• Namwayut, We Are All One

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    You know there are no words even beyond memorable for this person that I love so much. It was my paternal grandmother, her name was, Thunder Bird Lady. She used to say to me and my other cousins of course, “I am nothing my precious one.” There will be long silence and I wonder what “what are you talking about” Continue reading “Namwayut, We Are All One”

  • Colonial Rescue

    Recently I learned about an event in my family history that left me reeling. Back in 1832, my ancestors were among the first families to settle in Orillia, Ontario. As they approached the area by boat, their craft capsized in the waters of Lake Couchiching near “The Narrows.” On board was a tiny baby, my third great-grandmother Eliza Bailey, and she was brought safely to shore by a kind member of the Chippewa (Ojibway) Nation. As I later found out, many of the early settlers were welcomed and dependent upon First Nations everywhere, who gave us gifts of food, medicine and our very lives. And yet I have to wonder if my family line would even exist, had Eliza perished in the water? And why wasn’t this information an important part of our family story? A member of Mnjikaning First Nation and Keeper of the Fish Fence cared for my ancestor, but what did we do to return the favour? We have a lot to examine, as we make retributions for the terrible years of land seizure, genocide, oppression, relocation and residential schools. And as we move forward together, I hope to contribute to that process.

  • Ready For It

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    About 90 – I guess 1992 – my wife and I at the time had the misfortune of losing our first child. It was a pretty dark time. I was selling photocopiers – Sharp photocopiers – at the time out of Duncan. I had a lot of contacts with First Nations – Mid-Island Tribal Council (which I don’t think exists anymore) and a few others as well. Continue reading “Ready For It”

  • Burgeoning Beard

    The summer of ’76 I was a hippie wannabe staying at a Christian commune outside Kenora, a small city in northwest Ontario close to the Manitoba border. A friend, Hans, who had spent the previous summer in Pauingassi, a northern Manitoba Ojibway community, arrived for the weekend and said there was a powwow happening in town, so we went. The MC started with a joke about three elders in a canoe. Waves were up and they were scared. First one says, “We should pray.” Second one says, “I am not sure how.” Third one says, “I’ve been to church, repeat after me: Under the B, 5 . . .” As we stood next to a tier of semi-empty bleachers watching a display of ceremonial dancing, an Aboriginal boy, three or four years old, snuck along a row toward us. He got close, ran up and slid his hand along the underside of my chin to feel my somewhat burgeoning beard. I turned to him and he bolted back to his parents. We all laughed. I asked Hans what the deal was. He said facial hair wasn’t that common on the reserve. I looked over at the family and they were still smiling.

  • Continuum

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    Adam Shewish, the late hereditary Tyee Ha’wilth – the hereditary chief of the Tseshaht – and I worked quite closely together for a number of years. I was working with him, his wife, Margaret Shewish, and his aunt, Auntie Mable Taylor. I was telling them a story that I had read. It was about a 100 year-old story being recorded – the recording had been 100 years ago. Continue reading “Continuum”

  • Carving Legacy

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    I’ve been carving Native art, from small pieces to large pieces including: totem poles, doors, panels, for the last thirty years now. I hadn’t really got too involved with art in my younger days. I was too much involved in politics. Continue reading “Carving Legacy”

  • Wisdom

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    In 1996, I was elected the mayor of the district of Tofino in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s territory – Nuu-chah-nulth territory. I had the opportunity to go on a five minute boat ride just across the waterway to Meares Island to Opitsaht, which is one of the communities in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s territory. It’s actually where the seat of their government is. So I went and met with the chief councillor and his council. Continue reading “Wisdom”

  • Family Tree

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    I’m currently in the process of making contact with an aboriginal that aboriginal is inside of me. It’s my aboriginal heritage that I’m just discovering about five years ago my sister did our family tree and I’m a descendant from the hereditary chiefs of Iroquois people. Continue reading “Family Tree”

  • Spirit

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    When I moved to Nanaimo, I happened to be in the old Salvation Army store, would have been the late sixties, early seventies and there were two women, in a, going through a bin and I was going through another bin and they were speaking the Kwakiutl language. Continue reading “Spirit”

  • Social Studies

    My first contact with white kids was in grade seven, when kids from the residential school were bussed into town so we could go to a “public” school. We didn’t want to be there, and it was pretty clear that the white kids didn’t want us to be there either. Social studies was the worst class, because Indians were sometimes the subject. I didn’t know who the Iroquois were, or who the Hurons were (no other Indians were mentioned in those classes), but I knew they were Indians, and so was I.