Public issues vs. private troubles

There is something I keep learning over and over again in school: C. Wright Mills “Sociological Imagination.” In other words, to put one self in another’s shoes to shift from one perspective to another. To understand private troubles vs. public issues. What is a private trouble? Well, the example continuously given in classes: if one person can’t find a summer job is that a public issue? No, that is a private trouble because it only affects one person. If a group of people can’t find a job for a period of time, then it is considered a public issue. Why? Well, it affects a whole group of people that can potential affect policies and the way public funding is administered, like social welfare. Social welfare agencies affect everyone in society whether you want to believe it or not.

So from my understanding, there is a whole nation of people who face 3rd world living conditions. Not in Africa. Not in India. Not in China. But right here in Canada. They also have little to no access to proper health care, clean running water (let alone indoor plumbing/heating/sturdy walls). See: Attawapiskat.

This isn’t an isolated issue. This is the story of many reserves across Canada.

But then you have non-Aboriginals, who can’t afford to pay their mortgage, lose their jobs, or can’t afford gas to drive their cars.

Some people in Canada believe that Aboriginals can get themselves out of their situation that it’s all because they “are lazy and drunks” and that they just “need to find a job” or “go to school” or “pay their taxes” or “stop drinking.” Just to name a few uneducated, ignorant excuses. Meanwhile, you have non-Aboriginals, all over North America, the states and Canada, who live in houses with running CLEAN water, indoor plumbing, heating, have beds with blankets, and some have a car parked in their garage. The moment that people can’t pay their mortgage or their loans or fill their car up with the gas, then it’s a problem that the government must handle.

So Canada, the welfare of other individuals affects us all. How can you just sit back and let this sort of injustice and prejudicial treatment happen within Canada?

Sign this petition if you want to help change happen!

Canada: Culture, Religion, and Aboriginals

I write this post after hearing again this week that Aboriginals should just assimilate into society. Canadian society that is.

After thinking about this comment for some time, I am going to give the person the benefit of the doubt and say that she probably meant no harm in saying it. There is, however, harm in saying such a thing. Especially to an Aboriginal person. Why is that? Well it was the very same act *assimilation* that has put Aboriginals in the state that they are in today. Unhealthy: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I am then reminded of a comment my Irish friend made me to me one day. He said, “I am proud to be Canadian.” And I told him, “That I don’t think there is enough of that.” He asked what I meant and I said “proud Canadians.” I then gave the example to him that a lot of people that I know (besides him) don’t ever say: “I am a proud Canadian.” They usually say, “I am proud to be Italian…” or German or Korean or Mexican and so on. I told him in comparison to the states, Canada doesn’t really have it’s own “culture.” And it’s true about Canada, it is rather a mixture of cultures than rather a country that possesses it’s own culture.

Saying that to him I was reminded of some younger people’s lack of faith in religion. Perhaps today religion is not as strong as it once used to be. Especially in Canada. I think that religion creates a lot of difficulties especially in regards to creating divisions (and by religion I mean Christianity/Catholicism..the very 2 religions that attempted to assimilate Aboriginals into Canadian society). Even in past history, conflict and violence erupted because of people’s different views on the church and religion of the past. Sometimes people ask me what my religion is and I always answer “I don’t have a religion.” They usually look puzzled and stumped at the same time after hearing my answer. I then explain to them that my culture is not a religion and that it is my values, beliefs, and way of life. When I think of religion (mostly Christianity/Catholicism), I think of conflict, divisions, violence. I do not want to be associated to that. Most certainly I do not want someone thinking the same thing as me to associate those descriptive words with the thought or idea of practicing Aboriginal culture.

But what I am really trying to get at in writing this post and sharing these views and stories is that I believe Canada does not have it’s own culture and that it rather has a mixture of cultures. Also religion is not the same as Aboriginal culture. And that religion is not valued as much as it once was in Canada. But most importantly in regards to the comment relating to Aboriginals assimilating into Canadian society–just because Canada does not have it’s own distinct culture and that just because it does not think highly of the values of it’s own existing religions within… Aboriginals shouldn’t have to be one in the same—lacking culture and devaluing their beliefs.

Have you seen these ads lately?

Have you seen these ads lately… the ones for the drought crisis in Africa. I mean, that’s pretty serious.

But have you read that 118 First Nations, as of June 30, 2011, have boil water advisories. I mean that’s pretty serious too. Click HERE to read about the boil water advisories affecting Canadian First Nations.

These ads are in Canada being shown to Canadian viewers. I think it’s odd that the website mentioned in the ads state the following:

Millions of people mostly children are in urgent need of food, drinking water and basic sanitation.

Sounds kind of like Canada for those 118 First Nations communities. Except no advertisements on television.

East Africa Drought Crisis — To donate to the Humanitarian Coalition click the link.

21st Century Canada

Well, I have never been in a foster home or had a foster parent. I do not know what it is like to have been taken away from my family.

I do know what it is like to be denied my culture and its traditions. When I was 14 years old, I tried to commit suicide. I had a lot of pain inside me. Feelings that I could not deal with. I just wanted the pain to end. At the time, I was taken traditional Aboriginal medicines to help with some of the things I was going through. Medicines which included St. John’s Wart which is used or recommended for people with depression or sleeping problems. It helped somewhat.

I was in the hospital for quite some time. I remember the doctor had asked me about things that I was feeling all the time or things that I thought. Even if I had hear or seen things that weren’t really there. I just wanted the pain to end. I was angry. That’s all I would say. Then he would say I was depressed. And that was when I prescribed my first anti-depressant. My only anti-depressant. I was told that I had to take this medicine, go to counseling once a week and see a psychiatrist for my anti-depressant prescription renewal/monitoring. It sucked but you know what sucked even more than all of this being told that if I didn’t take this medication and stop taking the Aboriginal medicines, or stopped going to counseling, or stopped seeing the psychiatrist that the doctors and counselors were instructed to call CAS and that I would be taken away from my parents.

There was nothing wrong with my parents. They loved me. Me and my sisters got along like normal siblings would. Sure we fought, but that was normal.

When I was told all of this, I was scared, fearful. What’s worse than having intense feelings of pain or anger inside: being threatened to be taken away from your family, the ones that love you unconditionally.

So there at the age of 14, scared, angry, living in fear, threatened by hospitals, doctors, and counselors, and on top of it all being prescribed a drug (as opposed to allowed being able to take my traditional medicine) that is now supposedly only recommend to for people over the age 18 (and still they tell doctors to take caution when prescribing this pill to young adults, thats people who are 18-24).

Then when I was 15 year old, I was in a car accident. I don’t remember what happened. In fact, I don’t remember for about 2 days before the accident and drifting in and out of consciousness, maybe 2 days after the accident (that’s right before I went into a coma, approximately).

I remember being in the hospital, strangely, and I remember a relative helping me take some Aboriginal traditional medicines. Then… I woke up in Sudbury. I don’t really know what happened in between all of then but I remember my mom telling me that the hospital called the police on my parents and family because the hospital felt that my family tried to kill me. Police, detectives, CAS. So I was told. You know what, I believed it. There are 2 reasons why I believed what she told me:

  1. She is my mom and I trust her and love her.
  2. Look at what the hospital did to me only a year before

So, no I don’t know what it is like to be taken away from my family or live in foster homes with foster parents. I do know what it is like to live in fear at the age of 14 and I do know what it feels like to be denied my cultural rights and beliefs and its traditions, all because of institutions that exist right here in 21st Century Canada.

Inspiration for this post is found here:

CAS documentary on Twitter

Blakout.ca Voices Silenced by Fear

Land of the Long Knives

Land of the Long Knives

Here is a screen caption of a user I follow on Twitter: Anishinabemowin. Their profile reads:

Free resource to learn Anishinaabemowin, Saulteaux, Ojibway and Chippewa

This particular word in the above image translates to the “Land of the Long Knives.” I remember learning about a related word when I was younger. The person told me that sometimes we can refer to “white people” as “gitchi-mookiman” which she told me, meant “Big Knife.” She went on to tell me that it literally was referring to the long knives white people carried with them when they arrived. She also told me that they were also referred to as this because they used their long knives to “cut up the land.” Now I think they probably used those “long knives” to do a lot more than to just “cut up the land.”

Also, I am not sure if the Land of the Long Knives is relating to North America or not, because I don’t think North America belongs to “the Long Knives.”

Note: Obviously, the word presented in the image is a variant or different dialect from the word I was taught. That is a given for any language, whether the language is Aboriginal or not. Gitchi-mookiman is pronounced “get-chi mook-i-mun” as I was taught.

Update: I had a friend tell me that the name Chimookimaning refers to the Bayonets that were used during the war of 1812 and refers to only America. Check out my friend, Andrew Manitowabi on his twitter HERE!

Am I "Indian" Enough For You?

I have been single for 2 years. In that two years, I have met some great people, and not so great people. Gone on some great dates and some not-so-great dates.

I have met some people who say to me: Why are you single? You’re such a great girl. And I have met some people who resort to calling me names when I say “No thanks, I am not interested in dating you…” Sorry, but you can’t win them all right?

Then one day, at school, I had a conversation with a Native guy. He was being his inquisitive self and I was being my talkative self. He then asked me a question, which I cannot remember precisely… but I asked him why he was asking me that. He proceeded to say, “I like to find out how “Indian” someone is.” I was kind of shocked. I then proceeded to say to him, “You know I never dated a Native guy before…” And it is true, I never have dated a Native guy before. In fact, my first relationship was with a white guy. And my second, and my third… I haven’t even gone on a “date” with a Native guy.

There are some great Native guys out there. In fact, race or ethnic background isn’t even one of the requirements for me to date someone. I don’t even have “requirements” or a “checklist.” I believe that you know someone is “right” for you, when they are strong enough to be there for you through the good and the bad times. Yet, whenever I think about having a relationship with a Native guy, there always lies that thought or question in the back of my head: Am I “Indian” enough for him?

I don’t know much about my culture. Well, I know what I was taught, and that is different from what someone else was taught. I don’t live at home, and I see my family when I can. Family is a big thing in Native culture. It’s not that I don’t love my family. I do love them and I love them a lot.

So as I sit here in my search to find that someone special, I begin to think: Why am I single? Am I too picky? Am I too busy? Or, maybe it is because I actually am I too “bitchy”… (Bitchy being: saying what is on my mind, standing up for what I believe is right)

Sometimes I practice my culture, sometimes I don’t. For some, it’s not enough. For some, it’s too much.

I remember having breakfast with one Native guy and during that time he said to me, “I come from a long-line of chiefs.” I didn’t know if this was a joke or if he was serious. Am I supposed to be the same, and come from a “long line of chiefs”? I don’t even know my grandparents (but that is because all but one passed away before I was born).

Then in a conversation with my mom about what I should speak about during an event in June, I told my mom what I thought about myself, event aside: I may never be “Indian” enough for a Native guy, and I may never be “good” enough for a non-Native guy.

But then I begin to think to myself, am I even ready for a relationship? I am busy with school, volunteering and working. I love all three of those things. Do I have enough room for anything else? Then I remember what an old friend said to me last year when we were discussing her relationships and my single life, “You might be alone the rest of your life.” My reply to her statement, “I am okay with that.” And you know what, I am okay with that. I have enough love from my family, and great friends who are supportive in everything that I do that if I don’t find that special someone… it’s okay.

It is not the end of the world that I am single, and it is not the end of the world that I am not “Indian” enough…

I am a kind man: Kizhaay Anishnaabe Niin

Here is a site I came across on the internet…

I am a kind man…

Taken directly from the site, it says the following:

We are Aboriginal men from across Ontario who are very concerned about the problem of men’s violence and abuse against women in Aboriginal communities. The overall purpose of the Kizhaay Anishinaabe Niin Initiative is to engage the men of our communities to speak out against all forms of abuse towards Aboriginal women.

1. To provide education for men to address issues of abuse against women;
2. To re-establish traditional responsibilities by acknowledging that our teachings have never tolerated violence and abuse towards women;
3. To inspire men to engage other men to get involved and stop the abuse;
4. To support Aboriginal men who choose not to use violence.

I think this is a great site especially that it appeals to kids, youth, and grown men.

Check it out by clicking on the link above 🙂

I’ve never been to Egypt but….

I’ve never been to Egypt but apparently pyramids are built on the west side of the Nile River, which is where the sunsets (west side). This is also apparently, to the Egyptians, the side that signifies where life ends. I remember this from elementary school. The only reason I remember this because in the Native Culture, as I was raised, the western side of the earth indicates the “spirit world” where all the spirits go to rest after their life on earth has ended.

I was raised to pray towards the east, the sun rise, and not the west because that means you are praying to those spirits. I know these teachings and traditions differ amongst First Nations cultures/traditions because I was told by another person in Southwestern ON to pray to the west. I felt weird praying to the west (ultimately, I did pray after that person told me to pray, but I did not pray to the west…I prayed to the east, as I was taught/raised).

This is why I find my culture so confusing, yet so amazing.

How can two different cultures, from two different geographical regions have somewhat similar beliefs (That is that the west signifies the end of life or that the west is where spirits go after life on earth)?

I think that is neat…

Just because I am First Nations…

I am writing this post because of a few things I have experienced in my life… mainly to do with school and work.

I have had my fair share of interviews, since having my first job when I was 15 years old. Some of the jobs I didn’t even have to have an interview. Some of them, I just had to introduce myself, answer a few questions and then I was hired. If I can remember one interview, I wasn’t asked any particular question about my background or my ethnic origins. However on my first day of employment, I was called into the boss’s office and told to sit down. My heart was beating. I had no idea what I did. My boss proceeded to tell me how lucky she was to have me…I remember her specifically saying:

We are so lucky to have you on our team. As soon as we found out you were Aboriginal, we just had to hire you

Being the shy, quiet girl I used to be, I didn’t really say anything except giggle a little and say thanks. I wish I knew better. I should have spoken up. This was a government job and someone was saying that they hired me because I was Aboriginal (is how I took it after wards and how I still interpret it) is just…wrong. Some people say, that I should be happy and should just let it slide. Honestly, who says that in any type of professional position? That is all I want answered.

That was when I was 17 years old.

Today, I am attending The University of Western Ontario. A big university. A diverse university. I am constantly reminded that other people look at me as a “First Nations student” whenever they ask me what I am studying, and before I can even answer they butt in…

Are you studying First Nations?

Ummm no, and just because I am First Nations does not mean I am studying First Nations [in fact, I don’t think I should have to study First Nations in order to get a minor in it on my degree–I think growing up on a First Nation, up north, just outside a predominantly white small-sized city is good enough to know what the issues First Nations people face… Okay maybe that last statement is a bit ignorant..the issues that First Nations people face are complex and vary across the board–I think a First Nations introduction course should be required to attend this university and I only say this because we are surrounded by three First Nations that I know of… and with many more close by (give or take a few hours).] In fact that should be required for any university or college in Canada.

Another experience here on campus, I just recently had an interview for a position. I didn’t get the position (and I am not upset…I am most certain they have picked the most appropriate person for the position). However, yet again, I felt like as if here I was again in another sticky situation where someone suggested something to me… This person suggested that I apply for the First Nations position because they said:

I know you are very passionate in this area and I think it would be a great fit for you

After reading that, yes I was upset, and I am sure this person meant no harm in suggesting it (and perhaps maybe I might apply for this position.. maybe I might not.) However, I wanted to send an email back, but I didn’t as I knew what I wanted to say wouldn’t come out right. I took a few deep breathes. Closed the email and didn’t return to it until later (**Ahem** Later would be today).

I know someone might think that I am being a little to overly sensitive with these experiences but really, I feel like as if I was generalized, and that by through each of these experiences I feel like that there is this “Invisible glass ceiling” that I must break through if I want to get anywhere that goes beyond people looking at me as the “First Nation” employee or “First Nation” student.

I am proud of who I am and I know why those positions or opportunities are created (Classic case of Corporate Social Responsibility or giving proper representation to a certain marginalized group) But what if a First Nation’s person, whether employee or student, wants to go for something that is beyond the “First Nations” position or “First Nations” area of study or “First Nations” label… will that “Invisible Glass Ceiling” always exist?

Just because I am First Nations does not mean I want your First Nations position.