Sunday, April 12, 2015

Looking At Me, What Do You See?

Me & my Gran-babies

My Brother-in-Law saw me being interviewed on a localTV channel one day and told my other brother-in-law that I looked like a "little old Jewish guy".  My neighbour's good friend saw me in the back yard and I was wearing a hat, he said, "Steve looks like a little old rich white guy".  My friend is originally from Barbados. One of my friends saw me from a distance over at his Ceremony site, I was wearing a pork-pie hat and he said to my other friend "who's that white guy?". An Elder back home saw me at the Health Centre and he said to me, while I was wearing my Pork-pie hat, "Boy your looking White, you should get back to the Rez". My Mom saw a picture of me wearing a hat and asked "who's that white guy?"  My Wife laughed.  In each of these situations I laughed as well.

It is quite interesting how we are seen. I wrote about what I see in the mirror a few years back and at the time it was not very pleasant.  It wasn't about physical appearance, it was more of what I felt like. That was the ugly part. So what do you see and what do I see?  Now that's the thing isn't it?  I don't have any control, influence or right to tell you what you see. I can hope about what you see but other than that, there is no business that I have there. You may see this big mouthed guy that acts like he knows everything. Or this old guy that thinks he is so cool, that he still uses the word 'groovy'.  Or you may see this arse of a guy that is rude and spiteful.  Or you might see a generous thoughtful man. What I do think, from my past experiences, and from me actually looking in the mirror at my physical appearance, I know everyone sees this White guy. Is it a bad thing? If you're Indian it can be

When I look at I see the world from my eyes. I don't see my face.  I see things as how I was raised, my past influences, my experiences, my beliefs, my values, my attitudes, my regrets, my wrongs, my mistakes, my demons,  and my hopes. I don't see things as what you think you see in me. I am not this little old white guy that you see. How can I be? How can I be something I am not?

I was raised with Anishinaabe parents. I knew my aunties, uncles, cousins, my community, my Kokum, Mishom, Granny and a few memories of my Granpa.  It was a great experience.  Although there are some things I would not want my kids to experience, in general I was very fortunate and I am grateful.  I look with those eyes and that is a reflection of what I see when I look in the mirror.

I see the pain and joy of Anishinaabek-Indians.  I see a small part of our history.  What I see in me is my Dad, my Mom, my siblings, my cousins, my Uncles, my Aunties, my babies - my kids, my grankids, my big family and my friends. I see someone that is trying.  Trying to live a little bit better. Not better in terms of material goods, but in the way I carry myself and my heritage. I see a very lucky man in being a member of his community; Sagkeeng. I see someone who is lucky to come from such a good family. I see lot of things. I see the pain of loss for a child. I see the loneliness.  I see some failures. I see some ugliness as well. But I see a man that is loved by his wife and is so fortunate. I see family and friends. I see this Indian guy trying to be a good human being.

What I don't see is what you think you see. 

You see something else and I have no control over it.

“Being kind to someone, only to look kind to others, defeats the purpose of being kind.”
Shannon L. Alder


  1. Very well said.

    I'm a non-Aboriginal white suburbanite, so take my words with as many shakers of salt as you want, but in my view non-Aboriginals would be well-served to adopt the following rule of thumb on this issue:

    "If you say you're Cree, that's good enough for me!"

    (P.S.: I only use Cree as an example and because it rhymes. The same principle applies if you're dealing with someone who is Haida, Mohawk or Anishinaabek.

    Also, since I don't have any other means of commenting here, I had to use the Anonymous option. For the record, my name's Jared, so take my comment as you will.)

  2. Thank you jared. You make sure to have a great day. I like that, if you say who you are that is good enough for me.

  3. I get those side-long glances too. Swedish and Metis. I know who my grandfather was. I can feel it in my soul. I look as white as can be, but that's not all of me.

  4. Sue, welcome to the blog and you take care. Native is in our DNA and no one can look or say that away. We do know who our relatives are and that is good