This week I was glued to my computer. As I watched so far away from my Mi’kmaq relatives, my mind and heart were constantly in suspense. All I could do was re-tweet what I knew to be true on Twitter and bring the fight up a notch on social media. Still, somewhere inside of me I felt sick. I already knew how this was going to be played out in the mainstream media.
Later in the evening, the RCMP pulled away from the blockade and the Twitterverse had calmed. Finally! I made a quick run out to the hardware store on an errand. As I went through the cashier I presented my status card. The five non-indigenous people behind me in line did the obligatory sighing out loud, eyeball rolling and toe tapping as per usual. I looked at the counter and there staring back at me was this plastic thing with my picture on it. It says, ‘INDIAN’. I looked back at the people in line behind me again, horrified. There I stood with this little plastic card that might as well have been a tiny barricade all of its own.
My “A-ha!” Moment had come. The racist implications hit me all at once and reality came into focus. Instantly flashes of history went through my mind like a slideshow in fast forward; yellow stars, whites-only washrooms, and my little plastic status card like ducks all lined up in a row. I paid for my things and ran out to the truck where it hit me full blown. There, I launched into a 50 yard stare right in the parking lot, totally spaced out and in shock.
All night I battled this war of emotions, a mournful inner strength coupled with waves of grief and tears. Over the next few days I felt really withdrawn. As I watched our friends in Elsipogtog continue to stand up against fracking on their territory, I kept flashing back to 2006 in Caledonia. We call it the protected place; Kanohnstaton. From the second week in I was there, camped out in the mud for most of the reclamation. I also remember when Kahnesatake stood up to protect the pines in 1990. My family collected food and supplies for those behind the barricades and delivered it to our Mohawk ‘cousints’.
A lady I met this week called these emotional stirrings ‘flare-ups’ of our indigenous identity. Still, today I am struggling with this reality: time moves on in Caledonia, golfers are teeing up in Oka, frackers plan forward in New Brunswick, and I am merely an Indian. Labelled a “native protester” by the mainstream media. Framed a criminal by enforcement officials. And yet, I am more.
I am an Ongwehowe.
I was created by the One above with love, and given one basic request: take care of our Mother Earth who sustains all life. He has given us the responsibility to give thanks for what the He has already provided for us, in Her. We are taught to make sure you pass this responsibility along to the coming faces. This is our spiritual inheritance, and in the simplest of terms, fracking challenges the religious and spiritual convictions of our shared indigenous faith.
This is why you see people from all across the nation rallying. It is what Idle No More is all about. We are standing together in faith, saying that the Creator asked us to do something, and the Canadian government is preventing us from carrying out that responsibility every time it does not consult the indigenous people of a territory they are trying to reap the wealth from.
It is secret kind of religious persecution. It is racism. And if you sit down and do not take a stand against it, you have to be willing to endure the consequences of that choice.
To those who choose to stand and speak against our oppressors: we may be beaten down, but we are not destroyed, nor will we be. Pray, smudge, trust…and hope.
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