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What inspires us

I am reminded of this work that I did.

When I took on this project, I had no clue about quilts or sewing. When I gathered quilting fabric and materials at the sewing store, I was laughed at by a local quilter for thinking it be easy to build a quilt. The truth is, I knew we’d do this as a team. And this we totally did.  I knew from my contact who was helping to support me that the Elders loved to do activities together and especially creative activities. I also knew, we’d work together, and our project would be a unique one.

One of my favourite thing was when we built our self portraits, which was the basis for the quilt activity. I took a Reggio learning activity, Reggio being one of my favourite early learning.  Building self portraits was and is so important for all of us. What and how we perceive ourselves, how we are known in the community and in our families? What stories do we share? What are our favourite colours? Places? Partners? Lovers? Children? How do we see ourselves? What is important to us? What are events in your life that you want to share about? What do you love to do?

What was shared by the Elders was phenomenal. I learned so many stories from them, that they could fill volumes. If you get a chance, you can see the quilt at the Friendship Centre in the basement where they run their programs which really is a niche for them.

Using this model to work with the Elders was really inspiring. During my time with them we worked in different spaces with them including the Baggage Arts Building, The Art Gallery.  I still work with the Elders in my work, and really believe in the work of  Loris Malaguzz  is built on a solid foundation of philosophical principles and extensive experiences and is truly a way of building something solid.

The work with the Elders was so much, and there is still so much to explore and build upon,

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/human-rights-quilt-stitched-with-stories-from-thunder-bay-elders-1.2929516

On Mother’s Day,

Dear Moms, Mothers, Mammas,

Today I write my wish to you from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Anemki Wajiw, where the lookout of the mountain can see over the city, and Lake Superior including the vast colours of blue. The land and sky meet, in an interchange. Where you can find moss and put your face right into it and smell the Land. A truly spiritual experience. From the heart of Anishinabek territory.

 A relationship here, that we notice is of skies and water. The two seem interconnected at times, and only separable by the sunsets and sunrises. Our relationships with one another are strong and resilient.

As I write this story for you, I remember the lines of struggles and the determination that make us who we are.

I remember the sorrow.

I remember the pain.

I remember the love.

I remember the joy.

I remember the confusion.

I remember the numb.

I remember the breath of a new beginning and commitment to change.

 It is ok.

We are learning.

We are leading, a revolution,

with love.

Know that I was there, when you were giving birth too. And you were there for me.

Birth is a place of power. Of sheer growth. Of innate ancestral wisdom. Of a time when we called out to our grandmothers for help in this place, or power, and fear.

I remember my birth stories like a map of my life.

Your birth story, of  strength, and trust.

Trust the moment.

Hear the cry.

Hold your new baby who has come from within you. You have been having a relationship with your little one for nine months and now you get to meet him or for the very fit time. When you realize how beautiful and precious she is, you are overcome with peace.

Like a beautiful vibrant turquoise stone you know truth and there is no way anyone can away  your beauty.

Each day another journey of self love and love that you can carry for yourself, yet it is tiring, I know. It can be replenished when we remember to help one another.

I remember the stories you tell of making friends for the first time in the city,  trying to fit in and stuff. I remember when you went back home and they ignored you. I remember you in line at the food bank. I remember you at emerge, with your injury you lied about for fear about your children being taken. I remember the time the police showed up and signed you in for observation because they were worried you’d hurt yourself. I remember the time your neighbour called Children’s Aid on you. I remember the way they looked at your children like that. I remember her asking if the dad of your children was the same. I remember that year you lost your grandmother. I remember the  way we came together at her ceremony, where we all told a story or a poem.  I remember them ignoring you. I remember them forgetting you. I remember. I remember.

I remember the time we sat at your child’s birthday all together with the company of other mothers, around the fire pit.

I remember the strength of you when you shared your knowledge on language and cultural ways back home in Treaty 9 & 5 territory.

I remember the strength of you when you shared your knowledge on the Land and about your research from the shores of Lake Superior and the stories of Elders and youth.

I remember the strength of you when you shared your knowledge on the spirit of song and how you carry that gift of drumming. Each time you sing, you make our hearts stronger, like one heart beat.

I remember the gift you share of wild rice. Manoomin. I remember how you tell about gathering from your home territory along the shores where three places meet: Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota in Treaty 3. You carry that wisdom to us, in your spiritual sharing. Then bringing wild rice each and every full moon ceremony for each 13 ceremonies that year. We would feast our creative spirit as we sat together in my home territory of the Robinson Superior.

I remember when you told me the sacrifice of doing a PhD downtown Toronto and how you just literally went in and left, with the end prize in sight, then continually advocating for a fair education for all children and learners. Everyone still turning to you for your knowledge and brilliance.

I remember that time we went shopping in Rosedale and took a subway together, and then to the fifth floor of the Eaton’s Centre in Toronto. That same time we went out for pad thai on Bloor.  I remember your tireless hard work. Your endless commitment.

I remember wandering around by the Ocean with you and then having gelato later on around Commercial. Then us laying in a park in the city, looking for the stars, to feel that land connection.

I remember us dancing to the Tribe Called Red at the Old Fort. We lost each other in the shuffle. I found you later wearing a glow in the dark crown, you looked the Queen you are. The sun never seems to set in the summer, and there you were in your happy moment. We could hardly hear each when I said “see you later”, the music so loud.

I remember that time you were downtown Toronto, wearing glittery dresses above your knee, riding the subways. Before you had children you loved to go out, wear heels, and lipstick and how it all sits in your closet still. You love those memories so much you never want to toss that memory away so it sits, and you remember each time you open your closet. You are a poet.

I remember you lost at that rave. You were thinking you were a true Coachella princess wearing your hair in braids backwards looking beautiful in your long dress that hugged your body showing how gorgeous you are. I hope I remember to tell you that having children even made you more beautiful.

I remember you running for Chief and how you represented that lost female voice now coming back ever so strong. Your voice strong across the nations like a herd of buffalo, and wildflowers in the wind.  You in your infinite wisdom arms outstretched to Grandmother moon, wild white sage in hand, you in your medicine ribbon dress. Carrying that collective strength and story in your bones.

I remember that time you and I found literature that talked about us, and our experiences. And then we started to write because we were so inspired.  We’d read together and write together. We were an ear to each others stories. We never judged each other. How can a flower judge another flower. We’d write in the local university newspaper, poems and short stories. We’d publish our stories eventually. You’d eventually become a leader in your field.

I remember that time we watched a movie together on Bloor. It was Frieda. After that I’d hold a fashion show and share with you all the dresses I bought from FairWeather and some designer stores. Your aqua blue heart, strong.

You are loved.

You are remembered.

Happy Mother’s Day.