I have written this during the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, please read carefully…
I feel called to share my story growing up as a indigenouse canadian. trigger warning for those who are carrying ancestral trauma.
From a young age in canada the system and people in it have worked hard to push me to feel like I am less than. I have a distinct memory from when I was in grade two. I came to school with a beaming smile because I learned that I was part of the frog clan ( Samahaquam Nation) I was so excited to share this news with my teacher and my class.
I even went in front of the whole class to share, I was met with mockery and humiliation when my teacher laughed at me and mocked me then all the other students joined in. This was my first soul crushing moment that I can remember.
Take a moment to let that sink in a 6 year old boy who is so proud of who he is that he cannot wait to share this with his community. Only to be crushed and humiliated.
I was many times the only “indian” kid in my class. I picked up early on that people expected me to fail and turn to drugs and alcohol like the other indians. I didn’t realize until today that I had built a powerful armor one that would allow me to excel in non-indigenous spaces. I was still mocked and told to go back to my tribe and ostracized by many of the others in class.
Fast forward to highschool when I feel like I have moved past this time, I signed up for Drama as I was very interested in the arts growing up. one day we were making up our own short skits, and one of the groups decides to make a skit where the are selling the rez mobile, they proceed to make many prejudice jokes all laughing, the teacher in the class is not saying anything and actually giving suggestions to them to make their skit more funny. I went home with my spirit and heart crushed, and shared the story with my mom. The next day we met with the principal and the teacher’s response is why didn’t I say anything ( which if I didn’t have so much armor on already I probably would have let everything out then and there). I felt so silenced and the school’s response was to remove me from the class. After this experience I pile on more armor. I feel like this is my fault and I should not be making such a fuss.
things go on relatively smoothly. I have been removed from two of my classes as they both had the same teacher. I Just avoid his area of the school at all costs. I ended up in a very good teachers class and if it were not for his care and support I may not have made it through school.
During my last year of school I am in law 12, and the topic of indigenous rights comes up. With little time to form a thought all my classmates start spewing out hateful comments full of venom, like Indians are lazy bums who get everything handed to them. Again I add to my armor, and become silenced.
All while building this armor I have created this Idea that I cannot be that “indian” everyone is saying that we are! I need to be better! As you can imagine this is not a great way to live life. until today I was not aware of the pain that armor was hiding. today that came off unexpectedly I woke up and felt deeply hurt. I felt the pain that I have internalized for the comfort of others. I will not do this any further.
The reason I am writing this is not to ask you to help me feel better, or for you to be shocked that this happens in canada, or for you to give me advice on how I need to heal. This is for me to send back the pain that I didn’t deserve to carry in the first place.This post is an act of liberation. It is no longer ok to use the excuse that you didn’t know. If you live in Canada you are benefiting from the first peoples of this land it’s time to get educated because ignorance hurts and in some cases kills.
I think the reason it can be so challenging for people to fully take in my story, is because it is not my story. This is the story of the human race and BIPOC are just closer to the trauma that is caused by the attempted eradication of our culture. Each one of you reading this has been separated from your land based cultural practices, this is a painful separation that many of us do not have the courage to face fully. It is easier to just intellectualize it and move it into its appropriate box in your mind and then discuss it with other intelligent people and make ourselves feel better. Try feeling crushed and heart broken without thinking too much. Just let that feeling saturate your entire body! Allow this feeling to guide you to act. That to me would feel like an act of service so BIPOC can feel less isolated in our pain.
4 thoughts on “Waking up to Pain…”
Thank you for being so candid with some of your experiences. It’s true, we can’t be “shocked” by the unjust atrocities committed throughout history, and the current climate is no different. Our (re: descendants of colonizers) very ignorance is a choice we make, because we don’t want to see how we contribute to systemic racism—and outright racism. And we certainly do not want to recognize how much we benefit from it. Personally, I have just begun the process of educating myself about these issues in the US and Canada. Admittedly, I am unsure of precisely how I can help, but it’s obvious that any inaction on my part, equates to my condoning racism, and the attempts to destroy cultures perceived as “The Other.”
Once something is seen, we can’t “unsee” it. No matter how harsh the truth is. This rings true for racism, homophobia, and misogyny.
Once again, thank you for sharing some of your personal experiences. It’s important for us to see these things, as they are valuable expressions of an unjust, unequal, and inequitable truth.
Thank you for taking the time to read and share your experience. I recall a talk we had once regarding the “elephant in the room” coming to the surface. This reminds me of that discussion.
A lot of this resonates with me Devon, as a young kid sharing with the class my heritage, readings and teaching the only class my catholic school spent any time teaching about Islam… and that only happened because after a mention of other religions in a 5 section of class I felt compelled to ask the teacher to let me talk about Islam to my class. Honestly it’s ridiculous that at 13 I was trying to teach RE. And yes the ridicule and jokes followed.
I’m glad that it’s easier for people to google and find resources to do the work on their subconscious bias and racism. I hope they do the work.
I’m going to go read about the frog clan now, sounds awesome!
Thank you for sharing Jayne, it’s amazing that at 13 you were standing up to educate your class about Islam. That’s a brave move.