I have hungered, deeply: for proper governance; for justice; for a rational, reasonable, centred, grounded sociopolitical climate in which to live. In short, to not be surrounded and governed by psychopaths and sociopaths. At the apex of the greatest storm ever to hit the town in which I was born, I plummeted to this Earth expecting and demanding the inhabitants to smarten the fuck up and fly straight. Allow me to take you back some three and a half decades to illustrate.
Shortly before the Christmas season, I returned from Junior Kindergarten and sat staring at my mother, who was cooking; contemplating, as I often did even then, and wondering; my little head filled with slide-show images and storefront displays of Santa Claus. Because for me, something just did not add up. I asked my mother if Santa Claus was real, and she sort of cringed, and turned to me, this look of resignation and slight exasperation passing over her face. I explained that it made no sense. That first of all, we did not have a chimney. That second of all, it would be illegal if someone broke into our house – even if it was to drop off presents. That thirdly, how was a person going to go all around the world, and stop at every single dwelling in one night.
She didn’t even bother trying to lie to me, but she did try to give me some compassionate perspective. She told me that Santa Claus was a spirit. That someone by his name had lived very long ago, that he was very kind, especially to children; and that we celebrate and honour him by giving gifts in his name. You might think that’s really cool, and I would not blame you.
But my question was this: “We honour him by lying, and by lying to kids?” She rolled her eyes and made me promise that I would not tell my sister.
Within days, and before Christmas, I was questioning everything, much to the dismay of the grown ups in my life. I wanted to know if the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and the stork were all lies also. Suddenly, I didn’t trust anything. I was a four year old skeptic. And it never did change.
By the age of five, I was completely horrified at the world around me, especially grown ups. And that, along with other challenges, lead me into depression. In the springtime, just before I turned six, I found myself suicidal. As I walked among the red willows and the sand pits, I recall deciding that I could not be a part of this sort of world. And as I contemplated ways to kill myself and so absolve myself of guilt for the state of the world, it occurred to me that I could live, after all, one one condition. I would only live if I promised to never, ever, be a part of what was wrong with the world.
That day I made a pact with myself, and with what I then considered God, and with life itself, as well as every aspect of Creation I could conceive of: that I would only live if made the world a better place.
I could not imagine, at such a young age, all of the ways in which I would fail in my promise. I didn’t understand that even the Greatest Good can hurt; can cause change and upheaval and discomfort and even sorrow. I didn’t know.
I entered into a very dangerous relationship with my life that day, because my right to exist, in my mind, hinged on doing always, that which was for the Greatest Good. It was too much pressure for a child, and well into my adult years, I often found myself suicidal and depressed at my mistakes.
Eventually, my Elders, my Healers, my Teachers, from many Nations, both First and otherwise, they got through to me. For the most part now, I am happy and grateful to be alive, and I can accept the fact that I cannot be perfect; that I am here to learn as well as teach, just like all the others incarnated here, by my good deeds, and by my wrongs.
Having grown up completely disenfranchised and isolated from my Teachings, I learned much later in life, about my history as a Nipissing Ojibway. I learned about colonization, I learned about rez life, and residential schools. I learned about intergenerational abuse and abusers, and intergenerational grief. And I learned about Spirit. I learned, as I embraced my heritage proudly and enthusiastically, and was mocked and shamed by living relatives for looking like an Indian, and acting like an Indian, that Spirit is indomitable.
And I was lucky. Before my maternal grandparents died, both of them, inexplicably and suddenly started sharing stories with me, of their youth. I learned about Yellik, which is where my Grandpa grew up, and about Beacage Park, which is where my Grandma grew up. I learned horrifying things about assimilation, extermination, racism and cultural dominance. And I learned amazing things, about survival, and beauty, and truth and sincerity, and forgiveness and healing.
And all of these stories, along with my own, have lived within me for a decade now; seldom shared, and often recalled. And I have watched this world around me grow into something sick and twisted and diseased. And I have watched these same crimes, perpetrated, over and over by the same systemic abusers, and I have railed. And I have marched, and I have sang, and I have sweated and drummed and prayed, and I have cried.
And speaking, recently, to my Lover and Protector, I wailed about things, about feeling small, and powerless and ineffective. I wailed especially about not being able to get people to pay attention; about not being able to get people interested enough to learn and understand and want a better way. And I was given a teaching: to create with joy, and to do one’s best to destroy only with a worthy purpose.
And then along came Idle No More.
And suddenly, I see people who care. I see people who are just as frustrated and angry as I am. I see people, more importantly, who are willing to do the hard work to force the change so desperately needed – not just in Canada, but globally. People who understand that this is a spiritual battle playing itself out politically, socially, intellectually. People who crave change as desperately and as hungrily as I do.
That is why I am idle no more. And I am not alone.