Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Stick With Your Own

There is a beautiful song by Van Morrison called Irish Heartbeat. I listen to it but think Indian Heartbeat.  The song makes me think of our people, the Anishinaabe, the Indigenous relatives all over.

You see I have a love for many many people, all kinds of people. I hurt for those we see on the news, dying and starving. I laugh with those we see laughing, teasing and living a good life. At the same time I feel really bad.  I have many friends who are not Native and family who are not Native. They are very good people. Still I see the pain the majority of non-ethnic people do and cause. Is it not my friends fault their people cause and inflict so much damage. I don't need to outline the damage, we see it play out every single day.

It pains me but I have known this realization for a long time. We as Anishinaabe folk have to stay with our own ones.  I have a good friend  who is Portuguese. He told me sometime ago about how people stick together. We have a mutual friend who is Italian, a very good guy. My Portuguese friend told me that no matter what, we can marry an Italian but we will never be Italian. Meaning our Italian friend will always view us as "other than Italian." This is how the world is. We see people not like us but as  Others. Others can be good, special and all of that but we are never going to be them. Same with us as Indians, we have great Others but they will never be us. It is not wrong to be us. It is not wrong for Others to be themselves as well.

A friend of mine, Indian friend, had a White girlfriend. They were good together. It was like they fit like a hand and glove. She called his Mom, her Mom and his siblings her siblings. After many years they had a child together. They broke up. She stopped being his friend, and stopped being sibling and daughter to his family. Never reached out to his family.

My wife had these friends. One she treated like a sister. Even had her as the God-mother to our girl. The friend just stopped being a friend. Not a break up or anything. Just stopped. My wife used to reach out and try to maintain communication. The friend only reached out when she wanted to sell something.  Needless to say God-mother is no longer in our lives. Another friend of my Wife's was a younger girl. The younger girl did not have a good relationship with her own mother.  My wife took her as a daughter and when she had a child, we took him as our grandson. As time went on the young woman stopped being part of our family. No real reason why. We went visit her when she had another son. The young woman showed us some family photo albums. I noticed of all the photos, none of my wife and our daughter. My wife was absent in her adopted daughter's family photos, but there were many of her birth mother. My wife didn't seem to notice. I noticed.  I know sometimes friendships just run their course and it's not bad or wrong. Still I have seen many other situations where Others have stopped being part of the Indigenous family. 

I see this quite a bit in the Ceremony community. Others come in and become part of the community and then they stop. The novelty of the Native Ceremony ends and they go back to living in the White world. So for them, they can always just leave the family of Natives.  Our people embrace lot of people into our lives. We don't seek them out but they come and seek us out. It is our generous nature to accept and we do it over and over again. Is it wrong? Of course not, it is part of who we are as accepting of folk. I like that about us. 

The point is we are who we are. We can have many friends who are Other but they will never be us. Not wrong but it tells us to remember who to stick with. Just remember we are different and we should celebrate and embrace those differences or better yet, love the sameness we have.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Decolonizing Christmas?

The month of December is a good month where many faith based celebrations take place. Just before December is to begin a few celebrations and actions take place: Mawlid el-Nabi, the celebration the Prophets birthday.  Advent Fast also starts a couple days before December. In December we have Saint Nicholas Day, the Fiesta of Our Lady Guadalupe, S. Lucia Day, Hanukkah, Christmas Day, Three Kings Day, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, Yule, Saturanalia, Solstice,

For many December, specifically the holiday celebrations bring mixed feelings and in some cases dread. For many Indigenous folk around the world it is an acknowledgement their Belief system was attacked, was changed and no longer part of their life. So December brings out some heartache. It is either a day of a reminder of suppression of your beliefs and people or it is a struggle to buy things you can't afford.

I see many of the Indigenous folk who really despise the "Christmas season" in all its flashing lights and candy canes. They have every reason to not want to celebrate Christmas. What the hell for? Its like celebrating Columbus Day: remembering a raving madman monster.

Me, I have conflicted feelings about the whole Christmas celebrations. I mean I know what it is suppose to represent but I also realize its a commercial holiday tied to an institution which has caused so much horror throughout the world. So no I won't be raising a glass of wine to the New Born Son come this December 25th. Instead it is about a day to see the kids smile, be happy and have a meal with family. Still there is a nostalgia which I can't help but think about this time of year. It reminds me of being a little kid, growing up with bunch of brothers and sisters with Mom and Dad. Mom would use lunch bags and fill them with Japanese Oranges (that is what we knew them as kids), with hard candies, a few chocolates. Each bag would have our names written on them in my Moms beautiful handwriting. We would go to mid-night mass at the church because it was you did. Our home was Catholic. We all have the Church imprint on us. It is about the feeling I had for my family in  those young years.

Today the notion of Christmas in our household is about the family and nothing more. Still the underlining reasons for Christmas will always be there. And until we finally stop the celebrating it in our home, the imprint will be there. Wrong but there it is. Its like many things rooted in colonial acts, we do them but the foundations of what was wrong is still there.

I read this Christian Pastor who does not celebrate Christmas and he says it for the reason that it is not about Christ. He says no where in the Book does it say anything about Christmas.

For me I'm not Christian and no longer Catholic (is hard to get rid of the indoctrination from Fort Alexander Boarding School and  the Reserve) so Christmas is the buying gifts day. I have always really like the act of giving. Give-Aways are part of  our life. We celebrate, we remember, and the Give-Away Ceremony is a means to doing that. The gifting of presents is how I reconcile the December holiday. It works for me.

Knowledge Keeper and Knowledge Giver

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