Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Walking for the Survivors

I would like to introduce James. James is going on a journey. From his Facebook event site:

"Walking from Victoria to Ottawa Honouring Survivors and the Family that Never Made it Home. For Residential School Children and Murdered & Missing Women."

Thanks to the work of a local Idle No More organizer who stumbled on his journey and took it upon herself to help him along the way, and allow a few of us locals to know about James and his journey, we all were lucky enough to meet him on Friday when he literally walked in Calgary. We met him and had a bite to eat with some coffee. Immediately I was struck by how kind and genuine his spirit was. He told us his story about being struck by lightning, twice. The ease and tone of the conversation could have left us all there to chat all night but we had to get this man, who had been on his feet too long, in a warm bed already arranged. We made plans for a trip to the reserve land south of the city to the two Indian Residential schools (IRS) right away. Things changed up a few times but solidified on an afternoon trip down on Tuesday so that Wednesday morning, there could be the visits to the IRS.

Tuesday, April 22 a group of us headed down to Cardston from Calgary to stay the night. Across from the gas station stood an older building we found out was the Blood Indian Hospital. James immediately took some medicine and walked over the road to it. He heard babies crying. There were many other strange stories associated with that building that was told to us over the course of the night.

Former Blood Indian Hospital. Photo credit to Parks Canada
General view of the Blood Indian Hospital, showing the flat-roofed two-storey rectangular form, 1990.
Santé Canada / Health Canada, 1990

At the gas station, we were greeted by amazing hosts that were kind enough to feed us, sing original songs, have conversation and a warm place to sleep. I couldn't believe how hard the wind was hitting us through the night and how happy the kids were to play together!

The next morning came so quick. On Wednesday, April 23, 2014 James met up with a local Elder at St. Paul's IRS. One of the kids and James seen the image of a nun in the window. There were many young presences felt. He encouraged the kids to stay behind while he, with medicine, and the Elder walked around the ground. James has the gift of being able to talk to the spirits. He spoke to the children spirits to take them home, back to their families waiting for them.

While he was doing his work, I left some tobacco, prayed and took a rock. We were told a few different stories of encounters of these grounds. I hope there will be less activity now that James has been there.

St. Paul's Indian Residential School.
Next we off to St. Mary's with the wind still howling. While James and the Elder went around those grounds, one of our group told stories about not being allowed to go to the cemetery in the back. So much unresolved activity. She also told us of the importance of binds or drapes over windows at night, leaving us to question why the wind was blowing so hard at night. Again, I left some tobacco, prayed and took a rock hoping that James' work will help bring some spirits home. 

Former Indian Residential School, St. Mary's. (This photo was not taken April 23 but on Feb. 7/14)

Even though we had some breakfast from our wonderful hosts, we went into town for a brunch to fill up the kids for the ride home. We had wonderful conversations, and a few other stops before we were on our way. Just before we left, we were given water willow sticks for protection of our homes. There more exchanges of gifts that were nothing short of beautiful moments. After lots of hugs, we were on the road again to Calgary.

We made one more short stop to the Big Rock in Okotoks. James sang as we drummed. I left some tobacco for the moment and day. I felt much stronger after that.

I can't seem to put into words the gravity of his work. Is there a way to quantify or verbalize the gift of a person releasing trapped spirits here on Canadian soil, a legacy of our colonized history, to the next place of where they are meant to go? Very few of us use our knowledge in this way that James is doing. His work alone is helping the road of healing and recovery in our dark history. When we talk about truth and reconciliation, we need to start with K-12 programs nationally. Here is James, already working on a level there can not really be political interfered on. There are just somethings that can not have total government involvement in and spiritual peace and healing is one of them. Can you feel the depth of that? I wish I was a literary samurai that could use words to describe the magnitude of that work he is doing..

Pray for James. He is so humble, he would not ask for it. He needs our support, love, courage and strength. My hope is you will follow James and his journey. Tell your friends about him.

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Chi Miigwetch ~ Thank You

Saturday, February 8, 2014

First Nations Education Act launch day at Kainai High School, Blood Reservation, Alberta

First Nations Education Act (FNEA) launch day at 
Kainai High School, Blood Reservation, Alberta
Feb. 7/14

 I am a Yellowknife Dene born in Treaty 7. My mother was from Yellowknife. I have status under the imposed Indian Act. I live in the urban setting of Calgary and traveled out three hours each way to see this historic event. Let's start by acknowledging this event happened in Treaty 7 Territory of the Blood Reserve which is the Kainai Nation, at the Kainai High School. I have heard two ways to pronounce Kainai: ken-eye or G-ai-nah. This gentleman explains it well here. A huge thank you  to the Kainai Nation for hosting and opening up for this public event.

When we took the directions from the official press release of the PMO, I posted on Facebook that if these are not right, to please text me. I had the support of a former resident of the Kainai, Kimberly Wesealfat on the phone when I came to barriers, which I did face and had her help getting through. I wore a Liberal Party of Canada lanyard and card around my neck and wondered if that would help or hinder me. I told my daughter I worried we wouldn't be allowed in. I didn't say that it was because all the registered First Nations are on a RCMP watch list here, here, here, here, here and can not seem to find the 3.1 billion dollars it took to carry it out, but I was thinking it. I didn't want to scare her so I said, "because I'm a Liberal." She said that I need to take that off then, LOL! I wish it was that easy, LOL! (However, I'm sure many people would agree with her, take that shit off, LOL!) While I do chuckle, the truth is, that concept of conforming when it's not right, is not funny and a piece of me wished I taught that better to her.

There was two line ups. One for invited guests, which I was not, and the public. We all had to show picture ID or we would not be allowed in. (As some people may know, not only is that a violation of rights but a barrier for some First Nations.) Some people showed their Indian Act imposed status card. (Some people mistakenly call it a Treaty card which I'll blog about later.) I showed my drivers. We all got wanded and our purses checked. I told my daughter they are not allowed to touch her and to stay close which she said scared her that this situation was happening. We were told to wear blue dots on our hearts and went into a different room than the invited guests. At least we got in! I heard others say people were turned away shortly after we got in. Some people made placards with messages that were taken away.

I do like to take pictures and videos and I did. So this video here is just of my daughter and I listening to the events. We found a few faces we knew, like Professor Anthony Hall from the University of Lethbridge, so we set up shop. You can see the agents watching over us, creating tension. My daughter was bored at this point so off to the washroom we go. This was actually my highlight because there were some girls in their regalia playing around. You have to hear a jingle dress to understand how sweet, adorable and innocent it is to watch and hear a jingle dress play hide and seek. It's impossible because of the noise but when you're little, it`s so sweet and just fun. Also, the ribbon was sticking out of the lockers so as a by-stander, it was the sweetest thing in the world to witness. (Thank you ladies for being my highlight!)

It just went downhill from there. The new Indian Affairs minister spoke glowingly of  predecessors. To me, this is the supreme position of managing apartheid so that anyone would willingly and eagerly take that position makes me feel nauseous. The highlight of the speech was when Shannon Houle of Treaty 6 courageously spoke of the people of nations NOT agreeing to this, not being consulted and that we object. In the feast room, this was the reaction and we supported her with cheers which no media outlet reported as far as I seen at the time when this blog was created. Not too much after that moment so we just waited and waited for the speeches to end. Shawn Atleo spoke so well of the FNEA and wanted to mark it with this ceremony so I was left wondering why he didn't have this whole production and the paddle signing ceremony in his territory. I felt very disillusioned with the AFN at that point.

To people who may not understand, Shawn Atleo is National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) in Canada. There are two kinds of chiefs. One is one of the people that speaks on behalf the consensus of their nation. The other kind is an indian act chief that does what the Indian Affairs ministers mandate. To be fair to indian act chiefs, if they don't play along, their nations get less funding. It is perfectly working apartheid, discrimination and pain in the communities. I would also argue that most Canadians see this in their own politicians, which is why there is so much political apathy. When we see party infighting, it's akin to the lateral violence we see in First Nation communities, people attacking each other over political ideology. First Nations don't have political parties though. They have the indian act that dictates their actions so they don't get to make decisions like other municipalities do. You either work with the dictatorship of the indian act or you receive less. That has caused so much friction in the First Nation communities. So when I say I was disillusioned with the AFN, I mean I have to question now if the AFN is just a support group for indian act chiefs or does it represent the people? At this point, I don't think the voice of the people is being heard, even after Idle No More. His words hurt the spirit of reconciliation in trying to appease Harper`s new bill.

Now, back to lateral violence, the first thing that happened after the official ceremonies ended was the MC talking to the crowd in the feast area. Right away there was a lateral violent joke made about Shannon Houle's action to speak out. The crowd was unhappy with the joke. You can view the video here. Then in the language of the Blackfoot, we were told not to cause trouble.

For people who may not understand why there is so much gravity to this, I reference back to Shawn Atleo's speech where in residential schools, tongues were pricked when their own language was said. There were beatings for not conforming. First Nations through residential schools and through the indian act have been taught to conform or else. The law was you hand over your kid to residential schools or go to jail. The media and history books paint anyone of First Nation descent in a negative way, rather than as a martyr for standing up for civil liberties, rights and freedoms. Louis Riel was hanged for this and many of the history books talk about him as a traitor because he stood against the slaughter of the Metis and indigenous people of this land. So that is why when you see the next videos why people didn't do more. It pains me to read people say "well, they must have done something to "deserve" that" as victim blaming is rampant in a colonized society. Until our truths come out, there just can't be reconciliation until there is more understanding of this bigger picture.

So there had been some length of time from when the MC said that joke to when one of the crowd and her daughter were asked to leave. Video I am only assuming she was being targeted because of the lateral violent joke that was said and her being singled out, a reminder for the First Nations, if you don't behave, this is what happens to you. Shortly after that, her other 17 year old is removed. Video I am not too sure in this video why they were asked to go but I took this video of others being told to leave. Video This is incredibly embarrassing for everyone. The people used to remove the women were The Brave Dog Society who are supposed to protect the people from the Government of Canada`s people.

The Government of Canada agents watching over us this entire time, the stops at the door, just can created this awful, avoidable tension. However, conformity is taught and valued in a colonized state so that is why no one dared stepped in and the colonizers excuse people who do this as "they are just doing a job." That job has a long history of oppression here in Canada and I wish people would lose that shiny image of the Mounties and government agents.

So, after they got rid of those they deemed to be troublemakers, the media came in. Shortly after, The Grand Entry began. I noted it began with the colonizers flags first. From there it was nice to watch the drummers and dancers. I was given food and was grateful to have something to eat too. (Thank you to those caterers that gave food to the public.) The last people in our section that did not leave to being forced out, did silently hold up Stop Harper signs which they were escorted out. Video

Shortly after that, we left when the dancers came over to eat. I did go to the washroom and was told that the girls being told to leave were identified as Idle No More. The same person told me that they should be able to peacefully protest. The truth was, they were not protesting and were just targeted for speaking out against a lateral violent joke. It also shows that people in the office were being told lies of what was happening.

This is not reconciliation.

So I hope there is a bit of perspective of what it was like to be at this event launch. Thank you for reading and watching my videos.