Family ties


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In a time when the season is about giving thanks and gratitude for the blessings we received in the last year and with the winter solstice coming up, for me and some of my family, this is when our Indian New Year begins.

We are taught to reflect on the past year, give thanks for blessings, and begin thinking of the next year.

I pray for my family each year at our winter lodge and thank the creator for the blessings of family in my life and how family life has shaped me into the woman that I am.

My last blog thoughts out loud was an ode to my Ele, my darling Gram who was the sweetest woman to influence my life as a NiMiiPuu ayat (woman).

Although she had jokes to share and favorite stories with some kind of example or lesson, my Ele led with her silence. It was when she was silent that she spoke volumes and the photo of her reminds me of her physical beauty. Her beauty on the inside is what radiates. I miss her, yet know she looks out over us.

As I sit here and enjoy this beautiful cup of coffee, I remember the stories of her childhood. My Gram was born here just up the hill from where I’m sitting. Overlooking this beautiful valley, with the river streaming, I can hear the water flowing down into the Clearwater as the flock of geese honk their horns.

As the fog slowly lifts and hovers above the timbered hills, I see the white tails grazing down the way and think of my great Grandpa. My Ele once shared her dad would leave for a couple days and come home with a deer slung on his back. “Walking from down the hill, I saw my dad with something on his back. Here it was a deer!” As her eyes lit up telling that story, I recall that moment, my Ele was actually sharing with me her inner child. I could see the happiness she must’ve felt when her Toota came home.

I have many other stories and recall my Ele sharing how they’d feast on roasted deer meat and her mom would make bread on the wood stove. She would share how her parents “only spoke Ndn to one another” and that after her dad processed all the meat, he’d soon leave, only this time “ he’d come back with wood.

I can hear the wood crackling in my great-Grams house, my Pux, who was the daughter of the woman I am named after was an influential woman to my Ele. Back in those days, according to my Ele, they only told stories in the winter because during the rest of the year, “they were out gathering”. I can only imagine how tough those women were and the stories and lived lives of NiMiiPuu’himyuuma.

As the namesake of my Ele’s grandmother, I asked her what she could remember of her Qaaca and all she could tell me was, she was a quiet woman and when she talked “she talked Nnd.” As I sat there listening to her share what else she could remember, I distinctly recall asking Ele if she knew what her Gram was saying in “Ndn” she stated, “ I used to but after I was sent to Catholic school, I don’t remember.”

It’s in these moments of recollection when I truly dislike the western colonialism systems of education and the catechism of Christianity. It’s because of the forced genocidal acts of indoctrination in the name of a white Jesus that makes me cling real strong to my cultural traditions and spirituality. Decolonizing how I think has indeed been a process.

As I think about the mission and cultural genocide the Christian missionaries were on when they came out west, in the early 19th Century, they suffocated my family tree with their Christian doctrine and consequently, my family struggles with keeping our language alive.

In these moments I am reminded why I am on my own mission today and it is in knowing my Gram’s stories. I come back here to regroup and reconnect with my ancestors to “keep fighting the good fight.”

For the Indigenous readers, if you don’t speak your Indigenous language, thank a missionary and the “enlightenment and civilization” they brought to our home communities.

If that doesn’t make you want to get up and do something about it, maybe it’s time to reach deep inside and interrogate yourself, what does it mean to be Indigenous?

I don’t know, maybe selling out and preference for living in a white washed world where internalized racism, self-hate, and loss of culture means nothing?

Maybe I’m just an asshole who’s talking out her mouth, but I get angry and it does bother me when I hear AND see Natives not care to save their language, fight for their lands, or worst want to sell their lands to white people who want to make profit. Or worst, oppress their own people and align themselves with white capitalists in the name of “sovereignty”.

It’s because of love for my family that I will fight to protect these homelands. As I sit here soaking up the beauty of this land, I know this is where I come from. Not only can I feel it, I can see why my ancestors fought valiantly to their deaths.

Some white people, well even Natives say, “Get over it” when it comes to the history of our people. I’m not one of them. I will hold both governments (tribal and Feds) accountable for my right to live as a NiMiiPuu.

From a female perspective, my heart gets heavy at times, and yes, I am an emotional creature. I may cry, I may even cuss. Hell, I buck, snort, kick, yell, sometimes using my brother Virg’s policy, “punch first, talk later” but rooted and grounded in that is love. And with a balanced spiritual life and practice of yoga, I also see the beauty and love in the things that also make living in these modern times livable.

Now I won’t always punch a person in the throat, but if push comes to shove and someone messes with something or someone that I love… Good luck with that.

So here I am thinking of where I’m at in life. As I wind the semester down which I aim to finish strong, I wish to share, in light of sharing story, I am most thankful and grateful for my family ties. My family makes me who I am. As a mother, daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, Aunty, friend, and relative, I am of this land and they know it.

In a recent Twitter TL observation, I took a moment to reflect introspectively on what being a warrior means to me. I thought of my Ele and how she shared about living a life where they had to make a fire every day to cook, clean, and stay warm. In essence, my grandmother, her mother, her grandmother, and her grandmothers-mother, in infinite heritage, had always kept the home fires burning.

As I reflected on that, I asked myself, “who wouldn’t fight to protect what they have been blessed with and come to love so fiercely?” I began to think about how many Indigenous people have forgotten through brainwashing their home fires.

If we aren’t awakened to the whitewashing, internalized racism, oppression, violence and rape of our women and homelands, we will continue to sleep through the cultural genocide and believe, even worst, accept that we are helpless nations against the colonial beast and choose a life of status quo and peaceful co-existence. I used to subscribe to that, today, I’m all about that contention… if you threaten or endanger what I love… again… good luck with that.

The more I think about it, I realize, we, as Indigenous nations will continue to accept status quo if we don’t wake up. Further, we will also use white colonial methods of education, land management, capitalism, even spirituality to oppress our own. Forgetting our ancestral ties and forsaking them AND our homelands in the name of keeping the peace, and progress for the development of lands.

In closing, I for one won’t be “peaceful” nor will I sit quietly like a “good lil Indian.” I am an Indigenous woman with NiMiiPuu family ties that are deeply tied and grounded to this land. I will not sit back and say nothing, I will fight. If this means “by any and all means necessary” then so be it. After all, these family ties that keep me grounded have life and I will tell my family story until the day I die.

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