My Story – Wasii’aa Gizhigo Inini
We are thrilled to present the First Place winning paper in RAVEN’s Harmony Foundation Essay Prize! The award goes to Wade Houle, who shares about his piece:
“I wrote and submitted this paper because I finally gained the confidence to do so. So much about writing is about sending it out into the world. It feels like a tremendous risk, especially because the topic of the paper is me. It is a very personal piece, a small but integral part of history, my history. I wrote this piece because Indigenous history has often been ignored or omitted, and I wanted my children to have something that would stay with them forever.”
About Wade Houle:
Wade Houle is in his final year in the Faculty of Graduate Studies Master’s Program at Brandon University. Wade resides and works on Treaty 2 territory in Manitoba, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Cree, and Dakota peoples, and the homeland of the Metis Nation. He is Anishinaabe and Metis and has been an educator for 15 years and is passionate about Indigenous education. Wade believes in an introspective approach to leadership where one is grounded in their experiences and that being anti-racist and anti-oppressive is key for the future.
We celebrate Wade’s achievement as winner of the 2021 Harmony Foundation Essay Prize, and our honour to share his piece with the RAVEN community.
Wasii’aa Giizhigo Inini
There is a boy who stands on the shore of a lake. He loves the water, and the sky. He is also very shy and talks only when he has to. He talks only when it is needed. He is always listening and learning, and he loves a good story.
On this particular day, the sky is blue and it seems like it goes on forever. He throws a rock. He is looking at the endless sky and watching the calm rippling water. He watches the tiny waves and ripples that move both away and towards him. Some of those ripples reach his toes, and some of those ripples go further and deeper out towards the water; yet he is connected to them all.
He reaches down and touches the water and hopes that it helps him find the answers he seeks. He then raises his hands to the sky, with the water dripping from his fingertips. He does this and prays.
My Story Why Am I Here?
When I was twelve years old I travelled from Dauphin, Manitoba to the Long Plains First Nation, near Portage la Prairie, with my mother. It was a quiet ride, as per usual when travelling with my mother. We are both reflective people and I do not remember, besides your normal chit chat conversation, anything especially particular about what we said that day. It was near the end of winter when the south wind starts to bring warmer air into Manitoba and the snow starts to look grey and dirty; always an exciting time of the year.
We pulled up to a regular looking house, much like many reservation homes, which had a centre front door and a centre back door. It had a small 6 x 6 deck to enter the door in the front and the first thing you saw to the right in the entryway was a living room. The only difference in this particular home is that it was decorated with some of the most beautiful pieces of Indigenous artisanship I have ever seen. It was like walking into a museum. My mother and I were greeted by a woman and they spoke Anishinaabe to each other. We laid our coats on the sofa and elder Don Daniels walked out from the back kitchen.
There was always something special about Don. He had an aura about him and he always spoke with such grace, humility, and kindness. We shook hands and we sat down. As is customary in my family, I didn’t say much because the adults were talking. I was never told that this was our custom, but it was always something my brother and I did, which is if the adults in the room are speaking, then you are expected to listen and be respectful. I sat there in awe both listening and observing. They spoke in Anishinaabe and my eyes wandered the room. There were beautiful paintings, extraordinary sculptures, crafts made of antler and wood, and some of the most extravagant dreamcatchers I had ever seen. Don was not a flashy person, but these artifacts represented the amount of sacrifice, respect, and honor that was bestowed upon him. I knew that he was a special person, and many other people thought the same thing and honored him as such.
In Anishinaabe culture, Don was considered a medicine man. Whenever my parents spoke of medicine people, it was with respect because they were gifted people. Medicine people have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and sacrifice much of their lives for the greater good of everybody. Often, the biggest sacrifice made by medicine people is time. Time is taken away from their families, time is placed in the energies of other people, and this takes them away from their spouses, children, and grandchildren. They give the ultimate sacrifice and are selfless.
On this particular day, Don was taking time to spend with me. My mother had brought me to his home to receive my Spirit name. In my family, we often refer to these names as “Indian names”. I understand this is not politically correct but as my parents often answer when it comes to older slang or Anishinaabe translations they usually say, “I don’t know, it’s just what people call it”. Hereinafter, I will refer to it only as a Spirit name. My mother pulled tobacco out of her purse and handed it to Don. Tobacco, one of the sacred medicines, is a customary exchange for the knowledge and wisdom that people have. It is an act of humility, respect, and love. There is always a moment, a split second, of energy that is shared when these exchanges occur. In the gifting of tobacco, it allows the people involved to centre themselves, and it provides purpose and reason.
Don led us down the hallway of his home. On the first door to the right of the hall was the bathroom and we took the first turn to the left into a small bedroom. Before entering the room I could see that there were two more bedroom doors a few steps further down the hall. The design of this home was familiar and much like my uncle’s home. I felt very comfortable and warm. We entered the bedroom which once again was adorned with Indigenous artifacts that I could only assume were gifted to elder Don. The room was dark and my mother and I sat on the floor beside a bed and Don sat on the floor preparing for the naming ceremony.
Knowing your Spirit name can be integral to an Indigenous person’s identity. It provides purpose and direction and in “Naming”, I share the story of how my two daughters, Grace and Natalie, came to receive their name.
After Canada’s creation of the Indian Act in 1876, these types of ceremonies were banned and outlawed and many people practiced in private or in hiding (Vowel, 2016). Ceremonies, sweatlodges, shaking tents, medicine bundles, powwows and celebrations would have all not been allowed. The Indian Act also circumvented the Numbered Treaties and allowed chief superintendents to create the reservation allotments and the Canadian Residential School system. Being born when I was, I was not directly affected by these policies, but I have inherited the colonial effects of these paternalistic decisions. It is an odd feeling to both be relieved and feel privileged to not have to go through some of these acts of legislation, but to also feel the rightful pain, anger, and hurt for my ancestors that did.
In 2008, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (hereinafter referred to as the TRC) was established to honor the stories of Residential school survivors. In 2015, the government of Canada called to action the citizens within our country “in order to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation” (TRC, 2015, p. 1) with Indigenous peoples. The TRC of Canada released 94 Calls to Action. The Chief Commissioner of the TRC is Senator Murray Sinclair, and a former Honorable Justice of Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
In a speech to delegates at the Mosaic Institute Peace Patron Dinner in 2016, Senator Sinclair addresses the crowd about the identity, and the future identity, of Canada’s Indigenous population, especially young people. Having a sense of identity is integral to any culture and any person’s self-worth, self-esteem, and purpose. In his speech to delegates, Sinclair says,
“It boils down to four very important questions: you have to know where you come from […] It is also about what is our creation story, the history of your people? […] If you know the answer to that question, then you will be able to help it yourself answer the next question, which is where are [you] going? […] All of that is about faith, a sense of hope, a sense of future. […] We also have to answer that third question: which is why am I here? What is our purpose in life? […] If you know the answers to those three questions, then you can answer the fourth question for yourself and that is: Who am I? Who am I is thee question […] the one that we are always challenging ourselves to be, the one that we are always trying to figure out” (Sinclair, 2015).
Senator Sinclair poses these four questions to Canadians: Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? and Who am I? These questions are essential to identity. They are very difficult to answer but people must attempt to do so, in order to understand and situate ourselves in the fabric of our society, and attempt to understand our shared history. In doing this work, I am attempting to do just that. I am attempting to figure out who I am.
Sinclair is providing the Canadian public a fundamental teaching in Anishinaabe culture. The questions posed might be new and novel for some, but these are questions I have heard my entire life. Since I was child, and into adulthood, I have consistently been asked these questions. They surfaced in everyday conversations with teachers from my early schooling in Indigenous communities, interactions with elders, and when meeting new Indigenous peoples in order to situate ourselves via our communities and our family members. We are consistently referencing these questions in everyday life, and although the answers we seek are not always there, we understand the questions remain the same our entire existence. And sometimes, we find our reasons through the Spirit naming ceremony.
That day in Don’s small but warm home, and in that small and darkened room, I received my purpose. I was gifted and honored with my Spirit name. Much of the ceremony of my name was done in Anishinaabe, and the majority of what happened that afternoon had to be translated by my mother. I understand very little of our traditional language and I always have to refer and defer to my parents when it comes to Anishinaabemowin. I was told that afternoon my name, which already existed in me when I was born. After the ceremony, Don and my mother exchanged words again and he explained to me in English where my name came from. He said that I was placed on the earth to bring brightness to people’s lives. And, when the sky is at its bluest, that the ancestral relatives and the Creator were communicating and reminding me of my purpose. It was an amazing feeling that connected me to my history, my people, the land, and my culture. It is my Spirit name that has guided me ever since. In that moment, like Sinclair states, it was “the name of the spirit that was placed in you when you were created, by the Creator” (Sinclair, 2016). It is this name that has helped me find my purpose and reflecting back on this, it has shown me that purpose starts with something as simple as a name.
Names are important, especially for Indigenous peoples. We live in a Settler society, a Western society, which is not always welcoming to our beliefs, our traditions, our truths, and our names. So at times, we can feel unsafe in sharing something so intimate. And regrettably, when we do tell non-Indigenous peoples our names, there is always a chance that it is followed by ridicule, or sarcasm, references to stereotypical or silly names from TV or movies, or questions about culture that are often tiring and exhausting to answer time after time. To share a name requires trust and a relationship strong enough that you do not feel judged. When trust is established then the listener comes to understand that Indigenous peoples’ Spirit names are symbolic of many things but it ultimately means that we walk in two worlds: Indigenous and Western. We exist in two places and that is not always fully understood, therefore, Spirit names are not always shared.
I do not remember the drive home afterwards. All I remember is that I was with my mother. My mother Margaret is shy and quiet. She enjoys laughing and staying connected with her family via stories, phone calls, and watching grandchildren. She has been a school teacher for over 40 years and has always kept me grounded and connected to my culture. My father Russell worked for the railroad, travelled lots, and has never been a firm believer in the spiritual ways of the Anishinaabe people. Interestingly enough, his first language is Anishinaabemowin and he grew up surrounded by the culture. Yet, he has never truly been a believer in the traditional customs and ceremonies of our people. In no way does he mock or disrespect these beliefs and traditions, but he is not a consistent practitioner of Anishinaabe ways.
For my entire life, my mother has always been there. I rarely remember a time in my childhood that I was away from my mom. My father travelled with his job and he often left for work in the early years of my life and it was my mother, and grandmother, who looked after my brother and me. My brother Kevin and I were active boys who loved to play hockey and baseball. Therefore, my mother was our driver. My older sister Elaine and Kelly were close to adulthood and had moved on from our home when I was young. My sister Elaine went off to school and worked in Winnipeg. She ultimately became a teacher and works in Ebb & Flow with my mother. My brother Kelly started a family young he left his schooling to go and work and support his young family. He also moved back and works within the Ebb & Flow community.
All of this made my brother Kevin and I very close and we spent a lot of time together as children. My mother would drive us to our hockey games in the winter, and she would drive us to our baseball games in the early summer. If we were not playing sports, then she would drop us off at our grandparent’s home for the summer holidays. My father is extremely reliable and I depend on him for so much, including advice that has led me down my current path, but whenever it came to traditional teachings or Anishinaabe spiritual ways, it is my mother that I would talk to. She always had a reflective answer to my questions, and if she didn’t, she would seek out those answers from the people she trusted.
I am forever grateful for my mom and her spiritual guidance. It was her decision to take me to Don Daniel’s home knowing full well that going through that sacred naming ceremony would provide guidance and assurance in my life as an adult. I understand that it was the grandmothers and grandfathers of my ancestral line, along with the Creator, that placed my spirit name in me, but it is my mother that showed me how to go through the process so that I could understand and have that knowledge and experience to pass on to my own children. It is because of her that I know why I am here. Life is a journey, and so is this work, and it is the building of a trustful relationship between researcher and reader that allows me to say that my name is Wasii’aa Giizhigo Inini, Bright Sky Man.
Nanshee always loved the spring time. Spring, just like the sun, always brings new beginnings.
Well, one day, she woke up before the sun rose and made a warm fire in the stove.
She then placed a kettle on the stove and warmed the water for her morning tea. She prepared all her seeds and plants as her tea boiled and then cooled.
When her tea was ready she took a few sips to start her day. As the sun started to rise in the East she tied her scarf under her chin so that it covered her head. She was heading out to the field, near the lake, where she was going to plant her garden. She took her hoe and her shovel. She hammered in sticks on both ends of the garden and tied a string all the way across them to make a straight line. Then, she planted her seeds and softly covered them with dirt. Her garden was going to be huge.
She never used gloves. What for? Your hands should get dirty and feel the earth.
Where Do I Come From?
I remember my great grandmother Nancy. I was small, maybe 7 or 8 years old when I would go and visit her. My kookoo Nancy lived with her son Ernest, my great Uncle. She was born in 1899 and she was small but wore the experience of perseverance and resiliency on her skin and in her eyes. She only spoke Anishinaabe. I never verbally communicated with her but she had this sly and warm smile, and genuine look in her eye when I knew the adults were speaking about me, or if she asked me to do something for her.
Her home was small and she never needed the modern comforts of home that many people desire these days. She didn’t watch TV much, but when she did it was the soap opera All My Children. My uncle Ernest would translate for her the English dialogue that was happening on the screen. She had a small bedroom she slept in, but she also had a small bed/couch in the corner that she would sit at, if she wasn’t sitting at the kitchen table. There was a stove near the entrance and it was a comforting place to be. As was a regular occurrence in those days, she often wore a handkerchief around her head with it tied around the bottom of her chin. If there was ever a picture in the dictionary of an elder Ojibwe kookoo, her face with that handkerchief on, would be there.
Nancy was born in Fairford, Manitoba and she married my great-grandfather Charles Maytwayashing in 1921. Charles was from the Lake Manitoba First Nation and he died in the Selkirk Mental Hospital in 1971. I include this piece of information because it is important. It is important because my mother Margaret states that the odds were that Charles had what we would now know as Alzheimer’s disease. He started to lose his memory early in life and would do things like lose direction, misplace things, and tell lies to make up for his forgetfulness. In those days people just assumed doctors were right because they were doctors, but when their daughter Ida (my grandmother) got Alzheimer’s in the 1990’s, pieces to Charles’ story were put together that this disease was passed down hereditarily from him to her.
People in the community called my kookoo Nancy: “Nanshee”. She and Charles had a log cabin along the shores of Lake Manitoba where they had a huge garden. My kookoo Nancy loved to garden. She also loved to tell stories. She was a storyteller. And, often, with storytellers, she liked to embellish stories about people in the community and gossip about their exploits. I was never privy to these stories because I could never fully understand Anishinaabemowin. That being said, she wore expressions and experiences on her face like granite on the shores of a lake. Her eyes were piercing and I would watch words form on her lips. I would listen and hear, but it was her eyes and hands that I watched. I could feel them. She weaved humor, embellishment, love, and a crafty and sly sense to her everyday life. I was fascinated by her.
Nancy truly cared for people. Whenever someone died in the community, she would pack her things in an overnight bag and she would travel to the home of the people who lost their loved ones. She knew the hurt those people were going through and helped to look after children, and she would do all the cooking and cleaning and prepare meals for the wake service and the visitors who would stop by the homes to pay their respects. She understood people’s pain, and Sherman Alexie in his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, talks about funerals and death and how it is related to crying and laughter. He states, “when it comes to death, we know that laughter and tears are pretty much the same thing. […] and when we said good-bye to one [person], we said good-bye to all of them. Each funeral was a funeral for all of us” (Alexie, 2007, p. 166). It is what Alexie is explaining here that Nancy fully understood and that made her simply incredible and selfless.
In discovering where I come from, I know that her story is integral to mine. She is symbolic in her perseverance and resiliency in the women in my ancestral lineage because, although she was small in frame, she was big in heart and in voice. She died in 1993, and I miss her. I wish I could go back and spend more of that quiet time with her. Those small moments we shared when no words were spoken.
Born of Nancy and Charles’ relationship was my grandmother Ida. My kookoo Ida was an amazing person and I spent a lot of time with her. My mother would drive us out to my grandparent’s home in Vogar on the weekends or for our summer holidays.
My kookoo Ida was born in 1933 and married my grandfather Abraham in 1951. My grandfather Abraham built a log house on the shores of Centre Lake, which is near the small quaint village of Vogar, Manitoba. As their family grew with my mother, uncles, and aunt, they would eventually move into the village of Vogar, then off to Eriksdale to be closer to the farm my grandfather worked at, and lastly, moving back to Vogar in 1980.
It is this last home in Vogar that I remember fondly. The home I spent so many days and nights at is what I consider home. I loved going there. Coincidentally, their new home was actually about a mile from their original home near Centre Lake. As a child, I would often walk to Centre Lake because I was playing in the bush and exploring the forests near their home. I was always outside during the day, and at night I would either play or watch hockey or baseball with my grandfather. As I got older my brother, or my cousins, and I would quad or snowmobile down to Centre Lake.
My kookoo Ida always had delicious food. It was simple and humble food and I was always accustomed to a big pot of soup on the stove and it would sit there and simmer all afternoon. My grandfather Abraham loved to visit and talk about old times so he always had a lot of visitors. As was customary in those days, and the way they were raised, there was always food available at anyone’s house at any given time. Soups as simple as garden tomatoes and macaroni, or hamburger and macaroni or duck or rabbit soup were often simmering on my kookoo’s stove, ready for her next visitor or hungry grandchild. When you walked into their small kitchen, there would always be bannock on the right hand counter. It was always best when it was warm and I always knew if there was fresh bannock because you could smell it everywhere, or it would be resting sideways up against the flour and sugar containers because that was the way she cooled it off. I can still taste that warm bannock and the butter melting on it, ready to eat with that fresh hamburger and macaroni soup. Anytime I have that combination to this day, I am taken back to those warm memories of my kookoo.
Ida was a caregiver. Much like her mother Nancy, she looked after people. She always had food ready for visitors and she welcomed people into their home to spend the night. My brother Kevin was born in 1975 and my mother was in the midst of her teacher training. My kookoo kept Kevin in Eriksdale while my mother went to Brandon University, and when she got her first teaching job in Jackhead First Nation she once again kept Kevin in those formative years. She cared for people and loved her grandchildren dearly.
In the 1960’s, when my mother was a teenager, my kookoo Ida would take my mom to Winnipeg to help look after relatives. Ida’s niece, my mother’s cousin, was struggling with alcohol addiction, an abusive relationship, and sang in a music band on the weekends. The weekend gigs and binge drinking were hard on the young children and my kookoo would travel with my mother to look after those kids. Unfortunately, those children would ultimately be taken by Child Services and my mother’s cousin Hazel would never see those kids again. Later in life, Hazel would succumb to alcoholism and never did see her children because they became a part of what is now known as the Sixties Scoop. Those children were taken and needed to be in protection but it was never in the plans of our family to not see them again. There was no consultation or parent plan, there was no treatment or rehabilitation programming and zero effort was made in offering therapy to Hazel and reuniting her with her family. There was never an intention to keep them together or at least with other family relatives or in the same community.
The Sixties Scoop was a period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, at the time the Canadian Indian Residential School system was being phased out, where government officials purposely removed Indigenous children to be placed in foster homes all over the world. In 1998, one of those children contacted my mother via mail to initiate a relationship in order to re/discover his family roots. Sadly, Lawrence was in a penitentiary in the state of New York and was looking for his siblings. This process started to unfold in the years following that first initial contact where we were able to meet and reunite with 7 of the 9 brothers and sisters of the family. It was both an exhilarating and exciting time in meeting long lost family members, but it was also a tough time for those siblings because they had been apart for so long. Upon discovering the whereabouts of some of the children, some were moved to Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, and some were placed right within Winnipeg. Sadly, two remain out in the world somewhere.
This type of event would be traumatizing to anyone and like I stated earlier, Hazel never recovered from her addiction and it only intensified. This colonial approach to dealing with Indigenous people was traumatizing for my grandmother and mother, but it was not uncommon. Colonialism and Canada’s history and relationship with Indigenous people has been tumultuous. Policies such as the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857, which was created ten years prior to Canada becoming a country, was designed to assimilate Indigenous peoples. A paternalistic document that encouraged assimilation, and for “Indians in good moral standing” to apply and adhere to the ideals of European land ownership (Abraham, 2016, para. 1-2). Colonial attitudes and beliefs forced upon Indigenous peoples. Moving towards the creation of our country in 1867, dealing with Indigenous peoples was paramount. The Indian Act of 1876 is evidence of this assimilative practice because it superseded the Numbered Treaties which were signed on the prairies starting in 1871, and it allowed the Canadian government to circumvent their constitutional obligations. In 1885 and through to the 1940’s (and officially repealed in 1951), the government also implemented the Pass and Permit System which required First Nation farmers to obtain a permit to legally sell their products off-reserve. The Indian Agent, which controlled First Nation communities, controlled and distributed the permits. The system was restrictive and Indian Agents would often not grant permits which would leave crops and produce to rot in the fields. To go with this practice, passes were also handed out to residents living on reservations where the Indian Agent would allow peoples to leave the community to go to nearby urban centres, visit family in neighbouring communities, or to seek employment. As was the norm, time limits were often placed on people and they could be arrested, and if they took long or obtained jobs outside of the community then the members could be taken off the band register. An important history that often goes untold in Canadian educational institutions.
Policies such as the Gradual Civilization Act, the Indian Act, the Pass and Permit System, Enfranchisement, Indian Residential Schools, the Sixties Scoop, and the current plight of the amount of children in the foster care system can arguably be attributed to the paternalistic attitude and discriminatory legislation (King, 2003; Vowel; 2016) that has been forcibly imposed on Indigenous people in Canada. I understand that this legislated discrimination is important to who I am but it is not my focus. I cannot move through this paper without mentioning the types of horrors Indigenous people faced but I do not want it to be what I concentrate my writing on. Chimamanda Adichie, in her popular TED talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story states, “all these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and overlook the many other stories that formed me” (Adichie, 2009). The resiliency and perseverance that all Indigenous peoples have, just like my grandmothers, are especially important stories that need to be told. They need to be honored and I wish to do so by “rewriting and rerighting our position in history” (Smith, 1999).
My kookoo Ida was a band member of the Lake Manitoba First Nation her entire life. As a child, she lived on the shores of Lake Manitoba itself, which was on reserve land. When she married my grandfather in 1951 at the age of 18, she lost her status as an Indian under the Indian Act. This meant that she was not allowed to live on the reserve, near her mother, and ultimately moved to Vogar, the nearby Metis community. My grandfather Abraham was considered Metis and grew up near the community of St. Laurent, one of the largest Metis communities in Canada. “The paternalistic manner in which [Canadian] governments manage the affairs of Native people” (King, 2003, p. 128) lead them to the creation of the Indian Act in 1876. The Indian Act and its enfranchisement rules stripped the Indian status of women once they married a non-status man. It only allowed men to retain their status as Indians when they married non-status women, and interestingly enough, non-status women (ie. German, Ukrainian, Chinese, etc) gained status rights under the Indian Act. In those days, once Indian status was lost, you were unable to live in a First Nation reservation in Canada. This forced assimilation and enfranchisement was common practice (Vowel, 2016).
Despite the forced effects of colonialism and the attitudes of Settlers in Canada, my kookoo Ida persevered. She was tough. She was tough mentally and physically. When I was a child, and as she neared retirement, she worked at a small resort called The Narrows Lodge. It wasn’t far from Vogar and she would work at the restaurant and help to clean the hotel rooms at the lodge. I remember going there and running around and playing. Although she was pretty shy, she had a great sense of humor. I recall fondly her eyes and her smile. She liked to laugh and because my grandfather was funny and crazy at the same time, she laughed all the time.
When she gave her biggest laughs, she would bring one hand to her mouth to cover it and raise her head in the air to try and contain it. When I was five, I walked out from their kitchen into the living room and she was sitting on the recliner and I said,
“Kookoo, how come the chicken couldn’t cross the road?” She said, “I don’t know, how come?”
I replied, “Because, it had no legs”.
I promptly walked away after telling her the joke and she started to laugh. She couldn’t stop laughing; and, just when you thought she was done laughing, she started to laugh again. I’ll never forget that moment and it took her about a full 20 minutes to stop laughing every once in a while.
When I was about ten years old I started to notice little quirks in my kookoo. One day, she was sitting at the end of the couch like she always did. She had her glasses on and she really wasn’t doing anything but looking at the TV or glancing out the front living room window. She put her glasses down, got up and started walking towards the kitchen. She took about 4 steps, stopped and looked around, and asked where her glasses were. I thought she was joking but there was a genuine look on her face and I could tell she was serious. When I told her where they were, she showed a small sense of embarrassment, but also a stern look of concern. What I did not realize at the time was that she was slowly starting to lose her memory and her Alzheimer’s disease was starting to set in. It was slow at first but those types of incidents started to become more frequent and soon she was leaving stoves on, forgetting to eat, and missing steps walking up and down stairs. It was becoming very dangerous until one day she fell. It was a serious fall, and one that she never really recovered from, her disease afterwards, progressed more rapidly. She was soon confined to a wheelchair with home care service coming more consistently, especially when my grandfather started to struggle to look after her.
Honestly, it was awful to witness. I felt like I never got a chance to say goodbye to her. She was in the room but she was not present. There were times though when a little bit of her would come through. I was on the couch one day lying down and she was seated in her wheelchair near my feet. I must have had a small hole in the bottom of my sock because she reached out and stuck her finger in and wiggled it around. She tickled me. That was the last interaction I had with my kookoo where I knew she was in the room with me. I consciously think about her every day in the hopes that she follows me from the spirit world.
Like my kookoo Nancy, I miss my kookoo Ida dearly.
When Margaret was a young girl she was always playing outside. That is what everybody did in those days, and that is what people should do now. But you know, people sometimes forget their ways. It is both funny and sad how people can lose things so quickly.
Anyways, when Margaret was outside, she was always playing with her cousins. Playing with cousins is always exciting. It is just so fun to be young, to be small, to laugh, to cry, to breathe heavy from running, to scream in joy and excitement, and to simply just sit and visit and talk.
Sitting and talking and doing nothing can be fun. It is fun because you have to get creative. You have to get up and pretend and create an imaginary world that you can do anything in.
This one time, Margaret and her cousins found some old tires in the bush. They pulled them out of the weeds, cleaned them up, poured the water out of the insides, and started rolling them. Those tires rolled so fast that they pretended they were cars. They ran and ran, and they pushed and pushed those tires, screaming and yelling and laughing the whole time.
My mother Margaret grew up in Vogar, Manitoba. This small Metis community is near the shores of three lakes: Centre Lake, Dog Lake, and Lake Manitoba. It is also the neighbouring community of Lake Manitoba First Nation. Vogar is a small village. As a young child, my mother’s father Abraham, my grandfather, built a one room log cabin for them to livein. It was a humble home that my mother remembers fondly. Like any home it was warm and loving. And, what was so often and common in those days, is that it was connected close to nature. You were either in the house, or outside.
The house was small with a single fire place, two beds and a kitchen table and stove in the corner. My grandparents had one bed, and my mother had the other bed. When someone came to visit, often they would spend the night, which relegated my mother either to the floor or my grandparent’s bed. This was common and normal.
Not long after, and with my grandparent’s starting a young family they would move into the village into a bigger home and were located closer to other families, and closer to school. It was nice for my mother to be closer to the community at that age and she loved playing with her cousins who lived nearby. My grandfather got a job working on a farm near Eriksdale, Manitoba, which was about 50 kilometres away from Vogar. Again, my grandparents moved the family to a new home to be closer to work. My grandparents decided to move to Eriksdale and raised my mother and her three siblings there.
My mother describes life as simple but people worked hard. And she really emphasizes the fact that people worked. That has always been important in my family and that value has carried on throughout the years. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, was adamant that you worked. You either worked or went to school. Those were the only two options in life and my mother inherited those values and have passed them down to me.
My mother loves Vogar. She talks about it fondly, and very often. I stated earlier that my mother grew up in a small home, moved to another small home, and eventually moved to Eriksdale. Eriksdale was a small town filled with Settler farm families. My mother made good friends in Eriksdale but she does not speak as lovingly about her experiences in the school. Schools are not designed for Indigenous children (Campbell, 1973; Regan, 2010; Vowel, 2016) and often she was the only Indigenous child in her classroom. She had relatives who would be bussed in from Lake Manitoba First Nation but there were many times those kids did not make the bus, therefore they did not show up to school. In Eriksdale, at school, my mother would wait for the buses to arrive. If she did not see any familiar faces come off the bus she said, “it would make for a long day”. My mother implies here that without the comfort of her people (Indigenous culture) and family, she felt she did not belong. What she does not say here is that what she feels is racism. It is not the overt racism that we often associate with such images of cape and mask wearing Ku Klux Klansmen or horrific images of Black people being attacked, or mauled by dogs, or having hoses sprayed at them during the Civil Rights Movement in the US, but it is the racism that is intangible and difficult to identify. Robin DiAngelo says, “racism is a system” and it “does not refer to individual white people and their individual intentions or actions but to an overarching political, economic, and social system of domination” (DiAngelo, 2018, p. 28). Simply put, because my mother was Anishinaabe, she felt she did not belong, and racism was the main contributing factor to this lack of connection.
My mother is smart. She is quiet and humble and she has a calm demeanour that is comforting and welcoming. She excelled in school and graduated from Eriksdale in 1970. She always wanted to be a flight attendant or airline hostess. She wanted to travel the world and she loved the way the women looked and the way they dressed. It seemed glamorous. As high school was nearing to an end, she started to volunteer at the local hospital as a candy striper and it eventually turned into a job and she learned that she worked well with people. Something was missing though so she moved back to Vogar to work at the school there as an Educational Assistant. A superintendent of the school division was visiting one day and asked my mother if she was interested in becoming a teacher. The government of Manitoba was offering funding for Indian and Metis people to get certified as teachers. She knew full well that neither herself, nor her parents, were able to afford such an opportunity so my mother jumped on it. She registered and hopped a bus to Brandon University to start her work in Education. It wasn’t exactly what she was interested in but she grew to love it. My mother is still a teacher to this day and in October of 2018, at the age of 66, received her Post-Baccalaureate in Special Education from the University of Manitoba. An incredible feat, considering she has been a teacher for over forty years and still took the time to study while holding a full time teaching position on the Ebb and Flow First Nation.
It was in Brandon University where my mother studied to be a teacher in the beginning. While studying to be a teacher she had my brother Kevin, along with meeting my father Russell. As she neared the end of her teacher training, my kookoo Ida looked after Kevin and my father travelled in Northwestern Ontario on the gangs of the Canadian National Railroad (CNR).
Having children myself, I cannot imagine the decision to have to leave my child in order to secure a position in my career of choice. That is exactly what my mother did. That being said, my kookoo Ida was perfect for the job. Much like my own mother, she loved grandchildren. My mother made major sacrifices for my brother, and I would soon come along in 1980 while my mother taught on the Fisher River Cree Nation. A few years after I was born, my mother would move back to Vogar once again. This time she came back as a teacher. We lived right near the school in a teacherage and we were able to walk across a short field to get to class. Near our house and the school was an outdoor hockey rink with a wood stove heated shack. My brother and I spent a lot of time on that rink, although I was rarely allowed to play late because the big boys were out there and I was too small.
I went to Kindergarten at Vogar School and I loved it. It was a small school and Mrs. Johnson was our teacher. There may have been five or six of us on any given day and I would soon move to Grade 1. My mother was my Grade 1 teacher. But, she was also the teacher of other students all the way up to Grade 6. There were about 14 of us ranging from Grades 1 to 6 and my mother was the lone teacher. I was young and small and my memories are scarce, but I loved that school. It had a short hallway that lead to the gymnasium and we spent a lot of time playing and running around on that dark green gym floor. I am sure we learned as well.
The school would eventually close after my Grade 1 year and in Grade 2 I started to bus to the nearest town some 50 km away in Ashern, Manitoba. This was around 1986, and at that time my father would purchase a house in Dauphin where he secured a permanent position with the CNR in the town of 7,000. My mother taught in Ashern Elementary while I was in Grade 2, and in 1988 she got a position on the Peguis First Nation. It is in Peguis where I was truly introduced to hockey. Peguis lives and breathes hockey. I really had no choice because all my friends played, so my mother signed me up. It was the first time I played organized hockey and I wasn’t just playing shinny with my brother on the outdoor rink. My brother and I spent many nights at the outdoor the rink or at public skating where he taught me to shoot, pass, and whip around the ice. If I wasn’t playing hockey, then my mother, brother, and me would travel to Dauphin to spend the weekends with my dad. As weird as their relationship may sound at this point, they were in fact together. My mom worked and lived in Peguis during the week, and then we either went to Dauphin or travelled for hockey games on the weekends.
My parents, especially my mother, were selfless in their approach to our rearing. They lead by example and made sacrifices that ensured that my brother and I would become successful adults. Despite many obstacles in my mother’s life, my kookoo’s life and my kookoo Nancy’s life, these women lead by example with a humble and courageous approach to life. I have taken these values and ways of being and I nervously and humbly tell the reader that I am attempting to follow in their moccasins. I think more importantly is that I am supposed to do this.
My mother is the pillar of our family. She is the most consistent person I have had in my life and she has always been by my side. Come spring time, my mother would sign my brother and I up for baseball. However, baseball wasn’t in Peguis, it was in Dauphin and we were still living in Peguis. When the snow melted we would play baseball, travel to Dauphin and stay with my father. Growing up in Vogar meant that everybody played baseball. Baseball was another passion in our family. Playing these sports and eventually becoming competitive players gave my brother and I the opportunity to develop leadership qualities. Sports helped us to develop confidence, teamwork, and communication skills that we both employ now in our positions as public servants. My brother works for Manitoba Hydro in accounting and I am a teacher.
We lived in Peguis for five years and we all eventually moved in with my father, in Dauphin, in my Grade 8 school year. It was 1993 and it was the first time that we all truly lived together, every single day. Travelling, going in and out from my mother’s home, to my father’s home, to my grandparent’s home was all normal to me as a kid. It was just simply how weoperated and this is where I come from.
Where Am I Going?
Up until 1993, I had spent most of my childhood with Indigenous people. As diverse as Indigenous people are, the First Nations I lived and spent most of my time in were all people who had similar experiences as I did, they often looked the same as I did, and many of us understood that unspoken language of values, beliefs, and customs. I never questioned myidentity up to this point. When I moved to Dauphin, I didn’t have much choice but to question my Indigenous identity. It was pretty evident when I walked into my new classroom that I was one of few Indigenous people in the room.
Dauphin is a Settler farming community and in the early 1990’s was made up of mostly Ukrainian people. It’s tough to be an Indigenous person in Dauphin. There is a total lack of understanding and education and it was pretty evident back then. I understand that I make a very sweeping statement here but it is important for me to name the truth. Robin DiAngelo in her bestselling book White Fragility addresses the title of her book and similar sweeping statements, “the mere title of this book will cause resistance because I am breaking a cardinal rule of individualism – I am generalizing […] for now, try to let go of your individual narrative and grapple with the collective messages we all received as members of a larger shared culture [and] unsettle the racial quo” (DiAngelo, 2018, pp. 11-14). Like I said, it was evident, and this lack of understanding was based on the underlying racial inequality that exists in Dauphin.
Dauphin sits on Treaty 2 territory and that agreement was signed in August of 1871. Not many people in the town of Dauphin to this day know that simple fact. Dauphin was also home to the Mackay Residential School. It was built in 1957 and closed in 1988 and was one of the last residential schools to close in that era. When I moved to Dauphin permanently in 1993, the location of the residential school was actually a Christian college. It was called the Western Christian College and they bought the property and school from the government in the early 1990’s, I never thought much about it until I got to university in the early 2000’s and learned in depth what residential schools were. All of those memories from 1986 and 1987, when my brother and I would go over there to skate and see all those Indigenous kids, started to come back to me. We even attended a graduation ceremony there one time with powwow drummers anddancers. I didn’t remember those memories until I learned what the actual building used to be. It’s weird how that happens, when something triggers memories to come pouring in like that. It was in those university classrooms and lecture theatres that I came to realize that building was a residential school, and it was a mere 3 blocks from my home in Dauphin. There was a sense of sadness as I came to learn and realize what may have happened, and probably happened, in that building. The pervasive abuse, violence and humiliation that occurred in those buildings; but also the realization that the Canadian government and churches held so much power during that era rendering so many children and families helpless. This knowledge humbled me and I quickly realized the privilege I had.
I met a couple of neighbour kids back then, one was named John and the other was Tony. Tony’s family was from the Atikokan area of northwest Ontario and they were extremely friendly and welcoming and Tony and I became close friends. Tony was much like myself, we both loved to be outside and play in the bush. They were nice people and Tony’s father worked on the railroad like my dad. We spent a lot of time together as youngsters. The other boy, John, his family was not nearly as friendly. On a couple of occasions, John’s family would not allow me into their home and I never did see the inside of their place. I recall one time John’s sister came out of their camper, which was pretty cool in those days because not a lot of people had campers. She looked directly at me, and then looked at her brother and said, “John, that boy is an Indian, and Indians are not allowed at our house”. I was with Tony at the time, and we simply walked back down the block and went our separate ways. I told my mother later about what had happened and she told me that I was never to go there again. And, I never did.
Because I had spent parts of my summer playing baseball in Dauphin, the transition to my new school was not difficult and I made friends immediately. It was an exciting time in the fall, plus hockey was going to begin very soon. I definitely experienced some culture shock. I went to having almost all Indigenous teachers back in Peguis to there being no Indigenous teachers in my new school. I saw myself in no one besides my peers. In Indigenous communities, you have a common bond and a shared sense of humor related to cultural happenings, or people in the community. Everybody knows everybody and it is that connection that helps Indigenous people relate to many different stories of themselves. Living in Dauphin changed in that way and I only connected with my close friends, who were often teammates. I loved Dauphin but I did not have that natural feeling of being connected to everyone in the community. When I went to visit my white friends’ homes, I was shocked and appalled in the way they spoke to their parents. They spoke to their parents, in ways that I would never speak to my parents. I thought it was disrespectful and their use of varying tones was extremely rude. It was certainly something that I would never get away with in my house.
Eventually, I would move on to high school and get comfortable with everyday life in Dauphin. In my Grade 12 year, I moved to a small town in eastern Manitoba to play competitive hockey. It was a tough move but my parents trusted me to make the decision to be billeted alone with a family there. When the hockey season ended, I moved back in the spring to complete my schooling in Dauphin. Upon my return to the school I saw a girl.
One time, not so long ago, there was a little girl who lived on a mountain and was always talking. She would talk and talk and talk, and ask question after question after question. She did so much talking that she started singing.
Well guess what? She now sang and sang all the time!
Soon after she realized she could sing, she started to write down all kinds of ideas. Some of those ideas were good, but some of those ideas were bad. You see, she was not a bad person, but there were bad things going on in her life. Writing her ideas and singing her songs saved her from all those bad things.
She was magic. She used magic to write and write, and sing and sing. People always wanted to hear and see her sing. Her voice and songs were magic and she used it to save herself, and to save other people.
I met my wife Desiree in my final year of high school in 1998 and we started dating in the summer. My wife is an incredible woman. She is a survivor. She is a survivor in so many ways and is symbolic of so many ideals in this work. She is resilient and was forced to grow up fast as a child. We met young, and she was strong willed and strong minded then, as she is today. She is tenacious, yet kind, quick witted and patient, and she is brilliant, but humble. She holds me to account yet respects who I am as a person. I have grown, matured, and have become a strong Indigenous male because of her unabated support. I am who I am because of her.
My wife is the granddaughter of a Residential School survivor. Needless to say, the horrors her family faced in Canada’s Residential School system have greatly affected her life. The trickle-down effect of the residential school system is inter-generational (Regan, 2010). The trauma faced by children in the system is everlasting. Senator Sinclair, after he discussed and explained the four essential questions for reconciliation, Why am I here?, Where do I come from? Where am I going?, and Who am I?, he states, “For young Indigenous people who were taken away from their families and placed in Residential School institutions, the ability to answer any of those questions was taken away from them by those schools” (Sinclair, 2016). What this means for me, is that I have to observe and critically think how this is going to affect my own children. In one way or another, the Residential School system is going to affect my family, especially my children. It will be up to them to reconcile with their own past along with Canada’s colonial past. They will ask questions that some people may not be able to answer, comprehend, or fully understand. In doing this work, in writing my story, I am attempting to understand who I am in Canada’s fabric. I am attempting to do this through love. It is my wish that they do the same.
Wab Kinew (2015), in his book The Reason You Walk, sets out to reconcile his relationship with his father. It is a beautiful journey of love, discovery, sacrifice, and understanding of a familial relationship that has been affected by colonialism, and ultimately the Residential School system. Kinew’s relationship with his father as a child was difficult and challenging. And, in his journey, he decides to reconcile his relationship and better understand his own lineage. He soon discovers that it was never his father’s fault, but it was the Residential School system. Kinew states, “We stand by those who came before us, hoping that those who come after us will honour us in the same way. We love, and we hope to be loved […] so as long as anything other than love governs our relationship” (Kinew, 2015, p. 268).
As Kinew states, love governs our relationships, but my wife’s grandmother and father were never loved. Their removal from their homes, their family connection, their language, the land, and their lifestyle altered them forever. I am not trying to assume that they were not loved at any time in their life, or that they could not love others, but it is well known that committing cultural genocide and targeting children has altered the course of our country’s narrative, and our people’s knowledge of love. My wife’s grandmother, and their relationship, has been shut off socially, emotionally, and physically. She has always struggled in showing love. When my wife’s father was born, he was given up for adoption. He did not know this until he became an adult. So once again, that lack of love led him down a path of chaos and dysfunction. As a result, he struggled to show love and sought comfort and coping with irresponsible behavior and abandoned my wife and her sister at a young age, along with their mother.
I would be remiss to do this work and not honor my wife and the obstacles she has been forced to overcome, but also to all the other children who are the survivors of Residential School students, and the generations that passed, and that are coming. This work is an important, small, but significant attempt at “redressing” those wrongs. Chief Commissioner of the TRC Senator Sinclair says, “education got us into this mess, it will be education that gets us out” (Sinclair, 2016). It is my wish to honor my wife, her family’s history, and for my children who will one day come to understand and learn about their own family more closely.
Soon after my wife’s father left, her mother met a tough Metis man. Her mother’s new boyfriend worked as a diamond driller in the northern parts of Canada but when he came home he partied hard and long and there were many nights my wife went to school on very little sleep and memories of yelling, laughing, and arguing long into the night. Maria Campbell in her ground breaking memoir Halfbreed talks about the hardworking, but also hard drinking, Metis men she grew up with in northern Saskatchewan. My wife’s new stepfather was just that. Campbell says, “I never saw any of our men walk with their heads held high […] however, when they were drunk they became aggressive and belligerent, [and] often they drank too much and became pathetic, sick men, crying about the past and fighting each other” (Campbell, 1973, p. 13). My wife and I met at young ages so I was a personal witness to the behaviours of her step- father, but like I said, my wife is a survivor. She has the heart, strength, and courage of a bear and has shown that she can overcome anything.
All my wife ever wanted to do was to leave home and go to university. She found solace in education and excelled in learning. When she completed high school, we both signed up to go to University and she attained a degree in Law after a short stint in the Faculty of Social Work. She is extremely motivated and an amazing mother. Her motivation, hard work, and perseverance has helped her stop a cycle of dysfunction in her family. Education can do that.
That all being said, my wife has fond memories of her childhood. Her own mother worked two jobs and supported the family during those difficult times when her father left.
When her new stepfather entered the picture, there was still quiet periods during that time because often he would go off to work for long stretches, including months. It is those memories with her mom and her sister that she cherishes the most and they grew closer during those times. In her childhood, like many young girls, my wife enjoyed music. She especially loved country music and grew up on classic country and western singers such as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Reba McIntyre. At a young age my wife started writing songs. As many artists do, they wrote about the things they heard, saw, and experienced. Many of her songs are about alcoholism, partying, and tough times, but it is those songs that many people identified with. People relate to her music as alcoholism and addiction are universal and do not discriminate.
At the age of 14, my wife Desiree released her first independent studio album. An amazing feat considering the odds against her. Since that first album, and going off to university and becoming a working professional, she has released three more albums and is currently working on her fifth. Simply incredible. She has been nominated, and won, for numerous awards for recording and songwriting and was lucky enough to be nominated for a Juno Award in 2014. My wife, like my mother and grandmothers, are strong and resilient Indigenous women. They have demonstrated that they are hardworking and humble, and that their past, and Canada’s colonial past does not define who they are.
I spent many nights waiting for momma in the car outside the local bar. She said I’m just going in for a cold one, I knew that meant 6 more. When she’d had her fill she’d take me home wasted behind the wheel. I’d go to school the very next day like it was no big deal.
I’m a wait in the car kid, while her mom’s at the bar kid.
A riding home with a drunk kid, but I turned out alright.
It don’t matter where you come from, cause it ain’t where you’re going. Looking back, I grew up fast, just like a flower through a sidewalk crack. We can’t choose our mamas or determine our circumstance.
Raising babies, it ain’t easy, you do the best that you can.
There was always food on the table and always love to go around.
We all make mistakes sometimes but somehow it all works out.
Now I’m a little older, got two daughters of my own.
I might stumble and I might fall, I was raised by a rolling stone.
One foot in front of the other, take it day by day.
I’m the furthest thing from perfect but you’re never gonna hear them say: I’m a wait in the car kid, while her mom’s at the bar kid.
A riding home with a drunk kid, but I turned out alright.
It don’t matter where you come from, it ain’t where you’re going. Looking back, I grew up fast, just like a flower through a sidewalk crack.
Desiree Dorion, 2017
Who Am I?
Like many people often do, I discovered a lot of who I am in university. It was fun and exhilarating and I met many people. University is also where I excelled academically. It was not that I was not a smart student, but I never put in a solid and concerted effort in high school. I was too focused on being a teenager, playing hockey, and was too self-absorbed.
I entered university the same time my wife did and I was able to attain my Bachelor of Arts and my Bachelor of Education degree. I was part of the University of Manitoba’s ACCESS program and they provided the necessary supports for both rural and Indigenous students attending post-secondary school. It was an amazing program, and if I did not have classes, then I spent a lot of my time at ACCESS hanging out, using computers, talking to the different social and academic councillors there. It felt like home and the people, atmosphere, and culture were extremely familiar. The program had a profound effect on me and I still talk to some of the people involved in the program.
Along with sports, ACCESS allowed me to be a leader and a role model. I was featured in their promotion and public relations posters and pamphlets and they helped me get a part-time job speaking to schools and helping to recruit Indigenous high school students to sign up and register with the University of Manitoba. It was also while doing this part time work, along with being one of a few Indigenous education students in the faculty, that I was noticing that I was having an impact on my peers and within my faculty.
I was becoming one of the role models of the program and people were looking to me to lead, speak on, and address Indigenous issues in education. I was consistently asked to sit on multiple boards and committees, and although it was exciting, it also made me understand the lack of representation, and the need, for Indigenous peoples in all aspects of institutional education. This need for representation has never truly left and I still witness it today.
ACCESS prepared me for my first job interview in my final year in the Faculty of Education and I was able to secure a position prior to graduating. I worked at Maples Collegiate in the Seven Oaks School Division and I was there for 3 years. My wife, in the meantime, quit Social Work and entered the Faculty of Law and so I worked for a few years while she attained her degree. Maples Collegiate was a great school and I loved my time there but living in the city was not for my wife and me. As soon as she graduated, we purchased a home in Dauphin and I was hired on at the Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School (DRCSS). Like I said earlier, Dauphin can be tough place for an Indigenous person to live in, but my wife and I felt it was important to move back, contribute to the community, and become leaders in our chosen fields. Since then, I have had the opportunity to sit on multiple Manitoba Education committees and multiple Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) committees. I was also a feature teacher in two of MTS’ television commercials. The first commercial occurring in 2009 and the second in the spring of 2019. I have also been lucky enough to be nationally recognized by the Indspire Awards in 2017 where I was awarded for being The Outstanding Education Role Model.
I am extremely lucky. I am lucky in all aspects of my life, and I have certainly nothing to complain about. What does feel contradictory though is talking about myself. In Anishinaabe culture, there are teachings and natural laws that we are to follow. Within the Seven Teachings we are taught to be humble and show humility. In writing about the aspects of my life, as rewarding as it is, it feels bizarre and unusual, almost unnatural. I have had these feelings throughout this work but I consistently think about my end target and goal: to conduct this work with respect and courage for my children. I ask forgiveness and leniency from my ancestors and family, and I wish for them to see that I know what shoulders and shadows that I stand on.
My daughter Grace was born in August of 2011. Children are medicine. I sit on a Government of Manitoba committee that oversees the development of high school Indigenous studies curriculum and one of the members is Elder Ron Cook from Thompson, Manitoba. In explaining the life cycle of children into adults, he starts with the infancy stage of life and says, “Children are healers and they bring medicine, because when they are born, they immediately make us [parents] be better people” (R. Cook, personal communication, September 24, 2018). Life took on new meaning the day Grace was born and, like many things that have happened in my life, I was provided with more purpose. Grace is an old soul who is shy and loves playing. She is not particularly passionate about one thing but she loves to sing, dance, visit family, be outside, snack, and play with her cousins. What more could you ask from your child?
My youngest daughter Natalie was born in May of 2015 and she is a fireball. She was brought into our world to provide us balance. She keeps my wife and me honest and challenges us every day in a multitude of ways. She is the jokester of the family and is always attempting to get a smile, laugh, or reaction from people in the room. She is quick to learn and observe human behaviors and she can often be singing songs that are inappropriate, yelling expletives, crying irrationally, and stubbornly testing our patience. With this in mind, she is also very shy, but once you get a feel for her energy, and she recognizes that you notice her, she reveals her sense of humor and wit.
These young ladies have changed my world and are now my purpose. Obviously, my wife and I, and our schedules, revolve around our children’s schedules. They keep us busy like many other families, but my children bring me pure joy. As challenging as they can be as they grow and learn about our world, I feel like it is my responsibility to ensure they understand themselves, who they are, where they come from so that they are able and prepared to answer where they are going and why they are here. As I continue to work for my community, always keeping their best interests in mind, it is Grace and Natalie that provide reason. They are the reason I do this work. This is who I am.
You know, not so long ago, there were lots of people that did not need much to be happy. They were loved, and felt loved every day. That is what every person needs. There was a young girl named Margaret who loved to be loved. She used to live on the shores of Centre Lake, which is near the small Metis community of Vogar.
When she was small she would spend time with her mom walking along the beach at Centre Lake. Margaret thought it was the most beautiful place in the world. She would hold her mom’s hand and simply walk in silence. She would pick rocks and show her mom; she would point at birds; and sometimes, she would just watch her mom’s feet.
Afterwards, they would go back to their small, but warm, one room house. In this house was a fireplace, a kitchen, and beds. The small house was built by her dad. There is no better feeling than going home.
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