Tag Archives: anti-oppressive

Defining an Indian

7 Jan

The last couple of days have been full of information.  Our pre-internship semester begins with the (E)Merging Professionalism Conference and has got me thinking.  With all of the information I have given though, the thing that has stuck in my head the most is mainly about my heritage.  I was fortunate to hear talks about Anti-Oppressive Education, Treaty Education from the Office of Treaty commissioner which included a talk from an Elder from my own band, a talk about learning Treaties for Social Justice, and a talk from the keynote speaker Perry Bellegarde.  Finishing just an hour before this there are some thoughts that are stuck in my mind.

Rather than describe all of the wonderful things that I learned in the last two days, I want to reflect on what it has led me to think about.  One of the things that I heard from the Elder talk was that Canada is the only place that has an Act to define a person.  Rather than have someone define who I am, I want to define myself.  Obviously I would never be able to define myself as an entire person, so I am going to focus specifically on myself as a First Nations Person.

Describing this aspect of my life is always something I have difficulty with, because I feel like I don’t know enough and I’m ashamed of that.  My First Nations background isn’t something that is apparent in my every day life, but rather something that is part of my underlying structure; it makes me who I am.

In order to define myself I really have to define my family.  Two of the people who have most shaped me in my life are my mother and my grandfather.   I have learned in my family that we often do not talk about many things concerning our First Nations background, and therefore I find that I don’t also.  I have also learned that when I am given information I should be very grateful of it, and listen and retain as much information as possible.

My grandfather went to a residential school, and up until the last couple of years that was the only thing I knew about it.  Through my mother I have learned that the choice to go to the residential school, along with the numerous other brothers and sisters in my grandpa’s family, was made by my great-grandmother and she considered it to be a good thing.  Life on the reserve was not good and it was better for her children to send them to a residential school.  My family chose to go along with assimilation, knowing full well of the repercussions, and with that great sacrifice came many expectations.  My family gave up our own culture to survive, and this survival is focused mainly on education.

Education is an extremely important thing in my family.  Getting a job, and working hard for everything you get, is how I was raised.  Because of this fact a majority of my family, on my grandpa’s side, have gone to some form of post secondary.  Another thing that is important is that nothing is taken for granted.  The fact that we are given this education needs to be used to our best ability.

I understand that my grandfather has gone through a lot through his life, and has been constantly oppressed.  Because of this I know that he works hard in a sense that he doesn’t want to give anybody a reason to mold him into any stereotypes.  My grandpa is well into his seventies and he just retired at Christmas… for the second  time in his life.  He continues to work hard because it is what he knows.  I know that he wants to continue working hard because he doesn’t want his children and grandchildren to go through anything he has.

This Christmas I was fortunate enough to get stories from my grandpa.  I asked if he would teach me how to make Indian Donuts and Bullets, traditional food that our family makes around new years.  New Years Eve i spent a majority of my day making fried dough and meatballs with my grandpa and it was one of my favourite memories of 2010.  He told me stories of previous times making the food, passed the recipes down to me, and told me lots of stories of my family.  He said I would make a good little Indian woman and that I was the family Indian Donut maker.  I wouldn’t trade that day for anything.

Although these things don’t seem to really define much about me, they do hold great importance to me.  The most important thing is that I understand that I don’t know very much about my heritage.  I’m Cree and I only know one word, although my grandpa did lose the language when he went to the residential school.  I want to learn more about myself and my family, and I want to do things to make my entire family proud.  Because education was so important to my family it has become the most important thing in my life.  My definition is quite short, but i will forever be building on it.