Welcome! I love to write, and I love sharing what I write with my readers. I vary my style as much as I can-posting events, creative non-fiction, prose and poetry and the occasional video. Enjoy!



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reconciliation: What it Means to Me By: Christine McFarlane

Reconciliation and how it is defined really has me intrigued, because reconciliation is different for everyone. In my reflection I would like to state that for me, reconciliation is a part of a personal journey. A journey that I am still on in terms of dealing with the hurt, shame and anger I feel towards my familial background and the words and actions that were said and done to me and my people as a whole.
            While contemplating what to write for this reflection piece, I was going through some readings and came across a definition of how reconciliation is defined by a fellow First Nations individual in the book “From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools,” that was prepared for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Fred Kelly, an Ojibway of Onigaming and a citizen of the Anishnaabe Nation in Treaty Number Three defined reconciliation as a process and states “Reconciliation processes can be personal and societal. In the personal sense, reconciliation is the means by which one regains peace with oneself.” (11)
            I am not afraid to admit that I struggle with both the societal and personal process of reconciliation because of the life experiences I have been through and have also bore witness to. I have been unable to ‘regain a certain peace’ with myself, though I am better than what I used to be. The anger I carry is at the emotional damage that was done not only to myself but also towards my people, and how the fight to get better and to heal is a constant work in progress. The struggle also comes in the form of questions like “Will I ever be able to achieve a certain peace within myself? Or “be able to forgive and move past the pain I feel towards those who hurt me in the past? I no longer want to walk with the heavy burden of having such anger, but saying it is one thing, action is the scary part.
            This brings me to the concept of words, and how I believe words play an integral role in the reconciliation process, and how after words are said, actions need to follow in order for non-Indigenous and Indigenous people to be able to reconcile with each other. As a writer, words are important to me and I was intrigued by the reading “Words” written by Jeannette Armstrong in which she states “Words have been used to destroy, to cause pain, to cause the kinds of things that we see happening all over the world between people, between individuals, between races, between sexes, even between fat and skinny people. Many words do that.” (29)
            I believe that words in the reconciliation process are all good but when it is not followed by action that is where the societal process of reconciliation goes awry. Armstrong sums up the impact of words by saying, “Everything we say affects someone, someone is hearing it, someone is understanding it, someone is going to take it and it becomes memory. We are all powerful, each one of us individually. We are able to make things change, to make things happen differently. We all are able to heal.” (29)
            In conclusion I hope that through the course of the year participating in The Politics and Process of Reconciliation in Canada course, I can change my personal process of reconciliation so that I can continue to move forward in my healing journey and bear witness to a change that is much needed-being able to reconcile within and realize that I can be more of an agent for change, instead of staying stagnant and stuck in a place of anger that I no longer need to be in.

Works Cited:
Jeannette Armstrong, “Words,” 29, Telling It: Women and Language Across Cultures (Vancouver: Press Gang, 1990), ISBN: 0889740275, 207pgs.

Marlene Brant Castellano, Linda Archibald, Mike DeGagne, “From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools.”  11, (Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008) ISBN: 978-1-897285-59-6

Sunday, September 26, 2010

ah! the beauty of this bird!

Favorite Picture from Taronga Zoo Sydney Australia

Looking right at me!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Walk

By: Christine McFarlane

I walk
And I hear your name
As though it is being whispered
In my ear

I walk
And I see your smile
I remember your laugh
And the good times we had

I walk
And I remember your words
"Christine, never let things get you down"
because it is when you are being positive
That you will go places

I walk
And I hear your name
As though it is being whispered
In my ear

My tears flow
Because I miss you so
Even though you have been gone
For almost seven years now

I walk
and as I walk
I remember you

A smile
Is on my face
Because I know inside
That you are not that far away

You are here
In spirit
Walking beside me now

(In memory of a very dear friend C.A)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sister's and Brother's in Solidarity - A Walk for Justice Oct 4th 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You Are Not Alone

By: Christine McFarlane

You think
That you are alone
But you really aren’t

There are others
Out there
That if given the chance
Would tell you their

You think
That you are alone
That there is no one
Who can understand
What is really going on

You think
That you are alone
There are others
Who have a story
Something that may relate to you
You may feel surprised
But you shouldn’t be

You think
That you are alone
But you really aren’t

Open your mind
Open your heart
Let someone in

You are not
The only one
Who has a story
To share
Or let out

You are not alone

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Spirit....By: Christine McFarlane

A Spirit..
By: Christine McFarlane
A spirit
Can never break
That is what you have to
It lies within
Keeping silent
When you want it to
And rising up
When you have the desire
To fight
A spirit
Can never break
It may make you feel down
When times are tough
And the tears seem to never end
But deep inside
It is within you
When you feel there is
No one else around
A spirit
Can never break
That is what you have to believe
It lies within
And lets you know
It is there
It will stay silent
When you want it to be
And it will rise up
And fight
When you have the desire
To fight
A spirit
Can never break
That is what you have to
In order to survive
This game called

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Opinion- Decolonizing Ourselves

Decolonizing Ourselves
By: Christine McFarlane

 I have begun to understand decolonization as a process in which the colonizing society-in this case-(European) and Indigenous peoples of Canada are able to live harmoniously and interact with each other without underlying tension. In order to decolonize ourselves, we need to look deep within ourselves and tell ourselves “we will no longer be victims” to those in power. As First Nations people, we have lived for years in a colonized world. A world that dictates who we are, what we are, and how we are to be, in order to get by in today’s world.

Colonialism establishes a framework, a way of life, which has been set in motion by state and government. When a person is under colonial rule, in order for change to happen, they will have to challenge the very authority that defines how they are to live. I believe that colonization will take Indigenous peoples many years to overcome. The colonial process involves many stages and a changed relationship between the colonizing powers and the people under its rule. The stages of decolonization occur in individuals and general society at different times in their lives because not everyone is capable of healing at the same time or looking at the issues that put them in their colonized positions in the first place.

Colonization has taken form under the Indian Act, and how First Nations people are identified under that specific Act.  If you are status, you have certain rights, if you are not status; your rights are like the rest of Canadian society. It has long been understood that we are governed by a government that believes in assimilation. Though they say they were sorry for such paternalistic acts such as the residential school system and the further actions of suppressing our languages, traditions and culture, I believe there is still miles to go before we see action that will turn First Nations people in favour of how Canada is governed.

Before contact with Europeans, Canada’s Indigenous people enjoyed relatively good health, knew cures for many illnesses, had a governance system that worked well within each community, and traditional wisdom and knowledge of the land as a resource for the community was essential for their health and well-being.

For years, we have been subliminally exposed to a way of life that is not our own. Since colonization, First Nations people have experienced serious physical, emotional and spiritual ill health. We see this in the health problems that plague our people, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and mental health challenges such as violence, abuse, depression, suicide and dependence on addictive substances.

Colonization created many problems for First Nations people. Attempts to assimilate our people were almost successful. Colonizers viewed and treated Canada’s indigenous people as less than, and this has led to an “us against them” attitude. The poverty, mental health challenges and other struggles faced by First Nations people stem from colonial policies and practices.

These practices include the reserve system, laws banning spiritual practices, the residential school system and more recently the 60’s scoop of First Nations children by child welfare authorities. Discrimination still continues. It is still enshrined in policies and practices of Canadian social structures.

In order to decolonize ourselves, it is important to look at the emotional, spiritual, physical and mental aspects of ourselves. We need to look within and tell ourselves, “we will not allow ourselves to be victims any longer.” I strongly believe that when we know who we are, what our purpose in life is and what direction we want to take in life, we are effectively standing up and freeing ourselves to take back aspects of ourselves that promotes health and healing. This is the beginning of decolonizing ourselves.

The first phase of decolonization as I have learned throughout the course of my studies is rediscovery and recovery. Healing can mean many things to individuals. It could mean, reaching back into our pasts and “rediscovering our identities,” going to ceremonies, reclaiming our languages and stepping back from the harmful behaviours we learned and used to cope with our situations.

The second phase of decolonization takes place in mourning.  Mourning is an integral stage in decolonizing yourself from a colonized world. It is through mourning that you begin to look at your past as your past and you actively tell yourself that your past will no longer “guide who I am and what I do in life” In the mourning stage, things are still difficult because you struggle with a lot of inner pain. I know within, that I struggle with many aspects of loss, making my own community and learning to let go of the past messages that were instilled in me as a child.

The third and most crucial stage of decolonization is dreaming. This is where “the full panorama of possibilities are expressed, considered, and consulted. We look at our dreams, build upon our dreams and declare that “nothing will deter us from where we want to go and what we want to be.  A part of my dream has been to return to school. To regain who I was I had to relearn the history of my peoples, learn of their struggles and their triumphs and to become socially aware and write about what I have become passionate about-healing and recovery.

Decolonization is a lengthy process. It is a process that includes the re-evaluation of not only ourselves but of the people who were put in the position of colonizer.  The final two stages of decolonization are commitment and action. It is through commitment and action that the colonizer and the colonized learn to recognize each other’s differences, build a stronger sense of togetherness and have a desire to change. Without a desire to change, the colonized stay colonized and the colonizer stays in a position of power.

Previously published in The Native Canadian Newsletter of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.October 5th 2009

First Wives Club Book Review

 First Wives Club Written By Lee Maracle

Review by Christine McFarlane

Renowned First Nations author-Lee Maracle has another new book out. Maracle’s new book “First Wives Club” has just been released by Theytus Books.

Lee Maracle is a member of the Sto:loh Nation of British Columbia and has had a career that has spanned a period of more than thirty years. She has produced many Native publications in literature that include novels, short fiction, and essays. Some of her acclaimed include Ravensong, Sundogs, Bent Box, I Am Woman, Will’s Gardens, Daughters Are Forever and Bobbi Lee, a legendary first book published more than thirty years ago. She has also co-edited My Home As I Remember and Telling It: Women and Language Across Cultures, and her work has also appeared in many anthologies.

Maracle’s new book “First Wives Club” is an amusing collection that takes you on a journey through various life experiences. Experiences as an Aboriginal woman, university professor, and activist and lastly as a single mother.

One of her stories in the First Wives Club titled “Goodby Snauq” speaks of the mythical Raven and how the Raven has shaped us and built us for transformation. Transformation that Maracle relays in story about the history of her people and the struggles they had to endure from colonial contact- the disenfranchisement and “dredging and altering” of her homeland and how they “could not gain citizenship or manage their own affairs” unless they forewent who they were: Squamish, T’sleil Waututh, Musqueam, Cree or whatever nation” they came from.

 Maracle’s ability to weave stories together is amazing and this collection does not disappoint. She writes each story uniquely and addresses such issues as female sexuality and creative empowerment, loss, strained relations, and fuses all genres of writing in a tone that is candid and holds nothing back.

First Wives Club is now available at bookstores and through Theytus Books. Check it out you will not be disappointed!

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Vices: By Christine McFarlane

I have four vices, maybe five but I don’t like uneven numbers. I will stick to the number four. My vices, diet coke, cigarettes, coffee and gossip magazines. They all feed into each other. When I don’t have access to one, my use of one of the others multiplies tenfold.

I don’t know why I have these vices specifically. I foolishly let myself believe that at least three of them are not that dangerous, but deep down inside, I know nicotine can kill, the aspartame in diet coke can kill my insides, the chemicals eating at my intestines. My gosh I once heard that coca cola can be used to clean machinery. I’m not a piece of machinery, far from it. I’m a living breathing entity. I deserve to treat myself better.

Coffee seems innocent enough but that’s why coffee shops make so much damn money. They know they can pull people in for that caffeine fix. People live for their caffeine fix. We live in a world where everyone’s rushing; no one understands that it is good to stand still once in awhile. Coffee is a stimulant and it keeps you going. It lies to the neurons in your brain making you believe that without that fix-you cannot live. Damn those headaches.

Gossip magazines, they’re another thing. There is something about seeing someone famous on the front page, and reading the lies that are manufactured about them. What happened to the days, when we took things at face value, and never risked telling something untrue because we knew it could get us in trouble. No one wants to face the wrath of knowing you’re living a lie. Gossip magazines, I like them. I dig into my pocket each week and buy two or three at the closest convenience store. I know its easier to read about someone else’s life, someone I don’t know and laugh at the drama than to deal with my own drama and look deep within myself.

I have my vices. I know that everyone does. My vices, I would like to believe that they are safe and keep me out of harms way, but deep down I know that they serve as a mask. A mask to what I often ask myself. I’m not sure I want to find out.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Three Sisters Formation- Blue Mountains NSW Australia

The Three Sisters Formation- Blue Mountains NSW Australia
The Three Sisters is a grouping of 900 meter peaks and refers to a legend of three Katoomba sisters who wanted to marry three brothers from the Nepean tribe, contrary to established custom. A witch doctor transformed the sisters into rocks to protect them in an ensuing battle, but the shaman was killed before he could reverse the spell. This legend is claimed to come from an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime Legend of the Gundungurra People of Katoomba New South Wales, Australia, an Indigenous tribe whose land surrounds the Blue Mountains area, where I visited while on a five week summer abroad program to Sydney Australia.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Great Escape:

The Great Escape
By: Christine McFarlane
The day of my great escape began like any other day. I woke up only to find myself staring at the four dull light brown walls around me. My small bedroom consisted of a set of wooden bunk beds, a dresser and a desk and chair that faced a window. Sunlight could have poured in, but my curtains were often drawn. My bedroom served as my prison. It had bolts on the door and there was an alarm that would go off shrilly if I even touched the doorknob. There was no jumping out of my bed, or feeling any excitement at the new day ahead, because to make any noise meant punishment. Punishment that came in the form of a few good swats on my behind with a flyswatter, a sting of flesh, if they felt like striking me with their hand, or a yelling that made me cringe inside and want to cry. Crying was done in private when I thought there was no one around to hear me.
As soon as there were footsteps outside my bedroom door, my little body tensed, and my heart would pound. I would never know what would greet me that day, a sarcastic smile or if some imagined sin would make me the culprit for another beating. That day I was tired. Tired of being held hostage, I wanted to be free. I remember clearly, the sound of the bolts on my door being undone, the sharp ping as the alarm was shut off. The door opened and there was my adoptive father with a tray in his hands, my breakfast. A breakfast that consisted of two slices of white bread with peanut butter and jelly spread thinly upon it, cut into four little perfect squares. The tray was put down onto my desk, I was told to eat, and my adoptive father exited. I did not leave the edge of my bed until he had left the room, and I heard the locks going back into place, and the alarm being turned back on. I ran over to my desk, as soon as I heard my father’s footsteps disappear down the hall. I looked at my food, sat at my desk and hungrily gulped the sandwich down. My stomach grumbled but not in hunger, it grumbled with anxiety and a fear that my seven- year old mind could not figure out. As I ate, I was careful to not make a mess of any kind. In essence, I was trained, trained well. I learned to be as quiet as possible and to only do what I had to do when I was given the okay. Just like a puppy obeying his master.
What seemed like hours was only mere minutes. I recall eating my sandwich, rearranging everything on my tray, making sure that everything was lined up perfectly, getting up from my desk and tiptoeing to my bedroom door to knock and let someone, anyone know, I had to go to the washroom. Though the bathroom was across the hall from my bedroom, it felt like an eternity, when my door was opened and I was marched across the hall to do my deed, and then marched back to have my door close and locked behind me once more.
My adoptive mother was a stay- at- home mom. She did not have to work because our adoptive father was the breadwinner in the family. But for some reason that day, everyone had left the house early. My sister and I were left behind. I did not know where my older brothers were and I really did not care, because they never paid any attention to me anyways. I listened anxiously as I heard the rest of the family leave. When I knew in my mind I could relax and let my guard down.
Playing in my room got boring. I could only play so long with my Barbie dolls, dressing them up and pretending they were my friends or that I was a mom, as I carefully brushed their hair and spoke to them. They were my only company in that bedroom. I remember having some paper, and a short stubby little pencil. My sister could have given it to me, my memory is not too clear here, but I would pass some of my time by drawing. I would sit cross-legged or lie down on my stomach and just draw whatever came to my mind. I shared my drawings with my sister by passing them to her under my door. Ten months older than me, my sister was my friend and my supporter. She would look at my drawings, and I can distinctly remember her telling me “good job.” I yearned to hear kind words, to hear appreciation of some kind, and my sister would do that when we had those rare moments of keeping each other company through my closed door. When my sister sat outside my bedroom door, we would talk about anything that came to mind. That day, I whispered to her through the locked bedroom door, that I wanted to run away. I wanted to be free.
My sister and I were allies in the situation that we lived in and I know that she must have pondered how I was feeling, and known that by letting me go free, even if it was only for an hour or so, that I would feel happy. I do not think she really thought of what could happen to her, let alone me, by unlocking my door and letting me go.  I remember hearing her go down the hallway, hearing the dragging of a chair so that she could reach the bolts on my door and unlock them. I remember my elation when I heard my bedroom door become unlocked, heard the ping as the alarm was turned off.  I was FREE!!!
At first, I was afraid to come out of my room. I was like a little deer frozen in headlights, not knowing what to do or what to say. But then I smiled, the biggest smile I could muster up from inside. I sprang into action, my freedom had come and I think at the time it meant more to me than the fear of what could happen to me or to my sister if it was found out that she had set me free. I remember leaving that big house; where our neighbors thought my family lived the perfect life. I had my coat on, and I carried a backpack, with a couple of books, after all I could not miss school! I had twenty dollars that my sister had carefully taken from our oldest brother’s room, and a loaf of bread. My sister told me, “the loaf of bread is for when you get hungry.”
I recall my little legs pumping as I ran out the front door of our house, and my heart pounding as I got myself to the asphalt on our street. I looked both ways as I left my front yard, and walked along as nonchalantly as I could. In my mind, I was telling myself, “I am on a mission.” As I walked, I knew that I had to be careful about my parents seeing me, so every once in awhile, I would see a bush, hide behind it, pop out from behind it, run for a little bit, stop and then hide once more.
My first stop in my great escape was stopping at a convenience store. I walked into the store, and walked around looking at everything. As I did, I noticed that the store clerk was looking at me kind of funny, so I grabbed a brown bag from the counter-the bag the size of a lunch bag, that I had often seen other kids carry to school. I went to the candy section, and began to fill my bag with everything that I could possibly think of. Oh the days of five cent candies and penny gum! After I filled my bag, I went to the counter, reached up and gave my twenty dollars to the clerk. In my seven-eight year old mind, I did not see anything wrong with buying a huge bag of candy. I was in heaven!!
I left the convenience store, and carried on with my journey. By that time, I had walked across six big blocks. It was a feat that I felt proud of. Somehow I made it to my friend’s house. Here it was, bright and early, and I was standing below her bedroom window. Knowing that I could not yell, I picked up a few pebbles, and threw them at her window. My friend’s name was Natalie. She poked her head out her window, and asked me “What are you doing? My mom is going to hear you!’ But I did not care, I told her “ I am free, I ran away and I am never going back.”
In my mind, I fantasized that I could go and live with my friend Natalie and her family, and my adoptive parents would never have to see me again. But that thought was quickly squashed, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw my friend’s mom come around the corner in her pajamas. She softly asked me “What are you doing Christine?” and I burst into tears. Through my tears I told her that I had run away, that my parents would not miss me and that I wanted to live with them because I did not ever want to go back to my adoptive parent’s again.
The enormity of my situation finally hit me. I was more afraid than I thought. My friend’s mom gently pulled me into her arms, hugged me and then steered me towards their house. I remember sitting in their living room, looking around anxiously, and my friend coming out of her bedroom in her nightgown. For a few minutes, I was allowed to see my friend’s bedroom, and then we had to have breakfast. I gobbled my food down as though I had not eaten in weeks, and then the news came-I had to go home.
Since it was a school day, my friend’s mom drove us to the school. I sat in the secretary’s office as my friend’s mom quietly spoke to the principal. My heart was heavy. The principal called my mother, and after what seemed like an eternity, she showed up. I sat up straight and put my best defiant look on my face. To keep up appearances-my mother apologized to my friend’s mom for my unexpected visit, she grabbed me, and I went home, rather grudgingly.
Years later, I found out that when my parents discovered me gone from my room, they grilled my sister. My sister would not admit to unlocking my door. She let them believe that I had somehow managed to open my bedroom window, climb out the window; slide down from the roof and onto the sidewalk. I call this adventure, my great escape because for the longest time my parents never understood how I got out of my room. When I look back on it now, it makes me laugh because I realize that the bond my sister and I had while we lived in that situation was what got me through the roughest moments. We taught each other courage and we had each other’s back, and that was something that we both needed in order to survive.

Writer’s Digest - 5 Tips To Polish Your Fiction

Writer’s Digest - 5 Tips To Polish Your Fiction

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Poem: By Christine McFarlane

I Remember...
By: Christine McFarlane
I remember
When I first laid my eyes
Upon you
Something told me
You would be the one
The one
I would want to spend my time
The one
Who would grab my attention
Like no one else had before
I remember
Your laughter
And how it could
Make everyone else laugh
Around you
Your smile
Melted my heart
And made me feel warm inside
I remember
The first time
We spent the day together
I didn’t want to go home
You told me
I could stay over
You weren’t shy
You came right out
And said
“I want to fool around
With you”
I remember
The first time we lay down
Beside each other
In your bed
And your hands caressed me
I wanted to scream
From the desire you conjured up
Within me
I remember
Our first kiss
And how it made me melt inside
And made me want more
I never tired
Of your company
I wanted to be with you always
You made me see a part of me
That no one else had before
I remember
The last time I saw you
You invited me over for dinner
And I couldn’t refuse
If it meant
Spending more time with you
I didn’t know
That it would be the last time
I saw you alive
Or that I would never again be able
To reach out
And feel
Your arms around me
Or have one more kiss
Planted on my lips
You left this world
And when you did
You took a part of me
With you
I miss you
More than you will ever know

A Different World: By: Christine McFarlane

A Different World:
By: Christine McFarlane
There is a gentle breeze around me as I sit by the water’s edge. I hear the occasional chirp of a bird and spot one or two ducks calmly floating on the waters of Lake Simcoe. As I am sitting on the rocks, it is as though a shawl has come down and wrapped itself around me. I am lost in my thoughts; there is no one or nothing that can disturb me. Not a soul is in sight.
As I am sitting, I pull my knees up to my chest; my hands are clasped around them. I am hidden from the road by an expanse of grassy land as I sit watching the waters of the lake. I am dressed in my usual attire, jeans, t-shirt, running shoes and a light jacket. I do not notice the coldness of the rocks on my backside, or the lapping of the water getting closer and closer to my feet. I am lost in thought, thinking about long ago, about the teachings I have learned and have received.
As I sit reveling in the silence, I wrestle with the knowledge that I live a life my ancestors did not know. They did not know the sounds of car horns honking, hear the incessant ringing of cellphones or have technology at the tip of their fingers every time they turned around. They did not have to escape just to experience some silence. They did not experience the jostling of bodies as they navigated their way around on a day-to-day basis, nor did they know that the appreciation of everything and everyone they knew around them would disappear, and that it would take everything you had inside to get that appreciation back.
Selfishness and greed became a part of life, and nothing was ever enough. It is today that I sit consumed by thoughts of what used to be. I yearn to know what it is my ancestors experienced. I want to learn the ways of my people, bring back tradition and culture and speak my language so that I can pass it down to the generations behind me.
            I heard a long time ago that there was a time when Mother Earth was respected. A time when “we maintained relations with the whole natural world,” and we as First Nations people believed “the people, animals and trees spoke the same language.”(oratory, February 2010)
            We could step outside and not worry about the chemicals or toxins we breathed in. We could walk and appreciate the silence that surrounded us. We did not have to hear a cacophony of sounds, see garbage laying around, worry about where our water was coming from and that if we went for a dip in the lake, we could catch some type of disease or bacteria that lay in the waters that surround us today. We could go out on the land and be unafraid of the animals that roamed, and not worry that it was possible they could become extinct.
I am an urban Indian. I have never known anything outside of city life. I did not grow up on my reserve-Peguis First Nation. What I knew of reserves was what I had read in the newspapers or heard on the news. That news was never anything good. You just have to think of Kashechewan First Nation and how infamous it became in the media due to the problems that plagued them- the flooding and the contaminated water.
The community of Kashechewan is located in the district of Kenora. It is a First Nation of the Albany Reserve #67. The community is located on the northern shore of the Albany River, 10km upstream from James Bay. Kashechewan is known for being situated in an area that is susceptible to flooding and that in times of flooding, community members often have to be relocated until flooding subsides. This upheaval has shaken the community in many ways.
I remember picking up the local native newspaper “The Native Canadian” in 2005 and reading “Kashechewan faces possible relocation from a land they know and have grown up on, due to flooding and contaminated water.”(2005) I read about the problems they faced such as high unemployment, poverty and the lack of suitable housing.   In my studies at the University of Toronto, I have been learning the history behind First Nations people and their communities. I have learned how upheaval can have a devastating impact both physically and psychologically, especially in a culture that holds great importance in connection with the land.  Upheaval is all too familiar to many First Nations people.
Our governments have made policies and the advancement of technology and consumerism has made many forget  “a way of life” that was once centered around for the Haudenonsaunee-the Great Law of Peace, and for other communities- the 7 Grandfather Teachings. Teachings that encompass “neb-wa-kah-win (Wisdom), ma-na-denaa-moowin (Respect), zaa-gi de-win (Love), gwak-wad-di-zi-win (Honesty), ack-ko-day-a-win (Bravery), dub-ba-say-ni-moo-win (Humility), and day-bway-win (Truth).”
 As I am sitting on the rocks by the waters of Lake Simcoe, I am thinking of the waters that surround me, the way of life that used to be and the worldview that has been introduced to me by a woman who has brought me here to her reserve. It is a place that I can learn from and appreciate. This woman has gone out of her way to help me bridge the gap in my mind of what city life and reserve life is like. She has gone out of her way to instill within me, a knowledge I had thirsted for all my life-to know who I was, and to understand that Native people are really no different than those who live in the city. This was all contrary to what I had been raised to believe in.
 It was Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, a professor in the Aboriginal Studies Department at the University of Toronto and a First Nations member of Georgina Island who introduced me to a new reality, who taught me to challenge my perceptions of Aboriginal Canada and open my mind to new experiences and ways of thinking.  When she brought me out to her reserve for the first time, I never knew that I would be introduced to a new worldview. A way of thinking that would challenge by very way of being, and how I saw the world around me.
While at Georgina Island, in that first visit five years ago and in subsequent visits afterwards, I have learned about family and community. I have listened to stories, have heard the importance of having a voice and telling our stories. She has also taught me that a home is a home wherever you make it. It can be wherever you want it to be-whether that is in the city or on the reserve. Your home can be made to reflect the worldview you believe in.
At Wesley-Esquimaux’s home on Georgina Island, you see history of the past intermingled with the present. Her place reflects her interest in bridging the gap between Native heritage of the past and the contemporary contributions that Natives make today. It is in the artwork that adorns her walls and the wide range of books that is a book lover’s dream to look through. I remember when I stood on that deck,  took in what was around me and walked down to the waters not far from her house, how transformed I became.  It is easy to look at the lake, and see the changes that have happened in it. Where it once was clear and now it is murky. You cannot help but wonder what the future holds for such a beautiful place, when there is such change happening elsewhere.
Wesley-Esquimaux’s impact to change the perception of Aboriginal Canada has not only affected me, it has impacted many students, including Raigelee Alorut, an Inuit woman from Iquluit.  Alorut stated that it was through Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux that she learned to discover more things about herself and how “ I see the world differently,” because Wesley-Esquimuax imparted “we cannot change the past, but we can learn to live with what has happened by finding our voice and we can gather strength each time we tell our stories.”
For generations, according to Wesley-Esquimaux, “First Nations women’s voices were silenced in historical narratives that sidestepped their influence and power,” and “today First Nations women are increasingly using those voices to reclaim lost stories and narratives.”(20)
Through Wesley-Esquimaux and other influential First Nations women, I am learning to rebound from negative experiences and awakening a social and cultural resiliency that I never thought was in me before. I have learned much from my visit to Georgina Island. I have learned in Wesley-Esquimaux’s words “to scale the wall of personal, community and national resistance,” by learning to open my eyes and see that within I have a voice that needs to be heard, and as a First Nations woman, through story I can help to further the change in how Aboriginal Canada is perceived.
It is time for me to head back to the mainland. I know my ride is waiting. I reluctantly stand up from my perch on the rocks at the edge of Lake Simcoe. I brush myself off and pull my jacket closer to me. The curtain that was once around me has risen. My reverie is broken, by the reality that I have to head back to Toronto. I pull out my camera. I want to capture the stillness that surrounds me, just in case my memory forgets.
Before I climb up to the road, I take out some tobacco, and gently sprinkle it on the waters that stretch before me. As I watch it slowly being swept away by the waters, I say Chi miigwetch for what I have learned, and what I have seen. I turn to walk away, but I am not sad. I know that I will be back.

Works Consulted:

Guthrie-Valaskaksi, G. Dion, Stout, M. Guimond, E, Restoring the Balance: First Nations Women, Community and Culture.  University of Manitoba Press. 2009.

Maracle, Lee. Class discussion, 2010.

Native Canadian newsletter; Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. 2005