Monday, February 6, 2017

She is Who She is

The most perplexing, difficult and loving relationship we will ever experience will be the one we have with our mothers.  Our mothers are our first love and our life long teacher. Unfortunately, through the years, we can drift apart through conflict and misunderstandings.  Many of us won’t find our way back to that sacred relationship until it is too late.
Therese Deranger (Adam) 
To anyone who choses to listen to me, I tell them that they can have a loving relationship with their Mom too.  It is not that difficult, all it takes is a shift in consciousness. Then I tell them my story and how it came to be that I held my Mom in the highest esteem possible. I am honoured to say that I had a profound and extraordinary relationship with my Mom until her death in 2016. The beauty is my love for her didn’t end with her death, I continue to love her from deep within my soul.   

When I was younger I feared my Mom and didn’t understand her.  She was an enigma to me. She constantly yelled out orders to us, clean this, do that, do it again from morning until bedtime. I learned how to do things quickly and stay out of her way. She was a strong willed woman raised in a traditional Denesuline lifestyle, a lifestyle I didn’t understand nor appreciate until I was well into adulthood.  Thankfully, she gave me the gift of the Densuline language, my most prized skill.

My relationship with my mom changed by accident. One day, while driving with a colleague to meet with a First Nation community north of Edmonton, my passenger began talking about her Mom, with whom she had a difficult relationship.  She mentioned that it wasn’t until after her death that she understood her and she was regretful for the wasted years.  She went on to say that it was through taking a course in communications that opened her up to possibilities for creating exceptional relationships.  I was intrigued.
I enrolled in the 3½ days Communications Course with Landmark Education.  It was an intensive and arduous course that went deep below the surface to find the core of what makes us who we are.  Many participants had breakthroughs that weekend.   I didn’t enrol in the course with the intent to work on my relationship with my Mom; instead I wanted to be a better communicator.
It was half-way through the course when what someone said triggered a memory of something my Dad said when asked if he minded when Mom bossed him around.  He responded: “She is who she is.”  At this juncture, in this course, this made perfect sense and I really got what he said. It was transformational; it changed my life and profoundly changed my relationship with my Mom.

She didn’t have to change.  I didn’t have to wish she were different. She is who she is.  She is the culmination of her parents, grandparents, relationships, and her experiences.  All I had to do was change my perspective towards how I “saw” her.  She didn’t have to do anything, just be herself.  Simple but powerfulThis is her story.  My love for her grew and grew; it grew way beyond me.  She is the ultimate love story of my life.   Miss you Mama.  May 8, 1919 – February 12, 2016. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good Bye 2016

Usually I recap my year, but not his year.   I am not looking back.  Nope.

2017 I am ready for whatever you bring.  I am not making any New Years resolutions this year.  It is a blank page, which I will feel as I go.   I am wide open to experience everything for the first time. The new dawn ahead is like fresh snow without footprints, still I will step through it staying in the present moment because I know enough to know that there can be ice underneath it. I will be ready for any surprises.  2017 I welcome you with an open mind and  I hold no personal expectations. After all I don't want to set any limits on what you have in store for me.   Let's see what you've got.... :)

UPDATE:  Possibly the best New Year's Resolution blog post

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Who are Your People?

Grey Owl in 1936. One of the world’s first environmentalists, author and lecturer.  It was revealed after his death that he was not Aboriginal at all but an Englishman named Archie Bellaney who had dyed his hair black and darkened his skin

The past several days social platforms and mainstream media have fueled the conversation regarding the Indigenous heritage of a well-known author, Joseph Boyden.  I really don’t know if he has Indigenous blood or not.  All you have to do is Google Joseph Boyden to read the varying opinions that have been written and discussed regarding Boyden’s claim to an Indigenous heritage. 

I particularly enjoyed reading the blog of former lawyer and active mystery writer, PeggyBlair. Specifically when she writes;For those rushing to Boyden’s defence, I would suggest they exercise a bit of care. We have to listen to what Indigenous people are saying.  As settlers, we hold enormous power. We have a responsibility to be cautious before we accord prominence to someone to speak about Indigenous issues. As tweeter Tom Fortington said, it’s too much to put the entire burden of accountability on First Nations.”

Most of my readers know that I am Densuline. I come from the shores of Lake Athabasca.  I am a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation since birth.  My parents were Isidore and Therese Deranger. I am very proud of my identity.

The question of one's identity can be complex and many dimensional. The issue of identity begins as a personal matter. In a recent conversation with a non-Indigenous friend, he laments, why do some people want to be something other than what they were at birth? That is a good question.

Identifying as Indigenous does not automatically mean you’re entitled to rights as an Indigenous person. Finding an Indigenous ancestor in your family tree can give a person the right to claim some form of Indigenous identity, but the issue of identity ceases to be purely personal when something tangible is at stake, like Aboriginal or treaty rights or the right to claim a prize intended for Indigenous writers, for example. Perhaps the criteria should be more clear for these prizes.  Furthermore, people applying for these should be asked for proof of their Indigenous heritage. 

Others became Indians through the loophole of the Indian Act. The law corrected this loophole in 1985 to bring the Indian Act in line with gender equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many Indigenous women had their Indian status rights restored.  However, in my opinion it didn’t go far enough to correct the injustice of also conferring statutory Indian status rights under the Indian Act on non-Indigenous women who married a status Indian. Many of these women continue to reap the benefits of this loophole long after that relationship dissolved. A purely personal sense of identity morphs into a matter for public concern.

The concern arises when Indigenous identity is an opportunity to claim benefits that rightly belong to Indigenous peoples.  There is justification for these special benefits, which stem from colonization and marginalization of Indigenous peoples for hundreds of years. We have paid a great price to be afforded these benefits.  They belong to our Nations and communities collectively, not to every individual who happens to have an Indigenous ancestor.

No doubt, some of these people take on Indigenous identity and wear it proudly like their Sunday best; eventually they may come to believe a fabricated story of where they come from and will vehemently defend their story. Holding someone accountable to who their “real” people are does not mean we don’t appreciate and like them as a person. That is not the problem with this scenario. Joseph Boyden is not the first person to claim Indigenous identity and he won’t be the last. 

And, yes it bothers me. 

I guess I should feel some sort of gratitude towards people who claim to be Indigenous. After all they are saying, we love your culture so much so that we have embodied it and have appropriated it as our own.  People, you simply can’t just do that and you should stop it! If you are one of these people come clean and embrace your own culture and identity.  At the very least tell us who your people are.    

Still others simply just want to belong. Either way it is terribly wrong.  You can show your adoration for our rich Indigenous culture without pretending to be one of us.  We will accept you as who you really are.  Really.  We’re cool like that and I know this is something you love about us.  :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Let Magic Happen!

Magic happens for children at Christmas.  After all it is all about them, right? We do what we can to help them escape into a happiness bubble at least for a brief time.  Children deserve this, not to mention that it gives us adults great pleasure to see them happy on Christmas day.  The making of Christmas memories will sustain them well into their adult life.  I know, some of my warmest memories are of my childhood Christmases.   Walking under the light of the stars to midnight mass.  I loved those late light meals and opening gifts on Christmas Eve.  Thank you to my late mom and dad for those special memories. 
That said, let’s not go overboard.  Let’s teach children that Christmas is just another day and those things we do - buying gifts, receiving gifts and enjoying a sit down dinner with family and friends - should happen more often than just at Christmas. Let’s teach them that it is about giving and not only about receiving.  Let’s teach them that it is about relationships with others and making others feel special.
I appreciate the sense of community that comes with Christmas.  Like for example, the  merriment, Christmas tunes and visiting with friends and family.  It is about the lights, so many lights, and all those glittering decorations.  If you live in Edmonton, then you must take a stroll down Candy Cane Lane. The most spectacular Christmas lights won't disappoint.  

It is a celebration that spans all of December.
However, I am very cognizant of how this season also places unbearable pressure on people who are estranged from family and for those people who live in abject poverty.  Christmas season for them can be very challenging indeed.  They are under enormous societal pressure.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could pass on that generosity and sense of celebration we feel to those who are less fortunate?  I don’t mean only donating to charity but helping someone you know personally who needs it.  Pay them a visit, buy them coffee, give a hug, but most of all let them know that their life is worth it.  It is the small gestures that could make a difference to someone. 
Embrace the spirit of Christmas and pass it on…   

Merry Christmas!   

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

No Change in Sight

Portrait of a Dying People
1899 - Now 

This year we get less of a Christmas bonus
We don’t care. It is difficult to focus,
how our multi-million-dollar corporation
can’t find our worth in its operation

Nervously we smiled
We’re very thankful - we lied
Eyebrows furrowed
Our dignity borrowed

 We wailed it’s better than nothing,
 actually relieved at least it's something
Profits are low. Still council increased their salaries, we say
shouldn't they cut their pay

It's not us being greedy?
What about the members who are needy?
Who cares, we get a small Christmas bonus
Thank you! Good job chief and council, we say in chorus!

It matters not that what you give us is ours
like those settlers did from their towers
Took our culture, language and lands under the Indian Act
Yet we are grateful for what little they give back  

Our spirit is dying but we have no voice
because we are controlled by a force
governed by Indian Act chief and councillors
some of whom only care about power and controls

From the oppressors they learnt their lessons well
they didn’t fail and that is swell
they control the supporters
by withholding vital information that empowers

We Indian Act Indians are powerless
We better not question, lest they think we ask out of malice 
We’re dying on the inside don’t you see? 
All we want is to be consulted and to be free

Chief and council. Thank you!
 but I am sure you must realize tho
unless you stop treating us like children and give us real information  
 We'll never be released from the chains of residential school and colonization

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Leonard Cohen Dead at 82

Leonard Cohen died, November 5, 2016 he was 82 years old.  2016 has been horrible with the passing of so many iconic musicians.

I wrote this about him in 2009.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mindful Driving

We think we are always in control while we’re driving, don’t we? But are we, really?
Most of us drive in “automatic” going through the motions without thinking about how we are driving.  Have you ever got to your destination and have no recollection of the drive to get there? Often we don’t give a second thought when we snatch that item from the back seat, reading the gps map, finding that perfect music on our iPhone, or drinking a beverage while clipping away at 80 km/h or more. 9 times more likely to have an accident!  I’m guilty of that too, but not anymore. 
We think we can multi-task while driving.  However, I have news for you, statistics report otherwise.  According to OPP in 2016 distracted driving deaths double that of deaths attributed to impaired drivers. Let me say that again… more deaths than impaired drivers!!!  
Don’t read or respond to that TEXT!  I bet you’re thinking, “I  don’t”, all the while you’ve done it at least once!” 23 times more likely to get into an accident!
I’ve noticed people enjoying their music wearing headphones, unaware that there is an emergency vehicle with sirens blaring, lights flashing, approaching from behind them.  3 times more likely to get into an accident!
I’ve noticed people with their dog on their lap while they drive. They risk their life, other lives, and their dog’s life. 
In Alberta 20% - 30% of all collusions involved a distracted driver, I am sure it is higher, these statistic are likely under reported because of insurance claims.  Still, the statistic across Canada and the US are overwhelming.
Be aware and keep your attention focused on the road and how you’re driving. Do not be a distracted driver even for one second.  You might think it is safe to check that short email at the red light, think again. 
Instead, be aware of your posture while sitting at the red light. Feel your hands on the wheel. Notice the drivers around you. Take a deep breath and exhale. Be aware of your breathing. Accidents are avoidable if we stop driving in “automatic”. 
Please get home safe and ensure others get home safe.  Be mindful of your driving.


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