I am from Tsuut’ina Nation and I self-identify as Sarcee. I grew up on reserve and moved to Calgary Sept 2017 to continue my studies at the Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD) Bachelor of Arts, 2nd year.
Maria is a student and story transcriber for the Tsuut’ina Language Commission. She is a loving Aunty to 6 nieces and nephews. She joined Women Warriors to participate in a program aimed at indigenous women only, and learn more about personal fitness and nutrition in a group setting.
Types of physical activity you enjoyed at Woman Warriors: I loved to concentrate on my form in the boot-camp, on the choreography in the Zumba course, and my stance in the kickboxing.
Amount of time you exercise daily or weekly: If I do not do 30 mins of activity a day which I try to do, then I skip a day and do 30 mins every couple of days.
Are you a member of a gym, in a sports team, or do fitness at home?I wish there was a gym that was directly for the Woman Warrior program…. I would go to it! I missed out on sports in my life, but always wanted to be a part of a team. So far, I only do fitness at home.
How do you schedule fitness into your day (i.e. get up early to workout): I have to get doing it. I make sure I have water near me to hydrate, and I start with a warm up on my treadmill. I up my speed by the last 15 minutes of 30 minutes, and then after that I do floor work on my yoga mat. I watch a show on Netflix on my laptop, and I try to do my work out before an hour long episode ends. Sometimes, I watch two 30 minute episodes if it’s a short series.
Name one daily practise you do to show self-love (i.e. meditate, journal):I have been journaling since I was young, keeping track of my feelings and going back to them when I need to remember a feeling. Over time I get to see how much I have changed or grew! I also take time to shower and applying cream on after. I pay extra care with cream on my feet, it is the best way I honour my body. I heard once, that the feet are the ones that ‘carry’ us all day, and to massage them gives your whole body a root source of good feelings (especially after a hard day’s work!)
Your favorite treat or meal: I love having a smoothie as a treat, with frozen fruits and greens like avocados, kale, spinach, celery, cucumber. For a meal, it is spaghetti with a splash of hot sauce.
Your philosophy on healthy living: My dad told me some good advice he learned from his dad, and his dad’s dad. He said, “Wake up with the Sun. It is who we are as a spiritual people to rise with the Sun.” To get a proper sleep is my philosophy along with this, it gives me an internal clock on the inside which feels natural.
Words of inspiration for women trying to get healthy or more active:Whatever your age, or body shape you are, seek to ‘find the joy’ in your own body. This will lead you to a happiness in your own skin that will shine from the inside out. When you feel good about yourself, it shows on the outside.
Women Warriors Yellowknifer News Column. Printed May 16th, 2018
As cannabis legalization looms the questions surrounding safe usage, distribution and the stigma of drug usage is a swirling debate of misinformation and fear. As a leader of a health promotions program, I wanted concrete information and guidelines to share with my Women Warrior participants.
I used my connections through Women Warriors to the University of Calgary and interviewed Dr. Rebecca Saah, assistant professor in the Department of Community Health. Her research is focused on youth cannabis use and the public health policy implications of cannabis legalization in Canada.
Substance Use & Criminalization
Dr. Saah said all demographics of Canadians smoke pot and an important reason for legalizing cannabis is, “the harms of criminalizing the drug have outweighed the benefit. It is an ineffective use of law enforcement and the courts, and the fact is this stigma is not benign.” She’s referring to the fact that being charged with the possession of marijuana carries the same or similar consequences as more problematic substances such as meth, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. “The harms to people from cannabis use are considerably lesser than substances such as cocaine or tobacco. All drugs should not be treated the same.”
Dr. Saah discussed how having a criminal record carries life-long consequences including the inability to cross the border to the US or not being able to work with children or vulnerable populations. For example, not being able to coach your child’s sports team.
In addition, People of Colour and Indigenous peoples have been over policed and stigmatized regarding pot use and/or possession by law enforcement and the courts. The Vice.com article, “Black and Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada’s weed arrests” states, “Indigenous people in Regina were nearly nine times more likely to get arrested for cannabis possession than white people during that time period. Meanwhile, black people in Halifax were more than five times more likely to get arrested for possessing weed than white people.”
While Ottawa debates granting amnesty for past convictions, the damage of a criminal record and the social stigma of being a convicted drug user or dealer has disproportionately affected minority groups. The incoming cannabis legalization means an important discussion on how to change the dialogue surrounding the stigma of substance abuse and why the war on drugs has been racialized.
Dr. Saah directed me to an expert in the field of race, crime and criminal justice, Dr. Owusu-Bempah, assistant professor at the U of T. In a recent article authored by him, Cannabis Legalization and Equity in Canada, he states, “minor cannabis offences can also serve as a “gateway” into the criminal justice system for people who become “known to police,” which increases their chances of further criminalization and social marginalization.”
Education: Harm Reduction
Saah’s main goal during this time of cannabis legalization is harm reduction meaning learning about cannabis and its effects, safer ways of using it, and educating people on what is permitted and not permitted in the legal framework. People using cannabis now and buying it from an illicit source, get little to no information about what they are consuming. This is of particular concern in regards to the THC content of cannabis (the psychoactive ingredient that produces the ‘high’).
In terms of retail outlets, specifically that sell alcohol and cannabis at the same location – which will be the case in Yellowknife – Saah said it’s a controversial issue in public health.
“People think separate is better but we don’t have a lot of good research on the effects when alcohol and cannabis are sold together. It is assumed that it will encourage co-use of the substance, and in Ontario, they have gone for separate state outlets. There are dissenting opinions in the public health research community – some people don’t think it’s a problem, but some do.”
Consumption methods of cannabis include smoking, vaporizing, infused edibles and sublingual products, which is the application of the product under your tongue. The Canadian Cannabis survey, released December 2017 states, “smoking cannabis was the most common method of consumption with 94% reporting this form of use, another 34% using edibles, 20% vaporizing using a vape pen, and 14% vaporizing using a vaporizer.” From a harm reduction perspective, vaporizing is a safer mode of use than smoking because there is less risk of lung irritation and respiratory problems.
“Edibles can’t be bought from a store. The federal government has been cautious about not including them in the current framework because initially when legalization rolled out in Colorado this created problems for with inexperienced users and accidental pediatric ingestions because they allowed for candy. We will probably never allow for candy. We’re going to start without edibles and see how it goes. The Federal legislation leaves this open so they can grandfather it in later without passing a new bill,” she said.
As far as trends in consumption, “We are moving from smoking to vaping, and other ways of consuming like sublingual oils that people use medically because many people don’t like the smell and want to use discreetly. What we found in Colorado is that edibles take over 50% of the market share and I think especially with older people that are interested in using for chronic conditions like pain and insomnia, they will not be smoking in their homes. Consumers will be looking for an oil or a capsule they can consume.”
Public health concerns center on the accidental ingestion of cannabis products by pets or kids. “It’s a place of education, and it’s the same practice we use for alcohol. We keep it out of the hands of children, and take precautions in the household.”
Youth & Cannabis
The Canadian Cannabis survey states that young people are the predominant users of cannabis. The reported usage over the past twelve months for respondents “aged 16-19 years and aged 20-24 was 41% and 45% respectively” and “the average age of initiating cannabis use was 18.7 years.”
“I wish we were as concerned about the impact of poverty, violence and early childhood trauma on the teenage brain as we are about cannabis and youth usage,” said Saah. There is a need for public education surrounding the implications of cannabis use by young adults.
“The research is there – while there are some real risks, we can’t say they are causal, and we can’t attribute all of the harms to cannabis alone. We know there is a relationship between heavy and early use of cannabis in bringing on schizophrenia in people that are vulnerable, but we can’t say it’s only cannabis. The safest thing to say is that early-onset use and frequent use are risks for brain and mental health and for longer-term problematic use of substances. It’s the same for alcohol and tobacco – if you’re starting using these things in early adolescents like 13 or 14 years old, it’s a risk for development.”
Saah said a better question to ask surrounding early youth usage is, “what’s going on in these kids’ context that they’re starting these substances at 13. There are probably other risk factors that are wrapping around them. I would like to see more ways to strengthen teen resiliency in family and community rather than a focus on cannabis per se. I think making cannabis legal will open up the conversation for youth, not overnight but over time and erode the traction that the illicit market has.”
Saah said the best way to educate youth on cannabis legalization and health implications is, “face-to-face interaction and open discussion. I think it’s not so much about getting the health facts accurate as it is about having an open mind and talking to young people about what they see as the benefits and risks. This is what we do with sexual education and to protect against unwanted pregnancy or talking about consent. Think about our model for sexual education and could we do the same thing around cannabis?”
Cannabis & Indigenous Women’s Health
An important part of cannabis legalization is consultation with Indigenous communities about potential business opportunities as growers and distributors of cannabis. Eagle Feather News reported that “The Saskatchewan government announced in early January that 60 Saskatchewan communities will be issued permits to sell cannabis after it becomes federally legalized in July 2018. Three of those 60 communities are Onion Lake Cree Nation, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation – the only three First Nation communities chosen by the province.”
There are many benefits for First Nations interested in joining the cannabis marketplace. As Chief Pasap states in this article, Cannabis is coming and some Indigenous communities want in, “The economic development side [will] create jobs. There are profits that could go to addiction awareness, sports programs, financing other businesses, and poverty reduction,” he said. “The benefits of cannabis are becoming a local distributor for medical users, getting rid of drug dealers and dealing with cannabis that is laced with other drugs and quality control.”
On March 19th and 20th, Cheryl Maurice, CEO of Digital Buffalo held a conference about Indigenous inclusion in the hemp and cannabis industries. She said it was well attended by First Nations leaders looking to partner with business leaders in the cannabis industry. Cheryl said, “our mandate is to partner with local First Nations and promote entrepreneurship.” If you are interested in learning more about cannabis business opportunities please contact Cheryl at the email above.
My experience as the facilitator of an Indigenous women’s health promotions program is that cannabis will be an important tool for improving Indigenous women’s health outcomes. One of the most requested resources in the program was mental health support. Now that the threat of incarceration has been removed, I posit that Indigenous women will be more open to accessing marijuana for their health needs including anxiety, PTSD, depression, and chronic pain/illness.
In addition, the revenue from cannabis sales on-reserve could improve Indigenous women’s social determinates of health such as high levels of unemployment and poor housing making it difficult for Indigenous peoples to stay in their home communities. In order to improve their life situation, they are forced from their reserves to an urban setting, cast away from their social safety net. This dislocation interrupts their sense of identity and feelings of belonging to a community and causes an increase in social anxiety.
The aspect of legalization I’m concerned with is educating participants on the legal framework to keep them safe from incareration and criminal charges. This Regina Leader-Post article has some informative do’s and don’ts of legal cannabis. Also, many of our participants have asked about youth usage and long-term effects of cannabis. These questions are guiding me as I create my tobacco/cannabis survey and decide what to put in the appendix.
A poem to celebrate all the amazing and inspiring Mother’s in our communities.
I see you.
The tired eyes.The leaky breasts.
Yawns escape as we talk. Three hours of sleep.
A cocktail of hormones and emotions.
How is it possible to be drunk on love with borderline depression?
No one told you it would be this hard.
Growing a human and shedding your skin.
I see you.
The tired eyes.
Groundhog Day Year Three:
Changing diapers, saying no, snacks, naps, and play dough.
There is no glamour in eating leftover food off the kitchen table
And potty training.
You question your sanity and if the Mom brain is permanent.
No one told you about the mind-numbing repetition.
Nurturing a human and longing for the past.
I see you.
The tired eyes.
Trouble at school, attitude and frustration.
You must be doing something wrong because you’re at a loss.
Your child is wandering away from you.
It’s like a guiding a mountain climber with a match.
You can’t see all the danger and you feel responsible for their demise.
Guiding a human and letting go at the same time.
I see you.
Looking in the mirror at a body that doesn’t feel like your own.
Droopy breasts, stretch marks, Mom stomach.
A body that grew, nurtured, and guided a child to life.
I see you.
The beauty of a Mother’s soul.
You gave and received a gift greater than yourself.
If only you could love yourself the same way your child does
A Story of Unrequited Love
(This story was featured on May 2nd in the Women Warriors Yellowknifer news column).
Last week I received a last minute invite from my dad, the President of the North Slave Metis Alliance (NSMA), Bill Enge to attend a two-day Indigenous law conference in Vancouver starting April 25th. It was a welcome reprieve from the eternal winter in Alberta; I live in Canada’s only border city, Lloydminster, where the news reported in mid-April a record-breaking number of cold days this winter – 167 consecutive days of minimum temperatures at or below zero degrees.I did not have to be coerced into fresh coastal air, green grass, sunshine and the entertaining conversations with my dad and Uncle, Arnold Enge. I arranged childcare, postponed my university studies, and hopped on a plane for the city of amazing wine, food, culture, and beauty.
The highlight of the law conference, and the reason that the NSMA board, including Marc Whitford, and Bob Mercredi were all in attendance, was prominent Vancouver based Metis lawyer, and great-grandniece of famed Métis leader Louis Riel, Jean Teillet was presenting on Metis law cases from across Canada. She included in her presentation the NSMA Bathurst caribou lawsuit win against the N.W.T and the latest win in October 2017 of the federal and territorial government’s failure to properly consult NSMA on land claim negotiations.
Bill was in his glory as he quizzed Jean on legal definitions and Metis rights after her presentation. You could tell she was hesitant to answer some of his more controversial law questions – the moderator intervened on her behalf before anything too dicey rolled across the stage and the lawyers, including Crown prosecutors and government officials ducked for cover.
After the presentation Jean strolled up to Bill and chided him for speaking above everyone’s head, as few people have the amount of Metis legal experience and knowledge that both of them do. Personally, I think she didn’t want to answer his questions in a room full of lawyers and was using avoidance tactics to divert controversy – that’s why she’s paid the big money!
The best part of their exchange was Bill posing with Jean for a picture, his arm wrapped around her shoulders, as he professed his admiration for her law skills. I laughed as I snapped a photo of her begrudgingly standing beside a giant Metis guy wearing shorts at a law conference. I admit that Bill doesn’t always have the most professional garb in the room, but when it comes to Metis rights, activism, and the law, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate.
I suspect Bill will never find another Metis woman after his own heart and as well versed on Indigenous law, and Metis rights as Jean; however, it is unrequited love. It still doesn’t deter him from getting a picture with her any chance he gets, and gushing about her afterwards.
I posted their photo on Twitter and tagged her in it. The next day she liked the tweet and I texted Bill to tell him the exciting news. He replied, “I love that photo with her…I think I’ll frame it…she’s my hero.”
My lesson after this law conference and Bill’s enthusiasm, regardless of Jean’s ambivalence, is that passion will get you far in life, and while Jean was a little annoyed by Bill’s questions, and his persistence, I think she has hard earned respect for his legal knowledge and passion for Metis rights. I know I do, and it’s always fun to watch him in action.
As Bill’s birthday present I think I’ll make a Jean Teillet collage of all their photos together and frame it. I’ll send Jean one to her University of British Colombia campus office with a personal invite to visit us in Yellowknife. After all, the NSMA made legal history with our recent lawsuit win, and she acknowledged the importance of it at this law conference – we must be doing something right!
I’m also working on an appendix for our manual that includes tobacco/cannabis education for our Women Warriors participants. I will be attending a workshop in North Battleford on June 17th hosted by Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre. The guest speakers, are Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, CAMH, faculty members –Dr. Peter Selby and Ms. Rosa Dragonetti.
The Onion Lake Cree Nation Women Warriors program has been postponed until September.
Please contact me through email if you have any questions about the Women Warriors program. Shelley@womenwarriors.club.
I am currently busy finishing a research methodologies course through the University of Athabasca, but I will do my best to answer all inquiries or direct you to my collaborator, Dr. Wicklum.
PS. To all the researchers on my email list – I have just started to learn how to research and I CANNOT believe the amount of consideration that goes into every detail. Also, I am extremely biased. LOL! Happy researching everyone!
Losing weight is soul-crushing; it involves deprivation, shame, and guilt. Most weight loss programs, fads or diets require restricting calories, omitting food groups from your diet, and the sting of failure every time you step on that scale and it fails to reflect your monumental efforts of deprivation. This leads to a downward spiral of negative self-talk and damages your self-worth. When your scale becomes the measure of your self-worth, you will be defeated no matter what the number.
The secret to my weight loss and why I’ve managed to lose 65 lbs and maintain my weight loss over the course of thirteen years and three pregnancies is not an answer most people would expect. It wasn’t Jenny Craig, or Weight Watchers, or the Atkins Diet, or the cabbage soup diet, or the Ideal Protein diet, or weight loss pills like Hydroxycut. Of course, over the years I tried some of these programs, but like most “dieters” I’d lose the weight and it would come back.
My weight loss was soul work. It was healing from childhood trauma, learning self-love, and reframing my relationship with my body. No weight loss coach or points system can do this work. It involved going to therapy, digging up and processing all the painful memories of my mother fat shaming me, being bullied at school, and my hateful thought process about my body.
It was the realization that fad diets and pills were my forms of punishment for hating myself. It was also healing my relationship with food and learning how to use food, not as a coping mechanism, but as a healing force in my life.
In the Women Warriors program we use the Medicine Wheel teaching because, through my experience, I learned good health is about the interconnectedness of our mind, body, and spirit. It is the teaching that without balance in all of these areas, we can never be healthy. When I only focused on the physical aspect of my well being – my weight – I was never successful in keeping it off.
I love the traditional cultural teaching that women are sacred life-givers, and we need to honor our bodies; our bodies are a celebration of our strength and the inherent beauty of our roles as Mothers, sisters, daughters, and aunties.
These teachings are in juxtaposition to popular cultures view of deprivation, and whipping ourselves into the ideal body aesthetic – thigh gaps, six-packs, and as a recent Cosmo headline states “#Buttgoals Shape an Epic Ass in just 8 Minutes a Day.”
As a mother of three daughters ages 8, 6, and 5, I am aware of the importance of role modeling and teaching healthy habits. My collaborator on Women Warriors and obesity expert, Dr. Wicklum states you should never put children on a diet or restrict what they eat, such as limiting carbohydrates.
I eat the food I expect my girls to eat including fruits and vegetable at every meal, and I teach them that food is fuel for our body. Also, I bring them with me to the running track. I make it a fun experience and I talk about how we’re building muscle and gaining strength. Finally, I never use the word “fat” and I never make negative comments about my body or other women’s bodies.
A core message that we share with our participants is that the process of losing and gaining weight is very complex. We should never oversimplify this process or judge others based on their weight. Also, my weight loss is the exception and not the rule. There are many anecdotal stories of weight loss that are misleading and harmful. For example, extreme weight loss stories from the contestants of the Biggest Loser.
Today, I’m grateful for this journey because it fuels my passion – providing free fitness classes, and nutrition education, with an emphasis on holistic health with Women Warriors. This quote by George Leonard rings true for me every day: “The work we do on ourselves is the work we do on the world.”
This column appeared in the Yellowknife newspaper on April 2nd, 2018. You can subscribe and view stories from the North on their website: Northern News Services.
Updates on Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) Program
Thanks to all our Women Warriors in the Lloydminster and OLCN area for your patience as we set-up the Women Warriors OLCN program. I posted this message on April 6th to all past participants on the facebook group to explain why it’s taking longer than usual to begin the program this year:
I wanted to let you know that we’re almost at the finish line of setting up the program. Due to the fact that we’ve moved from Lloyd to Onion Lake means some extra steps in the research process including ethics. Ethics is the process where researchers must adhere to a code of conduct and the First Nations must have control over the data that is generated from this program.
This process includes letters of support from Chief and Council, a safe storage place for the data controlled by OL and the on-reserve ethics committee must review the project. It’s a safeguard against outsiders coming into your community and mining the reserve for data, then leaving and never coming back to inform the community of what they found.
As most of you know, I was not a researcher when this program started (which is the reason I returned to university – so that I can be involved and informed) and I’ve been learning along the way. I like to tell all of you so you know what’s involved in projects like Women Warriors. I wish it was quicker, but we’ve made progress and hopefully, we’ll start in May!
Patient Advocacy & Navigating Health Care
Indigenous women have been described as facing a “double-burden” – for being discriminated against as a woman and further for being Indigenous. If we add weight bias, defined by the Canadian Obesity Network www.obesitynetwork.ca as “the negative stereotyping of individuals living with obesity,” some Indigenous women experience a triple burden. It is important to be aware of these concepts to understand the dynamics at work when Indigenous women access services, programs, or health care.Some people may feel scared to see their doctor and confront their health issues. Please keep in mind that Indigenous women may be deterred from seeing their doctor due to their anxiety about systemic racism within the healthcare system, or made to feel bad about their weight or health issues.
Often people in positions of authority, like a doctor, can make women second-guess themselves. They may leave their doctor’s appointment feeling insecure about their ability to effectively communicate and/or feel it is a waste of time to seek help from someone who is not culturally sensitive.
The best way to prepare them is to have a discussion about their previous experiences:
Do you get the help you are seeking when you visit your family physician?
Have you had a negative experience with the medical system?
Have you brought along a family member to support you at your doctor’s appointment?
What would make you feel prepared to have a good visit with your family doctor?
Remind them that a family doctor is on a set schedule of appointments and that they may feel rushed when they visit them. If this is the case, they should tell their doctor all of their concerns and then prioritize them and, as necessary, talk to their doctor about setting up multiple appointments to address all of their health concerns.
Over the past two years of creating and facilitating the Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Program, I have heard many stories from participants regarding racism within the health care system and their frustration receiving quality care as an obese patient. The primary purpose of our program is to provide free fitness classes and nutrition education with an Indigenous focus. Our secondary function is to help participants connect with health care professionals, and teach participants to become their own best advocates within the healthcare system.
The above information was from my podcast interview with Dr. Sonja Wicklum, co-founder of the Women Warriors program, family medical doctor, and clinical assistant professor in the department of family medicine of the University of Calgary.
In our podcast interview, she states, “I tell my own patients that our system is not set up for long visits as a rule. If you have multiple questions prioritize them and then if the answers take a significant amount of time for the first few, then book back for the next week and ask more questions. Your physician will have no problem doing that. I think you have to have an element of practicality about our health care system.”
Please view this article, based on the research by Dr. Lindsay Crowshoe, family doctor and associate professor at the University of Calgary’s department of family medicine & Dr. Rita Henderson, department of family medicine (both researchers on Women Warriors).
Last August I undertook my first social media detox and removed all my social media apps – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat and Pinterest – from my phone for two weeks while I was on family vacation with my three girls in Calgary. It was my first taste of freedom from our instant update, click bait, thumbs-up gratification life. (You can read my poem about it in my previous newsletter, I Took a Social Media Break)
I was rewarded with mental clarity, focus, and presence. The boredom gaps that I was filling with my mindless cell phone wandering were replaced with being in the moment with my girls, a richer, more fulfilling, and in-tuned way of life. I decided to make it a quarterly routine, and I’ll share why you should consider a social media spring detox.
I’m in the midst of completing my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Athabasca and I’m always staring at a screen. All of my textbooks and readings are digital, and I constantly write in word documents. I imagine the majority of our workforce survives from starting at screens; I call them digital slaves.
Think of Facebook CEO, Mark Zukerberg’s testimony before the US Senate last week, a deadpan performance that left me wondering if his company sent an android in his place. His robotic answer that Facebook should not be regulated, even after the privacy invasion of 87 million people in which their data was harvested by a quiz app and sold to Cambridge Analytica, was my incentive to delete Facebook.
If you have no issues with your privacy being invaded then I suggest you read George Orwell’s 1984 and watch the movie, Snowden. The invasion of our privacy to collect our data has become a profitable business and is the excuse for the arm of the public to reach into our private sphere. It will not stop without regulation, and our only form of protest is the non-participation in a system that literally makes millions of dollars from us.
Besides our privacy invasion, social media steals something sacred from us that no generation before us has had to combat – our spaces of boredom, and the time we need to tune into ourselves – our thoughts, desires, dreams, and awareness of our wounds that need healing. The only way for these spaces to open up requires stillness and silence. A difficult feat in a society that has been trained to keep a short attention span, and be constantly entertained.
Screens are everywhere in our society dousing us with a fire hose of information/misinformation, fake realities constructed by friends and corporations, and a comparison chart that breeds contempt and self-loathing. How can she afford that vacation? How did he get that promotion…I should be further along in my career! Their kids are perfect – do they have a post about it every day?! How did she lose all that weight, and why can’t I?!
Even the creator of the most famous screens in history, the iPhone, and iPad, Steve Jobs stated in an interview on businessinsider.com that he didn’t allow his children to use his technology, “We actually we don’t allow the iPad in the home. We think it’s too dangerous for them in effect.”
The “effect” Jobs speaks of is the rewiring of our brains due to the dopamine feedback loop built into social media. The former vice president of Facebook’s user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya states in an interview posted on the website, nakedcapitalism.com, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” He’s referring to the instant gratification we receive from the dopamine hits which instills in us a false sense of self-worth and validation through artificial “likes, hearts and thumbs-ups.”
It’s only through a social media detox that I realize the insidious nature of artificial connection at our fingertips. How all these small stolen moments of scrolling leads to a spiritual deficit and creates a barrier to authentic relationships. It also reminds me to stay in my own lane, and take responsibility for my thoughts, and deeds. When I do so, I become more productive, the quality of time I spend with people increases and most importantly, I feel peace. I don’t feel pressured to “like” anyone or anything, and that I “like” myself without social media.
If you’re considering a social media detox, my best advice is to quit cold turkey and note all the times you go to pick up your phone. You’ll be stunned by the realization that it has become an extension of your arm, and how uncomfortable you feel without it. Then lean into the silence and stillness and let your soul exhale that deep sigh it’s been holding in all this time you’ve been disconnected from it by using social media.
Tara Waskewitch (Participant of Fitness Certification)
Tara is a member of Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) and a proud mom of a busy 8 year-old boy, Tabian. She works full-time as a youth prevention worker, volunteers in OL, and loves to attend her son and nieces sports events.
This past Wednesday, April 11th Dr. Wicklum and I had a phone conference with Kathy Fowler, a lead academic on the creation and implementation of the Indigenous Fitness Leadership Certification, a pilot program by Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association.
On their website, it states “the program was designed by an experienced team of educators and fitness professionals to empower Indigenous people to deliver safe, high-quality fitness programs in their communities that are culturally relevant and incorporate traditional learning methods. This pilot program is made possible through a funding agreement with the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. The program supports the 89th Call to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, ensuring that barriers to participation in physical activity and fitness are reduced, and fitness programs are inclusive of Indigenous Peoples.”
I will be attending the last class on Sunday, May 13th in Saskatoon to discuss the Women Warriors program and how we can collaborate with the 18 participants – 11 female and 7 male – to implement a Women Warriors in their community. I am also excited to announce that a participant from the Oct/Nov 2017 Women Warriors, Tara Wasketwitch was chosen to partake in this training.
Please review the poster below if you would like more information on the training. The funding for this pilot certification has ended, but please feel free to contact me if you have suggestions on where to obtain more funding. I will keep everyone posted on this certification and our possible collaboration in the newsletters.
The Importance of Sleep
The following is an excerpt from the Women Warriors manual, Class One.
Screen time before bed is negatively impacting our duration, and quality of sleep. The first Women Warriors class is dedicated to sleep hygiene, how to prepare our bodies for sleep, which include no screen time at least one hour before bed. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults and young adults, 8-10 hours for teens, and 9-11 hours for school-aged children.
Sleep and Nutrition*
Studies have shown a lack of sleep causes:
Increased levels of a ‘hunger hormone’ called ghrelin and decreased levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin, which could lead to overeating and weight gain.
The consumption of approximately 300 calories a day more than when they are well-rested. Overall, most of the extra calories came from high-fat foods.
Eat more than what is needed to cover the energy cost of staying awake longer, especially at night, which can lead to significant weight gain.
Reduces fat cells’ ability to respond properly to the hormone called insulin, which is crucial for regulating energy storage and use.
The following are ways you can help yourself sleep well:
Avoid or limit caffeine and nicotine, especially in the hours before bedtime. Both can keep you awake.
Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.
Don’t take medicine that may keep you awake, or make you feel hyper or energized, right before bed. Your doctor can tell you if your medicine may do this and if you can take it earlier in the day.
Use the evening hours for settling down. Avoid watching TV and using the computer or phone if they keep you from getting to sleep.
Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Try using a sleep mask to help you sleep.
Take a warm bath before bed.
Make your own sleep routine. Try to have the same bedtime and wake-up time each day.
Exercising at different times of day may affect how you sleep. Through trial and error, find the time for exercise that helps you sleep best.
If you are overweight, set goals to manage your weight. Being overweight can be linked with sleep problems.
Stress and worry can disturb sleep. Consider talking to a healthcare professional if these are affecting your sleep.
Our third guest writer in our truth-telling series identifies as Cree-Saulteaux, and grew up in the North End of Winnipeg, with family roots in Norway House Cree Nation and Peguis First Nation.
Dr. Marcia Anderson (Power of Mentorship profile featured below) currently practices both internal medicine and public health and is the Executive Director of Indigenous Academic Affairs in the Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba. She has 2 beautiful, intelligent, strong daughters currently in nursery school and Grade 2.
When one of the participants of Women Warriors posted this picture (above) on social media of a family history school assignment, I asked if I could discuss it in my newsletter. I posted it on Twitter where Dr. Anderson commented that the same type of questions had been given to her child and she had contacted the school with her concerns as an Indigenous parent.
Dr. Anderson states in an email to the principle that “questions (like these) are written as if everyone who is in the class came from somewhere else. The underlying assumption could either be that there were no people here prior to European Settlers and other immigrants or that there are no Indigenous children in the class. Either way, this absence of recognition of Indigenous peoples starts insidiously very early in education. It can be damaging to both Indigenous children trying to understand their place in Canada or the class environment, and to the other children who are taught passively that there is not a story of First Peoples here by the absence of that as an option in the questions.”
She helps to revise the questions to reflect Indigenous Peoples history in Canada and asks that the questions “be recirculated because it is important that all of the children (and their parents) recognize the story of our families’ ancestors as Cree, Anishinaabe, and Dakota as equally valid stories of being that have led us to this point where our girls share a learning environment.”
Dr. Anderson further educates on the term “Turtle Island” by stating:
Turtle Island is a name commonly used by Indigenous peoples to refer to North America. Turtles are common in many Nation’s stories and teachings, for example carrying the teaching of truth which is the foundation of all other teachings. Some link the name Turtle Island to the Haudenosonee Creation Story where the continent was built on the back of a great turtle. It’s important to recognize that there were names for these lands and waters before they were called North America or Canada or the names we know today.
I want to thank Dr. Anderson for sharing her teachings with us in this newsletter. I want to draw awareness to the fact that teaching non-Indigenous peoples takes our time, energy and a certain degree of education. It is heavy lifting on our part and you can see why some Indigenous parents may be intimidated to contact their children’s school to discuss this type of systemic racism.
Connecting to the Past: Grandparent/Parent Interview
Person Interviewed (and their relationship to you, grandparent, great aunt, etc.)_________________________
Interviewer (student) _____________________________
Did your family immigrate from elsewhere or are they from Turtle Island?
If your family immigrated, when (about what year or decade) did your first family member come to Canada?
Did he/she come alone or as a family?
What was their relationship to me?
If they came from another country, where did the first family member come from?
If they came from Turtle Island, which Nation/community are they from?
Are there any family members still in your country or Nation of origin?
If they moved from outside of Winnipeg/Canada, do they have a story they’d like to share of how they traveled to Winnipeg/Canada from their country or Nation of origin?
Have you ever visited your country/Nation of origin? If so, what did you find particularly interesting
Did you (grandparent/parent) earn a living when you were young? What was your first job?
What were your favourite holidays? How did you celebrate? Did you have special holiday traditions or foods at family celebrations? Does someone still make these? Please feel free to attach a recipe, if you would like.
What special traditions have you carried down through your family?
Do you remember your bedroom? What was your neighbourhood like?
What did you do for fun when you were young? Did you have a favourite toy?
Can you share a story about your country of origin? (Please draw a picture to go with your story).
(For the student): I will be researching the country or Nation/Community on Turtle Island ___________________________ for my “We Are Family” project.
If you would like a word document of the revised assignment for your classroom, please contact me (Shelley@womenwarriors.club) and I will email it to you.
Furthermore, I had an incident with another one of my participants this week in which three authority figures attempted to discourage her from enrolling her 5-year-old daughter in French immersion school. They made the assumption that because she looks Indigenous, she does not speak French, but what they failed to ask was her background information. She is Cree-Metis and many of her relatives speak French, as the Metis traditional language is Michif (a mixture of Cree & French).
What makes me angry about this situation is that the educator she spoke with and a community support agency assumed they knew best about where to place her child. While she explicitly stated she wanted her child to learn French, they discouraged her from registering her daughter in French immersion, and instead of supporting her request by offering resources, they automatically said no. They were robbing her of the opportunity for her child to learn French, part of their traditional language. (I’m happy to report that I gave her the contact information for the French immersion school (which my girls attend) and she’s taking a tour and meeting the kindergarten teacher this week).
The insidious nature of racism within our education system is something that we all must be aware of. I am not pointing fingers at any particular person or institution, but what I am highlighting is the ways in which whitewashing (privileging Western European settler knowledge over Indigenous knowledge) and racism (in the form of erasure of Indigenous history) is hidden in plain sight.
In an excerpt from my SOCI 288 essay, Reconciliation as a Social Movement, I discuss how we all must contribute to reconciliation:
Reconciliation is not only the responsibility of Indigenous peoples, and Justice Sinclair states in the CBC News, Politics article that, “’Reconciliation is not an aboriginal problem — it is a Canadian problem. It involves all of us’” (2015). According to the Statistic Canada website Indigenous peoples make-up only “4.3% of the total Canadian population” (2016), thereby revealing that the majority, 95% of the Canadian population are non-Indigenous. It is obvious that the power imbalance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is present in their population numbers. The heavy work that is the reconciliation social movement cannot be shouldered by only 4.3% of the population.
The end of the Commission did not mean the end of reconciliation, but the beginning of a long journey of educating Canadians about residential schools, understanding the role that the Canadian government played in the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples and taking collective responsibility to makes amends. On the Macleans.ca website, in his speech given at the closing ceremony, Chief Wilton Littlechild states, “I know that reconciliation will not occur in one lifetime. It will require future generation to know our story and take on the duty of reconciliation. We need to educate our youth, and create the tools and put them in place so that our children and our children’s children can use them…there are no easy answers, no magic wand to speed up the reconciliation process” (2015).
I assert that the education system is the first place that we need to enact reconciliation, and we need everyone to play a part. That means, teaching First Nations, Metis and Inuit perspective in your classroom even if you feel uncomfortable, as revealed by the non-Indigenous ally, and writer of our first post, Aleata Harty-Blank. She states, “we need to take the time to learn and perhaps even understand the stories, only then can humanity progress in a meaningful way.”
The Power of Mentorship
1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
My Grandma. She worked so hard to take care of her family. She loved hard. When it was time to have fun she would go for it- I have lots of memories of her dressing up in ridiculous costumes to make people laugh.
2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
She just was- she was our family matriarch. In other mentoring relationships that I’ve had it was more based on a connection, and being in spaces where I could observe how they navigated difficult situations.
3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?
The first lesson from my Grandma was definitely to do everything the best I could whether it’s mothering my kids, taking time to be with my family, or being there to help people when they need me. A second lesson that’s been really important is from another mentor of mine, Dr. Barry Lavallee, who taught me how to hold an uncomfortable silence, to dig in and let people feel that discomfort so they can grow and learn. A third was from Maria Campbell who many years ago was doing a keynote and talked about believing that we have a right to the space we are in, to take it up and to own it. That last one was a gamechanger for me.
4. What qualities make a good mentee?
Being present and putting the effort in to learn from your mentor. Also recognizing how you also help or give back to your mentor by showing respect for their experience and knowledge and offering your own.
5. What benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
It’s energizing to see people I have mentored achieve something that was meaningful to them. I’ve shared a lot of laughs and sometimes tears. Fashion advice and lingo from the youth! Also- future colleagues that we already have shared values, approaches, passion, and commitment.
6. What personal development practices do you have?
I regularly work with a life/ leadership coach which has been really helpful. I read a lot and have taken a lot of leadership courses- these do help build skills but also help me reflect. I consistently try to emphasize my own self-care through nurturing my spirit and my body.
7. What book most impacted your life?
Great question. It’s hard to pick just one. The lessons in The Four Agreements, especially not taking anything personally, was really helpful for me. My Dad’s family are very strong Christians so I was shaped by some teachings from the Bible, like love and respect (and have let some of them go). My friend Katharena Vermette’s book The Break touched my heart and also inspired me. I find a lot of strength to keep going, to still rise, in the writing of Maya Angelou. I read a lot of Indigenous writers who help me view the world and shape my understanding of Indigenous peoples’ health. I love the work of Lawrence Hill and his themes of race, racism, and health – especially mental health. As someone who loves to read, I can’t pick just one!
Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living Pilot – Facilitator Training
It was an honor to present our program and research findings from the past two years, including University of Calgary Master’s student, Megan Sampson’s preliminary findings on food security to City of Calgary managers and stakeholders on Friday, March 16th.
The attendees were receptive and discussed how our program aligns with the 2017 City of Calgary reconciliation initiative, which “adopted the Indigenous Policy Framework to help guide The City’s efforts to be responsive to the White Goose Flying Report and the needs of Indigenous peoples in Calgary.”
In specific, our program relates to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action:
#22: Aboriginal Healing Practices We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.
#89: Physical activity Promotion We call upon the federal government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples.
One attendee, from the Community Hubs Initiative, “a partnership between United Way Calgary and Area, The City of Calgary and the Rotary Club of Calgary, in support of the Enough For All strategy” stated our program compliments their mission of “Empowering residents to shape and build the kind of community they want to live in and raise their families in.” The foundation of our program includes building community and being community driven – meaning we listen to the needs of the participants and help them to connect to community resources and programs.
Bev Renaud, our host on Treaty 7 and a passionate community advocate for Indigenous peoples, announced that Women Warriors Calgary pilot is full with 60 registered participants and only 25 available spots.
Sonja and I spent two days training our new facilitators, Loretta (Cree/Metis) and Tia (Blackfoot) and enjoyed learning about their cultural practices and visions for the program. They are both involved with community work, Loretta with Mahmawi-atoskiwin program for Indigenous families and Tia as an Indigenous entrepreneur pursuing her goal of running an on-the-land camp for youth and whom previously worked for the YWCA as an Indigenous Youth Programmer.
Also, we had the pleasure of training two non-Indigenous City of Calgary supports for the program, Joleen, a recreation specialist and Nicole, community social worker and Masters of Public Health graduate. She had some great insights to share with us on pre/post program questionnaires.
I admit to being fully biased, since I had an amazing weekend educating and learning, but I could not have picked better-suited facilitators or a more passionate group of ladies than Loretta, Tia, Joleen, and Nicole. Our round circle discussions had some laughs and tears, and as a group composed of half Indigenous and half non-Indigenous, we had the privilege of sharing cultural teachings (mostly delivered by Loretta) and understand Indigenous women’s health and wellness based on the social determinates of health perspective.
We have been contacted by a number of reserves interested in starting their own Women Warriors programs and between Sonja and myself, we are trying our best to respond within a reasonable time frame. Please send inquires to Shelley@womenwarriors.club. We are currently in the works of adding a Calgary tab to the website so everyone can keep up to date on the pilot and read the Woman Warrior Wednesday profiles.
I was inspired to start a “Truth-telling” column after reading this University of Alberta Faculty of Law interview with Metis author and activist, Chelsea Vowel in which she states:
“After Colten [Boushie] and Tina [Fontaine], and the total lack of justice for them, I’ve really decided that reconciliation is a concept whose time has not yet come. We need to put it on the shelf and go back to truth first. We’re not ready for reconciliation because Indigenous people are still not treated with equality, and until we fix that power differential we cannot resolve anything. We need to turn our minds to telling the truth and understanding that colonization is ongoing and that white supremacy is a real thing and we’re not going to get rid of it by pretending it doesn’t exist. We have to actively dismantle those systems and if we can’t even name them or admit they’re there, then they will just remain in the background and continue to warp all that we try to do.”
My goal is to continue to engage non-Indigenous allies in this truth-telling so that we can all learn from each other on how to better communicate and engage in dialogue.
Our second non-Indigenous ally guest writer is engaged in reconciliation within education as a teacher and mother. Aleata Harty-Blank, a former teacher in Kitscoty and now a resident of Kimberley, BC spends a great deal of time on skis with her husband and their five-year-old daughter.
When I first began teaching history, over a decade ago, I taught from the textbook. I taught to the exam. I was a new teacher and I followed the rules. As I settled in to my profession and the content of what I was teaching, it became increasingly clear to me that much of what I was teaching was one-sided, only told a piece of the story and while multiple perspectives were encouraged, everything was still written, in my opinion, in a way that suggested that one perspective, the European perspective, was superior. I felt that I was doing my students, and ultimately an entire generation a disservice to continue teaching this way. I began looking for my own resources. My students needed to know there was more to the story. In the beginning, I felt uncomfortable. Who was I, a privileged white girl, to tell the First Nations, Metis, Inuit (FNMI) story? But on the same note, I thought, even if I don’t do the FNMI perspective the full justice it deserves, at least I’m doing something.
Teaching FNMI perspective is incredibly important to me and I found in many cases that students were coming to me with that same us and them perspective I had been raised with – Us being the superior white folk. I was seeing and hearing first hand, the multigenerational effects of racism. What could I do? It was time to start speaking the hard truths, the truths that for too long had been swept under the rug. I further educated myself and the further I dug the more I was left wondering; how was I never taught this? I certainly didn’t learn it from my parents and what I learned at school, was incredibly superficial; tepees, longhouses, pemmican, bannock and of course the notion that had the white man not come along and saved the First Nations peoples, they’d likely still be living in and eating the aforementioned provisions.
When we know better, we do better. I knew better. I had to do better. I came across so many valuable resources. They helped with my understanding and became incredibly important tools in my classroom: powerful multimedia like We Were Children and 8th Fire; Incredible books like The Outer Circle, The Secret Path and I am Not a Number. Activities like KAIROS Blanket exercise and visits to former Residential Schools guided by survivors. I cannot say enough about the power of these resources. They have left many of my students in complete awe. Genuinely reeling from the fact that up until this point they had never understood intergenerational trauma, treaty rights and the bigger picture effects of colonization. Time after time I hear kids say, “why are we just learning about this now?”
I feel blessed that I get to raise my own daughter knowing she won’t have to wait to learn about colonization, trauma and reconciliation from a teacher. But so many will. I don’t have the answers, but I know that time and education are the only way. I’ve been labelled a liberal snowflake more than once for attempting to take on causes that apparently don’t affect me, but if educating youth to understand, to respect and to do better than generations before them makes me lesser of a person in the eyes of some, then I’ll happily wear the label. I will continue to live my mantra that “Everyone has a story” and when we take the time to learn and perhaps even understand the stories, only then can humanity progress in a meaningful way.
Next week I will address how to incorporate the FNMI perspective within our education system with the assistance of:
Marcia Anderson, MD MPH FRCPC
Executive Director, Indigenous Academic Affairs
Ongomiizwin Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba
She had a similar situation to one of my Women Warriors participants when a teacher sent home a “Connecting to the Past” assignment.
She wrote in an email to the teacher that “the initial questions are written as if everyone who is in the class came from somewhere else. The underlying assumption could either be that there were no people here prior to European Settlers and other immigrants or that there are no Indigenous children in the class. Either way this absence of recognition of Indigenous peoples starts insidiously very early in education and can be damaging to both Indigenous children trying to understand their place in Canada or the class environment and to the other children who are taught passively that there is not a story of First Peoples here by the absence of that as an option in the questions.”
The Canadian government responded to Indigenous peoples’ assertions of sovereignty in the region through the implementation of violent and degrading policies. The Indian Act, which was passed in1876, is widely regarded as racist, sexist, paternernalistic and aimed at the assimilation of First Nations culture into Euro-Canadian society (Henderson 2006, RCAP 1996, Milloy 2008). The Act relegated First Nations to reserves where they were to become culturally remade “in the image of a white rural farmer” (Barron 1988: 26). Yet, despite being relegated to lands deemed unfavourable for agriculture, First Nations in Saskatchewan began to thrive in their pursuits. This led to undesired competition, and the implementation of Peasant Farm Policy, in place from 1889 to 1897. This policy was justified on the grounds that First Nations should learn agriculture first on a small scale, using simple tools. It restricted the use of labour-saving machinery and, in combination with the Severalty policy which restricted the acreage of land available to each family, reduced the outputs of First Nations individuals to the extent that most were only able to produce at subsistence levels (and often less) (Tang 2003; âpihtawikosisân 2012; Canadian Museum of History n.d.). Furthermore, a Permit system was implemented which stipulated that First Nations individuals wishing to sell agricultural produce or livestock to non-Indigenous peoples must have a permit signed by their Indian agent or Superintendent to do so. It was illegal for individuals or businesses off reserve to purchase from First Nation farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan under this system, causing “irreparable harm to the emerging initiatives of Aboriginal farmers” (Tang 2003:7).
One of Canada’s most shameful policies relating to First Nations originated in Battleford, less than 150 kilometers from Lloydminster: the pass system. According to this system, individuals were not permitted to leave the premises of their reserve without written consent from an Indian Agent and a signed document outlining the purpose and duration of this absence (Barron 1988; Purich 1986; Tang 2003; âpihtawikosisân 2012). It has commonly been compared to the South African system of Apartheid, and is famously rumoured to have influenced it (Steckley 2016; Horwitz and Newman 2011; Barron 1988). Barron’s (1988) analysis of correspondences between “assistant Indian commissioner” Hayter Reed and surveyor and commissioner Edgar Dewdney appear to reveal that this system originated out of an initiative at Battleford to reduce Indigenous mobility. According to this interpretation, the system was never securely rooted in legislation, and lacked legal sanction. It was justified by claiming to “protect” First Nations from the perceived vices available in urban settings, to separate them for the purposes of “training” them to be integrated into white society, and to protect the property of settlers from destruction at the hands of First Nations. It was enforced by arresting First Nations found off of reserves without a pass on the grounds of trespassing or vagrancy (Barron 1988; Tang 2003; Funk and Lobe 1991). While Barron notes that First Nations often aggressively refused to obey this repressive and unjust policy, and commonly “subverted” or “avoid[ed]” it (1988: 35), Tang (2003) describes it as being effective in restricting the flow of goods and services between settlers and First Nations. The persistent poverty and food insecurity experienced by several First Nations in these regions still today is unsurprising when one considers the painstaking efforts made to effectively and intentionally cut them out of the settler economy (which they were first forcefully incorporated into through the fur trade and other means).
Canada’s residential school legacy also has deep roots to the plains. Although their origins begin much earlier, in New France as early as the 1830’s, the federal government of Canada developed and implemented an educational policy in the 1880’s promoting the model of custodial schools which now make up our nation’s infamous residential school legacy. These schools were operated in partnership with the Roman Catholic, United, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches, and began opening in the prairies in 1883. They would later spread to Ontario and Quebec (Miller 2012). Under the residential school system, First Nation, Metis, and Inuit children were forcefully removed from their homes and held in schools where their traditional practices and languages were forbidden. These schools varied in the cultural diversity of attendees and distance from reserves, among other things, and Indigenous children varied in the length of time they spent in these schools and the amount of contact they were able to maintain with their families and communities (Chrisjohn and Young 1997); however, “it is widely accepted that the treatment children [received] in Indian residential schools caused grievous multigenerational harm” (Daniels 2006: 100). In 1920, the Indian Act made attendance in these schools compulsory for all First Nations, who were not permitted to seek education elsewhere. Parents who failed to comply and register their children in these schools or turn them over to Indian Agents, RCMP officers, or church officials faced jail sentences, or withheld food rations and/or treaty payments (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 2015; Owen n.d.). Although Inuit and Metis peoples are not regulated by the Indian Act, and at various points in history there were conflicts between the federal and provincial governments regarding whose responsibility it was to “educate” these peoples, it is known that many Inuit, Metis, and non-status Indigenous children were made to attend residential schools and facilities like them (such as hostels, mission schools, and boarding schools) for the purposes of assimilation at various points in time (Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015; Gadoua 2010; Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2015). Two of these schools operated on Onion Lake Cree Nation; one was destroyed by fire in 1943, the other’s doors remained open until 1974.
For inquiries about this history or Megan’s research on food security please contact her firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read Megan’s other contributions to the Women Warriors newsletter.
1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is Bev Renaud, Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW. Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca
Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th and be doing a presentation to City of Calgary managers and stakeholders on Friday, March 16th at 9 am.
2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator. Please contact Alicia Oliver for details: email@example.com
3) The Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation are piloting an Indigenous Fitness Leadership Certification starting in April. One of our Women Warriors participants, Tara Waskewitch from Onion Lake Cree Nation has been chosen to participate. It’s exciting times for us to be able to offer Women Warriors on reserve with their own fitness trainers.
International Women’s Day: The Power of Mentorship
Today, March 8th, 2018 is International Women’s Day with the campaign theme #PressforProgress. There are several actions that the website www.internationalwomensday.com calls for individuals to act upon today including:
1) Maintain a gender parity mindset.
2) Challenge stereotypes and bias.
3) Forge positive visibility of women.
4) Influence others’ beliefs and actions.
5) Celebrate women’s achievements, more specifically, celebrate women role models and their journeys.
Today I’m celebrating Dr. Lewis Williams, an accomplished Maori scholar, researcher, and overall inspiring woman that I had the pleasure of meeting in November in Saskatoon at the Tamarack Evaluating Community Impact workshop. She is humble, open, and direct – all qualities that I appreciate. She sent me an academic article that literally blew my mind, and I wanted to share with the researchers on my email list for further investigation: Williams, L. (2013). Deepening Ecological Relationality through Critical Onto-Epistemological Inquiry: Where Transformative Learning Meets Sustainable Science. Journal Of Transformative Education, 11(2), 95-113.
In it, she discusses a decolonizing research methodology, Intuitive Inquiry. She states, “Intuitive Inquiry consciously positions the researcher and his or her experience at the core of the research endeavor. Through its reintegration of the inner, subjective, intuitive, and spiritual with the outer, external, sensory, and more ‘‘objective’’ ways of knowing, Intuitive Inquiry (Anderson, 2000, 2004) establishes an intimate dialogue between the knower and that which he or she is attempting to know. It re-establishes knowledge not as the accumulation of facts, but as the integration of all our experiences in the world. This is consonant with ideas in Maoritanga and other Indigenous cultures where knowledge is held sacred, derived from the integration into our centre, of different ways of knowing that include and transcend the world of our five senses (Cajete, 2000; Royal, 2003).
Right now I’m taking my first research methodologies course, and Dr. Williams article has me excited to move on to decolonizing research methodologies. Her article has given me hope that Indigenous ways of knowing and being, through more than our five senses is a valid way to research. The rest of the academic article reads like a story, which is my favorite way to learn. (Also why I love Dr. Karlee Fellner‘s dissertation, Returning to our Medicines: Decolonizing and Indigenizing Mental Health Services to Better Serve Urban Indigenous Communities.) Thank you, Dr. Williams (and Dr. Fellner) for your genius work decolonizing academia and inspiring upcoming academics to explore Indigenous research methodogies.
Born in Aotearoa / New Zealand, Lewis is a Ngai Te Rangi woman and also of Gaelic ancestry. She is the Founding Director of the Alliance for Intergenerational Resilience (AIR) and a Senior Research Fellow with Whakauae Research Services. During 2018 a particular focus is her personal walk of intergenerational resilence with her own whanau/family on her traditional territory of the Tauranga Moana, Bay of Plenty Aotearoa. She is passionate about finding and flowing with the Deep and Life-giving currents that underpin our cosmos.
1. Who was the most important mentor in your life?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I have been fortunate to have had many – mostly informal, I believe spirit has always guided mentors into my life. Often at first mentorship has not always been evident. Rather, it has gently and gradually emerged, often not even spoken of, yet through the relationship, an understanding built up.
Perhaps my two most fundamental mentors, (if I think of ancestral pou/posts that support the Whare Tupuna/ancestral house) are my Kuias (kuia means woman Elder) Aunty Maria Ngatai and Aunty Ngaroimata Cavill. Both entered my life around the same time when I was in my late 40s. While both have since passed to the spirit world, they remain important guides and mentors in my life.
I am going to talk about Aunty Maria as for various reasons she is very present with me at the moment. Aunty Maria was born in Te Puna in 1930 and named Maria Hokimate Ormsby. Her whakapapa (geneology) is of both the Ngati Ranginui and Ngai Te Rangi tribes and we both whakapapa back to the ancestress Ruawahine Puhi of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe. Aunty Maria was married to Uncle Kihi, the Rangatira (chief) of the Ngai Te Rangi tribe and together they had five children. She was a self-made woman and very about ‘service’ to people and community, and nationally recognized as such. While they had very little money in the early days, Aunty Maria was the one who got their kiwi fruit farm up and going and made it really successful. Larger than life, she never saw the point of going far from home, because to her, the garden of life was plentiful just where she was- on her own rohe/territory. She was outspoken, warm, loving and generous, and very direct and strong.
2. How did you find them or approach them to be your mentor?
I found Aunty Maria because I followed a very significant dream I had about an ancestor of mine Jane Faulkner, daughter of Ruawahine Puhi. The dream had me searching on many levels and took me back to our traditional lands at a time when our ancestral fires were just about extinguished. Through a friend I was introduced to Aunty Maria. She made it easy and more or less from the start opened her home to me. At this stage, I had finished work at the University of Saskatchewan and so was free to dig deeply into my Ngaiterangi self. We spend many, many hours together at her house where I would listen to lots of family and ancestral stories, or else we’d go out together round about, walk the lands and she’d get uncle Kihi to show me stuff.
In the Maori wananga (learning tradition) the emphasis is on wisdom – the integration of experience into the heart of one’s being. As my (unspoken) mentor, aunty maria was very much like this with me – journeying alongside, gently providing words of guidance at times, allowing me to access deeper levels of myself and therefore create the new sense of order of self and the universe that I needed to.
3. What are your top three lessons learned from your mentor?
The first lesson would have to be that it’s “all about relationships”. Aunty was continually building relationships with warmth and love.
The second lesson is about staying in connection. Aunty was a very strong and forthright person and spoke her mind. Yes disagreements with others did not make her shy away, she truly believed in maintaining connections.
The third lesson is about humility and service. Aunty Maria was a very spiritual women and no role was too ‘low’ or ‘high’ for her. She took things on, was grateful for what she had and was always so positive.
4. What qualities make a good mentee?
Listen and watch. Be humble, be open, be curious.
5. What benefits and/or rewards have you received from mentoring?
From the mentoring I have received, I have benefited in many ways – feeling seen, a greater sense of knowing where I have been and where I am going.
Both a greater sense of Turangawaewae (place to stand) and also responsibility intergenerationally – to those before me and after me.
As a mentor, I very much believe that life is a journey of spirit and that we all have a unique purpose and contribution to make with our lives. I approach mentoring in this way. So it gives me a great sense of contributing to something worthwhile if I can be a part of helping another being find and stay on their unique path of contribution to the world.
6. What personal development practices do you have?
Yoga, meditation, being with nature, dreamwork, shamanic journeying – all to do with inner and outer listening. Also in particular at the moment taking care with the little things and expanding my capacity to be with what is unpleasant and bringing greater equanimity to life.
7. What book most impacted your life?
That’s a hard one – influential books would be “The Power of Now” by Ekhart Tole, and “The Woven Universe. Selected Writings of the Rev Maori Marsden” by Charles Royal.
Understanding How Indigenous Women’s Health, Colonization & the Truth of Our History Are Interwoven
As we put the final touches on the Women Warriors facilitators manual and I prepare my slideshow to train the new facilitators in Calgary on March 16th and 17th, I am reflective of the importance of understanding how colonialism impacts Indigenous women’s health.
In the academic article, Racism, Sexism, and Colonialism: The Impacts on the Health of Aboriginal Women in Canada, Bourassa, Mckay-McNabb & Hampton (2004) discuss this matrix of oppression as revealed by health statistics:
Aboriginal women have a lower life expectancy, elevated morbidity rates, and elevated suicide rates in comparison to non-Aboriginal women (Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence, 2004). Aboriginal women living on reserves have significantly higher rates of coronary heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease and other chronic illnesses than non-Aboriginal Canadian women (Waldram, Herring, and Young, 2000). A significantly greater percentage of Aboriginal women living off reserve, in all age groups, report fair or poor health compared to non-Aboriginal women; 41 percent of Aboriginal women aged 55-64 reported fair or poor health, compared to 19 percent of women in the same age group among the total Canadian population (Statistics Canada).
While this program provides free fitness classes and nutrition education, the facilitators must also have the cultural competency and vocabulary to express the daily-lived reality of colonization. These concepts include:
Colonization – the action or process of settling among, and establishing control over, the indigenous people of an area.
Residential School – Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture.
Double Burden – Aboriginal women in Canada frequently experience challenges and discrimination that are not necessarily shared by non-Aboriginal women or Aboriginal men. Aboriginal women have been described as facing a “double-burden” – for being discriminated against as a woman and further for being Indigenous. (Please review Marginalization of Aboriginal Women). If we add weight bias to this discrimination, some Indigenous women experience a triple burden.
Reconciliation – The action of restoring estranged people or parties to friendship, the result of which is becoming reconciled. In relation to Indigenous peoples and their history, it is the responsibility of every Canadian to understand the injustices committed in their country’s name. Every citizen needs to learn the history and legacy of Canada’s residential schools and realize that contemporary expressions of racist and colonial policies of cultural genocide and assimilation continue to this day.
Intergenerational Trauma – the transmission of historical oppression and its negative consequences across generations. There is evidence of the impact of intergenerational trauma on the health and well-being of and social disparities facing Indigenous peoples in Canada and other countries.
Social Determinants of Health – these are the social and economic factors in people’s lives that can, directly and indirectly, affect a person’s health. For example, if they are not able to afford to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and therefore cannot possibly eat the recommended amount daily this would be a ‘direct’ effect. An example of an ‘indirect’ effect could include not having had healthy role modeling of food preparation and food purchasing by a parental figure. Social determinants of health can affect health and health behaviors in many different ways. Indigenous peoples are often in situations where they face inequality of these factors that affect health. Certain specific Indigenous social determinants of health have been outlined. These impact Indigenous peoples only and can be added to the more common ones that impact everyone. The common ones are gender (male versus female), Aboriginal status, housing, income, education level and work. Add to these the following Indigenous specific determinants: participation in traditional activities, balance, life control, environmental education, material resources, social resources and environmental/cultural connections. The facilitator needs to understand that all of these factors influence a participant’s life and their ability to make ‘healthy choices’ or ‘change’ their behavior. A facilitator should be careful to never question a ‘choice’, as the participant may not actually be making a ‘choice’, they may not have a choice. A facilitator should support participants to identify what is influencing their choices and what they can actually control. Try to avoid making people feel guilty about their choices.
In addition, the truth of colonial history is important to understanding why Indigenous peoples are “excessively vulnerable to cerebrovascular disease, coronary heart disease, diabetes, suicide, cancer, depression, substance use, HIVIAIDS, and violence” (Bourassa, Mckay-McNabb & Hampton, p. 27).
With that in mind, our Master’s student from the University of Calgary, Megan Sampson has researched the Plains History of Lloydminster to better understand how the colonial practices and policies in this area have impacted the health of our participants. Please read part 1 of 2 written below. Megan’s thesis includes this history and her research findings from her two months of living in Lloydminster and participating in the Women Warriors program. If you’re interested in learning more about her research on food security, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe that it would be beneficial for each Women Warriors program, wherever it expands to, to investigate its own colonial history to better understand how it is impacting their participant’s health. During my training in Calgary I will discuss this idea with the new facilitators. I will be doing a short lunch hour presentation on the Friday (Mar. 16th) for some of the City of Calgary’s management team and other stakeholders.
 Bourassa, C., Mckay-McNabb, K., & Hampton, M. (2004). Racism, sexism, and colonialism: the impact on the health of Aboriginal women in Canada. Canadian Woman Studies, (1), 23.
Self-Care: A How-to Guide to Loving Yourself & Setting Boundaries.
It’s important to practice self-love in the midst of negativity. Here are some of the Women Warriors self-care practices.
I use yoga, flute music, and weight lifting to reduce stress. – Verna
Depending on how stressed I may use more than one strategy.
1) Long hot bath, smooth jazz or other favorite music & candles, 2) Walk in the pasture (we live on 1/4 section) and have a chat with the horses. They always listen and never argue, and when they think they have heard enough they walk away. 3) I go out to my special sitting/praying rock and just be. 4) A good book and a cup of tea or a cold drink if it is hot! – Linda
Women Warriors Updates
1) Women Warriors – 8 Weeks to Healthy Living is being piloted by the City of Calgary.
Location: Village Square Leisure Centre, 2623 56 Street NE, Calgary.
Time: 7:00 pm -8:15 pm.
The contact person for this pilot is: Bev Renaud, Aboriginal Community Social Worker BSW, RSW. Bev.Renaud@calgary.ca
Dr. Wicklum will be involved with the research for this program and hopefully our Master’s student, Megan will be a support. I will be training three facilitators in Calgary on March 16th/17th.
2) Onion Lake Cree Nation has obtained funding to run three sessions of Women Warriors 8 Weeks to Healthy Living on-reserve. Start date is TBA. We had a phone meeting today to discuss data security and hiring/training a facilitator. Please contact Alicia Oliver for details: email@example.com
3) I am a bi-weekly contributor to the Yellowknifer newspaper. In order to view my articles, you must subscribe to the Northern News Services here. My next article, Honorable Minister Caroline Cochrane’s Insights for Women Entering Politics will be released on March 7th.
Part 1 of 2: Plains History – Lloydminster & Area
by Megan Sampson
“Welcome to Lloydminster, Canada’s only Border City, and home to the world’s largest border markers! These 100 ft. pillars signify the provincial boundary and the fourth meridian which marks the border. They represent the four pillars of our city: Oil and Gas, the Barr Colonists, Agriculture, and the Native North Americans (. . . )”
If you tune into Lloydminster Tourism Radio, you’re familiar with these words. However, as one of the “four pillars” of Lloydminster’s society, it is suspicious how these “Native North Americans” lacks mention in most of the places one might most expect to find such information. At City Hall, you will find a plethora of tourism resources describing the city and it’s history, yet Indigenous history is not alluded to in these pamphlets and brochures. The official website of the city makes no mention of Indigenous peoples in its “History of Lloydminster”. Although research reveals that the Lloydminster Cultural and Science Centre (formerly the Barr Colony Heritage Cultural Centre) has in the past hosted brief exhibits and displays of Indigenous culture, it lacks consistent access to displays of Indigenous history and tradition on the land. In the Lloydminster Public Library you will find a display modelling Inuit artwork; this display is beautiful, and appropriate for a place of public learning, yet one can’t help but be reminded of the apparent lack of Plains Cree artwork (and representation more broadly) in the city.
The Lloydminster Native Friendship Centre’s website state’s that its objective is to “promote better understanding and relations between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Members of the Community”. This is a tall task, for how can better understanding and relations occur when the history of one of these parties is all but erased from public discourse? How can this understanding be fostered when acts of colonial violence, such as the abduction and murder of Violet Heathen and Jeannette Chief, are not contextualized and interpreted as symptoms of a long-standing and systemically embedded racism? When poverty, health inequity, substance use disorders, trauma, and injustice (such as that experienced by the family of Colten Boushie’s mourning family) is viewed as if it appeared out of a vacuum rather than as a predictable result of long-term oppression?
In stark contrast to the history of the Indigenous peoples of the territory where Lloydminster now resides, the city’s colonial history is abundantly apparent and even celebrated. Every Lloydminster resident is aware of how the Barr Colonists trekked into this unfavourable terrain, placed their ploughs to the soil, and from their blood, sweat, and tears created industry. Yet, the territory where Lloydminster is now situated has a history, which far outdates the arrival of the colonists in 1903.
Canada’s plains were the site of some of the most poignant and aggressive acts of colonial violence. Pre-contact, plains Nations thrived off of an abundant food supply primarily consisting of buffalo. This was a staple, which they saw decimated by the insatiable demand of French, British, and Scottish traders for furs and pemmican once European commerce engulfed the region. Although the Hudson’s Bay Company did not establish their first inland post until 1774, European penetration of the Canadian plains long preceded this. There is evidence to suggest that the decimation of buffalo herds was a calculated act on the part of colonial governments to quell Indigenous capacity for resistance (Phippen 2016; Foster 2015; Merchant 2007; Croal and Darou 2002).
Widespread starvation and the introduction of European diseases for which they lacked immunity left plains Nations in a compromised position. Yet, in historical documents describing Treaty 6 negotiations, it is evident that they stood their ground in demanding certain necessary provisions to protect their interests. Only reluctantly, and at the insistence of First Nations, were agricultural provisions and famine relief included in the treaty’s text (St. Germain 2001; Daschuk 2013). Furthermore, while plains Nations were promised action to protect buffalo herds, these stipulations were excluded from the text document and never acted upon in any meaningful way (St Germain 2001). There are vast discrepancies between settler and Indigenous accounts of the true spirit and intent of the numbered treaties, and the Indigenous accounts, recorded orally and passed on through generations, are typically disregarded, which is of great consequence to Indigenous peoples. Oral histories passed down by Elders (such as those cited in Treaty 7 Elders and Tribal Council et al 1995 and Taylor 1999) suggesting that Indigenous signatories believed them to be peace treaties and formal agreements to share the land, rather than land surrenders. These documents are recorded in English, not the Indigenous languages of the First Nations who signed them, and there is evidence to suggest that their content was not adequately translated and conveyed to these signatories, and that certain promised provisions were intentionally left out (Hildebrandt et al 1995; Taylor 1999). It is under such conditions that Treaty 6 was signed by Cree, Chipewyan, and Assiniboine chiefs and headmen in 1876 at Fort Pitt—a mere 65 kilometers from where Lloydminster now exists.
It was around this same time when a large migration of Metis people, a distinct nation of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry (primarily Cree, Ojibwa, and Salteaux), began migrating from Manitoba (from places such as the Red River Valley and Portage La Prairie) to Saskatchewan. This migration was in response to a federal delay on delivering cash payments and land holdings they promised in the form of scrip, in response to the Red River Rebellion and Metis assertion of their property rights (Thistle 2016). Denial of farmland in the form of scrip stalling resulted in widespread hunger, and the land which was offered contradicted Metis settlement patterns and interfered with river access. The Metis responded by again resisting, under the leadership of Louis Riel and Alexander Dumont, beginning with a food raid at Duck Lake resulting in a military stand-off. This Red River Resistance coincided with a resistance by the Cree at Frog Lake, Frenchman Butte, and Fort Pitt in 1985 (each of these sites being within a 100-kilometer radius of today’s Lloydminster). It is worth noting that the latter site was successfully captured by Cree warriors at this time. In his 1924 work, ‘Lloydminster, or, 5000 miles with the Barr Colonists’, J. Hanna McCormick notes:
“Many of the vital points in the Riel Rebellion of 1870, and later the
rising of ’85, were in this immediate neighborhood, and many people
now living in the district remember and have close knowledge of those
exciting times. The reader can grasp the sentiment Barr Colonists must
feel when these events are recalled and placed before them [. . .]” (16)
It is therefore apparent that the Barr Colonists themselves had at least a basic appreciation of the vast and complex Indigenous history of governance and resistance in the territory they came to settle. Part 2 will be released next week. Please read Megan’s other contributions to the Women Warriors newsletter.
Brandy-Lee Maxie is a storyteller, entrepreneur, and mother of three children ages 15, 12, and 9 from the White Bear First Nations in Saskatchewan.
Tonight is a hard night to feel like Reconciliation in Canada is a possibility – that concept just got further away from being achievable. Racism just walked away from a murder conviction and yet another Indigenous youth was left murdered, dehumanized and without justice. Another name added to the list of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Men and Women in Canada, go ahead and say his name…Colton Boushie. Today Colton’s killer, Gerald Stanley, was acquitted of all changes and to many people in Saskatchewan, it comes as no surprise. Racism has not changed very much in the prairie provinces and still rings loud and proud for the most part. Indigenous people face the highest rates of violence, poverty, social issues, injustices, and death. As a Mother, I wanted to have this hope for reconciliation within my children’s lifetime, but I don’t feel very hopeful right now. I’m worried now more than ever about my Sons becoming teenage boys in Saskatchewan.
What hurts me the most about all of this is knowing how young Colton was and knowing that my children are not too far from that age. As a Mother with two Assiniboine/Anishnaabe Sons, my heart is broken by how blatantly open and disgusting racism in Saskatchewan is in 2018. Colton Boushie’s murder represents a very real possibility in my Sons futures in rural Saskatchewan. Will they break down one day in an area that only has white farmers who are now armed, dangerous and overly confident that Native lives don’t matter? I’m seeing posts like “Yes finally justice for white farmers… the laws are changing so we can shoot Indians dead if they come on our land” and racism being celebrated so openly tonight. I’m worried to see the outcome for Tina Fontaine and I highly anticipate the same injustices. My beautiful daughter will soon be the age that Tina Fontaine was when she was murdered and it makes my stomach twist up to think that she is now in that demographic of most targeted and at risk for violence in Canada. When will it ever end?
As I decolonize my mind and learn to be Indian again, I also try to teach my children along the way so that they don’t have to be my age trying to figure out their identity. It is quite the process though because they are so consumed with this colonized educational system and we are under this constant threat of Child and Family services making sure that they stay in that forced assimilation cycle. I think education is very important, I just see more value in education that includes Indigenous history, language, culture, Treaties, and teachings. Trying to walk my children through the concept of reconciliation must first start with their understanding of their history and who they are, and that comes with some hard discussions about our harsh collective reality which might bring up some intergenerational trauma. Before we can even get around to talking about how they can walk side by side in peaceful coexistence with Canadians, they need to understand what Treaties and sacrifices were made for that discussion to even exist. But they also need to know what promises were broken and the Canadian blueprint of killing the Indian in the child, a blueprint of genocide that they just keep redesigning to suit the times.
Tonight, I truly believe that reconciliation is nothing more than a hashtag to create this illusion of unity to justify their overpriced Canada 150 parties. There is no reconciliation when you continue to devalue our lives, and there is no reconciliation when systematic genocide and oppression continues to be the basis of Canadian law and politics. Canada has a real dark history and a very shameful present, with racism being the backbone of this “Nation” and until that changes then I see no point in teaching my children false narratives and political lies. Instead, I will teach them things like knowing their rights, surviving an emergency without walking into someone’s yard for help, how to disrupt the systems of their oppression and how to endure a life of being Indigenous.
Shelley Wiart is a proud member of the North Slave Metis Alliance and cofounder of Women Warriors, an Indigenous focused holistic health program aimed at type II diabetes awareness & prevention.
Last visit to Yellowknife my dad told me his parents had not prepared him for the racism that existed down South. He grew up in the Northwest Territories his whole life and left, with his mom (my Grandma Anne), to live in Calgary while she completed her social work degree at the University of Calgary. He told me many stories of the racism he encountered while living in Calgary during the early 80’s, including being jumped and beaten outside a bar by Cowboys.
I message him last week to get his consent to tell our reunion story in the Yellowknifer newspaper.
He text me, “Hi Sweetie: You’re doing noble work whenever and wherever you take a stand against racism and bigotry. History has taught us that one’s silence is one’s condonement of wrongdoing and/or of the status quo. For example, slavery and segregation in the USA didn’t end without blood being spilled nor did the right for women to vote come without the blood of many determined women. Society only changes when the conditions for change are ripe. There has to be a lot of change agents contributing to the change bucket – drop by drop. With that in mind, I don’t have any problem with you telling your adoption story. If you’re comfortable and willing to tell your story to the world, I’m good with it. I’m just happy and proud to have a beautiful daughter out of this whole thing. An injustice was imposed upon us because of the ugliness of racism -that’s the ugly truth.”
Here’s the real distinction that I understand between myself and the participants in my group, Women Warriors. My children are blonde-haired and blue-eyed with skin representative of their Dutch father. I can never and will never know what it is like to raise a visibly Indigenous child in this area of Treaty 6. I do, however, understand the ugliness of racism and the ways that families are torn apart because of it.
When the verdict was delivered last night for the Gerald Stanley trial, my first thought was about the Indigenous women in my group, and how they must feel as Mothers. To feel that their childrens lives are at risk becuase of the colour of their skin, and that justice in Canada is an illusion. I cried and wondered what I can say and do to help the women in this community that I love?
With the advice of my dad ringing in my ears, I refuse to be silent and I’m going to continue contributing to the change bucket. I can’t change the broken justice system, or delete the ugly racist comments that emerged on Lloydminster facebook groups last night. What is within my realm of control is helping my group be strong in the face of adversity.
Women Warriors has obtained funding to run a program in Onion Lake Cree Nation this year. I can help the women in this community by focusing on their mental, physical and spiritual well-being. We need each other more than ever, and we need a place to feel safe to express our fears and worries about our children’s futures. We need the healing energy that comes when a group of women gathers and shares their lives.
I ask the non-Indigenous allies of this newsletter to imagine that Colton Boushie was your child. Advocate like Colton Boushie was your child. Speak up like Colton Boushie was your child. Do not stay silent in the face of this injustice. I will not use the word “reconcilation” anymore. How can we talk about reconcilation without justice?