Dear Ione and Vivian,
I am writing this letter for you, because I think it is important that you understand some of the things that I have learned in my life that have to do with being an Indigenous woman living on Turtle Island and of belonging to the league of nations known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
A lot of what I am going to share with you is reflective of things I have learned and thought about over the last fifteen years. Things I am still thinking about. There are stories about your family members here as well, about your grandfather and your uncle. About your grandmother and your aunties. Your family on your father’s side has many stories to tell as well, but I will let him tell you what those are.
I want to start by telling you that there is a lot of history in our community and that not all of it will be easy to read or hear about. But I did not know these histories growing up and I had to learn them in a sometimes hard and difficult manner over many, many years. I do not want the same thing for you—not when there is something I could do about it. A way I could empower you with knowledge by informing you sooner, though even by telling you—I cannot promise you will not grapple with similar issues in your lifetime.
A short little post, as this week has been all about getting ready to celebrate my daughter's 2nd birthday. If there's one thing I've experienced being a parent, it's that it's hard to find a good birthday gift for your child. Something that means a lot to you, something that shows them you love them more than anything and something they will have forever.
I wrote this story for her birthday last year but didn't have a chance to finalize it and at the time, I didn't have all the other skills or know-how to finish it. Fortunately, I've learned a lot over the last year and was able to format the print book, design the cover, and insert the illustrations all by myself, which was awesome!
I used to work for a First Nation organization. This organization was a coordinating and advocacy body for the 133 First Nation communities in Ontario. There were many parts of this job that were awesome—I got to travel to other First Nations, hear the experiences of Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island and see the passion they have for their communities. But there were some parts of the job that were less awesome—this usually had to do with one of two things: the wretched relationship between First Nations and external governments, and the general lack of awareness that Ontarians and Canadians have about who First Nations are and what our relationship is supposed to be like.
I don’t write very often about my family here on the blog, something I feel might be changing now that I have a daughter, but suffice it to say that I have an awesome family and I grew up in a household filled with art and creativity. My dad is a sculptor and though she’s never written a novel, my mom reads and tells stories with more flair than many of my favourite writers. I spent most of my childhood going to galleries and art openings, listening to my dad talk with friends, colleagues and patrons on the phone about new pieces he was working on, and learning how to create art of my own.