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!



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Live Love Art... Vive l'amour de l'art...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Journey Back Home

My Mom and I

A Journey:
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

The Canadian state has long had policies that were made to destroy First Nations families. Apart from residential schools, and other colonial practices, the next worst thing that the Canadian government did was to remove First Nations children from their birth families and adopt them out.

Making the journey back home is one that is wrought with many emotions. It is an emotional rollercoaster that can be exhausting because it consists of initial excitement and elation and can quickly turn to frustration, anger and then give way to a certain sadness that will tear at your insides if you are not careful.

I just came back from a two and a half week visit with my birth mom and her partner. The visit had me leaving Toronto, hopping a plane to Winnipeg and then taking a two-hour Greyhound bus ride to a little town called Ashern.

Ashern, Manitoba is located in the heart of Manitoba’s Northwest Interlake and is a sleepy little hamlet of about 1,500 to 2,000 people. It is about an hour away from my home reserve of Peguis First Nation. My visit served many purposes. It was not only about spending time with my mom but it was also about having a mini vacation away from everything so that I could work on my memoir manuscript and learn more about my family history and legacy.

This visit wasn’t my first time home; I had gone to see my mom back in October 2012. The emotions I encountered this time around were at times difficult to deal with, as I sat and listened to the stories my mom and her partner told me from years ago. I was told stories that spoke to the colonial practices and policies that have been instilled by the Canadian government. I heard stories that detailed the loss of language, culture and tradition, and the ensuing estrangement of family members, the onslaught of addiction issues, diabetes amongst family members and death. I was told about so many deaths that my head spun. There was the murder of my maternal grandmother at the hands of her own sister, the murder of my biological father, the ensuing words that were issued to me by my mom’s partner

“Your dad died like a dog in the street.”

Those words hit me like a semi truck and not only made me seethe inside at how someone could have the gall to say such unkind words, but also made me feel an overwhelming sense of sadness because there were questions I had about my father that I now knew would go unanswered. It may sound like I am complaining, but I’m not. I’m telling a truth that not many people want to hear- many First Nations families are reeling from losses that go back generations. The losses are not just physical, they are also emotional, spiritual and mentally.

My siblings and I were taken from my mom as mere toddlers. The years that ensued after that consisted of my mom just trying to get by in any way she could. She has lived in abject poverty, has been dealing with mental health and addiction issues, struggles with diabetes and is trying her best to be a mom to a woman (me) even though she grew up herself, without her own mom.

The rifts in First Nations families that have been caused by the Canadian state are staggering, and though it saddens me immensely, I also see an amazing amount of resilience on the part of my mom that makes me choke up and hold the tears back that I want to shed.  

My mom is one strong woman, and I admire that immensely.

Room Magazine's Annual Contest is on! | Room Magazine

Room Magazine's Annual Contest is on! | Room Magazine

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Come Celebrate-Cherie Dimaline Launches New Book and Muskrat Magazine Launches their Resistance Issue

Join celebrated Metis author Cherie Dimaline and Muskrat Magazine as they celebrate the launch of their Resistance Issue and raise a glass to toast the release of the highly anticipated novel by Cherie Dimaline 'The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy'


Come and hear inspired readings, jam out to some 49ers, dance, enjoy the art of burlesque and celebrate!

No cover. 19+ event. Show up early to ensure entry
263 Adelaide Street West (at John St), 4th Floor

Cash bar, free snacks, and copies of Dimaline's award winning first book Red Rooms (Theytus, 2007) and the new novel The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy (Theytus 2013) for purchase. Get a copy and get it signed.

Guest reading by poet Giles Benaway, author of Ceremonies for the Dead (Kegedonce Press 2013).

Sponsored by:
ASAY (Aboriginal Student Association at York)
Steamwhistle Brewery
Theytus Books
First Nations House at the University of Toronto

Inspiring women showcased as core of communities [review] | Windspeaker - AMMSA: Indigenous news, issues and culture.

Inspiring women showcased as core of communities [review] | Windspeaker - AMMSA: Indigenous news, issues and culture.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Journey Home to Winnipeg

(Note: This is part of a short story from my manuscript of my trip to Winnipeg in October 2012. Wanted to share a snippet of my journey home)


Travelling is in my blood. If I don’t pick up and go at least once a year, I get antsy. It didn’t used to be like that, but when I started traveling a few years ago, I began to like it. There was just something about packing a suitcase, standing in line at the airport, going through check in and settling in your seat on the airplane and taking off to a new destination that makes me smile.

I wasn’t heading to a warm destination this time like California or Belize or out west to Banff, Alberta but nonetheless I was traveling. This time around I was heading to Winnipeg to see my mom. It was late October, not the greatest time to head to what everyone calls Winterpeg, but my flight was booked and I was raring to go. My mom had sent me monies to get myself an airline ticket with monies she had just received from the government for her residential school settlement.

My first trip that we had talked about had been postponed, but this time, even though I had butterflies in my stomach, I didn’t back down.  I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around, I hadn’t seen her in ten years and she had only just started contacting me a few months before we decided that I would go out and see her again at her new place in Ashern, Manitoba.

Ashern, Manitoba is a sleepy little hamlet with about 1,500 to 2,000 people, and around an hour away from my home reserve Peguis First Nation. I call this town sleepy, because there is literally no action in the town at all, unless you are witness to the antics that my mom’s partner gets up to-like banging on the door, waiting for you to answer the door and then yelling BOO at you, and laughing when he sees your annoyance, or walking through the doors of the resource centre, where my mom and her partner go every day to hang out, have coffee and shoot the breeze. Even then, the most action you get is people laughing and joking around or breaking into singing snippets of songs.

This was my second time traveling to Winnipeg. My first visit had been over ten years earlier when a repatriation worker organized a reunion between my mom and I and we had stayed at the infamous Regis Hotel in downtown Winnipeg. This time, I didn’t take the bus or take three days to get there. It was a two-hour airplane flight. My friend Jackie had helped me book the flight through West Jet airlines, and I had arranged with another friend Verne to pick me up and drive me to the airport.

Arriving at the airport was uneventful, but walking through security screening was a bit embarrassing especially when I accidently left my belt on my jeans and set the alarm off. Annoyingly, I was told by the airport security

“M’aam please step back, remove your belt and come through again.”

I remember my heart racing and my face turning about fifty shades of red, as the line up behind me grew and I had to walk through screening one more time.  As I walked through screening, I was muttering to myself

“Please, let me get through this without setting off that damn alarm again.”

My prayer was answered because I passed security this time, but the anxiety of what had just happened had me breaking into a sweat, as I gathered all my stuff, and hobbled over to a nearby chair to put my shoes and belt back on.

I had a window seat on my flight to Winnipeg, which I totally loved, because I could look out the window, and not have to worry about brushing against other passengers or the air flight attendants arms as they walked up and down the aisles with their carts of coffee and drinks.

I remember grabbing onto the arms of my seat, feeling my eardrums pop as the airplane lifted off into the air. As I looked out my window, I saw a circular shining orb that seemed to follow the plane the whole way to my destination. It disappeared as I disembarked from the plane. When I saw this orb I felt truly blessed and wondered, “is this my ancestors showing me they are happy that I am heading back home?”

The city of Winnipeg felt so strange to me. I was a bit afraid especially when I remembered that I had to hang around the city for the day until at least 9:30 at night.  I didn’t know what the heck I was going to do. The only money I had was in my wallet, a couple of twenties, maybe a ten-dollar bill, and my change purse looked even leaner than that!

I didn’t know what to expect of Winnipeg, because people had always told me “Winnipeg is pretty rough, and you have to be careful.” I recalled newspaper accounts of crime in downtown Winnipeg, and I had read about the racism shown towards Native people. How can you not forget, when the media always blasts this across the airwaves of radio and television, or the articles you read in your daily newspapers?

I retrieved my baggage and went down a set of escalators, pulling my overloaded suitcase behind me. I was heading to the nearest exit so that I could have a much-needed cigarette. AH! Winter, you gotta love it, I thought as the revolving doors opened to a below freezing wind that hit me smack dab in the face.

After drawing a few puffs from my cigarette, and smashing what’s left of it under my foot, I gather up the courage to go over to a valet waiting outside his car at the arrivals door to ask for directions.

“Excuse me, sir, how do I get to the Greyhound bus station?”  The man’s face lights up, and starts waving animatedly as he says, “Just cross this street, go through the underground parking lot, and the station is right there.”

“Thank you, sir!” I say and start my trek. My back is aching, from my heavy bags, and my non-existent Nish butt hurts from sitting for two hours straight. Ten minutes later, I arrive at the Winnipeg Greyhound station, and make my way to the counter.

“Hello, I need a one way ticket for Ashern,” I say.

The Greyhound attendant, typing and looking at his computer screen says “ Oh, that bus isn’t until 9:30pm.”

I reply, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” He turns to me and says

“Nope, the bus schedule has been like this for years, but at least you’ll get a lot of shopping in!”

I purchase my bus ticket, and stuff the paper into my purse. I’m looking over at the lockers, and the attendant says “You can store your suitcase there in the lockers, it will cost you five or six dollars more, otherwise you will have to carry your suitcase with you.”

Thinking HELL NO! I make my way over to the lockers. There are big lockers, the size of a kitchen cupboard, and little lockers. As I am standing in front of locker 125, the maintenance man sees my confusion at what locker to use, and comes over to where I am standing. He advises, “Take a small locker and put $5 in so that you can have the maximum amount of hours before your bus comes.”

As I open the locker door, and go to put my suitcase in, the maintenance guy asks me

“Where are you coming from?”

I tell him “Oh from Toronto, do you know how I can get downtown? My bus doesn’t come until later tonight.”

After telling me what bus to take, I walk away; thankful for the kindness this stranger has shown me. I walk outside and cross the small parking lot to the bus stop. I’m alone, I think to myself. I hope I make it downtown all right.

Well, the bus trip should have been easy, but in my anxiety of being somewhere new I made it harder and got myself lost. I was supposed to take the number 15 bus and get off at Main and Portage. The bus driver was anything but kind. I had said when I got on

“Where is the nearest shopping mall?”

His reply was a curt “There are a ton of malls in this city, just sit down.”

Sitting down, my heart was beating like crazy and I hung onto my purse and backpack like there was no tomorrow.  I took in the sights around me, as I traveled all around the city. Dilapidated buildings here and there, the newer buildings seemed like they were all government buildings. “Interesting architecture, and interesting people,” I thought.

After what seemed like two hours, the bus driver finally noticed that I had stayed on his bus for the whole route. He turned around in his seat and motioned with his hand for me to go up and see him.

“M’aam, where did you want to go? You’ve been on here for a long time,” he says.

“Sir,” I mumble “I’ve never been here before and I don’t know where Main and Portage is, or where I can go until my bus comes tonight. Someone told me there was shopping malls that I can go to, but I don’t know where they are.”

“Well, we passed Main and Portage a long long time ago! When you hear the system say CITY HALL, come up to me and I’ll tell you where you need to get off,” he says.

The bus seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Houses are few and far between and the landscape is dotted with industrial buildings. The bus lurches along for a few minutes with me as the lone passenger. Finally I hear the screech of the brakes and a few people straggle on.

From my seat at the front of the bus, I notice that almost all of the passengers are Native like me. A couple of them are pushing baby strollers, the children inside them staring out with big brown eyes. I’m surrounded by Nish, I think, and laugh to myself as I take in the way that they are dressed, and hear the slow drawl in their voices, followed by the inflection eh after each sentence.

I overhear a conversation between a thin white woman and an older Native man

“Hey, how are ya? Says the lady as her eyes meet this Native man’s eyes across the aisle from her.

“Oh, I’m good eh,” he replies

“I haven’t seen you in forever, she says back,

“Where ya been?”

“Oh I was in Halifax eh,” the guy says. A big smile spreads across his face, as his hand pats the battered old suitcase on the floor beside him.”
“I just welcomed my latest grandkid.”

“Oh wow,” says the lady, nodding her head.

There’s silence for a couple of seconds and then the conversation shifts to her old man and how he ended up on probation instead of having to serve 3 years in the slammer.

I shake my head at this conversation I am hearing because it’s not something I would want to be talking about, especially on a bus full of people. I realize though, conversations on the TTC in Toronto are no different than the buses here in Winnipeg.

Through the chatter of everyone on the bus, an automated voice breaks through

“CITY HALL”, it announces.

I get up off my seat and wrangle my way around the two baby strollers and stand at the bus driver’s elbow.

“Okay sir, where do I get off, is it here?”

“No,” he says. Stay right here and I’ll tell you in a minute.”

Hanging onto a bar near the bus driver’s shoulder, the bus seems to speed up, or maybe its my wishful thinking. Two seconds later, the bus comes to a halt. The driver turns and says

“At the lights behind me, cross over where the RBC building is. Go down the steps and there’s Winnipeg Square

“Thank you, sir” I reply as I squeeze between two people who are trying to get on the bus.

My feet hit the sidewalk and I hear the screeching sound of the bus door closing and turn back. The bus leaves a cloud of dust in its wake, as it speeds off.

I AM ALONE. I think to myself, as I turn and make my way across the street. Unfamiliar sounds, sights and smells are all around me. I’m on a new journey.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Profile of a Community Organization-Outside Looking In

Photo By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

* I was given the privilege of attending the Outside Looking In event at the Elgin Winter and Garden Theatre in downtown Toronto as an assignment for one of the papers I write for. I found a lot of times there are inspiring organizations or people out there that don't get a lot of coverage for what they do. I have decided that once or twice a month I will do a post on an organization or person that I find or YOU my readers find inspirational. Feel free to contact me if you would like to be featured on my blog in the near future."

Chi miigwetch!

Outside Looking In

Outside Looking In (OLI), is a unique program that allows youth to express themselves through the arts, specifically through dance. This year OLI had their largest youth participation rate in the program with 57 youth from across Canada giving amazing choreographed hip hop performances at Toronto’s downtown Elgin Winter Garden Theatre on June 4, 2013.

Outside Looking In (OLI) was founded by Tracee Smith in September 2007. In its infancy, the program began as a sole proprietorship, but with its first successful show in May 2008, it fast became an official charitable organization in 2009.

Outside Looking In gives mainstream Canadians the opportunity to learn more about Indigenous peoples, beyond what they see and read in the media, through an annual multi media performance in downtown Toronto. The program was implemented in three returning communities( Lac la Croix First Nation, Onigaming First Nation and Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, and Sandy Lake First Nation joined for the first time this year. 

Communities that become involved in the Outside Looking In program are required to implement at least one OLI course into their school calendar. Students earn at least one high school credit, and OLI assists the community with professional guidance selecting, planning, providing and designing assessment tools that will fit the community that is involved.

Criteria for participating in the Outside Looking In (OLI) program means that the youth have to maintain regular attendance throughout the school term, keep their grades up and attend all rehearsal and practice sessions. Upon successful completion of the program, the youth are brought from their home communities to downtown Toronto for two weeks to prepare for a final huge performance in front of hundreds in a downtown theatre. 

 Securing sponsorship from the Central Neighborhood House charity has allowed OLI to run a pilot program in Toronto this year with youth from the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre. The success of the pilot program has allowed for this amazing dance program to be expanded into  other Friendship Centres and Indigenous organizations across Canada.

I find it amazing that there is such a program as Outside Looking In because it is incredibly empowering to see the youth on stage at the Elgin Winter and Gardner Theatre, with huge smiles on their faces, and just pure glee at being able to show their communities and those outside of their communities a chance to see them shine.

One aspect of Outside Looking In was just implemented in 2011/2012, and that is the Future Leader’s program. The Future Leaders Program was designed to support OLI youth who are approaching graduation to explore future opportunities through positive and encouraging mentoring relationships. Through mentorship, they learn various skills that they can bring with them into their future studies, employment, training and life goals.

The Future Leaders Program involves not only mentorship but also gives the youth an opportunity to attend a week long Future Leaders Camp in March where they visit local colleges/universities, do career searches, resume writing, and attending a Mentor Day in Toronto that focuses on leadership.

If you want to become involved with this organization, please visit 

Photos By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)