Monday, March 1, 2021

Those Real Indians

 My Dad would have been 91 this year. He was an Indian, well actually he was Anishinaabe, a citizen of Sagkeeng First Nation. My Dad came from a big family, with a lot of brothers and sisters. Their Dad, my Mishoom was a bushman and the brothers all worked in the bush as well. My Mishoom died when I was eight years old in 1968, but I remember him well. To me, everyone in the Reserve was an Indian. My Mom also had the big Indian family.  The only non-Indians were the store owners, the teachers, the priests and the nuns. So my world was pretty small when I think back. 

Not everyone saw the world as I did back then, Indians and non-Indians, there was no in-between. Even the bullying at the Residential School that I got for being a white looking Indian didn't change my view. I never thought I was anything but an Indian. It wasn't until I heard my Dad and my Uncle talk about "those Real Indians" when they were picking Wild Rice, that I thought about the notion of different Indians. The Indians my Dad and Uncle were talking about was those Indians from Ontario who still practiced Traditions. At night when they were camping, some Indians would sign on the Drum. These Indians came from Reserves in Western Ontario; Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) , Waabasemong, Big Grassy and others. So my Dad and other's like him, held those Indians in high regard when it came to being Indian. Although my Dad was a fluent Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) speaker, he felt he didn't speak it as pure. Dad, Mom and lot of the community members were put in the Residential School in our Reserve. The School was run by French Catholics. The other non-residential school (very small one) was run by the English Anglicans, and most of the Indians who went there were not mixed heritage. The schools were designed to "get rid of the Indian." The pressure to stop being Indian was relentless. With the constant pressure there was some fallout. One thing I never did hear from any of my relatives is that they were not Indian. All of them knew they were Indian, regardless of the beatings they took from the system - society. So when Dad and Uncle spoke of those Real Indians they weren't saying they were not real Indians, but they were acknowledging the strength, the resilience of their people despite the attacks and suffering they went through. 

In our Reserve the crush of Christianity almost wiped out the Drum from the people. There was a quick move to accept the ways of the Church (beaten into you at school, and other governmental pressures). So there was a change in how the community viewed things. Even in our community people would talk about Indians who stole Treaty. There were some Indians, descendants of the Chief who signed treaty, who felt some Indians didn't belong. The people who didn't belong were people like my Mishoom, who's grandmother was Wissakodewikwe half-breedWoman, later known as the Metis people. So some of the Indians in our Reserve didn't take kindly to the mixed Indians. The story goes like this:" the Indians who signed Treaty didn't want their grandchildren, the ones with mixed blood, to be left out of Treaty. So they had them registered at the signing of Treaty (Treaty One 1871) as well. These Indians were not be leaders in the community and leave the decisions to the Indians with no mixed blood." Things don't always go as they should. The Treaty brought along with it, the Indian Act, the Indian Agent and the elections of Chiefs, which the Indians called Ogema-con. That added little part, the con in Omega denotes a pretence. Like in the Wendigo and Wendigo-cons; not the real Wendigo.  Same with Gwoskay-can; the person who acts crazy but is not mentally ill. So with Ogemg-con, we know them as Indian Act Chiefs. 

Funny thing about the country, the system (White folk almost exclusively) didn't want the Indian to be  Indian, but they didn't want a half-way Indian as well. It was like they didn't want any kind of Indian at all. Crazy eh? Thing is, Indians didn't think of themselves really as half-way Indians.  Either you are Indian or you are not. Our Ancestors didn't want to throw away their Grandchildren, so they were Indian regardless if they had the Drum or not. Even though Indians are in awe of those who did not lose their Tradition, they still know they themselves are Indian. They know this because there is an "us" and there are a "them," White people. They know they have a long history and a long connection to their ancestors. So we see each other as Indian, the Real Indians

"Those Teachings that we are given reflect the identity of the Spirit that is in each and everyone of us. You carry all those Teachings inside of you. As long as you have an ounce of blood of Anishinaabe, you have the genetic memory to know those Teachings. The holy spot of our people is the knowledge the Ceremony, the language, the relationship that we have with the land, that is the holy spot of our people. What an awesome gift that the Creator gave us as Anishinaabe people." Dave Courchene Jr. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Feel Like the Fraud

  • Rejoice not at thine enemy's fall - but don't rush to pick him up either. (Jewish wisdom)
  • Can't do it, just can't do it. Can not in good conscience utter a good word about a few people who have recently died. Many times we just have to "mind our business." Some folks have heroes which are actually monsters. When people die, we can see it as a sad thing, a thing which we have no intense feelings about, our we can feel some kind of joy or pleasure. When singer John Prine died, I felt really bad. Not that we were good friends or even acquaintances, but he did have a place in my thoughts. His tunes really touched me in my "special spot." Side story; my special spot is a story I have with my wife. It didn't start off as a joke but a warning for her health, an Indian thing. You see we have a special spot on our back just below the neck. You see people always touching other people in that spot. You see someone crying publicly, and someone will come touch them on that special spot. The special spot is where you get medicine, whether it be good feelings or someone checking you out. With this you have to be careful about who touches your special spot. Someone with bad intentions can put "bad stuff" in you through your special spot.  I was telling my wife this as we walked downtown in the City. We were entering a store and I was saying to her as we were walking in, "and don't let people touch you in your special spot." Context is everything. My wife told her friend about the special spot and how I told my wife about it, while in public, and because I am hard of hearing, I tend to talk loud. I have no inside voice, I don't know how to whisper, I have been told.  So My wife is always being told by her friend, "and don't let anyone touch you in your special spot." We Indians are wary of people with bad intentions, you know, it could be "Bad Medicine." But the special spot could also mean something else, depending on context. So anyways back to someone dying recently. I see Rush Limbaugh died and people are RIP'ing him all over the place. I told my wife about Rush dying. She said she couldn't understand people like him. I told her because you have no hate and when you see people who hate, others,  you can't understand it. You see Rush is a pure dickhead, a douche bag, a rotten bastard who didn't deserve a good rich life, but from all accounts the guy did really good for himself. He gained wealth by spreading hate to others who were not straight,  not white, "not Christian" or were Women.  Convention has it that you don't say anything bad about the deceased but customs should be broken. As my friend says to people in the Reserve who are bad people; "And you! Your'e going straight to hell when you die." He tells them when they are still living so he doesn't have to say anything when they are dead. 
  • There was this local guy who died a little while back. On social media there were plenty who were praising him and saying "a great man died today." I was not one of those people who would say he was a great man. Actually to me, he was far from a great man. He was a total toad, a predator, a blood sucker, a louse, a maggot, a rodent and a jackal. The kind of person who would feed off a corpse. I say this because of how I knew him. I met him about 22 years ago. He was being held in jail with about about 30 of other gang members. I heard he had turned his life around before he died and was working on helping people to stay out of gangs. Lot of gang members make jobs for themselves as they get older. They spend a good part of their lives leaching off people and then decide to tell kids not to be like them. I once drove a couple of ex-gang members to a school in a Reserve. I heard them tell their tales of being gangsters. These guys were very straightforward with no tales of fun and riches. It pleased me to hear them speak with no vulgarity to the kids in school. They treated the kids with respect and didn't pretend to be anything other than a couple of guys who quit gangs. So I respected them. The fellow who recently died, him I had no respect for. But then again I didn't follow his path after he left the gang life. I base may view on when I knew him in the gang, so I may have a bias against him. I wish I was big enough of a person to wish him all the best in the after-life. Can't do it, it would be real phoney of me and I would be a fraud. 
  • I grew up very fortunate: I had a great Mom, a good Dad, a beautiful community, food, nice home and strong family ties. This background has done good by me. I have a strong attachment to my community, our people, our history, our culture and this is due to my up bringing. This does not mean I was always a good person. I mean yes, generally I was respectful, generous, kind and thoughtful. I was also jealous, cruel, petty and violent at times. There are people who adore me. They look at me as a kind good soul. For them it is true, because I have given them no reason to think but anything else. There are those who know me as being cruel, jealous, petty and violent. It is true, because I have not given them anything to think otherwise. It is this duality that makes me sad and filled with regret. I look in the mirror and wish the bad part of me didn't exist. I want to be what I seem to be, a good guy. It is not really true. I am a fraud or at least I feel like a fraud. The memories of my bad actions come to me almost every night and remind me of who I am, or who I was. So I try to quantify the good things and measure against the bad things. Good things should be the default in our lives. Trying to gage how much good you have done against the bad is a futile attempt at redemption. You can never erase the bad you did, no matter what you are doing. But you know what? Giving up on trying to do good is not an option. If it were then you truly are a fraud. 
  • Everyone must feel like a fraud at some point. The academic may feel they are not worthy of the status of professor. The cop who uses their power in bullying manner. The Judge sentencing a man who is abusing the spouse all the while he is an abuser.  There are many who are literally frauds but there are many who are not but feel like a fraud. The good person who looks in the mirror but sees a bad person. The Mom who is loving but feels bad for having at least once lost their patience. 
  • Feeling like a fraud doesn't have to be a constant. I have an education, some Native Traditional knowledge and Teachings. I have a Catholic knowledge from being at the Indian Residential School as a kid. I am a Dad, a husband, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a grandpa, and a friend. So being a fraud is just one of the many things I am, we are. It doesn't have to be our number one characteristic. In fact many of you who feel you are a fraud are nothing close to being a fraud. It is a moment in time when we have doubt. That is it. So good ahead and feel like a fraud for a brief moment, but know you are much more. You are someone's special. Being a special is a heck of a better place to be. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Twist Your Face If You Make Fun Of Me

 My Cousin Boyshum was a really big guy. Tall, broad, brown, strong and forever working in the bush or on machinery. He was not a bully but you didn't mess with him. He was constantly teasing folks. Sometimes teasing is not easy to take. Still in the world's eye (my eyes), Boyshum was a heck of a good man. One of the things about people growing up in our Reserve was, you didn't make fun of Indian Medicine people. It was also one of Boyshum's sayings: "Boy, you make fun of those old Indians and your face will be all twisted and your mouth will be by your eyes." People in the Reserve were lead to believe Indian Medicine was bad medicine. Ah the good old priests and nuns sure sold a sad tale of serpents and demons to the Indian folk in the community. And many folk bought into it a little bit. They still practiced it; keemooch (secretly). It is said even famous actress and human rights defender Angelina Jolie had her face twisted. Bad Indian medicine? Of course the news calls it Bell's Palsy. 

Twisted Faces. 
Through it all Angelina Jolie stood strong with her twisted face. She suggested that her health, the twisted face, was because of the all the pressure, stress and issues she has been facing in her life (cancer, divorce, raising bunch of kids, etc). So she had a case of Bell's Palsy. I think maybe a medicine person or person's did that to her through some unseen power, magic or curse. Someone got jealous of her and decided to twist her face. Who knows who it was? Maybe someone had some of her hair or heaven forbid her blood, like in a necklace or something and they did it to her. I can't believe the handsome bugger Brad Pitt would do something like that, but you never know, it could be a jealous ex? You know like Billy Bob or even Jennifer? 

I imagine the twisting a face is not an easy thing to do, right? Where do you go for instructions on that? I tried looking in the classified's years ago when there was such a thing as a newpaper classifieds. Now you can google stuff on the internet. I haven't found any credible services for how to learn how to do "bad medicine" and twist someone's face. I once read a Christian book about 40 years ago, called the Bushman and the Spirits. It is a nice little read about the life of this Indian trapper and how he was practicing Indian Medicine for years and then converted to Christianity. Funny thing about the story, he never practiced bad medicine but did good things with his practice of Indian Medicine. Never did understand why he converted to Christianity. It didn't seem to make sense as his life seems good, but oh well, it wouldn't have been much a Christian reader if he didn't convert. In the description of the book he is presented as a witch doctor. He did mention a time when he went did offering in the bush for some good thing to happen. Maybe it's the same with when you want bad to happen? Who knows but you could try it if you feel the inclination to do so. Go out in the bush and make an offering to the Spirit's you want to help with your request. Look for a good spot in the bush, take your offering and speak to the Spirits. Then wait and see what happens. If it was good for the Bushman and the Spirits maybe it will be good for you? 

I had a friend who would twist your face. No, he didn't use Indian Medicine, he literally twisted your face.  If you fought him, he would grab your face and twist it in his hands. We called him "Mean Man." My friend, Mean Man was actually just a very nice guy. He was tough, a good rough and tough hockey player. Sort of like the legendary Boston Bruin Stan Jonathan. Stan Jonathon a Tuscarora Indian, was  a professional hockey player in the 1970's. Stan was not a very tall man but stocky. He is most noted for his powerful left hand which was on display when he took on the NHL's tough guy Pierre Bouchard. Stand Jonathan may have twisted Bouchard's face with this fists that 21st day in May, 1978. I actually watched it on television. Can you imagine how excited we were when this Indian guy twisted the face of the big white bully? Mean Man was like that, stocky and wicked in a fight. I remember he fought this guy, a bully when we were young, and Mean Man made him cry by twisting his face. I was never able to be a literal face twister. 

So face twisting fo me is going to have to be of the bad medicine type or in cyber-space. When I get the power to twist faces, I will for sure send a twist to Mitch McConnell. Have you ever seen a human being more deserving of a twisted face than that guy? Until I learn how to twist faces I will just have to keep blogging.  And to leave you with a pubic announcement: watch your hair, keep your body fluids safe and don't make fun of those Old Indians, you might find your face up by your eye one morning. 

If you don't believe, give some hair to be put in a rodent's nest. Like a rat or mouse and see how it goes from there. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Cultural Appropriation: Do It Right If You Are Going to Steal

Another Indian identity theft seems to have taken place.  Like Ward Churchill, Jospeh Boyden,  William Wages, Elizabeth Warren, and others;  Michelle Latimer has been found out. Latimer has for years claimed to be Indigenous and has made a career with her Ingenious background. Just recently produced a television entitled the Trickster.  The show was well received in its first season, but the Network CBC has decided not to renew, most likely because of the stealing Latimer did with the whole Indian thing. It has gotten so out of hand (they want to be Indian) a list has been made of who is not a "real Indian", the Pretendian list. Indians are getting sick of all this stealing. It started with the Land, to the clothes off their backs, their art, their songs, their Ceremonies and their identity. No wonder the Indian gets a little peeved when they see "Indian Art, Indian clothing, Indian crafts" being made by non-Indian folk (just so the Indians don't get their underwear wedged too tight, I am well aware of the better terms used to  categorize us, like Indigenous and the old one Aboriginal but for non-Anishinaabe folks I use the moniker Indian for simplicity purposes). 

In general, everyone can agree that stealing is bad. No one wants to be robbed of something which is theirs. No one wants their stuff taken, even stuff like their homes, their household items, their families, their stories, jokes and their ideas. I wonder if there is anyone who has not had something stolen or "borrowed" without their permission? So why is it so easy to steal from people? It is done without any regard it seems.  I guess some stealing is acceptable? It becomes so easy and normal the original ownership of an item, an idea, is lost. 

We live in a world where Jack Black is your Judo master. You are being taught Yoga by Gwyneth Paltrow. The original ownership of these arts is unknown but it must be of some European origin as we are assured all things come from there. I think the Samurai has its origin from there as well. Yoga has similar origins with everything leading back to the coming of Jesus. Steven Seagal has developed a martial art of his own, Aikido. Even when we eat pizza we know the tomato is Italian as the mob is to making "people swim with the fishes." I jest about Judo, Yoda, and Aikido of course, but we do live in times where many things have been borrowed and have become owned elsewhere and by someone else. But does it matter? If stealing didn't matter there would be no questioning it, but it does matter. If you advertise for a trained proctologist and I come in and look into your arsehole, that wouldn't be right. After all I am not a trained proctologist, I am not what I say I am, I'm an amateur at best. Being authentic is just the right thing. But do all things need to be authentic? Maybe there is room for borrowing? I just don't know where the line is to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

There are of course the obvious stealing, borrowing and appropriations we recognize as wrong. We know not to dress up like a Rastafarian, a Geisha, a Sikh just so you wear a turban and a Kirpan (except if you are Justin Trudeau, the PM of Canada). But... if it's for Halloween then fine, you are excused. In fact you can be anything you want as you can go to any Halloween store and find every type diverse peoples on the planet. However, if you dress up in someone's cultural identity make sure to pick one where you won't get the piss beat out of you. A white person dressing up in Native Regalia or "costume" in my Reserve and you will end up dressed up as a mummy at the nearest hospital. I imagine if you show up dressed to mimic a member of a certain community, your presence may not be appreciated. I mean if I dress up as a Saudi prince in their community,  I could be given a stern talking to. 

I do wonder why some things appropriated are accepted? There is a fashion where women like to wear headdresses mimicking the Traditional Eagle Headdress of Indigenous people. I guess it is attractive to these women. People should understand when you mimic someone's heritage you are not being respectful, regardless of what they say. I mean the Football club the Chiefs have taken "our tomahawk chop" and cheapened it. They use it as a taunt to the opposing football clubs. For me the Tomahawk chop doesn't belong in the football stadium or the Rasslin' Arena. It is to be used only when you are chopping the head off the big Salmon, or chopping the legs off the Deer you shot. I mean come on man, that's no way to use the Tomahawk chop, sitting in the cheap plastic seats of a football game! At least have someone's head on the end of your tomahawk chop for heck sakes. 

For me I don't know what is okay and what is not okay to be borrowed, appropriated. I leave that to the folks who are aware of the impact, the costs (not money costs but more the cost to the psyche of the community), and the message of the appropriation. For example I am a fan of artworks, all kinds. So when people argue about appropriation on Native artworks, styles I wait. I look and think about the situation and listen. There are some Native folk who don't like white artists copying the styles of Native artists: Norval Morrisseau-Woodland style, Native West-Coast style. There is a difference between copying a style and passing off a painting as some else's painting; a forgery. It is easy to say it is wrong because it is lying and theft. But what happens if you don't try to do a forgery but rather do the style and admit you are borrowing the style, is it wrong? With the Norval Morrisseau situation it got so ugly, a fortune made by white people on forgeries. There are people who passed paintings off as his, while there are some people who copy his style but don't try and say it is a Norval painting, just his style. 

This is where I am not sure about where the line is; can other artists, copy the style and not steal the image? We know it is wrong to steal. We know copying something exactly is wrong. We know saying something is real but knowing it's not, is wrong. There is also painting a subject matter and this seems to be acceptable. Just like Beverlys Doolittle and her Guardian Spirits painting; very beautiful Indians on horse back. Still can someone copy not the actual piece but use the style in their own works. Like in music, art work, clothing, and of course an Identity. I see many Native artists incorporating different artists' styles in their own work, and I don't believe it is wrong. 

Picasso Style by Indigenous Artist
There are very knowledgeable people who know where the line is when it comes to appropriation.  I will of course listen and go from there. I may not agree but I know when to listen and when to think. There are so many elements of colonialism imprinted on our daily lives. We just accept it as normal life. It is necessary to have people challenge what we have become accustomed to. We are living with so much pushed on us and taken from us. 


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Mom's Story: Fort Alexander Indian Residential School. 1940 - 1948

I am going to share something very personal from my Mom. It would hurt her to see this but I want her words heard. Maybe her family will also hear it here. 

My Mom was born and raised in Fort Alexander Indian Reserve,  known by us as Sagkeeng (Where the River meets the Lake). My Dad the same thing, was a Sagkeeng member born and raised. The church become very important in the lives of people in our Reserve and Mom was devoted to the Catholic Church. Don't get me wrong she wasn't "holy roller crazy" but the Church was important. In the early 2000's Canada was looking at ways to quiet the growing voices about abuse from the Church. The Church operated an Indian Residential School right in our Reserve which was funded by Canada.  Canada was developing a response to quiet the up coming Law suits. So lawyers started recruiting Indian folk to join the up coming lawsuits. In the end Canada settled for a non-court process for risk mitigation. Mom being a church supporter was not in support of the church being sued. It took some convincing to get Mom to agree with the action. Mom finally relented and told her Siblings to go join and hopefully get something for their grandchildren. Mom decided to provide a statement of her experience in the Indian Residential School. She did so reluctantly as she did not want to cast a bad light on the church. In her statement she didn't disclose many of the stories we heard about her experiences in the school. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - -  -

My sisters call me Mildred. I was 6 years old when I went in there (to Fort Alexander Indian Residential School), and I was about 12 or 13 when I left. My mom just came and took me out of the school, because she was sick, and I got to go and help out at home.

My HEALTH - I HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED AS TERMINALLY ILL WITH CANCER.  I was in the St.Boniface Hospital until a couple of days ago. They sent me home from the hospital. I had had enough of all those tests. 

I HAVE PANCREATIC CANCER. I have been diagnosed with cancer of the liver, ovarian, gall bladder and kidney cancer now. And there is another one, but its all internal organs.  The time frame for my time leftest is only a couple of weeks. The doctor says he is not God, so he can't predict exactly when, I don't want to know either. Its just on day at a time for me now.

WORKED AS A JANITOR. I worked in the Sagkeeng school as a janitorial for 29 years. It (my cancer) was probably caused there from that work, there was asbestos there, and chemicals, all kinds of chemicals that we had to use eh. 

FAMILY HISTORY. My Mom and Dad were in res school too for their lives. And that's where our mother was chosen to be my Dad's bride. She was only 16 at the time. Her husband was picked for her by a priest and our grandparents. That was my Dad that was picked. Dad was about 10 or more years older than our Mom. 

MY SISTERS. Dora H. Guimond, (DOB: June 7, 1926) - she never went to school; then Lucy Daniels (July 1 1927 - but she always lied about her age, she always told me "I am 39, you don't have to know how old I am.") - but she passed away on December 3, 1996.

Then there was Lillian Fontaine (DOB April 1928) but she died when she was 16 years old - in Selkirk Sanintorium - Denver Hospital they called it, but it was where they sent Anishnabi sick people, to keep us separate from the white people: then there was me Mildred (DOB January 12, 1934). 

Then there is Evelyn Lafort (DOB September 16, 1936); then, Frances Anaquod (nee Fontaine) (DOB February 18, 1938); then there was Margaret Rose Courchene (DOB January 31, 1943); then there was Mary Madeline Courchene (DOB: February 12, 1944); then, Harold Fontaine (he was born in 1948). That was my baby!

We had 2 older brothers who served in the Second World War: Louey Paul Fontaine and Henry C. Fontaine, is actually also called Andrea Charles Fontaine. 

There was about 5 Fontaine brothers there - our grandpa, Micheal Fontaine, and then Joe Fontaine, then Chale - short for Charles Fontaine, and then Alfonse' dad, then Gus Fontaine and Ephrem Fontaine. That's where all the family came from, there was about 6 brothers. 

Our Dad was married twice, so we had a half brother, he was our half brother, but we never considered him our hard, he was our real brother. The first marriage was to a Houston, but I forgot her name, she passed away. 

GOING TO FAIRS.  On the first day the nuns deloused us - they called it. First they put powder there (it was DDT, I don't know what it stands for)... and they used coil oil, that horrible smell, to get rid of what it was they thought we had - they thought we had lice. To them nuns, were "dirty little Indians." Then they took away our (real0 clothes.  Taking away our clothes from home. - taking away our only connection to our parents! I got nice clothes which my sister Dora had made on her own. She sewed everything. She never went to residential school, so she was a good cook, a seamstress, and next to our mother, she was like the head of our household. 

UNDER-EDUCATION. I was 6 when I started school. Our School day got shorter as we got older - it became a half day of school work (class time) and a half day of chores: clean-up the playrooms; clean up the dormitories; wash the father's dining room (where they ate luxury food, good meals, and way better food - we used to wish for that food!); cleaning the sewing room; cleaning the chapel; scrubbing that damn filthy infirmary; scrubbing floors (all over the school and the Father's Rectory); cleaning the laundry room; (and ) the ironing room. 

PHYSICAL ABUSE. The strap, rulers, and pointers were used to hit me if I didn't do what I was told to, especially that damn pointer. Sometimes before I was strapped I had to put my hands through cold water tap - because it hurt more like that. 

WRONGFUL CONFINEMENT. We were put in a cubby hole as "penance" - they called it - for speaking my own language. It was very dark - pitch dark. 

MENTAL ABUSE. When I used to cry they would call us names, "les savage" ..."why do you think you're here?!" - the nuns would say... "because they (your parents) didn't want you."

How do you think that made me fell when I was young. 

SISTER VICTOR. She was supervisor who looked after the girls. I don't think she was a teacher, but I am not sure. She used to hit me. I got hit a lot of times from her with a big long strap. She used to carry that strap at her waist. It was either orange, or no more brown. It was think, it was made of tough rubber. It almost looked like a strap used to sharpen knives, but it was orangey-brown. And when I pulled my hand away from getting strapped on the hands, I would get it on the legs. These strappings used to leave bruising and burning on my hands, sometimes red marks, sometimes blue-purple from these strapping sessions. Other times, she would strap me on my forearms, between the wrists and elbows, on the underside. Those strappings often left me with welts, and red marks. It used to become pretty tender on my arms after a whipping like that!

SISTER IN-THE-ASS. Wee Ass Sans - In Ojibwway. It means little meat in our language. But it is more descriptive when you say in Ojibway language. She was short and fat, and very wicked that oe. I don't remember her real name eh? Her, she used to pull my hair! She would twist their fingers into my hair and pull me by it. 

SISTER MARY OF THE LORDS. She was a teacher. I don't remember her bothering me at all, I just remember her.

SISTER ROSE. HUMILIATION AND RIDICULING. She was my teacher. She used to make us all stand up before breakfast every morning. She'd talk about whoever's time of the month it was (menstrual period), or, whoever wet their beds. She made theme (whoever it was) pass through that dining room - to go through to the laundry room to take their sheets there. In the meantime, she'd go on and on about wetting the bed - publicly. It would be embarrassing.  You know those board pokers/board pointers, she used to use those (yardsticks) to hit me. She'd hit me on my ass, on my hands and over my back. She used to push me hard into the wall... it was probably more than 3 times she did that. I never looked on my dory to see if it left marks, but it caused me bruising and sourness, ... sadness too ... sometimes for a day or 2 even. I used to faint every morning in church, and then the Sister would grab me - in a rough way - and slam me back onto a bench. They were called "pews", or something.  Then, one day they started giving me iron pills, and I didn't faint anymore. Every morning they gave those pills, even if it made me sick. they still made me take it. 

IN THE CHAPEL CLASSROOM.  In the chapel classroom, on the second floor, when we were in mass, and it was a Father or another Priest giving the mass - Father Brachet, Father Plomondon, Father Chaput, Father Du-Micheal (or "uncle" we wanted us to call him, because our dad's name wa Jo-Micheal) - and we dared to glance around, like look in the boys direction, we got hit! Or slapped. We couldn't get strapped in the Chapel, it wasn't allowed by the bible I guess. We never got strapped in the chapel. They waited until after it was over. That happened to me a few times. I must be looking at a handsome one (boy). You couldn't even glance at your own relatives either, but that was the only time you saw them. As fas you remember, we prayed about 10 or more times a day. Heck, we had already prayed 3 times before we ate breakfast! And when it was Benedictions time, we had even more praying sessions. Our knees were soar around that time. Even if you were stubborn, you had to do it (kneel down). Sometimes when you punished, you had to kneel in the corner, and your knees got really sore and red - from kneeling so long, sometimes for half and hour, or around there. 


Sister Saint Hyacinthe (spelling unknown). She worked around the school. She was a teacher of mine. 

Sister Damian. She used to pull my ears and yank my hair. She was wicked eh, and she had a pointed nose, a sharp pointed nose. She never smiled, it probably would have hurt her face if she ever smiled. 

Sister Mary Deresolvier?Sister Mary Desolvier (spelling unknown). She was mean, just very very mean. I hated her. I remember her vividly. And that's for a lot of reasons eh. I got strapped by her a lot of times. It was all over my body. I got strapped more than other little girls because I wouldn't cry ... I just wouldn't, I was stubborn (so I got hit more than my friends". Often, if I said something wrong, I would be grabbed by the scruff of the necked and pushed. It hurt... the neck is tender. I tired to be a good kid and I didn't talk unless I was spoken to. But, I always tried to protect somebody else - especially my younger sisters. Oh, I got beat for that. And, I was stubborn. I wouldn't cry to give them the satisfaction, but my friend cried, so they quite (hitting her). Some memories you suppress, and you can't bring them out, but they are still someplace in the back of your mind, but you can't bring them back.  She strapped me a lot of times for going to the outside toilets but the toilets by our playroom were all plugged up ... so we went outside ... by a row of outside toilets ... she was waiting for us by the laundry room door, and she didn't explain why exactly, but she said we were trying to run away, and she strapped me - on the bare bum, it was till we cried, but I never cried, so she strapped me more... my friend, Theressa Courchene, she cried... I probably got hit about 10 times. I also got my hair cut off for that one - because they thought we were running way, and we weren't (we were just using outside toilets). We couldn't speak our language, we got called "savages", and then we'd be in penance - we had to sit somewhere for a long time. I used to get in trouble when my younger sister got sick. She was always sick, I don't know what was wrong with her - but in later years, she told me she a touch of TB.

Sister Isadore. She used to threaten to "smash me into a spot of grease." She pushed on the chair really hard for penance. It was a threat, like there be nothing left of me except a spot of grease. 

Sister Teresse. She was a cook in the kitchen. She never bothered me. I was always trying to protect my little sister, and I got hit for that. Like one time when I was getting rid of her milk, I got caught and punished. To this day, I hate milk... because I took my sister's Evelyn's milk to get rid of it - in the sink. And, when I got caught, I had to drink 4 cups of it. It wasn't sour, but it was blue, blue milk!

SEXUAL ABUSE. There wasn't any of this. I didn't have it, it was Father DuMicheal/Domichelle that I heard was bothering other little girls. That the one we didn't like (he never bothered me though). When he came mourn, he'd grab us ... I don't know what constitutes, but I didn't like it. We always tried to hide when he came in the playground. I used to hear the girls talking about Father Chaput, but I did not have that experience. I was a Church-going person all my life, that's why I don't want to say too much about Father Chaput... 

I went home early because my mom needed my help - when Lillian, my older sister at the time, she died- of TB. And then we'd always used to get these big needles to check us for TB, and we always had to have that needle before we got our treaty money, for TB. And, we always had a bad reaction from this needle. They told us we had to have a touch of it - as a cure. 

CONSEQUENCES.  I couldn't ever speak up for myself, all my life ... because you learnt to speak only when spoken to! I want to make this process before I goto my resting place. It's the principle of it. I suffered, my family suffered (as a result of my res school) and I want the government to know about it. I want to tell my story before I die. 

March 15, 2005. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

My Mom died March 16, 2005 

You have to realize my Mom was close to her death and was bed ridden when she told her story, her Sister, my Auntie Fran was the one who took her story. I share it here so Mom can be heard. Although it was to be only given to the Residential School settlement process. She died before the agreement was signed. She died a month to early to be eligible to be heard. She died never having anyone read her story. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Don't Expect People You Were Mean To, To Like You

"Forgive me for beating you, tormenting you relentlessly, I was young back then." Our Reserve sure had and has its share of bullies; people who enjoy the torture of others. The tormenting may have been endless teasing on you, or worse, violence on your body. It is quite weird how many of the bullies make out in life. It is like they have not been touched by Doondjinaay, Karma, the big ledger book in the sky, the reciprocity of ugliness, the what goes around comes around and they'll get theirs prophecy. Not that we should relish in someone's pain or suffering but why do we have to forgive them? Should we forgive them for our own peace of mind? I guess it makes sense. After all why should we spend time, energy on someone, something we have no control or business with? But still, forgive them? Mayo Clinic says forgiveness is good for you and they know their stuff: "By embracing forgiveness,  you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy." Who wouldn't want to enjoy hope and joy? So okay we can forgive those mean buggers who hurt us. Doesn't mean we don't have to like them. 

I know lot of folk who have been mean. Mean to others both physically and verbally, they were out right cruel. The cruelty they have inflicted on people is lost on them. They don't even realize the pain they have caused or how it still resonates on the victims. The wild thing, is they don't expect anyone to forgive them, because they don't think they have done anything wrong. They even get upset when their past is brought up. Sure the past is the past and we should not live there or even park our car there, but the past shapes us. The past is like the knee of Derek Chauvin on our necks; it chokes us to death. If we continue to live like our past, we should not be surprised if it is vomited back in our face.  It is weird when cruel people are upset when someone doesn't like them for their cruelty. Cruel people want to be cruel to those who don't like them. And people don't like those cruel individuals because they are cruel. Cruel people can not understand why people don't like them. Cruel people use a power they have or power that we give them. Power can be through their size, their employment position, their financial status, and their community standing. 

In the end we can forgive those who are cruel but we don't have to like them. I still don't think forgiveness is always the road to take. Look at Donald Trump and his cruelty, his selfishness, his hatred, his greed, his ugly mean spirit. Should people forgive him? The guy locked up kids, separated them from their families and didn't even take time to make sure the kids' parents names were recorded. The kids may never find their Moms and Dads, ever. And the caging of kids is not even the cruelest,  meanest thing he did. If there was ever an argument against forgiveness, Donald Trump is it.  So we don't have to forgive those who are cruel, but we don't have to carry their burden as well. Can we though, can we not forgive them and still be able to find joy? 

Cruelty is not limited to the individual. Every aspect we can attribute to an individual we can also assign it to an entity. Our own countries can be extremely cruel. The United States has been cruel to so many people and yet this same US wants them to sing praises, put their hands over their hearts for them, send their kids to be killed for them, stand for the US flag and keep voting them into office. Canada has a similar attitude, except maybe for sending their kids to be killed as much as the US does. The US will send your kids to be killed so big corporations can make more money and the US will tell people "hey it's for freedom." The US will punish you if you kneel rather than stand when the US anthem is sung (which has roots in Slavery).  Still the countries want you to like them regardless of how they treat you. The thing in the practice of cruelty by the countries is primarily aimed at Indigenous, Blacks, People of Colour, the LGBQT community, and the poor. It is ugly how the cruel use their power on people who don't have any. 

You have seen the message; Canada/US love it or leave it. A zero sum approach to a relationship, like us or get the hell out of here. It don't work like that or at least it shouldn't. We shouldn't have to be bullied into liking them. Perhaps if they try to make amends, change their historic ways, maybe then we can reconsider. When people start to change how they use their power, their attitudes and behaviours we don't have to like them or forgiven them. And even if they do alter their behaviour, try make amends for the cruelty, we still don't have to like them. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

So Beautiful it is Obscene

Ever see something so beautiful but you know it is quite obscene? I was fortunate enough to go for a trip to Montreal, a beautiful city. My wife, Suz, took me there, it was around 1998. We did a few tourist things, like go on one of those crazy boat rides, the one which does 360's at high speed. I think we have a photo somewhere. We walked around old Montreal and the docks. I remember a man who was painted up silver like a statue which was pretty cool.  One of the memories we made was at the Notre-Dame Basilica.  My Mom was a Catholic so it was good to go to the Church and then tell her about it. The Church does not disappoint. The interior of the Church is just magnificent, with incredible wood work, exterior work, art work, and stained glass windows. The disappointment we have is that we never had the chance to take my deceased Mom there. I think she would have appreciated the beauty in the Church. 

For me the Norte Dame Church was so incredible in all its splendor that it is absolutely obscene. There is no spirituality to it but rather opulence, just pure riches. It is no doubt beautiful, still it reeks of a rotten stench. The stench comes from its theft, its brutality, it's destruction the world over. The great beauty cannot hide the wretchedness within the foundation of its life.  "Once, when criticising the Vatican's wealth, Pope John Paul I confessed that his toilet flush handle was made of solid gold and studded with diamonds. You get the image; the beauty we see in gold and the obscenity of it as a toilet handle where you flush shit down to disappear?

We see the beauty and obscenity in both people and objects (perhaps even words). I think of the beauty of Mrs. Trump and the daughter Trump. No one can really say they are not beautiful (of course tastes differ and are subjective) but they are also hideous. How can anyone say they are not?  They have physical attributes which make them attractive but there is also much to them which many see as monstrous. The prostitution of integrity for riches and power. There are many individuals we can see as beautiful and obscene. 

There are of course things which should be beautiful and obscene but turns out they are nothing but gaudy. The art piece title America is an example of gaudy as opposed to beauty. The 18 karat golden toilet is a good example of missing the mark of beauty and just showing gaudy. It is gaudy but it was designed to be and the message is it is also obscene.   

Leon Neil/Getty Images

America was viewed as the "land of opportunity" at one time but now it is viewed as the land of the obscene, the selfish, the damned. The United States was seen as a democratic country where the people have the voice over affairs; a beautiful idea. What was once thought to be beautiful is now known to be ugly; the voices are being silenced and it is obscene. The powerful establishment of the power hungry and the rich have almost ruined United States democracy. 

We can view talent as beautiful. Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Robert De Niro in 1978 The Deer Hunter movie are just incredible. Other actors, producers, directors have made incredible, beautiful works as well. The beauty of these works is ruined by the obscenity of their other actions. Mel Gibson, John Wayne, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen are but a few of the ugly where we once associated as beautiful talents. We see them as they truly are: repugnant, repulsive, ugly and disgusting. The beautiful is actually obscene. Still many refuse to see the obscene and continue to view them as beautiful. 

It is weird how we view beauty; a building, an art piece, an animal, a mountain, a piece of jewelry, a person, a child, a piece of furniture, a vehicle, and so on. The truly beautiful is being missed. It is being missed because the obscene has become the image of beauty. There are some amazing beautiful people who are active in keeping things beautiful. Autumn Peltier is an example of beauty. She is beautiful for the work she does and the message she carries. She is a Water Carrier. 

Autumn Peltier Photo by Linda Roy 
 We still want to look at a river or a lake and see the beauty but we take it for granted. We pollute the rivers, the waterways, and make it not good to wade in it, to swim in it and to drink it. We poison it with mercury and flush shit down into from our golden toilets with our solid gold and diamond handles. We turn something so beautiful it becomes obscene. Indigenous communities the world over cannot drink the water anymore. It is the obscenity of the rich which is ruining the beautiful. We view a stack of money as beautiful. We want to load up our bath tub with money and wash our bodies with the money. We don't see the money as what it is; dirty, filthy and the spreading of germs. We see money as so beautiful we kiss it before we shove it into the slot machine at the gambling establishments. We don't even realize my cousin just took a big shit and didn't wash his hands. He used those shit stained hands to handle his money and hand it over to another place of business. The money traveled around being handled by many shit stained, flu, and cold infected hands, where it has finally come into your hands. You love money so much you kiss it, not even seeing the crud, the dirt, the germs on the dollar bill. Mean while, there are folks who are actively spending this loved money to destroy the water ways, the marshes, the mountains and why? To have more shit stained obscene money in their hands. 

"The COVID-19 crisis, as we well know, has exacerbated inequalities that already existed. The world's richest people offer the starkest example. An October Report found that in the 500 wealthiest people had gained $813 billion collectively so far in 2020. On his own, the world's richest person...has accrued $70,5 billion in new wealth this year. Many constituents of the 99%, meanwhile, lost their jobs, lost their homes, and joined food lines." 

I came up this post because of a video images  I have seen over the past few months and over the years.  There are images of Children coming out of Yemen. Beautiful children, but in horrible circumstances. I cannot imagine the pain of the people, the Mothers, the Fathers of the Children of Yemen. You can only look at what should be beautiful and see the obscenity of it. The image of a child of only skin and bone becomes obscene.

Al-Sabeen hospital in Sana, Yemen,

We look away because the beauty is all but gone and we can't bear to look. So beautiful yet it has become obscene and why? Power, greed and human obscenity makes this happen. 

We see things which are so beautiful and they should be so beautiful but are obscene. It fucking hurts. 

Those Real Indians

 My Dad would have been 91 this year. He was an Indian, well actually he was Anishinaabe, a citizen of Sagkeeng First Nation. My Dad came fr...