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 )

Knowledge Keeper and Knowledge Giver

There are many beautiful things in the world. Of those beautiful things are youth. How beautiful everything and everyone is when they are yo...