Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Don't think no one wants you just 'cause your old"

Sitting at a neigbhour's backyard, having snacks and drinks, we talked about the daily grind. My friendly neighbour, let's call him Keith, is a one of those guys that never ages. You know the type; tall, black, handsome, personable, with a bit of exotic background. Well that's Keith, a guy who is retired but looks like he could be mid-forties and not mid-sixties. His wife Linda, is a fifty-year old White woman, very friendly lady who worships the world of Keith. This was my first visit at the neighbour's house. There were other couples that I did not know at the evening get together. As we talked and laughed about daily things, the conversation turned to the violence of the city. I commented about my wife working downtown and my apprehension about her having to walk around there. There were a number of muggings and some sexual assualts in the area.

Keith started commented about his measures to ensure safety in the home, like a camera mounted outside, double dead-bolt locks, a machete at his grasp. Keith started to talk about the sexual assaults that happen down town and it happened to a mature woman. Keith went on to say to his wife in front of us, "See Babe, just 'cause your old don't think nobody wants you". My wife and I laughed so hard. All the while Linda, Keith's wife, just took in all the words of wisdom that Keith had to offer. To this day I am not sure if Keith was being facticious or he was serious. Even as we laughed he never broke his stride. That guy is fantastic.

I was thinking about this today and how people are so funny smart that we don't know if they are serious or have their game on. I think Keith is naturally funny as we have seen more of his witty and crazy comments as we become closer neighbours.

It's takes skill to be funny. Sometimes funny can come out as just being mean. That is not really funny. I like to be funny and can be charming as well, but I know that some people are just good at it, that you don't know if they are playing you.

Oh by the way, I heard today that a simple trick to get yourself out of a funk is to bite down on the long part of a pencil. It forces your mouth into a smile. When you smile it makes you happy. So pick up that pencil and hold it in your mouth. :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The time to break bread with people.

This is Chloe at her first Pow-wow in Roseau River Reserve. Her dance outfit is a Jingle dress made by our cousin Sheryl Daniels-Blacksmith.

My wife and I like to have bar-b-ques with friends and family. We hosted quite a few meals with my Mom and Dad and cousins in summers past. This Elder said the most humbling and nice thing to me; he referred to me as "the one who feeds people". Can you imagine that? An Elder saying that about you. I will never forget that Old Man Joe for saying that. It is something that I got from my Mom. My wife is the exact same way. She loves to cook and to have family over. Even when my Mom was facing death with cancer she still wanted her kids to make sure they fed people. She was the one who told us to never eat in front of people, you make sure to feed them. I see that trait in many people, many relatives, many Indians. Food and sharing food is a very sacred event. Mom had put it in her last written thoughts to make sure that we are to keep feeding people. Mom loved my wife Suz. I think she saw that Suz is the same way of thinking.

When I went to Rocky Boy Reservation (that's the difference between the U.S. and Canada, the terms are Reservation for the U.S. Indian and Reserves for the Canadian Indian)I went to visit one of the Windyboys. He immediately made tea and gave us some Klick (or Spam) sandwiches. Cool, I thought.

This winter is the time to share meals with people in your home. I have friends or acquaintances that don't like that kind of thing. They don't like people in their homes. I try to understand that and I think, maybe it's a privacy thing. Or maybe it's a sanctuary thing. I don't really know, but there must be some deep meaning behind that.

Remember kids see what you do and follow what you do. Share with them and they will carry on that Teaching.

So I hope that you and your friends, your family have something to eat. It doesn't have to be the big turkey or even a big production of a meal, it's the act of sitting, sharing, visiting and making good memories that is what it's about. My wife, my children and I still share food with my Son. We will put a plate aside for him. We did it for my Mom, but Suz and I haven't shared food with her in a while, so I think this year we will put a plate aside for her as well. We should never forget to remember them and share some meal with their Spirit.


Visiting the Don! Our Boy. My Mom called him the Don. :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

lol (lots of love) your Barbarian

I will fill you in on something, Women are smart. I am not just saying they are smart like in doing your math homework or taking care of the household bills but another type of smart. That smart that reeks of being devious. The smart that should keep you up at night, wondering if she has planned the "perfect" crime. The kind of smart that knows when you have been doing no good. The kind of smart when they know a lie is in the air. That is the kind of smart I am talking about. My wife has that smart and most, if not all women have that smart.

A fellow I know, let's call him Tom, was in control of the email account in his house. He and his wife shared an email account. Me, I have several email accounts that I do not share with my wife. Anyway, Tom's wife, lets call her Vali, could not figure out what was wrong with the email, she couldn't log on. So Tom had to give new passwords to enter the email account ever so often. One day that Vali did have the password she went into the email account. She looked in the trash bin of the account. I guess Tom forgot on this occasion to empty the trash as well. What did she find? She found an email from a girl to her husband, with his reply. He signed the email, lol your, Barbarian. For you younger folk,  LOL used to mean lots of love and not laugh out loud as it does now.  Anyway, Vali is one of those woman that relies heavily on her husband. She doesn't have a license and doesn't know how to drive. She has always been a home Mom and runs a home day care to earn money. So Tom has had the rule of the roost for many years.

In the email account Vali only found one message. When Tom got home from work, Vali was waiting. She had a stack of papers with the one message showing on the top of the stack. Tom cracked like cheap plaster. He confessed everything. He even used a business trip to the United States to go and see this girl. This girl was 22 and Tom was 40 years old. In hindsight Tom should have said, "it's the internet, I am just fooling around and teasing". But Tom was no match for Vali. The stack of emails was too much. He is now forever at her mercy. Last I heard he put a tattoo with Vali's name on his forearm. A real show of love and commitment.

Yep, those women are smart. If Tom is an indication of how men are, we are at the mercy of our women. Remember have your own account and never sign with LOL your barbarian.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The breakdown of Clans and the consequence to marriage

My Wife has a friend (let's call her April) from a northern Reserve in Ontario. Like most Reserve Indians there is a bit of dysfunction and lots of humour when it comes to this gal. April seems to be in the middle of some crazy event or is doing something that is stupid funny. I remember one year April came over for a Christmas dinner and she brought over pate. What the heck is pate? I remember as a kid we used to get this meat spread as a treat, it was called Devil's ham. It was a meat spread. I guess pate sounds a lot better.

This friend (of my wife's), April is having a bit of problem. There is this up coming wedding and April was wondering what side of the church she should sit on. You see, her Mom and her Dad split up years ago. They both went on to have different lives and found different partners. With these partners they each had 3 children. So one of the sons of the April's Dad is now going out with one of the daughters of April's Mom. So April's brother is going out with April's sister. Now that is Reserve stuff.

Back home we always tell our kids don't go with anyone from the Reserve as you might be going out with one of your cousins.

I am not sure when Clans faded in our Reserve but it sure has made a difference in how things are governed and how people are now partnered up. There are no taboos, other than normal mainstream taboos, when it comes to hooking up. There is a breakdown of the family units, the crossing of family lines. With the Clan system there were rules and conduct which you tried to adhere to. People still maintain that they have a Clan but I think it is more symbolic than anything else. It is purely a symbol to your heritage, but the real meaning to the Clan system has disappeared. We are left with the norms of modern society. It's not a bad thing but it is more evidence of disconnect between Traditional values and Teachings of our Grandfathers and Grandmothers. I feel bad for our People in that so much has been taken. I also feel proud that we are trying to maintain much in the way of Traditions that keep us linked to our heritage. Maybe we will learn to use the Teachings to bring us up as a people.

Two little Indian cousins. They know they are related :-) :D

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dealing with the Change of people and events.

My Dad has always been a proud man. A Man that did not take any charity or want charity from anyone, especially the kids. My Dad turned 79 the other day. That is pretty good for the family. Reaching seventy years of age was a milestone for anyone in my family. I guess heart disease runs in the family. Cancer runs in my Mom's family as well as diabetes. So if those old people are lucky enough to get past the sixties than it is all bonus from there. We should be glad they are here. We should be willing to over look the crankiness and forgetfulness that sometimes comes with age.

When you think about old people passing on, we think that the Dad goes before the Mom. It's quite a shock when your Mom passes before Dad does. That is what happened in my Dad's case. My Mom was suppose to be the person to carry on, to be our centre, our spine, our care giver. It's funny being forty-nine and still wishing for Mom. :D
It's not that I wish it was my Dad instead of my Mom, but it is strange. You see, my Dad lived life hard. He was a hard working man, a hard drinking man, smoke cigarettes, had car accidents and lived life where he was at risk. My Mom on the other hand, lived an alcohol free life. She worked hard all her life as a janitor. She was the voice of reason, the person we sought out for spiritual answers. Then she went and got cancer. She went very quickly when the cancer was diagnosed.

My Mom was the brakes for my Dad. The one who made the right decisions. The one who made sure kids were looked after. Made sure Grandpa was here for the grandkids. That old man sure counted on that old lady for everything. I try to make sense of things, but that sense sure is hard to find sometimes. People say that everything happens for a reason. I guess. But I think sometimes those reasons are no damn good. :-)

With my Dad's brakes gone he is in new territory. He doesn't have those brakes or that voice of reason behind him, to gently and not so gently steer him in the right direction. Even though my Mom is not around, my Dad has not turned to the drink. He still doesn't even smoke cigarettes. I am very happy for him that he had not taken his grief and loneliness in that direction. He did quit the kind of life he lead with his wife. He no longer fishes, no longer gardens, no longer goes into the bush, no longer is tinkering around the house. He has chosen to spend his time at the Southbeach Casino in BrokenHead Ojibway Nation. That is okay because there is nothing for people do in the Reserve. I guess he likes the noise, the movement, the laughter, the talking with people. It's not like he is locked up in house during the day. My Dad likes to get in his car and drive around. He goes to some of his nephews' houses and turns around in their driveways. He goes to the CareHome and visits. He does a lot of going here and there in the Reserve and into the town. I do worry about the old man, but know that he is lucky. We are lucky that he has his health. It was his active life that has kept him from a wheelchair or a cane.

I am glad that he is around to visit with. Dealing with his new changes has been a test for the kids. He was never one to sit in the casino or to even borrow money from people. With his weekly casino trips he sometimes has to go and pawn some home items. That is strange for him. I guess there are worse things. I know he is the social animal and still likes to tease the women. :D

Saturday, December 5, 2009

If I should fall from the Grace of God.

I remember being so angry when I was about 9 years old. I took the cross that my Mom had over our doorway and threw it outside on the ground. For the life of me I can't remember why I was mad or why I did that. I do remember the intense guilt and how scared I was. I broke the arm of Jesus. Did I fall from the Grace of God? I did pick it up and put it back with the broken arm gone. Today I still feel bad for what I did.

Oh boy I grew up very scared of going to Hell. I was bad, but so was everyone else. At least I think they were. No different from everyone else in the world, but it sure felt like it. I never really socialized with White people until I was 29 years old. The reason I say this is because you have a narrow view of things you don't really know about. It's funny because I interacted with White people and other people almost daily. I never broke bread with them until I went to dinner with friends of my wife. I really gave her a hard time about going to meet them. Anyway, getting back to God and my fall from His Grace, or is it Her Grace? I guess I was not a big fan of the Church even though my Mom was a very good Christian. I mean in what is expected of a Christian, you know living those good people virtues. I used to tease my Mom quite a bit about the Church. I used to tell I was going to burn it down. She would just brush me off, knowing I was full of poop. We were Indians and Indians shouldn't be believing in the Church. There was so many reasons not to go to Church for, but yet our Reserve were mostly Church people. People still did ceremonies but Church was there as well.

I did Lent come spring before Easter. I would give up something for forty days leading up to Easter. I did it because my Mom did it, no real other reason. She is gone now, so I don't do it. I tried it a couple of years after she passed by there was no incentive. I use to tell my Mom what I was giving up and she would be happy. That was the significance for me. So now she is gone and there is no reason for me to try and keep the connection with the Church. My faith was tested and I failed to keep the faith. I still want to pray, but that is not the same as Church. Even as a person who went to Sweats and did Sundance, I still tried to do my Easter duties, take the Host, confession and fast for Lent. I didn't do confession though, except when I was a kid. I never like that part. I found it weird.

Well that's it I denounced my membership in the Roman Catholic Church, but now have just made it public for what that's worth. If I fall from Grace because of it, well I know longer have that fear of Hell any longer. It's just the way it is I guess.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You love them more than your own kids. Grandkids

My buddy Dave and Janet have just become grandparents this morning. I got a note from him and a picture of the new granddaughter out in Ontario. Dave lives in Alderville First Nation, Ontario. So it brought back memories to us when we became grandparents.

When Ed and Brandi had their baby, my wife talked to the Grandma of our boy Ed. Suz spoke to the old lady about Ed's new daughter. The old lady was so happy, she told Suz that she would have fun with the new granddaughter. "You love them more than your own children" the old lady said. Suz and I laughed about it.

Now that our Amelia is over two years and Jackson is going on 5 months, we can appreciate what she was saying. Jackson is no longer a slug. He laughs, smiles, moves excitedly when you play with him. Amelia is saying words and talks lots but most of the time it is incomprehensible. She knows what you are saying to her and does (some times) what you ask of her. But the loving more than your own kids thing is still funny. We do love our Grandkids. I am not sure more than the kids, but still it is up there. Maybe another type of love? Not sure. Because we are more protective of the grandkids. We scold the Ed and Brandi if we think there is a lapse (or perceived lapse) of judgment. Maybe there is section called Grand-parents love?

In our Reserve the Grandparents always have kids around them. Many times kids are raised by the Grandparents. Or like in our case the kids come home to re-vitalize, catch a breather. It sure is hard for young couples to catch a break sometimes. I am in my glory with the kids being here. I could do without the big kids, but the grandkids are our young daughter are so fun and it makes us happy. They are past that slug stage where the baby sleeps, eats, poos and sleeps some more.

I don't think I love my grandbabies more than my own kids, but it sure feels like it sometimes. I know that's kind of awful but it's funny. I think there should be a new word for love when it comes to Grannies, Granpas, when it comes to the Grandkids.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ramblings about Indians and Indian Reserves

I am an Indian, specifically and Ojibway, an Anishinabe. When we were kids we were known as Saulteaux. There are still people who ask if you speak Saulteaux. My Auntie laughs when she tells the story about her work in Muscowpetung Reserve in Saskatchewan. My Auntie lives and used to be a Teacher in that Reserve. She married into that Reserve. We used to go visit them when we were kids. Anyway, my Auntie teaches Ojibway as well. She is a fluent speaker (as all my Aunties and Uncles are). Sadly a lot of people no longer speak. I think this one Reserve Peguis, almost all the people, even the old people don't speak Ojibway anymore. My Auntie speaks Ojibway with the people of the Reserve and they don't understand her. Some of them have said that they speak Saulteaux, so they can't understand her. The language is the same. Only the name is different. LOL.

Indians come in all different size, shapes and from all sorts of different regions. I have been in an out of the city for sometime now. But the Reserve is still my home and will most likely always be. In the Reserve the faces of the younger people are no longer familiar to me, but their parents are familiar. Today our people are struggling with who they are and what they should be doing. There are so many different ideas that come from the people about who they are and what they face. People keep referring to the Reserve as Third World. I never did agree with that sentiment. We have very hard life in the Reserve and there is no denying that. I just don't think we should compare the lives or our communities with that of someone in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and others. We do have some measure of freedoms that those people can not enjoy. Besides the phrase Third World is from the Cold War era and should not be used anyway. Our communities were once described as Fourth World, but that's another story. In any case the measurement of hardship compared to undeveloped countries is not really adequate or fair. Enough of that.

I enjoy Indian people. Walking around the malls in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba you are going to see Indians. The little kids are so darn cute. Kids are like that, cute. I love to see the smiles, the laughing and the running. I know that adults lose that ability to see happiness in anything. It is not right but I want to give money to little kids when I see them. I want to be able to make them feel good for a very short time. It's not that they need it, it's arrogant of me to want to share that way. It's just that you want to share in the joy they have and perhaps by sharing with them, you can catch some of that joy as well.

There is so much hardship in the world that we can not always dwell on it. We need to appreciate the good we have as well. We can never ignore, nor should we, the bad, the hardship in the world, and the stuff going on in our communities.

Just rambling for today. Take care peoples.

Monday, November 23, 2009

We are attracted to the magic of turtles.

A stretched neck Turtle rattle. A Sacred item that doubles as a work of Art or a craft-piece. Beautiful to hold and to look at. Can you imagine the skill it takes to create this Art. This particular rattle has not been used in a Ceremony. There is some misgivings on my part for seeing this rattle. On the one hand, Indians have always took part in commerce. Indians traded, bought and sold items with the currency of the day. So exchange of one item for another is no mystery. However, the idea that it is not going to be used for Ceremony is kind of sad. The Turtle had it's life taken and it should be honoured for its life. That's something we seem to forget. In any case it is a wonderful piece of work. Anyone would be lucky to possess such a rattle.

My Mom and my siblings have always been fans of turtles. I can remember the first time I saw a live turtle. My Dad brought it home from the bush. It was a Painted turtle.
I don't know how I know, I just know that is what it was. My Dad showed us the turtle but we had to let it go into the river after we had the chance to look at it. I remember my Auntie had an aquarium with little green turtles, baby turtles. I never see that anymore, people with turtles. I understand that they carry salmonella.

My Mom used to give us turtles. All sorts of little ornamental turtles. Turtles mean a lot to us personally but they also represent a larger self for the Indians. Indians commonly refer to the land we live on as part of Turtle Island. I think people have some vague idea as to what Turtle Island refers to.

For me it is a connection to my Mom and Dad, but also to our past. I like the notion of Turtle Island. It kind of pisses me off that we refer to other peoples beliefs as myths and legends. Cheapens what their beliefs are.

Turtles are very popular not only in Canada and the United States but almost everywhere. In popular culture we see images of the Turtle. In television shows, in movies, in documentaries, as a car wax, beauty products, and there are even Ninja Turtles. I always wonder about stuff like that, do other people get upset when their symbols or part of their heritage is borrowed and used? Turtles sure are magical. We would miss them if they were not here.

In any case lets walk softly on Turtle Island, and Mother Earth. Let's try to be kind to our world. Cheers

Friday, November 20, 2009

Be the greatest at being Humble, You are superb.

Here I am being Humble with my very beautiful and smart baby girl. It's easy to be humble when you have such a great kid!

When you enter a Sweatlodge, you have to crawl in and you won't stand in the Lodge. You enter in a good way and in a humble way. You are just as good as the next person, no better and no worse. You are one of the Creators gifts. In some Teachings it is the Wolf that carriers that Humility Teaching. I am no Teacher so I can not pass on information that I have no real knowledge about. I just know that with the representation of what the Lodge symbolizes, I wouldn't be standing in there as well. You must have heard of the fetal position.mmmm? :-)

It is a difficult thing to be humble. We all look at ourselves in the mirror, check our hair, make sure we look good in our duds. I wish I knew the real Teaching of Humility. I know what humility means but to be truly humble. In the way the Teaching wants us to understand. It's hard. We all think we are better than someone else. We know that we try harder than other people. We've earned what we have. We have the beautiful wife/husband, the great kids, the good life. So how can we be humble when we have so much, so much to be proud of? Being proud is also a Teaching.
I guess the answer is to balance the Teachings. The way we carry ourselves. So be humble but not too humble? Or be humble when people are looking and be proud when we are at home. I don't know. Be humble or something will happen that will really humble your for sure. In any case, it's difficult. No one said that living with the Teachings was easy.

I assume most people know what a Sweatlodge is and what it represents. There are many reasons the people go into a Lodge. There are many different reasons that a Lodge is used; cleansing, healing, teaching, learning. You can look up the Sweatlodge on the web and find many examples, pictures and explanations for the Lodge. You can even find directions on how to build one and where there are Sweats being held. It seems that anyone and everyone holds Sweats these days. I will not link to Sweatlodge information on here because of how I see the Lodge being used by some people. From my own view, the Sweatlodge should not be used a commodity; a part of the market economy. But that's only me. If you find peace in paying for the privilege to go in a Lodge, well that's your choice. I remind you that some people have paid the price for going into a Lodge. I am not talking about the six thousand dollar people paid to go into the James Arthur Ray (author of the Secret) Lodge, but the price that they paid with their lives.

I know societies have been using Sweat-lodges, Sweat-bathes for eons. I saw Fedor Emelianko taking part in a Russian Bania. He was steam sweating before his big fight. He of course went on to win his fight over a giant. If it is good enough for the greatest Mixed Martial Art fighter of all time, well I think it's good enough for me. So I think I will go back to the Sweatlodge. Not necessarily the bania, but the Teaching Lodges (another type of lodge). I don't know how to hold a bania so I will not try. I don't know the Teachings behind it. That is for someone else to hold.

For those people that really don't buy into the healing properties of the Sweat. Let me fill you in on something. You've heard of negative ions. Those things that get pushed into the air when you are in a Las Vegas casino? Well the SweatLodge has negative ions and lots of them. In addition heat to your head is known to relieve some ailments. So if you are not going into to feed your Spirit or for cleansing or for Teachings, than perhaps you can go for the scientific medical properties of a steam, heat and meditation.

In any case, be humble when you go in. And be the best humble person you can be.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Mom says we are cousins.

Buffalo Skull on display at the Seven Clans Casino in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. People still cherish the Buffalo after all these years. The Buffalo Skull is always present at Sundance around our area. People drag these.

The Manitoba Metis Federation Building. Is located off of Main Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Metis have become a political force in Manitoba.

The Aboriginal Centre In Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. It is an old CP Rail Building. Made of old stone, Limestone and old architecture. It is located on Main Street. Main Street has been going through changes. There is a hope to re-charge the area and bring some money there.

The little Indian Grass Dancer Doll. Made by an Indian guy doing time in a minimum security prison located in Hobbema First Nation in Alberta. My son had danced Grass Dance when he was 12. His outfit looked similar to this one. My cousins, the Daniels girls, had made the outfit for him. The beading was nice. My Son's name was Negiiwap, The Rainbow. The colours of his Grass Dance outfit signified his colours and his name.He got his name as a baby in Roseau River by the Medicine man Herman Akitson.

Last night my wife and I were talking about our Relatives in Fort Alexander, the Reserve. We are related to lots of people. We tell our kids, don't go out with anyone there, that may be your cousin.

Speaking of Cousins. My friend is from Cross Lake Manitoba. It is an Indian Reserve in the northern part of Manitoba. I had met this cop, an RCMP officer that was stationed there. He told me a story about one of the rookies that was up there. A domestic dispute call came in and the rookie went to investigate. The rookie was interviewing a young women who had been assaulted by her boyfriend. The rookie asked the question of the young women/girl, "what it the relationship between you and the accused?". She said, "My mom says we're cousins." I told my friend, the guy from Cross Lake, the story, and my friend didn't laugh too much at the story. It was funny because this guy laughs at everything and makes fun of everyone.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What would you do if you saw racism in action

The Thunderbird House on Main Street Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Built as a centre for Indians. Many Indians sit around the building.

I watched a video on youtube called What would you do? It is a segment about a phenomenon called shopping while Black. It is an occurrence in the United States.
People are labeled because of who they are. Labeling is built into the way the modern world sees things. It is the backbone of how we make decisions or judgments.
In watching this video I felt really bad for that woman. I didn't know it was actors at the time,but it did shake me. The video shows the worst in people and the best in people. I have confronted racism but I have also missed my chance to say something in many situations.

I saw another of these shows about abuse. A young man was verbally assaulting his girlfriend in a public park, while numbers of people walked by. Even an off-duty police officer looked at the couple and left. Is it the nature of the world we live in, where we look the other way? I am sure some people were scared to get involved in both the situations; the girl in the store, and the girl in the park.

This morning I went to Tim Hortons to get my wife a coffee. As I was leaving the coffee shop a fellow was driving by with his coffee on the roof of his Jeep. I yelled at him, "hey your coffee is on top". He stopped and thanked me, said he won't have an angry ex-wife at home. It was a small gesture on my part, but it made me feel good. Can you imagine how damn good you would feel if you actually intervened in a situation that really needed you?

I am hopeful of the world. Although I do tend to speak of negative things, that's because I am in that world right now. I can see the light at the top of the hole. I will climb out. It may not be soon, but working on it.

One of the things I tell my relatives and friends is that they will never really know what label has been put on them because of their look. I pass easily for white and so I can mingle and people will speak without inhibition. It is when you are in the mix that you see how people can really be. But when you stick out of the mix, people will tend to watch how they behave. In the shopping while Black incident the fellow who said, "I bet she played the Black card right?", thought his was talking inside the circle of his mix. Unfortunately for him and his girlfriend they were exposed.

The What would you do show has done some more candid camera experiments. Check these out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Look in our backyards at all the monuments and enjoy

Aboriginal Veterans on parade at the Remembrance Day ceremonies. One Veteran is wearing the Metis Sash and the other is carrying an Eagle Staff and is wearing leather as they March.

Amelia on the Legislative ground in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The city had a number of bears made and local artists done up the bears. There is lots to see in any city and we just have to go and look.

Amelia taken it all in at the Manitoba Legislative grounds. The statue of Manitoba's founding father Louis Riel a Metis, aka mixed blood, aka half-breed.

The old St Peter's Church on land that was part of Peguis First Nation. Peguis First Nation was cheated out of their land by crooked Indian Agents. This is where my boy rests.

The Red Serge a symbol of old Canada. Taken at the Remembrance Day Ceremony in Winnipeg. It is quite a Ceremony and I was very glad that we got up and went.

There is a host of things to do at any given day. Sometimes it's work to go out and do things. Lot of times it takes money to go out and do things. Luckily it's still free to go out and look at things. One of the things I always want to do is to go out and take pictures of monuments. There are so many that we pass on a regular basis without taking the time to go see what the monument represents. It's funny we will plan big trips to go see monuments like Mount Rushmore but won't go into our own backyards to look at what's there.

It is interesting what you will come across. This is a memorial monument to remember the Holocaust of World War Two. It sits on the Legislative grounds in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada did not do right by the Jewish people. They did not let a ship full of Jewish people land during the war. Those people went back to Europe to face death.

We (Amelia and I) only made two stops but there is a host of things that we could have gone to look at. Next time.

Hank Williams is the king of your heart

Music should always be part of kids lives. Music touches the soul. Feed some tunes to your spirit.

Connies Corner a little Metis run restaurant on Main Street Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. You can still play some old tunes on the juke box and get a cheap meal.

Hank Williams Sr. is the king of your heart. That's what my friend teases about. I don't know why that is funny but it is. For some reason lots of Indians are crazy over Hank. The real Hank. There is a television show called Hank Williams First Nation. It is a cool little show that follows the lives of Indians in Northern Alberta. There was even a tv movie made. Two characters in the movie go on a trip to visit the grave of Hank Williams Sr. I wonder if Hank Williams Jr. has ever seen the show. I wonder what he would think? I wonder if he likes Indians or is he really a bigot. It seems to me that he seems like the sort of fellow that does not like Indians, Blacks or Mexicans. I could be wrong but he seems to play that part.

I wonder when my kids are older if they will remember the music they heard when they were kids. Will they only remember the music they have on their Ipods or what is on the MTV. I hope they will remember some of the music that Mom and Dad listened to. When my daughter was a baby we would record her sitting in her swinging chair. In the background music would always be playing. That was only 13 years ago. Somehow there doesn't seem to be music playing in the background anymore. Instead the background is filled with noise of the tv. Wonder what happened to us?

So in a move to try and catch the music I will shut off the tv and put on the radio or perhaps play some Youtube on a second tab on the computer. The firefox is great, you can have many web sites open at one time. As I sit here I am listening to old country, some Fats Domino, Little Walter and some Beth Orton. Nina Simone does Sinnerman.

So put on the speakers open up a second tab and listen to some live radio or some music from other sites.


Monday, November 9, 2009

50 million dollars is yours in one day.

Edward and JR Daniels at the Manito Ahbee powwow

"WINNIPEG (CBC) - A Sagkeeng First Nation family in Manitoba is $50 million richer after their ticket came up the winner in Friday evening's Lotto Max draw.

CBC News has confirmed from relatives that Kirby Fontaine and his family are the lucky winners. Media reports identified his wife as Marie Fontaine."

Can you imagine? One day you are poor or just making it and the next day you are filthy rich. In a small community like Sagkeeng, being an anonymous Millionaire will never happen. You got to love it. People say Lottery's are a tax on the stupid. I bet these people will never ever believe that.

Lives changed for ever by picking seven numbers. That is incredible.

You can only hope that there lives are not filled with trouble. Money is a good thing to have in a material world, where bills have to be paid, where accumulation of goods drives the economy.

There was this fellow from an Indian Reserve in the north. He had won 10 million. Sadly he is no longer around. After a serious of mistakes in business, and some personal woes, he took his life. Gerald Muswagon was the big winner. I remember when he and his wife were interviewed for the winnings. Full of life, laughter and down to earth people. That all changed. He never did leave the Reserve, he ended up dying there.

For many people the Reserve will always be home. I wonder if the Fontaines will stay in the reserve. For their own sake I hope they explore the world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Young Indians should join the Armed Forces

November 11 is Remembrance Day, the day we take at least 2 minutes at 11 o'clock. It was the 11th month, the 11th Day, and the 11th hour the Armistice Treaty was signed. Many times I have wanted to go to the local ceremony and watched the laying of the Wreath. Sadly I have not done this. I lazy around on the couch and watch on the television. That is so disgustingly wrong. Able bodies should be able to at least get up, make the effort and take the time to remember the people who were Warriors. Maybe I will make the effort this year.

I believe (not just think) the Armed Forces saves lives. Saves lives not just in foreign countries but here at home. Sure when we see the Armed Forces engaged in armed conflict it is awful and tragic. The casualties of war really are hard to take. We never expect young men and women to actually be active in battle when they serve in the Forces. Today people think when their kids consider joining the Forces they may be in actual combat. Television commercials in the U.S. want parents to listen to their children when they consider the Armed Forces. In Canada the commercials send a message of fighting, but fighting to save lives. Saving lives by becoming a rescue operation. The Armed Forces is still a viable place to begin a career or receive a chance to start a career.

Young Indian boys and girls are dying right now now. They are either killing themselves directly or they are taking an indirect route to death. It is a sad and pitiful picture. In the age group between Indian and non-Indian; Indians are 5 to 6 times more likely to kill themselves. In cases where kids do not commit suicide there is the likely-hood they will be involved in the justice system or the child welfare system. They will not finish high school. Their chance of success in mainstream society and/or life in the Reserve is not very good. Many of the youth will be seduced into a gang lifestyle or into street life (working the street as male/female prostitutes, selling drugs or become drug addicted). In the end their life ended before they got a chance to experience the good road.

The good road is what everyone would like for their kids. I believe that even the harden criminal wants his son or daughter to live a life free of problems, that is the good road. However, the environment we are surrounded in can be hard to overcome. We can be swallowed up by where and how we grow up. Being in a broken home, a home where there is no caring parent, a home where parenting is lacking, a home where food is replaced by liquor and a home where you don't know where you stand. A home where the lack of everything includes lack of discipline. Discipline that shows that someone cares. Not the type of discipline you get for being you.

The Armed Forces is a way out of the life of slow death. It can give hope to a group of youth that are deemed to fail. Doomed to face a hard short, in many cases violent life. A life of despair, not the good life. The Armed Forces can provide a new lifestyle, not a street lifestyle. It can give them pride. Pride in who they are and what they can be. A view of something other than decay, rot and slow death. A view other than the falsehoods of gang life.

I really believe that my son would have been saved by the Armed Forces. We went to Grand Forks, North Dakota with two of my nephews to enlist. My son and my two nephews went to the U.S. Army to ask about joining. My son and nephews could join the U.S. Army as they fall under the Jay Treaty, being Indian. Unfortunately for my son he was not free of court involvement, did not have his grade 12, so he was not eligible to join right then. He did try to sign up with Canadian Army and he was rejected there as well for court involvement. He was scared going to join but was happy when he did, and was crushed when he was rejected. He was told he could try again in 2007. Sadly he didn't live that long.

The Armed Forces is a future and it can be a place that Indian youth should be forced to go. I know that is harsh, but it will save their lives. There is so much benefit for the youth to join the Armed Forces.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chief and Council: the best gig for some unskilled people.

Chief Big Bear. A real leader sits in chains holding his pipe. He was put in Stoney Mountain prison. This is iconic image of what Leaders of Native people should be striving for. Willing to put your people ahead of your own wants.

I ran for a Council position in our Reserve this past year. I might have broke a hundred votes. There were something like 35 people running for a Council member seat. I was beaten by many many of the people running. People with no education, a young man of 18 that has not completed high school and a host of others. I was kind of hurt. I guess I took it as a complete rejection of me and what I stand for. I did put out some ideas of what I was thinking about if I was to be in Council. It is a very humbling experience to be slaughtered at the polls.

(In my defense) I did participate in a scandal on the Reserve and therefore can be judged as not having a great character. Let's just say that is a very long story that I will re-live at a later date. So many people think of me as a bad guy. Which is fair. Still I have enough confidence in my own behaviour and character that I can go and put my name out in public, whether or not the community may think differently of me. So I can either take my defeat as a sign that my reputation is shot because of the scandal or it is a personal rejection of who I am. Still both not appealing things.

I do not begrudge the people who got into office. I imagine the people of the community see some real benefit to the community of them being our elected leaders of Sagkeeng First Nation (aka Fort Alexander Indian Reserve). It is my hope (not belief) that all people run for office to enact a good change for the community. Our community sure could use some healthy alternatives to the way it governs itself.

I can't blame the Chief and Council for all our woes. There is a mindset that has developed over the years that can not be moved. It is like an ant trying to move a car, unlikely. At the community we have become dependent on the Chief and Council for almost everything. We ask them for money, for door-knobs, for gas, for electricity payments, for our work shoes. It is a sad situation. Many people do not have this mindset but it seems to be addictive. "If so and so is getting this why can't I?"

It is a hard thing for our leaders to deal with a culture of entitlement. It is easier for them to give in. It is because they don't have the tools to deal with organizational (community) behaviour. They don't know how to go about effecting change. Changing a mindset and attitude that has been re-enforced for many years is an impossible feat. The only way it is going to get better is if the Chief and Council understand what the problems are. I am not just talking about the social ills or the financial crisis in the community, I am talking about the mindset. How we think of the community, the roles each of us as community members have and what we see the Chief and Council's duties are. Right now we think of Chief and Council as the people who solve our problems. They solve problems by using the resources at their disposal. It's not fair to them and not fair to the community as a whole.

We must remember that the resources of the community are part of everyone's, including the future. If we think in those terms maybe our decisions will be long term and not for individual short term gain.

I think that many Chief and Council members are over their heads. These roles may be the best gigs they have ever gotten in their lives. What I do find amusing and maddening at the same time is how the Chief likes the title. "I'm Chief _____". That title is more than a title, it is a position of leadership and people who are previleged enough to receive that honour should conduct themselves in that manner; as a leader and not a glad-handler-showman. (Oops letting my begrudging to take over here :-0 )

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Those halloween nights bring good times.

A great evening for the kids. My daughter is 13 so she didn't dress up, but she took out her niece and her little brother (brother by choice adoption - you know when you claim someone as your family member) around the neighbourhood. The street is full of parents standing at the beginning of driveways as their kids make their way to the door-ways yelling "trick or treat". I even heard Halloween apples. I know people no longer give apples. It's all store package sweets.

As a kid I remember my Mom buying the big box of apples, the McIntosh box. No candies just apples. We never thought about anything else. Some people would bake treats, like cookies or make popcorn and put them in paper sacks. I still saw some popcorn when my big kids were going out Halloweening. I don't know if anyone would let their kids eat anything that was not store packaged these days. And that is pretty sad. People would put effort in making treats for kids. It's the crazies and mean people that have changed the way we think. We can't afford to trust the treats of kindly strangers. You might have a pin stuck in the apple or a razor blade in one of the treats. It's drilled into the heads of parents and kids, that no one should eat the treats until Mommy or Daddy has looked through the loot.

I remember in the Reserve going to Aunties and Uncles houses. We would make sure to go to our relatives places. It was like we had an obligation to go there. It was a good feeling. I remember some of the relatives had some good loot. We used to think that White people were rich and some of us would go into the town and go Halloweening. We would get a sucker or a one of those black cat candies at the White homes. They would make us sing and stuff. We had to take off our masks. Some of the kids that had Dads that worked at the mill, they went to school in the town. The kids who went to the town school would tell the other kids in the Reserve that the White people had two bowls of candy, one for the Indians and one for the town's kids. I don't ever remember any of the White kids coming into the Reserve to trick or treat.

It was just the way it was between the town and the Reserve. The more time goes on the more things stay the same. The memories are still sweet. Going out with your family and friends. Lots of people walking around. Some being driven home to home. Even big people went out. Sometimes some sneaky bugger would put a potato in your pillow case. Lots of apples. If you got a bag of chips or something like that it was a major treat. My cousin Bepkins and his wife Girly always gave good stuff. He was working in the mill and made a good living I guess. They weren't cheap. The air was crisp and the night was bright. I don't hardly remember too many cold nights when your were a kid. Funny.

Story about the night: I saw the craziest thing. This couple of parents were walking around the neighbourhood with their little kid. The kid was about 3 and was dressed up. The strange thing was how the woman was dressed up. I age them at about 30 (from the man's looks). The woman was dressed up as a Rastafarian. Maybe she was Bob Marley. Anyway her face was done up black. Like shoe polish black. She had on a red green yellow hat, with the dreadlocks hanging out. She also wore a gown of sorts. I was kind of blown away when I saw her, but stupid me, I didn't say anything. I just walked by and mused to myself about it. I told my wife what I saw and she put her hand to her mouth and exclaimed "no way, your kidding?" "What the hell". In any case I missed my opportunity to say something, and I should have.

Friday, October 30, 2009

When the days go by so fast.

One of my oldest friends,Earl. He was in residential school when I first got to know him and his brother. He was shipped off to another boarding school and then I didn't see him too much until his was older.

This was a club I started a number of years ago. It was to be a recreation sports club, but somehow that changed. It could have been something.

I kind of miss those days. My kids were younger and I was younger. I was young and a bit stupid. I had ideas and I could do stuff. Now I am older, still have ideas but no drive. I wonder if my will to go on is what is killing the drive? Who knows? A lot has changed since August 2005. People have gotten older, kids are grown, have grandchildren. Time goes by fast. Days seem to become years. I would give away all my tomorrows for a single yesterday. That is a line from a song but I wonder how true that is. We have the unknown that we should be looking forward to. It is what we can make of it. I know that song from Bruce Springsteen Glory Days, really addresses the days gone by.

Well it's no use to day dream about those days that have gone by so fast that we are now old. :-0 Ah..but isn't that something. Living in the past. I wish, I wish...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Activists show film on Mercury poisoning in Native communities

Last night my friend had a showing of his documentary. It is about Mercury poisoning and the effects it has on the communities of Whitedog Reserve and Grassy Narrows Reserve in Ontario Canada. Tadashi was invited to the week long Indigenous Solidarity week at the University of Winnipeg. A number of people were in the hall for the showing, it was a good turnout. Tadashi and his wife Sherri and their daughter Kia asked and answered questions after the showing. The documentary paints a sad picture of what poisons have done to both the environment and to people. The good thing that I saw was a picture of a people that are not giving up. Not giving up on their way of life. For the people of the Reserve the situation is critical. It is also simple, stop damaging the environment. The effects of clear cutting, watershed contamination was reviewed. The effect of a changing lifestyle and a clear difference in how people think of what the land is all about. I was pleased to see that people still have that connection to the land. To them it is part of who they are. It is part of the equation of what defines them. On a sad note, there were not too many Indian people in the audience. There were your typical young Indian women and men. The young warriors if you will. A few old dogs as well. I wouldn't have gone if Tadashi hadn't invited me. I guess I would fall into that category of Indians that are apathetic. I wish not to be like that. It is so overwhelming the amount of things that you think about and wish are addressed. It gets so much, and you have so much drama in our own lives that we can't be bothered to help our brothers and sisters. The audience was filled with activists, older liberal minded people, environmentalists and academics. I guess it's easy to let other people take up the battle cry for a cause. After the show we went for tea. I asked Tadashi "what's next?" He had hoped that his film could be a tool used by the communities to take up the cause of the mercury poisoning in their communities. I told him Indians and their agencies are mostly reactive. It's hard to be proactive and take up the cause unless something lights a fire. The film showed that the mercury poisoning affects are slow and build up over the years. They are dying slowly so they have no fire. A team of Doctors from Japan came to the two Indian Reserves in 1975 and again in 2004. They did tests at the time and did tests again on the recent trip. The tests demonstrated increased affects of Mercury poisoning. The team from Japan had also been the team that took part in the Mecury poisoning cases in Minamata Japan. The disease Minamata was termed from that town and the incident of poisoning. I do hope that the people of Grassy and Wabsimoong (Whitedog) can take some ownership of the documentary and use it to educate people and to awaken local and national leadership of the issue. Side note: the US geological society released a report that most fish that were tested in the US had higher than accepted levels of mercury in their systems.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reacting to triggers; good and bad.

The Bike my boy used to ride when we were at the farm. The little bike has seen better days and now sits unused. It has been many years since one of the kids took a ride on that bike. We are lucky because we have some video of those days.

Tonight I am just sitting around listening to Stevie Wonder on youtube. Music is one of those triggers that we get hit with everyday. Driving in your car, an old song comes on that reminds you of that summer crush on the new girl in the Reserve. She's good looking girl from another Reserve. She doesn't go out with you, but goes out with your cousin. The song takes you back to that time and the emotions that came with it at the time. It makes you smile.

One of the questions that a psychiatrist asked me was if I ever get triggers and think about my Boy. I never gave it much thought at the time. I think everyone has some type of trigger that takes them back to different stages in their life. I know the smell of gasoline from a ski-doo or power-saw make think of my Dad. It makes me think of him at a certain time in my life. Not my dad as I was older, but when I was a little kid. I guess that is when the wood stove would have been used more in the house. When I would see a hammer it would make me think of my Dad, again when I was a small little kid. I guess when I was a little kid that is when my Dad was the greatest. It's strange how smells, sounds, things take us to different places in our lives.

Music is a powerful trigger. Different songs take you to different places and to see different people. Growing up, my Dad was a big country fan. He (and by default me) used to listen to Hank Williams Sr., George Jones, Charlie Pride and the like. Today I am a big fan of those singers. I also like music that my older siblings listened to, like Savoy Brown, Johnny Winter, Pink Floyd, Rory Gallagher, ACDC, Temptations, Janis Joplin, Stones, Van Morrison and the list goes on. The thing about these singers is that each takes me to different places. And the places change even if the song doesn't. Cat Stevens used to remind me of my youth and in high school, but now it takes me back to a time when my Mom was around. Van Morrison takes me back to my days when my Boy was around.

I think the reaction to triggers changes with the station in your life. It's fun and sometimes sad but we can travel back to a place we were when a trigger is hitting us.

Hope your triggers are good ones.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The conflict between Indian medicine and modern thought

Picture of Ernest a Traditional Man and my cousin.

Do you believe in medicine? That is a question that a lot of people ask each other in the Reserve. I guess with all the changes that took place over the last hundred years or so, there has been a split between people that believe in old medicine and people that no longer believe. It's funny that we have changed that way. I know it is a conflict that happens in our homes as well. Different siblings or cousins come to believe different ways. I know my Parents were believers in Indian medicine. My Dad had his kidneys cured by his Auntie. She had medicine. There are a few people in the Reserve that try to have medicine but most times it's weak. That is what happens when there is a disconnect between generations. It's just the effect due to loss of knowledge. When people were converts to Christianity, they left the old ways and no longer practiced medicine. A number of people were both Christians and believers of Indian medicine. It's real funny because most of the Christian Indians believed that Indian medicine was "bad medicine".

I wonder where that Idea came from, that Indian medicine was bad medicine. It is still a popular belief to this day. Some other people from different Reserves have said that "there is so much Bad Medicine in Fort Alex that the sky glows over the Reserve".

Indian Medicine is recovering. Recovering from an onslaught of attack; government, medical establishment and the Christian sect. People are acknowledging the benefits of Indigenous Knowledge. Not only is this significant in Canada, but throughout the world.

With modern education, the spread of logic thought, the notion of Creationism, the Evolution theory, there are so many schools of thought for a person to adjust to. With absolute faith, I imagine there are those that have no conflict with their beliefs what-so-ever. This is a good thing, but can also be a bad thing. All you have to look at is the Tea Party of the U.S. and the fundamentalists of Islam. Anyone can take a belief too far.

Can you imagine being told over and over that your way of life was bad? That you were praying to the Devil? That what you did was against God? That your people were bad? Messages over time have been both overt and subtle. With images of the noble Savage vanishing from the world. The job was to 'kill the Indian'. These government-run institutions were established to “civilize” the savage Indians. In 1920, Duncan Campbell Scott, the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, had a mission to fix the “Indian problem” through assimilation. He clearly stated his mission: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem. Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed.” According to Scott and government policy, it was their mission to “kill the Indian in the child” and turn them into respectable Canadian citizens."

My parents and my siblings went to the Fort Alexander Indian Residential School. That is were we were thought to do our Easter Duties. If you didn't do your Easter Duties, you would be buried behind a toilet (out house). That is funny now that I think of it. But when you are a kid and the fear of the wrath from the Nuns and the Priests, you 'know' they are telling you the truth, so you get pretty scared. I guess fear is a strong motivator. But when the threats are no longer there, you tend to lose that fear. So you don't hang on those beliefs now that the fear is gone.

I guess I still had fear for a long time about the Devil. Once you learn something it's pretty hard to unlearn it. I no longer have the fear of the Devil in me anymore. I tend to fear my own self.

We have to let our kids stress us out.

Edward Jessica Jackson and Amelia, my kids.

Life is good when your kids are happy. It seems weird to think about our own childhood. How we never thought about what our actions did to our parents. I remember the things I would do and never ever thought of what my parents felt. I got beat up bad a number of times. The beatings resulted in the tell tale signs of having gotten into trouble. The black eyes, the cuts, the swollen face, the sprains were flags of concern for my Mom.
I think about my own kids and what their antics did to me and Suz. It was some of the more stressful nights we have been through. Worrying about kids is exhausting.
As kids we don't think of anything further than our own actions. We don't realize the hurt, the worry, the pain that we can bring to our parents by our actions.

If we could only pass on the knowledge to our children. We could save them the same worry we went through. But that's the process of growing up, we have to let kids be kids.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When the kids come home, it's okay.

The kids are coming to stay at the house for a little while. The boy has two jobs but just can't keep a good track on the bills. So going to catch up and go back to his own place after December. At least that's the plan. In the meantime I get my fix of the Granddaughter and the Grandson. I call him boy and the grandaughter calls him boy as well.

Our home has two bedrooms and a bedroom in the basement. That is good. When I was a kid, my Mom and Dad had a two bedroom house with 9 kids. It's normal in the Reserve to have lots of kids in the home. Grandparents either help with the raising of the kids or raise the kids. I imagine in poorer (or ethnic) communities there are similiar circumstances, with huge families.

I like the idea of family. I see there is more of a break down of the family unit in Indian communities these days. Much of that breakdown is due to the lifestyle we live. Some of it is due to the baggage we carry. There is hope though. Becoming aware of the changes happening in the community (in the larger community as well) is one step in addressing the breakdown.

In the short term I am happy the kids are here, but I hope they can get a hold of their financial obligations soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Take those drugs and lose those smiles.

One of my nieces is doing 'crack'. It really makes me upset. My son had an addiction and it was part of what took his life. Not sure what to think about my niece. She is a good person doing an awful thing. I wonder if there is anything we can really do. I see shows on tv called Intervention and another tv show called The Cleaner that deal with drug abuse intervention. I wonder if intervention really works? It sure looks like it could work.

I now think back to my own youth and the things that I did. I am not proud and quite ashamed of my actions. I was not a bad person, but I did some things that would make anyone think the opposite. I did some awful things. Some things I did while I was under the influence of some drug or booze, while a number of bad things I did stone cold sober. I was never one to think of consequence. I know my mistakes are mine. Maybe I can blame others, my childhood or society for my mistakes. I know that would be a lie. My Mom was a great person. She was the best human being I have ever met. It would be an insult to her and all she was to try and blame anything other than myself for my mistakes.

I still hear grown ups talk about the old days (Remember when you did this, and remember when we did that). It's sad actually. We think that the stupid stuff we did under the influence has good memories for us. Granted some of the stuff is funny. In the end there is no use to it. Flipping a car because we were drinking and grabbing at the steering wheel. Dog piling a couple of poor guys because there were four of us. Wrecking some poor guys car that was parked in the wrong place. It makes me sad and ashamed. And these are tame things we did. In the back of our mind there are bad things that haunt our memories. That is why we lose our smiles. Why we know that the bad we inflicted is going to come back and grab a hold of us. It sounds crazy that it should happen that way. That is what balance is all about. Some suffer and some benefit.

I really wonder if we can hate things. Can we hate drugs? I know it is just a thing. But almost all things have some kind of life in it. If Crack has life, it is a dark hideous life. Consuming all that it comes in contact with. Sounds dramatic and crazy to talk about a drug like that. It's only a drug, it can't harm you if you don't take it. But it does harm you even if you are not taking it. The people who take it become it's agent. Stealing from you. Beating you. Lying to you. Disappointing you. Leaving you. Crack extends it's tentacles way beyond that pipe.

Please don't take that drug it takes your smile from you. And much much more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Be the change you want to be - is futile

Change is all around us, it is inevitable. We can accept it or we can go on fighting change. I can remember when the government changed the measurement system in Canada. There were a lot of people that fought against the metric system. There were arguments about the costs of the change. The confusion the change would cause. The change went ahead and the world didn't end. The big three car dealers have been forced to change and the end of the world didn't happen. The banking industry needs to change before the world comes to an end. Health care in the United States needs to change but you would think it would bring the end of the world if it is changed. The climate is changing and that may bring the end of the world. The change of the climate is still up to debate and if in fact it is changing. That's the thing about change, we don't know whether to embrace it, try to affect it or ignore change. I mean, holy smokes, can you imagine trying to affect climate change? The thought about having any type of direct affect on the climate is staggering. We are mere ants in a concrete city. Picking at the crumbs of the big bad world. It is the bigger beings that may be able to affect some type of change. What that change is I don't know. But you know what is funny, it doesn't matter if we know what we do might not have an affect and we maybe ants, but we are a determined bunch. We will do what we can even if it may not directly or indirectly affect change. In my Reserve there is so much social strife, political dysfunction and a host of other community problems that we don't know where to start when it comes to affecting change. Some change just happens. 

Our Reserve is on both sides of the Winnipeg River. Some very beautiful land and a history of using the water ways. Now no one is on the River anymore. The water is a dirty filthy remnant of what it used to be. That is not the reason people are not using the water anymore. It is a lifestyle change. We don't swim there, we don't fish there, we don't get our food from the water anymore. It is the same change with using the bush. We don't use the bush anymore. No more wild berry picking, no longer trapping and no longer getting our food from the bush. It's a change but one that has been slow and not really a conscious change. It just happened. Lots of change like no music, no community visiting, no helping each other as a community. Only time we seem to come together and try to help each other is when there is a death. Even at that time people are changing the way we interact and help each other. I still try to affect change in our Reserve. I write letters to the Chief and Council with ideas. Proposals for them to consider in administration. Some policy ideas as to what they can do that may affect the cultural change in our community. I know it's futile, but I still do it anyway. Just as the naturist believes they can lessen their footprint on the Earth. I hope that in spite of being insignificant in a big world, we can still make an effort towards change. The change we want to be.

Monday, October 5, 2009

You can't be a Prophet in your home town

Living in the Reserve (or any small town for that matter) you may be familiar with almost everyone in the community. It is this familiarity that clouds our vision. We no longer can see the individual as more than the average person. We see them as the everyday individual. We miss the greatness, the wonder, the gifts, the wisdom, the knowledge that they may possess. The mystery of the unknown person is not there. We tend to look at the unknown as that which is greater than what we have to come to know. Not realizing that greatness could be in the room with us.

A Traditional Teacher, Ken (some are called Elders) once said that the "hardest thing is to pick up a Pipe in front of your family". It is because of what the Pipe represents. The symbolism of being a Pipe Carrier is of wonder, Spiritualism, having a connection to the Creator. We expect our Pipe Carriers to be more than the everyday person. The Pipe Carrier is to have qualities that exceed the average individual. But what happens when you grew up with this Pipe Carrier? You know him/her very well and have seen his/her flaws, weaknesses, mistakes, misgivings and shortcomings. Can this person have that sense of awe, sense of wonder, sense of knowledge that you expect a Pipe Carrier should have? I guess it would be the same scenario as growing up with a friend, sibling who is now a Priest, a Doctor or a Leader. Can we see the wonder, the greatness in the people we know?

I believe that greatness is all around us. We overlook it because we tend to see them as everyday. We don't realize that the everyday person from our community could be the great leader, the Spiritual leader, the Healer for the next community. If we see them as a being just like us, then we lose that wonder. If I were a good writer or a good story teller, my community wouldn't see it. It would be the outsider looking at me that would say I was a fine story teller (not saying I am because I see what Native Writers have accomplished and I am just a babbler at this point).

We run to the noted, the famous, the well known or even the unknown before we give the time to the regular folk. Turns out the well known may not be as credible as your Granny or your own Granpa or your cousin.

I read about Joshua Bell, perhaps the greatest violin player in the world. He played the violin in a public place, just like an ordinary busker. He played a $3million dollar violin. In about an hour he made thirty two dollars. No one really paid attention to him. He was dressed like the everyday person. He looked like the everyday person in an everyday setting.

This guy, Bell can command $1000 per minute. People will pay big money to see him play. What happened in the plaza that he played? He played one of the most difficult pieces of music that can be played. He gave it his best. Yet, people didn't see it. Why?

It's the old saying, you can't be a prophet in your home town. We need to look past the ordinary. We need to open our eyes (and ears) and see the possibilities that lay in front of us. That our everyday people can be wondrous and great.

Can it be the familiarity with our own? The saying "familiarity breeds contempt" is another idiom that we know well.

There is Teaching we all may know of the Seven Grandfathers and the message they kept telling the Little Boy who sought answers for his community. The Grandfathers kept telling him to Go Home. That the answers were at home.

That is the same with us Indigenous people, our answers are with us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Two Truths and a Lie

Saw this icebreaker game on the web and was thinking of using it over here. Talking about two truths and one lie. I like that lying is an easy thing to do. It's telling the truth that's hard. Not all truths are hard. Some are very easy and so true. Like I love my kids. I love my grandkids. People can tell stories about those truths without any measure of difficulty. Tell a truth that examines some of your darker self. No one wants to look there. But if you're going to lie, I say go to town. We lie so many times in little ways that it's not a big deal. We lie when we say our boss's stupid remarks don't bother us. We try to shrug it off or rationalize the feeling away. Even those little lies to our selves weigh heavy after a long time. That is what happened to me. Having a friend and a boss that was abusive. I lied to myself all the time that he was just having bad days, he is really a kind person. That is not the case. Even today I still lie to myself that this relationship did not do harm to me and my family.

I did a thing that I can never get over. I still try to make up for my selfish act but it is not an easy thing to do. It was when I was 19 years old. I went Wild Rice picking with my Dad and my brother-in-law.
The travel was very far by boat. We had to take a couple of boats and a lot of camping gear. At the island where we camped there were other people camping and picking rice there as well. A number of my cousins were there camping and picking rice as well. My Dad was into the drink those days. He was never sober. It was very frustrating and maddening. I couldn't take it anymore. When the bush plane (a Beaver) came in to pick up rice bags. I took the money from the rice. I took my share and gave the rest to a guy that was loading rice as well. I told him to give the money to my Dad. I got a ride with the plane back to the loading docks. I just left my Dad there. Don't know how he got back. If he got his money. How long he stayed in the bush. I never asked him or my Mom what happened. That is a regret that I have to this day. I was not a good son to my Dad in my younger years.

I sent my kids away to a residential school when they were young. The school is called Lebret.  The school no longer exists. It was in close proximity to my Uncle's Reserve in Saskatchewan. I drove six hours every weekend from Manitoba to Saskatchewan to see my kids. We used to stay in a Travel Lodge motel in Regina. There was a little pool in the hotel where the kids could swim. This one weekend these little Indian kids were swimming in the pool. My kids were there and I was sitting around reading. One little kids must have been about four. She stood close to the shallow end of the pool but kept bouncing on her feet. She went out to far and was up to her nose in the water. She could not bounce on her feet back to the pool stairs. My kids were on the other side of the pool. The older kids that this little girl was with were on the deep end. I tried to reach the little girl but she was beyond my arm reach. So I jumped in with all my clothes and sneakers. Wallet in my pocket. I pulled her to the stairs. She didn't say anything and her siblings didn't say anything either. I was the hero of the morning.

I once won seventy-two thousand dollars. It was a raffle with the Manitoba Theatre Centre. I used to live in the north end of the city. Winnipeg I paid $24,000.00 for the house. One day there was a message on the answering machine asking me to call this lady. I erased it and did not bother to call back. The lady called again and again. I never called. It was about a week when the lady finally got a hold of my wife on the phone. The lady did not want to tell my wife why she wanted to talk to me. My wife told her, might as well not wait for my husband to call back, he won't call you. The woman told my wife that I won a prize but not to tell me. Anyway when I got home that day, my wife told me the lady called. My wife said,"you should call her, she sounded kind of nice". :-D My wife convinced me to call. The lady told me I won the grand prize of the MTC draw. I didn't really believe but hoped it wasn't a joke. I went to the MTC at the date and time they told me to come. There was a representative from the MTC and the local Jaguar dealer. You see the first prize was a choice of a Jag, or a RX7 with a MPV Van, or a BMW, or cash. I took the cash. With the cash my wife bought a house in the suburbs, bought my Mom a 1992 honda civic for $15,000 and a Maytag washer and dryer for my wife's mom.

And those are my stories.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bran Muffin with Legs

I just watched this video by some Quebec students and it was great. I notice the students were all in good shape. There were no porkers. No eggs with legs. No bran muffins with legs. That's what women are called on the Reserves, two bums. Men are just plain fat. Some are called lard asses, but mostly just fat. Sometimes we are referred to as "juicy". A number of years ago my Dad used to give me heck about getting a belly. He would say "I was never like that at your age". "You should join a gym or something". When my Mom was around I would just tell on my Dad, to get him in trouble for hurting my feelings.

I have been thinking about my weight for a while now. Since I went into hibernation 4 years ago, I have had no exercise. I use to run when I was younger and up to 4 years ago I was pretty active. Now the inactive side of me has reached my belly. It bothers me a bit because I want to be able to see my little buddy. I look around the Reserve and it looks like I am not the only one who can use his belly as table top. If I was man that drank beer I could blame it on that. Heck I could even rest a beer on my belly if I needed to. It seems like the Reserve community is not the only one that suffers from an over weight problem. Canada and the U.S. are dealing with the heavies as well. Wonder what it is? The food?

We have to admit that lifestyles and eating habits sure have changed over the years. We have become a society of quick meals and junk food. But that is not all, we no longer have to go fetch water or chop wood. The convenience lifestyle is helping us become bran muffins with legs. Everyone wants to be thin without doing the work. This past winter I lost about 25 pounds from January to March just by changing what I eat. I quit bread and sugar. I gained all the weight back over the summer. I stayed inactive and went back to eating everything available. It's so convenient to just watch tv and have food delivered (or have your wife feed you).

It is so funny a video game was invented to try and get kids active. It is recognized that kids today play video games rather than enjoy physical activity. I refuse to buy my girl a video game. There are so many things to keep a child inactive that I don't want to add to her inactivity. I am guilty of not being a better role model for her. I hardly get out for walks anymore. My problem is not unique, seems like everyone is getting fat. It is leading to very bad health problems. I am sure the government has a handle on this problem. I am sure they are. I see advertising about 'Participation' on tv. A government initiative to remind people to be active. So I guess it's going to be okay. We will wait for the government to handle it. At least I think that's what happens?

But in the meantime, maybe I will start to walk a bit. I did two kilometers today and that's a start.

Oh, you know why they say 'two bums'? Because from a profile view they have a bum in the front and a bum in the back. A couple of years ago my sister phoned me, she was very serious. "I got to tell you something, Okay? Don't get upset, you're getting fat". Oh I just had to laugh. I imagined all sorts of things, but never thought my sister would be concerned about my fat. My wife joked about me looking like baloney (you have to imagine uncut baloney still in the skin) when I put on a t-shirt that was too tight.

Cherokee Fiddle, cause Good Whiskey Never Let Him Lose His Place

 Urban Cowboy is a 1980 movie with a soundtrack steeped in western songs that had great Redneck lines like, "single bars and good time ...