Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reasons to quit school: Why I quit 4th grade

Reasons to quit school: Why I quit 4th grade

Hello everyone!

I hope you are all having a good weekend. If you have been on my site this week, you might know what this article is. It is the conclusion of a 3 part series written by the Red man about a particular childhood experience. I encourage you to read part 1 about his new school clothes and part 2 about his grandmother’s (kokum) reaction. Today, we learn about his first day of Grade 4. We heard about his experience in Grade 1 before, and today we learn about Grade 4 taught by the husband of the the Red man’s first grade teacher. A thoughtful and entertaining story ahead addressing reasons to quit school (in the mind of a fourth grader). 

Where were we?

When we left, we were the day before the first day of Grade 4 and the Red man was trying to sleep. However, the Red man had also received a very brutal beating from his kokum and was in pain. Continue reading

Down with the sickness: my grandmother’s reaction

Down with the sickness: my grandmother’s reaction

Hello all!

I hope your week is going good. Tonight I introduce you to the second part of one of Red man’s story. I encourage you to read the first part here before. In the first part, the Red man began telling us how he got new school clothes (a rarity for him) and how after daring of his brothers, he got them as dirty as they could be. We heard about a piece of his childhood, his relationship with his brothers as well as his kokum (his grandmother) who raised him. Tonight, let’s focus on the second part of the story, this time a story of child abuse. I want to warn you that this is not an easy one to read. My heart broke more than once while reading it. The Red man was nervous about sharing that one as he thought it would affect my opinion of him. I will explain more after you read the story. Brace yourself for a reality that was only too present in many houses and communities. And still is today. Let’s look at a story of child abuse, down with the sickness.

Where were we again?

We left it off with the Red man having fell into a pool of stinky dirty water and asking his brother to go get him clean clothes before his kokum saw him. He then sent his brother to the house fearing his grandmother’s reaction to his now ruined clothes.

Continue reading

My new school clothes: The day before a new school year

My new school clothes: The day before a new school year

Hello everyone!!

For those following my Facebook page, you know that I just came out of 3 days of courses on Aboriginal therapy, part of a certificate I am doing. Such an intense course but left feeling grounded and better. For those interested in the certificate, read this. I highly recommend it 🙂

Today, the Red man is back. With a very personal story that will be unfolded in three parts this week. He shares a story of abuse but a story of love too. A love for his kokum (grandmother) mixed with a hatred for the abuse she put him through. His story is the story of many Native people, a story of abuse but fear of being taken away from his family. To a place even worse: foster care. I encourage you to read some of his story with his kokum here, before you go on. So here we go with part one, the story of his new school clothes and the anticipation of a new school year.

I got new school clothes! “You better keep them clean!” she warns

The house in Moccasin Flats burned down soon after the devil did its deed (Moccasins Flat was where the Red Man lived as a child, learn more about it here). Everything we owned went up in flames at Christmas no less. Years later, all sense of innocence and safety was lost. Reality was harsh and ugly but I did my best to find pleasure the best way I could: escape! Continue reading

Not everything is as it seems: Life as First Graders

Not everything is as it seems: Life as First Graders

Hello all!

For my fellow Canadians, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are all having a great weekend. I had to run back to the office quickly today but other than that, I am enjoying the time off! Today, we will be going back in time and see the Red man as a first grader. We are going back in the late 1970’s when nuns were teaching the children. We will be talking about the Red man’s first experience seeing a nun and how things are perceived at the tender age of 6. I will be adding my own two cents here and there as I worked with kids for many years and have my own experiences. Stay tuned because as you will see not everything is as it seems. Let’s look at life as a first grader 🙂

There were all the kids and then there was Lenny

I was a little man in a big world of intrigue and wonder. In the school yard, each and every kid is shrouded in some type of mystery.  They seemed to all fit into a category or another. Fat funny kids, skinny quiet ones, ugly kids, pretty kids and the weird quiet kid, aka Lenny. The kid with orange toquethe orange toque that he never took off. The little awkward kid who never said one word to anyone even if he was taunted or teased. If Lenny was anything, he was a master at avoiding confrontation. He would just walk to some quiet unoccupied piece of the playground where he would almost be gone and forgotten except for the fact that his orange hunting toque was like a beacon in the night.

“Here I am, pick on me” it said. Kids can be cruel and we were cruel. In children, the anxiety associated with the development of social skills can be quite high especially when you have no real social skills to begin with. Children can be cowards, they will take their frustration out on the perceived inferior being and Lenny was the chosen one. He was the one even the weakest child could pick on. He would not defend himself but stuck out like a sore thumb.

School in the 1970’s and the nuns

I do not know how school is today but in the late 1970’s, we had to sing the national anthem first thing in the morning and religion class was mandatory (having worked for a catholic school district, I can tell you this is still happening in some school districts in Canada). So after the morning bell rang we would stand for the national anthem. We would then sit and attendance would be taken. Lenny was so attached to his toque that he never took it off even during the national anthem. The weird quiet kid never took off his toque so he was the butt of the jokes.

When you are a child, time has no real reference point. It is all new and exciting and is hard to comprehend when looking back. A day seems like a month and a month seems like a lifetime (having assessed kids for years I can attest to that! They need to be given reference points otherwise they seem to think everything will last forever. Literally). So I am not sure how long into Grade 1 we were when we got a new nun for religion class. When I walked into the class, an ominous figure sat at our teacher’s desk: a nun in a nun’s cloak, head covering and all. This was my first experience with a nun so I did not know what to expect. If there was ever an intriguing mystery, a nun sure was one of them. If there was a real life superhero capable of extraordinary things, she was it. I thought this nun had some real power, she could send me to hell!

Sisters of St-Francis in 1886

But I was a good kid and that is the truth (I can see him being good, full of wonder for the world). I was afraid to be anything but good, the fear of God was instilled deep inside of me. Indeed, as I have said in the past, I was raised by my grandmother and my aunts. Although I am an Indian, religion was present in my household. My aunt Lulu, well one of my many aunts, would tuck me in bed at night. But Lulu was the one who got in depth about “Hell the place where bad people would go if they were bad. This place where you burn forever and ever and the Devil, this evil monster pokes me with a fork stick”. There was this prayer that scared the shit out of me. “Now I lay me down to sleep, pray the Lord my soul to keep and if I die before I wake, pray my soul to take” (what an awful prayer for a child!). So before bed, we would say a few Our fathers, a few Hail Marys and at last I would lay down to sleep. So when I saw this woman with this cloak in my classroom, I was especially aware of my behavior.

Fort Albany residential school

Fort Albany residential school

The prayer and Lenny

So here we are in Grade 1, when the bell rang and all the little rug rats filed in. When the bell rang a second time signaling the start of class, the chuckling and giggling had already began (kids are funny little fuckers, they will giggle and laugh just to giggle and laugh). The nun was a weird sight for us kids and we all knew she was getting none. Wow, I just realized that I knew what “getting some” was all about at such a young age! So the nun gets out of her chair and makes her way to the front and center of the classroom. “Okay children be quiet for a second. I want you to stand and bow your head for the Lord’s Prayer.” The classroom went eerily quiet as soon as she spoke. We were children, we would steal, lie and cheat but in the face of authority we would do our best to appear angelic (yep). As I stood there with my head bowed, I peeked child prayingaround to see who was looking at Lenny. We all wanted to see what his head looked like. We knew there was no chance of him getting away with wearing his toque during our Father’s prayer.

“Hey you in the back of the classroom, you with the orange toque”, the classroom came to life with chuckles and giggles. The conspiratorial looks increased, everyone was aware that the great revelation was here: we would know what Lenny looked like. Rumor had it that he was bald, some even said that his head was possibly full of scars. All the while Lenny stood quietly with his head down looking at the floor. “Hey you with the orange toque, take your toque off for the Lord’s prayer”. The nun’s voice rose a few octaves higher as the classroom began to chuckle and giggle louder. “Hey you with the orange toque” but before she could even finish, a floodgate of emotions shook Lenny’s body. A grotesque sounding noise came pouring out of Lenny’s mouth as he ran toward the door. The entire class erupted in a rumble of laughter until “Shut up” the nun roared. The classroom went nununcomfortably quiet as the nun walked out the classroom door doing her best to find the wounded animal. As she came back a while later, we resumed our prayer.

 

 

And then we learned the truth about Lenny…

We stood there arms at our sides, eyes closed doing our best to stay composed. And then two weeks later (in kid’s time), a message came over the intercom. “We are sad to announce that our school has lost one of its students. Lenny has passed away”. It was a strange and almost divine punishment. We were being punished for teasing Lenny. We were told that Lenny had died of leukemia, his radiation treatment had made him loose his hair. Hence the orange toque… I then began to question the power that the nun supposedly had. She was supposed to be a good person, God’s servant, who was better or greater than the rest of us. She looked more human than ever and not a very good human at that.

You see, as kids, adults are supposed to know everything and they were supposed to tell us what we needed to know. I know we would have treated Lenny better if we knew he was going to die. I know we would have had, I would have made sure of it. When we looked in each others’ eyes, we could see the shame and the guilt we all felt. I began to question religion at this point in my life. It did not make too much sense to me. I felt guilty and wrong for the way Lenny was treated. His last day at school was his worst day in this world. Children will steal, lie and cheat. They will yell, scream and holler but deep down they are innocent and perfect in their imperfection. They are honest and that is the truth about humanity (you can always count on a kid to tell it like it is).

first grade classroom

So where do we go now?

I hope you see inside the mind of a child when you read this stuff. I hope you see me as first grader and how I was seeing the world. And remember this: those little people are just like you. Offend them now and they will offend you later. Lie to them now and they will never grow up and be a liar like you. I ended up failing Grade 1 as our house burned down. And later on in life, I ended up being best friend with Lenny’s brother. The truth is that I still feel guilty for the way we all treated Lenny. The only thing he ever said to us was that scream he let out as he ran out the room. Please say a prayer for little Lenny and all the little bastards who were in that classroom as I bet half of them might remember little Lenny.

Hi it is me, Emily now. Some of you might not know this but I used to be a school psychologist. And the Red man’s story reminded me of this little girl in kindergarten I used to know. A little little girl who was full of life and joy. She was so happy to be in school, to make new friends. She was also a little bit shy but had a few friends. Then I got a phone call from the school principal. The little girl’s parents wanted to meet with her and I. Because not everything is as it seems. You see, their daughter had an inoperable brain tumor. She would not survive it. All at the tender age of 5. You want to hear the twist? Both her parents were doctors, one of them a surgeon. Yet they could not save her. They could only know each and every difficult step she was going to go through in the next months, steps they relayed in a meeting I had with them. So we tried to make the little’s girl last days comfortable and fun. She attended school when she could, kids would help her get around and do her daily activities. And I get the Red man’s point that kids can tease and be cruel but kids are also very intuitive and sensitive. And caring. As the little girl passed away during the Christmas break, a memorial was put up in her classroom. Kids drew cards for her and they stuck them all over the board. So she would never have to miss a day of class.

kindergarten classroom

Does anyone remember their first grade? Do you remember the kids who were with you? Did you have a Lenny in your classroom? Did this story touch you? Comment below and I will respond.

All my Relations

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

 

 

 

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

 

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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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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