Friday, April 29, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rock relations and tolerance

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. Pablo Picasso:
Been thinking about rocks a bit and noticing that while I collect pictures of all my relations, I often overlook rocks.  I am still trying to figure out my relationship with these relations.  Does anyone else have this challenge?

While we were away last week, I finished reading the paper "Tolerance as an Ideological Category" by Slavoj Zizek.  Here he explores why many current social problems (like poverty) are expressed as issues of tolerance and not as the deeper core issues such as inequality or injustice that may have significant influence on these problems.  He asks why the proposed solutions to these problems is expressed as a need to recommit ourselves to tolerance, rather than work together to address these core issues.  He challenges us to ask why we are naturalizing these core issues as "cultural differences, different ways of life, which are something given, something that cannot be overcome, but must be merely tolerated?"  From here I did not see a direct link to issues of Métis identity formation, but it did draw to mind some of the stories about the road allowance people where culture/way of life came to equal poverty.

Zizek sees us/society as retreating away from direct solutions towards a more comfortable space of tolerance.  He continues by quoting Wendy Brown from "Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire", 2006
"The retreat from more substantive visions of justice heralded by the promulgation of tolerance today is part of a more general depoliticization of citizenship and power and retreat from political life itself. The cultivation of tolerance as a political end implicitly constitutes a rejection of politics as a domain in which conflict can be productively articulated and addressed, a domain in which citizens can be transformed by their participation."

I was struck by his definition of "Culture" as being, "collective and particular... exclusive of other cultures..." and thus by definition they result in a distrust of those who are not part of that culture.  Would this still be true in the Métis context?  Is the boundary with other cultures more porous, i.e, Cree, French, Scottish, Ojibway?  Or does the ongoing definitional discussion of who is Métis (only red river?) a signal that our culture is really no different when it comes to this question?

He then explores the historical development of tolerance and its reflection in the retreat of culture into the private sphere where they become personal idiosyncrasies.  I was really struck by the idea that tolerance need to be created as an idea.  I never thought about that before.  We do seem to use this idea a lot in our society, but it is actually rooted in some specific european histories.  So is this concept serving us or are we following this ideology without serious interrogation?

From this point he suggest that the only way to overcome intolerance is to essentialize each person as a subject, stripping away those "culture" elements.  Of course, he reminds us, this stripping away is not equal for all subjects as some subjects are already closer to this essentialized person (i.e., a well educated, white European man.)  Others of us lose more in this process.

He continues by exploring the paradox of needing to be "...intolerant towards cultures that prevent choice and tolerance" and discusses some of the societal challenges that come with the hierarchy of tolerance and ranking of specific cultural experience/practice to the level of "eccentric traditions," even more so I think, for those born into it, perhaps blind to the more "normal" options.  I can do what I want and be who I want at home, but once I enter the public sphere I better put on my citizen suit and leave that other "culture" stuff behind.

He further argues that, " a way the Western situation is even worse than nonliberal cultures because in it, oppression itself is obliterated, masked as free choice...freedom of choice often functions as mere formal gesture of consenting to one's oppression and exploitation."  Again referencing Brown.  So that we get caught in this performance of "universality".  We pretend that we are all equal and ignoring those circumstances where it becomes clear that this action is nothing more than theatre.  I think here of the homeless person "citizen".  I am not stopping this person from getting a job and a house, they are equal.  They are citizen have just made different choices. Joel likes often quotes Anatole France, "The law is just as both the poor and rich are forbidden from sleeping under bridges."

This constructed person is valued for their ability to thrive in this abstract space, and anything they might bring forward from their culture is of no value.  He nicely sums this up, "the medium here is not the message; quite the opposite.  The very medium we use ---universal intersubjective language --- undermines the message."  That the message has no space for those who are "different" (culture, ability, sex, gender presentation, sexuality) means that any following conversation leaves these folks out.  Ironic especially when many of these people would be the same people who are central to these discussions of tolerance and who are those impacted when those conversations go wrong.

He suggests that we might be better off starting anew from a space of recognition.  While many things pull us apart, we share the same struggle, and can support each other and be more effective in our responses when we work together.  I really agree with this point.  A couple of times in my life this concept has been very clear to me. 

First as a teenager in church, I noticed that they would always ask us to pray for and support people very specifically, with some kinds of afflictions given more time/honor.  Cancer was good - you were pretty blameless, but some other problems (especially mental health) were probably the manifestation of your sins so we didn't really need to pray as hard for them.  I always wondered why we didn't treat everyone as hurt, as people who needed support, instead of making these weird distinctions.

Second, this came across to me very clearly working on the anti-racism file, where we were stuck in this narrow view of the world where we cared if someone discriminated against you because of your race but not because you were a woman or indigenous person - that was a different organization.  I really wanted to bring the lens of intersectionality to this file where we could engage with people as whole entities who might be facing very complex and intersecting challenges. I never got to proceed with that work but these questions still really interest me. 

This article was interesting and raised a lot of interesting questions and some plausible, if abstract, solutions.  How could we put these lessons into practice?  Where are the spaces we need to question these constructions?  How does the everyday practice of your culture provide a possible antidote to these pressures?

Urban Métis Fear 54

Beatrix Potter
Urban Métis Fear 54: you will never keep as tidy a home as this porcupine.

Urban Métis Fear 55

This fear comes from a conversation we had with Sophie last night about why animals don't have insurance.  I tired to argue that they weren't big believers in the capitalist marketplace so the lack of options was probably ok, but she argued that since beavers had homes they would need homeowner insurance.
Beaver Beaver Dam (artwork by Jan Sovak).:
Beaver Beaver Dam (artwork by Jan Sovak)
Urban Métis Fear 55: you can't buy insurance for your beaver damn.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Strange little animals

Talking about being Métis

Alaskan brown bear, scouting for fish.:
Photo by kid_proquo on Flickr
I have been invited to come and talk to Sophie's class about being Métis - the teacher requesting a presentation on who the Métis people are.  However, I am thinking of beginning with a discussion about stereotypes that the kids have about indigenous people and use that conversation as a means to explore the historical and modern lives of the Métis/indigenous peoples.  I really want to show that our people still exist, maybe show where some of the stereotypes come from and discuss why they might want to question those messages.  For example, I want to bring some of the bead work I have completed - showing the connection to the past and the artistic traditions of indigenous peoples, but highlight that the images in these pieces are Minecraft characters and modern.  I was thinking of similarly using a Shibastik song to show someone pulling from the tradition of drum music in writing rap. 

I want to think of a couple of other similar examples.  I thought that this would be a more engaging presentation that the usual spiel about where we come from - not that this information isn't important, but given limited time and attention I want to show that we are a dynamic culture, not a historical footnote.  I would love it if you could share any examples you think would work.  Is this the right message to share?  What would you share?

Urban Métis Fear 53

Adolf Münzer: The Faery Prince, 1925.:
Adolf Münzer: The Faery Prince, 1925.
Urban Métis Fear 53: you will forever be alone cause bear has all the smooth moves.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 52

The hedgehog, 1734.:
The hedgehog, 1734.
Urban Métis Fear 52: your hedgehog acts silly when you want to talk about serious things.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 50

Michael Sowa - fear and uncertainty:
Michael Sowa - fear and uncertainty
 Urban Métis Fear 50: today will bring more than I can manage and I will forget that I carry the strength of all my relations.  Even if I fail, I am not a failure.

Urban Métis Fear 49

Just saw a moose for the first time this weekend in Algonquin Park she was about 2 and so beautiful what an amazing animal!!:
Urban Métis Fear 49: you will be embarrassed to pull out your wallet as your moose won't sit still for a nice school picture.

A short trip from ordinary

Given that travel had not been an option for us before Sophie was treated, we decided to take a short family vacation this spring.  We headed to Montreal to hang out for a couple of days.  We wandered around to see what we could find and just took life easy.  The girls were suspicious at first of this idea of just wandering to see what adventures you have, but by the end they seemed pretty happy about it all.  With a nice day, some food and water why not choose a random direction and see where it takes you?  I suppose our life is usually so focused that this seemed strange to them.

We had lots of good adventures.  We found musical swings and returned a number of times to play on them.  We found a pirate ship, shown above, with climbing activities.  We found a pond with ducks and sat to read and make a platypus/dog/pumpkin family home (very blended family).  We found a park with cool boulders and had a picnic while exploring the rocks.  My favorite thing was watching Runa get stuck while on the climbing ships and watching her work through it.  She did not cry or curse, she just kept at it, trying different things until she succeeded.  That moment made me feel like a success as a parent.

The hotel we stayed at had a big pond with koi and bridges which the children enjoyed a lot.  They named the fish and went to see them each morning.  It was good to just have time to hang out with the children and talk and be.  Sophie had some trouble with the noise, especially after our subway trip, but we survived.  We watched a lot of HGTV, found a lot of rocks and Runa bought herself a wooden sword.

The thing I found strange about the trip was the amount of "indianess" there.  Most of it made in China and indian inspired.  It is pretty frustrating to see all those lost opportunities for real indigenous artists.  It also came across in our visit to the Archeology museum which had a fancy light show that zoomed through the fact that indigenous people were and are part of that space to get to a loving look at the 1920s and 1960s.  This was extra strange as they had a special exhibit of early Quebec archeology including a 500 year old canoe and other items (with no recognition to the communities to whom they may have been historical artifacts from).  Indianess is obviously great but Indians are not.

As we had time reading the newspaper we also got to read about the residential schools and the Catholic church which made us pretty mad.  As I have said before, the lack of real action on the residential schools issue was the point we left the church and this kind of action feels like a further reminder that the church did not and does not see indigenous people as real people.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 48

thenatureofwar by Peter Carrington:
thenatureofwar     Photo by Peter Carrington
Urban Métis Fear 48: the Ikeafication of life continues but I still can't get a wolf to match my couch.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 47

Manoou #beetle #symmetrical:
Urban Métis Fear 47: I will forget to stop and listen to the wisdom of my winged relatives. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Who is Métis?

Métis  12x15 print by annamagruder on Etsy, $70.00: I came across this painting the other day called "Métis" by annamagruder on Etsy and it felt like a beautiful description of being Métis.  The scissors in her hand are pretty haunting.  Given the talk about who is a Métis given the recent ruling and the upcoming MNO election which seems to have lots of coded language these seems to be on people's minds again.

I have written about this quite a bit here and how I think the answer is in community and ceremony and everyday reclaiming of language and thoughts.  What are you doing today to continue this reclaiming?

Urban Métis Fear 45

Street art:
Urban Métis Fear 45: I will lose myself in the city and become indistinguishable from it.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Still feeling pretty down.  A lot to think about but I don't feel very intelligent about anything.   I did get some time to read âpihtawikosisân who has a good overview of what the Daniel's decision means, why relocation is not the answer and solutions to the "indian problem" which not as hard to find as one might think. 
We had a team retreat last week to talk about failure.  It went well and I really enjoyed the session.  I decided not to facilitate, but to share that role across the team.  That worked well.  I told a Nanabush story, the one where he ends up setting his bottom on fire, as an introduction to thinking about failure.  People really like that story.  However, this session made me think about my desire to succeed and that maybe it is time for me to stop thinking about that and to consider my role in helping others to succeed.
This message has been coming through to me for a while now and the achievement of two long term goals in the past month has left me thinking about whether it was worth it and what I want to do now.  In my career, I am at the top level of analysts, so I can either keep moving around at this level or move into management.  I am really ambivalent about that decision.  I make more that enough money and I like being an analyst but I am getting bored and I don't feel like I am contributing as much as I could.  One Elder told me not to worry about that and to give what is needed and keep the rest for other things.  I am still thinking that through.  Maybe the arrival of spring will help.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 44

Peter Carrington:
Urban Métis Fear 44: the instructions for putting together your deer are unclear. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The problem of suicide

After 11 people tried to commit suicide in one night, Attawapiskat is back in the news.  Not even sure what to say.  We personally deal with suicide from the perspective of Sophie where the cause is relatively clear and she responds well to medication.  A lot more when you have a whole community with some many overlapping triggers.  I think I will have a family smudge tonight to remember these brothers and sisters. 

Urban Métis Fear 42

Urban Métis Fear 42: sometimes it feels like you might be part of some game you never realized you were playing.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 41

Urban Métis Fear 41: everyone is more elusive in the city.

Nikāmwācisin (I am calm)

I looked up nikāmwācisin (I am calm) as I was waiting for an interview.  I have been working on learning this word this week, remembering it as "knee cam watchy sin" so imagining a little camera in my knee catching when I fall into the Christianized idea of "bad" and start judging myself.  This is often the case when I lose my calm.  I wanted to do a drawing with this word showing all the round spaces and folding back on it's self that the word implies.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 40

Original Bird Watercolor Painting Ballet Art by WaterInMyPaint, $40.00:
Ballet Art by WaterInMyPaint
Urban Métis Fear 40: it can be hard to fit in.


Yesterday Sophie found out that she did not get into the middle school she wanted.  She was very upset.  Runa got a bit frustrated with her and left to build a fort in the yard.  When I got home we settled on a tipi with a bridge over the "river".  I thought it turned out pretty good for our first tipi.  Runa wanted me to make her a Métis costume, you know those girls with the short tops and fringed skirts?  I could just imagined the faces of the ancestors if they saw somebody dressed like that.  Once we talk a bit more maybe we can work on a more traditional metis costume.  This morning she was pretty pleased about the tipi still, telling her dad about how people would load up the dogs with the tipis to move.  Our small beagle looked worried, although a tipi this size might be reasonable for him.  This was actually a good project as we worked out the mechanics of where to put the poles and the relative dimension of the outside to the inside.  Runa was disappointed that we had no hides so it will not be water proof.  Being urban metis you gotta work with what you can catch and it will take a lot of squirrels and hipsters to cover a tipi.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 38

[77 images] La Sélection du Week End n°145:
77 images] La Sélection du Week End n°145
Urban Métis Fear 38: you may see things that will haunt your mind. 

Pictures in our heads

Problem is we had different "supposed to bes" and never talked about it and created a joint "supposed to be" together. That's my fault. I lost all that was sacred to me and my heart to a fucking proven loser. What the fuck kinda man does that make me? A fuckin pity case.: Been thinking about this quote and laying out all the should offs.  I have been thinking through those layers and peeling them back to look at what is the reality of where I am today and why.  It has been a good exercise.  A lot of it I can't actually control, so it is a matter of just accepting it and what it means for my life.  How is you picture compared to the reality?     

Monday, April 4, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 41

Cat Fails:
Cat Fails

Urban Métis Fear 41: you won't have a friend close when you need one.

Beyond blood memory

As part of getting my head back in order I have committed to read something useful everyday.  Today I worked through ""Memory Alive": Race, Religion, and Métis Identities" by Carole Leclair.  I reviewed another article by this author previously. 

The article speaks to a process of living that supports the articulation of memory.  She suggests that beyond blood memory is the need to practically reclaim memory through a return to place, ongoing learning and participation in older ways of knowing.  As she is writing this explicitly from the perspective of a Métis person, she shares a lot of teachings while telling this larger story.  Rather than a response to this piece overall, I would like to share the lessons I appreciated from this article and my thoughts about them.
  • As a Métis you should identify your family, community and territory before speaking from this voice.  This is a hard one for the many who have lost knowledge or connection to a specific place.  Am I a Garneau/Thomas as many of my ancestors or the more recent Brady?  I am certainly of the west, but beyond that?  How do I package my story?
  • Teaching and learning are sacred allowing us to turn our mind toward "bimaadziwin", a worth-while life"  If you have been following for some time, you will know that I have found the path between the cerebral and body, and academic and real world a challenging one.  This paragraph reminded me that theses things do not have to be in opposition.  In this vein she later writes, "In common with many Aboriginal peoples, Métis learn by observation, inquiry, introspection and experience, using all of our gifts: our minds, our bodies, our dreams and visions, our emotions, and our languages."  She continues by reminding us that we can call on all these strengths as we navigate the challenges of being modern Métis.
  • She uses a quote by Maria Campbell "the bear doesn't try to tell the deer's story."  So much to learn from this short quote.
  • She cautions us that the claiming of space as Métis is an ongoing process.  A good reminder not to get discouraged when the first times of claiming don't take root.

Ayiki-pisim - Frog moon (April)

Welcoming the frog moon.  Really wishing it didn't feel like February today.  Frog shouldn't need a parka right?  Still feeling a little off too the side of life.  Thinking about what that means and how/when I get back into the flow.  To the right is my new tattoo.  Sophie drew this little bear for me a while ago and I wanted to get it as a tattoo.  I am waiting for a picture from Runa that would make a good tattoo.  I really love the simplicity of the composition and how the flower almost looks like a medicine wheel or dream catcher. 

Octopus Bag

I completed one side of an octopus bag over the weekend. It's not quite right, but it was a first try so I am ok with that.  I really need to sit down with a Kookum to resolve my tension issues.  It is never quite right.  Sophie is going to wear this for her grade 6 graduation.  She wants a kawaii octopus on the other side.  I will post photos when I am done.   

Friday, April 1, 2016

Urban Métis Fear 37

Triste monde moderne – Les illustrations trash et satiriques de Steve Cutts:
Triste monde moderne – Les illustrations trash et satiriques de Steve Cutts
Urban Métis Fear 37: Often things are not what they appear to be.