"I've been lost so long. I keep moving on." -Indigenous
I sat there waiting for the plane to leave Toronto. A thought came to me as I looked around the plane. Here I was surrounded with people that wear clothes more expensive than what I make in a few months, whose way of life is canadian/american?? Who think nothing of flying around to their next destination. I see it as a form a privilege or something. It made me immensely sad. Still sad. Its not about judging these people sitting on the plane. Its almost jealousy. They don't know about what they do or how their way of life impacts the world. Ignorance is bliss.
Don't get it twisted. The mirror is still here. All I can say is my immediate thought was here I am sitting with these people who have no clue but I do. I have a clue and knowledge that tells me I should know better. But it's the overwhelming sadness that rears it head again. Cause I wonder sometimes, when I let myself; why am I fighting for 'our way of life' while still participating in a system that destroys it.
It all goes back to this idea, a romantic idea I sometimes think-'living in two worlds.' As some have encapsulated. I don't feel like its living. Rather it feels like a battle. Within myself to justify why it's okay to fly/drive around the country to 'save the world.' Is that environmental justice? Is that fighting for our rights, our sacred way of life? I often push aside this inner battle with self easing thoughts that I'm making a difference, that I'm doing something to help out. I wonder though if this is truly the case.
I've lived my life with the ideology, 'help the people.' For many years, this translated in Native youth movement, aboriginal youth with Initiative, Indigenous Environmental network. To ceremonies to hanging out with my family. Its many things. But in my battle I wonder did I do anything? Did I ever help someone. I don't know. With all the training, experience and building of projects, programs, campaigns, organizations, networks...blah, blah, blah. Did I ever truly help anyone. I can't answer that. Therefore if I can't answer it then the plausible conclusion is not. No I didn't. Which brings me back to the original thought. Why?
Its funny. Because I believe being critical is important. Questioning yourself is important. I really have to emphasis this personally for myself. I believe in accountability. But my kookum isn't with me every day. She relies on me to make the right choices, to have good moral standing and make her proud. My parents? Well I don't know if they understand what I believe or what I am trying to do. My friends are so close to me but many times they help justify my questions. Which sometimes you need to hear to get by. But sometimes I wish we could just 'keep it real' and be honest. Did what we set out to do work? Someone once told me that you may never reap the benefits of your work, your contributions but that its for the seventh generation. If so how do you know your on the right path? Spirituality has always helped me see where I needed to go and sometimes how to get there. In this case its not as clear. I appreciate those folks in my life that have called me out, that question me and force me to look at myself with a different lens. That was sometimes hurtful, sometimes painful but in the end worth it. It opened my eyes.
I was raised to be a 'white' person. I was indoctrinated from the age of three months to breathe, think and act as those around me. Thanks to government policy and the need for the provinces to make money of the child welfare system and bi-lateral agreements. I left this world at the age of sixteen and made it my mission in life to learn as much as humanly possible about who I was.
So I've made my way in the world. Its not been easy but thats another story for another day. I wonder sometimes about the labels our people have for each other. What do they call that? The crab and the bucket syndrome or lateral violence. The conference indians...you could argue both sides of that title. My good friend said to me once we need to gather to build our spirits and get strength from each other. Which I believe is true. But at what point does going to gatherings, conferences, ect. make you that ugly title? Or is that another form of 'lateral violence?' Sell out is my personal favorite. Because I think I've sold out. Many times. I worked at the Hudson's Bay company for a month and half (they owned Canada before Canada existed and were the forefathers of the fur trade). I fly around all over the place for the 'environment.' I want to start renewable businesses to bring economic development back to my family and my community. I?ve taken government money. I did my taxes. I've applied for a job working with a couple levels of government. I have a passport. I don?t 'live off the land' which I personally don't think is possible since our way of life died with the buffalo...but thats another debate that I don't want to get into. Or apple. I'm for sure an apple. I was raised to be one. Maybe I'm a born again Indian to put it in christian terms. So I think I've made myself clear. Its not 'walking in both worlds' to me it's a constant battle of how I see myself and what I feel is morally correct for me to do in this world. Which I try to avoid constantly but it the debate always comes back to a very simple idea. What is morally okay for me to do? Based on our way or theirs or the combination of both?
I think about how my good friend talks about treaty rights. She says they are transferrable and continue to change over time. Not in the sense of losing or weakening our rights but adjusting with the times. The one thing I keep thinking about is the way we do ceremonies, live our lives and communicate. We are so dependent on a system that is destroying the very fabric of our way of life. We think nothing of driving 12 hours to a pow wow, ceremony, road-block, gathering or whatever else interests you. We eat foreign foods that make our bodies sick. We fly around the world. All of these things use the fossil fuels that we are dependent on and in turn destroy the earth-our mother. We are addicts to a foreign way of life. But may I add this historically was not a choice for many of our ancestors but a way to continue to our way of life- retain our ceremonies and language. So is this the same as my friend's explanation of treaty rights? That they transfer and adjust with the times? Is that ok...The people sitting in this plane have no clue about. Or maybe they do? Who knows but I'm sure they are not people in KI or Barrier Lake or Fort Chipewyan fighting for their lives. I assume they may not even understand the concept.
Which brings me back to my original thought. I'm jealous. I was raised to be one of them. I think about how different my life would have been had I never left my adopted family. They wanted me to be a fashion designer, I wanted to be an architect. I didn't value the earth. I didn't have any teachings. Just genetic knowledge and understandings that I still can't explain to others. Sometimes I wish I could be like them with the picket fence, the 2.5 kids, the 401k and vacations every year in some place exotic. I wish I could recycle, drive a prius and consign my designer clothes to make my difference in this world. I wish it were that simple.
The fact of the matter is I woke up one day many years ago. To a way of life that is beautiful and ever changing. It challenges me to be a better person. I've done some terrible things in my life. I'm far from perfect but its the challenge to rise above it and the wisdom to learn from my mistakes. I can't say I have answers to the constant battle of morals in my head. But I accept the battle. I think the battle is important and needed in my life. I don't know that I could just go live off the land but I also don't want to continue to contribute to the destruction of our mother. Its a complex quandary. Which I have no answers for.