Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Passing on the good stuff

We read The Powwow in our circle time this week.  We liked that this book had pictures of real kids.  I liked that it showed a simple powwow, as our first one was remembered mostly for the bouncy castle and trampoline.  I really liked that it showed the older girl passing on her knowledge of dancing and regalia on to the younger girl and highlighted that circle of learning.  It reminded me that not only am I teaching my girls about their culture, but that I am also teaching them to be part of the larger circles of communities and the responsibilities that they have to learn and teach as a member of these circles.  I thought this book was a nice reminder of this space.  What resources are inspiring you right now?

Children are our blessing

I think of my children as a yin and yang.  They complement one another.  They make me crazy in different ways.  They make me proud in different ways. 

R like rocks.  I carried her large rock in my purse yesterday as I forgot it was there.  She thinks of amazing and clever and weird ways to see the world.  It pushes me to see things differently too.  Don't forget to spend time with children.  They are our hearts.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The importance of walking

We don't have a car and sometimes getting places is annoying trying to catch a bus or keep children moving when they are tired, but really it is a blessing.  Those times walking are times of family.  Time to see how things around us are changing and to remember other walks down these same paths.  While not rural paths, these streets are our lands, marked with the stories and lives of our family.  There is the tree where the birds sit, the old man who smokes on his front porch, the place where the flowers first bloom.

It is walking when my older daughter opens up, even on days when she is most closed.  It is walking where my little one picks up her rocks and sticks.  It is walking that gently gets Joel moving on days when he hurts.  It is my time to read and think.  I practice my Cree as I walk and watch the sky change colours.

Walking keeps us aware of the weather.  It keeps us aware of what we buy - given that we have to haul it all home by hand.  It keeps us aware of our community and who is coming and going.  Walking is part of the ceremony of life.  A part of the rhythm, hearing the crunching leaves and squeaky snow.  It slows us down and limits where we can go but that is usually a good thing.  Turtle never goes anywhere fast either.

Making Spaces for Uncomfortable Conversations

I have been following âpihtawikosisân and the comments on her latest post.  I am struck by the passion of people in discussing what is a metis.  However, a lot of these comments come down to a metis being someone who is walking an authentic metis/native life but without any discussion of what that actually means.  There is refference to those people who take up indian life for the wrong reasons, but how do you know if you are one of those?  How do you take up a life that has been hidden for a long time?
I think we need more positive conversation about what the good red road is and the different permutations of that across Canada and in both urban and rural settings.  I would not have been able to make a healthy and realistic claim of my heritage without all of the wonderful stories, music and art I have been able to access from my brothers and sisters, and the kindness and wisdom of Elders who have listened and shared with me.
There is so much to learn when it is new and it can be overwhelming.  There were things I thought I could ignore, like food and plant wisdom that I now realize I need to decolonialize and integrate in my life.  That while we have a daily rhythm of ceremony, our family needs to understand how to deal with the less regular things like the arrival of first moon time or a death in the family.
In this conversation, we need to not just focus on that one moment of official claiming of metis identity, but to share our stories of reclaiming, of decolonializing and of living as metis in this modern context.  To collaborate on how we are supporting our children, influencing our institutions and living as metis today.  We need to share our resources, inspirations and wisdom. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Music Friday 5,905 Voices

This Friday go listen to Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 4: Fly to Paradise where he brings together thousands of voices in a virtual choir.

Let's dance together.  Percy Avugiak is an Alaska painter creating some northern awsomeness. 

100th Post Hai Hai (Thanks)

This is my 100th post soI will share my majestic office raven chicken with you.  Nothing is more majestic.

I am glad that I started this blog and have had this opportunity to organize my thoughts on what being a metis means to me.  I have had less of the city element than I planned, but that's ok and the thing that has really impressed me over these past few months is the depth of talent, knowledge and wisdom out there and the generosity of people sharing their teachings and stories.  Many thanks to you.

I learn so much each day as I feast on these offerings and share with my girls.  Get out there - read indian, listen NDN, make metis and share stories.  We are strong together.  We are still here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What do you call yourself?

This is my beaded Tinglit style fish on a collar I am finishing for S.
Last night I was watching the tv show "Shameless" and there was a beautiful vingette, a blond white school representative leading a meeting for Downs kids and their parents.  One of the kids stands up and says that he wants to reclaim the word retard like the word queer was reclaimed. 

The nice white lady looses her shit.  She cannot allow this.  It will lead to... she must protect these kids.  She is incensed.  The kid stands up and repeats his comment. 

Someone in the crowd agrees that they should be allowed to reclaim the word, just like other groups, just like blacks reclaimed n******

At this point a black guy stands up and gets serious "that is our word"

Through this the white woman is quivering.  She has lost control.  Her voice is ignored.  This is not a comfortable conversation going on.  The lens of privalage has been pulled away, she cannot pretend that everything is ok and everyone is happy.  Not everyone wants her help.

It is clear that she does not care about the needs of this group, but that she wants the meeting to go smoothly and to stay in her control.

It made me think about how we label ourselves and the space that we are given (or have to take) to have those conversations.  How these conversations can pull at the comforts of privalage.  Government calls indians Aboriginals.  What do you call yourself?  Are you able to have that conversation?  How do we check our own privalage when it comes to the labels others want to use for themselves?  What is my responsibility to enter into these spaces, create these spaces, step back and recognize that things might be uncomfortable for me and I might lose control?  What labels am I willing to/need to take on to build an inclusive space for everyone?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Making things Wednesday - Discussion Cards

One thing I have found helpful is discussion cards.  I make mine by printing out a quote or picture and pasteing to cardboard.  I leave a couple of these on the table as a reminder to have conversation and also to help me have something relevant to raise when I am tired and can only think of bed.  Sometimes these flop, but it is good to try.  Sometimes I ask the children what wisdom/teachings they learnt in the day and they share.  They like being the teacher, but a lot of their teachings are about farts and how they love them in the spirit world.  Still trying to work out the story medicine there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beyond education

I have talked about education as "the new buffalo" and considered decolonialization in education.  I don't disagree that eduction is important, but the assumption that education means university is bothering me.  I signed up yesterday for the Boys and Girls club mentoring program DreamCatchers to mentor northern kids to stay in school and to learn about options open for them. 

Hell ya!That sounds great, but as I filled in the form I was struck that one of the things I thought I could mentor on was around understanding university.  After being married to an eternal grad student and having parents in law who are proffs I understand the university system in a totally different way than when I was an undergrad.  I saw the rules in black and white.  There are so many shades.  There was so much work in just surviving university in a new town, working in new ways, needing to develop my own discipline.

I have a child that is not a likely candidate for university.  She is smart but school is hard for her.  For me university was a place to open up above the continued focus on spelling and learning in set ways.  Maybe it would be the same for her, but how do I walk the line to leave that open as an option, but not as the only one?  How do we support our youth more broadly in entering a system that is so heavily steeped in the colonial past?  In a system that is focused on getting people to fit in and that does not appreciating their differences?

The past few years I have been mentoring new canadians coming into the job market, people who are very well educated but have a hard time finding a job.  Just eduction has not been enough. I spend time helping these people understand how the systems work and how to fit themselves into it.  This helps these individuals, but does it ultimatly just support a system that doesn't accept people as they are or recognize that difference is a good thing?

Kent Monkman, “Bête Noire” (2014)


Kent Monkman takes away my breath sometimes.  This painting did that.  The juxtaposition of the Picasso bull and the motorcycle indian hunting while in drag perhaps?  I love his pieces.  They are great for starting a converstation with the girls.  This is great story medicine.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sometimes stuff goes wrong and it is ok

On our trip to the art gallery yesterday I created this majestic buffalo.  R helped draw the face and S made rude comments about my creation and my lack of skills. 

I didn't draw for many years because I wasn't good at it.  So many people in my family were good at it so that it seemed pointless to try.  But I like to draw and I am an economist so I don't need to reley on my skills in this area for money so it really doesn't matter if it is good.  I can draw because I like too.  Sometimes my creations turn out ok and sometimes not, but either way I can enjoy the time with my girls sitting and creating together.  I also try to use these times as teachings about how we treat others less skilled than us and how we treat our own creations.

Maybe you are not the best at something, but if you enjoy doing it, do it.  Don't let the failures hold you back. Sometimes stuff won't work and that is ok.  Enjoy it for it's wrongness.  Give it a red bow and a martini and make even your wrongs fabulous.

Spring Break - what would you ask the ancestors?

LOUIS GARNEAU (1790-1863)Photo is Metis of Sault Ste Marie  "Five of the earliest Indian inhabitants of St. Mary's Falls 1855".  St. Mary's Falls is Sault Ste. Marie and the people are Metis not Indian. They however were adopted into the Ojibwa Nation and therefore could rightfully be called Indian but not the earliest inhabitants. Garneau married Cadotte's sister as did John Boucher.   Left to right (1) Louis Cadotte, (2) John Bouche, (3) Obogan, (4)  O'Shawan, (5) Louis Gurnoe aka Garneau.
Louis Garneau is the last on the front right.  He is my great-great grandfather.

For our last day of spring break and family circle time we talked about ancestors, how our lives were the same/different than theirs and what we could learn from them.  We talked about what we would ask an ancestor if we could and which one we would ask. 

R wanted to ask a question about farts. 
S wanted to know about their technology. 
I wanted to know about my grandfather's life and how residential school affected him. 
Joel wanted to know more about the lives of his grandmothers. 

It was a good conversation and as usual we did not get to the related crafts I had planned.  We had a good circle time welcoming in the spring buds moon and playing a family version of cards against humanity.  We then went to the art gallery and made art.  It was a good day together.

Spring Break - Ravens

Cute...work by Shawn Hunt award winning Artist invite.jpgShaun Hunter  is an amazing artist who creates some really interesting pieces.  I shared this one as part of our discussion on ravens.   It prompted a good conversation on art (why a soup tins) and ravens.  We used the Wikipedia page "Cultural Depications of Ravens" which covered raven accross cultures and time, as the starting point for our time and had a conversation about how these stories were different and the same.  We also shared our favourite raven story and talked about what raven made us feel.  Joel and I have raven wedding bands so we had some good memories to share. 

I had planned to do a couple of crafts making ravens and had found a coulouring book of the raven steals the sun story, but we never got there.  This conversation worked well and I am planning to retry the crafts as part of our summer learning program.  

S's Moontime Dress

 I am now working on S's second dress for her first moon time.  This will be the one she puts on after her seclusion period.  She wanted it to be green and a tunic and she does not wear dresses right now.  I am doing lazy stick around the neck and have incorporated a piece from a broken necklace in to make the round shape.  I am happy with how this is coming a long.  I am so glad to have access to so many amazing inspirations.  In particular from the book "Identity by Design" by the Smithsonian, which I blogged about here.  I really like the dress below and how it handled the colour.  I am doing some painting in on the sleeves and I am debating getting some elk teeth to add as well.  I am trying to take my time and put my best into this one for her.
This is a Sioux (Oceti Sakowin—specific nation not specified) dress from ca. 1900, probably South Dakota. It’s a wool cloth dress decorated with dentalium shells, silver, ribbon, brass, beads, sequins, and quills.

Warrior Gals

I came up to bed to find this.  We got the axe for her last year given how much she enjoys her little wooden sword.  I once asked her, on seeing her costume for the day, if she was a princess and she said "no.  I am a sword fighter in a dress."  Not sure if I should take this as a warning or not.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Music Friday

My pick for today is "Blue Skies" by Irving Berlin sung by Ella Fitzgerald  I had an older friend when I was in university and she had this played at her funeral.  This struck me as a perfect song for walking on to meet the ancestors. I like to think of all those who passed enjoying their blue skies.

Spring Break - Ceremony

This a James Micheals Bentwood Box I got Joel for Winter Solstice last year.

Our teaching was pretty basic yesterday.  The girls were at a play date until after 6 so everyone was tired when we got home.  We talked about ceremony - what it is and why it matters.  I had planned to upgrade our current talking stick, which is rather large and threatening, to something more approachable like this one from Classic Play or one inspired by threadwork on feathers like this work from powwow.com

Classic Play                           Powwow.com
Native American Talking Stick Art Projectthreadworktutorial13

We didn't get there.  People were too weird and tired.  But, we did have a good talk about ceremony which is what really matters right?

R raised funerals as a kind of ceremony and I raised marriage.  This made S really mad.  She sees marriage as a church institution and does not think that indians or metis should have anything to do with it given the history.  I will admit that I am not the most positive person about the church and we have talked about residential schools with the schools, but I was a little surprised how deeply she had taken that it and had applied it to other institutions that in recent history have been closely tied to the church like marriage.  This led to some discussion of ideas of marriage before and outside the chuch and I was thankful for the Kim Anderson summaries of the traditional ideas of Anishnabie and metis marriage.  I don't think that I convinced S, but it was a good conversation.  Then we watched tv.

Story Medicine Gifts

I am almost done with  "Up Ghost River" by Edmund Metatawabin a residential school memoir - his website is avaliable here.  This is not an easy book to read and I have cryed in parts.  I feel like this book has helped me to understand another part of my history a little more clearly.  When he talks about how he felt as he drank and why he drank it gave me another perspective on my grandfather and the other men in my life who drank.  I really appreciate the honestly and bravery of this Elder to gift his story to us.

I am now towards the end of the book when he is begining his healing journey and describes the teachings of his group leader.  I am also feeling a lot of those words for myself as I continue to work through my relationship with food and why I hurt myself by eating over and over again even when I know better.  I never started drinking because I knew that was a slipperly slope for me, but food...

I liked this quote from the group leader Dennis LeRoy "The wemisikoshiw listen so they can gain advantage...you come here to listen to other people's Knowings.  When you truly listen, your become more real."  There is a lot of talk about listening in my job, but a lot of it does not feel authentic.  I want to be a better listner in my relationships, but what are my true intentions with that?  This is a teaching I will think on for some time.

Later the book quotes LeRoy again "...grass is the symbol of kindness on the medicine wheel.  Because whenever it is cut, it always grows back.  We have to embody that spirit of kindness torward ourrselves as we heal and remember that whenever we feel unloved or trampled on, if we are kind to ourselves, we will spring back."

LeRoy later talks about why they are talking about grass when trying to heal alcoholism "We use the natural things to remind ourselves of what is important in live, to understand what defines us as the indigenous people of Turtle Island."

There is a lot of story medicine in this book. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

There's an indian in my tv - well kind of...

Yesterday I was reading an article about the television show "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and its problems with race. 

This show has a cast with non-white characters.  Yay! 

It has a gay character. Yay! 

It even has an indian character.  Yay?

I decided to start the series last night... the indian character is played by a non-indian.  Given that this race switching is no longer ok for other races why is this ok for indians?  I realize that part of the story is that the character can "pass" as white and I agree that there is a lot that could be explored in that space, but given this issues that are raised in the article above it sounds like they are not.  And why not use an indian actor who could pass?

This show seems like a job for "Métis in Space" with some of their excellent analysis.  No mythical flute music in this one though.  I am going to watch some more of the show.  It is brightly coloured and had some funny moments.  I am interested to see where they go with things.

I really like the bit with wipàpà (father) who mentions coming to New York in the "iron eagle".  To which his daughter rolls her eyes and he replies "of course I know what a plane is.  I was in the air force."  I thought this was a really nice play with steriotypes on a couple of levels.

What are you watching?

Hipster buffalo

Inspired this weekend, I created a buffalo shirt for myself.  I gave him a couple of books to read and some hipster glasses.  I really liked how the buffalo turned out.  He looks quite studious and ready to get on with this new phase in his life.  He is decolonializing himself reading about how buffalo used to roam freely.

Spring Break Circles - medicine wheel animals and lipstick buffalos

Our theme for yesterday was circles.  We talked about all the circles there are in our lives.  We talked about who we let into our circles and that sometimes you have to move people out of your circle.  After that discussion we read  "We Greet the Four Animals" by Terri Mack  I liked that this book had both drawings and pictures of the animals and I also appreciated the questions at the end of the book.  Being a bit tired it was helpful to have prompts about where to go with the discussion.  The girls enjoyed thinking about what animal they are like and where they might need to work more - mostly listning.  Following our discussion we sat down to draw based on the book.  S took the theme love and translated it into minecraft people.  R made pictures of each animal so that we could set up a circle on the wall with them.  I made a bear and a lipsticked buffalo.  While this was a simple set of activities I think it worked for not being too long and by being open to interpretation.

R's Eagle.  It might be sideways.
This is my bear.  He looks grumpy.
This is R's bear.  It is dancing to the song "Dumb ways to Die"
This is R's buffalo.  I think it may have been dancing too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Miteh - heart

I draw during meetings.  It helps me to focus on the meeting and be aware of my participation.  Below is the heart I drew at my meeting yesterday.  I am thinking about hearts a bit.  My role as mother/heart.  My role as teacher/heart to this whole excerise of decolonilizing, naming and reclaiming.
Mostly I like this.  I like learning new things and sharing them with my children.  I like learning from them how they see the stories and apply them to their lives.  But sometimes I am tired of being the heart of the exercise.  It makes me wonder about the Elders too.  How much we need from them.  Are they tired or invigorated by these requests?  How do they refresh themselves?
I am trying to learn that balance.  I may have a lesson I want to share but I or the children are to tired.  I need to let go.  I need to capture those unexpected moments when we are there and people are ready to learn.  Late last night S came in and we had a talk about te'jean and why he sets his butt on fire in a certain story.  We were speculating about what the story medicine of that story is.  Was it the obvious moral of don't dance fight with chickens and set your butt on fire after it does not gaurd the chickens?  Was there a lot of trouble with this in older times?  It got silly and that was good.
How do you find that balance?

Spring Break - Thanking the mother

Yesterday we had a discussion about our mother earth and talked about all the things she gives to us.  The girls brought this discussion back to the book we read the night before "Giving Thanks" by Leah Dorion.  They really liked this book which focused on the things Elders give thanks for.  The text is very simple and the pictures very layered.  R was dissapointed that she could not feel the texture of the original paintings as we read.  They really intreiged her. 

We talked about why the land we live on is call turtle island and R gave a quite good retelling of the creation story.  That made me really happy to see how she is soaking that in.

I had meant to do a craft including turtles, but we did not quite get there.  Here are the examples I was thinking of trying.

Floating turtle  The original link does not work anymore, but the turtle looks easy enought to figure out and could lead to outdoor/bathtub waterplay afterwards.

leuke schildpadjes, toch???

Turtle Rattle  This one also seemed pretty easy to do and would be a nice addition to our circle time elements.  You could also add a discovery element by going for a walk to gather things for the rattle or even for the outside decorations.  I am going to try to do this one this week.

DIY Native American turtle rattle - The Hands-On Homeschooler

Felt Turtle This one would take a bit more time but I liked the use of different fabrics to make the shell.

Turtle-felt ornament

I really appreciate all the creativity people share on the internet.  So many ideas to pull from and learn from.  Hai Hai

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Buffalo

I have been learning to bead over the past year.  This piece was my first bigger thing.  I was inspired by this piece by Welcome to the Doghouse of a flying buffalo baby.  I like how the beads could be used to create dimension and movement in the animal.  I have so much to learn about beading, but I have enjoyed the challenge of learning a new skill and telling pictures in a new way.

Buffalo Wings Art Print

Spring Break - Motherwork and Warriors

Sunday we spoke about Motherwork/warriors for our circle time.  We talked about our role in taking care of ourselves and others and committed to do one of these things during the day.  I had been thinking about the quote that "buffalo are the new education" so we all did our interpretations of that quote. 

This is R's version where the buffalo is reading a book while getting his hair cut.

This is my take on the educated buffalo in his room studying for finals.

S did the buffalo going to cosmotology school which I thought was a fun take on the concept.

Afterwards I was inspired and took my motherwork time to sew a tshirt with the educated buffalo as well.  This was a fairly simple circle/learning time activity but it seemed to get people quite involved and thinking about things and how they would apply in their lives.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Break Learning - Story Medicine

 For Spring break I have developed learnings and related activities for each day.
On Saturday we talked about story medicines and how we need to practice listning.  On our daily walk we went in silence in order to listen to the stories that we could hear in the space around us (a lot of cars).  Being silent, even for half a block was hard for R. 
Afterwards we talked about what story characters we would be and why.  With dinner we read the "ABC's of our Spiritual Connection" by Kim Soo Goodtrack.  The book itself was a little disjointed but there was enought in the pictures that we had a good conversation overall. 
While spring break seems to involve a lot of computer time around here where it is still snowey and cold at this time of year, I find these small exercises are helpful to take time away as a family and focus on some learnings and joint activities.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Terrance Houle - Urban Indian Series

Go to Terrance's web site to see the whole series.  The humour and commentary in this series, as well as his others seem like a good use of some Saturday moments.
lawd-knows: “ 5centsapound: “ Terrance Houle: Urban Indian Series (2004), Born December 9, 1975, in Calgary. Lives and works in Calgary. In a practice that ranges from performance to photography to...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Story Medicines


What should I do? Reader Response-Ability and Obligations of Proximity

Last night I was reminded of my favourite Judith Butler video which is a lecture she gave at the Nobel Museum on "Precarious life: the obligations of proximity" (skip the white guy at the start - he says nothing).  This is a beautiful video on a lot of levels.  Visually the juxstaposition of Butler (just a head) to the headless statue of a man (just a body) is sublime.  I also love her speech patterns.  It is like a loving mother to me so calm and clever.   Joel hates her style of speaking so I understand if it does not give you chills as well.

In this lecture she is trying to explore how we get brought into relationship with the "other" especially when the other is not obviously in relationship with us - ie we are watching the other on tv.  Through what mechanisms are we inscribed into a relationship with this other and required to act in response to the needs of the other? She describes this as "Ethical solicitation".  While she is using the example of Palistine, I think there are many examples here in our country.  What is my responsibility to the brother or sister I see on the street?  To the residential school survivor?  To indiginaity as a whole in the diologue of future?  How do we protect from despair, when there may be many of these calls in our lives, but not accept inaction as a reasonable response?

Butler argues that by the act of being born we are drawn into a relationship with the larger community, a relationship which we cannot dismiss and must find ways of navigating throughout our lives.  This strikes me now as not really that different thant an indigenous world view of our relationships to one another and the requirements that those place upon us to care for each other.

Kim Anderson, in her book "A Recognition of Being"  has a section where she speaks to reader response-ability, a concept that she says is from Kimberly Blaser (Ojibway poet and proffessor) who speaks to the reader's responsibility to respond to the text and that the way a text is read is dependent on the ability of the reader to respond to it.  This is the equivalent of the traditional oral practices in natives cultures where it is assumed that "the listners has as much a part in the creation of the story as the teller.  In this way, the listner also carriers responsability for the knowledge that is transmitted."

So I am a person in relationship and responsible upon hearing stories of need and suffering.  What is my response?  What are my lessons to my children?  We live a block from the homeless mission and our backyard neighbours are an appartment full of recovering male alcholics.  Have I done my duty by proximity?  I know there is more I need to do.  There is more I need to teach my children.  I don't even have the anwers yet.  I hate that.  Living with the questions is hard.  Good, but hard.

Music Friday - Shibastik

I need to bring up Shibastik again this week.  This album is still giving me lots to think and feel about.  I am reccomending "Fire and Water"

"I used to fight fire with fire.  The fire got higher.
I started fighting fire with water.  I felt my fire getting harder."

Here is Leah Dorion's "Eagle Woman"  who seems to be dancing with joy.

Red Eagle Woman ~ Leah Dorion, Métis

Story Medicine - Slavoj Zizek

28 Totally Relatable Quotes About Books - BuzzFeed MobileYesterday I started reading Slavoj Zizek's book "Living in the End Times".  He is a Slovenian philosopher and he is chewy.  I got tired and turned to Youtube, partly to amuse myself, but also to be boring so the child would go to sleep.  My game of pay the mastercard was too exciting when it lead to trying to calculate the compound interest on our morgage and how long it would be until we paid it off.  I thought maybe philosopher's would do the trick.

I have been kind of down the past few weeks and trying to sort it all out for myself.  I have been trying to contextualize it all by reading" In An Unspoken Voice :How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness" by Levine, Peter A. and thinking about how I am storing my story in my body.  I am also continuing through "Up Ghost River" by Edmund Metatawabin a residential school memoir to keep things in context for myself.  But it was listning to a short clip by Zizek on post traumatic stress that pulled it all together for me.  He basically said that it is a privalage to be in a position to have post traumatic stress.  In many places people never get out of the everyday reality of trauma - never get the chance to begin healing.

That is helping me to think about these past few weeks in a different light.  I feel down and some of the memories hurt, but I am privalaged to be able to work through them.  I am privalaged that these things are in the past.  I am privalaged to have hope that this time won't last forever.  I am privalaged to have access to the story medicine of so many people.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Leah Dorion - Inspiring Artists

Leah Dorian was the first metis authour we read and we continue to enjoy her books.  We just got our order from Strong Nations with a number of her early readers.  I am so happy to have these lovely metis books to share with my children.  We read "Ways to Carry and Metis Baby" and talked about using a moss bag and how we carried them in slings.  These were a nice quick read for a short bed time story and as always the pictures were lovely. 

Making things Wednesday - all things come out of poo

During circle time R really likes to play a drawing game where each person takes a turn adding a part to the drawing without seeing what the other people have drawn.  I am not sure why she has decided this is a good circle time activity but she loves it and given the choice she will do it when the circle is still open, with the candles burning and the passage to the  spirit world still open.  R likes to add a lot of poo jokes which surely please the ancestors as well.  Below are two of our recent pieces complete with the poo captions.

I think what is really important about these times, beyond just being together as a family, is that R takes ownership of some of the circle time.  While I am pretty sure this is not traditional metis activity, it is meaningful to her and something she organizes and leads.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why Innu men have a hard time making erotic art

I finished "Me Sexy" by Drew Hayden Taylor.  I usually don't like anthologies but in this case it worked.  The book is funny and thoughtful.  I enjoyed the variety of perspectives straight/two-spirited. erotica/fear of sex, man/woman.  I liked the call for indian erotica and the discussion of why Innu men have a hard time making erotic art.  I found a lot to think about in how many of my ideas of sex and sexuality were shaped by the church and the idea of woman as nature (to be conquered).  I was inspired to hear how others were working to overcome those ideas in their lives.

I particullarly liked the following quote from Daniel Heath Justice in his essay "Fear of a Changling Moon."

"To take joy in sex isn't just about enjoying the bump and grind, suck and squirt, lick and quiver of hot moist flesh on flesh.  It's about being beautiful to ourselves and others.  And such a loving self-awareness is a hard thing to come by in a world that sees Aboriginal peoples as historical artifacts, degraded vagrants or grieving ghosts.  To take joy in our bodies - and those bodies in relation to others - is to strike out against five-hundred -plus years of disregard, disrespect and dismissal."

The author obviously took these essays as they came, some are dense acedemic pieces and some less formal however, it works together as a narative and ultimately all the writers are working to shine a light on something unspoken for many years.

Kim Anderson "A Recognition of Being"

Sometimes books are so profound I can't even look at them straight for some time.  Kim Anderson's "A Recognition of Being" was like that.  It has been a couple of months now and I can finally work through it a bit.  I think this book hurt so much as it perfectly answered questions I struggled with for the past few years.  Her answers are so eloquent compared to where I came to, but there was also such a peace in seeing someone else's journey to answer those same questions about identity as a metis woman. 

Anderson starts the book by talking about herself and the importance of this self description in the aboriginal method of contextualizing knowledge.  She tells her story of struggling with identity, what makes us indian/metis and how do we push through the shame and social pressures that encourage assimilation and the continuation of steriotypes that cause a gap between us and identity.  What if you don't "look" indian/metis?  What if you did not grow up on the rez?  What if you did not have access to your language and culture?  What if you have lived a life of privalage and have not experiences overt racism?  What if it would be easy to just assimilate?  What if assimilation is what your grandparents/parents tried to do?

I worked through all these questions myself over the past few years.  Some of this I have already shared here with you.  Anderson provides such wise answers to these questions and so openly shares her journey that it feels like a blessing to understand that we are not alone in that journey.  I can't take her answers for myself, but finding that we come to similar places, to have someone articulate it all so clearly is a sort of gentle benediction at the end of my own explorations.  It gives me a little more courage in naming myself and articulating my reasons for reclaiming my metis identity to myself and for my children.

I will further explore this book in other posts.  The whole book is great and provides a lot of material to work through, but this first section was a revelation for me.

""Someone says we need an anthem."  I tell them to keep banging on the hand drum." Shibastik Hand Drum

Friday, March 6, 2015

Taking Time - Drag Queen and Cool Moms

Lots of nights I come home tired and in my mind I do all kinds of "good mom" stuff, while in reality I just sit with them and watch them jump.  Last night R wanted a dance party and we took turns choosing our favourite songs and dancing.  It was good.  So simple, but so good to come together, share what we like and move our bodies.  It was good to be together.  Apparently J has "terrible taste in music" while I got through as a "cool mom" cause I know the same songs they do.

We also started watching Season 7 of RuPaul's drag queens.  There were a lot of shady ladies there.  An interesting cast with a number of bigger/fierce ladies and an indian.  They had to do a naked runway, which did not seem fair for the fierce ladies.  But as Mother Ru always says "you are born naked and the rest is drag."  As usual, I am inspired to be more fabulous myself after watching that.  So much of the wonderful word play goes over the girls heads, but we have great conversations about life after an episode.

My musical pick for this Friday is Erik Satie "Gnossienne" which seems a good song for the hope of spring and a full grandmother moon.

The cedar bark basket decorated with coloured wood was my picture to Joel last winter solstice.  I tried to buy native last year and found so many wonderful gifts.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Is Cree the Sexiest Language?

Happy full moon.  Put out a plate for Grandmother moon (Kookum tipiskàw pîsim) tonight.  I took this photo after finding this broken doll in some grass. 

Sometimes I get so many thoughts and books going it stops me until I get it out someway.  So today is my dump of the thinks drumming around in my head. 

I started the book "Dataclysm" by Christian Rudder I am an openly economist person and I like data so I admit that this book was a high probability like for me (except sometimes people use data wrongly and then that hurts me deeply).  One point from this book that has me thinking was that with conventional histories we see the stories of the powerful or exceptional and that the ordinary lives of people are lost.  Rudder contrasts this with the story that we can tell with big data which allows us to see "ordinary lives" if not specific ordinary lives and he sees this as an opporunity to democratise our fundamental narrative outside of the WEIRD narrative (White, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratized).  Given how the invention of statistics created new ways of seeing people and how government responded - think unemployment/povery statistics, dehumanizing the individual and the response - I am very interested in seeing where he goes with this book.

I also finished another article by bell hooks "Representing Whiteness in the Black Imagination" where she talks about how blacks construct versions of whiteness and how this is not-likely how whites think the narritive goes.  Where whites may see themselves as the saviour/pureness blacks could see whiteness as representing "terror".  This piece is from the late 1980s where the idea of terrorism would have been quite different, so that reading those sections is a little hard.  As an aside, I had this issue when I went to get Top Secret clearance and was asked about ties to terrorism and I thought about asking "how far back are we talking?"  Given the constructions of the rebellions as terrorism and treason - my family was in all that.  hooks basically says that until blacks have the same right to talk about whiteness as whites have to talk about blackness there is no free space for discourse.  I think her analysis could equally be applied to white/indian discourse in our country and provides a very useful mental contruct for futher analysis.

I started reading "Up Ghost River: A Cheif's Journey throught the turblent waters of Native History" by Edmund Metetawabin and have just gotten to his mother's choice to send them to the residential school following a lot of time spent with the preist.  That is one thing that really haunted my about my grandfather, he was put in the school.  He was three and would have had so little memory of his family and culture.  S was three when the Residential School Appoligies came out and it tore me up to think of her at that age leaving me to be put in that kind of abusive place.  The tearing sorrow to know that your parents put you there.  How much was tost.  How much we still are not talking about around that loss.

I also started "Me Sexy" by Drew Hayden Taylor and then I realize that I am a book slut.  Opening one after the other and flitting between them.  This book is an "exploration of native sex and sexuality" with essays by prominant aboriginal writers on these themes.  The cover is like a bodice ripper where the virginal, alabaster skinnned, blue eyed fragile beauty is saved/stolen/redeemed by the savage, wind swept broody impossibly muscled native/savage man.  I have to admit I have read a lot of these books and this author does a nice deconstruction of why white ladies like to read these novels.  The essays I have read so far are thoughtful and some of them very funny - how do you find out how much public hair indians have without coming off as a pervert?

An essay on pre-christian Inuit sexuality describes the mask dance and the different functions for children and adults.  In the dance, without warning, a strange  with giant genitals being would come into the space and begin to clown around.  For children the being is intended to be scary.  This is so that children learn how to handle fear by watching the reactions of the adults around them, either laughter or screaming, which teaches the child that a lack of reaction is not appropriate.  You can't freeze in that environment or you will die.  "The idea is that if you can handle fear then you can handle most of the other strong emotions that you will encouter in your life.  You will learn that emotions will come and go and that you can deal with them."  For the adults the show makes fun of the body/sex and is meant as a reminder that sex is just a physical act.

There is also a very funny article on why Cree is the sexiest language, an article on how residential school abuse has affected expressions of sexuality, lots of refferences to how the arrival of christianity and their conceptions of sex/sexuality are still reverberating through our culture and a piece about being an indian lesbian (of course with beaver jokes).  I really appreciated all the varried voices in this volume.  I have also got lots of weird looks as I read in the elevator.

I think these pieces are all woven together for me in their attempts to open new spaces for diologue to address the previously unspoken. This also leaves me wondering if there are some conversations in my life that I need to shut down.  There are lots of new things I want to explore and are some of those old things holding me back?  When I was a teenager I fell down stairs a lot.  I don't any more, but each time I take the stairs I fear falling.  I am trying to be more concious about not spending my mental energy on those kind of echos and focus on now.  There is so much interesting now to explore.    Pâtimâ