a few, who can make me laugh till my belly aches. And you know how us Indigenous folk like to laugh. I have a Haida sister who inspires me to keep growing and learning my traditions. with her trademark Haida fierceness. Then there is my beautiful Wetsuweten sister whose fearlessness has always made my spirit move. You see, I have found where I belong and it isn’t just in my Traditional Territory, where I plan to live and die, but it is here on Turtle Island. This is my home.

This is why I give a shit. I spent a good chunk already not caring and I will be damned if I pretend that what is going on in the Parliament today is not a threat to me or the sisters and friends I have made across Indian Country. I cannot turn a blind eye and sit silently as if each Act and piece of assimilative Legislation isn’t another pointed finger, like the one experienced by my Grandma with a pair of blue eyes behind it and a voice calling out “Wagon Burner”. Okay, so maybe they’re not calling it out, but they might be thinking it, it’s in the fine print.

I give a shit, because like I weave tales for my son about the coyote and mosquito man, as my Grandmother did for me… I don’t want my son to weave tales for his grandchildren of this mythical place called Indian Country, where you felt like you belonged.

WE ARE STILL WARRIORS

In Spirit,

Helen K

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8 comments

  1. Well written. I’m glad I found your blog again. I have serveral blogs that I like to keep track of,and having found yours recently I had forgotten where I had left the URL (where in the net are my updates being set to – email? wordpress? someplace else?). Anyway, I was happy to find this post. Has something specific happened in Canadian politics lately? You seem to be hinting at something, but I’m afraid I’ve been out of the loop…

    1. Hi, yes there sure has! Right now, there are more Bills and Acts on the table affecting First Nations than ever before. An omnibus bill called Bill C-45, which has a mass amount of legislation in one bill, was recently passed by the Conservative Government. There was a change to the Navigable Waters Act which removed Federal Protection from over 400 Canadian lakes and rivers. The ones that still have protected just happen to be near Conservative ridings where members live or vacation. There was an ammendment to the Indian Act whereby it makes it easier for First Nations to cede and surrender land. There are other bills and acts on the table that are detrimental to First Nations well being and one that is looming to go through called the First Nations Private Ownership Act. That in itself needs its own explaining. All of these changes fail to get the consultation or consent of First Nations. Therefore we are still under the Federal Government notion that we are better given over rules and changes because they know the best for us. Which is simply not true. There is a day of action planned for December 10th across Canada, where First Nations and allies are called to engage in peaceable protest to say that this is unacceptable and will no longer be allowed to happen. I am planning one with a fellow student at our educational institution. I’ll probably post more over this weekend but I have a few papers to tackle before semesters end! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. This is very powerful. I am not Native American by blood but I feel a closeness to many Native cultures and a dream of mine (that is coming true in May :D) is to go to South Dakota (Cheyenne River Res and possibly Pine Ridge) and help them preserve their culture and also to find out more about the kidnappings of Lakota children that are still going on. I’m probably going to make a documentary about it when I’m out there to make people more aware of reality. This is extremely inspiring and I think their needs to be more people as strong and wise as you are. Thank you for sharing this blog. Peace and Love

    1. Thanks, I am learning more and more about how important it is to build allies and networks outside of ourselves in order to create change, a mutual understanding, and a respectful environment for our children to grow up in. As far as it goes as being wise, I have a far way to go! Best of luck on your journey, I would like to hear more about your endeavors.

  3. Thank You so much for sharing this. I can so relate! I’m glad our People are starting to heal and become Warriors again! Your story brought tears to my eyes because I was brought up in the early seventies and this was such a dark time for our people. Seemed like everyone was drinking. I was the first in my family and one of the first Young person on my reserve to sober up. I had to humble myself and I sought help from Elder’s etc. I was so angry and I had to heal from this. It’s been a long journey and I’m still healing. I am involved with the Grassroots movement called Idle No More because I care now what happens and I am a Mother and Grandmother and know I have a responsibility to help save Mother Earth for future generations. Your story touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes! It gave me strength to carry on being a Warrior Woman today! Hiy Hiy

    1. Thank you for your kind words, and for sharing a part of your journey. It means a lot to me. I’m hosting an Idle No More event too! We are always more connected than it appears to be huh? The healing journey is a long one, I’ve been all over on it and have had to restart it a few times in my short life but I am glad that I’ve been given the chances and the people to help change and live in a good way.

  4. Beautiful thinking and beautiful writing, Helen K. Thank you for not giving up along the way. Courage is precious. And contagious.

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