Ancestry: My Search


The mystery of ancestry

“There are many people who could claim and learn from their Indian ancestry, but because of the fear their parents and grandparents knew, because of past and present prejudice against Indian people, that part of their heritage is clouded or denied.”
–Joseph Bruchac, ABENAKI

In 2013 I learned that one of my great grandmothers was a Mi’kmaq woman. This all came about in 2008 when the Mi’kMaq nation in Newfoundland & Labrador were finally recognized by the Canadian government and struck a deal to become a landless band under the Indian Act. Many families, mine included, began investigating birth, marriage, and census records. My cousin did much of the work and found evidence in the census of the early 1900s. It came in the form of my grandfather’s brother admitting he was a Mi’kmaq descendant. However, I do not know if it was his mother or grandmother who was Mi’kmaq. I know his mother’s name, but not my great, great grandmother’s. It saddens me.

In 1949 the Dominion of Newfoundland became a province of Canada. At that point in time the federal government was in the midst of negotiations with several First Nations bands.  Because the leader of Newfoundland & Labrador, Joey Smallwood, wanted to join confederation he vehemently denied there were any indigenous peoples there, in order to reassure the federal government they would not have to face the same challenges there.

For all intents and purposes indigenous peoples were discriminated against in every corner of the country. It was no different in Newfoundland, where indigenous people were forced to hide their identity in order to gain employment. This, coupled with past colonial biases, and patriarchy, meant that many Mi’kmaq people denied who they were and identity became a closely guarded secret in many families, including mine.

Unfortunately, I have little information regarding my native ancestors, their culture and ways of life are foreign to me. However, I have always held certain sympathies with indigenous peoples around the world, long before I knew the truth of my own heritage. This is partly due to the way I was raised, but also, I think, to the mysteries of ancestry. There has been much written about cellular memory and I cannot help but feel there is truth to the thought that our ancestor’s experiences are written in our DNA. It certainly explains the phenomenon of déjà vu!

I have learned more about the Mi’kmaq people since 2013, and have much more to discover. I am grateful to have made the connection, thanks to my cousin’s hard work and generous sharing of information.

I attribute my passion for nature, the environment and human rights to my Mi’kmaq ancestors. For although I never knew them their innate connection to the earth and collective cultural ways do live on through the mystery of ancestry.

“Oh Great Spirit, today I am ready for You to use me as a channel of Your peace. Let my walk today be visible so the people will say “There goes a Man of God.” I want to know what He knows. If they ask, I will tell them to go out into the wilderness and pray for You to guide them.” – Native Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark days


Cold heart without empathy

Power has rotted your soul

And lost you your humanity

As you sit on your golden throne

And cast others into a hell

Of your unfeeling choosing

No caring exists in you

What will it cost?

This ambitious climb you’re on

Where people crushed beneath your feet

Have no recourse at all

Warnings come from all corners

Still your heart is hard

Your ears deaf to intense pleas

And neither entreaties sweet

Nor humble begging heard

Corruption fills your veins

Where once warm blood did flow

Your mind turned black and rotten

What hope survives is in this only fact

That one day you too shall fall

From your gilded altar

No cronies then

Nor bloodless worshippers

Primed to do your bidding

You alone shall drink the bitter wine

Of acrid fruits you sow

And know the heavy discontent

You’ve woven across the land

Like some vast and stinking cloak of darkness

The once proud bird of prey will seek you out

For all the hurt bestowed

As it stretches forth its talons

And confines you in its grasp

Woe to you

Oh pitiless one

When that day does come

 

 

The Wall


“The last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you become the plaything to circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity…” – Viktor E. Frankl

The wall – an obstacle I cannot get beyond. There comes a moment in every life, I suppose, when we each are stymied by the wall. The wall of missed opportunity; the wall of misunderstandings; the wall of poverty; the wall of doubt and mistrust; the wall that is much like a steep incline where we are wearied by the effort of trying to mount it; so many walls.

And yet, are not most walls those of our own making? Did we not build them ourselves brick by brick? Or, if we did not do it ourselves, did we not contribute to their structure in some shape or form?

It is so easy to point the finger of blame, to avoid self-examination and accountability. Yes, I know there are some circumstances beyond our control. Sometimes the fates seem to align in such a way that we are well and truly trapped. But, for the most part, we do have a choice in how we live our lives – even if it is only how we respond to a given situation.

May we each be given whatever tool we need; meet whatever person we need, to dismantle the wall.

“Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.” – Elie Weisel

“There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Every life matters


This morning I read a post on Facebook about a mother who took her children to the zoo. Her son is autistic. While there her son became agitated and a man yelled out, ‘some people should not be out in public, they ruin it for society’ or words to that effect. It’s not an exact quote, but you get the drift. That poor Mom! I grew quite angry reading her story.

The mentality of the man who yelled at that family in the zoo just boggles my mind. And he was there with his own children. It worries me that they, too, are being raised in a household that is biased, intolerant, and down right ignorant. How is that going to influence their lives and world views?

I don’t have anything profound to say, but I believe every life does matter. Every person in society deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. I am grateful to this Mom who was brave enough to share this unfortunate incident on social media. I am thankful for the insights she imparted. Unfortunately, ignorance abounds, but so too does kindness. Another gentleman took this imbecile to task and told him to leave the autistic boy and his family alone. Well done, sir. Well done!

Life


Lay your bleeding heart upon the public main

Let it pulse its deep red blood upon the cold hard ground

And let the people stand in awe of the richness of its color

And hopefully feel some shame

For their treatment of “the other”

Let go, let go


Let go, let go

Fear

A heavy and grotesque gargoyle

Perched upon my shoulder

Its sharp claws digging into my flesh

Making me weak

Anger

A boiling cauldron of toxic soup

Bubbling and spewing forth hateful thoughts

Making me weak

From deep within, though soft and low

A voice repeats

Let go, Let go

But I hold tight to my pain

Feeling justified

Feeling righteous

White-knuckled I scream

At all the injustices done

And the voice whispers again

Let go, let go

With herculean effort I toss them high

The fear and anger and burdens heavy

I watch them go

Lifted higher and higher

I watch them burn as they near the light

To finally explode into a million pieces

What sweet relief

To finally let go

And I thank the voice

That guides me true

And brings me back

To life anew

Choices, not mistakes


I am struggling once again. Every single time we have to revisit that trial, and in tandem, my brother’s totally needless death,  I wrestle with rage and heartbreak all over again. We have all heard it said, “but they made a mistake”. NO! It was not a mistake, it was the worst of choices – to drink and drive. Every time a person gets behind the wheel after tipping back a bottle or a glass they become a potential killer. Think about that for a moment. Every. Single. Time. Perhaps the man who took my brother’s life also thought he was sober enough to drive. I don’t know. I am not that man and I will not assume to know what he thought as he climbed into his vehicle that fateful day. So we had that conference call with the crown attorney this morning. I am not at liberty to discuss it at this time. I just needed to release some of the pent up anguish and anger that is trying to consume me.

I will say it tears the heart out of me to hear my brother’s child in tears as she responds to the events of a court date or a conference call. And I ask you, if you are a person of prayer to keep Chris’s children in your prayers. I and my siblings will deal with it the best ways we can, but his children are still in their teens and have been given a life sentence of living without their Dad.  So please, pray for them, that they will receive all the help and comfort they need. Thank you for reading my blog and my sincere apologies that I have not written something uplifting. I am, like all of us, only human.  And please, never, ever, drive while impaired in any way.

Reprieve


 

My mind is a million miles away – it’s with my niece, my siblings, and my extended family who are gathering for one more day of testimony. It’s been a very difficult week for all of us. I am not there physically but my heart and mind are. Yesterday they saw photographs of my brother’s demolished vehicle. I cannot imagine how hard that was. I am so grateful that they will get a much needed rest from the courtroom. Today they will hear and see more, but there is not another court date until the 29th. I am so glad and relieved that we all get a little reprieve from it all.

My focus has been on my brother’s children and my siblings and all my family, but I just want to take a minute to give thanks for my husband and children who have been unfailingly supportive through it all. I could not get through this without them. While my heart has felt like it was being ripped from my chest, my spirit has been buoyed up from all the love I have received from them.  So while this whole thing has been devastating, there have also been beams of light in the darkness. And for that I am sincerely thankful.

He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother


He ain’t heavy – he’s my brother!

That song plays in my head a lot. It’s a tough week. I am keeping my siblings and especially Chris’s children close to my heart. I worry about them all and hope they are given all they need each and every day. It’s like an uphill battle against ferocious winds getting through these days of court dates and new testimony from witnesses – and I am not even there physically! I cannot imagine how tough this is for my teen-aged niece. I love her so much. I text with her every day to let her know I am thinking of her and her brother as they travel this arduous journey.

We cannot know the lessons we may learn from such an experience, but I hope that in the end it will enlighten us, inspire us, and make us all better people.  Please. God, let it make us better and not bitter.

Human Rights


Human rights is an issue in many countries around the globe and unfortunately there is no lack of topics for discussion.  Whether it is the rights of  freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from persecution of any kind, human beings in many parts of the world are being denied, in many cases living in fear and denied the basic rights of liberty and life. There is much I have to learn about the struggles of my fellow citizens of the world. I invite you to come along on my journey of discovery.