I remember the things my Nokimis and Noshimis use to say and show me as young child. At the time I did not understand what exactly it was they were trying to teach me. It seemed a bit confusing at the time as I was just a young girl. I was sent to live with my Nokimis when I was 8 and in that time I thought I was sent away from my mom because I wasn’t loved, looking back now, I know that wasn’t the case. My mom sent me to live with her because there was things that she couldn’t teach me that knowledge that only our Elders possess, that comes from life experience.
The knowledge you can’t find in books or that is tokenized on-line. My Nokimis always had a gift with words even though English wasn’t her first language. I use to fade away into her voice listening to her life as a child living off the land and knowing only to take what she needed; possessing value of community and that no one went with out. In the times that there wasn’t much the family pulled together and made due with what little they had.
Colonization had her thinking that her ways were the inferior way of living. She was ashamed of being First Nations and at times would devalue her culture to try to fit in. It was no fault of her own that she felt this way. I know if she were alive today she would be so proud of me reclaiming my identity of an Anishnawbe Kwe. Although, she did not knowingly teaching me the Anishnawbe’s way of life. She made sure that I knew how to make a blanket to keep me warm, how to gut and cook a fish, and always had me following her in the garden.
It was difficult for me living with my aunt and cousins. I was treated rather unkind; not feeling like I belong. I was teased and made to feel shame because I wasn’t with my mom. Because of this my Grandmother was a bit more kinder and paid just a bit more attention to me. Instead of feeding to the fire of jealously from my family, she kept me busy. Back then it felt as though I was always doing chores, she really was teaching me how do keep going no matter what and not to lets others actions or words distract me.
It was hard for all of us growing up (even her), being separated from her siblings, all of them were sent off to residential school. As a child my grandmother had Scarlett fever so she was not sent to school. I am amazed at the strength she had despite all the challenges she had to face. She started having children at 14 years old and didn’t stop until she was 42, and after she raised her own children she was looking after her Grandchildren. When her mother became older she took care of her too. She never got to travel the world, get an education or simply just live life for herself. Everything she did, she did for others to make their live’s just a little bit easier.
This way of life back in the day, the way our Elders lived was simple. The complexity came when they were forced to be separate from the land, language and ways of life. We all need to honour the beauty of our culture as Anishnawbe people and make an effort to bring those ways back. First with ourselves, then, to our communities and beyond. My Grandmother was brought into this world knowing her traditions and when she left, her spirit was sent home in a traditional good way.
I carry her and a thousand ancestors before me in my blood. My life only became more meaningful once I had realized this. Once the healing within myself began I started looking at all the challenges I had as lessons. That, I could only lead as far as I had gone. I have experienced great humility, but I have also, felt most proud of being who I am… An Anishnawbe Kwe.