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!



Monday, December 12, 2016



Bawajigan: Stories of Power

Dreams (Bawajigan) have always played a powerful role in Indigenous cultures across Turtle Island: they have changed the course of history, and served as warning, insight, guidance, solace, or hope. In Bawajigan (Anishinaabemowin for Dream) – and the 17th volume in the Exile Book of Anthology Series – we are gathering fictional stories about what it means to dream and be Indigenous, how dreams weave their way through our realities, how they impact history, lived experience, and the stories we tell each other and the world. These can be lucid daydreams, waking trances, hallucinations, reveries, reoccurring nightmares, revenge-fantasies, fever-induced delirium, coma, sleep-paralysis visitations, sleep-walking disorders or sleep deprivation, communication with non-human entities, messages from beyond the grave, cybernetic ghosts, vision-quests, ceremony, or ghost-dancing hopes for the future, all while you just try to make it through the week. We want to hear your stories about the strength and power of dreams!

Are dreams merely wish fulfillment? Can they offer healing, guidance or insight through psycho-analysis? What do dreams reveal or conceal? Are they another level of reality? Do computers, AI entities, or androids dream? Are we living inside of a holographic universe? What do animals or monsters or ghosts or devils dream about? What if two people had the same dream? What if there were predators that stalked our dreams? What if designer-dreams became just another product to sell? Do dream-worlds exist? Are dreams multi-dimensional or cross-dimensional realities? Who is that dream-man or dream-woman? What if a dream came true? What if they always came true? Do places incite specific times of dreaming? Are we our ancestors’ wildest dream come true?

What are we looking for?

We prefer stories to be by Indigenous writers - which means anyone who identifies as First Nation, Inuit, Metis, Status and Non-Status (including those of mixed heritage/ancestry). We’d also love to consider Indigenous writers who are not Canadian, but keep in mind that at least 90% of the authors must be Canadian, or who continue to pay taxes in Canada while living abroad.
We also encourage submissions from New-generation (18-30 years of age) and Two Spirit / LGBTQIAP folk.

Submissions including Indigenous languages are also welcome, although please include English translations.

The stories can be influenced by cultural understanding, traditional knowledge, set in modern day/historical/or futuristic settings, but filtered through a fictional lens. Stories can be in any genre, including but not limited to magic realism, alternative history, literary fiction, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, romantic comedy, erotica, urban-fantasy, mystery, and graphic-forms (comics and/or illustrations; we can even consider including a link to an online animation) — they can also be based on mythical creatures, supernatural entities, or technologies that do not exist in real life, so long as the story is in some way about drawing strength from the power of dreams.

Tropes to Avoid: Think of The Wizard of Oz “it was all a dream” ending, and unless you think your story is particularly awesome, try to steer clear of this sort of ending, it can come across as a trick played on the reader at their expense.

Submission Details: 
Original unpublished work up to 5,000 words, fictional stories only. No novel excerpts, poetry or essays. If you have something that almost-but-not-quite fits the criteria as it is laid out here, but it’s burning a hole in your pocket and you are certain of its awesomeness, please do submit it anyway. Legible 12-point font. Please list your name, contact info, and word count on the first page.

Call open from: Dec. 2nd – March 15th

Payment: .05/word CDN

Editors: Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler
         & Christine Miskonoodinkwe Smith

Rights: non-exclusive English World, no re-prints for one year.

Expected Publication Date: November 2017
Submit via submittable:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

President Award Winners for Outstanding Native Student of the Year 2016- Audrey Rochette and Atik Bird! CONGRATULATIONS!

Audrey Rochette, Meric Gertler, Atik Bird

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Native Women's Resource Centre-Traditional Dancing Classes beginning November 14, 2016 with Nichole Leveck Registration Required

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Event Posting- Join Shameless for the Third Annual Shamie Awards on Tuesday October 25, 2016 at the Gladstone 7pm-10pm

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tips to Deal With Anxiety: By Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Tips to Deal With Anxiety: By Christine Smith McFarlane

Anxiety. I am sure we have felt it in one way or another. You feel your heart flutter,
your breathing quickens, your head is pounding and you want to scream, or feel like crying. I've been dealing with anxiety for years and years. I deal with depression and general anxiety and panic disorder.

Even though I have been through years of therapy to learn how to deal with this, my reaction to anxiety and panic never fails- My mind races, I think I am going to have a heart attack or pass out (my worst fear by the way) and then I start crying. I feel very vulnerable and question myself, why is this happening to me?

Once I go through my anxiety or panic attack, and calm down I sometimes find myself reprimanding myself for getting myself into such a fuss, but then realize I have to be gentle with myself, and remind myself to say, "I got through this" The plus is that I have learned to not flee a situation when I go through these types of attacks, and I want to tell you here, that fleeing a situation like this just makes it worse because it builds on the fear that you are feeling in the place that you are feeling the panic in. It is best to leave the situation briefly, collect yourself, and then go back.

I used to feel ashamed to admit to experiencing anxiety and panic it but I don't now because I know it is something that everyone goes through at one point in time in their lives. Having anxiety or depression is not something to be ashamed of. In fact its the shame that you attach to it, that can
make it worse. Here are some tips to deal with anxiety that I compiled from a website
When you're feeling anxious or stressed, these strategies will definitely help you cope. You might question them at first, but if you keep practicing one that particularly works for you, keep at it, and remind yourself to go to it when you experience anxiety or panic yourself:
  • Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health.
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
  • Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn't possible, be proud of however close you get.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
  • Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
  • Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
  • Get help online. Lantern offers online programs guided by professional coaches to help you turn healthy anxiety management into a habit.
I hope this is helpful. It is helpful for me to look at these lists every once in awhile, especially when I am stressing out about school, writing papers, or about something in my personal life. #EraseMentalHealthStigma


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Photo Essay- Sixties Scoop Survivors Get their Day in Court by Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Chief Marcia Brown Martel

Supporters of Sixties Scoop Claim

Mitagaming First Nation Supporters

All Nations Drum Group

 By: Christine Smith-McFarlane

After seven years of delays, Sixties Scoop Survivors finally got their day in court. With an opening with Toronto community Elder Pauline Shirt, around 200 people rallied outside Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto before heading down to the courthouse at 361 University Avenue on August 23, 2016

The Sixties Scoop refers to a period starting in the 1960’s until the early 1980’s in which 16,000 First Nations children were taken from their families and placed into non-native foster/adoptive homes. This practice often occurred without the children’s parents consent and the homes they were placed in caused many individuals to lose their culture, traditions and practices. Some experienced overt racism, as well as psychological and physical abuse.

This event gives those in attendance at this rally and those who are no longer with us a voice and an opportunity to show the government that their history of continued assimilation of First Nations children is not acceptable in any way.

(all photos are taken by Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

NFB (National Film Board) Animation and documentaries shine at TIFF September 8-18, 2016



NFB animation and documentaries shine at TIFF
New features from Ann Marie Fleming and Alanis Obomsawin join shorts by Justin Simms and Theodore Ushev

TIFF2016 - Collage

August 3, 2016 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

Feature-length animation from Ann Marie Fleming, a new documentary by master filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, a short film by Newfoundland and Labrador filmmaker Justin Simms and a multi-award-winning short by animator Theodore Ushev make up a stellar National Film Board of Canada (NFB) lineup, featuring world and North American premieres, at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), September 8–18, 2016.

Making its North American premiere at TIFF, Fleming’s Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming is a feature film about a young Canadian poet who embarks on a whirlwind voyage of discovery. One of Canada’s most distinguished documentarians, Obomsawin is back in TIFF’s Masters program with the world premiere of her latest NFB film, We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice.

Also making its world premiere at TIFF is HAND.LINE.COD., a film by Justin Simms that revisits the Newfoundland community of Fogo Island almost 50 years after Colin Low’s legendary Challenge for Change films, as residents there seek to revive the traditional fishery. The visually stunning Blind Vaysha, Ushev’s 13th animated short to date, has its North American debut at TIFF after an acclaimed European festival run.

Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming – North American premiere/Special Presentation

Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, Window Horses is a feature animation about love—love of family, poetry, history, culture.

Rosie Ming, a young Canadian poet, is invited to perform at a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran, but she’d rather go to Paris. She lives at home with her over-protective Chinese grandparents and has never been anywhere by herself. Once in Iran, she finds herself in the company of poets and Persians who tell her stories that force her to confront her past: the Iranian father she assumed abandoned her and the nature of poetry itself. The film is about building bridges between cultural and generational divides. It’s about being curious. Staying open. And finding your own voice through the magic of poetry.

The film’s voice actors include Sandra Oh (Rosie), Ellen Page (Kelly, Rosie’s best friend), Don McKellar (a young poet named Dietmar), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Mehrnaz, a professor at the University of Tehran) and Nancy Kwan (Gloria, Rosie’s overprotective grandmother). More than a dozen animators, including Kevin Langdale, Janet Perlman, Bahram Javaheri and Jody Kramer, worked on the film with Fleming.

Window Horses is co-produced by Stickgirl Productions (Ann Marie Fleming), Sandra Oh and the NFB (Shirley Vercruysse and Michael Fukushima), and distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media.

A long-time collaborator with the NFB, Fleming has been making award-winning films that deal with family, history, memory and issues of identity for over 25 years, including such NFB films as I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors (2010) and Big Trees (2013). She also adapted her animated feature documentary The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam into an award-winning graphic novel of the same name.

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice – World premiere/Masters Program

In 2007, the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a landmark discrimination complaint against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. They argued that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves and in Yukon were underfunded and inferior to services offered to other Canadian children. The case was subject to appeals and stretched out over nine years, but it finally ended in victory for the plaintiffs in 2016.

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice documents this epic court challenge, giving voice to the tenacious childcare workers at its epicentre―especially Caring Society executive director Cindy Blackstock, who was spied on and harassed by the federal government for her part in this saga. Obomsawin takes us through all the stages of this long legal battle without ever losing sight of the key issues: the well-being of children and the sustainability of Indigenous culture.

A member of the Abenaki Nation, Alanis Obomsawin is one of Canada’s most distinguished filmmakers. For over four decades, she has directed documentaries at the NFB that chronicle the lives and concerns of First Nations people and explore issues of importance to all.

HAND.LINE.COD. – World premiere/Short Cuts

Set in the coldest waters surrounding Newfoundland’s rugged Fogo Island, Justin Simms’ 13-minute HAND.LINE.COD. follows a group of “people of the fish”—traditional fishers who catch cod live by hand, by hook and line, one at a time. Their secret mission? To drive up the price of fish. After a 20-year moratorium on North Atlantic cod, the stocks are returning. These fishers are leading a revolution in sustainability, taking their premium product directly to the commercial market for the first time.

The film is dedicated to the memory of NFB film pioneer Colin Low, who shot 27 films in Fogo Island for Challenge for Change, developing a revolutionary way to use film as a tool to bring about social change and combat poverty. HAND.LINE.COD. is produced and executive produced for the NFB by Annette Clarke.

One of the most prolific and acclaimed filmmakers in Eastern Canada, Justin Simms is especially focused on bringing the Newfoundland experience to the screen, including through his 2014 NFB feature documentary Danny, co-directed with William D. MacGillivray, about former premier Danny Williams.

Blind Vaysha – North American premiere/Short Cuts

Vaysha is not like other young girls: her left eye sees only the past while her right, only the future. Blinded by what was and tormented by what will be, she remains trapped between two irreconcilable temporalities, unable to see the reality that exists in the present. In this animated short adapted from a story by acclaimed Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov, and narrated by Caroline Dhavernas, Theodore Ushev reaffirms his virtuosity in visual experimentation. Using an expressive and powerful style poised halfway between religious paintings and linocuts, Blind Vaysha is a captivating metaphoric tale about the difficulty of being in the here and now.

Blind Vaysha has received four awards to date, including the Jury Award and Junior Jury Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The film was produced at the NFB by Marc Bertrand and executive producer Julie Roy, with the participation of ARTE France.

Born in Bulgaria, Theodore Ushev settled in Montreal in 1999, where he acquired a reputation as a prolific and talented animator thanks to such acclaimed works as his animated documentary Lipsett Diaries (2010), recipient of 16 awards—including a Genie Award for Best Animated Short—and named to TIFF’s list of top 10 Canadian short films of the year.


Associated Links

Stay Connected

Online Screening Room:

Media Relations

Canadian media contact for Window Horses
Bonnie Smith
Star PR
Twitter : @starpr2

Jennifer Mair

About the NFB

The NFB is Canada’s public producer of award-winning creative documentaries, auteur animation, and groundbreaking interactive stories, installations and participatory experiences. NFB producers are deeply embedded in communities across the country, working with talented artists and creators in production studios from St. John’s to Vancouver, on projects that stand out for their excellence in storytelling, their innovation, and their social resonance. NFB productions have won over 5,000 awards, including 15 Canadian Screen Awards, 17 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies. To access many of these works, visit or download the NFB’s apps for mobile devices and connected TV.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Part Two: Finding My Birth Mom

Content Warning: self-harming behaviors

Part Two- Teenage Angst and The Burning Question “Where is my Real Mom?” Turns To
Your Birth Mom Wants to Meet You!

The social worker Kathy was right about the process of finding my birth mother not being easy. It brought on an avalanche of emotions that I didn’t think at the time I could live through. The burning questions I had about my mom increased tenfold and didn’t help my mental health at all. At the time I was going through full blown depression and anorexia. I kept at trying to find my mom because it was something that I just had to know. It had become an all-consuming project now.

There was invasive paperwork to fill out, and I put my name on the adoptive birth registry saying that if they found my mom, I wanted to have contact with her. I also put my name on the registry to find my birth father and birth siblings. I remember the social worker telling me “meeting your mom may not work out to be the best thing for you,” and I admit that at the time my ideas of meeting her were grandiose and a bit out in left field. I thought that if I found my mom, all my problems would be answered. That my mom would welcome me back and we would have the greatest relationship in the world.

Beyond knowing basic info such as knowing that my mom’s name was Anna, that her last name was Smith, I had to research the rest of the information regarding my family. I obviously now knew that she lived out of the province of Ontario, and that I had other siblings due to conversations I had with my former adoptive father and his second wife. But some of their information was misleading too. Some of their information dealt in stereotypes that in my later years I have grown prone to understanding that there was no basis for them.

There were periodic meetings with the social worker Kathy to get updates on the progress of my application and in between that I tried to go on with my life. My visits to my foster home in the county as sparse as they were becoming less and less, and that was through no one’s fault but my own.  Not only was I dealing with trying to find my mom and my birth family, but my mental health was getting worse. Not only was I dealing with depression but I was dealing with the ever emerging desire to self-harm even more through my eating disorder.

I became acquainted with the porcelain bowl known as the toilet, after anything I tried to eat. For some reason I had begun believing that it wasn’t worth having anything in me and I would stick my finger down my throat until I thought everything I had tried to eat had been purged from my system. I had also taken to cutting myself and taking extra medication to the point that I would end up overdosing and be admitted to the hospital. The friends I did have didn’t know how to deal with what I was doing to myself. They thought that if I just ate and kept what I did eat in, I would be okay. But I wasn’t and I didn’t understand it myself.

Between the slippery slope of my eating disorder and my depression, I managed to attend school, do my assignments, but the burning questions that were always in the back of my mind- Is my mom alive? Is she going to want to see me?” 
By the time I did receive the notice about my birth mom I was out of the Children’s Aid Society’s care and living in a dive of an apartment, a block away from the Independent Home I had previously lived in while under the care of the CAS (Children’s Aid Society). It had taken about 6months to a year for me to hear back from the adoption registry office. A long wait indeed.

I remember I was on my way to school and I was going to be late, so I grabbed my mail and ran out of my apartment like a fire had been lit under me. As I shuffled through the mail, I noticed an official government envelope and feeling trepidation as I glanced at it and opened it. My hands were trembling and my palms sweaty. This was my moment, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. In my nervousness I almost gave myself a paper cut by opening the envelope, but there in front of me was the letter with the words jumping out at me:


If I had not been trying to cross the street at the time, I probably would have done a couple of somersaults. My heart started pounding and I was excited. Now that I had the word that my mom was alive and wanted to meet me, I began to realize that meeting my mom would soon be a reality. A dream of mine was finally coming true.

On another note, sadly I found out that my birth father was deceased, murdered at the hands of a so called friend over a money issue, my oldest brother was in an institution and my youngest brother possibly adopted out to the States. Though that news dampened some of my excitement, I was still thrilled that I had found my mom, even if it was just on paper for now.

To Be Continued.....

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Essay: When Worldviews Collide

When Worldviews Collide

By: Christine Smith (McFarlane) 
The First Nations peoples of Canada have a particular understanding of the ways in which the world came into being, and the ways they have come into being as a people. This particular knowledge is often conveyed through story/myth and legend, and it is through these venues that we have come to understand how we as a people were created. 

First Nations peoples are storytellers, and have been since the beginning of time. It is through legends (aatisoohkan (an) or aatisoohkan (ak)) and stories (tepachimowan) that they relate to the world around them. Therefore I am going to discuss how stories, myths and legends play an important role in First Nations peoples' lives, and how creation stories are very much guiding tools that have taught us how to be. I will also briefly touch upon the Bering Strait Theory and how it is a theory that is "not so much science as it is politics."
Let me tell you something first. Creation stories vary from nation to nation, but they all play an important role in the lives of First Nations peoples. So, if a First Nations person were from the Plains area of Canada, their creation story and what they've learned would be different from someone who has grown up in the Great Lakes region and vice versa. 

Though I am originally from western Canada, I have lived in Ojibwa (Anishinaabe) territory since I was a young child. As a means of respect to the land I live on, I must relay what I have learned about the Anishinaabe worldview because I reside on their lands. 

Another important thing to know is that in the First Nations peoples' worldview, story/myth and legend play a huge role in their creation stories. They reflect and characterize important relationships between the human and non-human, reflect who and where the story is being told, and also reflect vital features of the Anishinaabe worldview. 

According to The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway, written by Edward Benton-Banai, the creation story goes like this:

When Ah-ki (the Earth) was young, it was said that the Earth had a family. Nee-ba-gee-sis (the Moon) is called Grandmother, and Gee-sis (the Sun) is called Grandfather. The Creator of this family is called Gi-tchie Man-ito (Great Mystery or Creator). 1
Benton-Benai goes onto relay that
...the Earth is said to be a woman. In this way, it is understood that woman preceded man on the Earth. She is called Mother Earth because from her come all living things. Water is her life blood. It flows through her, nourishes her and purifies her.

On the surface of the Earth, all is given Four Sacred Directions -- North, South, East, and West. Each of these directions contributes a vital part of the wholeness of the Earth. Each has physical powers as well as spiritual powers, as do all things.

It is said when the Earth was young, she was filled with beauty, and the Creator sent his singers in the form of birds to the Earth to carry the seeds of life to all of the Four Directions. It was in this way, life was spread across the Earth. It was on the Earth that the Creator placed all beings -- the swimming creatures of the water, he gave life to all crawling things and the four leggeds on the land. All of these parts of life lived in harmony with each other.

Gitchie Manito then took four parts of Mother Earth and blew into them using a Sacred Shell. From the union of the Four Sacred Elements and his breath, man was created.2
Gitchie Manito then lowered man to the Earth. "Thus, man was the last form of life to be placed on the Earth. From this Original Man came the A-nish-i-na-be people."

From this creation story, First Nations peoples believe that all nations came from this Original Man, and although traditions may differ from nation to nation, there is a common thread that runs throughout every one. This common thread represents a string of lives that goes back all the way to Original Man. 

The Creation story, along with other stories, myths and legends are seen as teaching and guiding tools. They teach us lessons of morality, law and governance and relay how everything is interrelated in one way or another. The Creation story also teaches us how we are to live the good life -- piimaatsiwin. This is why stories/myth and legends are usually "...taught to children in their earliest years, because it not only helps them to view their place in the world but it also teaches life lessons."3
The debate of how First Nations peoples came to be has been going on for years and years. Defining the worldview of First Nations people can be problematic, in the sense that often other cultures have different ways of understanding how they themselves came to be, and this creates a challenge between non-native people and First Nations people. 

In the words of scholar and author of Rediscovering the First Nations of Canada, John W. Friesen, "No one really knows the exact origins of Canada's First Nations; that may well have always been here -- as some of them claimed. Many archaeologists believe the First Peoples of Canada (at least in the west), came to this continent from Asia via Alaska across the Bering Strait as many as 30,000 years ago. Those who adhere to this interpretation estimate that at that time the 80 kilometre wide strait was actually a land bridge that may have stretched to 1500 kilometres across."4
It is further argued by Friesen that American Indian and scholar Vine Deloria, Jr. debunks this theory on the basis that an ocean water level drop of 60 meters would have been necessary to form the bridge so that they could cross, and that Siberia at the time was locked in huge glaciers and its population would have had to be minute. Also, Siberian temperatures at that time would have been such that "it would have been impossible for people to move without freezing to death or falling into glaciers."5
In his book Red Earth, White Lies, Vine Deloria, Jr. makes a very valid point when he argues "When reading these 'scientific' explanations, we must always remember that in order to have land bridges at all, or even an occasional isthmus, we are basically committed to moving a great deal of water around to create an ice age, or we are making the continents rise and fall a significant distance or we are otherwise manipulating a monstrous amount of physical material just to make our theories and speculations seem reasonable." Furthermore, if we were to "follow orthodox methodology, we should not invoke activities of nature that we do not see operative today."6
So you see when there is one worldview -- in this case the Western worldview -- trying to understand a worldview other than their own -- the First Nations worldview -- reasoning or trying to explain something that they don't understand can be seen as highly questionable. 

To First Nations people, the Bering Strait Myth is not so much science as it is politics. I say this because within my research for this column I came across an Indigenous website "Native Circle - Issues: Mistakes, Lies & Misconceptions about American Indian People" that detailed "much objective modern science in the past several decades has even suggested that it is highly questionable if there ever was a so-called 'land-bridge' or 'ice-bridge as some have defined it, because numbers suggest otherwise." 

First ... Many Indigenous Nations have calendars which have been counting the years for a very long time. I am aware that the calendar of the Mohawk Indian Nation has been counting the winters for over 33,120 years. This pre-dates the so-called 'land-bridge' of the Bering Strait theory, unless, of course, the Bering Strait scientists decide to move their interestingly illusive time period for "early migration" of Indians back to 40,000 years! Many American Indian early histories tell of events that took place on this Turtle continent (North America) long before any so-called ice age. But, for political reasons, these histories have been mostly ignored. You see, the Bering Strait, in truth, is a theory that was born of the politics and propaganda of early America. In the midst of the American 'Manifest Destiny' social climate, the Bering Strait theory provided a 'scientific' means to justify the taking of ancestral Indian lands. In short, the mythical theory eased the conscience, as it was a way for land hungry immigrants to believe that, because Indian people were only 'recent inhabitants' of this land, it was not really their 'homeland'. Therefore Indians were, in their minds, not any more the 'original people' of this land than they were. This was, and still is, the political power of the infamous 'Bering Strait theory'. (Native Circle)

In conclusion, the First Nations peoples of Canada have a particular understanding of the ways in which the world came into being, and the ways they have come into being as a people. Their creation stories serve as a testament to how they came to be, and though I am in no way an expert on the Bering Strait Theory, I very clearly understand the ways of my people and the land that I live on.
I understand that the Aboriginal worldview is relayed via storytelling, and 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 as First Nations become engaged without the linear chronology that we see in the Western paradigm of thinking, and that the Bering Strait Theory is something that goes against every teaching that has been handed down to us from our Elders and our ancestors.

1. Edward Benton-Benai, The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway, pg. 2
2. Ibid., pg. 3
3. Alex McKay, lecture, University of Toronto, 16/11/2010
4. John W. Friesen, Rediscovering The First Nations of Canada, pg. 21
5. Ibid., pp. 88-89
6. Vine Deloria, Jr., Red Earth, White Lies, pg. 89
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Part One: Teenage Angst and the Burning Question "Where is My Real Mom?"

Part One-Teenage Angst and the Burning Question “Where is my Real Mom?”
By: Christine Smith McFarlane

I had teenage angst just like any other teenager, but the angst I felt inside was often something I felt no one around me could understand. While living in my third foster home in which I was placed by the Roman Catholic Children’s Aid Society, I felt an emptiness inside me that I couldn’t quite explain. It gnawed at me on a continuous basis, leaving me wondering, would this emptiness I felt ever go away or would it slowly kill me?

I lived in a small town in southern Ontario where I obviously stood out- a brown face in a sea of white faces. I had transferred from the automotive capital of southern Ontario- Windsor to a small town where I knew no one. It was in the middle of my grade eight year, and I remember thinking “what a time to transfer”. The racism was there, but not always noticeable to those around me. But I felt it, and I experienced it.

The racism came out subtly when no one wanted to pick me to be a part of their team when it came to team sports, even if I was the last one to be picked. It came out when no one would sit with me at lunch time, and the only person who would take the time to talk with me was my teacher. Because no one would talk to me in my age group, I would hang out with younger students. I found they were less discriminating and more accepting of who I was. I would get teased for that, so I often found myself walking with the teacher on yard duty when it came to recess time instead of socializing with the other kids. I would walk in companionable silence with whatever teacher was on yard duty and I felt safe. I sought out attention from the school principal by telling him I was sick and needed to go home. He was a short little balding man, maybe five feet and one-inch-tall, but he would put his arm around me, smile and say “Christine, its ok, you’re okay.”

But even those words couldn’t cure a lonely heart or the ache I felt inside. I would start to cry and tell him “I can’t stay; I want to go home!”  I’m sure my foster mom at the time didn’t know the real reason why I wanted to be at home instead of school. She never really questioned me as to why, she just accepted that I wanted to be at home. She would give permission for me to come back home for the day, as long as I promised that I would go back to school the next day.

Don’t get me wrong here, I excelled at school but I always knew that I was the different one everywhere I went. I would go to sleep at night where in the deep recesses of my mind I would ask myself repeatedly “Is my mom alive? Will I ever find her? And will she want to see me?”

I graduated from grade eight and went to the local high school. My angst grew in leaps and bounds. After a comment by a fellow student that “you are ugly and fat,” I began to restrict my food intake to the point that I passed out in gym class while exercising, and at lunchtimes the principal of my school would be watching me from a distance as I sat with a small group of people, and pretended to eat. Mr. Chisholm would come up to me and say “Christine, would you like an orange?” I’d say “sure” and I would go as far as peeling it while he was standing there over me but the orange would never pass my lips. I would grab a napkin when I thought no one was looking and quietly fold the pieces of orange into it and it would make its way to the garbage along with my other food. My foster parents didn’t know what to make of my desire to not eat. But God knows, I know they tried to understand. They would ask me “What is it that is bothering you so much, Christine,” and “You have to eat, not eating is not going to help you any.” They called in my social worker from the Children’s Aid Society to talk to me, they made me see the town’s doctor, and eventually I went to see a psychologist, but it still didn’t stop me from not eating or self- harming by taking laxatives, milk of magnesia or the water pills that I found in the medicine cabinet. My angst had become bigger than myself.

            When I graduated from high school, freedom came upon me in many ways. I had been accepted back in my hometown of Windsor at the local college for the Journalism-Print program. As part of my freedom, despite the outcry of my foster parents, I tried to re-ignite my failed relationship with my adoptive father. I would call him, and he would call me. I received letters from him, and somehow I thought that would solve the angst I felt inside. It didn’t, it deepened it.

Upon being accepted to college, I was also accepted at an Independent Living Home for teenagers transitioning out of care. I still remember my first day at the home. My social worker, Lynn had driven me from the little town I lived in to the city. I remember the key she had to the home making its clicking noise as the tumbler unlocked and the door swung open. On the floor, was a letter addressed to me. Lynn picked it up, and in disgust said “oh it’s from your adoptive father.” She also didn’t understand why I wanted to make amends with my adoptive father. I wish I had listened to my foster parents and her back in those days, but I didn’t. I thought I knew what was best for me, and one of those things was getting back in touch and finding out why, did my adoptive parents hate me so much to give me up and keep my sister.

Not long after that, I decided to try and find my birth mom. I was tired of not knowing what she looked like. I was tired of not knowing if she was alive or not, and most of all tired of riding the buses in the city and seeing other native women and wondering “is that my mom?”

At the time, I didn’t know that my mother lived entirely in another province. I guess my hopes had been that she would just magically appear on my doorstep, open her arms and take me back, but that wasn’t the case at all. I had to go to the very same Roman Catholic Children’s Aid Society I was in the care of, and talk to a worker by the name of Kathy. Kathy was the worker kids went to when they wanted to find their parents. I remember timidly going into her office and sitting on a cold hard plastic chair and saying “I’m here to search for my mom.” And I remember Kathy looking at me and saying “It’s not going to be easy.”


Friday, June 24, 2016

The 7th Annual Indigenous Writer's Gathering; June 9 and 10, 2016 Honouring the Grandparents of Indigenous Literature: Lee Maracle and Thomas King

Photo By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

7th Annual Indigenous Writers Gathering
By: Christine Smith McFarlane

Toronto: On June 9 & 10, 2016, the 7th Annual Indigenous Writers Gathering took place in the heart of downtown Toronto. With topics like Cultural Preservation through Story; Fiction and Non Fiction as Tools for Survival featuring Leanne Simpson, Lee Maracle and Waubgeshig Rice, Frankenstein’s Method: Building Characters that Come Alive workshop with Joseph Boyden and Waubgeshig Rice and an open mic reading night that was open to the public on the first day at Glad Day Bookshop, attendance was out of this world.

In the Building Characters Workshop, Joseph Boyden and Waubgeshig Rice told audience members  amongst other things to “allow your characters to go where they need to go and let the story shape your character. Don’t be afraid to break the clich├ęs and most of all challenge yourself, if it feels easy, do something a little different than what you would normally do.”

On June 10, 2016, the celebration of writers continued with two workshops titled Traditional Stories: What Do They Need from Us at this time in History and Articulating Memories of the Land Through Music and Multimedia workshops featuring Leanne Simpson and Susan Blight.

The 7th Annual Indigenous Writer’s Gathering ended with Honouring the Grandparents of Indigenous Literature: Lee Maracle and Thomas King. This honouring was hosted by Joseph Boyden and featured pow wow dancers, drummers, authors and some other very special guests like the Honourable Dr. Carolyn Bennett and Minister David Zimmer. When asked how it felt to be honoured Maracle said “It can’t get any better than this.”

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review: UpGhost River

Review: UpGhost River
By: Christine Smith McFarlane

Separated from his family as a young child, and placed in one of Canada’s worst residential schools-St. Anne’s in northern Ontario, Edmund Metatawabin along with Alexandra Shimo tells a heart wrenching story of survival, resilience and recovery in UpGhost River.

Metatawabin details the abuses he and his friends endured at St. Anne’s, and the atrocities of some of these abuses can be triggering at times. I found it especially hard reading it when I heard about the use of electric chairs for punishment, and the physical and sexual abuse etc.

After leaving St. Anne’s residential school, Metatawabin goes on to build a life as best as he can. He gets married, has kids, goes to school and builds a career, but it all comes to be too much for him and his alcoholism and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) tries to get the best of him.

Struggling personally and professionally, Metatawabin first tries conventional healing through AA meetings and rehab, but it confuses him more. After speaking to friends, he finds healing by reconnecting with his Cree culture and connecting to the ways of the Red Road (Sobriety). He travels across Canada to Edmonton where he participates in culturally specific teachings, ceremonies and healing circles.

Metatawabin has since worked tirelessly to expose the wrongdoings of St. Anne’s Residential School, and comes full circle in his healing, by showing in his memoir, it is possible to come through anything. His narrative is haunting, but also brave and eloquent, a must read if you need inspiration yourself.

UpGhost River is 307 pages and published by Penguin Random House. ISBN: 978-0-307-39988-5