• When I was a child, everyone I knew spoke Cree

    I grew up in Misipawistik (Grand Rapids, Manitoba), an Inninew village of about 400 people. The village was separated by the Saskatchewan River, the reserve was on the south bank and the Métis community was on the north side. But at that time, we never identified as status, non-status or Métis. We were Inninew, Cree-speaking people. Our language identified us. In all the time I spent with my nookum (grandmother), I never once heard her say a word in English. People who dropped in to see her, spoke to her in Cree. She would not acknowledge a visitor if the person didn’t speak Cree to her. That was how she was: her home, her terms, her language. There were two families in our village that were Caucasian: the store owners. In those families there were three boys, blond as blond could be, and they spent as much time with us as they did at home. They all spoke Inninew, Cree with us. To us, their friends, they were just a whiter shade of Inninew. We never knew that outside of our isolated village we were different, until Manitoba Hydro arrived to build the Grand Rapids Generating Station. Manitoba Hydro created a tiered system in which they were on top, the workers they brought in were second, the Métis third and at the bottom were status and non-status people. The dam flooded more than 200,000 hectares of our land. Worst of all, we nearly lost our identity, our language.

  • 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”

  • Our Thing

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    Till today we both moved to Canada my daughter speak mother language Mandarin, second language English, and last few days I try start to talk with my daughter Shanghai language. She’s excited to know it. Continue reading “Our Thing”

  • Authentic Contact

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    And truly try to fully integrate and recognize indigenous people as who they are, the founders of this nation and possessors of values and ideas that would truly do a lot to make Canada the great nation we try for it to be. But again I think ultimately it comes down to if real progress is to be made, if real reconciliation is to be made, it takes real authentic contact between peoples instead of thinking of each other as different or being separate. I think a lot of the barriers, a lot of the problems, a lot of the issues would fall apart if people just sat down and got to know each other in a more meaningful way. Continue reading “Authentic Contact”

  • What’s that got to do with it?

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    We would be refused service, we would be thrown out of stores. Continue reading “What’s that got to do with it?”

  • Storyteller

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    What I was told by my grandfather is that, pre-contact, there was a man that travelled from village to village here and he claimed to be the son of God. He travelled and when he left our villages, he told the story that he would come back for us again. Continue reading “Storyteller”

  • Where are you from?

    At 24 I started to get used to people asking “Where you from?” After all, I’d only been an Indian for six years, and now had the Government of Canada letter to prove it. It read, “Congratulations! You’re now registered as an Indian under the Indian Act of Canada.” Before this letter, I didn’t look like anything except “out of place.” In my new legally recognized Indian Status, I was now equipped to answer anyone who asked “What are you?” One evening out with a friend, a fellow asked me, “We know your friend is Native, but we were wondering what you are?” I replied, “We noticed you too, and we were wondering if you’re white.”

  • Experience with Culture

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    Yeah, residential school we had a cavanagh that was an English, er, Irish, and Italian teachers and Mexican teachers and then from there we went, I went to school in Victoria. Continue reading “Experience with Culture”

  • Birthright

    In 1983 I returned to Pangnirtung where I was born in 1947 and stayed for a month with the daughter of the Inuit family who had worked for my parents. I went over to the fish and game office and bought a fishing licence for $10 and when my friend learned that I had had to pay for it she became upset and stormed back over the hill to demand that I be given the licence for free, as I had been born in Pangnirtung and was therefore entitled to the rights of native Pangnirtungmiut. To my relief, she was unable to convince the warden. But then I was unable to explain to her why the warden was, in my view, correct.

  • Prejudice Reversed

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    I came home one day from school and told my mother that we had show and tell and I told them I was aboriginal and that my uncle was a hereditary chief Continue reading “Prejudice Reversed”