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Do by your own right.

18 Jan

All along your lifelong steps have brought you to this point in life. There are so many steps you must take to mature and grow. You would think that walking would be the most important but I believe it’s actually being able to hold your own bottle, and then hold up your head. Two monumental events turn out to be the deepest etches of your abilities. It’s a long road to be able to be on your own, a very long road.

Do you know who taught you how to hold your head up? You did. Usually it takes a baby about 6 months to fully be able to hold his head up. This is all only physical though for the first few years of his life. I am sure you understand that physically holding your head up is not anywhere near as tough as mentally holding your head up. The minute you hit groups of people and are new or different, everyone else seems to hold you there. You feel alone. Just as a newborn learns to control neck muscle and motor skill, you must learn how to keep it up while alone. You must remember going through this. It’s a process known to everyone I’m sure. You would think you’re done in childhood how to hold your head up but you would be wrong. Even into your teen and adult years, your ability to hold your head up seems to be much harder. Not only is it physically and mentally demanding, it is now spiritual and emotional. You wonder why things are so hard sometimes and look to a higher being for answers. When you are feeling down and ask yourself how you will ever be happy again. All these push your head down but your ability to relearn how to hold your own head up seems to be natural. It might take 6 months again or even longer in some cases. It’s a daily struggle that you seem to do each day without realizing it sometimes. Yet you lay your head down to sleep, the very next day, you raise your head when you wake. I don’t know if you realize you do this too.

Walking is an essential part of life for most people. This doesn’t have to do with walking literally though. There are some that are unable to walk. Their resolve is even stronger though in this case. From the moment you start walking, you learn to run, then sprint, then ride a bike, then ride a motorcycle, then a car. Things tend to speed up as life goes on. The more you try to rush things the more likely you are to crash. No matter what happens, you must walk first. Even when things take a turn for the worst, you must slow right down to figure out where things went wrong. You can’t rush through fatigue and pain. We all wish time would sometimes just speed up but being as constant as it goes, you can’t change it. So there is no use trying to rush through things that take time. Putting one foot in front of the other, taking things one day at a time, is how you must get through such times. You’re going to wish tomorrow was here today. Or even next week, month, year, and decade. It’s okay. Everyone wishes this at some point in their lives. The habit is to complain rather than just take another step or get through your day first. Everyone does this too. You will notice that complaining comes before thinking in all people from time to time. The point is to change the habit of complaining first. When you complain less, you’ll find more reasons to be happy than frustrated. Things seem to speed up naturally when you’re having more fun. When you’re stuck, figure out what your next step is, then go from there. When a day has taken a turn, just make it through that day to start.

We are each raised by many people. Some are left to fend for each their own. Some are raised to look out for others. It does not matter how we are raised. No parent, grandparent, uncle, or auntie, will tell you how it will feel exactly how it feels to be in struggle. They will only empathize with you because they know exactly how it feels. You will have your first bully. You will be disappointed. Your heart will be broken. You will be alone. You will lose and have losses. No one can prepare you for these events in your life. No one can put into words how it feels. So all your parents can do is just be there for you when they happen.

It is a common thing to be amused at how subtle it is to take a step or get through a day. Yet those subtleties are needed sometimes. Put one more foot forward. Get through the day. Keep your head up. If all you want to do is keep your head down and push forward, you might not see those that are watching you. Be a beacon for others that may need some light to keep going. The path is trodden with footsteps from people before you. Keep the path fresh for others to follow. Our minds are trained to assess all situations. Our bodies are wired to follow the brain. If you think you can’t do anything else, your body will begin to listen. Just a thought of okay, one more step or okay get through the day, and your body will follow thought. Lay your head down and go to sleep. Tomorrow will be here soon to get through it. 

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Why am I the person I am today. Let me tell you where I came from, who my family is.

22 Nov

I been thinking the last few days on the good values I have that I feel I can pass down onto the next generation. What have people taught me? What was the main drive pushing me to be better? I have asked these questions to myself and wondered what I took away from each person who raised me. I don’t pull myself out of their light of what they have created in me. There is no possible way I could ever declare myself apart from them for that is all I have in them in me. I love them and love myself to not drift from their teachings.

Let me start with my aunts and uncles. I’ll start with my mom’s side. My mom has a number of sisters and brothers. I would first like to mention my uncle Dave and Richard. Both of whom, have always supported and shown their love from day 1. I remember as a kid my uncle Dave making us believe we were super cool. He instilled confidence in me for telling us that we were cool. He didn’t just say it, he made us believe that we were cool and the moment he put his sunglasses on us, we were super duper cool. I remember the pictures of us in his glasses. If you could see my eyes, they would be glittering with a big grin. My uncle Rich was a guy who taught us to work hard and you’ll have fun regardless. Always time for fun with him. He is a tough son of a gun. Our mission was to try tackle him down or be tougher. This is where working hard came in I think…be strong. My aunties Denise, Angela, Louise, and Lorie. The twins Louise and Lori are two of the most hilarious people I know. When they’re both with my mom, you can count on non-stop laughs. I love being around them for being who they are. They have both always cared for me as I have cared for them. It was so much fun scaring them as young’ns. I learned from them that nothing comes easy with no effort. My auntie Denise is a kind caring woman. She isn’t one to shy away from being there for you. She has a welcoming warmth and elegance that is hard to find. Auntie Ange is a great energy to have around. She loves to have fun and laugh. You can try to be down around her, but it won’t last long. She can bring a lot of good positive energy to you when needed. Auntie Juanita used to babysit me when I was a grasshopper. Her smiles and hugs were what was needed when you were feeling down. I have a ton of admiration in her abilities to make you feel at ease. My uncle Chuck was a great guy. He always made sure you were taken care of and had everything you needed when he stopped by. If you said you needed something, he would say, “let’s go then, there has to be some on sale somewhere”. I have that belief of taking care of your family at all times if you can. Gary used to babysit me too as a kid. He sure tells stories about that. For as long as I can remember he always made me laugh. He was always there for me and I don’t believe that will change. He does his best for himself and what he can do for others. He isn’t afraid to be himself. I enjoy the I spend with Gary because no matter what its always for a good time.

Now, on my dad’s side. My aunties Joyce and Charlotte. I lived with both for a time as a child. On weekends I’d live at my auntie Joyce’s house to hang out with her boys, my bros. Always made sure we ate, showered, and had what we needed. She had a passion for us to be all we can be. She cheered you on so loud and proud in anything you did. She is a quiet strength in me. You want to make her proud just so you can hear her cheer. There is nothing as delightful as being cheered for by auntie Joyce. There are people I want to make proud and she is definitely one of them. My godmother, auntie Charlotte. I usually called her auntie though but the recognition of godmother stands to a tee. She was another mother to me. She treated me as her own. I was always grateful for what she did for me and my brothers and sisters. Being a leader, she inspired me to be more than I think I can be. She was a driving force into me believing I can change things when needed. She was so gentle and kind. She was so loving and caring. There is nothing like being woken up at 11am on a day you try to sleep in and be told, “you can’t waste the day away”. I watched her work hard at everything she did. She made sure everything that needed to be done, was done. You couldn’t be let down by her no matter what. She was nothing but absolute love. Strict as she was, there is no life without structure, cleanliness, and order.

My godfather, uncle Roy too has a big influence in my life. He has a natural ability to be there his loved ones. I can find no fault in him for his ability to do what is right. He does everything he can for his loved ones. Even when he can’t, he will try to find a way. He makes sure that things are taken care of. I look to be like him as I grow older.

There is a special place in my heart for others who were not related to me by blood but have had a profound impact in my life. Sister Danaher, Sister Pierette, and Sister Mary. I cherish my time spent with them. I hadn’t realized that until recently. I sure miss there kindness, generosity, and love. Sister Mary’s voice and presence was all you needed to smile. I love going to church just to hear her sing. Sister Pierette was my teacher for a time. She was always proud of me. I look to her for smile and love. Pierette was a passionate person, there were times you want to learn as much as she wanted to teach. Sister Danaher is one woman you can look to for more inspiration. I loved Sister D for her passion and drive to better our people. She had so much energy. Everyday you could count on her. She would do everything in her power to keep pushing people to do better and to be better people. Her education goals and dreams were being pushed constantly. She wanted nothing but the best from you and she let you know that. No time for B’s, get A’s! Only 72%? Get 100%!  I remember being her assistant for adult education in our community. If no one showed up for class, she threw me her keys and told me to go wake everyone up and get them here! So, I did, and behold, they all accepted the ride and went to learn. She wasn’t pushy in a negative way either. She pushed you with positivity, passion, and energy. She was MAD! Her initials prove it in the sense that she was all energy and all passion. All her accolades and achievements never swayed her from her humility. If you told her, that she has achieved so much, she would tell you that you can achieve this as well. Always humble. This is something I will carry forever from her, no matter how much greatness you can get, you spread it and share it with everyone so that they may be great too. Don’t make yourself great, make everyone great!

My grandparents from both sides are some amazing people. I have spent so much time with them as a child and even now. My grandparents from my mom’s side took care of me as a baby. My granny Shirley and grandpa George. I can’t think of a more quiet strength that I see in my gran. Her ability to cope in stress and chaos is beyond me. I haven’t seen grace such as hers. She can still crack jokes at everyone else’s expense. She can still box your ears in yet too. Nothing like a hug from granny Shirley. She still holds you like the day she first held you. My grandpa G always doing all he can to be sure to make sure everyone has what they need. When there is no hope, he will pull through for you. He is a warhorse that old man. He will always try to do more than he can. There is no stopping for him. An awesome man that’s for sure. His smug smile can ensure you that he is all about being tough but kind. My dad’s mom, Dora, is a determination of knowledge and loyalty. When I look at pictures of her I see knowledge and loyalty personified. She had so much knowledge and information about a lot of things. I wish I had gotten to talk to her about what she know of. She listened to so many stories, its hard to imagine what she didn’t know of. I remember once talking to her about a story I thought I knew everything of, she told me more on it. I was amazed! If I had tapped into her knowledge earlier, I’m sure I would have learned so much  more. I am sure that all who knew her, was amazed at her determination to be living as much as possible. All her hardships and struggles and still able to get up greet you with a smile, a hug, and a kiss. My dad’s dad, Joe is a legacy in our community as much as his mom Eliza is. The epitome of working hard and doing everything for your family. He started working at the age of 12! He skipped school to bring money for food for his brothers and sisters. It’s not a sacrifice to take care of your family. It’s a sacrifice only if you lose something. In his later years you can tell he never lost his desire to learn. He didn’t know how to read and write til he was a grandparent. When he was able to learn, he went to school everyday. If he didn’t have a car, he would walk to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways! This is a guy who was always calm and never angry. You could burn his house and all his cars, and wouldn’t have anger in his heart. No matter what he lost, he would never hold it against anyone. “That’s the way it goes”. He did everything, and I mean everything, for his family. He was a great husband, father, grandfather. If you want to know how to be a husband, ask the stories what he did for his wife, and you will know. If you want to know how to be a great father, ask his children what he has taught them and what they miss most about him. If you want to know how to be a great grandfather, remember who he opened his house to and what he gave to all his grandchildren. I know what he gave me, he gave me inspiration and love. The greatest love you can teach someone…unconditionally.

All that is left to look to, my parents. My mom is everything you can ask for in a mother. She loves you like no other no matter what. She has proven this to me in many ways. She always wants to know her children are alright. You cannot mistake it for anything other than having ease of mind. If ever there was a time you needed something and no one else to look to, she tries and does whatever she can. My mom is old fashioned with her ways. I look at her and see my gran in her in a lot of ways. In her own light though, my mom is one of the strongest people I know. It is by her actions that she shows how much she loves her children. By this, I shall always know that it isn’t good enough to just say the words, but by showing.

My dad is gentle man. He has all the knowledge of being whatever you can be. He has done everything he has done for his children. He worked hard to put all the food on the table and give them a good life. I never felt lacking in my life. The reason I never felt this way is because all I needed was my family. I always had the basics and this was enough for me. You can always depend on him to do something for you when you ask it. He has given almost everything of his to his children. His being is shown in all that his children have achieved thus far. Quiet, kind, and a skilled worker. It never is enough to achieve any education without having something to live for. Don’t worry so much for what you could achieve when all you need to do is just take care of your family and do what’s best for them.

Growing Up Poor

16 May

Personally, I grew up poor in the manner of not having much in material things. My parents didn’t make a lot of income and at times made no income. I have six brothers and one sister. I have a big family on both of my parents sides. My parents separated when I was ten years old. Before their seperation, the family did okay. We had food, clothes, shoes, and entertainment. Not spoiled by any means but what we got made me and my siblings happy. I don’t remember getting anything extravagant.

I remember eating corn flakes, corn meal, puffed wheat, rice crispies, etc. for breakfast a lot. I remember getting the sweet cereals only if they were on a big sale. There were times when we had no milk and used warm water as a substitute. There are a few other breakfast meals that I will talk about later. As for school lunches, mainly bologna sandwiches with cheese and mayo. An apple, an orange, and sometimes a banana. There were no juice boxes for us. Didn’t care for juice boxes because I remember only one kid having them everyday. So its not as if I was the only one left out. I don’t remember dinner stuff as I was always outside playing. I’m sure I ate…just no memory of dinner stuff.

Not all of the food we ate came from the store though. When summer starts it is the start of trout runs up small creeks from the lakes. Then during summer its the salmon runs. This is a time to go hunting for deer and moose as well.  Then after summer is when deer and moose are hunted more due to them fattening up for winter. One summer, I remember going fishing all the time and that’s all we ate…was salmon and trout. This is the reason I despise fish now. I also don’t have the taste to eat deer or moose meat anymore.

There were times that I was only getting hand-me-downs for new clothes. I didn’t mind since my older brother had good taste in clothing. Well, when you look up to your bro anything he wears is cool. I didn’t mind at all. I wasn’t the only one in my peers who went through this. After all, when you’re part of a big family, new clothes are something that happens a few times a year only.

One time, I had a bunch of used clothes. I asked my dad if I could get some new jeans. We went to the men’s store in town and got myself some jeans. I was in high school at the time. I hadn’t realized that I wore them for 5 days straight. On the 5th day one of my friends commented that I must really like those jeans I been wearing them all week. It wasn’t that I liked them or thought I looked good in them, it was just that they were the best piece of clothing I had in my wardrobe. I wasn’t shamed by this fact. I just made sure to start changing my clothes again. haha. After this point though, I was starting to work and bought myself more nice clothes.

When you have a big family its expected that when everyone reaches the same size, that all clothes will be shared. I didn’t mind this after not having much growing up. No one really wore each others new stuff. Only borrowed them after they were used for a while.

What I viewed as treats as a child were in fact because we had nothing else to eat at the time. We had this breakfast “Indian mush”, which is made by browning white flour in a pan then mixing water into it to make a paste. We add sugar into it…a lot of it into the mush and eat. I loved it as a kid. Now that I’m older, we had this because we were out of other things to eat for breakfast. Oatmeal is another thing we had when there was nothing else. I don’t hate oatmeal as much as my parents or grandparents. I hear them even now about how they still can’t eat oatmeal because of their time at residential school and how that is all they ate sometimes. Oatmeal sits for months sometimes. Bread is homemade usually; yeast bread or bannock(fried bread). Everyone loves their bread and when it was homemade it was a real treat for us…IS a treat.

My dad talks now of not being able to get lunch stuff sometimes. I remember going to school with no lunch sometimes. I didn’t care though. Sure I was hungry sometimes but I was having too much fun learning (nerd I know) and hanging out with friends. Now that I think about it, I ate only once a day during these times because I didn’t really eat breakfast.

Despite being poor, I never felt like I was lacking because my family and extended family went through the same thing. If you ask any Native who grew up on a rez, you’ll hear this same story from my generation, my parents generation, and my grandparents generation. I’m sure we could come up with “we were so poor…” jokes for hours. We were so poor I lived on bannock for a month! We were so poor I had to take a shower after taking a crap! so on and so forth.

You can’t complain when you’re poor. You enjoy everything you get and don’t take much for granted. I don’t know if everyone can understand being poor like that. I just hope the stories help a bit.

Deaths on a reserve(reservation)

3 May

I grew up on the reserve which in itself seems more tragic than privileged. It takes a lot of courage, strength, determination, will, pride, and spirituality to be happy to be in such a place. If you visit a rez, you will find that it is a very tight knit community. People don’t seem to understand that when you’re dealing with issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse, substance abuse, depression, etc., you also deal with the deaths of these diseases.

When someone dies in our community, the whole community comes together to support the family of the deceased.  Its never a family for themselves or to leave the family to grieve by themselves. Its the support that keeps the family strong.

In any case, I wanted to point out that dealing with death comes at an early age on the rez. Going to funerals sure is a tough time on anyone at any point in time in their lives. Yet people living on reserves deal with death every few months. I remember as a child losing my own cousins, aunts, uncles, and great grandma. I had to say goodbye in my own way. I didn’t cry much but was rather taken on a path to say goodbye. There is never getting over a death of a loved one. Your soul remains full of great memories of your time with them. Your heart weighs with the love that remains with the person no longer there to receive it. So the love stays in your heart.

There is a ritual for funerals on reserves. Before the body returns for the wake, you make a fire outside of the home of the wake. This fire serves as a guidance for the spirit…a connection between worlds of sort. You have the wake for 4 days and 4 nights…then on the 5th day, you bury the deceased. Every morning and night you say prayers. You say one last session of prayers before the funeral. Traditionally, people had their last viewing before the body was transported to the church. Now the last viewing is done at the church. After the funeral session, the body is transported to the graveyard. The grave is blessed and then body put into the ground. The dirt that was dug up is now put over the body manually. The men present take turns burying by shovels. When the person is buried, the people say their goodbyes and then go to the reception afterwards which is a celebration of the person’s life they lived. Then after the potluck dinner, its gambling and stick games which go all night and sometimes into the early next morning.

I have been keen to see that this is not the way for many cultures. I mean “this way” meaning dealing with death on a regular basis. I have observed that when people of other cultures go through losing loved ones they take it quite hard. Don’t get my wrong, my aunt has lost 4 children. She has taken each death as hard as anyone in the world. Yet she has strength that I have seen in only one other person, my grandma. To lose as much as they did and still have the courage and strength to not only wake up but to get through the day, is something I strive for. Its not good enough to just wake up, its in your best interest to get through the day as best as you can.

I look at my people who have gone through similar losses to my aunt and grandma. Where did they find the courage and strength to not only live but smile? I can only surmount that it was all ingrained onto them by their parents and grandparents. Its nothing you can talk someone into deal with such a tragedy. To get courage and strength is to live it…over and over. Not so that you become numb to it but you build more courage and strength.

I don’t want to question or doubt that others go through as much deaths. My point I’m making is that to go through so much pain and loss is hard…very hard.

I myself have seen close loved ones pass. I remember my first funeral as a young child. I had to be younger than five. Children are keen to others feelings that surround them. I remember feeling for the older people. I didn’t understand what death was at the time but the feeling of sadness around those people made me pray for them in a way. Losing my great grandma at the age of 7. She was an amazing granny. We called her “Granny Eliza”. She was so kind, always had food and candy ready for us. I remember shaking her hand all the time as a kid. I guess it was our hug. I loved her energy…so kind and gentle. She was the oldest on the reserve at the time and respected by all in our community. So when she passed away, the whole community was in sorrow. It was a big turnout of people who came out in support. In terms of relevance in our community, its as if the pope died. Being a child, the grieving process goes through quickly. Then a few years later, a dear cousin of mine passed away. She was so much fun. She used to babysit me while my parents went out. She treated us like her younger sibling so in a way she was our big sister. I remember seeing her body for the wake. I held her hand and looked at her wondering if she has gone to heaven like in the books I read. I didn’t cry but I understood that it would be the last time I see her again. The pain was there this time. This is the first time I had to feel hatred that I wouldn’t see her again. I missed her laugh and smile already.

Hospital visits and such are a norm it seems. Terminally ill. There is nothing you can do but be by the bedside or in the hall. Only one person allowed by the bed didn’t apply to such a big family. When the doctors say nothing can be done and its time to turn off the life support system. So they turn them off and you sit there watching him/her or look out into the window listening to the breathing slow. This is something that happens every year. You go to the hospital holding the hand of your loved one hoping they know that you will be there til the end and beyond.

It shouldn’t be okay that this is happens. Its good in a way though that the person ill is never alone and has all the love in the world.

What no one understands is after those first few times of losing someone so close, it happens yearly, sometimes quarterly, sometimes monthly. If I try to think of a timeline of who I have lost, someone related to me passed almost yearly. great grandma, big sister, best friend, godmother/aunt, grandma, grandpa, best friend, cousin/bestfriend/brother, cousin/brother, uncle, uncle, great friend, best friend/ brother/cousin, the list goes on. These people I list now I have spent a significant amount of time with. I have lived with these people. I would give names but it doesn’t do them justice of what they meant in my life. The slashes are meant to show the name and blood relationship. But the love I had for each of them went beyond than a name. Its as if they were mother, father, brother, and sister. I have missed each of them tons and tons. Each death hit me hard. I have cried for each of them. You can’t imagine burying two brothers one month apart. You can’t imagine burying someone close to you every year.

Yet this is the way it is for many Native communities around the world. This happens because each family is so tight knit. Every grandparent is so loved. Every aunt and uncle is like another mom and dad. Every cousin is like a brother or sister. Ever child is like your nephew or niece or you treat them as your own child for that matter. You only get like that by spending a lot of time with each other. So when you say your cousin, he was more like a brother.

I was partially raised by my grandparents on my dad’s side. I spent a lot of time with them as a kid. My grandma was blind but she made some of the best homemade bread I have ever tasted. My grandpa was a great man. His heart was bold, big, and gentle as I’ve ever felt. Their own stories apart and together is worth 2 novels and will be told at another time.

You don’t go through that much pain without knowledge from your ancestors. From a young age, as you go through such things, you learn by going through them. Each person older than you goes through the ceremony of burying a loved one. As a child you watch and observe. You are taught what to do in each ceremony. You learn to go through it with an open heart. You approach everything with respect and honour. We are taught that no matter what happens, we have the means to get through them. We ask for strength when we need it. We ask for help when we need it. By no means should you not be without help or beyond prayer if you ask for it.

To be clear, it is a very sad thing to have such experiences. If it were any other community anywhere, it would be subject to a lot of scrutiny and press. It is not news that people die. It is sad to have the ability and strength to deal with losing close loved ones. Yet we have it. Its nothing something to be proud of. Its not shameful. It should be encouraging though. This is only part of the struggle that Natives live through.

More stories of the struggles to come…

Being positive about change

10 Feb

Change is difficult sometimes. People, Native and non-Native, tend to look at our(Native) issues with a double-edge sword. On one side you have understanding people who realize it is a struggle to be in the position we are in.  Then on the other we don’t deserve anything and all of our struggles were caused by our own hand and choices. You can’t change those that refuse to try to understand. Understanding takes time or the right story or the right situation. No one can force you to change.

The best thing is to look past all the criticism and hatred. I choose to move forward simply because I choose not to let anyone deter my path of rights and freedom. A nation doesn’t simply get over that we went through a failed attempt at genocide. We become at peace with it. In the struggle of being colonized, we have lost many people, much of our culture, much of our language, much of our pride. There is no way to get those people back. There is no way you can ever replace what we have missed out on by living our own culture and the pleasure of speaking our own language. You cannot apologize and give me money and expect me to have pride in being a Native.

There is no setting the bar even. There is no righting the wrongs. Now that all of the land has been stripped of its resources, I must find my own water…my own food…my own piece of home. Now that my home has been stripped of its people, I must build it myself to the country’s standards so I can live in it again. Now that I have a new found knowledge of how the world works, I must find how to care for my own people. I have to tell them that knowledge is power and to get an education. For the ones who have diseases such as alcohol and drug addiction, I must tell them that everything will be okay. You do not have to drink anymore, things will be better. I cannot, however, tell him to stop and try to deal with his issues of being abused, being sad, being lonely. The tears of shame, ridicule, and sorrow may run for eternity and they may still not feel capable of dealing with it. My people tell me that no one has prepared them for such hardships. So, I tell them to be the people your grandparents, parents, children, cousins, aunts, uncles can look up to for strength and courage.  Show them that no matter the obstacles you face, you can still be proud of what little you have left. Tell them that being able to only say hello and goodbye in our language is enough for now because I teach them to say more. My grandparents say that they are sorry for not being able to give a better life. I tell them that its okay, your love was what I need in my journey. I tell them that I will work for what they want for their children and grandchildren. My parents apologize for not being there. I tell them that I understand why it was that way.

They were part of the growth that was needed. I explain to others that it was not the time to change because we have not learned to deal with such loss. How can I explain to others that losing half my nation, my family that it was hard to lose so many people? How can I explain to others that not being able to live our culture has forced me to be someone I am not? How can I explain to others that not speaking my language made me shamed? How can I explain to others that I was taken from my home and forced to live with strangers to teach me different language and culture? How I can tell them that these strangers sometimes abused me? How can I tell them that I do not know how to deal with these things?

I can only hope that people try to understand that no one has went through this before. No one was able to share how they dealt with this. As time went on, the hatred that was projected onto us has forced us to look down upon our ownselves. We are left in pieces. Our hearts weigh heavy due to the state. Our minds are filled with shame, due to no identity. Our souls are empty, due to shame. Our spirit is low, due to no belief.

As we grow as a nation, we have learned to deal with all the hardships. No one will help us move forward. So we have learned to voice the problems. We have asked the elders for their memories of our culture. So we have learned to live like before. We have looked our state as a nation and realized that change comes with growth. We saw the pieces that we were in. Slowly we have the dreams we once had…the beliefs we once had…the spirit we once had…the spirit we once had. Quickly things changed. Our hope is renewed. Our culture is thriving. Our identity is claimed.

-written by Qwesqi7 (Gabriel Archie)

Landlords or prisoners?

9 Dec

You could essentially say that First Nations people are both.  First Nations are landlords in an original context.  In our own way that we were here first and took ownership of the lands the many nations lived upon.  First Nations are also on permanent in-land reserve arrest.  You can bet that many First Nations believe they should be landlords of the land but it is not regarded as so to Canada.

There are a lot of questions regarding seperatism among First Nations.  It is not the case.  We are our own sovereign nation.  We do not want to be apart from Canada.  We want to be equal.  A simple statement that garners more questions.  There are a number of beliefs among non-First Nations that First Nations receive more from the government of Canada than them.  It is simply not the case.  Not only do non-First Nations believe that First Nations receive more but also First Nations do not pay taxes for the benefits that First Nations receive.  So the view is that First Nations do not deserve the little benefits that they receive from the government.  How are First Nations not equal to non-First Nations in Canada?  Well, there are a number of studies done by Canada and other organizations that state that by capita, First Nations do not receive the benefits that most Canadians do by a large margin.  If you would like to see information about rights, equality, and stats. look at these sites.

 

THE HEALTH STATUS OF CANADA’S
FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS AND INUIT PEOPLES http://healthcouncilcanada.ca.c9.previewyoursite.com/docs/papers/2005/BkgrdHealthyCdnsENG.pdf

First Nations, Inuit, and Aboriginal Health
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/index-eng.php

 
FIRST NATION CONSULTATION FRAMEWORK
http://fngovernance.org/resources_docs/First_Nation_ConsultationFramework.pdf

Canada does not follow its own constituation.  Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution states:

35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, “Aboriginal Peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

There is just information all over regarding the inquality that First Nations face from the majority of the population in Canada.  The information is out there.  You just have to find the answers you’re looking for.  If you don’t have the answers, perhaps you should rethink the questions you have.  Here is a link regarding the fight for equality according to the Assembly of First Nations.
http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/about-afn/our-story

The misinformation that many have when it comes to First Nations living off the government and receive so much from the goverment.  As previous landlords we should be receiving more, yet First Nations are not recognized as having the right to self-determination.  This basically means that Canada believes that First Nations do not have the right to be free.  Canada has recently changed its vote against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples but was only for show as Canada has done nothing but declare that they have that right to self-determination.  It basically states, “so they have that right, so what?”

If you are worried about being renters, First Nations are not worried about being landlords.  First Nations are worried about having freedom, rights, and equality among Canadian citizens.  This does not mean we want to be fully colonized.  The statements regarding just make them pay taxes and work and get an education simply does not work.  Sure it puts us in the same state (Canadian) but it means we lose our inherent right as a First Nations person.  As a Canadian citizen who holds your own identity as a Canadian should believe that the world is equal.  We were treated as prisoners and still  are.  Prisoners are placed as a ward of state then put into an institution where they will reside while repaying their debt to society.  A prisoner is anyone who is deprived of liberty against their will. This can be by confinement, captivity, or by forcible restraint.

We have no will over the state of health, water, lands, housing, education, and freedom in our own lands.  If we did have the freedom to control all these, would the situation be the same as it is now?  No way.  As the warden(government) of our prison (reserves), he alone governs what prisoners shall have and should not have.  First Nations are not looking to kick anyone off the land but looking to those residents of the land to have the freedom, rights, and entitlement that Non-First Nations have.  If you believe everyone to be equal, look at the statistics and tell me that they prove everyone has equal benefits in Canada.  If you believe that First Nations do not pay for any benefits received, tell me that I do not pay taxes, I will show receipts that I do.

Treaties

6 Dec

A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as: (international) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, exchange of letters, etc. Regardless of the terminology, all of these international agreements under international law are equally treaties and the rules are the same.

Treaties can be loosely compared to contracts: both are means of willing parties assuming obligations among themselves, and a party to either that fails to live up to their obligations can be held liable under international law for that breach. The central principle of treaty law is expressed in the maxim pacta sunt servanda—”pacts must be respected”.

The reasons for treaty negotiations in British Columbia generally fall into three categories: moral; economic; and constitutional and legal. These are interconnected and need to be resolved in order for British Columbia to prosper both socially and economically.

The moral issue is self-evident. The quality of life for Aboriginal people is well below that of other British Columbians. Aboriginal people generally die earlier, have poorer health, have lower education and have significantly lower employment and income levels than other British Columbians. This is directly related to the conditions that have evolved in Aboriginal communities, largely as a result of unresolved land and title issues, and an increasing reliance on federal support programs.

As well as the obvious issues of the social and economic conditions of Aboriginal people, the courts have told government repeatedly that Aboriginal rights and title exist, and that these rights have significant impact on the way government does its business.

Uncertainty over ownership of land impedes the development of aboriginal communities and economies, affects the provincial economy and discourages investment. Government has to take that reality into account as it continues to manage the lands and resources of British Columbia.

In order to maximize opportunities for economic development and job creation for all British Columbians, government has to find a way to reconcile the rights and the interests of First Nations with those of the Crown. Treaty negotiations provide for public input and a method for resolution of these issues.

Constitutional Framework
The three most important aspects of the Constitutional framework for British Columbia are:
• Constitution Act, 1867 (BNA Act)
• Terms of Union Act, 1871
• Constitution Act, 1982, Section 35

The Constitution Act of 1867, also known as the BNA Act, has a special provision, section 91(24), which gives the federal government exclusive lawmaking authority in the category described as “Indians, and lands reserved for the Indians.” When forming the Dominion of Canada, the fathers of confederation assigned a special place in the constitution for Aboriginal people. That has not changed.

In 1871, British Columbia became part of Canada and accepted the division of powers that gave the federal government exclusive lawmaking authority over Aboriginal people and Indian lands. The province took the position that it had no other responsibilities with respect to Aboriginal land interests and for 120 years the province deferred its obligation to Canada to continue to supply lands for Indian reserves.
For that reason among others, treaty-making in British Columbia — which had a very brief history before Confederation — was not part of post-Confederation British Columbia until recently.

The third element of the Constitutional framework which is critically important is section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. It says in part: “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed” — again, a special place in the constitution for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal rights.

Legal Precedence

Over the past 130 years the courts have given content to the Constitutional documents, which significantly affects the way the Government of British Columbia does business. There are three important decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada that are landmarks in Canadian law and particularly important to British Columbia:

1973 –Calder: represented first modern recognition of aboriginal title in Canadian common law.
1990 – Sparrow: interpreted Section 35 and established a framework for addressing justifiable government infringement of aboriginal rights.
1997 – Delgamuukw: recognized Aboriginal title, set out test for its proof, and established a framework for justifiable government infringement of Aboriginal rights.

The Calder decision involved the Nisga’a claim to Aboriginal title. Calder represented the first modern recognition of Aboriginal title in Canadian common law. Common-law rights arise when facts exist and the court says: “If these facts exist, then the right exists.”

The Supreme Court of Canada said, in effect, that if there is Aboriginal historic presence on the land, then these rights can be recognized as common law without the need for any action by the provincial or federal governments — something called Aboriginal title. Calder became the legal lynchpin for the Government of Canada’s comprehensive claims policy that began in the early 1970s. British Columbia did not participate in this policy since the province’s position at that time was that this was a federal issue.

In 1990, in a case called Sparrow, the Supreme Court of Canada for the first time looked at section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, and interpreted it to mean that where there is an existing Aboriginal right, the ability of government to interfere with that right unilaterally is constrained. Sparrow says that the power of government to infringe Aboriginal rights is no longer absolute.

The Sparrow case establishes a framework for addressing what can be justifiable government infringement of Aboriginal rights. Therefore, the government has to undertake certain processes to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with Aboriginal rights. If the government does not do that, then its ability to legislate and regulate is constrained.

In 1997, Delgamuukw took some of the principles from those two previous cases and expanded them. Whereas Sparrow defined aboriginal rights as being activities — such as fishing, hunting and gathering forest resources — Delgamuukw talked about title as a right of ownership in land and said that that right of ownership exists in British Columbia. It also talked about how to prove that right of ownership and said that where that right exists, the same principles that constrain how the government can affect that right and that were talked about in Sparrow exist.

Consequently there is now a broader conception of which Aboriginal rights include title and a firm statement by the Supreme Court of Canada that the ability of government to infringe those rights is constrained. There is also a firm statement by government that the Crown continues to be the landowner, the resource owner, and ultimate decision-maker. Consequently, there must be some kind of reconciliation between the Crown’s sovereignty and Aboriginal rights and title.

Most recently, the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Haida First Nation v. BC and Weyerhaeuser and Taku River Tlingit First Nation v. the BC Government and Redfern Resources Ltd. provided a clearer understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the governments and the necessity to consult and accommodate First Nations interests. The court reaffirmed that negotiating in good faith is the best means to reach long-term solutions and further defined what constitutes proper consultation and accommodation.

The first treaties in Canada

When the Europeans began to settle in the eastern part of North America, Britain recognized that the people who were already living there had title to the land. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 declared that only the British Crown could acquire lands from First Nations, and only by treaty.

In most of Canada, both before and after Confederation, treaties were signed which set out the rights of Aboriginal people with respect to land, hunting and fishing.
Treaties in British Columbia
On Vancouver Island, the British Crown instructed James Douglas, chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and later governor of the colony, to purchase First Nations lands. Douglas made 14 purchases in all, known as the Douglas Treaties, between 1850 and 1854. When the mainland became a colony in 1858, Douglas made no further purchases because of a shortage of funds. Instead, he offered Aboriginal people opportunities similar to those offered to new settlers, including the right to acquire Crown land to become farmers.

When Douglas retired, however, the colonial government took away this right and denied that Aboriginal people had ever owned the land. In 1871, when British Columbia joined Confederation, the new province did not recognize Aboriginal title, so there was no need for treaties.

In an exception, the Government of British Columbia did permit the federal government to negotiate treaties with eight First Nations in the northeastern area of the province to help resolve the problems brought on by the Klondike Gold Rush. The result was the extension of Treaty 8 into British Columbia in 1899.

Over the decades, Aboriginal people in B.C. petitioned the federal and provincial governments for treaties. In response to intensified demands, Ottawa amended the Indian Act in 1927, making it illegal for Aboriginal people to raise or spend money to advance land claims. The restriction was lifted in 1951. In August 1990, nearly 40 years later, the two governments agreed to sit down with First Nations in B.C. and negotiate treaties.

In August 1990, nearly 40 years later, the two governments agreed to sit down with First Nations in B.C. and negotiate treaties.

That same year, the provincial government entered the negotiations already underway between the Nisga’a Tribal Council and the federal government. It also agreed to the establishment of a tripartite task force, with representation from First Nations, Canada and British Columbia, to develop a process for negotiating treaties with other First Nations in B.C.

The Report of the British Columbia Claims Task Force, released in 1991, contained 19 recommendations. Key recommendations included:
• the establishment of a new relationship among the First Nations, Canada and British Columbia, based on mutual trust, respect and understanding, through political negotiations
• the establishment of a British Columbia Treaty Commission to facilitate the process of negotiation, and
• A six-stage process for negotiating treaties.
The recommendations were unanimously accepted by Canada, British Columbia and the First Nations Summit as the basis for the current treaty negotiation process, which began in 1993 with the formation of the British Columbia Treaty Commission.

In the meantime, Canada, British Columbia and the Nisga’a Tribal Council continued their negotiations for a treaty settlement throughout the 1990s. The result was the Nisga’a Treaty, implemented in 2000. Although not part of the British Columbia treaty process, Nisga’a negotiations followed the same tripartite process and resulted in the first modern-day treaty in British Columbia.
Based on everything that has been documented so far, Canada and British Columbia have failed to keep up their end of the treaty. The government had one goal and that was to purchase land for their own benefit and growth. Natives were not even in the picture of this growth and benefit. British Columbia has gone further by taking away rights and title by law without consultation. These actions should void any agreement or treaty in Canada. British Columbia did not have treaties for most of the land they took over.
The part that bothers me is that James Douglas , “Instead, he offered Aboriginal people opportunities similar to those offered to new settlers, including the right to acquire Crown land to become farmers.” Why would they try to have the people who originally owned it, reacquire it to use it? How did Douglas even come to believe that the land became Crown Land when there were no treaties signed for it?
According to this, it was all done without accordance of Canadian Law. When British Columbia joined Canada, it undertook Canada’s law, when the Europeans began to settle in the eastern part of North America, Britain recognized that the people who were already living there had title to the land. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 declared that only the British Crown could acquire lands from First Nations, and only by treaty. So, when British Columbia became a part of Canada, their first item on the agenda should have been to acquire lands, which could only be done by treaty. However, the provincial government did not recognize title and rights. The federal government just turned a blind eye on this issue. Did they know they were in breach of their own law? There was no penalty for breach of the government breaking their own law it seems.
When it comes to penalizing governments for breach of law, the leader and the direct line of consultation are imprisoned and fined. When you look at dictators who have committed genocide and war, you will see that they have been sentenced to prison and sometimes death. How is it that British Columbia and Canada governments have not had the same fate as these other dictators? Well, one reason could be that the Canadian government do not recognize First Nations as having self-determination. self•-determination (-di tʉr′mə nā′s̸hən)
noun
1. The act or power of making up one’s own mind about what to think or do, without outside influence or compulsion
2. The right of a people to decide upon its own political status or form of government, without outside influence
If we do not have that right, Canada believes that they must decide for us on what is ours, what is needed, and what is given. On the contrary, Canada cannot be punished by people who do not have self-determination. At least that is how I believe the governments see it.
Seeing as how the governments failed on their own laws and are liable for punishment and penalty, they now want to sit down and “talk” about treaties. Mandates on both sides are opposite. You have one side trying to give as little as possible while the other wants as much as possible. One should not have to negotiate for what was already theirs. How can British Columbia and Canada compensate for what they have taken forcibly and used the resources for their own good? How can loss of culture and language be compensated for? You can start with money but in the long run money doesn’t last forever and is a short solution. How can money be enough for restitution on years of torture and loss of culture? You cannot just put money you receive into a savings account and have it last forever. When you look at the losses, death, language, and culture are mostly gone forever. You can say that language and culture can be regained so not lost forever. But that is where a lot of the negotiation problems start. How can you compensate for such losses?