This shall be an Indigenous Blog. First, do let us define Indigenous. It is a new word to me, in school we learned that the people originally inhabiting this country were called Indians. Then came the new labels – Indigenous, First Nation etc. etc. The definition of Indigenous is: originating or occurring naturally in a particular place. The synonyms for indigenous further define its meaning: native, aboriginal, original, earliest, first, initial; ancient primeval, primordial.
I came across my ‘first; Indigenous poem somewhat accidentally. I now receive a Poem-A-Day because I researched the poem In Flanders Field, found it on a sight Poem-A-Day which invited me to subscribe, I did. This the first one I received, a poem translated from the Amishinaabhemouwin. Lines Written at Castle Island, Lake Superior by Jane Johnston Schoolcraft.
Here in my native inland sea
From pain and sickness would
I flee and from its shores and island bright
Gather a store of sweet delight.
Lone island of the saltless sea!
How wide, how sweet, how fresh and free
How all transporting —is the view
Of rocks and skies and waters blue
Uniting, as a song’s sweet strings
Of rocks and skies and waters blue
Uniting as a song’s sweet strings
To tell here nature only reigns
Ah nature, here forever sway
Far from the haunts of men away
For here there are no sordid fears,
No crimes, no miseries, no tears
No price of wealth, the heart to fill,
No laws to treat my people ill.
It is a translation of an original poem written in Indigenous language. The poet travelled with her husband and children to an unnamed isolated island that she called Castle Island, as, at a distance it resembled a castle. The resentment of how her people are treated stands out, the commenter calls her statement a passionate anti colonist lament. She was born in 1800, in Michigan, a member of the Ojibwa tribe. She is regarded as the first known Native American woman writer. She died on May 22, 1842.
The inclusion of this poem marks a planned new direction. Being preoccupied with dismal, impossible world events is neither fruitful, uplifting or cheerful Reflecting upon creativity, artistry and goodness, even in the midst of adversity is a much better course of action to take.
But it is necessary to have evil in the world in order to appreciate good. Just as sorrow necessary to experience joy. Bitter necessary to appreciate sweet etc, etc.
Jane Johnson Stonecraft spoke out against the evil perpetuated on her peoples, although she led a life of privilege. She did not abandon her Indigenous roots nor its peoples.
A subsequent Poem-A-Day was also written by a contemporary Indigenous poet, Norla Chee. It is entitled Navajo Mountain
If your close your eyes
and take a deep breath
You can hear the green sage sing
The gray stones beneath you
Feel young again
The breeze watches
It all with her Mona Lisa smile
Naatsis’aan takes it all in
The thunder of a hurried hooves,
Whoops and hollers of the crowd,
The intensity of the riders
As in the day of wild warriors on the warpath
There are chicken pulls, children’s foot races,
Navajo cake, kneel-down bread, drum songs
K’e shakes the roots of the mountain
Which gives the people her blessing
As does Sun God
With gentle warm breath
The story that I heard
Was that the people
Returned from Hweeldi
And found strangers in their home
Ashiiih Litso just a boy, risked everything
On one horse race
And was blessed by the Holy People .
Another story goes that the mountain protected the people,
Keeping soldiers away
And they never had to make the Long Walk
Whichever story you live by, the mountain remembers,,
Eehaniih celebrates her,
Head of the earth.
Norla Chee says that the poem was inspired by an article in the Navajo Times “In the poem, the camaraderie of the people is like the heart of the mountain, giving it life. It is implied that without the people and K’e, the mountain would die.”
The keeping alive of the culture and using poetry to speak out against the brutality inflicted on her people is in naked contrast to Premier Smith’s “use’ and then ‘total abandonment’ of her alleged Indigenous heritage. This is the strange, troubled manner in which Premier Danielle Smith approaches the question of Canadian colonialism. These facts are taken from Wikipedia. All statements made on Wikipedia must be supported by references, by footnotes.
“Marlaina Danielle Smith was born in Calgary on April 1, 1971, and is the second of five children. Her paternal great-grandfather was Philipus Kolodnicki, a Ukrainian immigrant whose name was anglicized to “Philip Smith” upon his arrival in Canada in 1915. Growing up, her family lived in subsidized housing. She identifies as having Indigenous ancestry, though she has not given any evidence to support her claim. The footnotes reference comments made by her on Twitter in 2021 and 2022.”
Wikipedia goes on, in a section called Talk Radio: “Smith also made posts on Locals.com critical of COVID-19 vaccines and questioned the legitimacy of reports that unmarked graves had been found in Canadian Residential Schools.” The footnote to this references the Calgary Herald.
I am at a loss for words – even me! Premier Smith on one hand says that she has Indigenous background (although never substantiating this claim) but then questioned the legitimacy of reports that unmarked graves have been found. Has this woman been hiding under a rock? The remains have been discovered, and continue to be discovered. On one hand she says she has Indigenous background but then denies clear evidence of the genocide of Indigenous children.
What does hiding under a rock mean? It is used to describe a person who doesn’t know something any ‘normal’ human being is supposed to know, usually relation to some recent events.
But on a more serious level, how can Premier Smith achieve any level of trust when she is voicing such dichotomizes. A dichotomy means there are two opposed ideas – like war and peace, or love and hate. On one hand she says she has Indigenous background but then denies clear evidence of the genocide of Indigenous children.
How can anyone trust such a person? It is frightening to think that she shall be making major decisions regarding our future.
But shall not end this blog in despair, alarm and frustration. There is hope, there are amazing people in this world AND an amazing pod cast. It is from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with the stimulating name of Ideas. Again quite by accident my iPhone informed me that the annual Massey Lectures were to be aired. I listened, I was transfixed. Thompson Highway was a stranger to me – but no longer. He is a truly fascinating, erudite, brilliant Indigenous man with a philosophy of such wisdom and compassion. The lectures: Laughing with the Twister, will cover differing aspects os his life long work. The first spoke of language. His language of Cree shaped him. He contrasted the English, French and Cree languages. He postulates that in the English language the head controls, it is an intellectual language. French is a sensuous language, the emotions control. Cree is a visceral language, it is an hysterically funny language. The lecture was so full of information and ideas. However, I am a visual learner- in order for me to ‘take things’ in, to understand thoroughly, comprehend and remember it is necessary for me to see, not hear the words. I have learned, over the years, to compensate – listen and make notes, read the notes. It works. But did not have the opportunity to do that yesterday morning. I shall and you shall hear much more of his ideas. Ideas is a great name for the podcast.
The word idea has many meanings and computations. It is a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action, also a concept or mental impression and can be an opinion or belief. .Some of the many synonyms are: , theory, view, viewpoint, opinion, outlook, belief, sense, understanding, thesis, interpretation, surmise supposition, inference, impression, purpose, point, aim, objective, intention, design.
The word is so all-inclusive, it is perfect for a podcast of such intellectual complexity. I urge all to listen to this pod cast.
The photographs attached to this blog is of my Indigenous wall. Works of art by Indigenous artists, a dream catcher that flies above my bed. The focus is a copy of an original work by Jean Paul Langlois. I purchased the original work from the Vancouver Art Gallery’s fabulous rental program. There is a small photo of me and the artist. The incredible work of art, featuring a grain elevator that says Alberta Wheat Pool is in storage in California. I put all of my belongings (including my winter clothes) in storage when I fled Marin County because of the discrimination I endured as a Muslim woman. It remains there, as I do not have the courage to return and sort through my possessions. I fled to a Muslim majority country, there facing a different form of discrimination. I treasure my safety, which is why I abhor the machinations of Premier Danielle Smith. Her disrespect for rational thinking, law and order puts all Albertans at risk.
I had taken a photo of Jean Paul’s painting hanging on my apartment wall in Corte Madera, California. I took the photo to Staples, asked them to make a a poster size copy. That is on my wall. As you can see I am most innovative. Unfortunately victimhood marked my childhood but upon reaching adulthood swore never to take on that role again. I shall speak of victimhood in a later blog. It holds great allure for some people as they can use their victimhood as an excuse for their failures in life, and therefore never put any energy into improving their lot in life.
Photographs that follow are of the my Canadian apartment wall, a photograph of the original hanging in Corte Madera and a photo of the artist and I taken in the Vancouver Art Gallery the evening of a presentation by him of the evolution of his art. It was fascinating. First I rented the painting, later purchased it.