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!



Friday, December 31, 2010

Writer's Digest blog - Promptly - Novelist Charlaine Harris: "If it pleases you and you can write at all, it's gonna please somebody else."

Writer's Digest blog - Promptly - Novelist Charlaine Harris: "If it pleases you and you can write at all, it's gonna please somebody else."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sometimes: By Christine McFarlane

Love can happen
or enter your life
just once in your lifetime

Love can happen
Making you feel
Like you are walking
On cloud nine

And then disappear
Like a whisper
In yesterdays' wind

Turning feelings
Into distant memories
And leaving you questioning

Will I find that kind of love

Love can happen
Or enter your life
Just once in your lifetime

And then disappear
Like a whisper
In yesterday's wind

Turning feelings
Into distant memories
and leaving you to wonder

What could have been.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What is a Piece of Paper?

I ask myself, what is a piece of paper? To some it is just something that can be crumpled up and thrown away-it is something that just holds words that may not mean a thing.

I ask myself what is a piece of paper?  Today I received a piece of paper that not only means everything to me, but it is also the only tangible thing I can hold close in memory of my biological father. I have nothing else besides an archived copy of the obituary notice I found in the Winnipeg Star.

Death in any family is difficult but I cannot even imagine what it was like for his family when they got the news that he was murdered December 18, 1990. It is with this thought, that I offer peace to the family I do not know and put down a tobacco tie in honour of his life.

I ask myself, what is a piece of paper? To me it means everything-its the one thing I can hold in my hands and say "I know my father existed, here it is"

I write this in memory of my biological father- William John McKay Jr. I hope that wherever you are in the spirit world, you are at peace, and I hope that if you are looking down, I am making you proud.

What is a piece of paper? To me it is the only tangible thing I hold in my hands for now  that will remind me that you once lived, and that is something I can hold onto until some day I find a picture of you.
Gladys Radek-Walk4Justice- Top Ten Finalist for Social Change Category in CBC News Champions of Change Contest- Vote to show your support!

       Canada's Champions of Change is a contest the whole country wins. This unique program celebrating volunteerism, hosted by Mark Kelley of Connect with Mark Kelley, is a CBC News production in association with Outpost Magazine. More than $100 000 in donations will go to the winners' charities from Manulife Financial.

Have questions? Contact Champions of Change.

Courtesy of

P.S. I recently posted a story on my blog in regards to Gladys, I will be re posting it once it has been published via the news media outlets I have sent it to... Chi miigwetch..

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some Writing Advice from a Freelance Writing Website-Writing Etc

Outlining Options
Beth Ann Erickson

You don't have much time, and you've got an article to crank out
ASAP. What do you do? You write fast.

A key to writing fast is to have effective organizational tools at
your fingertips, and one such tool is the outline. Here are some
quick ways to organize nearly anything:

* Organize your article chronologically. If your information lends
itself to presenting the information in a sequence of ideas or
events, select this organizational tool: this happened first, this
happened next, etc.

* Organize your article by space. Spatial order is good for using
in descriptive or informational articles. If you're explaining a
scene, place, person, or object, this organizational method works

* Topic order works if you need to cover main points. You simply
select the point you want to present first, then second, then
third, and boom... you're done. You can refine this by going from
general information to more specific; most important to least
important; any order you decide.

* You can organize your article by problem/solution. Here, you
present a problem, then conclude with your solution. Very simple,
very effective.

Want a fun exercise? Take one topic and write one article using
each of the organizational methods. You'll really sharpen your
writing chops if you do this. Plus, it's fun. :)


You can use any of these articles free of charge on your own
website or zine. Just don't make any changes and be sure to include
this  byline:

This article is courtesy of Filbert Publishing. Make your writing
sparkle, write killer queries, get published. Subscribe to Writing
Etc., the free e-mag for freelancers and receive the e-book "Power


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Understanding Worldviews: By Christine McFarlane

First Nations peoples have a particular understanding of the ways in which the world has come into being, and the ways they have come into being as a people. This particular knowledge is often conveyed in the context of stories, myths and legends.  Through the different texts we have used in class, there is a varied difference between how history and story is relayed from an Aboriginal viewpoint in comparison to how it is relayed by a non-Aboriginal viewpoint. My focus will be on this distinct difference.
The varied differences of how history and story is relayed via the different worldviews-Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal are clearly evident when we look at the various stories written by Norman Quill, Cecilia Sugarhead and William Jones and then compare it to the Historical Perspectives of “The Ojibwa of Berens River, Manitoba: Ethnography into History,” written by A. Irving Hallowell.
Hallowell who, in his time was one of the most influential figures in American anthropology relays in his work a combination of “ethno historical, ecological, ethnographic and sociopolitical analyses” (ix)[1] in regards to how he saw the Berens River Ojibwa of that time. The way in which it is told is quite typical of the time period in which he is speaking from-the 1930’s. His account shows a cultural bias in the way that he describes the Ojibwa way of life, as he very dryly states “I found these Indians to be much less acculturated in many respects,” (Hallowell) and “I was convinced that the presence of modern clothing, utensils and ostensible Christianity were not reliable clues to their culture as a whole,”(Hallowell) and “there were retentions from the past that only detailed investigation could expose.”(Hallowell)
I bring the above point up about Hallowell’s quote because it is from this account that we see the difference in which stories are told. From an anthropological viewpoint, we are witness to how anthropologists often look at the ways of life of a people and how things came to be through an analytical lens- and that they determine cultural realities through investigation, and categorization. Their investigations are intended to determine “civilization, political systems, advanced technology, science, math, medicine and ecological knowledge systems,” (09/21/2010) and categories in Hallowell’s text are labeled in sub titles, such as “Part 1 (Historical Perspectives), Chapter 4 (Seasons& Subsistence/Winter Hunting Groups/Hunting Groups vs. Hunting Territories/Summer Fishing Settlements, and Kinship Patterns and Social Organization)”[2] and so on.
 In contrast, history in the Aboriginal worldview is relayed via storytelling.  It is through story/myth and legend that we learn of creation, history, and how we are supposed to live our lives. It is also within story in the Aboriginal worldview that we become engaged without the linear chronology that we see in the Western paradigm.
Story/myth and legends within the Anishinabe worldview is interesting but can also be complex if you have not been immersed in that way of thinking previously. They also reflect a play of imagination that characterizes important relationships between the human and non-human.
Myth reflects several vital features of the Ojibwa worldview, and the reader becomes privy to how the Ojibwa see the world around them. We learn how they classify humans and non-humans, and we see how as far as “outward appearances is concerned,” (Hallowell) there is no “hard and fast line”(Hallowell) to how something can be viewed, unlike how things are defined in the Western worldview. Myth is also in the words of Hallowell “considered to be true stories, not fiction.” (Hallowell)
The story “The Flood,” written by Norman Quill is a creation story of how the earth came to be. It is reflective of how the Aniishnabe peoples understand the relationship between language, culture and stories, and how through story they are recreating their culture for future generations, so that teachings will not be lost.
 “The Flood” is also a depiction of how Wiiskecaak is on a quest to hunt and kill a lion. As he goes about his quest and trying to kill the lion, he learns many lessons. The lessons, amongst many, are about taking only what you need, the importance of sharing, and not being greedy. This is reminiscent of how we have often been told in class discussion about Aboriginal hunting practices that you not only “use what you have,”(09/28/2010) but also “ you repay in a beautiful way,” and “you help the animals that you have used.” (09/28/2010)
Story/myth and legend serve as teaching tools. They teach us lessons of morality, law, governance and how everything is interrelated in one way or another. While examining the historical account by Hallowell, and then reading the particular story of “Blue Garter” written by William Jones, I was reminded of the words “stories are difficult but they make you become involved because you question it.” (10/19/2010)
In “Blue Garter” the reader is introduced to kinship terms, behaviors- the role of Ego, and social organization. These terms are important in the Ojibwa worldview because it is understood that through kinship and behavior there are “three simple principles that determine the general pattern of the system” (Hallowell) and “structure the basic social interaction of individuals,” (Hallowell) and it is through Ego and its two parts that we present ourselves to the outside world. As I understand Ego-there are two parts involved and this is the human self and the social self. Though both of these parts of our Ego are needed to live in this world, it is through the social self that we present ourselves to the world in a good way or in a bad way.
The story of “Blue Garter” is an account of how an elder sister takes care of her younger sibling through the various stages of their lives, and how this relationship slowly becomes mirrored in the brother’s later relationship with Blue Garter. As the brother is about to embark on his journey outside of his home, his sister states “My little brother, think of me if ever at any time you are in deep trouble over something.” (Quill)
When the brother begins to feel sad and asks himself “Why did I ever leave my elder sister,” a new woman enters his life- Blue Garter.  There are two ways that you can look at the story of “Blue Garter”.  One, you can see it as a love story, where Blue Garter steps in to help the youth when he is tested by the woman’s father around various tasks, and the protection she offers, or you can see it as the Ego stepping in and serving the young man in a selfish manner. I raise the issue of selfishness because it appears that the young man cannot see beyond his Ego and that he is very capable of doing the tasks that are set out for him, and Blue Garter in a sense is a part of his Ego that steps in to provide the protection the young man still desires from his older sister.
 On the other hand, the reader can also see that the narrative of  “Blue Garter” as about getting in touch with your feminine side, and learning to respect that side of yourself. The femininity is often about learning to take care of yourself, and others. I saw Blue Garter as being in his life as a reminder of the strong relationship he had with his elder sister, and that within the Aboriginal worldview, the woman is seen as the strong one. Readers can see the story in many different ways, because meaning is different for everyone.
Opinions were varied within class about the meanings behind “Blue Garter” and it was raised by a few of my classmates that they saw ‘overdependence’ on the young man’s part for his sister looking after him, and the different views were intriguing because it had the entire class engaged in questioning and also brought about the question from lecturer Alex McKay “Who is Blue Garter?” and within the context of how Jones wrote about Blue Garter, we are faced with not only questioning but also looking deeper into ourselves to figure out “what role does she play,” and “how do you deal with the feminine side in your life, do you have respect?” (10/19/2010)
Kinship and social organization is another important feature of the Ojibwa worldview. It is not something that is new to Anishinabek peoples because even before the introduction of the band system, kinship and social organization often “functioned as direct guides to interpersonal relations, since customary attitudes and patterns of social behavior, including sexual and marital relationships were implied in the use of them.” (Hallowell)
“The Legend of Aayaahsh” can easily be seen as a story about morality and kinship and how Aayaahsh has to learn to live the ‘proper way’ in relation to the position and role that he plays in his family.
I find that the ability to question stories within the Anishinabe worldview is intriguing because within my own learning experience outside of Aboriginal Studies courses, I have found that it can be quite difficult to question something in a non-Aboriginal context. This is where there is another distinct difference in the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal worldview, because questioning stories is one of the ways that people learn within the Anishinabe worldview and learning can be likened to a quest. I find it to be the opposite in the Western worldview, because the idea of questioning someone or something can often be looked down upon, hence- the hierarchal nature of the Western paradigm.
The varied differences in how history and story are told can be further analyzed in the chapter of Hallowell’s text “Ecological Adaptation and Social Organization,” and the two stories “The Five Moons of Winter” and “The Moons of Winter,” written by Norman Quill and Cecilia Sugarhead.
The above stories in comparison to the reading of Hallowell’s text are unique because they bring about the issue of acculturation, and relay specifically a knowledge that encompasses everyone and everything and it is a knowledge that comes from living on the land and paying attention to the ecology around them.  Acculturation brought about many changes to First Nations peoples lives, and even though they had to learn to not only adapt ecologically, linguistically, socially and culturally, they still managed to hold onto their stories, their legends and their myths and the traditional manner in which they try to live has helped them to adapt to the world we live in today.
In conclusion, there are many distinct differences in how worldview can be perceived by the Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal individual. I like that Hallowell states “we cannot impose distinctions and classifications of phenomena derived from another worldview,” because this is when cultural worldviews tend to clash with another culture and this is evident in how Hallowell attempts to examine the Ojibwa worldview within an analytical lens.

Works Cited:

Irving A. Hallowell. The Ojibwa of Berens River, Manitoba: Ethnography into History. pg.5-67

McKay, Alex. Native Language and Culture class: September/October 2010. Aboriginal Studies Department University of Toronto.

Quill, Norman. 1965. Ed. Charles Fiero. The moons of winter and other stories. Red Lake, ON: Northern Light Gospel Mission.

Sugarhead, Cecilia. Ninoontaan/I Can Hear It: Ojibwe Stories from Lansdowne House. Memoir 14. Algonquin and Iroquoian Linguistics. 1996

[1] A. Irving Hallowell. The Ojibwa of Berens River, Manitoba: Ethnography into History
[2] A. Irving Hallowell. The Ojibwa of Berens River, Manitoba: Ethnography into History

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Water Rights: By Christine McFarlane

Water is a basic human right. All people deserve the right to a clean and accessible water source. However throughout the world people are struggling for this basic right, especially First Nations peoples. Changes to the land and to our environment have changed our landscape dramatically and my paper will be on how water as a basic right for Canadians takes on a whole different meaning for First Nations people and their communities.
Water is sacred, when you look at it from a First Nations perspective. It is a critical element to life. Every living being relies on water for life-insects, fish, birds, wildlife and plant life and we in return rely on them for our survival. According to Elder Violet Poitras from Paul First Nations, Alberta “ Many people take water for granted. Yet water serves our every basic need. We drink water to quench our thirst. We need water to grow and cook our food. When we are sick with a fever we are soothed by water. We cleanse our selves and our homes with water,” (Duncan; Bowden) and “when we pray we offer water as an offering. Water is needed for our ceremonial sweats.”(Duncan; Bowden)
The sacredness of water according to Dr. Deborah McGregor is “recognizing the vital importance of water to survival. Water is the blood of Mother Earth. Similar to blood, which circulates throughout our bodies, nutrients flow into the land via water. Without our blood serving its proper functions, we would die. It is the same with water. If it cannot perform its functions, we, as part of the Earth, will perish.”(McGregor)
It is with the above quote in mind that as a First Nations woman, I find myself asking “what would I do if I did not have safe drinking water?” and “what will it take for the rest of society to respect our waters, so that all Canadian citizens, especially First Nations peoples and their communities have safe viable drinking water?” 
According to the document “INDIGENOUS PEOPLES KYOTO WATER DECLARATION: Third World Water Forum, Kyoto, Japan in March 2003,” it is stated that Indigenous peoples now see “the ecosystems of the world have been compounding in change and in crisis”(Indigenous Environmental Network) and that “ in our generation we see that our waters are being polluted with chemicals, pesticides, sewage, disease, radioactive contamination and ocean dumping from mining to shipping wastes.” (Indigenous Environmental Network) Furthermore we see “our waters being depleted or converted into destructive uses through the diversion and damming of water systems, mining and mineral extraction, mining of groundwater and aquifer for industrial and commercial purposes, and unsustainable economic resource and recreational development, as well as the transformation of excessive amounts of water into energy.” (1ndigenous Environmental Network)
Within the western paradigm, I have noticed that society communicates the values of consumption, individualism and economic gain, and it is through these values that water is not respected and First Nations peoples have to fight to keep the sacredness alive in the waters that surround their territories. It is clear that water has become a commodity in our society of today. It has become, something that can be bought, sold and traded in the European-Canadian economic, legal and colonial system. Our water systems are now rife with exploitation, mostly on the part of our government systems, and huge corporations.
Within my research on water, I have noted there are at least 97 First Nations communities that face the reality of not having safe drinking water on a regular basis, and these statistics are staggering to say the least. Another important issue to note are the gaps in laws that would ensure safe aboriginal drinking water, because it is through these gaps that there is a continued risk of unsafe water for First Nations communities. These gaps have yet to be remedied, though the federal government announced public consultations for a new regulatory framework that would have taken place in the spring of 2009.
 It was in 1995 that Health Canada and the federal department of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) reported that an estimated one quarter of First Nations community water systems posed potential health and safety risks and eight years later in 2003, authors Linda F. Duncan and Marie Ann Bowden note that INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada) identified a continued significant risk to the quality or safety of drinking water in three out of four First Nations drinking systems” based on the federal “Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.”  They further argued that “thirty percent of the communities were deemed high risk,” (Duncan; Bowden) and “Costs to remedy the situation were at that time at close to a billion dollars by INAC,” and based on visual inspections only.
The fair treatment of First Nations peoples according to Merrell-Ann S. Phare, author of “Denying the Source: The Crisis of First Nations Water Rights,” has never been consistently high on the priority list of governments in Canada; in numerous cases, such as fulfillment of treaty requirements, some governments have been outright obstruction-ist” (Phare)
This statement is further backed up in the article “Anishnaabekwe, Traditional Knowledge and Water” written by Dr. Deborah McGregor in the book “First Voices: an aboriginal women’s reader,” where she notes that “The voice of Aboriginal people remains largely absent in the discourse around water protection in Ontario.” (McGregor)
 According to the book “A Legal Guide to Aboriginal Drinking Water: A Prairie Province Perspective,” the authors state that the law for safe drinking water in Canadian First Nations communities has been succinctly described by the federal Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) as not being the same for “people who live off reserves”(Duncan; Bowden) and this is partly because “there is a vacuum of laws and regulations governing the provision of drinking water in First Nations communities, unlike other communities,”(Duncan; Bowden) and though “INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada) and Health Canada attempt to ensure safe access to safe drinking water in First Nations communities through their policies, administrative guidelines and funding arrangements,” (Duncan; Bowden) this approach does not cover “all the elements that would be found in a regulatory regime for drinking water, and it is not implemented consistently.” (Duncan; Bowden)
            There are many First Nations communities that can be cited for their difficulties with unsafe water but I will briefly mention three communities Kashechewan First Nation reserve in Northern Ontario, Bkejwanong Territory (Walpole Island), and Georgina Island, a community that I have visited on Lake Simcoe.
 Kashechewan made headlines in October 2005 when after living under a boil advisory for two years were ordered to leave their community when their drinking water tested positive for elevated levels of E.Coli. According to further reports by CBC about Kashechewan, there were “ two major evacuations in 2005 as a result of floods,” and Alan Pope, a special adviser to the federal Indian affairs minister recommended in November 2006 that the community be relocated to the outskirts of Timmins. The report that was released suggested a number of other options other than evacuation that included “moving the reserve to higher ground about 30 kilometres away or keeping the reserve in the same place.” (CBC News)
A new water treatment plant was also built in 1995 to replace the old one that had deteriorated beyond repair, however some residents of the reserve say ‘the new plant was built too small and could not handle the expansion that the community underwent.’ The intake pipe for the new treatment plant was placed downstream from the community’s sewage lagoon, and tides from James Bay pushed the dirty water back and forth across the intake. With this happening, there was a worsening of common skin problems, such as scabies and impetigo, and a “quarters of the community’s residents were airlifted to the Northern Ontario communities of Timmins, Sudbury and Cochrane. Another 250 were flown to Ottawa. The evacuation is estimated to have cost $16 million dollars” (CBC News)
Bkejwanong Territory (Walpole Island), as cited in McGregor’s article “Anishnaabekwe, Traditional Knowledge and Water” states that “residents began protesting what was happening to the water by responding to Imperial Chemical Industries’ indication that they wanted to dump more pollution into the waters flowing around Bkejwanong Territory (Walpole Island),”and that “Indigenous women in the Bkejwanong territory (Walpole Island) had noticed changes in water quality,” and in particular “birth defects and other changes in animals like the meat of the snapping turtle began to turn yellow.” (McGregor) And lastly I will mention Georgina Island.
 Georgina Island is surrounded by fresh water. According to Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux, an anthropology and social work professor from the University of Toronto, a very active advocate for water rights for First Nations people and a member of the Lake Simcoe Science Advisory Committee that was established in 2008  “People cannot drink the water and children get sick when they swim in the water especially in mid summer.” 
Wesley-Esquimaux goes on to relay that the “ biggest threats to Lake Simcoe are human activity, invasive species such as zebra mussels and other invaders that were introduced by fishermen as live bait and high levels of phosphorus,” and that “too much phosphorus causes an imbalance of life in the lake.” (Anishinabek News)
Government knowledge of the magnitude of the risk to First Nations drinking water and the lack of laws is not recent or anything new to First Nations peoples and their communities. According to Merrell-Ann S. Phare, author of “ Denying the Source: The Crisis of First Nations Water Rights,” it is important to “gain an understanding of Indigenous people’s water rights,” and it requires “knowledge of the choices Europeans made (and Canadian governments continue to make) to minimize the important place of Indigenous peoples in Canada.” (Phare)
In conclusion, we need to address the issue that “all Indigenous rights have, at their foundation, a connection to lands and waters, and that they all rely upon intact, functioning ecosystems,” and this issue could begin to change if “we adjust our vision and view of water in our lives”(Wesley-Esquimaux) because “it is time to see water through a sacred lens, Aboriginal people have been waiting. (Wesley-Esquimaux)

Works Cited
Aboriginal Canadians:Kashechewan: Water Crisis in Northern Ontario. CBC News., 2005. Retrieved November 29, 2010

Duncan F. Linda; Bowden Marie Ann. A Legal Guide to Aboriginal Drinking Water: A Prairie Province Perspective. pg. iii-2. Alberta Law Foundation. 2009

Indigenous Environmental Network: Third World Water Forum, Kyoto, Japan. pg. 1 March 2003. Retrieved November 20, 2010.

McFarlane. Christine. “Georgina prof on Simcoe committee.” Anishinabek News. pg.3 September 2008. Retrieved November 26, 2010

McGregor Deborah. Anishnaabekwe, Traditional Knowledge and Water. pg. 134-139 FIRST VOICES: an aboriginal women’s reader. INANNA Publications and Education Inc. Toronto, Canada. 2009

Phare. S. Merrell-Ann. Denying the Source: The Crisis of First Nations Water Rights. pg. 16 Rocky Mountain Books. Surrey, British Columbia. 2009.

Natalie Goldberg- Author of "Writing Down the Bones"