Intergenerational trauma: My mom and me-Part 1
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 🙂
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
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 of 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.
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.
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 crying 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.
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