"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

healing journies

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I sat quietly in the darkness of the woods, my grandfather’s rifle across my lap, in a gentle snowstorm. As the sun came up crows began flying tree-to-tree calling to their families to join together, and the flock grew. I knew that I was sitting at one with the woods when mice came out of the leaves to forage around my boots. As a mature 8-point whitetail walked through the pasture before me, and I decided not to shoot, I realized that I was in a place which was truly home.

I was 33, and I now knew why the woods felt that way with a sense of primal rightness of presence and being. 12 years earlier, I would probably have just said, I like the woods. That was before I found out about a long-hidden part of my family heritage. We were Metis, part of the Scotch-breed community of Red River, and a part of the grand narrative of the western prairies. In a conversation about hooked roots on wisdom teeth, my dad casually mentioned our Metis heritage for the first time.

For a boy who grew up as white, in a typically white Manitoba community – meaning typically racist, this was a bit of an identity shock. Typically racist not in a mean or hateful way, but in a worse sense, where the racism is just a part of your world view. Thoughts reinforced by my mom who told me to stay away from ‘dirty Indians’ when I was young. Typically racist in the comfortable way arising out of knowing you are a part of the dominant people of your world. Typically racist in my assured perspective that others, who were not like me, were somehow lessor, somehow thin, somehow opaque, in contrast to my very present whiteness in power.

To then find out that I was, in fact, and had always been, a part of that “other” required a reworking of all I knew to be true and certain. That reworking was necessary because of the shattering of the comfortable lie of my whiteness. The irony of that unveiling occurring just metres away from the shores of the Red River did not sink in until much later.

What emerged in place of that shattered falseness turned out to be the real understanding of the why and of the what I am, and an arrival at a home I never dreamed could exist.

Whiteness brings with it a powerful disassociation of place and family. We move, we change jobs, all with the goal of progress and the collection of power. That disassociation left me separate from home, separate from a sense of who I really was, not surprising given the deep seated lies that started to come to light as I dug through the sedimentary layers of family existence.

Lunch with a cousin I had never met included his reveal that he was Metis. When I said, so am I, he was shocked. So successful had my family severed itself from its history that it was not even known within branches of the family also living in Red River. That disassociation started between the first and second rebellions (1870 to 1885), when many families retreated into whiteness for safety from the murder and rape that was brought to their community through the benevolence of the Red River Expeditionary Force – British Regulars with Protestant Orangeman from Ontario who hated all things indigenous, and french indigenous even more. My Scotch-Breed family stepped back into the shadows and became European settlers.

When I started to dig into that history, things about me suddenly started to make sense. At a weekend workshop on indigenous community a lecturer’s explanation of indigenous humour suddenly explained my particular sense of humour. Learning the teachings of the land, and of my place in reciprocal relationship with all of reality, suddenly explained why I worship best in the woods. Learning of indigenous mysticism suddenly explained my perception of spiritual realities around me. Learning of the way of the warrior, suddenly made clear why I was a veteran.

Today, 30 years after that moment by the Red River, I understand who I am in a way I never could. That is something I passed on to my daughter from her first days. That completeness and understanding is something she has always had, and it fits her comfortably in a way that mine has not. Reconciliation is made real in that generational undoing of the lie that we were that which we were not.


Written by sameo416

March 24, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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