I took a vacation this past week and it was incredible. I listened to music. I binge-watched Supergirl. I relaxed. I did some art. I did some writing. I went to see Paw Patrol Live. It was amazing. It was like I spent time just existing and it was so, so refreshing. I also went for lunch with my husband and we spoke mostly Cayuga to one another. We also spoke Cayuga at the dinner table with the girls several times through the week.
I have to say, it was pretty amazing to know that even though it’s taken a long time—it’s happening. I’m learning language. I’m using language. We’re all using it—together, as a family. We’re filling our house with Cayuga and we can do even more if we continue to work at it. I needed to recognize this simple, good progress this week. I needed to give our family an enormous burst of love and affection for how being awesome and encourage us to keep being awesome—to keep trying. We don’t do that enough. Cheer ourselves on. Encourage ourselves.
Over the last year and a half, I’ve done a lot of writing that has yet to find its way into the world. There are a ton of short stories and poems, blog posts and partial novel drafts sitting on my computer patiently waiting their turn to make their way into the world. And when all is said and done with my dissertation work, I intend to release most of that writing—to pair it up with the art I’ve done over the last two years and set it free into the world to find the people that it’s meant to.
I ventured out of my house today (a rare occurrence for me), and by myself (an even rarer one). I think I just needed to recharge, really. To get out of the space I’ve been immersed in for the last several days and go somewhere, anywhere that wasn’t the house. As much as I love my house and the forest that surrounds it, my dissertation has taken it over in so many ways, and I’ve been feeling that creativity, family, art and writing need to reclaim it. But first, it was like they need to reclaim me.
Today I made my first author visit to a school in my community, and it was absolutely amazing. For those of you who don’t know, I live in Six Nations of the Grand River, a First Nation community on Turtle Island (what is also referred to as North America). My community is one of the largest First Nation communities in Canada, and like all First Nation communities—it has a systemically underfunded education system and is recovering from the assimilation policies of the federal government. There’s all kinds of nuance and complexity in just this paragraph alone, but suffice it to say that I grew up in Six Nations and have since built my family home here, and my love for my community and the schools in my community runs deep. (I also work at an Indigenous post-secondary education institute located at Six Nations).
The school I visited today is one that places high value on the transmission of language and culture, having programs in both Cayuga language immersion and English. I was grateful to be invited to the school, and more than a little overwhelmed by the response of the students to the book they had read as a class, The School That Ate Children.
Ah 2017. Where to begin?
2017 was another difficult year for the world. We continued to see the impacts of climate change. We continued to see and experience overt and systemic colonization and racism in attitudes, media, policy and practice. We continued to see people in our communities and across the world suffer. Here on Turtle Island, we continued to hear governments talk about reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples without seeming to be sincere about it. (Or not talk about it at all and enact laws that endanger those standing up for land and water). In so many ways it was a real challenge to read the news this year. To hear of men and women losing their lives simply by walking down the street or for standing up against hatred. It was heart-wrenching and infuriating and it made you want to do something to help. To take action. To ease suffering. To make things better.
And strangely enough, amidst all of these dark and difficult things that we probably all carried the weight of in different ways, people actually did all of these things. Eased. Took action. Made things better.