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Aboriginal/Identity/Reconciliation

What is reconciliation: Introduce yourself

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What is reconciliation: Introduce yourself

Reconciliation is so far away. And now is not the right time. We are so distant from each other, miles and miles apart, even though we live next door. How do we move closer? How to begin at the beginning? Hello, my name is. Nice to meet you. Where are you from?

An RCMP officer banged on the door of a trailer to tell Colten Boushie’s Mom that her son had been killed. He is deceased, the officer said. Officers came into her trailer and searched it. Opened all the doors and cupboards. Meanwhile, Colten’s mother collapsed on the floor. Get yourself together, the officer said. Have you been drinking? He smelled her breath. Asked Colten’s brothers, Have you been drinking?

Gerald Stanley, the farmer who shot Colten, didn’t know him. He used a semi-automatic handgun. He didn’t ask, How do you do? Where are you from? The kids in the pickup didn’t know that farmer either. No one sat down and introduced themselves.

Margaret McKeown, my grandmother, kept a rifle filled with rock salt in her bedroom. When drunk fishermen came to the house to steal farming equipment, she opened the window, shot them in the butt and watched them run away.

Would the RCMP officer have helped Colten’s mother up, made her tea and held her hand if he could see she was a Mom? Not a criminal but a mother? If we don’t know each other, there is nothing to reconcile, only hard words, stony ground. Walls with no doorways leading through. No garden on the other side, that we could walk in together.

I know of a town and a reserve. The mayor and his son went on a canoe trip with the chief and his son. They travelled together on that rushing river, adventuring to a place they had never been. It is part of the process of creating. To build a community centre, a hockey rink. Something that wasn’t there before. To make a place where strangers can sit side by side and ask, How are you?

Rock salt hurts like hell. A Tokarev semi-automatic kills or maims. In the absence of knowing each other, comes the warning shot from the ramshackle farmhouse in a bush clearing. Comes the bullet through the window of the pickup truck. The problem is always the same and keeps repeating. Gerald Stanley’s wife says This is private property. What did you expect? Colten’s mother says We share the land. You say you killed him for trespassing. You violated the treaty. Nobody owns the land.

We are side by side in a place of stories – some shared, some growing out of this ground, in this old place, on land that belongs to no one. It is not the right time. It’s the only time. How do we get close enough to each other? Close enough to tell the old stories, close enough so we can hear them, be claimed by them and find ourselves changed?

 

Aboriginal/Reconciliation/Singing creatures

What is reconciliation? Purple and white

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What is reconciliation? Purple and white

Sometimes in this life, I’ve felt a touch, soft and faint against my skin; the quiet whisper of cloth. I look up, and there it is: an endless blanket of twinkling lights rippling above; big sky flowing over; the round white moon floating there, caught in a tangle of branches and clouds. At the height of summer, in a tiny Mohawk place, I have walked at night in a stand of pines that I love; the forest is small, but its trees become tall and endless in darkness, and I wander there. During a pow wow, I once found a clearing where Seminole women danced, their dresses swaying and jingling; the bells on their skirts gleaming silver in pearly light. I’ve always wanted to dance like them, to circle round and round under the branches of the jack pines, ground covered with their soft, scented needles; round and round, to the distant sound of drums.

Specks of light flow in my blood, like tiny clouds of silvery fish, flickering, sending me back and back, far into the past, until the constellations change and my head swims in the humid night, and my fingers drip with sweat from holding hands in endless rounds of dances, circles within circles. Sweat mingling and steps crossing over onto each other’s paths, until our way is one. My way and your way, at unexpected times, one foot on asphalt, one foot on pine needles; soft, bronze needles, smooth under me.

I’d be willing to give up this Canadian life, the small world of cities clinging to the southern border, full of houses huddled for safety; the friendly faces, the order and good government, the satisfaction. I’d give it up and cross over, just to follow the silver current in my blood. I’d extend my hands, feel the weight of wampum beads pressing onto them, white and purple, row upon row, a sea of peace and friendship. I’m wandering each day further away from my old home and into the forest; out of Canada and into the world, a wide open land, shimmering with stories, overgrown with relations.

Aboriginal/Reconciliation

What is reconciliation? What the man says

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What is reconciliation? What the man says

Once a man said, “Indigenous people should not have to endure the labour of educating you.” He said, “I’m here to help you understand that you were culturally insensitive.” He mentioned my creativity to shove in the knife and twist it. But he’s a politically correct man; used to saying the right things to the right people. Helping to lift the world up through his righteousness. He’s not quiet and doesn’t seem soft.

Each year, delicate creatures migrate across the hemisphere to arrive here. They know how to find safe places to rest. They avoid his hands and shoulders; never land on the top of his head. Too much risk to their paper-thin wings.

I meet men who say the wrong things and don’t know it, but still, try to make offerings. Open themselves to being on the wrong side of the argument, though they are baffled by this world. In their uncertainty, they stop and notice. Something light and hesitant has landed, just for a moment before flying away.

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