Through the language we can bring healing to our people.

 

Through the Language we can bring healing to our people.

Tansi/Kwe,

As a First Nation, Inuit, and/or Metis individual, what priorities would you bring to the forefront of Turtle Island in order to bring healing, renewed relationships, positive action and revitalization of our diverse cultures?

This question was at the heart, spirit and intent of over 26 First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nations as I travelled Far East to “Unama’ki – Land of the Fog” and “People of the Dawn” in Membertou First Nation, Nova Scotia. Knowledge keepers, youth, elders, women, men, two spirited and all sovereign passionate souls gathered here on Mi’kmaq territory to collaborate, discuss, network, share stories and record ideas toward this question and plausible solutions.

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Jeff Ward (a member of Membertou First Nation) confidently stated that, “through the language we can bring healing to our people.” I have heard this time and time again from elders back home on the plains as well. That our languages and cultures go hand in hand and that it’s vital to keep our languages alive in order to also keep our cultures alive.

Jeff Ward also mentioned that, “We have a gift of Indigenous language, we need to think about that and honour that. Think of this gathering here in the east as a new beginning”.

A woman from the Native Women’s Association of Canada proclaimed that “Indigenous women are keepers of the language” and that only 5% of First Nation children learn an Indigenous language.

Many of these knowledge keepers, with passion in their words, their eyes pleading and searching for change, their hearts pouring out to a sea of Indigeniety sparked a flame inside my being. It had always been there but had not been inflamed to that capacity.

Being a young Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman, who was born and raised in the urban inner city, far from any Indigenous language other than the “official” colonial construct of English and French. I am now learning so much more about the loss of our culture and languages and how its such an incredibly important time right now to strengthen our heritage, revitalize and reclaim who we are as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. I must return back to my roots, visit and learn from the source, from my Cree (Nihithaw) territory in Northern Manitoba. I must return back and fully immerse myself in the language in order to fully become fluent.

Some nations have only a few fluent speakers of the language left and most of them are beginning to approach their final years in this physical realm. This is very painful to hear and ignites my spirit to want to create concrete action in order to reverse this. To create new generations of speakers.

Some tips to achieve this include:

  1. Record and document elders
  2. Teach children in public school system
  3. Begin immersion with on-reserve schools
  4. Create new generation of adult speakers committing to 2000 hours of meaningful exposure to the language.
  5. Language camps
  6. Elder socials
  7. utilization of media (TV, movies, cartoons, books, social media, etc.)

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With that, us as Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, Metis peoples need to ask ourselves how bad do we want it? What are the commitments we are willing to make right now in this moment? What sacrifices do we want to make for our languages and culture? We need to feed the passion. We need to accept our role, its all within us.

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A group of passionate youth rose up and spoke out. They exclaimed straight from spirit that “before asking the people for their hand, we must ask for their heart”. They also said that language revitalization is about healing, reconciliation and belonging. We need to ask what re-learning our languages would mean for those “lost generations” to the residential school survivors. To bring life back to their beings and spirits. We must infiltrate and enforce our leadership, lead by example, use language whenever we can, adopt traditional roles and have hands on learning.

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Its time for us to come together and collectively heal. I believe in us.

What Does National Aboriginal Day Mean To You?

Every year on June 21st, National Aboriginal Day is celebrated in Canada. Now, I always tend to get completely cliche and exclaim that every day is “Aboriginal Day” for us as Indigenous people across North America because we live our realities, our cultures and celebrate our “Indigenousness” every day.

As for me, this year feels different. I’m in deep reflective mode lately (classic over-thinking Shan) about our growth as Indigenous people. I feel as though all Canadians have been embarking on a journey which includes but is not limited to:

  • The increased awareness of the 1,200+ cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls because of public marches, protests, dances and ceremonies. Because of the outcries from brave family members, the push for a national inquiry and for more support from our police force and the government. Because of the raised awareness that these mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters are being taken far too young and do not belong bound and found in our rivers. They are loved, remembered and respected and didn’t deserve the treatment they faced.

 

  • There is also an increased awareness about the residential school system era including the genocide of countless Indigenous children and the attempt to diminish our Indigenous cultures. So much has happened since the last school closed in 1997; formal apologies, investigations, healing circles and the told truth from various survivors and students who attended. There is also the increased understanding of the inter-generational effects that still effect our families and communities to this day.

 

  • The 60’s scoop has also been acknowledged. The stories of how many Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in Non-Indigenous homes where many were faced with physical, emotional and sexual abuse and many never saw their families again.  There was also a formal apology from the Manitoba federal government to those children and their families.

There is a major shift in our Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities toward reconciliation right now through these acts. Through raised awareness and education on our painful reality in Canada and the past issues that still haunt our communities to this day. There is action being done such as the implementation of Indigenous classes and the history being taught in our education systems, the invitations of our traditions into schools and events across the nation.

I also feel as though despite everything, our Indigenous communities are stronger than ever. We are reclaiming who we are as Indigenous people. We are relearning our traditions, our teachings, our languages and becoming increasingly proud in our identities. On top of that, all of us across North America and past those border lines are in a major time of healing and shifting. We are starting to discuss and become more aware of what had happened. We are educating and engaging all Canadians and communities across the globe of our rich history and our progressive ways forward. I am also seeing much interest from Non-Indigenous individuals to truly learn and help in any way that they can to work toward reconciliation . We are all making positive baby steps forward but we must keep going. We have much more work to do, much more healing to bring to our communities, our families and ourselves. We need to work on these new found relationships between all of us, we need to encourage our systems and our nations to take this journey with us. We need to re-establish trust and protect our children, our women and our communities.

This time of shifting is exciting and encouraging to witness. To see the healing taking place, to be a part of educating Canadians about our culture and our traditions through performing at different schools, events and gatherings across turtle island and internationally. I just hope this momentum doesn’t stop. I hope we continue to move forward. I hope that one day my children will see a world where our Indigenous women and men are protected and can feel safe in their own homes, that every community has clean running water, that they can continue to swim and witness the beauty of our lakes and oceans without the fear of polluted waters. I hope my children will see a strong nation and feel proud in who they are. I hope they will feel support from their leadership and governments.  I hope for a future where all Canadians are aware and truly equal. That’s all we can rely on is that hope. We must begin with ourselves which will then reach our families, our friends, then our communities and then hopefully across the nation.

Like I said, much work still needs to be done and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this. I hope this wasn’t too long of a rant but this has been on my mind for awhile. What does this particular day known as “National Aboriginal Day” mean to you? What does it mean to be a Canadian? I would love to hear from you! I also asked this question across my social media and here are some of the answers I recieved.

“Happy to those who join us to celebrate our heritage through good faith and a reminder of what our people have over came and we are still here as a sovereign nation no matter what tribe we come from nation to nation we are all related.” 

“Being proud in who we are. Celebrate our heritage.”

“Free Bannock.” 

“Showing pride that the government actually recognized us for one day!”

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Adventure Is Just Around The Corner. Literally.

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If you are anything like me, you tend to crave adventure. 

This past month, I had the chance to visit the old jails on Vaughn Street here in our little city and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The old, grotesque and odd stories of past sinister villains, public hangings and other oddities that had happened there filled my mind with awe and wonderment as I tried to picture the things we were being told; some of the stories happened as recently as the 1960’s! The tour continued as we were brought down into the basement into the actual old jail cells where they continued to tell us horrifying stories of past prisoners and other things that had gone down in the spaces we were standing.

My advice to you is that if you don’t have the funds for an extravagant trip, or if you don’t have the time or simply want to fill that void of adventure but would like to stay close to home go out and explore that area of your city or town that you’ve never been before. Book a tour of an old building or a part of your hometown that has a lot of history. You’ll be surprised to learn about things you’ve never known before in your own backyard.

Thanks for reading, Hope you are all doing well!
P.S – Stay tuned for more adventure & photography type posts, summer is here & will be full of travel! 🙂