Friday, March 16, 2018

Souvenirs... Worth more than Cash

"Memories they can't be boughten
They can't be won at carnivals for free
Well it took me years
To get those souvenirs
And I don't know how they slipped away from me"

Visiting with my daughter this evening. I drove her to an AA meeting. After the meeting we talked about her Grannie and her Granpa. Today is 13 years that the Cancer took my Mom. I miss that old lady. Her sense of humour is lost now. Same  with my Dad. My girl was talking about missing my Dad and spoke of a few memories she has of him; good ones. 
We've been talking about her battle with addiction. The Addiction is a monster that is for sure. I have been encouraging to write about her experience. She is battling with the regrets and the memories of what she has endured and has done. So at a counseling she was advised to start her journal and if its hard to confront her memories to focus on the good ones, no matter how small. 

I keep thinking about my own life and the mistakes, the regrets, the ugly but also the good and the very good in my life. I have some ugly things that have happened. Still afraid to share them. These are souvenirs that I have and carry with me. 

There are souvenirs we get everyday. Like today, I met a very nice vehicle. Yes a vehicle. The vehicle is a Vixen; born in 1986. Vixen is traveling all over the place. He even has nice folks writing about him.  Vixen is the coolest grooviest vehicle I have come across and met.  
I also met a beautiful couple of people today. It was the Feast Cafe on Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg. I went to have lemon tea there as I waited for my girl. Colleen Rajotte was having some Bison there. I believe it was Bison because Bison is one of the specialty dishes served there. I have seen Colleen on television for some time now. Lately she is in the news as one of the60's Scoop Adopted. The government of Canada is trying to end the legacy of the "getting rid of the Indian" initiative the government actively pursued. Taking Indian kids away from parents and adopting them out to non-Indian parents was one of those attempted methods of getting rid of Indians. Anyway Colleen Rajotte and the  60 Scoop Indians are not going to stay quiet. So it was a good souvenir I got with meeting her. 

It is quite something isn't it? We are gaining memories every single day. The souvenirs along with those memories will be something we can carry for a while. It takes a while to get those souvenirs just like John Prine sings about. 

Let's make sure those souvenirs are worth something. 

1986 Vixen 
Colleen Rajotte
My Souvenir is my Heart Medicine

Monday, March 12, 2018


"This young boy crept slowly towards the shore line. There was no emotion showing on his brown face. He quickly ducked down. There the Moose raised his head out of the marshy water. His head was shining dark soaked from the water. The Moose looked around, his ears twitched. His head turned towards the water and he lowered his head under the water. The vegetation at the bottom of the marsh was extra tasty. The boy crept forward to get  closer. The Moose raised his head out of the water once again. The ears and his head looked magical as the water ran down and weeds hung onto his great ears and the bell beard. The water cascading heavily from his velvet horns. As the Moose slowly turned his head and perked his ears, he slowly calmed and went back to his early evening meal. He pushed his huge head deeper into the depths of the cool marsh for more of the succulent marsh weed. This time the boy was close to the water's edge. The boy pulled out his sling shot, stood upright, aimed and fired. A direct hit. The hard polished feldspar granite rock hit the Moose on his testicle. The Moose gulped, grunted and fell hard front first into the marsh. He perished because of the shock and the vast amount of water which filled his lungs when he gulped."


"Booshoo Boy, Shake my hand."

This is a story that David Blacksmith told as we sat around the Sweatlodge visiting. His brother Murray had told him.

Yohoo is a phrase. You don't hear it too often anymore. Many of the older men in the Reserve would say that when they were listening to someone telling a story. Yohoo could be said to let a person know he is being heard and you are listening. It is to show the story teller you are in fact engaged in what they are saying. It could also be a phrase to question what you are saying, like the younger generation will say "no way?!". And you of course will say "way" (at least in sitcoms).  It can also be in place of "you're bullshitting". You say "Yohoo" to say you are surprised or doubtful.

The art of story telling is still going on in the Neechie community. We hear stories all the time and almost anywhere. We can be at the Wake service and someone will be telling stories.

When you hear a good story let them know you are listening. Don't be shy to throw in a Yohoo once in a while. So the next time you hear Joseph Boyden telling you a story, you can honour him with a Yohoo, or even better say "shake my hand". After all Boyden is one of the greatest story tellers of all time; he sold the story of him being "Indigenous" and people bought it. 

The "hello, shake my hand" is a good way to let someone know they have just told a great whopper of a story. A story so full of shit, that you says "you really told us that???"

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Proud To Be Native?

Yeah Baby! Proud to be Neechie, proud to be Brown, Black Pride, Gay Pride, White Pride.  Oops how in the heck did White pride get in there? That is a different can of fish. Not going to tackle that one.

Native Pride is a real thing. We are proud of being Ojibwe, Anishinaabe, Lakota, Cherokee, Iroquois, Cree, Metis, Blackfoot, Hawiian, Maori  and all those other people of Indigenous Heritage.

The late Comedian George Carlin didn't like or didn't understand "ethnic pride" as he called it. He even quoted the Bible that says "Pride goeth befor a fall". I like some of his comedy but have to disagree with him in this debate. He does make some funny and good points about things to be proud for. However, (notice how however is a negative? Why is that? Anyway) when it comes to identity and labels we need to be proud. And why you may ask? Its because of the social factor. Society in general has done a pretty number on Ethnic people, non-conformtists, People of Color and the Indigenous folk. Society has sold them a set of goods that spells out how no good they are. How their being different is bad in society. So its essential and its necessary to combat that narrative. We have a world wide story which says we (5000 Indigenous people) are inferior in some way or fashion.  I like the fact that we are in stating that we are proud of who we are.

What does that mean, to be proud of your heritage? Years ago I was speaking to a group of people and of course asked the question, how many of you are Indian? Everyone rose their hand. I then asked how many are proud to be Indian (you have to remember it was at least 30 or more years ago so Indian was a common vernacular to describe us Aboriginal/Indigenous folk)?  Okay, I said, what are some of the things you are proud of being Indian for?  The answers didn't come out as quickly. One guy actually said this "well we don't pay tax". I didn't laugh. The thing is we were at this point in life because of the constant tale of how we are no good and all those good old stereotypes: lazy, drunken, welfare, savage, uncivilized, un-godly. So the tale has been told so many times we have internalized the message. Sort of like advertising, a good pitch will have people buying it. A number of those in the group said they were proud of their heritage. Which is great and what does that entail? Well its our music, our language, our Beliefs, our governance, our color, the way we live. All great things to be proud of that is for sure. The problem is the government along with the Church and justice system have attacked and in many cases, killed those things we once had. Like the Language. No one can say our language has remained intact. Our Clan systems, our Spiritual rites, our way of governance, our freedom of commerce with each other, our whole way of life has been harmed. You see some of the harm displayed in our new consciousness. Many of us have abandoned our Beliefs for a foreign religion. Our parents and grandparents have stopped speaking their original language for a foreign one. We don't have our songs anymore or the dances. We follow foreign governance ways. The abandon of ways was not voluntary. The damage to the collective us was forceful and deliberate. It was and is a constant attack on the Indigenous community.

The measure to change the story about us has to be equally forceful and deliberate. We have to attack those strong held notions that we are inferior. That we were savage and uncivilized. We have to change the sales pitch to one where everyone, not only us Indigenous people, but the whole world recognizes how special we are. We can instruct main stream and foreign audience on how Indigenous people are saving the world. While a foreign system of greed (call it capitalism and expansion) is killing the Earth, the Indigenous way of life can sustain it. How Indigenous knowledge is critical for the betterment of Human existence. While the main stream is planning to colonize distant planets for when the Earth becomes inhabitable, Indigenous people are working on protecting and revitalizing the Earth.

So be proud of being Native. There are many of you who are speaking and learning the language, following the Belief systems of your ancestors, living a strong good life, being strong mentors and partners. You are proud Natives and we appreciate you.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Creator, Are You Listening?

Throughout my life I have talked to God many times. When I was young and going to the boarding school (Fort Alexander Indian Residential School) I really didn't know how to talk to God. I was thought prayers like the Hail Mary and the Our Father prayers. At the time I didn't understand the message. I tried to do the prayers, but only when told to do them.  When I was given Penance after Confession and I was told to recite the prayers a number of times to repent for my sins. Even then I didn't use them. I would just guess as to how long the prayers would take as I was kneeling. So night time prayers or morning prayers was something I never did. I guess I did the prayer only at public prayers. I can't say when I actually started to talk to God in earnest. I don't remember the first time or what was said. Its not like God actually took part in the conversation. There was no "yo-hoo", like the Old men in the Reserve  would say when they were listening to each other. Unlike others who say God answered them, it never happened to me. Can you imagine, if you were answered?

Most likely the times I must have spoken to the Creator was when I was in trouble or troubled. Its funny I didn't take the time to speak with God when I was in a good place. I remember as a kid being so mad, so mad that I threw out into the yard my Mom and Dads crucifix which hung over the front door. The statue of Jesus was a gift at their wedding. I broke the arm of the Jesus. Can't remember what I was upset for at the time. I just remember it because of how bad and guilty I felt for breaking Mom and Dad's crucifix.

I remembered talking to the Creator when my boy was found dead by hanging himself. I laid on the floor crying "no no no no" over and over again. Trying to make it not true. Hoping praying, asking God to make it not true, to change it. I didn't hear anything. Only the sound of my voice throughout the room. It doesn't matter anymore if I talk to the Creator. There is no answer regardless.

Today's media makes it much easier to communicate with the World and to listen to the World. Right now there are many people trying to speak with God. Funny thing is there doesn't seem to be any one in the room. Maybe the Creator is on holidays. You might think that with all the developments in technology, someone out there would have built a device which could establish a link with God. They discovered the God Particle for god's sake. So technology and science should have some "new" way beside prayer to communicate with god right? Maybe it will come one day but not today. Today we still have to rely on whether we decide God is listening, somehow.

I am not that far with throwing the Creator by the wayside, but still if I do talk to anyone I will choose to talk to my Boy, my Mom and a few others. I will say a thank you to whoever might be listening for the good in my life, like my family, my grandkids.

So there is the thing of trying to live a Traditional life if the Creator is not actively in it? I know right? I think this, I am no Christian but I still believe in some of the tenets which make Christianity attractive. Like the Golden Rule of treating others how you want to be treated. For me the Traditions are important part of my life. Its a  link to our heritage and to our Ancestors. The Teachings give us a good way to live. I embrace those Teachings the pursuit of learning from everyone.

If I do speak again with the Creator, I will be saying, "what the fuck?"

Friday, February 23, 2018

Justice System Works Well, but Not for All.

Tina Fontaine, a young 15 year old Ojibwe Child found dead, wrapped up and thrown in the Red River.

Jackie Traverse 

In one recorded conversation on July 17, 2015, Cormier said: "15-year-old girl f--k. I drew the line, and that's why she got killed. She got killed, I'll make you a bet. She got killed because we found out, I found out she was 15 years old."

Cormier was recorded telling a woman that he would make a bet that Tina was killed because he had had sex with her and then “I found out she was 15 years old.” In another recording, Cormier was heard arguing with a woman and saying that there was a little girl in a “grave someplace screaming at the top of her lungs for me to finish the job. And guess what? I finished the job.”
The Justice system in Canada works the way it should work. Trouble is the system is not designed to keep out the structural bias held by people. The many reports looking at disparity in the justice system clearly show a bias. So what gives? 
Today and yesterday(s) there have been marginalized groups (why do we label them as marginalized: GBLT, Black, Indigenous, Brown Immigrants?) who have stood up and said "Hey! What the heck? We are getting killed here."  
Yet the system endures. I have no clue on how to change the system. It has been designed by non-Brown communities but yet is the standard of how we measure justice in the world. 
There is the notion (or sales pitch) that Justice is colour blind. That maybe so, but everyone in the system is not. We have many, many instances and examples of the various segments (people) doing harm to People of Colour (I use this label but include GLBT and other so called misfits and marginalized folk here). From the police officer interviewing a victim of crime or the stop and frisk because they are not White, to  the brutalizing of kids. The manner in which the police address an investigation rests on who is making the complaint or on who is the victim. The Justice system is ripe full of rotten fruit. The results: lot of harm to the community.  Murderer goes free, innocents jailed, stereotyping, rudeness and assaults on innocents, and a myriad of wrongs. In Toronto a serial killer has finally been caught but the severity of his actions will never be really known. The Gay community in Toronto had brought up the missing men for a long time before the police took a serious look. The same pattern in British Columbia with both the Pickton murders and the Highway of Tears. Police were alerted but for some reason the cries went unanswered. 
I have no clue as to what can be done, but you must? How do you address the inherent bias, racism, sexism in the hearts of people? And a system that protects a certain class and race in society?

We see the Justice system in fact works for certain groups. Not for all. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Time To Make Things Personal

I wonder when we decide that something matters to us? There is so much going on in the world where we should be concerned. I mean David Suzuki is flying around telling us the Earth is dying. Shouldn't we heed his call? North Korea and the United States are playing "I Dare ya" and "No, I double dog Dare you". The folks living in the Desert countries are being killed like mosquitoes on a hot night by the fire. People are leaving Wars only to be met with hate and scorn. The Oil Rich men are planting oil pipelines in everyone's gardens and in their back yard pools and creeks. The US is busy trying to make it a White nation by arresting and kicking Brown people out of the country. The police force are also getting trigger happy. The police battle cry of "stop resisting" is their code for other offices to join in the fray of beating people of colour. The US continues to fool the public with the use of the Military. They use the old adage of "fighting for your freedom" while sending in the Military for corporate wants and gains. The war veteran comes back to isolation and life of suffering. The suicide of a Veteran has become common. White Supremacists are given the go ahead speech from the President of the United States and the other European countries. Much going on in the world that is truly ugly. So when do we take an interest in what goes on in the world? Do we need it be us or be in our homes for things to matter?

Cancer has been a constant in our little Indian community. I know many who have died from Cancer in our Reserve. Still it was something that was in front of me but I didn't really have an interest in Cancer until it became personal. A number of my Aunties got cancer and died. Some friends and acquaintances got the cancer and they too died. My brother-in-laws had cancer as well and died. My Mom got cancer and died. My Dad got cancer and died. So what now? Is it beyond my ability to fight cancer?

Suicide is in the national news when a celebrity dies by suicide. In Canada it is actually not that uncommon to see suicide make the news. Its the amount of suicides which make it news worthy. Small Indigenous communities have high rates of youth suicide. Its shocking and a reality of being an Indian child. When does the suicide issue become of interest to us?

The amount of weather related disasters are in the news on a regular basis.  Still the powers to be are racing to see who can add fire to the fuel the fastest. The Boreal Forest, the Amazon Forest, Nepal's Forest, are being killed quicker than you can put together an IKEA dresser. IKEA has even gone as so far as to steal forests. Stealing forests?  Do we care that forests are disappearing? Or is the a wooden park in the neighbourhood suitable for our needs?

Wait, I have to stop right here. I was going to finish off with the Earth being personal to us and how we care but right now I just can't. I have been hoping to try and write some good things going on in the Indian community and by extension the world. But I can't. Tonight they let a guy who shot and killed an Indian boy go free.

Gerald Stanley a white farmer in rural Saskatchewan shot Colten Boushie in the head. Didn't matter what Colten did, the fact is Stanley killed him. The good people of Saskatchewan, an all White Jury of his peers said "its okay you can go home" (basically). Colten's mom and his relatives are in shock. I think all of Indian Country is shocked.

Its personal. Colten is your child, my child, my nephews, my cousins, my nieces. So what does that say when you can kill an Indian? Oh wait as long as you are White.

It is personal.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Why Does the Ugly Rule?

One of  the constant Teachings heard around Indian circles is that of Kindness. The emphasis is on treating everyone with understanding. Indians are really kind people. It is a good thing to be kind. Being kind and being reasonable are admirable traits and should be the default of everyone.

Being kind in this world is a barrier. It hurts us by being nice. It is the mean, the ugly, the beasts that are ruling the world. We see it everyday. Everyday the reasonable are being killed, displaced, evicted, cheated, ignored and ruined.  All over the world there are abuses being committed on various peoples: West Bank, Rakhine, Kinder Morgan, Amazon Rainforest, Ukraine/Russia, Canada and the US.

There is  a World Report 2017 which provides us with a glimpse of the ugly in the world.

Why is it we see generosity and kindness after a crisis? 

People should all share the planet. Instead we are concerned with acquisition. The world is interested in getting more and more. The reasonable and the kind seem satisfied with the world but not all. The ugly rules all over us. 

We have to really look hard to see the joy in the world, the joy in our lives. If there is no joy, what is there? 

Society preys on the different, on people not like them. We divide and divide and we fight and we fight. We hurt and hurt others. Will there ever be a time when the need to be ugly is not there?