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!



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Let's Talk- Bell Let's Talk Campaign and what it means to me

By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Let's talk about mental health and the stigma that still surrounds it. Say I'm feeling more than just a bit blue, let me explain what its like for someone who experiences depression on a daily basis.

Depression for me is like a darkness that surrounds me. No one sees it but me, so essentially it makes me feel really alone. It zaps my energy, makes me a weepy mess and some days makes me not want to get out of bed because it's just too much to have to deal with the darkness and impending doom I feel.

I was in and out of hospital with thoughts of suicide and attempts were made. Three times I almost didn't make it, but I was lucky, the doctors brought me back. That my friends explains the early years of my depression, and the worst thing was that I didn't know what was wrong with me and why I was feeling the way I was feeling.

I was diagnosed with severe depression amongst other things when I was seventeen years old. At its worst, my depression made me miserable and nobody wanted to be around me. I couldn't eat, sleep, be happy or crack a smile for more than a minute. When nobody wanted to be around me, that was when I needed someone the most. I don't blame anyone, I blame the stigma of mental health and what it means to society. Now I take medication that helps me to keep functioning, and to operate on a daily basis. I say that unabashedly because it is has taken me years for me to say "Hey! yeah I have mental illness and it's not something to be ashamed of."

This brings me to January 28, 2015. This is Bell Let's Talk Day. Bell Let's Talk, in fact is a campaign that is very important. It's a multi year charitable program dedicated to mental health. Bell has committed over $67.5 million to support a wide range of mental health organizations, large and small, from coast to coast.

There are four pillars to the Bell Let's Talk Campaign. They involve anti-stigma, care and access, workplace health and research. One of the biggest hurdles with someone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma attached to it. The annual Bell Let's Talk awareness campaign and Day is trying to drive the national conversation to help reduce this stigma and promote awareness and understanding. Bell believes talking is the first step towards lasting change.

Can you imagine how many people would benefit from just knowing that they can sit and talk about their illness? I think of my friend Brian who took his own life in September 2014, and I have so many questions for him. I wonder could his life have been saved? I miss him so much.

According to the Bell Let's Talk Campaign, "Only one-third of those who need mental health related services in Canada will receive treatment." That is why Bell supports a variety of organizations including community agencies, hospitals and universities.

I know if it wasn't for the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH) and the supports from friends, I may not be sitting here today writing this. I am not saying that to be melodramatic, I am saying it because it is true. Depression can be that bad and it was that bad for me.

The Bell Let's Talk Day has a Community Fund that is a part of the Bell Let's Talk Mental Health Initiative. Through the Community Fund, Bell will provide grants in the range of $5,000 to $50,000 to organizations in Canada focusing on improving access to programs and services that support and help improve the mental health and well-being of people living with mental health issues.

On Bell Let's Talk Day, I want to say "I want to see the stigma surrounding mental illness be eradicated. I want people to be able to talk about what it is that is getting to them, so that they don't feel so alone. Lastly I want to say "Don't you think its time to


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Guest Post- Kandy Kennedy on Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants written by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass

 Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

A Brief Critical Review

Written By: Kandy Kennedy

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013) is by far one of the most informative books I have ever read. Right from the beginning of the book she creates an indisputable connection between the scientific world of botany and the Aboriginal ways of knowing and being. By beginning with a reference to the similarities and differences between the Creation stories of the Original Peoples of the Great Lakes and the Creation stories of the western world, Kimmerer immediately draws the reader into a place of intrigue. While the stories are not the same, some of the similarities have left me wondering which story came first.

Although my biased opinions of the comparisons left me feeling that the non-linear instructions rather commands within the Aboriginal Creation story are much more acceptable, there is room for accepting how the Christian Creation story may have been misinterpreted from the time of documentation. After all there has been a lot of miscommunication and inaccurate documentation of Aboriginal worldview throughout history, I believe it is possible that the Western world’s Creation stories could have been misinterpreted as well. While this misinterpretation may or may not have been deliberate there is definitely a hierarchy rather than an interconnectedness created as a result.

Braiding Sweetgrass takes us through the seasons and the landscapes of the Peoples of the Great Lakes with exceptional detail. The detail however, is not typical of a Doctor of botany but rather an emotional story of how the smells, the feel and the sounds of today’s natural world can take us back to historical events and stories of another time. The details of the stories from 1895 and today are vivid and I found myself in the moment, smiling and at times my eyes filling with tears.

 One of my favorite stories is The Council of Pecans, a funny yet sad account of the trying time of her Grandfather’s childhood as a result of colonization. This story is an excellent combination of Traditional Knowledge and Western Science that left me questions about the spiritual components of these wondrous trees and the power unity, a component of Science that dare note be acknowledged by the western academic world. This story tells of the nutritional components of the fruit, the uses in combination with other foods of the time and the deep rooted
respect for the generous bounty the trees provide when fruiting simultaneously. All of this history, knowledge and spirituality is tide up neatly in a story about Pecans and their value in the historic survival of the people and how they remain connected to modern day Ceremony.

The main focus of this book however, is the story of Sweetgrass, planting Sweetgrass, tending Sweetgrass, picking Sweetgrass, braiding Sweetgrass and finally burning Sweetgrass. Through each life stage of Sweetgrass Kimmerer tells stories about her personal experiences at each stage. She includes teachings and stories from Elders and other traditional knowledge holders, many of which are emotionally entrenched with sheer determination to revive or ensure the continued practice of protecting and the stewarding of these medicines and gifts. Some of the stories reflect the effects of war, colonialism and personal loss, while others are light hearted politically motivated, reflecting the tongue in cheek sarcasm of the Aboriginal author Thomas King.

What I truly enjoyed; and I must admit I am envious of, is the excellent job Kimmerer does of incorporating the western scientific details of botany, complete with Latin names, into a language that is simplistic, respectful and useful to all readers. The way she uses story to take the extremely complex and often boring world of botany and transform it into a wonderful example of how two worldviews can complement each other is brilliant. The chemical and biological breakdowns of the plants, while important in a laboratory, are unnecessary to the People and the other beings that are reliant on them for the interconnected life we all have. Kimmerer’s teaching and the experiences she shares with her own family and students incorporates not only the botany but also the traditional uses and values of many plants including some that modern day landscapers deliberately try to destroy (dandelions). Kimmerer takes the time to explain the interconnectedness of all elements, air, water, soil, fire, wind, rain, sun, there are all there and her detailed yet easy to understand explanations of their job and our jobs on Mother Earth is a no brainer. I have nothing else to say about this opus other than I believe it is a must read for all People how ask the questions, can two worldviews ever work as one, why is Mother earth so important and why is it important to give thanks?

She is killing me softly with her song. Excellent!

I Thank You and All My Relations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thursday January 29th, 2015-Library Workshop on Term Paper Research!

Aboriginal Studies is providing a library workshop on term paper research on January 29th, 12-2 for all Aboriginal Studies students! Join us for lunch and then a hands-on session at Robarts Library with Sara McDowell. Please RSVP to:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Weekly Events


Saturday January 17, 2015-7pm- Join us for our next Drum Journeying Circle@ the Life Loft, 390 Dupont Street, Suite 201. Please be sure to read the full invitation details before attending so you know what to expect and can come prepared:

**Spaces are limited thus please be sure to RSVP here or via my website to secure your spot. **

You can read more about the healing work I do, an amazing journey by a seasoned journeyer, and drum journey testimonials here on my website:

Tuesday January 20, 2015-12pm-ᓴᓇᐢᑭᐦᐃᐁᐧᐤ Sanaskihiwew Joins People Firmly Together Smudge IIᓴᓇᐢᑭᐦᐃᐁᐧᐤ Sanaskihiwew Joins People Firmly Together Smudge II

Tawow! Joins People Firmly Together Smudge II is for all people of Indigenous decent regardless of blood quantum to come together as one family. Whether you are Metis, Status, Inuit, Non-status Indian or part of another Indigenous group, we are all family. We can still maintain and respect all our cultural differences. It's time we come together and stop the Lateral Violence amongst our peoples. All Nations are invited to pray for the health and well being of our Indigenous people world wide. Today we pray all around Mother Earth, and ask for forgiveness for how we have treated one another. We pray collectively that we all heal each other, that our families and each other are healthy once again. We pray we come back together as one.

As an Elder once said to me, If you are 1% Indian you are an Indian. I've heard another Elder say if you have one drop of Indian blood in you, you are an Indian.

Smudge in your local area at your local time at noon. If you want to Smudge as a group where you live, then you will need to organize a local event in your area. Pick a place, create an event page then advertise it yourself. This is a collective endeavor where you will need to take initiative in your local area. This World Wide Smudge is an Indigenous led event, wherever possible Wanska: The art of decolonization ask that you find an Indigenous person to lead the smudge, if that is not possible then do your best.

Smudging - Dispell the Myth - Radio Warrior

January 20, 2015-6pm-7:45pm-Delicious & Demystifying@ the Theatre Centre 1115 Queen Street WestA sharing of Indigenous artistry from THE BANFF CENTRE and the NATIONAL THEATRE SCHOOL OF CANADA

Red Sky, in collaboration with The Banff Centre and The National Theatre School of Canada, is pleased to invite you to an evening of artistic discovery with 4 fascinating new Indigenous talents.

Come and hear about their artistry, culture, tradition and their connection to the here and now.

What opportunities await a new generation of creators and performers?

How can these leading Canadian institutions serve your artistic and professional goals and passions? Learn about the programming that is available.

Come. Share. Leave inspired.

Delicious Indigenous cuisine and refreshments
Mix & Mingle and hear from the next generation of Indigenous artists.

WHEN: Tuesday January 20th, 2015 at 6 p.m.
WHERE: THEATRE CENTRE, in the Incubator
1115 Queen Street West, Toronto
COST: Free Admission

CLIFF CARDINAL, Playwright and Actor
THOMAS FONUA, Dancer, Associate Artist with Red Sky
ROSARY SPENCE, Singer, Musician and Designer

Hosted by SANDRA LARONDE (Artistic Director of Red Sky and director of Indigenous Arts at The Banff Centre) and ALISA PALMER (Artistic Director of the English Section at the National Theatre School of Canada)

Artwork by: Aaron Paquette

January 24, 2015- 3rd Annual Grandma Rose Memorial Round dance @ the Native Canadian Centre. Please join us as we celebrate the life of Elder and Grandmother Rose Logan.

Pipe Ceremony: 5PM
Potluck Feast to Follow

Stickman: Gabe Gaudet
Invited Singers: TBD

Raffles, 50/50's, Specials

***donation of raffle and give-away items accepted, please contact Marie Gaudet

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

10th Annual Strawberry Ceremony for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: BIG AIR- The Podium Sports Academy Series by Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Book Review: BIG AIR
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Jax is a talented young First Nations snowboarder who is attending the Podium Sports Academy. Destined to be successful and a star in the making, Jax has it made living in Calgary, and doing what he loves.

Jax loves his billeting family, the Marinos. They treat him well, encourage him and support him in every way they can, but even living with them doesn’t let him escape the problems he faced back home in Montreal with his older brother Mark.

Mark is an addict, and not thinking about anything other than making some cash from his younger brother, he steals money from their dad and sister and makes his way to Calgary. After Jax has a small get together with his friends, Mark’s friends show up at the door flashing knives and say “We heard there’s a party here.”

Jax and his fellow billeting friend Rob manage to deter Mark’s friends from coming in, but they come back later when everyone is gone. Things go awry very quickly when Jax’s brother and his friends come back later. They smash windows in the house Jax and Rob are staying at, steal from the family and Rob is seriously injured when he finds that Mark is trying to take their snowboards. He tries to confront Mark, but is knocked out and ends up in the hospital for several days in a coma.

Jax is torn between family loyalty towards his brother Mark and what happened when the police question him about how the robbery unfolded. At first he lies and says he doesn’t know who attacked Rob, even though he saw the whole attack and knows in his heart he should report his brother.

It isn’t until after a rather zealous and racist police officer talks to him and tells him “You know kid, I wish I could believe you but something isn’t adding up for me. You people think you can do whatever you want and get away with it. You’re given way too much. Why do I have to pay for my daughter’s education and you get it for free.”  And here’s a little story for you. A kid just like you killed my cousin up north on the rigs. You can’t get away with everything. We’ll catch them, all of them and that means you,” and seeing his friend Rob in the hospital, that he contacts the police and does the right thing by telling them what really happened.

Even though he tells the police everything, trouble ensues when the same police officer that questioned him in the first place decides that Jax is guilty of the robbery at the Marino family home and the attack on his friend.

Jax spends a night in jail, while his family from Montreal and his billeting family stand behind him in making sure that he is cleared of the false charges.
Jax has to make the difficult decision of letting his brother finally stand accountable for his actions and sees him go to jail. Despite all this, Jax hopes for the best for his brother and after his friend Rob gets out of the hospital, and asks him, “You think he’ll stay clean when he gets out?”

Jax says “I hope so,” He’s my brother. My family.”

The Podium Sports Academy series by Lorna Schultz Nicholson follows the lives of superjocks at an elite high school as they train for a future in pro sports. Visit for details on the Podium Series.

Big Air is 142 pages long and is published by James Lorimer and Company Ltd. It sells for $9.95 and is perfect for young readers who are 13+. ISBN-10:1-4594-0531-5