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  • Writer's pictureNina

How I started walking in two worlds

Here is my final assignment of the year. Here I take you on a trip through my mind and how this idea came to be.

Please feel free to share any thoughts you may have on how I can make my idea of adapting traditional values and beliefs to the modern world more accessible.

You are allowed to disagree and I welcome constructive criticism, just please be respectful as I am attempting to accomplish my dream in the most respective way I know how.


I hope you enjoy the read either way and I thank you greatly for your time.


Chi-miigwetch kina wiya!


 

Over the last few nights, I have been sitting in my bedroom while Naanookshkaasii sleeps, wondering how I am going to start my final paper. How am I going to make my intro clever enough to be able to stand out amongst the rest? What stories will I tell as to how I came up with my “big idea”? How am I going to fill 4-6 pages when I have difficulties writing a paragraph? Will my lack of writing abilities showcase my ineptitude for academia? (I’d like to thank the many hours of watching Pride and Prejudice for that last line.) How do I disguise my “big idea” as an epiphany?

The simple truth is, I don’t. This isn’t some big “Aha!” moment I had when the assignment was first set out, it was, first and foremost, the quickest way from point A to point B. It first started when I was working full-time at a medical office, this is when I decided I wanted to go back to school. I loved what I was doing because I was helping people, but at the same time, I didn’t. I didn’t want to end up working a desk job for the rest of my life, it paid well and I thoroughly enjoyed the patients I had gotten to know but I felt like something was missing. My connection to the land and my ancestors were what was missing, wearing jeans and a t-shirt all day was missing and the ability to come and go as I pleased.

So I set off in search of myself and found myself enrolled at the University of Sudbury. I had heard that the Indigenous Studies Program was good, and having a sibling still in the program made it that much easier to navigate. My first year was tough, I was working full-time days and then going to night classes, on top of the night time bussing schedule in Sudbury which leaves something to be desired. I was happy that I was in school, working towards a degree in something that I believed would help me greatly in exposing me to current events, history and give me a starting point in relearning my language, but working full-time on top of that just added to the stress and in my second year I left my job just before the second semester started.

It was this second year that things really changed for me in a drastic way, I became pregnant in October. This meant that I spent the majority of my school year battling pregnancy hormones and trying to come up with a plan to continue schooling after the baby arrived. I knew I did not want someone else raising my child (my thoughts and beliefs on early daycare entry), would I even qualify for subsidized daycare because my partner was working full-time? I have listened to many mothers speak of having to go back to work full-time just to pay for the daycare. So I thought, why not just stay home then and save myself the extra stress of working just to pay for childcare. I get to spend the most precious bonding time with my daughter and teach myself how to become the best “house-wife” I possibly could. I stay home and care of my family by choice and in turn, my partner encourages me to go to as many ceremonial gatherings as I can and to take Naanookshkaasii with me because he wants her and me to be as immersed as possible.

There’s a quaint little saying that I’ve heard over the years, it goes something like this “watch a lazy person work because they will find the quickest and easiest way to finish a task.” This isn’t to say that efficient people are “lazy” or that “lazy” people are extremely efficient, it just helps put me in the right frame of mind to think outside the box. It reminds me of growing up on the reservation and having to use our imagination as children. Finding the easiest route from point A to point B actually took a lot of hard work and mental planning. First I needed to sweet talk my partner into the idea of me becoming a house-wife, secondly, I had to think up ways to ensure that myself and baby would be cared for while attending school, thirdly, how do I ensure that have an income to hold me off through the summer months until I go back to school? And lastly, will my professors even allow a newborn child into their classrooms?

Luckily for me, all of my professors thoroughly enjoyed Naanookshkaasii’s presence in class and she was welcomed with open arms. For Indigenous Peoples children are some of the most valued members in our communities as they are the ones that will ensure our future survival as peoples. So with all this said and done, now came time to think of how I would be able to sustain myself once school was finished and I could no longer apply for OSAP and other bursaries and grants that are available to students. How do I create a need for a home business that will allow me to continue to pursue all aspects of my culture and traditions, allow me to home-school baby for as long as possible, and bring in some kind of income?

I know that I did not want to start a “camp” as I did not have the knowledge needed to take on such a project, and there were already well-established camps near my area that I would not be able to compete with. Instead, I racked my brain and decided that I would attempt a sort of beginner’s environment and gear it towards those who may not have the confidence to take on a culture camp or feel that they even deserve to be there. There are those out there who feel like they really connect with Indigenous teachings but are not Indigenous themselves, therefore they are nervous about exploring and participating because there is still a stigma against letting “outsiders” into our traditions and ceremonies. It is my belief that though we may all come from different parts of the world we are all the same at our core. Most of us all believe in a higher being and that we need to live in harmony with Mother Nature, how one decides to pursue Mino Bimaadzowin (the good life) is completely up to them and it’s not for us to tell them no.

This assignment could not have been set out at a more perfect time as I have also been wrestling with myself more and more as to how I would incorporate technology into this avenue of learning. While there are those who strongly believe that we, as Indigenous Peoples, need to completely decolonize our learning spaces, I am looking at ways in which to integrate the modern conveniences colonization has given us to bridge the gap for all peoples. When speaking about this possibility I often refer to the Amish people, as I believe they set a great example of how to walk in two worlds. Near my house, there is a restaurant that is run by Amish people and they serve the most amazing home-made meals while still offering the modern conveniences of a restaurant. You will see the women wearing their long skirts, their children in traditional clothes and they do not operate on Sundays. Other Amish families can be seen selling their goods by the side of the road, in farmer’s markets, even using modern machinery to aid in the gathering and harvesting of their goods. While I do not know personally how open Amish people are to having outsiders within their communities and living life among them I still feel that they are a great example as to how a group of people can adapt while still holding true to their core values and beliefs.

This can also be seen in the rising popularity of Social Distancing Round Dances and Pow Wows. Since COVID-19 has shut down the world, Indigenous Peoples and all peoples around the world, have had to find ways to stay connected. We as races of man have all been able to stand together and support one another from great distances. I have seen many different kinds of peoples through these social media pages and consequently, have had more exposure to the different kinds of Indigenous Peoples that I ever would have through a textbook in a classroom.

What this course and assignment have taught me is that we need to stay connected, we need to keep our minds and hearts open. There are allies out there, many may not even know they are allies and it’s up to us to foster that trust and understanding. It has to start somewhere, we can’t keep waiting for the next generation to make it better, we are that next generation. It is not my daughter’s responsibility to make the world better for me, it’s my responsibility to make the world better for her. I do this by leading from example.


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