CHRISTINE'S BLOG

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!

Miigwetch

Christine

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sources: feds ending negotiation on specific claims

Sources: feds ending negotiation on specific claims

Ottawa to present final offers in stagnant land claim negotiations - CityNews

Ottawa to present final offers in stagnant land claim negotiations - CityNews

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Following Your Dreams:


Following Your Dreams:
By: Christine McFarlane

Aanii. Christine nitishinaakaas. Peguis nitoonci. I was a part of the 60’s and 70’s Scoop where many First Nations youth experienced disconnection and removal from their families, communities and culture. As a result of this  I grew up without knowing my culture or having a sense of identity as to what I could do or become. I was often told that I would never amount to anything or be successful. A self destructive journey that I began slowly turned around when I encountered certain individuals in my life, who told me “they knew that I could overcome the obstacles in front of me.”

I could have become another statistic that we so often see with many of our First Nations youth who grew up under these same circumstances, but I learned with encouragement from others and perseverance that if I followed the dreams I had always wanted, I could walk a different path. Though following my dreams came later in life to me than it may have for others, it has still happened. I returned to post secondary education, became a freelance writer and embarked on a personal journey that led me to finally learning who I am as a First Nations woman. I have learned to embrace the culture, traditions and language of my people, once lost to me.

When you are a child who is essentially ripped  away from your heritage and culture, it is easy to question who or what you may become later in life. I had fanciful dreams of being rich and famous, thoughts of wondering how I could overcome the battles I was fighting within and even wondered if I would survive long enough to see any success in my life.  It remains hard for me to believe that a mere few years ago-I could not see anything beyond my very own existence.  My eyes are now open,  I take in the world around me and I thirst to know more about everything and what I can do to make a difference. The knowledge I seek has become universal.

My journey has not been easy, but I now know no one’s journey in life is easy and there are many ups and downs. It is like a rollercoaster ride. One day we can be at the top of the Ferris wheel and the next, we can feel like we are at the bottom. Through many rollercoaster rides we learn how to handle each situation as it comes our way, and as we master each ride, our confidence and self esteem grows.

In following our dreams, whatever they may be, it is important to surround ourselves with people who help us to see the best in ourselves, and who will encourage us no matter what we may be going through- that WE do matter, and that we can make it. Finding out what we want to do can be hard, but when we learn what our gift is, the rewards of doing something you love can be immensely gratifying. Perseverance has helped me to follow my dreams. I have become a writer, I have graduated with my bachelors degree at the University of Toronto and most of all, I have a sense of focus that I never had before.  It is that new sense of focus that helps me to keep looking forward. Chi miigwetch to those who helped me realize that not only can I gaze at the stars in wonder and reach for them, I can make my dreams a reality.  Opening my own eyes has helped more than you will ever know.



 (Coming Soon-This piece has been accepted for publication with the Ministry of the Attorney General)


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review:

Path to reconciliation means educating Canadians

Author: 
Review By Christine McFarlane
Volume: 
29
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2011
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back
By Leanne Simpson
Review By Christine McFarlane
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence And A New Emergence, a new book written by academic and Niishnaabeg scholar Leanne Simpson, is a must read if you want to understand the philosophies of and pathways to reconciliation, what reconciliation means and what lay behind it for Indigenous peoples and the Canadian nation/state.
Simpson asserts reconciliation must be grounded in political resurgence and must support the regeneration of Indigenous languages, oral cultures, and traditions of governance.
She believes reconciliation is a, process that will take many years to accomplish and though reconciliation is promoted as a “new way” for Canada to relate to Indigenous people, it is anything but that.
Simpson writes “Indigenous peoples attempted to reconcile our differences in countless treaty negotiations, which categorically have not produced the kinds of relationships Indigenous peoples intended.”
She questions the ability of Indigenous people and the Canadian state to reconcile “when the majority of Canadians do not understand the historic or contemporary injustices of dispossession and occupation, particularly when the state has expressed its unwillingness to make any adjustments to the unjust relationship.”
She asserts that “reconciliation must move beyond individual abuse to come to mean a collective re-balancing of the playing field,” and “this idea is captured in the Nishnaabeg concept aanji maajitaawin: to start over, the art of starting over, to regenerate.”
She said Canada must engage in a decolonization project and re-education project that would enable its government and its citizens to engage with Indigenous peoples in a just and honorable way in the future.
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence And A New Emergence is a book that weaves many issues together but helps readers understand that in order for reconciliation to be meaningful to Indigenous people, we need to interpret it broadly and support Indigenous nations by regenerating everything that residential schools attacked and attempted to obliterate.
Throughout Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back, Simpson examines Creation stories, works with the language, walks with Elders and children, focuses on celebrations and protests, and stresses the importance of illuminating Indigenous intellectual traditions to transform their relationship to the Canadian state.
This book provides a valuable perspective on the struggles of Indigenous peoples but also highlights the rich and vibrant ways in which Indigenous people continue to engage themselves.
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back is published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Published in Windspeaker

Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: Into the Daylight: A Wholistic Approach to Healing


Into the Daylight: A Wholistic Approach to Healing Review

Calvin’s Morriseau’s book “Into the Daylight: A Wholistic Approach to Healing” is a highly engaging and informative book that details not only his journey into healing but also offers insight that offers the gift of healing to others.

This book is an account of the personal and collective struggles of First Nations people and how aboriginal and non-aboriginal people can use the principles, which held traditional societies together in the past, to promote harmonious and cooperative relationships alike.

Morriseau outlines fundamentals for healing that he has learned over his years of training in counselling and addiction studies; his education in traditional practices by aboriginal Elders and teachers; and his personal recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction abuse and the effects of assimilation, racism and poverty.

Morriseau relays that “for years (I like many of my people) knew nothing of history, creation story, beliefs, values, customs and traditions,” He only knew that “Indians were savages ‘inferior’ to the non native.” He came to see that “as our culture began to change, our whole system of sharing and interdependency slowly began to shift towards an individualistic perception of life. This shift, in turn, destroyed the sacred ties that connected our families and communities with one another, and as a result Morriseau came to believe that Anishinabe people are people who are in pain and this painful cycle appears to take form where the individual, their family and their community become alienated from each other’s existence.

Historically, Morriseau notes, “prior to our discovery of Columbus, no one person was more important than the next. All members needed each other’s cooperation to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment,” and “this environment also helped its people by bringing them closer together into a cohesive and interdependent family unit.  It was during this time, Morriseau relays that “Everyone within the community was held sacred. The philosophy of sharing was instilled in children from the time they were old enough to understand. Respect for all creation was taught as a discipline, which guaranteed harmony among its members, and this harmony in turn guaranteed cooperation among members and became a value expressed in their spirituality.” He further writes that the circle of life fully encompassed all of the Creator’s children and included the four elements-humans, animals, plants and minerals, and each of these beings were considered brothers and sisters to one another, thus deserving of respect and honour.

With the shift after contact, it is noted that we have moved away from thinking that all is equal and sacred to a way of thinking based upon power and control. “Having assimilated into a system based upon the concepts of a hierarchy, where those who have the power are found at the top,” we have in turn turned away from the ways of our ancestors-where we viewed everything in life as being interconnected, thus losing our ability to respect and honour what goes on around us.

Morriseau suggests that Native healing is done on the intrinsic level: that healing is a matter of the heart and doesn’t involve just the ‘head.’ He suggests that deep inside we all have the ability to be healers and what we lack is confidence and knowledge to recognize what is important in healing.

Furthermore Morriseau relays that  “modern psychiatry and medicine have done their damage to Anishinabe people by suggesting that wholistic healing is not a natural way of healing with our problems. Mainstream society tells us you must have a PhD or equivalent certificate to heal others,” and “this concept is not only invalid for our people- it does not consider the importance of our Elders and traditional healing methods-but damaging, because mainstream healers do not always understand us.”

“Into the Daylight: A Wholistic Approach to Healing” is a deeply informative book that is about accepting responsibility and making choices that give us the freedom to enter into recovery and recapture the cooperation, sharing, balance, and spirituality that enabled our ancestors before us to live in harmony with each other and Mother Earth.

Morriseau personalizes this book by going back into his issues of self-abuse and feelings of abandonment and betrayal, and offers a wealth of insight to the reader.  He does not suggest that he knows everything about traditional healing methods but he offers different ways of viewing healing that challenges mainstream society.

One model he suggests includes not just looking at yourself but also looking at community and family, and I found it interesting how he suggests you look at your pain. He relays that through work with Elders, he was often told that there are four things you can do with your pain- you can run from it, you can become numb to it, fight it, wage war against yourself, your family or society or you can deal with it, learn from it and help others who experience similar traumas and make it your friend.”

He also suggests taking responsibility for our bodies (eating properly and watching what we put into our bodies, understanding our sexuality,( it has much to do with being complete, being comfortable with oneself and feeling at harmony with all of creation,) taking responsibility for our breath (respecting our life and others around us)

This book is divided into five sections that focus respectively on The Individual, The Family, The Community, The Healing Journey and lastly Into the daylight: Moving Towards Wholism-the process of creating our own spirituality.

 This book is 104 pages and published by The University of Toronto Press. Reprinted in 1999, 2002, 2008.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: The Hollow Tree: Fighting Addiction With Traditional Native Healing


"The Hollow Tree: Fighting Addiction with Traditional Native Healing"

"The Hollow Tree," according to author Herb Nabigon is a "metaphor for what Western culture has become, an empty shell with no substance." Greed and selfishness rule and the little regard we have for our neighbors demonstrates how unbalanced we are as a people. It also identifies individuals who make up our society, and how many people's misuse of power continues to cause suffering. It is in this suffering that we see many individuals fighting to overcome an addiction or struggling to find themselves when they have sunk so low that they see or have very little hope for themselves.

Nabigon writes 'First Nations people of this country, and indeed many other people from various other cultures, have countless stories to tell of their own personal struggles in breaking free from addiction. For some, the decision to stop "using" came the hard way, in a jail cell or through an accident, and for others healing arose from the ultimatums given to them by their family members who threatened to leave or by their employers who threatened to take away their job"

This book is a memoir of Nabigon's struggle to overcome his addiction to alcohol and the traditional path he turned to, in order to conquer his addiction. He turns to the traditional way- using healing methods drawn from the Four Sacred Directions, the refuge and revitalization offered by the sweatlodge and native cultural practices such as the use of our four medicines, and the use of the pipe. 

Nabigon goes into detail but not too much detail about the pain and suffering he went through in freeing himself from alcoholism. He speaks about the turmoil he went through to reach sobriety, the many choices he had to make throughout his life (some good and some not so good) and how these choices affected him both as a person and, more importantly as an Aboriginal individual. 

The Hollow Tree as a metaphor is intriguing, especially when Nabigon relays that as individuals, we can transform the Hollow Tree into the sacred tree.  Nabigon believes that " it is time to remember our sacred connections, to transform that hollow tree into the sacred tree it was meant to be."

By turning the "hollow tree" into the sacred it involves  taking responsibility for our individual lives and acting upon our responsibilities in order for us to follow our "paths" with our hearts, instead of with the greed and ill will that so often consumes people in this day and age.

"The Hollow Tree"  is also about making choices and being honest with ourselves. It provides a framework for those who are interested in taking a more spiritual approach to their healing and it also offers a glimpse into our culture for the non-Native individual. It teaches us how to take these healing concepts and build better relationships at home, at work, or in school. It gives us permission to share these concepts with others so that not only we can bring healing to ourselves but to those around us.

Nabigon believes that our society can balance itself out if more emphasis was placed upon the spirituality in our every day lives, and "honest and kind faith will transform "hollow trees" into caring, balanced beings.

This book is a testament to the power of indigenous culture to heal. I am sure that if I had known about this book when I embarked on my own journey of healing, it would have explained a lot of what I was going through, and in the throes of it helped me to understand that I was not alone in my fight to health because there are so many people out there who are still fighting.

"The Hollow Tree: Fighting Addiction with Traditional Native Healing is written by Herb Nabigon, a professor in Native Human Services at Laurentian University. It is 118 pages and published by McGill-Queen's Native and Northern Series McGill-Queen's University Press. (http://www.mqup.ca)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Chocolate Woman Dreams The Milky Way



Chocolate Woman Dreams The Milky Way:
By: Christine McFarlane
I must admit that I am not one to really attend theatre performances; I can count on one hand the performances I have taken in within my lifetime, and that’s not to say I don’t support the arts, because I really do. The arts is an amazing field that deserves a lot more support than it currently gets, hint, hint…. Conservative government!
Recently I went to go and see Monique Mojica in her show “Chocolate Woman Dreams The Milky Way.” It was playing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, 79A St. George Street, at the downtown University of Toronto’s St. George campus.
I recall feeling a bit uneasy at first because besides my friend Tyler Pennock who happened to be the Performer’s Assistant at this show, and the ticket person at the door, Tannis Neilson, a renowned artist herself, I was alone at the performance and had no one to really bounce feelings off of as I sat mesmerized by the story being played out in front of me, and the raw emotions that it evoked within me.
“Chocolate Woman Dreams The Milky Way” follows a Kuna woman who has lost her way and can only find out who she is by connecting with her history and her culture. Though there is a journey and no actual plot, you can’t help but be mesmerized by Mojica’s playful movement, the energy she evokes as you see her dance gracefully from one mola to another (a mola in the Kuna culture is a traditional blouse worn by the Indian women. It is made from two intricately appliqu├ęd panels and is considered an art form) moving from one character to the next, and the snippets of song that she breaks into especially when at one point she is on the floor, holding a blanket that represents her holding a baby and she sings a lullaby to it. It sent shivers up my spine and almost had me crying in my seat at the same time because the emotions were so strong.
Mojica-along with Gloria Miguel telling stories in counterpoint-creates layers of meaning within her play, meaning that really touches you and has you leaving the play with lingering thoughts and emotion you yearn to understand.
 Miguel, founding member of New York’s Spiderwoman Theatre, has the qualities required of the wise, maternal guardian of the stories being told, and between the two, they make “Chocolate Woman Dreams The Milky Way”  a show you must see!
I still have a lasting impression inside my head- the images of Mojica’s movements across the stage, and Miguel’s booming voice as the story and the journey of this Kuna woman unfolds before your eyes. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Published in "xxx ndn" 2011- my poem "I Remember"

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
 With
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
And
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





Friday, July 1, 2011

Toronto's Largest Outdoor Pow Wow Brings Community Together


Na Me Res Pow Wow on June 25, 2011, Wells Hill Park, Toronto, Ontario


A pow wow is a great way for a community to come together and celebrate a heritage that is rich and vibrant. Whenever there is a pow wow, it is an event that I look forward to attending. It gives people who are not familiar with First Nations culture, a chance to see how rich First Nations culture is. It can empower  those who grew up without a chance to experience their culture, traditions and ways, a chance to see the different types of  dancing, hear drumming from various groups and foster a greater understanding within.

The pow wow experience means two things to me. It is empowering and it helps bring a sense of belonging to something that I felt lost to while growing up- culture.



In going to a pow wow, I love the sound of the drums, the images of those who dance and when a pow wow is held in the city, it does a great service for those First Nations who have only known the city. It brings culture to us and allows us to experience something we may not have otherwise had a chance to learn.