Monthly Archives: June 2015

Aboriginal day in Canada

Aboriginal day in Canada: its significance

Hello all and happy Aboriginal day! Yes on this June 21, it is Aboriginal day in Canada! A day

teepees

Teepees were erected in the park I went to today

dedicated to the traditions and culture of the First Nations people. In this post, I want to explore more in depth the meaning and significance of the day, my experience with it.Β  So here we go!

What is Aboriginal day?

Well according to the Government of Canada, Aboriginal day, June 21, is “a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples”. As those are the three recognized groups of Aboriginal people in Canada. For more on Metis people, see this post of mine.

Each Nation, group, tribe, however you choose to call it, though, has its own traditions, stories, language and they all need to be celebrated. Thus Aboriginal day is a day of celebrating heritage, traditions, culture, beliefs and language of all Aboriginal people.

national aboriginal day

How did it begin?

Well if you ask me, it is about time there is a dedicated day of the year to the original people of the land, to the Indigenous people of this land. The ones who were there long before Canada was “discovered”. But the process officially began over 30 years ago, in 1982, when the Assembly of First Nations (then called the National Indian Brotherhood, a cool name if you ask me) asked for the creation of a day dedicated to the First Nations people of Canada. They then called it the National Aboriginal Solidarity day (another cool name if you ask me).

Following suit the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples also made a case for a day designated to First Nations people in 1995. And…. finally, the Sacred Assembly, a national conference of both Native and non-Native people asked for the same, a holiday to recognize the contributions of the Indigenous people of this country. FINALLY, 14 years after the National Indian Brotherhood made a plea, National Aboriginal day was proclaimed in 1996 by then Governor General Romeo Leblanc. A mere 14 years to come to a decision. That was quick….not

Little one at Aboriginal day

Little one at Aboriginal day

That’s all fine and dandy but why June 21?

Ah good question there! Well June 21 is the Summer Solstice and within the Native culture, every change of season is important and recognized. Especially the solstice and equinox. The Summer Solstice is when the “light overcomes the darkness”. If we think about the Medicine wheel it is the change in the south direction. The south direction is a direction associated with adolescence, growth, of growing outward, as we find ourselves. And think about everything that grows in the summer time. Mother Earth is at her fullest, resources from the Earth are plentiful, the harshness of winter is over. It is a time to celebrate. And Aboriginal people know how to celebrate!

first nations dancers

So across the country you will find events with drumming, dancing, singing, story telling, arts and crafts and of course Bannock! I went to one event today and you should have seen the line to get bannock! Holy crap, it was almost a kilometer long! But again, why was there only one bannock stand? Like really, come on people! So no I did not get bannock but got a whole bunch of cool art directly from the artist, Mike Dangeli, a very talented West Coast artist (Nisga’a,Tlingit and Tsimshian Nation) with nice west coast style tattoos. Click on his name to know more about him πŸ™‚ I will make the office one heck of a cool Native office!

west coast style tattoo

Example of West Coast style tattoo

 

Β 

What is your experience with Aboriginal day? Any favorites? Or is this new to you? Share below πŸ™‚

aboriginal day

 

 

 

The power of menstruation: Native American Moon time ritual



The Power of menstruation: Native American Moon time ritual

Hello all!

Man and woman looking at the moon

Caspar David Friedrich-Man and Woman looking at the moon

Pretty sure some of you saw the title of this post and were like: “hmmm ok, what is she talking about?” or “ewwww not reading this”. Well hang in there for a sec! It will be interesting I promise! So yes this post is about a woman’s time of the month. The power of menstruation. But from a Native perspective. Within the native culture, women’s periods are called being in one’s moon time. Referring to the monthly moon cycle. So let’s look at what that all means and the beauty that was seen in that time of the month. A beauty we have somewhat lost in the modern world.

What is moon time?

So yes, the moon time is the time of the month the woman gets her periods and it does refer to the cycle of the moon. In most Native cultures, it is considered to be a sacred time. A time of purification, of inner purification. And as a woman, I can say I understand that. In one’s moon time, there is a sense of being purified, of getting rid of some sort of energy or negativity. Moon time for a woman would be considered a ceremony in itself. It would represent the power of birth. The power of life. Hence why women in the Native culture are often called lifegivers. And that’s one hell of a gift to have! When our ancestors were alive, men would literally leave women alone (who could go in a moon lodge) as they feared their power at that time of the month! As though we turned into witches for a week πŸ˜‰

moon woman

What is the story of the moon?

So why go with the cycle of the moon? Why call it moon time? Well I will relate a version of a story that I once heard. As you know, within the Native culture, natural elements are our relations. We have Father Sky, Mother Earth, Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon. Therefore, in this case, the story involves Grandmother Moon.

So a long time ago, women were considered powerful in that they held in a lot of their family emotions, their joy and happiness but also their sadness and sorrow. They were the life-force of the family. However, sometimes that would become exhausting. As taking in all the emotions and heartache would be tiring. However, the Creator had created the woman to take on the burdens of the family.

So one day, the woman went to nature to try to find help and yelled out because the burden was too much. The Raven heard her and went to see her, asking her why she was crying. The woman stated she was overwhelmed with the burdens of her family. She added loving her family but not being able to take everything in anymore. Raven said that he understood her pain, as he felt it too and went to ask Grandmother Ocean for help. Grandmother Ocean offered to wash away the pain of the women who would come to her but that she could not help those farther away. So she went to ask for help from her sister Grandmother Moon.Moon

So Grandmother Moon said that she represented the feminine power and would send the waters of Grandmother Ocean into the women so her power would reach them. Once every moon cycle, Grandmother Ocean shall come into the women and purify them. And she did just that. Every month, there is thus a time when the women embody the power of Grandmother Moon and are cleansed by the waters of Grandmother Ocean.

I don’t know about you but this story makes my moon time seems more tolerable than it is! It makes me see things from a different perspective. One in which great power comes into me and every woman, and a cleansing takes place.



 

So what should a woman do and not do in her moon time?

Good question. According to some, this is a time of inward purification. A time of prayer, of actually asking the moon for guidance and assistance. And as this is a time of purification, women have to be careful not to take in negativity. Not taking in negativity from others around them, not taking in their burdens. And well, that is easier said than done. But it needs to be. Grandmother Moon is there for guidance. Tonight, I will actually go sit outside with the moon.

Further, it is very important that women in their moon time do NOT participate in ceremonies. Including touching or handling any sacred objects such as pipes or medicine. Menstruation signifies the power of birth, ceremonies often signify a spiritual rebirth. The two do not mix. Ceremonies are also about creating outward energy while moon time is about inner prayer. A lot of ceremonies also involve the sun, while moon time obviously involve the moon. Thus moving in a different direction than the rest of the participants.

moon

And thus why I could not attend the sweat I was scheduled to attend today. As it would have been disruptive and a lack of respect for everyone else. And as I just discussed earlier, women tend to take in the energy of others. One can only imagine what one would pick up in a sweat lodge when in her moon time. I am already very sensitive to others and pick up of lot from others. So staying away from the sweat lodge, which has the shape of a womb and represents a spiritual rebirth, was the right decision. I was disappointed not to go but going was never an option. There will be other sweats.

Hope you enjoyed reading about moon time and the story of Grandmother Moon. Had you heard about any of this before? Let me know below!

 

 

 

 

Native American Bannock Bread

Native American Bannock bread

Hello all!

Well another busy week over. I have been thinking all week about possible topics for an article. Then, it dawned on me: Emily, write about bannock! The bread of the Native people, the bread of our ancestors. And such a simple bread to make. So let’s take a look at the history of bannock, and at my personal recipe for it πŸ™‚

First off, what is bannock?

Bannock is also know as fry bread. That’s it. Done. Bannock is fry bread πŸ˜‰ Ok ok, let’s talk about it some more. The word Bannock actually stems from the old English word bannuc which meant a morsel. More so, it has a Scottish origin of all places! If you read novels set in Old England or Scotland, you might read about the bannock they were eating.

bannock

bannock

Thus, bannock or fry bread is not exclusive to the Aboriginal people and can be found across different nations of the world, including Africa for example. I have a friend whose family is from South Africa. The first time I made bannock, he said: “OMG, fry bread like my mom used to make! But it is not as salty as hers”. So different locations, different recipes!

Bannock of the Aboriginal people

So how did bannock make it to Canada? Well it is not all that clear. But there is some evidence that it was eaten by Europeans fur traders when they arrived in Canada. It was then known under different names: bannock, bannaq, galette and made with flour, water and sometimes fat. Whereas, the Scottish version was mostly made with oats or barley. However, at the time of the fur traders, flour was not that easily acquired in America. Corn flour or plants rather than wheat flour would have been more easily found. Therefore, the belief that bread was not available before the arrival of Europeans has not been demonstrated. Instead, it is more plausible that bread was made by the Indigenous people but using natural ingredients (may it be lichen or corn) rather than wheat. As flour was a luxury item, not readily used but rather saved for special occasions. Preparing bannock on an open fire (either in the ashes of the fire or in a frying pan over the fire). I would say that Europeans learned from the cooking of the people of the land, how they used the land to gather strength and nutrients.

bannock sandwich

bannock sandwich-looks so good!

Why is it called fry bread then?

As I just said, bannock used to be prepared as big biscuit and baked in a big frying pan or propped on sticks by the fire. Or even wrapped around sticks. It was made very simply with water, flour, salt and a bit of fat (lard or bacon grease). Over time, although it was still prepared in a skillet, people began adding oil to fry it. It was either baked as a big biscuit or cut into wedges or rounds. Or even in the shape of doughnuts! As for the recipe, around the mid 1800’s, it became a tad more elaborate. Butter, buttermilk, baking powder were sometimes added. Nothing fancy by today’s standards but more elaborate back then considering their nutrition.

However, as it is fry bread, even though it has been a staple of the Native culture, a big part of traditions and part of the Indigenous people’s nutrition, it should not be eaten every day. Yes although it is not soaked in oil, it is still cooked in it. Yes technically you could have it baked in the oven. But really, once one has had fry bannock, there is no going back! Alright, now on to my personal bannock recipe. Although everyone says their recipe is the best (big competition here!), mine really is πŸ™‚

my bannock

My bannock πŸ™‚

My bannock recipe

3 cups flour

1 1/2 cup warm water

a pinch of salt

one tsp of yeast

one tsp baking powder

Mix warm water and yeast and add to dry ingredients. Knead in a ball and covered in a bowl and let rest for 45 minutes. This will give time for the yeast to activate. Roll out (about 1/3 inch thick) and cut into wedges. Drop in hot oil and fry about 2 minutes max per side. Or until brown and bubbles form. Sponge off on a paper towel. The bannock will be all fluffy and light. Eat with lard (as our ancestors did), with peanut butter and jam (sold at every Pow wow I have been to), or rolled in sugar and cinnamon. I have made it a tradition to bring my own bannock at work and give it to clients. I now get requests on how they want it (“you should make it with sugar and cinnamon”)!. They say food brings people together. It is especially true of bannock πŸ™‚

bannock

All my Relations

 

 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission: in search of justice and healing

Truth and Reconciliation Commission: a journey in healing

Hello all

This week in Canada was a significant one for First Nations people, the Indigenous people of Canada. It was a week of remembering, making public history and healing. Indeed, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made public its findings and shared them with all Canadians. But wait what is the TRC you ask? Let’s look at the commission that made public a part of history that most Canadians are not aware of.

Why Truth and Reconciliation?

Hmmmmm why is truth and reconciliation needed? Well, because of centuries of unfairness, of injustice against the Native people of the land, of Turtle Island. What am I talking about? More specifically, I am talking about a part of Canadian (and USA) history that most of us did not learn in school. Residential schools. A part of history that most of us do not know about or do not feel connected to. “I had nothing to do with it”. Well, actually all Canadians had something to do with it. Residential schools (RS) were an government initiative in collaboration with the catholic church to “tame the savages”. An occasion to save the child and kill the indian. An occasion to make every child who attended hate their own culture and language. As well as a place of abuse of every kind.

It is reported that one out of 25 children who went to RS died in RS. Just about the same ratio as Canadian soldiers who died in Word War II. 150 000 children attended RS, hundred of thousands of families saw their kids being taken away in cattle wagons, in trucks, helpless while they drove away. Mothers trying to hide their children without success. Some having attended RS themselves, knowing full well what was to come for their young ones.

Granted there might have been some good intentions behind RS. Some. Such as providing an education to Native children. However, the end result was generations of Native people abused, ridiculed and punished for speaking their language or practicing their traditions. To the point of hating those traditions themselves, to the point of hating being Indian. It is hard to believe that those schools were actually opened until 1996. But it is true. Leaving hundred of thousands of people in need of healing.

TRC logo

Hence the creation of the TRC….

In 2008, the Canadian government made a public apology to First Nations people for the suffering that took place in RS, for an initiative that absolutely and totally failed (my words not theirs). At the same time, the TRC was created. To look into what happened in order to get to the truth. The members of the Commission interviewed thousands of survivors to get their story, to find out what their experience was like. And those stories are forever recorded.

Over the next six years, a series of events took place all over Canada. Truth and Reconciliation weeks all over. Weeks during which survivors got to sit down together to share. Sharing circles. Open to everyone who wanted to support. Not just listen as passive participants, but rather as active listeners, there to support, understand and be there to get to the truth, and continue listening no matter how hard it is to.

truth and reconciliation

I was one of those active participants, who sat and supported in Vancouver, BC in September 2013. It brought tears to my eyes to hear the stories, to hear the numbers the survivors were called while at RS (numbers rather than names were used). Mixed with the smell of smudge, the sound of drums. A place where trauma was discussed but also a place of healing.

Those weeks were just part of the dialogue that took place over the years covering the TRC mandate. A mandate that came to an end this week. An emotional week filled with grief, sadness but also happiness and pride. RS were classified as having been places of “cultural genocide” (that in itself deserves a standing ovation), a place children were sent to lose their identity and culture and at times, die. Many who left their lives in RS were never even identified formally, as they just “disappeared”. How can an apology from the Prime Minister ever be enough?

What is next?native american smudging

What is next is a very long report from the TRC recording all the stories of the survivors they have interviewed. A report containing findings and recommendations for the Canadian government and population. So that healing can take place, so that reconciliation can happen with what happened. So that awareness is increased and so that no one says “I had nothing to do with it” anymore. It’s not about placing the blame on anyone, it’s about reparation, recognition and healing.

What are some of the recommendations? More resources invested in the missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women of Canada. A commitment to eliminate the over-representation of First Nations People in jails. The creation and funding for new Aboriginal education legislation, closing the gap for Native people. The creation of a commemorative holiday for the survivors of RS. The implementation of health-care rights for Aboriginal people. And so on. Yay, yay and yay! Finally!

I think the TRC opened the Pandora box that was RS. What might have been swept under the rug in the past is now out in the open. And after centuries of abuse being ignored or hidden, it feels good to have things in the open. Does it repair what happened, does it make it okay? Of course not. But it is a beginning. Just a beginning. Recognition that healing is needed. And we all need to participate for that to happen.

healing

Finally, I urge you to look at the TRC website. Many interesting videos to watch. So much to learn on that site.

And a great article for my US friends:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/05/native-american-boarding-schools_n_7513310.html

All my Relations

 

Sand Creek Massacre: The injustice that affected women and children

Sand Creek Massacre: The injustice that affected women and children

Hello all!

I have been relatively absent this week on my site, as an infection of some sort left me with no energy and a very tenacious cough. If you follow my Facebook page you will have seen some posts about intergenerational trauma, residential schools and healing and reconciliation. More to come in another post. But for today, I want to continue talking about the history of trauma and genocides the Native people have gone through. Oftentimes, in the name of land, of who would have the most of it. So let’s explore an event that is called the Sand Creek Massacre.

sand creek massacre

Before 1864

The Era

Let’s place a bit of context around the massacre. Turtle Island was already in a full on undeclared war for the land. The US Army and the US government were on a mission to get the land from the Indigenous people. Thousands of Cherokees had already been displaced and forced off their land during what is now referred to as the Trail of Tears in 1830. Then President Andrew Jackson approved the Indian Removal Act, which basically allowed him to remove any tribes living east of the Mississippi River. They say about 45 000 First Nation people were removed from their home, forced to take a journey on a treacherous terrain. Many left their life behind and later lost it out of hunger, fatigue, exhaustion or sickness. Jackson’s Indian Removal Act marked the beginning of the Removal Era.

Indeed, disputes over land were rampant. This was before the Indian Act of 1876, which officially confined Native people on reserves, an experience they never had before. As to them, there was no need for reserves. There was just land, their land. Why put boundaries on a land that was theirs, right?Β 

Lindneaux painting of the massacre

Lindneaux painting of the Sand Creek Massacre

Well a series of treaties followed, which promised numerous things to Native people, only to screw them over later on. Sorry, but there is no other way to say it. In 1861, another treaty was written with the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations. The treaty of Fort Wise. As expected, the treaty’s result was land taken away from the Cheyenne and Arapaho, land that was given to them with previous treaties. What were they left with you ask? About 1/13th of their previous land. Why did they sign it then? Well, remember the context here. Chiefs were trying to maintain peace and to keep their people safe. But of course, not everyone was happy about the results of the Fort Wise treaty. In particular, a group named Dog Solders was greatly opposed to having the White man living on indigenous land. Tension was high.

What happened in 1864

Keeping the land was important to Indian chiefs but so was trying to keep the peace. Enough blood had been shed (if only they knew it was only the beginning). So in September of 1864, Arapaho and Cheyenne chiefs met with the US military to seek peace east of Denver. You can see a group picture below.

delegation of Cheyenne and Arapaho

delegation of Arapaho and Cheyenne chiefs

However, things did not go as planned. Otherwise there would not have been a massacre…Therefore, in November of 1864, commander Colonel John Chivington, with the okay of governor John Evans began his attack on the Cheyenne tribes in Colorado. Simultaneously, more Cheyenne camps were being attacked in Kansas under the supervision of Lieutenant George S. Eayre.

Nevertheless, the Native people being peaceful people, still had peace on their mind. Chiefs Black Kettle and White Antelope tried to establish a truce. Both chiefs received advice to establish camp at a certain spot and to fly the American flag as a sign of peace. The flag was supposed to represent friendliness. On November 29, 1864, when most men were out hunting, the cavalry of Colonel Chivington and his 700 troops descended upon the camp.

National Park service brochure

National historic site brochure from the National Park Service

The result? About 150-200 Indians died that day. Even though a white flag was put up, and the men were out hunting, the massacre occurred. Most victims were women and kids. Moreover, many of them were mutilated and paraded down the streets of Denver by dear Colonel Chivington. Even though eyewitnesses obviously were present, no charges were ever laid.

Sand Creek Massacre

So there you have it. It feels like history repeating itself… The Native people, the Indigenous people of the land, wishing for peace and getting massacred instead. I am sorry if it sounds abrupt but it is what happened. And unfortunately, it was not over after the Sand Creek Massacre. More genocides were to come, including the very sad battle of Wounded Knee. We are talking years and years of stealing of the land, of deaths, unnecessary deaths, innocents losing their lives. We have come a long way since (with more misery in between) but there is some healing taking place. There is resilience in the people. So much of it. The Red Man will rise again. He is rising.

All my Relations

 

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: A follow up intro

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: A follow up intro

Hi all!

honoring

honoring the missing and murdered women

Today I want to share a short post about an important topic, which I have broached before and will cover more in depth later. I am struggling beginning this post, knowing how to, because it is an emotional one. One that hits close to home. Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in Canada. We discussed it yesterday in my course and it made me think about the situation more in depth. I also became aware of the organization “Walking with our sisters” honoring and commemorating through art, the missing Aboriginal women. Let’s discuss the topic using a wonderful documentary I just watched.

 

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