Monthly Archives: February 2015

Wounded Knee II: Fight for the Native rights

Wounded Knee II: Reclaiming the land 83 years later

Hello everyonewounded knee

A few days ago, I posted an article on the Wounded Knee massacre. And tonight I am writing a follow up on that post. Indeed, I think it is important to know our history, to know where we come from and who fought for us to be here today. Before I founded this site, I never thought I would be so interested in history but now I can’t seem to get enough, lol. Some parts of the history of the native people is difficult to read, to accept as part of history, as having actually happened. But it did. And I believe in informing people, as it then opens up a door for change.

What was Wounded Knee II?

Well Wounded Knee II was a way to show disagreement with and protest against current politics in place at the time (February 1973). 200-250 Oglala Lakotas then took possession of the site of the Wounded Knee massacre on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (one of the poorest reserves in the USA). They disagreed with and protested against the sale of grazing rights on native land for cheap prices to white men. Violence was also growing rapidly on the reserve, leaving a feeling of injustice in how crimes were prosecuted (crimes against Lakotas were seen as being rarely prosecuted).

Protesters were members or followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM), led by Russell Means and their goal was to protest against injustice including the lack of government action in regard to tribal president Richard Wilson, who they felt was corrupt and abusive.

entering Wounded Knee

The Lakotas controlled the town, which was cordoned off by the FBI and US Marshals. Therefore, it was known as the 71 day occupation of Wounded knee. However, what differed from Wounded Knee 1890, was that both sides were armed and shooting. One Lakota and one Cherokee indian were killed. A few others are also thought to have died during the incident (they disappeared and were not found, thus thought to be dead). Due to the damages to the area and houses, the town was not reoccupied until the 1990’s.

russell means at drum

Russell Means, on the right

 

How things got bad

Wounded Knee II came at a time where American Indians were still the subject of injustice from the government, who they felt, had often failed them. During Wounded Knee II, native got reved-up by the protest and stood by the side of those occupying the Wounded Knee grounds. In other words, native people wanted justice. Leaders of AIM, led the people to fight for justice. AIM said that its members went to Wounded Knee to attend an open meeting with the government. However, within the same day, they were surrounded by armed troops. The similarities with the Wounded Knee Massacre, where natives surrendered and wished to discuss with the troops before they were killed, is not lost on me. At Wounded Knee II, it was not long that both sides were entrenched in the occupation and peace between the two parties was not an option. Supplies, including electricity and water, to the area were cut off by the government.

Fire was then traded from both sides of the fence, leading to deaths. After the death of Lawrence Buddy Lamont, a Lakota man well known on the reserve, on April 26, the Elders called the end of the occupation. Lamont was buried in a traditional Sioux ceremony on the grounds. On May 5, an agreement to disarm was reached and three days later the occupation was ended and the government took control of the grounds.

Russell Means and the signing of the agreement

Russell Means and the signing of the agreement

What did Wounded Knee accomplish?

Well I wish I could say that the conditions of native people improved as a result. Unfortunately, the prevalence of violence on the Pine Ridge reservation increased following the occupation, occupants feeling persecuted by Richard Wilson’s “goons”. Pine Ridge is still known as a violent and poor reserve. However, I strongly encourage you to watch the video in the link below, a video showing that there is beauty as well on that reserve.

Looking at the pictures of Wounded Knee II and reading about it, I felt sad. When I think of old chiefs such as Sitting Bull and Big Foot, I think of icons, of fighters who fought for us to be here today. Of heroes. However, I am struggling feeling the same way about the occupants of Wounded Knee II. It seems that over time, some of the beauty or the values of the culture were lost. And although the occupation was a fight to gain or regain rights and fight for what was theirs, the overall message might not have come across that way. But then again, native people have had to fight for centuries to regain their life, their original lifestyle and in this case, it saddens me that the pictures depict a message of violence as a mean to regain those rights. When the Red Road is certainly not about violence but rather about respect. But then again, a lack of respect of their rights, was the reason for the occupation.

http://www.upworthy.com/a-journalist-went-near-mount-rushmore-to-take-some-photos-what-he-found-changed-his-life-forever

All my Relations

 

The Wounded Knee massacre

Wounded knee battle: what happened?ghost dance

In my previous post, I discussed the Ghost Dance spiritual movement, instigated by Wovoka in the late 1880’s. At the time, Native people were confined to live on reserves controlled by the Indian Agents Bureau. They found themselves with limited freedom, their way of life banned and sanctioned. So some turned to Wovoka, who told them about the coming of a better life, a life where they would rejoice and live happily with their ancestors. The Ghost Dance movement was born. A dance to call upon their ancestors to join them, for the land to be replenished and for freedom. Special shirts were worn, shirts believed to protect against bullets. Unfortunately, the Ghost Dance movement attracted a lot of attention and was not welcomed by the Indian Agents and the troops.

Sitting Bull’s death and the massacre

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

As I said in my previous post, Chief Sitting Bull was thought to have been a ghost dancer. The Indian Agents sent the police to arrest him as such on December 15, 1890. In an unfortunate series of events, he was killed in the process. When chief Big Foot, Sioux and a Ghost Dancer himself, heard of Sitting Bull’s death, he proceeded to lead his people to safety at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Unfortunately, the army intercepted him and his people on December 28, 1890 and led them to Wounded Knee, a place on the reservation. Big Foot and his men surrendered. The following morning, a sick Big Foot met with the army officers, to discuss the situation. What happened next is a bit of a blur.

December 29, 1890

Big Foot

Chief Big Foot

Indeed, it is hard to know how events truly unfolded. However, it appears that shots were fired as Big Foot was sitting with the army officers. Some say that Chief Big Foot and his people were then unarmed, as they were asked to surrender all weapons the night before. While some say that some weapons were secretly kept by Big Foot’s men. Nevertheless, Big foot and his men were “out weaponed” quickly by the army’s big Hotchkiss guns. You can see them below, almost like a canon.

Hotchkiss guns

Hotchkiss guns

The end result

The Hotchkiss guns quickly tore down the camps set up by Big Foot and his people. Gun smoke filled the air, Big Foot and his men were killed trying to defend themselves but also their women and children, who tried to escape. Without success. The exact number of deaths varies from article to article but it is believed to have been around 300 Sioux and 25 soldiers. Snow began to fall and a blizzard set in, preventing the removal of the dead. It was done a few days later. If you look it up online, you might find the same pictures I found. Of bodies being frozen on the ground, or being shoveled in a make shift grave. I could not put them on this page, as it broke my heart too much. To look at the lives that were lost in an instant. Like Auschwitz, if that’s not a massacre, a genocide, I don’t know what is. I can only be thankful for our ancestors, for the fight they put up to be able to live their life the way they were meant to. I leave you with a wonderful video of Sitting Bull’s life expressed in a song and drawings. It’s really worth taking a look at. A’Ho

http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee

Native American afterlife

Native afterlife: The Happy Hunting Grounds

Hello everyone!

I want to begin by thanking you for your warm response to my previous post, which some might angel in the skynot agree with. So considering the response to my previous post, I chose to discuss another potentially controversial topic: the concept of the afterlife. In our world today, there are many theories or beliefs as to what happens when one dies. Where do we go? What happens to our spirit? Do we come back? Possibly one of the most widespread theory is the Christian way of seeing death, i.e. one either goes to heaven or to hell, depending on one’s behavior and life on Earth. And one does not come back through reincarnation for example. We have one life and it is up to us to live it. Well…although different native cultures will vary slightly in their beliefs, the general belief within the native american population is that life does not end with death.

So what happens after death?happy hunting grounds

If you have visited this site or its Facebook page, you might have heard me talk about the “Happy hunting grounds” and you might be wondering what I mean by that. Well, first off, most native cultures believe in the concept of multiple lives, meaning that our present life is not our only life. Therefore, I have existed before and will exist after. Maybe in a different form but I will continue to exist. I will use my own experience here to explain. Some of you might relate to it. So, I was not raised in the “native way of life”. I was not exposed to this way as a child. However, when I was introduced to it years ago, it felt very familiar to me. Many times during ceremonies or even talks with Elders, I had the feeling of having done similar things in the past. I know full well I have not in this life. But part of me believes that I did live that way in a different life. A past life. The native way of life brings me comfort, inner peace, it is soothing to me. It brings a sense of “being home”, i.e. something familiar I had in my life before.

Alright, I might have lost some of you with what I just said but it is important. As the Native culture talks about the concepts of past lives, present life and the afterlife. One does not go to hell or heaven based on one’s actions on Earth. I don’t know about you but I find some reassurance in that. However, some cultures will discuss reincarnation, to be reborn as something or someone else. Some will then say that if your behavior in life transgressed rules, you could be reincarnated in something not so pleasant, like a bug most people do not like…..However, we also have to remember that everything has a spirit, including animals, birds and insects. And even inmate objects such as rocks or rivers (which in reality are full of life and flow). Everything in life has a purpose and contributes to life, even a bug….Hence why we treat everything with respect.

Happy hunting groundsmeadow

A belief that most native cultures have is in the existence of an afterlife named the Happy Hunting Grounds, name given by tribes from the Plains. Its name implies a place where hunting and game are plentiful, where everyone has what they need. Some will say it is the equivalent of heaven. But I would not say so. It is a place where our ancestors are, their spirits which our spirit will join. A world that resembles life on Earth but with plentiful resources for everyone and harmony between people. Why do I say it is not like heaven then? Because it is not seen as a reward for good behavior on Earth. It is not based on your behavior on Earth, it simply is a place where spirits go. Where people rejoin and from which they look over those who remain on Earth. As our ancestors are also always there with us to guide us and help us. They are not above us but rather around us and within us. Living the Red Road is the reward I would say. Because it allows you to live a balanced, honest and simple life. In which you learn to respect everything around you.

The Ghost dance

Related to the concept of afterlife, of the spirit world, is the Ghost Dance movement, a spiritual

ghost dance

Ghost dance-1890

movement that was active in the 1880’s. It was led by Wovoka, an Indian, who was, I guess we could say, a preacher. To summarize things, Wovoka had a dream in which he was taken to the spirit world and saw that all native people were taken to the sky while the Earth opened up and “swallowed” the white men. The Earth would then revert back to its natural, balanced and calm state. Finally, the native people were put back on the earth along with their ancestors. Wovoka believed that by dancing continuously in circles, the dream would become reality.

Maybe some of what I just stated could be seen as being related to the notion of “heaven and hell”, in this case the Whites being sucked into hell. Some might take offense in Wovoka’s view but we have to remember that this was a time in which native people had little rights and were fighting to live life in their traditional ways. It is possible that the dance gave them hope.

ghost dancer

Lakota Ghost dancer

Nevertheless, as one can imagine, the Ghost Dance was not easily accepted by non-natives. In fact it alarmed the authorities and one great chief, Chief Sitting Bull, was killed while being arrested on suspicion of being a ghost dancer. See my previous post to learn about Sitting Bull, his life, his death. The Ghost Dance movement had to be stopped. It led to one of the biggest massacre in North American in December 1890-the Wounded Knee Massacre, which you can read about here. Hundreds of ghost dancers were killed by the authorities, in part, to avenge Colonel Custer’s earlier death and to kill the spirit of the Ghost dancers. A very sad day in native history.

No matter what, I think that the Ghost dance gave hope to the native people. Hope that they could live freely on this Earth, surrounded by their ancestors. That they would be able to go back to their life before the colonization, before the arrival of the white man and his ways. That they would be able to live their life in their own way, on the path the Creator had for them, without fearing being killed in the process. And if we take that into consideration, it gives us a new perspective on the Ghost dance. I leave you with a short video that goes over the concept of spirit, the afterlife and the Ghost dance. Really worth watching. A’Ho

 

 

Two-Spirited People

Two-Spirited People: The Native meaning

Hello everyone!

Two Spirit flag

Two Spirit flag

Today, as the title announces, I will be discussing the concept of two-spirited people. I am aware that some people might be somewhat offended by or disagree with this post. But who cares, I am writing it anyways. There is no political agenda or personal agenda on my part. I just want to share the native way of looking at homosexuality or transgender individuals, as it teaches us a lesson in acceptance, respect and seeing the beauty in everyone. Remember the native poem I have posted more than once.

May there be beauty above me, may there be beauty below me, may there be beauty in me, may there be beauty all around me.

What does two-spirited mean?

Our society often refers to individuals as being either male or female. On forms and questionnaires, oftentimes, one has to choose one or the other. Yes we are beginning to see (and it’s just a beginning) a widening of this sexual identity definition with other categories such as “other” (well really what does that even mean?) or “transgender”. Transgender refers to an individual who does not identify with or abide to the traditional male or female role and expectations or identifies with a gender other than the one given at birth. For some, this is a hard concept to grasp. Some will go as far as denying the existence of transgender individuals, seeing them as weird or unnatural.

However, for the Native people, they have been using the term Two-spirit person for a loooong time. They are referring to a person who is considered to be neither a man or a woman. In other more natural terms, someone with both a masculine and a feminine spirit inside of them, living in the same body. Europeans who colonized the lands and nations of the natives, used the term “berdache” to refer to those individuals. It is now perceived as having a negative connotation. Thus I will use the term Two-spirited people.

two-spirited individual

The gift of the Two-Spirited people

Evidence shows that prior to colonization, the Native people believed in cross gender roles. Two-spirited people then performed both gender roles at ceremonies. And guess what? The beauty of it all is that feminine males or masculine females were often regarded with a lot of respect. Imagine that 🙂 Two-spirited people were seen as having a gift. Rather than emphasizing their homosexuality, Native people focused on the gifts those individuals had. Their spiritual gifts. The balance that they had between the female and male spirit. Indeed, they would be seen as being double blessed, as they had both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Others then often looked up to them, as leaders, spiritual leaders. Women married women, men married men and they were looked upon as a third or even a fourth gender. In almost all Native cultures, they were honored and revered. Thus Two-Spirited people were often seen as the medicine man, the healers, the teachers and the visionaries.

Some tribes might still even have a name in their traditional language for Two-Spirited individuals. For example, the Lakota people (Sioux) refer to them as “winkte”, the Mohave as “alyha” and the Cheyenne as “he man eh”. Those words used do not have a sexual connotation and do not refer to one’s sexual orientation. In fact, such concepts or words did not exist in traditional languages. Gender would be a more appropriate term to use as it has no connection to a person’s sex or social identity.

Two-spirit and childhood

Some tribes had ceremonies performed during one’s childhood to see if a child was truly two-spirited (after, for example, a boy was observed being disinterested by traditional boy activities). The ceremony was also to see how the child would be brought up. For example, one ceremony involved placing the child (boy or girl) in the middle of a circle made of brush. In the center would be a bow (a man’s object) and a basket (a woman’s object). Once the child was inside the circle, the brush would be set on fire and the child was observed to see which object he would pick to bring with him. If they picked the object associated with the opposite sex, then the child would be considered to be two-spirited.

One ceremony involved placing a child in the center of a circle of people singing involving the whole community and distant relatives. On the day of the ceremony, the child was brought to the middle of the center and the singer began to sing the ritual songs (the singer was hidden). If the child danced in a manner characteristic with the other sex, he would be considered to be two-spirited (after four songs). Some might think of those ceremonies as being simplistic but they represented traditional ways of doing things. They allowed the child to follow their path in a very simple manner. it was not about sexual identity but rather about finding out and following one’s path in the life he/she was given by the Creator.

Children considered to be two-spirited would often worked with healers often two-spirited themselves, and they were taught women and men’s work (their ability to do both was valued). Most of all, they were accepted and respected by the whole tribe. As I said earlier, they were often called upon to later be healers themselves, dream interpreters or singers and dancers.

two spirit dancers

Well there is a lesson in there

Just think for one second about what I just described. Can you imagine if it reflected the world we live in? If two-spirited children were cherished, and respected, as opposed to bullied? A world in which everyone is respected and two-spirited people in general are seen as blessed? Sometimes, I think that our ancestors had it right. Well no, not sometimes. Always. It was a simple world, where discrimination based on gender did not take place, as both men and women, the life givers were respected. Yes, for a time there was slavery. I won’t deny that. But is it me or was it just a simpler time? Respect was given and received. The land was cherished as was nature. And everyone was seen as having a gift that they could share with the world. Wow.

All my Relations

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Metis beadwork

Beautiful Metis beadwork and its origins

Metis mocassins

Vintage Metis beaded moccasins

Happy Sunday everyone!

I am not sure where everyone of you reading this are but it is a gorgeous warm and sunny day on the West Coast of Canada 🙂 So I thought I would share some beautiful bead work with you! Today, I want to focus on the Metis bead work. I have discussed the Metis Nation as well as their sash in a different post. In a nutshell, what you need to know is that Metis people are of mixed ancestry, typically European and Indigenous (often Cree and Ojibwe). However, being of mixed ancestry does not make one Metis. The Metis culture is a unique culture, born out of a mix of ancestries. Therefore, it is a culture in itself. To be Metis, one has to have an heritage that includes this particular culture.

Metis people and their bead work

Metis beaded pouch

Metis beaded tobacco pouch- Beadwork by Lawrence Barkwell

Metis art is greatly influenced by both European and Native cultures. However, the Metis people have often influenced Native art, so much so that oftentimes, their art would be mistaken for Native art. It is thought that the Metis people actually introduced bead work to some Native nations such as Cree and Ojibwe, who took a liking to it and included it in their designs.. Nonetheless, sometimes credit for their work was given to Natives. Also, as European were more inclined to and demanding to buy “real Native art”, Metis people would sell their art to Native people who would resell it to the Europeans. Sad in a way that their culture was not recognized. And it also caused confusion as to the origins of bead work.

Nonetheless, Metis people were known as the “Flower Beadwork people” They would often do symmetrical floral patterns on a dark background (dark blue and black being the most common) using glass seed beads. They would even decorate their horse and saddle. Their work was traded all over North America and Europe. The floral bead work was used on anything they would wear like jackets, boots, moccasins, gloves, pants and vests. The floral bead work became synonym to the Metis people and a source of pride. They would also do floral silk embroidery, which they were introduced to by the Ursuline nuns (from Europe).

Meaning and themes in the Metis bead work

Beadwork on moosehide

Beadwork on Moose Hide, Alaska, Nov 2014

Some might wonder what the meaning of the bead work is. Well the floral designs are usually connected with stems as on the picture on the right. It is also at times influenced by the Ojibway principle of always representing four different parts of the plant, or four stages of vegetation. For example, the bead work will often include seed, leaves, buds and fruits or flowers. Or stems, leaves, buds and flowers.

If you think about it for a second it makes sense. Indeed, a lot of principles within the Native culture come in 4. Think of the four quadrants of the medicine wheel, representing our four sides, the four stages of life, the four directions. This would be the Metis equivalent if you will. Metis people are also taught to bead a mistake in their work to protect them from vanity. As only the Creator can make something perfect.

Alternatively, you will also sometimes see an X design in the pattern, again representing something similar to the concept of the four cardinal points, the four directions. However, not all designs are symmetrical. As long as they are balanced, just like the female and male energies balance each other. Reconciling opposites to find harmony.

If you take a look at the tobacco bag above, you will be able to see that it contains four quadrants, all connected by the stem. You will also see the out of place orange bead on the top left flower, the “mistake”.

The Metis Octopus bag

Octopus bag

Octopus bag

Yes that is a weird name. But if you look at the one on the right, I think the name will make sense to you. Octopus bags were originally known as “fire bags” as Metis people would use them to carry flint and steel to start fires. They also carried ammunition, tobacco and pipes. They are based on the animal skin bags originally made by the Algonquins (I won’t post a picture here….You can pretty much imagine an animal as a bag and that would be it). The fire bags are thought to originate from the Lake Winnipeg area and migrated as far as to the Tlingit people of the Northwest coast. And well the bag had 8 legs or pendants or 4 double pendants and became known as the octopus bag. With time, the octopus bag migrated to the Red River Settlement and then the Northern Cree. Before long, it was a hit!

I think it certainly looks cool and I could see myself having one. I tried hard to find where can one buy Metis beaded bags. However, they are not easy to find, especially, as I mentioned above, the origins of the bags are not always clear. You can check out this Etsy page for beaded bags, including medicine bags that I personally have (this one for example). Or try a local Metis artist. I am lucky to have one near where I live. I have mentioned him before (go in my Resources section), you can check him out here. I leave you with those 2 wonderful octopus bags 🙂

All my Relations

 

Metis octopus bag

Octopus bag

Beadwork by Lawrence Barkwell

For more info on the Metis People, their work and history, see this Amazon link.

Native American Bandolier Bag

The Bandolier Bag

Seminole bandolier bag

Seminole bandolier bag

Hello everyone!

I recently learned more about those wonderful, beautifully beaded Native American bags, called bandolier bags. I mean the details and amount of work on those bags are just incredible! Just like the  Seminole bandolier bag on the right. One can safely assume that numerous hours were spent on beading this bag… Let’s look at the origins of the bandolier bag.

 

Origins of the Bandolier bag

Where do those beautiful bags come from? Well most of them were made in the second half of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th century. But some are still made today. Natives from the Great Lakes region (some ended up being traded to Plains nations later on) originally copied them from bags carried by European soldiers (they would put their ammunition in them). They originally were solely decorative and did not have any openings. With time, a slit was added. They were made by women for men to wear during ceremonies and dances. The Bandolier bag is then a ceremonial bag in a sense. It is not meant to be used in every day life to carry your things.

So what is the Bandolier bag for?

obijwe bandolier bag

Ojibwe bandolier bag

As one can see the Native American bandolier bags are quite ornate. The beadwork on them is exquisite and glass seed beads were originally used by the women making them. Wool, velvet or leather were the chosen materials for the bag itself. Women either used spot stitching (one bead added at a time using a piece of thread) or loom beading (using a wooden loom). it was labor intensive and basically a labor of love! Just look at the details on the Obijwe bag on the right!

Loom deaded bandolier bag

Loom beaded bandolier bag

spot stitched bag

Spot stitched bandolier bag

Designs did vary slightly (the Cree-Ojibwe bags being somewhat slimmer) but bandolier bags were meant to be worn by men, the beaded strap placed diagonally across the shoulders (so it would sit at hip level). They were considered to be an object of prestige and status, especially if a man wore two at a time, like the men in the pictures below. It becomes a decorative piece in itself. Just gorgeous!

bandolier bags in ceremonies

Men at a dance, wearing bandolier bags

Men at a dance, wearing bandolier bags

Different styles

Looking at different pictures, one can notice that different nations have different bead work or slightly different styles of bandolier bags. Below you can see the Cree bag on the right (quite slimmer and with the typical Cree 5 petal flowers on it) and the Shawnee bandolier bag on the left (quite larger, straps being wider).

Shawnee bandolier bag

Shawnee bandolier bag

cree bandolier bag

Cree bandolier bag-19th century

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the Cherokee bag below is just unique in its details and tassels and ornate. While the Chippewa (Ojibwe) and Cree nations often have similar designs, the bag below is certainly one of a kind.

Chippewa bandolier bag

Chippewa bandolier bag

cherokee bandolier bag

Cherokee bandolier bag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I thought I would mention that the Metis nation is also known for its beading work on bags and clothing. Some say that Cree and Ojibwe nations were introduced to beading by the Metis. It will be the topic of an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

For those of you who would like to have a bandolier bag, you can still find some today. However, you will have to pay, as they will be vintage. You can check out this Etsy shop for great ones. Another Etsy shop also has great options as well as other native authentic products.

All my Relations


Bonanza-Review of an eclectic great site for Native American products



Native American products on Bonanza-a review

Hi everyone!

If you visit this site on a regular basis, you will know by now that I am a fan of the Etsy website…For example, you can see this post about it. I like the fact that the site supports individual artists, including Native American artists (or artists selling Native American inspired products), giving them a platform to share their art. And you can literally spend quite a few hours browsing through the diverse products. But enough about Etsy! This post is about another site: Bonanza!!

Continue reading

My journey on the Native American Red Road

The Native American Red Road: how I got on it

red road

Hello everyone!

If you follow my Facebook page, you might have learned a few things about me over the past few weeks. For example, I attend ceremonies, such as healing circles and Pow wows and include Native practices in my day to day life. I am open about my practices and absolutely love looking at older portraits of our ancestors. I integrate my beliefs in my posts on this site and in every day that I live.

That’s just a summary of who I am. I believe in trusting those we share moments with, and who provides us with information and recommends us products. So…this post is about me 🙂 It is about my journey, and what brought me to today. You can also read a short summary of my life on my About me page.

Psychology and spiritualitypsychology sign

First off, my name is Emily. However, I was once given, a Native name that I believe was suiting at the time. I was given the name Fruit Fly by a person dear to me. At first, I thought what you are probably all thinking right now “what the hell?”. Well, I looked it up, as my knowledge of fruit flies was pretty much limited to thinking they were annoying insects that reproduce like crazy. Turns out that, according to a British study, the mother fruit fly is especially soothing and calming to her babies. The mother fruit fly is often then seen as caring and soothing difficult babies. Of course, a fruit fly is also annoying at times but is a rather complex organism. The article I originally found over 2 years ago now, I cannot find anymore. Actually, it was a pretty weird experience as I was only able to find that article the day I looked up the meaning of a fruit fly….I obviously asked the person who gave me that name and that person told that the name just came to them when thinking of me. I guess I could have been offended by that but I chose to be honored.

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball…

So yes, I guess I am a bit weird…. However, that encounter, that name, put me on a path that started out as hell and turned into a beautiful life lesson and road. You see, before that moment, now close to 2 1/2 years ago, I thought I had my life all figured out. I knew exactly what I was going to do for the rest of my life and every step I needed to take to get there. Up until then, I was sure of everything. My background is in psychology you see. I have worked with every population there is, from young kids to older adults, to families and men and women in prison. I have worked in school districts, private practice, and jails. And I wanted to spend my life studying those individuals incarcerated to see why they were so different, what their thinking was like. I wanted to study their mind. Problem is that I have always been a caring person but somehow thought that I would not care about those individuals, that they were bad while the outside world was good.

And then I actually sat down with them and listened to their story. And saw that the world is not all black and white. I have said it many times but we all have our story. We all have the grey wolf and the white wolf inside of us. They did and so did I. And so do you. Sometimes, life circumstances, bad decisions make us feed the grey wolf. That’s what I used to say to my clients “your actions brought you to prison, not who you are”. Sometimes, the life we were born into is shitty. Sorry, but I have also learned to be direct working in jails…However, our past might influence who we are today but it does not determine who we become. We have that ability within ourselves to heal, to heal that wounded child that can be in there. Because we become adults, adults who can live a full healthy life.

red path

But I somewhat digress…

I guess what I am trying to say is that working within that environment introduced me to a whole new world that society likes to shield us from. It opened up my eyes and helped me let go of my prejudices. Does everyone succeed at having a healthy and productive life once out of jail? No. Is help provided in jails to address the long history of trauma, including intergenerational and historical trauma that most inmates have? No. You tell me if that’s logical. I know not every one of you might agree with what I am saying. But working within that environment also introduced me to the concept of intergenerational trauma (a post is coming on the topic) encountered by most inmates but especially Native American or Aboriginal inmates. And it also introduced me to the traditional ways of healing that trauma. It introduced me to the beliefs, the traditions, the practices. I worked with Elders, helping them, learning their teachings, learning the story of the Native people.

When I first learned about the stealing of the land, the introduction of alcohol on reserves, of residential schools, I cried. Why? Because I felt it. I felt the pain that was caused. And as weird as it might seem, I felt at home with that pain and every practice that I was introduced to. It was familiar to me. As though I had lived that way in a different life. And I have come to believe that maybe I have. So every chance I got, I spent learning about the cultures, the traditions, I asked questions, I learned, and worked with Elders. And slowly but surely, I integrated those practices in my personal life. I began practicing what I was preaching to clients. When I hear Native music, it touches my soul. I get chills and I often tear up. Because I feel it in my core. When I see dancing, I smile. It makes me happy. It touches my soul and I think that is how we truly connect, through our souls. I have had so many “weird experiences” that I could not explain, that I have come to accept that sometimes, the explanation is spiritual.

The Red Roadfoot tattoo All my Relations

I embraced the Native way of life. I committed to it, even if at times, it was a way of life that was hard to understand for those around me. It was not a matter of fact way of life, it was not a scientific based way of life, it was a spiritual way of life. And when I commit to something, I commit to it! Hence the foot tattoo 🙂 It took me a while to see it, to see the change in me. Until recently, I was told “Emily you look happy, you look calm”, even if I had every stressor known to man in my life at the time. And I saw that yes I was happy. I was free. Why? Because I was not alone. I had relations all around me, ancestors with me and the Creator. I smudge daily more than once because not only the smell of sage is comforting to me, it is a moment to be thankful and reflect.

smudging

My smudge kit

I committed to a healing circle, I attend Pow wows, and I respect others. I help others without expecting something in return. When I get angry or irritated by something in my day to day life, I take a breath and ask myself if it is really important. Is it easy? No! Tonight, for example, a lot of things were irritating me. But I know that it is because I did not sleep enough last night and it is not the other’s fault. So as before I would have gotten worked up about it, now I let it go. I pray for those around me, I pay attention to my dreams and their messages, I respect nature and everything in this world. Because we are all connected. I also changed course career wise, beginning courses in Native psychotherapy and complex trauma. And I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. It used to annoy me soooo much when people would tell me that “everything is as it is supposed to be”). But I know it’s true.

Our ancestors were here before us. They showed us the way to live and heal. The Elder leading my healing circle once said “this is how our ancestors did it. They sat in a circle and they talked about things. That’s how they solved things and healed”. And I could not agree more. There is honesty, truth, and a realness to the native way of life. The land gives us what we need. We all return to it when we cross over to the spirit world. So I am thankful for that land, for Father Sky and Grand Father Sun and Grand mother Moon. None of this is scientific. And I am perfectly okay with it.

All my Relations

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Traditional Metis sash

Traditional Metis sash and its meaningmetis sash

Hello everyone!

So far I have discussed mostly the Native American cultures, beliefs and practices. Today I would like to focus on what is now considered a distinct Aboriginal group in Canada, the Metis people.

What is Metis?

For those of you who have never heard that term, it refers to people with mixed ancestry, typically European and Indigenous. Oftentimes, it was the mother who was Aboriginal (oftentimes Cree, Ojibwe, or Algonquin). Some Metis people come from French European “voyageur” fathers and some come from Anglophone fathers. Today, however, no distinction is made and they all constitute the Metis nation. However, it does explain why many Metis people have a French last name.

Today the Metis nation defines the Metis territory as the three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Northern United States. Although it might appear to have been chosen randomly, this territory originates from what is called the Red River settlement. The Red River settlement takes its name from the colony that settled in 1812 on the Red and Assiniboine rivers, whose boundaries crossed what is now part of Manitoba and North Dakota. For more information on the colony and settlement, see this site. For now, just know that the Metis people originated in part from Western Canada expanding from the Red River settlement. Nonetheless, some will say that due to a majority of French speaking people in Quebec, Metis people are also found in the province of Quebec. Nevertheless, others will argue that there are no pure Metis people in eastern Canada. Indeed, being of mixed ancestry does not equate being Metis. Being Metis refers to possessing a singular cultural heritage of dual ancestry or origins. In other words, a unique culture was born from the union of two ancestries, European and Aboriginal. If one’s heritage includes this unique cultural aspect, then one is Metis. I do not want to go into more details about the history of the Metis culture in this post, but for a more detailed history, see this site. Rather, I would like to discuss the traditional Metis sash and its meaning.

Metis sash

Metis sash

The Traditional Metis Sash

Winter Carnival

Most of you might not know what the Metis sash is or what it represents. The sash is the one pictured above. For those of you who are from Quebec, like me, you could have thought all this time that the sash was called the Winter carnival sash or “la ceinture flechee”. Indeed, every winter, Quebec city has a Winter carnival, with snow and ice sculptures, a parade, an ice castle, eating maple syrup on the snow, etc. And a mascot named “Bonhomme Carnival”, which is basically a big snowman. That would be him below. Notice what he is wearing?? Yep that would be a variation of the Metis sash. Moreover, if you are in Quebec city during the carnival, you will encounter numerous individuals wearing the sash. But as a child, I never learned (or at least I really do not recall learning) about the significance of the sash. So the sash became known as the winter carnival sash.

winter carnival

Bonhomme Carnaval

Real significance of the sashmetis sash up close

However, as you might have guessed by now, as my post is about the Metis nation and the Metis sash, the winter carnival sash is really the Metis sash. It took me 35 years to learn the real meaning of the sash, but it was recently  explained to me in one of my courses. To know more about the program I am enrolled in, see my previous post about Aboriginal focusing oriented therapy. As one can see, the Metis sash has numerous colors. And each color has a different meaning. If you look at the picture, you will see red, green, gold, blue, white and at the end of it (in the fringe part), there is a tiny bit of black. Let’s look at the meaning of each color.

The color red is the most prominent color in the sash. The red represents the lives that were lost over the years. It represents the blood that has flowed and has been washed away. But at the same time, the Metis people are still here today, so it represents their strength. The green in the sash represents fertility. Fertility from the womb, the birth process but also from the land. What is given to us by the land and by the life givers, aka women. The gold signifies prosperity and the resilience of the people. Their will to continue their cultural heritage and pass it down to future generations. Their resilience through trauma. The blue represents spirituality, our connectedness to one another, the “all my relations” part. Similarly, the white signifies our connection to the Creator, to the land, to the sky and to water. Finally, the little black thread at the end of the sash represents colonization. The loss of culture, lives, ways of life. However, as it was pointed out to me, the black thread is alone and tiny compared to the rest of the sash. People were there way before and continued to be there way after. It was part of history but it was not the whole history or story. 

The Metis symbol

metis sash and symbol

Metis sash and symbol

Finally, the Metis people also have a symbol, which you can see on the sash on the right. Yes, some people would say “it’s the infinity symbol”. And they would be right, it is. However, it also has another meaning within the Metis culture. Actually, it as two. The symbol represents the joining of two cultures as well as the existence of people forever. 🙂

 

Finally, if you would like to have your own sash, you can certainly have one. You can buy them on here on Amazon.ca, as well as other related products such as books.Or here on Amazon.com.

All my Relations

 

 

Native American Tattoos

Great Native American tattoos

Hi all! If you follow me on Facebook, you know I sometimes post pictures of cool looking and well drawn Native American tattoos. You might not all agree, but I see those tattoos as works of art. Some are so detailed and realistic, you would think you are looking at a picture or a painting. Tattoos can be a sensitive topic, I am aware of that. As not everyone likes them or agrees with them. As with everything, I try to keep an open mind. Speaking from personal experience, tattoos often mean something special and unique to the individual. Yes, some will decide to get a cool looking picture they like tattooed on them. However, I don’t know about you but the tattoos below seem to have been thought through and to have a special meaning to the ones sporting them. I know mine all have a meaning, representing, for example, different times in my life, symbolizing my values, my beliefs or the struggles I have been through. Therefore, reminding me of my strength, as I am here today. I survived. Although they might offend some, they tell a story. A story that I like to be reminded every day. A friend of mine gave me a good analogy not too long ago. It went something like that (I modified it slightly). They say that our body should be our temple. Then what’s wrong with putting a bit of paint on it? 😉

If you do not like tattoos, enjoy the pictures below for what they also are. Art. Art depicting a story, a past, values and beliefs. Enjoy!

P.S. Looking at the images below, you might have some questions. Feel free to comment below! Also for my post on a great chief and warrior, click here. For my post on dreamcatchers and their meaning, click here. For my post on women warrior and the women’s warrior song, click here.

Indian headress tattoo

Indian headress tattoo

Bear-woman tattoo

Bear-woman tattoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

woman warrior

woman warrior

Women warrior tattoo

Woman warrior tattoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

native american indian girl-look at the details!

native american indian girl-look at the details!

Woman's shoulder dreamcatcher tattoo

Woman’s shoulder dreamcatcher tattoo

 

dreamcatcher on leg

Dreamcatcher on leg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamcatcher on the inside of the arm

Dreamcatcher on the inside of the arm

Braid and feather tattoo-Very unique

Braid and feather tattoo-Very unique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Coast style bird tattoo

West Coast style bird tattoo

look at all the details!

look at all the details!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native chief portrait tattoo

Native chief portrait with animals

Indian chief with crow

Indian chief with crow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back piece

Back piece

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