So, Today, because I heard something recently from my friend, I decided I am going to jump into the toilet (so to speak) and touch on something that is sure to ruffle a whole whack of feathers.
I have mentioned, before, that my Honey is younger than me. Yes, I was(am) a Cougar. He was just legal age, when I hauled him kicking and screaming into my lair. Poor guy never even had a chance, instantly responsible to help raise my child, along with 2 of his younger siblings. I think because he was likely in shock the first few years, he just didn't have the energy to attempt running away, so I have managed to keep him all these years.
However, his age was not the only issue. My honey is also Aboriginal, his mother was First Nations, and although their father is white, each and every child has taken on the physical characteristics of their mother. They do not go out in public with a notice saying they are 1/2 Native, and, of course, why should they? However, the white side of the spectrum (O.K. the spectrum excluding First Nations)views them as Native. Our relationship was filled with discrimination on both sides, for many years. Those who knew us then, can attempt to dispute this, however, we lived it, and we were the ones who dealt with it.
Funny, all along, the ones who accepted us fully, were the Elders. Those folks who had suffered the past, and knew discrimination at it's worst. They welcomed me, no word of my skin colour, no word of my culture, the name they gave me, was Chuck's Umshewa, which simply meant, I was his "White Person". Hey, it was not spoken with malice, or disrespect, it was just a fact.
The hardness came from those our age, and a few years older. Those who had not struggled, those who had decided that all others were less. No different than white supremacists, they were closed to accepting outside their own. Again, I realize some will argue, go right ahead. The discrimination my family has suffered, is not the fault, simply of the government, it is also the fault of racism within the Aboriginal communities.
Now, because my mother was raised in a different time, she would, perhaps sound a tad racist. She used to always tell me that couples should not marry outside their own race. Even back them, I remember looking at her, and saying that was not a nice fact to state. She told me, "They must think of the children". She wasn't against mixed marriage, she was against what grief would follow with the children.
Well, I thought my mother was wrong! I would see mixed couples, and their children, and think, wow, all that mixture of culture and physical characteristics, how beautiful!!How lucky those children were to grow up in a world, not limited to one set of traditions, but celebrating two different ethnics. Our children were going to enjoy a life filled with both our cultures.
Boy, that was wrong!! I wonder now, if those children suffered the same separation. The reality, because our children, unlike my husband, take their characteristics from me, they look "White". My husband's grandfather calls them his "white Indians" and that is who they are!!Problem is, again, the Elders accept, and they are all departing, the remainder, chose to ignore all that do not conform to their expectations.
In the First Nations world, we have been involved with, there is a clear caste system. Go ahead, tell me I am wrong!!! There are those who live "on-reserve" and the majority that lives "off-reserve". Two completely different people, designed by our government. Those "on-reserve" live within the government tape. They are governed by the "Band Council" who are in truth, the notorious "Indian Agent". The "Indian Agents" get a set amount of money from the government to pay for everything on the reserve from Social Assistance to Housing, and roads. Have you noticed most reserves have horrid roads? Well, they have to ensure the clump of money they receive can go towards all other stuff, and along with a million things, some suffer.
Now, here is when I give my side of the proof that there is rampant discrimination within First Nations. When my Honey's sister called her band, seeking medical assistance for her young son, (they do belong to a band, because they became recognized First Nation when the government had to rescind the removal of status to First Nations people who lost it through marriage to a white person, and apparently other things, which would take far too long to go into now) , she was astounded by the answer she got to her request. They told her that they simply could not, and would not help. The reason they gave," because her son did not live on the Reserve, and he was not learning the culture and stories from the Elders", so they were not entitled to help!!
When we moved to the community next to my Honey's Band, we were in desperate straits. With the help of his employer, we purchased the oldest ugliest house, kitty corner to a reserve. It was bad, winter came, and the bathtub would be coated in a layer of ice, every morning, because it was poorly insulated. The ice would form in all the corners of the dining room and turn into puddles when the wood stove heated things up during the day. Hey, someone told us there was help for folks living "Off-Reserve", thank goodness, the banks certainly wouldn't lend us money, maybe we could get a little loan? Hah!! Those loans were only available to folks who didn't work!! If we had one more child, we would be entitled to help, but, because we made enough money to scrape by, and realized another child would put us on welfare, no help!
Even though his band and his government refused to acknowledge our children, we made a decision they would learn their culture and traditions. We found an Elder who took the time to tell us, and our children the stories. She taught us how to collect the "old way" medicine, she welcomed us into the Feast Hall.
My Honey went into the Feast Hall, and I could see how proud he was to be a part of his people. He worked hard, he was given 2 great names, and he paid for them. By paying, I do not mean simply money, and gifts, he served many feasts, he listened to his Chiefs and his Wing Chiefs. However, as I said, the Elders are leaving, and now, those who are left, do NOT follow traditions, and the Feast Hall, which is the purest form of government I can imagine, has been tarnished.
Our children, and myself were accepted into the Elders Clan. She is a Chief, and she sat us in the Feast Hall at her table for the people to see, we were her family. We were so proud, it was a great honour, and now our children belonged.
How easily forgotten! Colour overrides all! The moment I decided that I could no longer be a part of this side of my children's heritage, was one of those times you must watch your child suffer, without the ability to protect them. I, like my mother insinuated, was strong enough to overcome, because, I was an adult. My child, however, suffered, because she is a product of two cultures.
It was at the Feast for her great Grandmother. We had been to the funeral, but, because my honey had to work, it was just myself and my daughter at the feast. Tradition has it, that the whole family is invited up to walk the hall. We were seated beside my daughter's Aunt, Uncle and cousins. We sat while they were invited up, we waited, all the other family was invited up, we waited. My daughter kept looking at me, we knew we could not simply get up on our own, we had to respect the "Old ways". There we sat, as the whole "family" walked the hall, they were the family of the woman remembered in the Feast Hall. All of them walked past where we sat, not a single one stopped to tell us to walk with them, because my daughter WAS family. That single moment, to watch my child feel unaccepted, was so painful. It showed that, although through birth, my child belonged, in truth, we were not recognized at such an important time, and in the ultimate place of culture and tradition, the Feast Hall.
So, when I hear that one feels discrimination, this is not something "White". It is not solving anything to turn the tables and perpetrate the wrong.
I am thankful I did not listen to my Mother, back then. I have found the man I love, and the fact that he tans much faster than I do, and likes a whole whack of food that I can't bring myself to eat, are the only things I notice about our different heritage. I do, however, wish that my children did not have to suffer, like she warned. I want them to be accepted , and to feel they belong in both worlds. I suppose, it is just like all families, someone has to be the Black Sheep (oops is that racist?).