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.
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