The hearts of our Women

The Hearts of our Women, will never mend & still we are Strong 

For all those who have spoken up to the #MMIW, its a collective voice both political and grassroots leadership & the movements from within initiated by our own women, on their own. I include my own story here, initiated during the call out for a nation wide vigil for our Sisters in Spirit.  The feeling that springs forth strength in better ways, and Respect for the dignity of all, especially our strongest and most important, our Lifegivers, Mothers, Women, Aunties, Sisters. I too have lost family to #MMIW & these stories have made me very afraid. I too have had an experience which knocked me down & this is something I have had to work very carefully through. You never do get over these things.

Truths untold, no place to tell

For too long our families have existed in the shadows.  The stories  have left us chilled. Today as I drove around our city, i thought to myself of the women who have been taken from us, in places I drive by each day.  Our recognition in the history of this country is what this country needs, in my heart, to heal from the collective trauma, to a collective recognition of the truth. Today I thought about gathering red dresses and hanging them at all the sites I know of where our women have become Stolen.  There are definitely three sites I can think of. That itself is terrifying. At times I have thought to myself, am I on Ground zero. Plus where is the collective rage. When I held a vigil for Loretta, three people asked “is she your sister?” I was taken back. And at the same time, I feel, of course she is my sister and she is your sister too. She is all of our sisters. As are all of the Sisters. We are all related.

When I asked my Chief, Duncan Michano to stand and put together a vigil, well say some words, by Lake Superior,  including Dr. Paul Berger of Lakehead University, Sharon Johnson who has fearlessly leads up the Full Moon Memory Walk in honour of her sister, and a student in Law at Lakehead’s Indigenous Law Society,  I couldn’t help but to feel afraid myself to put this on but their help mattered a lot.  Did I need help? What kind of help did I need. I had contemplated a small vigil. Something just with my family on the top of Hillcrest. But a feeling came over me that I needed to do something near the water, and offer it for everyone. Scott Mainprize immediately contacted me after I placed the event on Facebook. I was so relieved to have help.  And that is where it happened.   In the midst of this, the Ontario Native Women’s Association helped with refreshments and covered the sound system, & the City of Thunder Bay leant a venue site.  But at the bottom of my heart, I knew we needed to do more.  

I’ve joined in Walks, and with our children. They’ve heard me talk about #MMIW. I realize that children are welcomed everywhere, but after one of my child was nearly hit by a car pulling in who decided to park much to close to my car door, and then my five year old, well decided to yell obscenities, I knew, well this was not the place for children. I apologized quickly. I’ve had my fair share of encounters with crappy drivers and their inconsideration in the past few years. I decided then, if there are cars, or walks, we have to participate in ways that are safe for us.  I’ve decided my energies need to go towards learning and the Land. I know what this means, and I’m considering ways to make this happen. I feel this is my contribution.

But just for today I will start my addition  to the Walking With Our Sisters Collection and I’ll get my children to bead too.

I’m considering what will be on my vamps. I have no clue how to bead. Today I will learn. I will work in the old ways in understanding the value of art, and in knowing that it is art, that always saves. The creative process, as I know, has proved itself to give me strength.  No one can ever tell you art is wrong. It is about your voice.

I too, always include the #WWOS in my work.  I too remember the Grandmothers from the Lifelong Care program  brought to the Thunder Bay WWOS event, and how they told us, in their language, “We don’t know what to do, but we know we MUST do something.”  Their words are a truth. These are the Elders who spoke. We have to listen.

This today: December 8, 2015 #MMIW




Justin Trudeau’s attendance at Special Chiefs Assembly spurs hope for real change



“I think we need to be able to reverse the measures of how we conduct business. It does not need to be adversarial all the time and fighting in the courts.”

I think we need to look at a full partnership that benefits our citizens and creates more certainty in this country. and at the end of the day, we’re all here to stay. We’re not going anywhere.”

Barriers to Land Connection

I’ve had the discussion around Land Connection. When writing my business plan this summer, with three sons in my care 24-7. How I did that one: required the skills of a Marathon runner or swimmer. Up for air. Back down.

I’ve been asked, what is Land Connection. How do you explain Land Connection? What do you mean, Land Connection. Well first things first, Land Connection while living in the city can be difficult to do. Given our daily schedules, the time it takes to get from a to b.  Is it about how important it is to be outside that I am promoting, in a way yes. It is also about that feeling you have in the place you are. Research is showing that youth are spending way too much time in front of screens, as are adults. No one is interacting anymore? Or are they.  Families who move into the city can lack these true connections that are so valuable for ourselves. When we move to the cities, we also, are at risk for losing important connections and relationships. Yes, even our Elders say this.

I will now try and explain what I feel this means. I’ve definitely had experiences in connecting to places, and I know where that is and what that means. As an educator, mother and artist, I know this really matters. A lot. Backed up by research as well as in understanding how Land, or place, is a “third teacher” and Land is seen as integral in learning.

After I wrote my thesis in 2012, the story as I told in 100 pages or so is the Land is Significant for the youth who I spoke to, all 21 of them, in terms of their health and learning. This means learning is not just confined to classrooms. That learning is much more than just being on the Land as well. Learning needs guidance, community, clean beautiful spaces, atheistically glimmering places. Picture: mossy treed forests. Riverbed with rocks. Blues fading into blues. Swirly water.  Also learning needs our stories. For our stories are what has been here all along.

So consider this. Learning sites on the Land as identified by Pic River youth as places our ancestors have been for 10,000 years. 10,000 years later and the places still look and feel gorgeous. The energy received from laying on a beach back home can push you into self repair mode.  Conversations with family at the beach teaching us many things about our lineage and our stories. We see a retired chair. We remember the Elder who once sat in that chair overlooking the mouth of the Pic River.

Now take this same vision and apply it to Thunder Bay. Hmmm.. Three hours away from all that I know that youth related as being important to their learning and their health. Solution or answer. Find places in Thunder Bay that feel good. My quest for the summer was to write a business plan about Land Connection and than actually go out onto the Land and find these places. I ventured to a lot of places. Here is a list:

  • Little Trout Bay: about 45 min. south of Thunder Bay
  • Pic River: 3  1/2 hours east of Thunder Bay
  • Centennial Park: 10 minutes away and within the city but not the buslines
  • Seaman Park
  • Trowbridge
  • Thunder Mountain
  • areas along Lake Superior within Thunder Bay and around the area.

Barriers according to me:

Growing up in a place where shores seemed and are seemingly forever, it felt hard to “contain” myself. I felt the farther I went away from the Lake, the more I didn’t like the spaces? Interesting. Industry is hard to see beauty in. Which means, going to other places that will enable you to feel good.

What does this mean? well beSuperior was born. I started truly thinking about how the Lake brought so much to me. Including the ones I heard stories from. About the connection they felt to the shores or to the places. Like in other places I have been, there are always places of power and teaching places. In Alberta, the circles & tipi rings specifically Calgary on Nose Hill. Other areas too.

How is Land Connection supported?

Finding great sites. Knowing where these places are.

How is Land Connection held up?

  • A lack of access to places.
  • Lacking safety.
  • Lacking transportation.
  • Lacking knowledge.
  • Lacking resources.
  • Lacking knowledge about why Land is so important and spaces.
  • Having our traditional activities removed from our everyday lives.

What does this mean? Thesis where i seem my knowledge and business plan helping?

How we’ve been impacted as a whole as Indigenous people?

  • Globalization.
  • Marginalization.
  • Classicism.
  • Alienation.
  • These are large words for being displaced, lost, at risk, having our “authorities” taken out of our lives and our hands.
  • How we do reinvent this?
  • We need to build communities that put children at the centre.

How do we repair what has been lost, 

  • Foster Land based learning.
  • Find maps.
  • Adventure.
  • Explore.
  • Think about trees & then go find some. They need your CO2 and you need their O2.
  • Go by the water and collect things.
  • Bond with your children in beautiful places.
  • Good energy matters. Go where it feels good, though always consider safety first.

Most importantly, be.