Monday, March 28, 2011

Sagkeeng campaign trail update

Been visiting folks on the Reserve for the upcoming election of Chief and Council in Sagkeeng Anishinabe Nation, Manitoba Canada. There are five positions up for a two year term this April 4.
The visiting process on Reserve is different from contemporary political campaigning. In the Reserve there is the expectation for visiting and not just dropping off of political platforms. It does require more time to sit and visit with community residents (minimum one hour). The visiting makes it difficult to attend great numbers of homes. However, there is the influence of parental guidance and direction as to who should receive a family vote. That is why strategic visiting could help that savvy campaign candidate. Too bad I am not that savvy.  I try to go visit anywhere. It has been hit and miss. Spending a good time visiting with no confirmation of support at the polls. Still it is a good experience.
I did go through a real down mood yesterday and for most of today. It was a real task resisting the cloud of sadness. It is tiring to hear so much anger, frustration, sadness and apathy from people. Many of the poster signs I have been putting up have been ripped down. My pamphlets that are in local businesses are being written on, with things like "will rip off the people again".  Wondering which people they are referring to and who doesn't want to sign the allegations?  In addition I had the unpleasant experience of being rejected for the old "hand shake" at a local gathering. Ruben, who is also running for Chief (and alternatively Council member if Chieftainship alludes him) was at the local bingo hall to greet people after the games. People rushed by me as I said "hi, hello, nice to see you, etc." Many people I know don't bother to look at me. One older lady asked me, "awenen kiin?"(who are you)  I say "Steve". She makes a face, pulls her hand away and says "arrrgh". I was left empty handed with my jaw wide open. Trying not to cry over the snub.  It made me think of my Mom. She was honest as well. I had to not laugh at myself. This old lady was honest in her opinion of me. That is what you expect from the Old People. "Stand by your Man". No anonymous stuff for them.  Although I was on the receiving end of the snub I know exactly how that is right. I may not feel good about not being liked. As we all want to be liked, but that is impossible. It does not matter that we may not have done anything personally to this person, it is the perception they have of you.
That is the same thing in any political arena. We are free to agree, disagree, like or dislike someone for whatever reasons we think about or feel.
The sadness came upon like a blanket. How in the heck do people handle all the negativity day in and out? The amount of poverty, the amount of poor housing, the amount of desperation from people. It is bound to wear down the current Council. I guess that is the thing, I hope to work at. Getting people to see what it is that the community deals with, both in and out of the Reserve.

So I am up again for the visiting. I can't do it until Thursday because I have the Grandkids.  I am in luck that there are two public forums for candidates on Wednesday; one in the Reserve during the day and one in the city of Winnipeg during the evening. One of the things about visiting is that you get to joke around a lot. People like to tease; they tease about themselves, about you and about the Reserve. They are real serious about politics as well. They all have one thing in common, they worry about the long term affects on the Reserve, whether its land, education, language and jobs. People have told me look at the Elders and how they are treated, you will be there soon. How do you want to be treated?

Lot of Ideas coming out from people: a Van service for the Elders to take them to Southbeach Casino, Selkirk shopping and other trips. Just to get them out of the house and for some leisure time. More clearing of driveways for the Elders, a safety issue. More listening to the people. More sharing of information. More children Elder outings and camps. Elder involvement with the on goings regarding Land. Some type of work or training options for the youth that are not in school. Equity with regard to housing allocations.

Here are some pictures taken around the Reserve this week.

Cuz Joe, Uncle Harold, Norman

Councilor Derrick

Grand Opening Health Centre

Uncle Robert

Chief Donavan, Ken

Eric, Traditional Man

Kim, baby

Assembly Mb Chief Ron Evans

Grand Opening


Crowd at Health Centre

Kim, Shirley

Cuz Suzie

Elder Fabian




Jennifer Smith



Friday, March 18, 2011

Indian Sovereignty in Burials

 Ojibway style burial huts. The Ojibway would bury the bodies in a shallow hole and place huts over the burial mounds. This picture is from Minnesota.Not sure if this was a relatively new custom (contact with European religion?) for our People. But I have come to learn they are indeed called Spirit Houses.  
This picture is of an Ojibway burial hut/house. Taken from the Website of Debb's Photostream.

I have only seen this at Swan Lake First Nation in Manitoba. My cousin Ernest is married to Charlotte of Swan Lake. The Reserve still does this type of burial as far as I can see.
I would hope that someday it could revived in our community.  As it is we use the Roman Catholic and the Anglican burial sites and customs.

My Dad is eighty years old and is planning his burial. Or at least he is letting us (Jean, Don and myself) know his wishes. He does not want to burden the family with expense of a funeral. He does want to have a one day service. One night of a Wake and the next day a quick service. My Dad does not want to be buried or to have a casket. He would like to be cremated. We are to have his body wrapped in blankets. That does seem like a nice idea. However, the rules of cremation or that he is to be a "combustible enclosure". So I am wondering if wrapped in blankets would be a combustible enclosure. I have since read that cardboard, caskets and even canvas bags have been used, so I think blankets should be okay.

That is also another issue that we are considering, the provincial laws in our Reserve and how they apply. We say we are sovereign, but that is not true. Everything we do is governed by either federal or provincial laws. From the birth of our Children to the Burial of our Elders.
I have not asked a funeral director of the rules but the legislation is not clear on Traditional funerals. There are certain protocols for other ethnic groups but not sure how it applies to Indians on Reserve.

Just thinking aloud on what we will do for Dad. It is a hard thing to think like that but I want it to be alright for the family. I remember that my Mom's obituary had many mistakes and family members left out. That is the case when people are distraught and having to look after the arrangement for the loved one.

I think a lot of people are looking at alternatives to the use of caskets. There  is The Centre for Natural Burial that would like to have a less of a footprint on the Earth.
I did talk to one Funeral Director in the area and he said we had to have casket. It was much later that I found out that is not the case. He had straight out lied to me. This lady is a funeral director from our Reserve and she was happy to follow Dad's wishes. Dad passed October 21, 2013.  It meant she didn't make any money on caskets purchase. She is a good person. The other Funeral Director I had spoken to, was a con artist and he had ripped off my Sister-in-law when her husband Pancho (my oldest brother) died. The Funeral guy made her buy a casket from him even though my brother was to be cremated. 

Dad wishes were followed. Here he is with Funeral Director of our Reserve. Natasha

Me, Suz, Aviree-Don & Dad,

Traveling Song for Dad

Dad with his grandkids.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On the campaign trail in Sagkeeng Anishinabe Nation

Well the election for our Chief and Council takes place this coming April 4th. There are a number of people that have put their names in for the five positions available. I have my name in for chief. It is kind of fun being part of the process. No one is ever sure in this type of process but all you can do is go out, meet greet and try to get your message out there to people. In the Reserve it is not always about platform, skills or ideas, it might come down to friends and family. This is not always the case. I know that Derrick Henderson, Lyle Morrisseau were elected in the last election based on the amount of work they put into their campaign. Part of Derrick's success was in the platform he put out; a platform of "transparency, information sharing and proper policies are implemented."  Lyle was elected not as much for his platform but for his pure enthusiasm. He has a naivety of the workings of Band governance. He wanted to effect change. Lyle is an activist by nature. He is very concerned for the community and the environment. Being in Council I think he may now realize that you can not grant everyone what they desire. One council member is elected to sheer numbers of friends and family and the other for his work in the community. Our Chief has been in the Council for sometime in the past and people recognize him. He has been strong in implementing his own vision of activities and practices. I would disagree with some practices, but that is only my opinion.
I ask myself why I have chosen to put my name in the election race. I think I like to think our community needs change. Change in a way we approach each other. There has been a cultural shift from communal to individual value system in the community and I don't think that is healthy. It is not the fault of any Council. It is collectively a change in how we are participating in society. In any case I am hoping that by sharing everything at the Council level with people, it may bring out a more cohesive community. Cohesive in how we approach the limited funds that exist in the community. Cohesive in how we treat our local establishments, public and private. Ahh, heck, I'm getting all preachy and philosophical when all I wanted to do was take you on a trip with me down the campaign trail. So let's get on with it...

After the nomination meeting in the Reserve, I went home. I was afraid to tell my wife about the election thing. She is afraid that maybe just maybe some people might not be so nice to me on the campaign. So I didn't tell her right away. I decided that I would try and use the internet as one medium for getting my name out there. I think name recognition is a big part of the election game. So I put out postings on several facebook pages that are linked to Sagkeeng.  I give my phone number and open ended invitations to people. No responses. That is kind of an indicator that my word is not getting out there. So I am taking a more direct approach, by messaging people and going to see them directly.

I started visiting with close friends. Had a lot of tea to drink with Perry and with Smiley. I was going to crash over at Perry's but was out visiting too late and went to Smiley's. Some good friendly visiting to start off things with.  

I went for  a drink (club soda) with Lyle Morrisseau. Lyle is a current Council member. I like him, he has energy and is very friendly to everyone. We also ran into my cousin Andrew Richard Bruyere. Richard is an Anglican priest in the Reserve and is running for Council. He too has been a Councilor before. I am hoping to maybe go on some visiting trips with Lyle. I also called Ryan Bruyere just to visit a bit and talk to him. He is a young man and is currently in University. He might have graduated but I am not sure. He is very friendly and idealistic and wants to have input in the community as well.

On my visiting trips I am encountering a host of concerns, hopes and worries from people. Some people are not happy because they have not been helped by the Band. Some people are very angry and say that we are becoming like a "Whiteman's place". Others are worried that there will be no Reserve left for our kids. Others a living in a pain-filled existence. I am in awe and have opened eyes to how tough it is in the community. Sometimes we are isolated from the despair out there in our Reserve. Some very poor people. There are a lot of happy people as well. Happy with their lives. Happy with what they have worked for and how they are proud of their families. There is laughter when I visit. You know that Indian jokes and laughing at each other. Making fun of me and making fun of others. It is that type of visit that I like. There are some very serious conversations as well. People are concerned about the Land. Lot of talk about the Land, the closed down paper pulp mill in the town. The Reserve line and how the young generation does not know about the Reserve history. I went to one home where the fellow (and I know him to converse with in a friendly way) yelled at me from his window not to come there. He said he is not voting and that we all make false promises. I made a little attempt to talk but to no avail. So I said okay, that's okay, and he shut his window. I can't say that didn't affect me. I was kind of hurt by that, but I made it my effort to understand how frustrated he is. So I guess it wasn't personal.

I also called a couple of the candidates and met with them. It is good. This older gentleman, who is the same age as my Dad, said that when it was in their time, there were no hard feelings and no being hard to each other. This fellow named Jimmy didn't like the hard things that people say about each other. I have known him to always be a good guy, joking and taking part in a lot of activities in the Reserve. He is older now and is not healthy enough to continue working but he sure can still tease.  Those old guys know how to tease without you knowing that you are getting hit. 

I ran into another Chief candidate, Ruben Bunn. I was telling him that I read in the local town paper that he pulled out. He said yeah, that was wrong and he was upset with the paper for not checking. So he is getting a retraction. I wasn't even mentioned as someone running, so that is not a good sign. He is happy to visit and is confident in his chances. I was happy to talk with him, we have always been friendly acquaintances. My brother Don is running for a council position and he rented a room at the local hotel in Winnipeg, where the post-secondary students go to see the school counselor. I chipped in with him and Father Stan Fontaine did as well. Father Stan is no longer a priest but people still know him as Father Stan. He is running for a council position. Stan is a very educated and well traveled experienced individual. At the hotel we met Earl Fontaine, Lloyd Swampy Jr. and Randy Twoheart. They are also running for council positions. I was very impressed with Randy Twoheart. I think he is in his thirties but I can't be sure, he could be younger. He has worked in the conservation field for most of his adult life. He has a very good handle on the pressures that the Land around the community is under. Lloyd is a young man and is interested in the community. He is currently taking courses at a college and is eager to serve in the community. Earl is a veteran in the political circle, having served as a Councilor in our Reserve. A very likable guy with ideas. 

I have been seeing all sorts of people in the Reserve as well. I went and had lunch with  a friend that I went to school with when I was young. He works in the Reserve and is on the front lines of a lot of disgruntled individuals. So we had a nice visit. I was very happy to hear him say he supports me. That is the thing, many of the people I visited do not commit to you. I guess that is a telling sign but you never know. I visited a number of people that had harsh things to say about the mail in ballots, out of Reserve voters, housing going to off-Reserve and a host of other complaints. They spoke hard for quite awhile and I can only listen. I do not want to get into a "this person did this and that" type of gossip, but I know I can be guilty of that at times. Many people are forgetting hospitality when you go visiting them. No tea offered. So that might be a sign too that you are not getting their support. I went to visit a guy that keeps himself well informed of the happenings at the Band level. He is concerned about a number of issues in the community. I listened to him and hope to go visit him again if I get the chance. I do not believe he will support me, but he is interesting to talk to.

Lot of good people in the Reserve just trying to get by on what they earn or what they have to live on. My eyes opened up to see friends struggling but still maintaining a happy home. That humbles you (me really) and our complaints. I jokingly told my friend I am going to go posting on the blog that you are supporting me, so you can get in trouble with your cousin.  She laughed. I was happy to get a few calls from some of my relatives that I haven't seen in a long time. This one lady is such a happy lady that her laughter just rubs off on you.  I met with this one family that has a daughter that is ill, challenged and needs to get around by way of wheel chair. The house is small and there is no room for the child to get around the house. Her bed is in the living room and the house is not designed to accommodate wheel-chairs. It is also a house that is home to Grandchildren. I saw a number of homes like that, multi-families in one family size homes.

I was on the North Shore of the Reserve visiting John Black and Jerry Henderson. I have always liked John, he is very smart and can be pretty funny cheeky.  Anyway Jerry started giving me heck (kind of teasing) "and don't go just hiring your relatives!"  I said Okay, I'll try, as I laughed with him.  Another young man Cassidy Guimond had an open house for visitors yesterday. So I went with my friend Earl Morrisseau to go visit Cassidy. He had some great cake for his visitors. We sat and laughed for awhile with his family. Never really asking each other for support but mostly visiting. Some talk about Land and the loss of Land and the worry that comes with that.

I hope to talk to more people. People want you to go visit with them. You wouldn't think but it is quite tiring and time consuming going around visiting.  You are not there just to hand off your pamphlet and say hi. Although in some cases that is all you have time for as some people stand at the door and do not invite you in. I do not ask people to commit their vote to me, but I try to introduce who I am and let them know I would like to visit or converse with them when it is a good time to.

Below I have posted pictures of people I have seen, this does not indicate they have endorsed me. I also posted some pictures of Cheese's housing conditions. This is a very sad situation. The house floor is falling and there are holes in the floor from the wet rot of the wood. He uses a base board and his oven for heat. He has to tie up his hot water tank or it will fall over from the floor caving in. This is just one example of the conditions that people are up against. It is what our Council has to contend with when working with people. There is so much need but not enough resources. 

Going around selling your ideas and your character to people is quite a task. If you are timid, it can be overwhelming.  With time running down until the election, I am not sure how many homes I will actually get to. In the city it is a bit harder as you need to find out where people live and that is not always possible. Father Stan is going to hold a meet and greet in Winnipeg on the 21st, so I am hoping to join that event.

My Dad told me that when he was young there was no hidden ballot, just "stand by your man". Jimmy also told me the same thing, that people would pick out in the open and that was it, no hard feelings on who was selected.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Indian Nationalist.

You know why government is really afraid of Indian Spirituality?  It has to do with Nationalism. Being an Indian nationalist. Some come to believe that is the road to fundamentalism. Can you see it?
Canada becoming a place like Spain, Ireland or any other place that might come to mind?
The country currently benefits from a scattered and broken down segment of the Native community. There is not enough energy or "reason" for the Indian population to get really, really organized.
That day will come for sure. It will come from the Indigenization movement of all those educated "born-again" Indians. The youth that will discover the so called "Red Road". They will find their identity.
With that identity comes their Teachings. The Teaching are all about respect, truth, honesty, courage, love, honesty, humility, and that sort of thinking and living. It is all about Mino pimatiziwin, living good or living well. Not in a materialistic manner, but trying to be the best human being that you can be and all that comes with it.  But with a re-newed sense of Identity comes naivety, pride, and interpretation. Interpretation of what it means to be an Indian. That is where the new Indian will get their idea of being Nationalists.

Being able to call yourself an Ojibway Nationalist or a Cree Nationalist, or a Blood Nationalist is a scary notion for the powers to be. It is the disarray of Indian communities that always bureaucrats and governments to exert their will over the Indians. There is no real opposition to their rule. When Indians become nationalist that is when you will see a real move towards sovereignty. Right now all the talk of Indian sovereignty is just empty. All of our actions are currently governed by Canada, the provinces, the cities and the other smaller jurisdictions.

That is the big reason that Indians are being watched by Canada's spy agency.  They know that the Traditionalist are the people with power. It is not in the Chiefs or with the Christian sector of Indians. They are part of the colonialists tools, so they won't rise up. It will be the Traditionalist people of Indian country/as some people say - Turtle Island. The police are watching those Sundancers, those Potlatch people, the Long House people, the Clans.  That is the way the police think. 

It will be interesting times when Indian Awareness kicks in. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cousin makes the Little Boy - Water Drum

My Cousin Barry Anaquod is a very hard worker. He takes the time to learn things and goes about making things. He was the person I sought out to fix a violin (fiddle) that belonged to Sues deceased Dad. It was in bad shape. Barry really did an awesome job fixing the fiddle. Barry had been mentored by this old gentleman. That old gentleman became a very good friend of Barry's. Sadly that Old Gentleman had a heart attack and died.

Barry was asked by another cousin of ours to make him a Water Drum. Barry sent me pictures of what he did the other day. I say he did a remarkable job carving out a piece of wood and making the drum. They call the water drum, the Little Boy out here.
It is going to be a surprise for my cousin. My Cousin is a Traditional man.

I like that about my Cousin he is always willing to share and give of himself. I think a lot of our people are like that.

The story of the Little Boy is an Ojibway story that went out and sought Help for his people. He traveled a great distance and was given a gift of a Ceremony to help his people. I am not a Teacher so I can not tell the story in its true form. 

As you can see the Drum started as a block of wood and Barry carved it out. I am sure that my other Cousin will love the Drum and use it in his Ceremonies. I hope no one tells him that he is going to get a present from our Cousin out in Alberta.

The Drum is made in a specific way to represent the Teachings of the Little Boy. I hope I am not breaking any Ceremony protocol by showing off this piece made by my Cousin. If any Traditional Teachers of Midiwiwin know if this is wrong, just let me know and I will take this off the internet.

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

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