Saturday, June 30, 2018

Wally Chartrand: Kindness Teaching.

Wally Chartrand
Sweetgrass - a kindness medicine... has a sweet gentle aroma when we light it... 21 strands to make a braid... 
the first 7 strands represent those 7 generations behind us... our parents, grandparents... 7 generations behind us... our parents, grandparents... 7 generations behind us.. who we are and what we are is because of them.. they’ve brushed and made the trails we have been walking up till now... the old people tell us that it takes longer for us to heal today and the reason is because the old trails our ancestors used to use to find us have been destroyed... they’ve build dams which have destroyed the old trails... they’ve build towns and cities where the old trails used to be... so now our ancestors are having a harder time trying to find us to help us heal...
the next seven represent the 7 sacred teachings... love, respect, honesty, courage, wisdom, truth, and humility... the old people tell us how simple, powerful and beautiful the teachings are... love- a very simple teaching... respect- a powerful teaching... humility- a beautiful teaching... when we truly understand the teaching of humility... that I am not any better then anyone else and you are not any better then me... that at the end of the day we are all simply human beings... this is what makes this teaching powerful and beautiful... the only thing wrong with the teachings is that we don’t walk them everyday... love is only a 4 letter word... it’s when we walk that love, when we show it, when we live it... that’s what makes these teachings powerful and beautiful... one other thing we are reminded is that how can we love someone else if we don’t First love ourself... how can we respect another if we don’t First respect ourself... they tell us that the teachings need to first start from within ourself...
the last 7 strands... those 7 generation in front of us... our children, grandchildren... those children yet to be born... why are they important... everything we do to Mother Earth will one day affect them... right now the earth gives us everything and anything we can possibly want to have the life we have... but if we don’t look after her, what’s going to be left when it’s their turn... the circle that’s around me today, is that the same circle I want to pass on to them... especially if my circle involves alcohol abuse, drug abuse, family violence, lying, stealing or cheating... sometime it’s up to us to break the cycle... and hopefully replace it with something better ...
we put those 3 braids together... they represent yesterday, today and tomorrow... mind, body and spirit.... man, woman and child... man, woman and Creator ....
When my son was born I made him a promise that we wouldn’t cut his hair till he was 7... we cut it 8 years ago, he’s 15 today... but when he was 4 years old he already knew this teaching... because every morning as I’d get him ready for daycare, I’d braid his hair... I’d ask him... Misko what does your braid represent ... sweetgrass he’d say... what does sweetgrass represent my boy I’d ask... kindness he’d say... and what does each of your braids represent my boy... my mind, my body and my spirit was his reply... ok what are you going to do at daycare today my boy I’d ask... dad!!!! I’m going to be kind to my mind, my body and my spirit he’d say... awesome my boy!!! What’s going to happen if you do that today my boy I’d ask... he’d say... dad! I’m going to be STRONG !!!!
You see that’s the second teaching that comes with this medicine... it’s through our kindness that we are most strong... anybody can raise their fist at anyone else... anyone can use their words to hurt or put someone down... but when we have someone in our face trying to hurt us with their actions or words... and to still love, respect and show that person kindness... that takes a lot of strength !!!! ❤️

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Luxury of Identity

We’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the people, we’re the human beings.

Is it a luxury to think about who you are, about your identity? If you are without food, shelter? Do you consider who you are? I do think identity is the number issue Indigenous people are dealing with today. It is not social ills; like poverty, addictions, housing, education or lack of opportunities. It is their identity that is the biggest issue. You disagree?  I can understand that. After all, in terms of social ills we have them. We have high incarceration rates, infant mortality, suicide, lack of housing, child poverty, high murder rates, high violence rates, sexual abuse cases, family violence, apathy, language loss, homelessness and mental health problems. So which "ill" takes precedent?
It is Identity. You know why? It's because everything, everything about us revolves our identity. We can take a quick look at other identities out there and see how it is everything to them. Take a quick glance at the many different identities out there; race identity, religious identity, sexuality or gender identity and geographical identity.

The identity is the backbone to every culture. Their belief system, their language is fundamental to their identity as well. Guess what is attacked by every colonial structure in history?  Their identity, their belief systems, their language. Of course as time progresses, identity is co-opted. It changes. Just look at the relative new identity of a Canadian and that of an American. These are new identities for people. Some people are still conflicted so they become the hyphenated identity; Italian-American, Japanese-American, Polish-Canadian, etc.  We have seen the struggles of identity when it comes to colonial powers; the Soviet Union is one of many examples of identity battles and how it realized into armed conflicts between neighbours.  The impact of colonialism has changed and created new identities: Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean, Cuba as examples of new identities. 
Okay for Indigenous people, Identity is a battle. The battle was severe and caused much harm. So much harm, it was better for people to hide their identity and pretend to be someone else. The government of Canada made laws impacting Indigenous identity. People were stolen, sent away from their community and cataloged and numbered. Since this time we have internalized the battle (finding our Identity, denying our identity) and have taken the identity battle lateral. We follow the identity labels and laws of the colonialists. We fight against and discriminate against our "own" people in the identity sweepstakes. We attack other Indians who have not adapted to the new colonial belief systems. It is no wonder we are struggling. The act of bullying has been persistent, relentless and prolonged against the "Indian." We know the immediate affects bullying has done to an individual and it can be devastating. Many victim's of bullying have killed themselves. So imagine how prolonged, persistent, relentless state sponsored bullying on specific segments of society has manifested?

One hundred years of social exclusion, racism, and colonialism has manifested as addiction, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and lack of knowledge on how to parent a child." - - Tanya Talaga Seven Fallen Feathers. 

The State is ruthless and knows well to destroy the backbone of a culture, a community, a society is to attack their belief system, their language, their identity.  With the belief system, much of what makes us think we are worthy in the world is taught there. Our belief systems affects how we see the World and how we see ourselves. One example is the view of the world in animate and inanimate ways. Indigenous see life throughout the Earth and it ties us to the World. With those beliefs damaged we question our own identity; we may see ourselves as less or not belonging, among other things. So identity is crucial. If we are to meet the challenges of the social ills, we need to have a solid footing where we can start from.

You don't think identity is key. Look at the groups affected by colonial attacks on their identity. The American Black population is one group devastated by the attack on their identity. They are constantly fighting to claim their identity; Negro, Colored, Black, African-American, Baptist, Nation of Islam for example. The North American Black population have a difficult time flushing out their ancestral nations. The affect on colonialism has been devastating for them. With the Indian, the Aboriginal, First Nations, Indigenous, Anishinaabe, the colonial attacks are still happening. 

If you are hungry.

Death Is Tiring

My Friend died yesterday. He was young, the same age as my oldest girl. His wife is same age of my deceased boy. I took him, his wife as our nephew and niece. I'm Uncle Steve.

He was so strong yet it was cancer which beat him. Cancer is the  beast.

Death, seems to be in constant motion. When death comes around we can't help but be sad and then of course feel the pain of past losses of those who have died.

I will miss Eric and I am sad for Rebecca.

Rest Easy Eric

I am sad.

I cried alone at the loss.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I... am a God!!

The other day I gave four dollars in change to a middle aged white man pan handling on the street. He asked for my restaurant leftovers to feed some of the younger people on the street and... of course... I gave it to him.  It was Chili.  The kind of Chili you get from a Tex-Mex place, called Carlos & Murphy's. 

That is what a god does... Feeds the hungry...

Are you a god as well? 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Slugs & Thugs

Babies are awesome miracles. We see miracles everyday. I have nieces, nephews who I say are miracle babies. They survived premature birth and are beautiful miracles. Lot of people will look at babies and feel they have the cutest, smartest, baby in the world.

Me, I see slugs. Babies regardless of their beauty and how much we love them, are basically slugs. They lay around being slugs until they are about 7 or 8 months of age. The slug stage is slowly being out-grown. It is here they start to have some character. We enjoy their laughs, smiles and how they try to get around and make noise. So they start to be fun to hang around with. Prior to that, the slugs could be just put in a baby swing and left there. Of course when I say slugs and slug stage, I mean that in the best way possible. Or as many of the Indigenous folk say, "from a good spot in my heart".

Its interesting and kind of sad of how our beautiful babies can go from the cute and harmless slug stage to the thug stage later on in life. The thug stage is a wide range of age. The thug stage has started as young as 11, but more likely the slug stage starts at 16 years of age, while hitting full thug stage in their twenties. The thug stage can end abruptly for a number of reasons: maturity, enlightenment, jail and death.

In the Reserves and in the poor neighborhoods of the City our beautiful slugs turn into thugs. What can we do to curb, to stop the thug stage for our beautiful babies?

My encounters with Indigenous youth have exposed me to the thug stage. There are of course many many Indigenous youth who do not enter thug stage at all. They help out their parents, go to school, make good choices and work towards the Good Life.

I wonder how can you engage with the youth so they don't stay or go into the thug stage?

You know the thug stage? Sometimes the thug stage is actually a late slug stage: No emotional connection, no interest, no discipline, no drive, no passion, no participation.

The thug stage can be so sad.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Conversations When Married

My wife and I will sometimes have the opportunity to go out for dinner together. We sit and look at our phones while dining. We still have conversations even after all these years. We still do the "how was your day" conversations and the normal activities of life. Its good.


We do converse as older folk now. We are of course in our middle fifties and in the prime of our lives. I enjoy our conversations. We can talk politics, religion, child rearing tips, phases of the moon, God's plans, weight gain, hair cuts, is Melanie Trump really in love with Justin Trudeau, does bread make us fat and what is up with Black Holes and the God particle?

The conversations I do enjoy is when my wife is trapped in the car. She can't get up from a chair and leave, leave me sitting there pondering my own questions and waiting for her reply.

When she is trapped in the car our conversations will go like this:

Me: "I could go on a shooting spree."

Wife: "Again? Why this time?"

Me: "I ate three eggs and I feel bad because I got super full. I feel bad because I am over weight. It makes me feel bad about myself. So feeling sad for me, I decided to go on a shooting spree."

Wife: "So when the police arrest you for the shooting spree and they ask you what the trigger for the spree was, you will say it was because you ate three eggs?"

Me:  "Yes and I think they will side with me. After all I will tell them it was eating to much eggs. It was you that made me three eggs. So I would tell the police it was because you fed me three eggs and I should have only had one egg. The extra two eggs made me feel super full. You know being super full is way worse than being full. Its the extra in things where we go on shooting sprees."

Wife:  "So its your wife's fault you go on a shooting spree?"

Anyway our conversations tend to take on a life of their own. Like when we see an interesting person (there are no uninteresting people) out on the street.

Our conversation will take us into the homes of perfect strangers. We will analyze their lives, their decisions, motives and even their existence. Usually in a span of a block. Then its on to the next conversation.

The thing is we still have conversations. We still tell each other we appreciate what they do for us. We appreciate how nice they are and how much we care and love them.

Conversations matter. Even when  we don't know what in the heck each other is saying.

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 ...