Monthly Archives: September 2015

Story time: my kokum’s favorite story

Story time: My kokum’s favorite story

Hello all,

Holy, has it been a busy week!! So sorry I did not have time to post much in the past little while. Crazy schedule these days 🙂 But I am back today with a new post, another part of the Red man’s story. A crazy part. But an example of some concepts and fears that were taught to some Native people by the church. And they were successful at times. Lots of fears were created from stories such as the one you will read about. It has been many decades (well like 3) since the Red man sat there listening to his grandmother telling this story but yet he remembers it as though it was yesterday. I spoke to him recently and he said something interesting. He said “that’s why I did or said all the things I did, because I was so sick and tired of hearing the same things over and over again from my grandmother. Either way I was going to get it so might as well do something to get it”. Okay here we go!

Growing up with my kokumbig and small moccasins

Growing up with my kokum was a frustrating trip. Nonsense, superstition and straight up verbal trash were a constant and normal. I would like to share with you a few of those frustrating lessons and how I responded to them, as the days were rare when my kokum did not go on a monotonous rant that would last for hours. Let’s start with her favorite one, one that after a good whipping or a sudden back hand across the face, I would hear over and over again. 

So my kokum began: “There was this young couple who never hit their kids. The kids would run, scream and holler around. In public, the little kids would hit their parents and embarrass them and still the parents would never hit them. Then one day, one of the kids died so they buried him. A few days after the funeral the parents went to visit the grave site and guess what they found?”

“What?” Even though I had heard this fucking stupid story a million times, I would always have to say something or risk a sudden flash of furious violent rage. “What, what, what, what, stupid, stupid, stupid, shut up, shut up, shut up!” That’s what I would think while I had to sit quietly and listen to the bullshit story.

story time

And then the story got weirder

“When they visited the grave they found the child’s arm was flopping outside the grave!” “Can you believe it?” No I couldn’t believe it because it was the stupidest story I had ever heard, and the craziest.

But I said “Really, wow!”

“So the parents ran into the church to get the priest. They told the priest about the arm flopping outside the grave and asked him for help. The priest walked out of the church silently, the parents following behind. Without a word the priest went to a willow tree and broke off a branch. He handed the parents the branch and told them to whip the arm. So they did what the priest told them to do and guess what?”

“What?”

It killed me slowly each and every time I heard this story. By this time in the tale, I wanted to run and hide or run and do something, anything other than this, anything other than listen to this garbage assed stupid story.

And then the icing on the cake…

“The hand went back under the ground, it disappeared right back into the grave. The parents were shocked by what had just happened and asked the priest “what happened father?” Well the priest looked back at them and said “the kid’s arm was flopping out of the ground because you did not hit the child when he was alive. So it begged to be hit while he was dead. If you spare the child the rod, you do not love them. The child wanted to know that you loved him”. little boyBut it made my kokum feel better…

I know that this story made my kokum feel better about herself after she beat me up. This story was a parental precept that the church taught the Indian people to use when dealing with their young little ones. When I got older and could put my thoughts in good or good enough order anyways, I wrote to my kokum. I said to her “Do you remember the story you used to tell us all the time, the story about the child whose arm was sticking out of the ground? Well if my arm was sticking out of a grave or a hole in the ground, I would hope that you would grab my hand and pull me out instead of hitting my arm and burying me alive”. She never told me the story again, she never mentioned the letter.

As we have learned over time, the Red man has had a confusing and tumultuous relationship with his grandmother, who was mom to him. I agree that telling the story probably made his grandmother feel less guilty about beating the Red man up. He just told me “I have never seen my grandmother hit anyone like she hit me. But me, I would get it all the time”. What I noticed when he said that was that he said it with a smile in his voice. As though he was trying to hide the pain he really feels or somehow feel special as he was the “chosen one”. And I am saying this without any judgment. I just mean that our relationship with our caregivers are very complex, especially when the caregiver is abusive. And his kokum was very abusive. Yet he loved her so much. And as a kid, he heard the same crap over and over again. So he often acted out just to get away from it. Or maybe to feel as though he actually deserved all the abuse he received. But guess what, he never deserved it. But he did what he had to do to survive. You can learn more about his story here or here or heregrandparents

Anyone of you ever heard that story before? What are your thoughts? Comment below and I will answer 🙂

All my Relations

 

 

 

Intergenerational trauma: My mom and me-Part 2

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Intergenerational trauma: My mom and me-Part 2

Hello all

How are you all doing? Well tonight I am writing part 2 of a story of intergenerational trauma and abuse. The story of the Red man. Who has agreed to share it with all of you. In the hopes, maybe, that it will bring awareness to the First Nations people. To the struggles they face, and have faced for a very long time. For example you ask? Well, the history of horrendous abuse in residential schools that deprived kids of their culture, language and identity. Which often led to adults with limited social and parenting skills, as well as difficulties passing the traditions over to their own children. The whole families and communities need help. Not just one individual, not just one child, their whole family. In order to heal the child, we need to heal the family and the community. So tonight, let’s look at part 2. If you have not read Part 1, I encourage you to do so, as I will be picking up where I left off. Just want to warn that it might not be an easy read.

 

The one night in Moccasin Flats and the chaos that followed

So I believe we left it off here as the Red man was talking about his time with his mother:

Well, one day and one night, that is how long we all lived together in our little house in Moccasins Flats. My mother went out that night and never came home. I was 5 years old and I was babysitting already. I had never been free of adults before, I had never been on my own. We woke up early in the morning and my mother was MIA. But at the time we really did not care as we got to play with all the little children in the neighborhood. I got to play with the little boy who became one of my best friends that day. 

That carefree attitude was short-lived as when two of my aunts came snooping around, we knew it was all over. The troops showed up soon afterwards. My kokum and her minions, my aunts and uncles. I heard a barrage of obscenities all directed at my mother and a firm affirmative “I told you so”. Rage in rage out, she looked like a monster breathing hatred in and out. I felt something had changed as I could feel a sense of hurt emanating from her core. She thought that I had betrayed her and she knew I knew it and everyone else knew it too. There were a lot of people in the house but my kokum was the only person talking and the only one I was looking at.

native grandmother

 

“Dirty rotten son of bitches, they are all going to rot in hell. I am calling the welfare and he will be put in foster care. He will be better off living with white people. Go find that dirty rotten whore!” There were at least 10 children under the age of 10 and at least 8 or 10 adults, aunts and uncles and a boyfriend of one of my aunts. The children huddled in the living room crying. The thought of me being sent to a foster home and the terror of my kokum’s rage made the group of us kids hold each other for protection. The image of a car advertisement flashed in my mind, as it was my only reference to what white people were and looked like. A man in a suit, a woman in a dress and two little children standing next to their parents. The thought of leaving my cousins, uncles, and especially my aunts who showed me so much love, to leave them forever would be a nightmare. “They will take you away and nobody will ever see you again. Go find that whore”. Let’s imagine being 5 years old for a moment and hearing all of this coming from the person who we trust and love. The thought of losing everything he knew. I can picture him in the corner not moving, holding his breath.

scared child

And then they found her and it got worse…

So a posse of my uncles and aunts left and seemed to be gone for only a few minutes. When they came back, they had my mother with them. She kicked, she screamed and hollered like a wild animal. “Ooooch, no, help me, don’t, help me!” She was ushered into her bedroom, arms and legs tied to the old iron bed frame. Mary was stripped naked and tied to her bed. My kokum left the bedroom and returned holding a big butcher knife. Mary must have seen the huge blade in her hand as she walked back into the bedroom. “Noooooo, nooooo!” she screamed wildly. My own body went numb, as terror left me frozen in my place among my terrified circle of children. My eyes were riveted and I could not look away from the bedroom.

frightened child

“Smack smack, noooooo, help meeeee!” Mary screamed as the blade of the knife slapped her bare skin. “In the name of the Lord, I________you” said the mad woman matter of factly (he does not remember the exact work his kkokum said in that sentence). “Get me the holy water” “Nooooo!” Mary shrieked, as if the holy water was somehow poisonous and harmful. I am going to stop right there as I think I gave you a good idea of what I witnessed at an early age. I have seen the mad man firsthand. No words can really describe such trauma. I know he is leaving some of the story, the details out. Because it would be too much to read and too much to relive. Living it once at the age of 5 was enough. But in order to heal he also has to let it out, to let the story, the words, the feelings out. And all the memories recorded in his body. See this post in which I discuss the concept of body memory.

exorcism

 

And my kokum became mom

As a little boy I felt guilty for what happened to my mother. When she was untied, we left together. And she actually took me with her when she went to live with her new man. That only lasted a few days as my step-dad hated me instantly. “I want to go home” I cried. And my kokum came to pick me up asap. When we sat alone that day in the kitchen she said “that pig only thinks with her pussy. You might as well call me mom”. And from that day and on I called my kokum mom.

I will later share a few more horrific stories of my childhood with you all. You might hate my kokum for what she did to all of us and she did do a lot. But my intention is to show you why she did what she did. To understand why. There are two sides to every coin, two sides to every story and sometimes strength can be achieved through a treasure of pain and weakness. I do want to share those stories as they are the example of how our people were taught to treat each other by the very people who were there “to save their soul”. If the stories are too much for you to stomach, I understand.

It is really important for the Red man for you readers to know that he loved his kokum. He loved her very much. But also hated what she would do at times. That dichotomy, the love-hate relationship is still present in him. It is hard to accept that someone we love so much we can also hate at times. But that is present in many Native families. Because what was the alternative? Going to foster care? Although the Red man used to pray that he would be rescued by “nice white people” as a kid, it is also something he feared so much. Is taking the kid away from his family, his community, what he knows, his culture, the best? Or is healing the community and supporting the family better?

Beaver family

Where do we go now?

I want to transform the garbage that I grew up with into a treasure. I have no choice, that is just the way I am. I was born and raised to fight and fight is all I do. Sometimes to heal, you first have to feel the hurt (yours and others’). I would hope that I can give you enough truth to do something good for all the little bastards like me. As there is a little bit of me in every little bastard I see.

I think the ultimate goal of the Red man (and mine too I would say) is to help those kids, by not only helping them individually but also helping the families. By supporting them and helping them heal. As he said before, we will heal together or we won’t heal at all.

There you have it , another piece of the story. What did you think of part 2? Comment below 🙂

All my Relations

 

 

Intergenerational trauma: My mom and me-Part 1

Intergenerational trauma: My mom and me-Part 1

Hello all!

I hope your weekend was as great as mine was! I attended a Pow wow, you can see my Facebook page for videos of it. And a surprise visitor was also in attendance and filming for a documentary he was making. Nathaniel Arcand, actor in a few Native Canadian Tv series such as Heartland and more recently, Blackstone with the beautiful recently crowned Mrs. Universe, Ashley Callingbull. You can read more about her and the tv series, which focused on life on a Canadian reserve, here. I am in love with the show as I have been binge watching it for the past 2 days and was excited to see “Victor” at the Pow wow 🙂

Nathaniel Arcand

Nathaniel Arcand

Tonight, I am writing a post once again in collaboration with the Red man. Another part of his personal story, that I think many Native people will be able to relate to. The stereotypes, the stigma, the violence, the abandonment, the fear of the foster system, the unknown of the white world. All a common thread within many Native families and stories. As I read his words, I could feel that they were written from the heart and it touched me deeply. I can feel the scared, confused and at times excited, little 5 year old boy that he was. It was difficult for him to write but it is needed for healing to happen. As the story is quite lengthy, it will be a two part article, with part 2 coming in 2 days. You will see my comments and additions in the text in italics.

Little bastards like me

Political, economic, historical, physical, you name it, the Indigenous people of the land suffered every type of violence. A cycle of violence that starts at the top of a system and ends at the bottom. I was close to the bottom of this chain of violence and eventually I was. When one does not have a father, one will create one. That’s the way Nietzsche described what I am about to discuss here. Because, yes I am a bastard on top of everything else. I do not know how great the social stigma of being a child who is born out of wedlock is today but back in the day, it was one more reason for me to feel less than all the world around me.

Wagon burner, bum, welfare bum, savage, chug and dirty rotten little bastard. That is just some of

WagonBurner

Not the Red Man or anyone related to him

the social feedback I received growing up as a kid. When you are a child you have no real defense against insults that seem to be true because these descriptions all have a certain amount of truth in my life. I saw Indians burn wagons on TV, we were definitively the chug savages. My uncle Amego and his pals were the guys who drank in the bush across the tracks. I was most definitively a little bastard who did not know who his father was and my kokum never let me forget about it.

Mary, my family and me

My kokum had 16 children (I can only imagine what that was like). Amego, the oldest son, quit the seminary and he was almost a priest. “One eye”, my kokum’s oldest daughter was also almost a nun until she had children. And my mother, Mary, was my kokum’s little angel. Being a fanatical religious person, the name Mary had an extra element of expectation. And with expectations come pressure. So when Mary came home pregnant, all hell broke loose. Because yes Mary came waddling home. I can only imagine how afraid she must have been, how ashamed. I am sure that somewhere inside of me is the memory of how miserable she was (that memory is certainly in him. We all carry the trauma of our ancestors in our body, on an unconscious level. Trauma is speechless, we feel it in our body before we can put words to it. I know it is true for me. I discuss more at length the concept of trauma, including the trauma encountered by children in residential schools and their repercussions in this section).

Mary was a “dirty rotten whore, a pig, a slut” and everything else under the sun that was reprehensible and ugly. So much so that when she came to visit, she was forced to hide her shameful existence in her bedroom. When Mary came home pregnant, my kokum’s shitty life must have seemed much worse. Mary tried to stay away from home but she put on so much weight that her ankles could not support her anymore (Mary was also a teenage mother). I was told that Mary did everything in her power to end my life before it began. I have an innate fear roller coasterof roller coasters because, apparently, Mary went on a giant roller coaster when she was 6 months pregnant. But little bastards like me are hard to kill. Shit man, I just won’t die no matter what I do! Her failure was my survival: I rode the rails to the edge of death before I was even born. The Red man has been close to death more than once but somehow survives every time. He had to fight to live before he was even born. The problem is that he does not know how to stop fighting. Not in the sense of giving up but in the sense of trusting that others are there for him and that he can trust them.

warrior

Everyone thought I was the devil’s son who would amount to less than a pile of shit. However, the moment I was born, that whole idea changed: I became my kokum’s favorite and Mary made her escape. I was told that death nearly caught up with me again at the tender age of 9 months. Untreated measles put me in a coma for 7 to 9 days. I was left by my mother at the hospital to be adopted but my kokum would have none of it. So she took me home, a fact she never let me forget. How she rescued me from the white men in foster care or “foster homes”. A fear that is in many Native children, a fear that has two sides. On one hand, the incidence of Native children in the foster system is very high and it is harder for Native women to get their children back. On the other hand, the fear of being taken away if one complains or talks about what goes on at home, as “they were not raised to be rats”. Read more about the history of trauma and the welfare system here.

grandmother

And then my mom came back

Now I do not know if having a rough ride in the womb made me a colicky baby but colicky baby I was. I cried like crazy from the moment I popped out until my coma. Can you experience trauma in the womb (yes, absolutely and he did)? I know you can. When a person considers their baby a detriment to their health and welfare, the mind will consider the baby to be a pathogen to be neutralized. My first go at hell was in a cell in my mother’s womb.

Since the moment she left me behind at the hospital, my mother had been out of my life. Until one day when her and my two younger half-brothers showed up out of nowhere. My kokum had already left my moshum and we were now living in town. I had been hearing about Mary “the filthy pig who only thought of her pussy” for years (he was not even 5 years old). As weird as it seems, I remember it all. You see I was a very precocious baby, walking and talking by 8 months of age. I can remember something from every year of my life (e.g. being held by my aunts as a mother and babycrying baby as I needed so much affection). I do not doubt that as the Red man is someone who wants to do a 1000 things at once all in the same day. He likes to explore and learn every single day. 

So when my mother and two young brothers moved to a town, just a half block away from us in Moccasins Flats (yup there really was a neighborhood called Moccasins Flats back home), I was very excited. I wanted nothing else but to go with my mother, even though I had heard nothing but terrible things about her.

My first go with my mom

I felt guilty about asking my kokum if I could live with my mother. It did not matter what my kokum said about my mom, I just felt that with her was where I truly belonged (I think he is still to this day trying to find where he belongs). I was elated when I was allowed to go and stay with my mother and little brothers. That guilty feeling was replaced with happiness as soon as I saw my little baby brother’s face for the first time. “Judas” was the baby and “Poppidy” was the one in the middle. I have an estranged relationship with both.

Well, one day and one night, that is how long we all lived together in our little house in Moccasins Flats. My mother went out that night and never came home. I was 5 years old and I was babysitting already. I had never been free of adults before, I had never been on my own. We woke up early in the morning and my mother was MIA. But at the time we really did not care as we got to play with all the little children in the neighborhood. I got to play with the little boy who became one of my best friends that day.

children playing

As one can see the Red man had to grow up fast. But at the same time, on some level he is stuck. He is stuck, sometimes, in that phase of his life. Lacking the skills to move forward. He told me this recently: “when people I love yell at me, it reassures me, because then I know they love me”. Wow that’s a powerful statement. That’s what he is used to. But there are many other healthier ways of showing to someone you love them. He is slowly learning them.

Thinks it is over? Nope. Curious as to what happens next? Stay tuned in the upcoming days for Part 2! In the meantime, comment below to let us know how you felt while reading the story, if you can relate to it.

All my Relations