Edgar P. Mint and I
I have been attempting to read the story of, a little native boy from the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation called, “The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint,” written by Brad Udall, for the past several weeks now. It seems to have taken a long time to accomplish this task because I have found myself constantly reflecting his story back onto my own history of growing up in an institution a children’s hospital, where I never saw a healthy able bodied person, who looked just like me. Brad Udall has written about things that I had thought only myself had gone through. Very few things differ in Edgar P. Mint’s and my life. It’s almost as if our lives where scripted to be parallel. For example, Edgar is Apache, I am Coast Salish in the First Nations language we are both from Turtle Island, when Edgar was entering the children’s hospital at the age of eight I was just leaving one at this age. Both Edgar and I do not remember the events that lead us to these places, so we have no real first hand recollection as to why we were there. We have only been told by the adults in our realm that this is what happened. Therefore, we have to go on their hearsay.After Edgar short stay at the hospital he is sent to Willie Sherman residential school, where he spent his pre-teen and teenage years, with a distant uncle of his mother. I went to a foster home. Where I was the only native child in a foster home owned and run by a white couple from Saskatchewan who had three of their own children. I was the only one who had come direct from the hospital to being the middle child amongst a family of seven kids and two parents, whom I learned to love and am proud to call my Mom and Dad. This part did not come easy for me because I yearn to go to my real home. The one where I still have vague memories of hiding under my crib, a river being close to our house and my baby brother. Edgar was one of several children who were sent to residential school that was established just for Indian kids before he moved into a very religious white foster home, where he was the only native out of three kids. Prior to Edgar’s entering the children’s hospital he had lived with his mother and grandmother. He had very little memories of his family's life style. Perhaps this was do to the head injury he had received and had put him in a coma for eleven months, or that he just a little boy when he was removed from his home. The things that he does remember are almost irrelevent excepted the memory that he has of his mother having a beer can tree in their front yard. Those cans would clang together everytime there was a storm coming or a summer breeze was happening making music to his ears. Edgar's memory is something that I yearned to have and do, from the time I had left the hospital just before my eighth birthday, until I was about fourteen years of age. This is about the time when my awareness of my own powerlessness and rage hit me. I became an alien over my own identity. I didn't know if I was white or Indian I didn't know if I was coming or going. I was walking between all worlds. One where I was handicapped by by race, gender, ability to understand, or cope. I did not know if I wanted to run, fight like hell or just put an end to it all. This all came to the surface with the help of my class mates, their parents, the teachers and the social workers involved in my life. I had to learn how to physically fight and to inflict some kind of harm on all of them. This was usually done through fist fighting, stealing food and gorging myself on it and then throwing up afterwards. The food that I stole was usually food that I knew would make me sick. I was sure this would make my foster parents look bad enough so that the social worker would take pity on me and remove me, even if it meant I would be taken to the doctor. I had hoped he would send me back to the hospital. Pain was something that I knew all too well about and did not want to be responsible for inflicting it on anyone else.Our level of endurance was attacked emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. These combinations of assaults were just as exhausting on our well being as was the physical fights were. Both Edgar and I dreaded recess, lunch time and after school times because this was a time when we where the most vulnerable and without any adults present. Brad Udall writes about Edgar’s first fight at his new school and how he spent his time dodging the school yard bullies, who he was forced to live with during the school year so there was no escaping them. He was terrorized by both the boys and the girls, so badly that he would do almost anything to stay in doors, or be within hearing distance of an adult. The school kids would physically beat him until one day they beat him so badly that the angels of death were once again waiting for Edgar, just like they were when he was seven years old, to cross over to the spirit world. In stead of succumbing to his own death little Edgar surrendered to his school mates’ whims, and started stealing for them. He had learned to utilize his abusers’ to his own advantage, to ensure his own survival.This brought back memories of my first attempts of retaliations, which was when I was in grades four or five. I had decided that I had had enough of the bullying by the boys in my class. On my way home from school one of the boys had started terrorizing me by chasing me up the hill and kicking at my shoes, proceeding all the while by calling me nasty names. Without even thinking about the consequences, I grabbed whatever part of his head I could get a hold of and rammed it into the closest telephone pole, face first, and proceed to give him one swift kick in the bum. That was the end of his reign of terror and the end of my freedom for a couple of weeks.We both had more then our fair share of attempted and near death experiences or in Edgar’s case the actual death experiences. Edgar and I were starving for human contact that was not connected to pain.We were forced to defend ourselves against those able bodied kids. We both had feelings about running back to the institution, where we were both loved and accepted for the abilities we had which had become familiar grounds for us.We both knew that this kind of acceptance would over shadow the hatred and pain we experienced, because we were two First Nations kids one from the Apache Nation the other from the Coast Salish, who were labeled retarded. The social workers did not take into consideration the type atmosphere he where growing up in. They did not look at the environment’s limitations, and our experiences of living in a hospital a long period of time.We were struggling for acceptance from our roommates and classmates, and what ever version of parental guidance we could get. We were starving so much for this acceptance, friendship and love that any kind of attention that we received from staff, relatives, strangers or guests was satisfactory, even if it meant that it was going to get us into trouble or into church. This type of feeling would last only for a short time, before we would want more, to help fulfill our endless desire that could not be filled by the institutions we both had been in.The church connection helped both Edgar and me escape the situation we both were in. Our lives were so similar that I had even gotten involved with the Mormon Church when I was about thirteen or fourteen years of age as Edgar does in this book. This relationship only lasted a few weeks before I was ousted for disobeying the elders and drinking tea which was a taboo of the church’s beliefs. I had done this because I was proud of myself because I had been given a new privilege by my parents. My parents had a rule in the house that once we kids got to grade eight we no longer had to drink Kool Aid or powdered milk, or water that we could have tea and coffee. So for me this was like a signal or right of passage into adulthood, which I was not going to miss out on. I then managed to get involved with Pentecostal church, which I had become attracted to because I liked the way they sang. Reality hit me slowly when they told me that because I was a young lady that I should get used to doing things like the dishes and taking orders from men because there were certain things expected of young women like me. I got out of that because I wasn’t going to be told what to do by anyone. Going to the Anglican Church was right out of the picture, because the last time I was in one of these churches my foster parents were having words with the parishioners, who didn’t want us heathens in their congregation, so my entire family was politely banned from the church. The only other church that I knew of in town was the Roman Catholic one which I was going to have nothing to do with because I had been told that was where all the rich people went to and that they didn’t like people like me.So, I had to find other places to go to if I was going to have any kind of an escape from my family life. I had learned to use the church life as an escape route, and had established a little bit of a social life where I felt I would be accepted. As long as I continued to be needy the parishioners continued to welcome me, so long as I stopped asking questions about anything and everything. Despite all my effort to be accepted into the realm of religion, and my desires to have a social life I quietly exited the life of religion for life on the fast tracks of army cadets. Shortly afterwards I dropped out of this too, and left everything, including my new found family, for a perilous journey into a new found freedom of life on the in the bars and streets where there were no rules.The author never really writes about Edgar’s feelings about how God saved his life on more then one occasion before he was placed in a Mormon foster home and the church as an avenue to escape the destructive path imposed on him like the plague since he left the reservation. The author does write about how Edgar used his Herman Jubilee typewriter and typed for hours non-stop. He would type about the gossip that went on between hospital staff and other employees in the hospital and the stories he had been told about why he was in the hospital. He would type because that was his way of coping with the situation he was in after being in a coma for several months. Edgar had received a Herman Jubilee type writer from one of his hospital roommates who had care enough about him, and knew that he was not able to hand write as a results of being in a coma for so long. Edgar’s roommate had come to know what little Edgar’s needs were long before he would ask for anything. Some how, his roommate knew that Edgar would benefit from the use of a typewriter that he himself had cherished so much. One day he left Edgar alone and made arrangements for someone to bring his own personal machine from home. He gave this to little Edgar. Edgar cherished it so much that he taught himself how to type, and literally dragged the machine with him from the hospital, to the residential school, to his foster home, to the home of the woman who was going to adopt him as a child, his new family’s home.This tool gave him a safe way to vent his frustrations and emotions through his non-stop typing. He typed for hours, at all hours of the day or night. He typed to God, to his best friends that he left behind in the hospital, to his mother, to grandmother. He typed rhetoric, fantasies and the true feelings that he was experiencing in hospital, residential school and in his foster home.Edgar valued his typewriter so much that he even stole paper, typewriter ribbon and saved every scrap piece of paper that he typed on. He saved all 11,383 pages of them for years lugging them from place to place. He used it as a tool to escape from his reality the same way I tried to with religion and joining the army reserves.Both our transitional stages into moving into our foster families were similar in a lot of ways, including family sizes, race and religious beliefs. His memories of his early days in his home seemed blissful. He remembers being able to sleep-in in the morning. He remembers how soft the bed felt and the aroma of “Waffles with peaches and cream” a home made breakfast being cooked was something that neither one of us had ever experienced. My move was not an exciting memory for me according to what my parents told me later on in my life. They told me that I was physically sick every night for several months and that I suffered night mares. The things that I do remember is seeing three kids about my age standing in the kitchen window waiting for some one special to stop by, and having to share my bedroom with two of them. On some rare occasions there was an extra kid in our room. Children would arrive in the middle of the night. My parents would always make room. Even if it meant they had to sleep on the floor themselves. So, sharing my room was nothing new to me because I had grown accustomed to this while I stayed in the children’s hospital.Together Edgar and I learned about racism and ablism, long before sexism in school and out on the street. Once I had learned this part I became more paranoid about myself solidifying my personal thoughts about being really different from everyone else.Edgar’s sex education class began long after mine did. He talked about seeing two adults doing the ficky fick on a couple of occasions. When Edgar was given an invitation to attend a men’s only group he quickly learned that it was going to be about sexuality. He wrote about it as if he was bewildered about this action. I was the same. When the adults in my realm decided that I needed to attend one of these classes, I was just in grade three. I had no idea what I was seeing and hearing; and definitely had no idea what this had to do with me. I felt about the same way Edgar describes his feeling.We also both learned about the freedom of learning how to ride a two wheel bicycle at much later age in life, than our own peers. We learned at a younger age about institutions, separations from our mothers, death, freedom and the values of true friendships. We both accepted what has been given to us without much of expression of tears or fear.Almost forty years later I still live with remnant of sleeping with a light on somewhere in my house, like the light under the door that never went out, or not having anything hanging on my walls or plants in my house. So sometimes I still dwell within the institution, but only within my own mind until someone like my husband or son point out that I have re-arranged our entire cupboard in a systematic fashion just like the way institutions do as if I am still searching for myself.As for Edgar he has found his way back home and into he arms of not one family but multiple families that have fallen in love with him and are ready to embrace him for who he is. He found the woman who was going to adopt him, she also the one who would be able to tell him about his life before the hospital and how he had come into her life through her late husband, the mailman. Edgar also found a community of church members who embraced him and welcomed him into their community. Through this event is where he also found the love of his life and soul mate that had two little boys who were living without a father. Edgar has found the love and acceptance that he has not received for years. Once he had found this love and acceptance, he had attained the tools he would need for the years to come as he accepts the challenging role of become a father, for the first time to these two little boys.As for me I have found the same tools as Edgar had found when he was eleven years old. I have found my typewriter at fourty-six and am now writing none stop and allowing the stories to come through my fingers.
I like Edgar have had multiple new beginnings.
Which is why I have chosen to call my story NIL/TU, O because this is about as close as I can describe how I preceieve my life to be. I have been told by one of the Coast Salish elder that this means new beginning. I see my life now as I embark into a new life as a mature student learning about what life is about as a First Nations elder in training and as a student returning back to public school so that I can get my grade twelve English writing.
The past few weeks have been a big adjustment for me. Sleeping at night when most people in this community are sleeping makes me seem normal. For someone like myself who considered herself nocturnal this in itself is what I consider one small success. I am slowly being turned around in my personal life style. If I were to describe what is happening to me in a new language the closest word that I would use is assimilation, which in my own thoughts has reached a new depth. For the past several years my home life has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. I struggle within myself to find my own inner strength.
For years I spent more time pushing other people’s buttons looking for the right one that would lead me to the destination that I wanted. I did not understand until I was in my thirties, what my wants were. Once I understood what they were then, then I struggled to accept them. The convalescence process had begun. I had become conscious of my own thoughts, the way I spoke and still do speak to people. My pragmatic approach to over come my own disabilities has started to help alleviate the power that my own fear had had over my desires to address my fears of doing English.
As I go through this process I find myself kind of wandering through a day-to-day life with both of my feet firmly planted on the ground and pointing in the right direction. Some days I am running, other days just wandering lethargically knowing that I can achieve my own goals in my own time and that it is okay to have one foot in the past where I had become accustom to responding to other people’s needs first and putting mine on the back burner only to have it simmer away until the need to address the issues festered right in to my soul.
Once this had started to happen too many times I could no longer avoid the issues because my community work, which I loved so much, began to suffer. I have learned that it is okay for me to yearn for the past, but only for a short time. Then I must move on and look to my future because I now realize that it is only I who will suffer the most without this education.
For me to reconvene my thoughts, my actions and my daily schedule is a huge challenge. My hopes and dreams for a better future not just for myself or my family are so diversified. I think I get these hopes from being brought up in multiple worlds and being born under the Gemini sign. When I make references of multiple worlds I am referring to the childhood that I was exposed too.
I cannot even compare it to my friends’ childhood. I am not even sure why I have written about this today. Maybe it is another one of those stories that was put on the back burner that needed to be told or maybe it was a left over after thought from today’s discussion in the classroom.
Sometimes when I think back on my childhood I remember that old Dolly Parton song called "A Coat of Many Colors". I can only interpret these words into my memories of growing up with not knowing my own biological parents or seeing another redskin just like myself.
I grew up in a realm of constant movement before I was eight years old. Where doctors, nurses and other hospital staff were coming and going. I never knew where they were coming or going to. I just knew that when I went to bed at night that there was one set of big people and roommates. Then I would awake the next morning to another group of big people and sometimes to new roommates.
So I had spent years in the children’s hospital learning to be loved by only the people who shared my realm or long corridors which became my playground.
This was during my formative years where I learned to love and care for more then just myself.
One day another new person; came into my realm and told me that I was going to get some new friends and that I would have a real play area full of new toys. I was just ecstatic about this. She told me to go get my coat and my shoes and that she would take me to meet my new friends. I never questioned her because I had learned to trust the adults in my life.
I did not know that this would be my last time in this place that I had come to know as my home.
I don’t remember much about traveling from Vancouver to Powell River. What I do remember is at one point hiding under my crib with my brother when I was about three or four years old, being on the big boat asking everyone if they were my new friend. I also remember things like the color of Miss Bledsoe’s car cause she was the one who told me not forget where we put the car. She asked me a lot of questions like what I wanted to be called. She also told me things like I would have three new friends and a baby to look after. I was very happy when we finally stopped getting in and out of the car, because I was getting tired. Again before I got out of the car she asked me what I wanted to be called so I told her that I wanted to be called Rose because she had told me a story how beautiful roses are and that they were special flowers symbolizing one’s love. Before I got out of the small white car, Miss Bledsoe gave me a shiny new penny with a bird on it that looked like a dove. She told me that these were birds of love and that because I had a lot of love to share this made me a good little girl and that she wanted to me to remember her and to look after this shiny new penny for her.
Before I got out of the car I noticed three new friends staring out the window almost as if they were waiting for someone special to come.
I went in with Miss Bledsoe, who told everyone that my name was a special one and that I was named after a beautiful flower called a rose.
I looked around the house and saw a whole bunch of things everywhere. New unexplored territory.
I really don’t remember Miss Bledsoe leaving on this day. I do remember being excited when she came back. I had a whole new bunch of new stories to tell her. She came this time with clothes and some papers and a stuffed tiger for me. She told me that she would come back in a few days and that I could show her where my bedroom was. She asked me to take care of the clothes and not to forget to put them in the cupboard.
I began to feel really sad because I was beginning to miss my bed and my friends. So when Miss Bledsoe came again I asked her to take me home. She told me that I was already home. I got mad at her and told her that I wanted my own bed and that Nancy needed me. She asked me who Nancy was, so I told her Nancy was my friend who slept in the bed next to me. I told her that I used to color pictures for Nancy so that she would know where the light was and that sometimes I had to go get the lady in the white clothes for Nancy. Sometimes Nan couldn’t move in her bed and that sometime I had to help her. Miss Bledsoe reassured me that I was a very good girl and that she was sure that Nancy wouldn’t mind it if I stayed for a little while longer. I asked her to let Nan know where I was. She also reassured me that she would.
Miss Bledsoe returned a few days later with a coloring book and brand new colouring pencils. She told me that they were all for me. I told her that I didn’t want them right away, but I would keep them for when I was at home in my bed cause Nan would always tell me that it was okay for me to colour before I went to bed.
Miss Bledsoe also told me that Nancy didn’t sleep in that bed any more because she had a new bed and friends just like I do. She showed me a picture in the newspaper. There in the biggest picture that I had ever seen was a picture of Nancy on her bed, next to a big car. With her hand lying on top of her favorite blanket was a picture that I had colored for her.
The delight of seeing my friend in the picture only lasted a short time. I soon began to sob at nighttime because I really did miss my friend and the other kids in our room. So I told Miss Bledsoe that I was sure that if I went back home that Nancy would come back too.
Miss Bledsoe said that she couldn’t take me back there because my new friends would be sadder if I went away.
I then came up with the solution that all my new friends could come and stay with me, and Nancy, because we had lots of beds, books and food.
She told me that she couldn’t bring them because her car was only a little car and that their school friends might miss them and that they would be sad too. She also told me something new about that place Nancy and I slept at and called home. She told me that was not a real nice home and that it was a place for sick kids, like me who went to get better. I didn’t know that I was sick so I began to ask her questions about why kids had to go there because I wasn’t feeling sick.
Soon I forgot about feeling sad and about how much I wanted to go home.
When my new found family was able to get me registered into school, I found myself becoming the centre of discussions for my parents and teachers. For my well being my parents had done their best to shield me from hearing the negative things being said about my development. Every once in a while I would overhear them talk about going to see the social worker. This usually was followed with a change in classes, teachers or schools.
I remember my parents getting into some very intense discussions with a lot of strange adults, which was not foreign to me by this time. When I would enter the room everyone would stop talking, and ask me how I was doing, and how I liked my new home and friends. I would tell them that it was okay and then I would go on to tell them what I had learned at school.
I vividly remember my dad almost losing his temper. It was at a time when I was struggling for power and his acceptance. I was about nine or ten when I first saw and heard him sternly say in a frustrating tone of voice, "Just look at Rose’s coloring! Does this look like the work of a retarded child?"
Up until this point I had never heard my dad become so angry that he almost threw the picture down onto the kitchen table. When I looked up from what I was doing, I saw that he and my mom were speaking to a totally new stranger. The picture that he was showing this person was one that I had taken from another girl in my classroom.
When I had gotten into an argument with my mom two days ago, I was so angry with my mom that I took the picture that she said that she liked the most and scribbled all over it in black crayon. My punishment for doing this was that I would have to erase the wax crayon and do another picture for her. With every stroke of my attempts to erase what I had just done, my sobs became more and more prevalent; I still could not tell my Mom. Two days later when I saw my classmate doing the same picture, I decided that I would take her picture and put my name on it. I figured that my parents would not know the difference because she had the same special name as mine, so it would be very easy for me to change her last initial to mine. Little did I know that this was enough to catapult me right out of that classroom, as well as into a new school
I had only been in school for three months before I started doing this.
It took me about a half a school year to begin to realize that I was different from everyone else. Even the teachers and the kids were very different than what I had become accustomed to. Some of the teachers were okay, but the kids were down right mean.
They called me all sorts of names.
Everyday I found myself being teased about my skin color, my weight and about being retarded. I never knew what these words really meant.
The day usually started out okay, as long as I wasn’t in school. Recess was okay because I didn’t have to go outside. Lunchtime was a different story. I had to put myself into survival mode because I was going to have to go outside for a full hour without my teacher. The kids in the schoolyard would steal my lunch and call me a retarded squaw, or fatso. I would do my best not to cry, or retaliate, to show them that I could do the same things as them. Which meant getting into trouble most of the time. This showed how gullible I was, and how much I just wanted to be accepted by them.
During my first few years in elementary school there were very few memorable moments that were positive. The ones that were most outstanding were when I got a certificate for not missing a day of school in grade one and once in grade three when I stood up in front of the entire class and spelled out the word adventure without looking at the spelling book. I won the points for the girls, to get extra playtime. The girls, all came over and said that was awesome. I loved this attention because I was finally accepted! I had some friends that were not my brothers or sisters.
I was so proud that I ran home and told my mom that I had my own friends and that they loved me.
This one moment made up for all the fighting I had to do to get home from school.
I never did ask my parents what the word retarded meant because the kids on the school grounds had taught me that it was not a good word, and I didn’t like how it made me feel.
Mom and Dad were giving me as much love as I could handle because they had come to understand that I had become almost immune to physical contact. But yet, this was something that I was craving for and thrived upon. My longing for this kind of contact was convalescent for my well being spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. For someone who was only eleven, in grade four and just starting into my womanhood, it seemed almost too much to handle.
This is when my rage struck out again.
I was doing the hormonal thing all over the place.
My parents said that if I hated them so much that they could make arrangements for me to go to residential school. The last thing I remembered saying to my mother was "Sure get rid off me, just like everyone else has done. Toss me out just like a rag doll. Nobody loves me anyhow." In that loud outburst I told her that I was going to run away. Her retort solidified my opinions of what I thought she felt for me at that moment. She yelled back, "Fine you can leave as long as you take what you came with, and as long as you don’t leave the yard."
What a shock this was to me because I had never been given the power to make my own choice. When I left the house I was determined that I was not going to let her bully me around too. I was going to make sure that she and everyone in the house knew that I was mad. I slammed the door as loud as I could. Leaving the house without Tigger, the tiger, who had always consoled and comforted me.
I went as far as I could go without leaving the yard. I slept right on the edge of our yard doing my best to ensure that not one part of my body was going to land off of our yard. I wasn’t going to give my Mom any reason to punish me.
This night was one of the, longest, coldest, sleepless night outside, right next to the compost pile with the rats and snakes using my body as a stepping-stone to get into it.
I got up bright and really early, and stormed back into the house, and told my parents that I was still as mad as ever and I was not going to apologize for anything! And that it was going to be their fault if I got sick and died!
I couldn’t tell my parents that I didn’t like my newfound friends any more.
It was then that I realized that I had started to bond with my mom. She gave me something else no one else had ever given me. She heard my unspoken words of how much I really needed her.
Her gift to me was her unconditional love and respect, space and power that would propel me on and into all sort life’s ups and downs.
By the time I reached grade five I was becoming more aware that not only was I the only Indian in school, but that I was one of the oldest too in the school, and I was becoming a hard core bad ass kid with a huge anger problem.
It was my grade five teacher who had taught me that I could learn and have fun learning. He introduced me to math, reading through music; I learned my times tables and how to read, while I learned to play the flute. He also taught me about RACISM. I had never heard this word. I had never experienced having a teacher speak with me with such a kind and genuine tone in his voice. He had also reassured me that the feelings of rage and resentment were normal. This was something else that I never been told. It was his persistency and unwavering commitment to being the best that he could in teaching his students that learning could be fun. He had taught me the power of words and the differences between oral and written stories. He encouraged me to write about the things that were happening to me.
I had overcome a lot of barriers that were considered insurmountable for me.
I had learned to walk properly, to read and write to do times tables and to survive in multiple worlds by the time I was thirteen.
The desires to go home to the institution of the Children’s Hospital, where I had lived as if in a cocoon that shielded me away from the outside world, for the first eight years of my life, had subsided. Only to be replaced with hatred of the alienation that I had felt because I was the only redskin in the school.
Then some unknown friends moved me into a maze full of love and hate.
This I am sure was done without the perilous thoughts of what life would be like for me.
I grew up in an institutional setting of the hospital, and then was moved into a home full of white people without being consulted. This placed me where I was exposed to diseases like racism and alienation and inconsistency terrified me.
This instilled in me a better understanding of why I had this sense of powerlessness.
My struggle for expressing my true feelings of self-acceptance was not coming easy for me.
Things changed drastically for me again, when I entered junior high. My newfound friends, that I had in elementary school had disappeared.
Again I was left alone!
I had to relearn how to defend myself, from not only the white kids, but also the Indians.
I had to establish my identity with them.
But there was something a bit different this time. I was not the only red skin, nor was I one of the oldest in the school. I also began to wonder about my ethnicity. I certainly did not want to become one of those dirty drunks that I heard about from the kids on the school grounds. I was not going to be one of that dark- skinned white kids that I detested for most of my school life. This only lasted until I got into my first scrap with one Indian bitch from the rez. She was the meanest girl that I had ever come across.
She never did physically hurt me. Mentally she targeted me every time we passed each other in the corridors. Her eyes felt like they were piercing my heart. But her words would do more damage to my already shaken self-esteem that comes along with being in a new school.
What a shock! Here I was only fifteen years old in grade eight, and having to try and deal with all this other crap of starting in a totally new school again, losing my newfound friends and then this. This was also at a time that I had to do a lot of extra studying for what I did not know immediately all that I know is that my parents said that I had to study these books. I figure they were just trying to torture me. I had to learn about Canada’s history. Then I one day they took me to the same court house that I had visited on several different occasions when we were going to bring another kid home or when one of us was going to get removed. At one point I thought here I go being moved again and still no one had consulted with me. When the judge called me up to the stand I was nervous. The judge looked straight at my as if he looking right through me he said "Do you Ruby Rose Dominic swear to God to stand before me and swear to up hold the rules of this country?" Right away I look up to the judge and tell the judge that I can’t do that. He looked at me and said why not? I replied because if I swore then my parents would wash my mouth with soap. Everyone in the courtroom burst out laughing. I didn’t know why everyone was laughing cause I one thing I had learned from my previous visits to this very same room was that this was not the place for laughter. He asked me if I knew why I was there "I said yes." He looked at me and well what is the reason? "I looked at him with tears welling up in my eyes and said "I was here because it was my turn to be moved." The judge looked at me with tears in his eyes and said "No Ruby- Rose you are here to get your Canadian Citizenship"
It wasn’t until I was in this new school that I discovered that I had a natural brother who was in the same grade as I was. We met each other when our homeroom teacher made us sit in alphabetical order. It was like looking at myself in the mirror. We both denied to our teacher that we were related. It was then that the teacher spilled the beans that we were brother and sister.
It was almost too much.
I created my own cocoon, which kept me safe from the evils of the world. I shared very little information with my parents about what was happening in school. The fighting and the name-calling had started again, but this time it was from people who looked just like me. Things got so bad that I was stabbed with a pencil; leaving a scar that is still visible to this day on my arm.
One day, my Mom told me that she was going to come and pick me up right after school. She only did this when I had to go to the doctor’s or one of my after school activities. She said to wait for her by the office. I did. When she arrived she came with a man that I did not recognize. This
was not an uncommon sight because she was always bringing one of my other brothers’ and sisters’ parents with her. I didn’t panic when she told me that he was a social worker. I had become immune to them. I had learned that these people were okay.
Sheer panic had set in when this same man came back a few days later and had informed my parents that I had become too attached to them and that this was not good for all of us. So he had decided for me that I was going to be moved back home. He said that it was in my best interest that this is done as soon as possible. I forget how my parents had broken the news to me that I was leaving on the following weekend and that this would be every weekend until I became detached. I do remember my mom reassuring me that everything would be fine. She said that the nice couple, that I had seen every Saturday at the Laundromat, who also seemed to be at the skating rink every time I was there, would be there, as well as some of the girls that I went to school with.
I was in for the shock of my life when I finally met my biological parents for the first time, but not really the first time, in my life. Then I met the same girl who taunted me unmercifully at school. My biological parents had introduced her to me as my auntie.
I soon began to detest weekends.
It seemed that every single Friday this social worker would show up at school. He would drive me out to the reservation were my family lived. I began to resent these trips. What they meant to me was that I became my parents’ convenient weekend babysitter and housemaid. All that I saw was the drunken Indian that my friends had told me that I was going to become. Then I had this social worker that was telling me that I was getting too close to my foster parents, and that this was wrong. I tried to tell him that I didn’t see anything wrong with this and that I had come to love them. He didn’t really want to hear what I had to say. But I was obligated to listen to him as he was beginning to talk sternly to me about my becoming too assimilated. I never heard anyone except my Dad speak to me in this tone of voice. My Dad only used this tone of voice when I had done something wrong, so I thought to myself that I had done something wrong. For the first few months I never said anything to my foster family about how I felt about this man or those dreaded weekends. Then one weekend my biological mother had accused me of not doing the dishes right.
She immediately resorted to telephoning my foster parents. I welcomed this because I didn’t want to be their slave anymore. This might be just the trick to get me out of these torturous weekends where I was witnessing my younger brother being beaten, and my parents becoming the drunken Indians. As for my older brother, I would keep an ongoing relationship with him, drawing closer together as the years went by. Every weekend we would see our parents go out, knowing full well that they would soon return drunker then a skunk, fighting and most of the time they would bring friends. This was something that I had never seen adults do.
Both of my brothers and myself soon learned to stay out of our parents’ way. My older brother would bury himself in schoolwork and lock himself in his room. My youngest brother eventually caught on to the ideas that I would let him out the back door as soon as my parents came back home.
As for me, I had learned through their harsh words to me, that my parents wouldn’t touch me. I was that special child that they didn’t want. I had learned to manipulate them with this newfound power. I had learned to survive in another world.
I attributed this style of defense techniques that I had learned from the institutions of the hospital, and the schooling I was receiving. I had to learn to do this to survive without getting physically hurt. I was allergic to pain.
I wanted out of this situation so badly that I tried to commit suicide when I was seventeen after ensuring that my brothers were safe.
I discovered that there was a lot of tenacity in my family making this a hereditary trait. I remember my great-grandmother leaning over me after my cousin and I crashed his car into the salmon bed. All I could remember hearing from her was, "Ruby-Rose, look what you have done." When I looked at where she was pointing to, all I could see was the tops of the trees missing and the bridge railing dangling. That was not what she was pointing to. She was pointing at the fish hatchery. My cousin and I had landed upside down in the riverbed at the foot of the hatchery. The first thing that I remember hearing after getting out of the car was our granny saying, "Now look what you have done. You have contaminated the fish bed." She didn’t seem to care that my arm was dripping blood and that I might have a concussion.
Then she quickly turned to our cousins and started yelling orders to them to bring down the hatchery tools. I couldn’t believe that she was putting the fish first before her own grandkids. I told her that I thought that she had her priorities backwards and that I needed a bandage. Her response was that she didn’t have the time to waste on such stupid acts of kids that were too immature to understand anything. As she was speaking firmly to all of us and barking orders, she was hauling me up the embankment by my injured elbow and telling me that I needed to grow up and not to forget that I was coming back to clean up my mess.
My Mom and Dad had the insight to see that I was not coping well with everything that was expected of me. They introduced me to things like young girls groups, army cadets and sports. I rediscovered my love for music when some of the girls in my class were taking guitar lessons. When I told my parents that I wanted to learn how to play, their rebuttal was that that was great, but they couldn’t afford the lessons. This was the first time I had felt any real rejection from them. A few days later my mom came back and asked me if I still wanted to learn to play the guitar. My immediate answer was, "Yes." She said that she thought that I could take music lessons if "I was willing to work."
I first learned how to play a recorder in grade four, a flute in grade six and seven, then in grade eight I was goig to learn how to play the guitar. I had such a passion for music that this is how I learned my times table and learned how to play classicial music.
Before I could get a paying job that was more then just babysitting I had to get my identification papers. Because I was born outside of Canada I had to apply to become a citizen. This also meant that I would have to go before a judge and take an oath and swear on the bible that I would abide by our country’s laws. I told the judge that I couldn’t do this. He asked me why. I told him that my parents would wash my mouth out with dish soap if I swore and that the bible said that I would be a sinner if I were to use it for anything other then Sunday school. Well after everyone finished laughing, ten minutes later, I became a Canadian born a broad. I walked away asking my parents and social worker if they thought that he didn’t know that I was a girl. There was more laughter when I apologized to my parents because the judge had made me take the lord’s name in vain. I had no idea what these words meant, but I did know that they made everyone one happy.
I managed to raise enough money to pay for all these things. This also provided me an escape route from all the trauma that I had been exposed to. I excelled in sports. I had helped bring my soccer team to the provincial playoffs and went to a campout for fifteen days in Alberta. This trip had such a profound impact on me that I wanted to stay forever. I was willing to work another year to pay for my own way again if I could stay. It almost made me proud to be an Indian. I was accepted for being me. I was not being judged for what I could not do or how I looked. I felt accepted by these total strangers. There I learned about being responsible for myself and the horse that they had ready for me. We had come to have the experience of living the way my ancestors used to live in a Wild West setting. This was my first experience of being away from home without my family. I had fallen in love with this new power of independence. I had figured out how I could achieve this.
School had become just another thing that I had to do to get what I wanted.
Grade ten brought a whole new insight on my outlook on the world. School was okay. I was registered into a new educational program. I was placed in the local hospital where I was encouraged to take indigent people for walks and to bring them whatever they wanted.
Aw! At last, a role that I was very familiar with.
I thrived in this environment. I had decided I wanted to become a nurse instead of a social worker like I had promised Miss Bledsoe. This was the first time that I had made any kind of a reference of wanting to pursue any kind of a career. I was becoming normal like the other kids in the family.
My coping mechanisms were weak, but they were stable enough to get me through to grade eleven with a very low passing grade.
Soon my teachers had begun to realize that my family life was not a normal one. They had also come to understand that being loved and accepted by everyone meant the world to me. They also knew and understood that being rejected and judged by all, who entered my realm of schooling, was also a part of my educational upbringing. I had started to succumb to self-sabotage. I was giving into becoming everything that I detested about being an Indian.
My life at school was coming to an end.
The gift that my foster family had given me, through their unconditional love was implemented.
They taught me through their patience, understanding and consistency to have higher expectations that I could achieve anything that I wanted. They encouraged me to give life my best. They never let me dwell on the labels that had been attached to my name. They never really said that you couldn’t do that.
I flew the coop before I could finish the school year. I was free at last. The government had untied their shackles from me, relieving themselves of any responsibilities of me. I was turning nineteen years old in less than two weeks. I was relieved too. I would not have to suffer any more torturous weekends with my family.
I left my foster home to be with my foster brother. He had always been there for me in the background for most of this chaos. He was the one person I could tell all my troubles to and not get into too much trouble or be judged.
Ah! A Newfound Freedom; that had no Expectations
I had never experienced this before. I was not accountable to anyone, except myself.
I was in control of my own well-being.
This was something that I had secretly craved for eons.
I was about to embark on a new journey that was more perilous than those of my school years. I started looking for work. My brother was a great help. He showed me around Calgary. He helped me create a resume, something else I had never had to do.
I got my first job as a chambermaid in the Four Seasons Hotel. I was just ecstatic; I was on my own. I was able to pay my share of the bills and I was able to buy whatever I wanted.
This excitement only lasted a short time before I had to move again. My brother said that he couldn’t take care of me anymore. He encouraged me to get a room at the YWCA. When I did book a room he came and helped me move in. I found myself all alone again. Only this time I was in a city with almost a million people in it. I had almost forgotten how different I was and how lonely it was to be different.
I had learned about the power of words such as love, hate, consistency, inconsistency, power and powerlessness. All of these words played a significant role in my formative years, along with discrimination based on my race and state of health, institutional living versus de-institutional living, white or Indian. What was life going to bring for my future? Which world would I pick?
I was another lost child passed through a system full of mazes with only the constant flow of people coming and going through my life and the love of my friend Nancy’s memories and my foster family. In my opinion, they were the only ones who had an invested interest in me as a productive person. As for the school system and the social workers, I hold no animosity towards them for they did the best that they could at the time.
I often find myself in doubt of whether or not they did do me any justice, by denying me the rights to a normal childhood to reflect back on to.
I had become used to meeting new people. So when my new roommates took a liking to me, they invited me to come and meet up with them after work.. Without even thinking about, it I continued to hang around with them. These people had become my new family.
They would take me into a new era of sexual exploitation, drugs and alcohol.
I was spiraling out of control. I had lost my room at the Y, my job and my relationship with my foster family.
I was in a new and perilous lifestyle. One that I would not be able to walk away from; I had no one to turn to, except the drunk in the coffee shop, that had befriended me over the preceding days.
When I told him of my predicament, he then invited me to come and share his room with him. This was not an unusual offer to me, so I went. We continued drinking for days. Then the money ran out. So I just went and another job. As my drinking became more important to me, I lost more and more jobs.
The man whom I had formed a friendship with at the coffee shop became my common law spouse.
Then one day someone told me that they had the perfect job for me where my drinking wouldn’t bother them, and that I could make enough money to pay all my bills. I was so happy to get a job. I never questioned it. I had total trust in this stranger and that this was okay. He made arrangements for me to meet him at the bar where he doted over me, giving me all the free drinks I wanted. What he did not tell me was that this affection came with conditions that I had to pay him back. I told him that I didn’t have any money and that I would repay him as soon as I got my first pay cheque from this new job that he had promised me. His tone of voice and sweet prelude had changed right before my eyes. His retort was "You’re damned Right! You F’N Squaw! SMACK!!! You’re coming with me." He then grabbed my arm and told me that I was going to do as I was told. He told me that I was to go outside and stand on the street until someone came along and picked me up. He then threatened me if I didn’t come back, I would get a beating. I did as I was told. I still didn’t know how I was going to get the money back to this person. I was only outside on the street for a few minutes before another man pulled up in a car and told me to get in. I did as I was told. I told this person about the other man who had hurt me. He nodded as if he cared. Then he asked me how much? I still didn’t know what he was talking about. He then asked me how much I owed the other man. I still didn’t know. But I figured the other guy would be happy with fifty bucks. So I told this person fifty bucks. He hummed and hawed for a few minutes then he uttered, "I’ll give you twenty bucks if you let me feel you up." I didn’t know what to say. Then this guy reassured me that the other guy would be okay if I just gave him twenty. He then said if the other guy wasn’t fine with this, then he would give the rest tomorrow. This began my life of being sexually exploited, where I learned more about other racism. I was a little girl in an adult’s body and it seemed like every man I spoke to knew it. They took advantage at every opportunity. I stayed in this lifestyle for five years searching for a purpose to live.
During these years I had stopped loving!
I had stopped caring for myself. I was beaten and raped repetitively over the years. My life had no value on the streets. There was a time that I had wished that someone would do me in. This wish almost came true one night in November. One of my johns was a serial killer. Instead of pulling out money to pay me he pulled out a gun.
I hid there in that garbage bin.
Frozen in fear and unable to move because of the fear that man had instilled in me.
Then something happened. I started talking my way out of becoming another statistic of a series of unknown killings of girls working the streets.
He left me in a garbage dumpster in minus thirty-six degree weather.
I was in a cocoon of garbage. Too afraid to make a noise, too afraid to move, I had shut down. Until the pain of fear was so overbearing I could not longer just sit idle, I had to run. I somehow had mustered up enough strength to climb out of that metal cocoon and start half running half walking looking for help.
I vaguely remember passing a fire station before the assault started. This memory was a blessing in disguise. I found my way to the station. Where I felt the warmth of a blanket cover my naked body, that was physically numb and covered in blood, from the cuts and bruises that I didn’t remember receiving. Then I heard this man say, "What is your name? Where is your ID?" Then he said, "Help is on the way."
The hospital was anything but sympathetic to me. I was quickly reminded that I should not expect to be treated any better because I was just another drunken Indian, who probably had a little too much to drink with my old man. Vexation was setting in very fast. I was too exhausted to respond.
A couple of months later I was still in a lot of pain and covered in bruises. I went to a doctor that I had only seen at the hospital, and told him that I was worried that my arm was not healing properly. I told him that I was unable to move it and the bruising was getting darker and the pain felt like it was burning inside my arm. He looked at it and informed me that it was most likely from the trauma and that I was still recovering from the assault. I went back a few days later and told him I was still in a lot of pain and that I wanted to take something for it. He refused to give me anything. He did agree with me that it was getting worse, so he sent me to get it x-rayed. A few days later I went back to get the results of the tests and to see if I could get some painkillers. The doctor told me that there was nothing wrong with my arm therefore he wasn’t going to give me anything for the pain, but he said he was going to send me to a specialist. Fifteen weeks after the initial attack I finally saw a doctor who I thought would listen to me and give something for the pain. I was in his office for all of fifteen minutes before I stormed out of the office and said "Sure stick another label on me." This doctor had just informed me that I had Multiple Sclerosis. I asked him how he could diagnosis me without even physically examining me. All he had asked me was how old was I, and did I have any family history of arthritis. I told him I was twenty-one and that yes that my brother had rheumatic fever, which had left him with a form of arthritis. I still didn’t know what this had to do with the pain I was feeling. I never went back.
I had no boundaries!
It was not only my body that these people had beaten out of me. It was my tenacity. My desire not to become that drunken squaw was destroyed. I was that drunken squaw who had sold out her soul for two things, acceptance and companionship. Two words that I had misinterpreted as love from these newfound friends were not the same as what I had learned growing up.
My life had deteriorated so low, that when my parents came to visit me. I had lost over sixty pounds in less then two years. Any hope that I had, had was gone. I was not the same person who had left their home three years previously.
There were days when I felt like I was a lost lamb, just waiting for someone to come and take over of the helm. I never questioned anyone. I had never been taught to question people. I was like the lost lamb being lead through the maze of life, only to end at the slaughterhouse.
My Common-Law Husband and I move from Calgary.
We moved to a small town called Canoe in the 1980’s where I spent a winter convalescing from years of abuse. I ended up living on a hundred acre farm that could have been used for the Walton’s’ TV show. This little bit of solitude came with a lot of new challenges, ones that I had always taken for granted. Things like heat, running water, clean floors, accessibility to stores, and buses. I learned new skills like how to unfreeze pipes, never to fill the bathtub with water when you have no heat and how to retrieve wood in the middle of a blizzard. Hitchhiking was my new transportation mode that got me to and from the doctor’s office and the grocery store.
I finally mustered up enough courage to go see another doctor because I could no longer move my arm. The markings that had been very visible since the day I had the encounter with the East End Serial Killer were getting more painful.
This small town doctor looked at my arm and said that I had to go to another specialist in the next city, which was over fifty miles away. The doctor telephoned the specialist in Kamloops. I overheard this doctor tell the specialist that this was urgent that I needed to be considered top priority. So off to Kamloops I went. My common-law husband was in hospital with pneumonia at the time so I had to make this trip on my own. So I hitchhiked in the late winter months to see this specialist with absolutely no money to my name because my common-law had taken control of the finances.
There the doctor had taken one look at my arm and said to me that I needed to get into the hospital as soon as possible. I found myself finally asking him what was wrong. He said, "I don’t know what exactly is wrong. I can tell you that your arm is not responding the way it should be and that you are in serious trouble. This time the doctor started interrogating me about not being responsible and not getting my arm looked after. He said that he was going to have to slice my arm from wrist to elbow because it was under some kind of stress that was causing my arm to lose its mobility. He said that I was going to lose the use of my arm if I did not have this operation. He slated me for an operation the next morning and had ordered some test for that afternoon.
So there I was all alone about to have the veins in my left arm cut out. Then from out of nowhere the specialist comes into the room and says, "Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?"
"What!" was all that I could mutter? I was catapulted into a different frame of mind. He said that he could not operate on me as long as I was pregnant. I was stunned. I hitchhiked back to Canoe and told everyone what the specialist had said. For the most part everyone was delighted. I was still in shock because the doctor in Calgary had said that I would never have a child because of the medical problems that I had had earlier.
My common-law and I moved a couple more times before I moved back to Powell River where I grew up. This is where my son was born three weeks later.
Could I face the future of raising a child and living with an active alcoholic? Looking after my well-being was the last thing on my mind.
My son arrived on Christmas Eve.
His birth marked the beginning of new challenges for me.
Would history repeat itself?
I was full of a lot of uncertainty. I had no concrete parental skills to fall back on. My common-law was of little help. He figured that I should have the natural parental instincts like everyone else did. He proceeded to beat on me on a regular basis until one day I just flipped. I hadn’t done this since I was in grade school.
I was alone again, only this time I had a baby.
Racism would show its ugliness when my son was just fifteen months old and on the playground of our apartment complex.
One of the first few days that I would let my son plays outside in the front of our unit I could hear some commotion in the vicinity of were my son was playing. I went to check on him. I quickly grabbed my son and my neighbor’s kid who was hitting and kicking my baby. I was horrified at the sight of seeing my baby being abused physically by another kid. What made the scene even worse he was the words coming out of this four year old child’s mouth. He was calling me baby a dirty rotten little Indian and telling him he stunk.
My son didn’t even cry. He just stared at this kid with his trusting eyes and wanted to continue playing outside.
I took both of the boys’ right upstairs to where the other child’s parents were. His parents made him apologize right after I had told them what he was saying and doing. It was not the words that I took heed too. It was the fear in that little boy’s eyes, were louder then his voice.
It wasn’t until later that night that both my son and I started reacting. I was full of tears and rage. My son he was crying because he was unable to understand why I was crying. He was trying to console me.
I was so traumatized that I started to speak to a long time friend of the family about how I was feeling. She told me that the emotions that I was feeling were the feeling of love. She also reassured me that these were normal feeling.
The Ministry of Children and Family Services started calling my foster parents, and asking them about me. They said that they had received several complaints about a screaming baby. They also said that they were concerned that I was abusing my son. My foster parents explained to them about my son’s temperament and that I was a new single mother.
A short time after this interaction, the same ministry that had been responsible for me as a child was now contemplating apprehending my child. Instead of coming and talking to me directly they sent my foster parents. My foster parents’ response was that they knew me better than any ministry and that they would ask me directly what was going on with my son and me.
My Mom asked me directly if I had or would consider giving my son up for adoption. My immediate response was, "No!" She then asked me what I planned to do for the future.
I told her that I was planning on going back to school so that I could get my grade twelve and get off of welfare. She then asked me if I needed anything. My immediate response was, "Yes." I told her that I needed to set up some daycare for my son and that I needed to find someone that the ministry would pay for. She said that she really liked my response because she knew that I was sincere about this and that I had been thinking about this for some time.
So with the assistance of good foster parents, daycare providers and an understanding ministry worker, I was able to keep my son. By this time he was eighteen months old and I was getting this parenting thing down pat with a little bit of help from everyone who came into our world.
This is when I finally understood that I was normal and that it was okay to ask for help.
I was not left alone.
I began to become secure enough in my parenting.
My survival skills were still "Intact."
My son and I adapted to a daily routine
I finished getting my grade twelve equivalency diploma at Malaspina College. By the time I finished this course I was bored with the routine and had accepted the fact that I was now responsible for this child’s well-being and that he was not going to go away. Everything that I did from this point on was going to have to include him. I not only became responsible for the both of us, I had also developed a desire to pursue my education. I had decided that I wanted to move on and give both of us a chance at a better life.
The true test of everything that my parents had taught me would show its end results when I completed my grade twelve and moved to Victoria to continue on with my education.
We moved to Victoria when my son was two and half years old. Our first stop was a short stay at my foster sister’s and her family’s house.
They were a fantastic support system for the both of us. My sister and her husband helped me identify what my needs were and they helped me find some of these places. Then they also encouraged me to find a place in Victoria that would be close to all the services that I would need.
She drove us around to several different places before we settled in an apartment in the Blanshard community area.
After my son and I were settled, I started really missing my family. I was feeling that old familiar feelings of feeling alone again.
My sister came to my rescue several times with her regular phone calls to me. She was constantly asking if I had gotten my son registered in a daycare, and did I get registered into school? She had expectations of me. I had so much respect for her that every time she called I felt obligated to tell her something.
Her phone calls became fewer and fewer as I became more settled and as we progressed in our new found independence.
I finally stopped procrastinating about getting registered in school and got my son registered in daycare.
I also had to learn to deal with authority.
After realizing that I was changing my destiny from becoming a social worker, I decided that I wanted to become a childcare worker, so that I could work in the preventative area of child apprehension. I wanted to work with children who were at risk of being apprehended from the home that they were in. I was so enthusiastic about doing this type of work that I was willing to tell my story about how the system had failed. But the people in the system had not failed me at the same time. This was the system that had never allowed me to have a normal childhood; but did give me the tenacity to pursue helping others.
It had also compelled me to let other children know that it was normal for them to have the emotions that they were experiencing. I was preparing to share my story with them.
This was not to happen. At least not on the day I was getting registered. I was just so excited about making it this far. As I was standing in line, not paying attention to which line I was in because I was too busy getting to know people I might be going to school with.
When I finally got to the front, I proudly said to the woman sitting at the desk that I wanted to be registered in the childcare worker program.
She tells me they don’t have one. I am dumb founded because I was sure that I had covered all the bases before I left Powell River. I told her this and showed her the receipts and all the other papers that I had brought from my band office. Her reply was, "That was from last spring’s session. We aren’t offering it any more." She then asked me what my name was, so I told her. She says, "Oh yes, we received your application form. We thought that you wanted the Human Development Worker Program, so we registered you into that program." So I was registered in a program that would take me on a different but not so different journey of learning to work with people with special needs.
Was this fate or destiny?
Things were going just great for my son and I. Things were on an uphill swing for the both of us with absolutely no interference from my families or the social workers. Life was looking very optimistic for the both us. I started attending Camosun College, my son started going to one of the best daycares in Victoria.
This meant that we had to follow a rigid daily routine of getting up everyday. I had to do this on my own.
Would history repeat itself?
Here I was returning to school for the second time in my adulthood. I continue to meet each new challenge with my best efforts. I became totally involved with school and caring for my young son. We would remain in this blissful state for months.
Then with one small mistake I was reminded that I was still just another redskin under the forever watchful eyes of the government. In all of my efforts to be all that I could be I had become overworked at school and was exhausted.
I decided to go home one afternoon for a short catnap before I went to and pick up my son.
I fell sound asleep for several hours. I awoke with a really startling, panicked and sickening feeling that I had forgotten my son.
I had over slept.
I telephoned his daycare to no avail; no one answered the phone. I looked at the clock only to come to the realization that it was 8:30 at night and that the daycare had closed two and half hours earlier.
I looked down at the blinking light on the telephone and realized that I had had several new messages that I had not responded to. Still with this sickening feeling I pressed the button. I heard the voice of my son’s daycare provider say, "Rose, we have your son here and it is ten past six. We will wait until six fifteen then we will consider calling the after hours duty social worker if we haven’t heard from you." Then I played the second message saying, "Rose, we have called the duty worker." The third phone call was the same daycare worker saying, "We have decided that we would take him home for the night because it so unlike you to do this, but we still had to get permission from the duty worker. Please call them when you get this message. Here is their number."
I called the after hours duty worker. After a lengthy discussion with them over the telephone, they sent a duty worker over to console me because I was sobbing all through this whole ordeal.
They came and checked out my house, and me, in this order. I was so proud to show the social worker that we had just moved into subsidized housing and that we had managed to buy my son a brand new bed.
They had accepted my statement as the truth, thanks to the good relationship that I had established with his daycare provider. She told them the same story unbeknownst to me at the time.
Before they returned my son the worker said, "Rose you need to quit trying so hard and start taking better care of your child."
My only retaliation to this comment was, "I was trying to make a better life for my son and me." I felt compelled to let her know that I was not just another Indian. Instead I told her that I felt that I had to try extra hard if I didn’t want to become a welfare bum, and a drunken Indian, and that it was important to me to succeed at this. I had to give it my best because life had already given me two strikes against me.
She looked at me with this real puzzled expression on her face. She said, "You really are trying to make a better life for you and your son."
I said very proudly "Yes I am!" She then asked me what two strikes I was referring to. I said, "The first was that I was born a girl and the second was that I was born an Indian." She was just as stunned as I was. I was stunned at my bluntness. She was stunned at the way I had said it and acted as if she had never heard this before.
I had never consciously given this any thought.
This day would be forever embedded in my mind.
I found myself more determined that I would never have to deal with this agency again.
My son and I went on for months afterwards doing our daily routines of going back and forth to school and daycare. I took him everywhere. I showed him what life was really like. I took him to places like the lower causeway in Victoria’s Inner Harbor every night to watch the street entertainers and showed him some of the beautiful sides of living in Victoria. We did the touristy thing.
I worked hard at school for fifteen months only to receive a failing mark and a fulltime job at the same time from a man who had come to our class as a guest speaker.
He was intrigued with the fact that there was a First Nations person taking training in working with special needs.
So I wasn’t too upset at not passing because after all I wasn’t on welfare, I wasn’t drinking or playing emotional bull shit games anymore and I had given school by best shot.
By this time my son was old enough to start kindergarten, and I figured that this would be the job of all jobs.
I got him registered in a private school in our neighborhood because I wanted to give him a good education. I really didn’t want him to have the one that I had had.
He was excelling at his schooling. I was so proud because I was able to give him another thing that I had never had myself.
We were making it on our own.
I was able to keep him in this school for almost three years before I had lost my job.
Racism would continue to plague our little family.
It seemed like no matter how hard I tried to dodge it. It would continue to dog me like my past had.
How much will it take before it stops?
I was being targeted at work with all sorts of racist remarks and innuendos about stuff that I was doing on the jobsite.
My boss said that it would be easier for me to be laid off of work rather than deal with the prevailing issue. So I said fine at least I could collect Unemployment Insurance (UI) if I had to.
Within a matter of hours I had another job, but it wasn’t going to pay enough to keep my son in private school.
I had to transfer him to a public school. In just a few weeks the phone calls started coming in from the teacher.
She said that my son has Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity (ADD&H) and that she wanted me to take my son to our family doctor and get him checked out for this disorder. I told her we didn’t have a doctor because my son had never been sick, so I never bothered to get him one.
Her only response was, "Oh yes that’s right, I forgot that you are a single parent." My sense of what she wanted to say would not come out until later that year.
She then proceeded to give me the name of a pediatric specialist.
Is this an echo?
I figured that the teacher knew best so I dutifully took my son to see the doctor. I informed him about this disorder that the teacher said my son had. I informed him, about my son’s father and myself. He looked at my son for a few minutes and decided without even physically touching or speaking to him that the teacher was right. He then filled out a prescription for Ritalin.
I don’t remember much about what he actually said, but I do remember feeling enraged and asking the doctor if he had not heard what I had told him about our family history.
He said he had heard it all before and that I needed to learn to be more responsible for my children.
I was dumbfounded.
I asked what children he was talking about because the last time I looked I had only one child.
His reply was, "You know what I mean. You people are always having more children than you can afford to look after, and then you expect us to look after them for you."
I was too stunned to respond to this doctor’s statement.
My son and I just got up and quietly left without the prescription and saying absolutely nothing.
I did not know how much of an impact this would have on my son or myself until three days later, when I walked my son to school.
I went in and spoke to the teacher about how disturbing I found this doctor’s comments.
I really don’t know if she heard what I was saying because her only response was, "Did you give your son the medication?"
I said, "No."
I don’t think the teacher really heard my reasons as to why I didn’t want to give my son any medication.
She went into a rage of telling me what a lousy parent I was and how my son was giving her more grief than any other child in the classroom. She was afraid that she was now going to be forced to send him to another program and possibly another school.
I told her that I was happy to oblige her with her wishes. This was said as sarcastically as I could without losing my temper.
I let her know in a very stern tone that I thought that neither my son nor I felt that we were being heard. Once I made this statement I then carried on with more words and told her that I thought the school system should be more flexible to each child’s needs and not endorse the doctors who wanted the children of the new generations, to become addicts so that they could be ensured to have a job for the future.
A few days later I got another telephone call from the school.
This time they called me into the principal’s office with my son’s teacher. The principal started out telling us how sorry she felt that she was going to have to send my son to a special needs school. Then she proceeded to tell me how hard it must be for me being a single parent and raising a hyperactive child on my own.
I braced myself for the worst referral possible and found myself just wanting to puke at the same time.
I had no one that I could talk to about my son or to find out if I was doing the right thing.
I was defying people and what I considered their authoritative roles.
I never questioned where this defiance was coming from.
I knew that it was making me feel really angry and that I wasn’t being respected enough to be heard.
All through this process my internal senses were telling me that the teachers and everyone else who was involved with us were just tolerating our presence.
I started adopting an attitude of meeting everyone with a negative outlook.
I was getting tired of feeling hurt and sensing that my family was not being heard and that no one really cared about us two. Until one day when an old neighbor from my childhood showed up.
He needed a place to stay and I needed a good sounding board to fire off a lot of my pent up rage. I told him that he could move in until he got a job and received his first pay. Things worked out great. He got a job. He helped with everything. During this whole time he also talked to me about my rage and suggested that I start doing something about it. I was waiting for the or else. I waited for the first negative to be said. It never came. He suggested that I give it some thought about going to Al anon or some kind of support group. He reassured me that things that were said there stayed there and that these were people who were going through the same problems as I was. I came up with a million reasons why I couldn’t go. He kept coming back with the same offer and that was that he would come with me.
It seemed like no matter how much I resisted, he always offered to be there for me. I would eventually take heed to this and soon learned that I was an excellent caregiver and that everything that I did was because I did care, and that most of the time my caring nature is what got me into trouble.
I didn’t have clear boundaries.
Soon I found myself asking my friend about other groups.
I was hearing the words of support.
I had found some new friends. These friends would walk me through the ups and downs of childrearing as I was growing up with my son.
Life, for me and my little family would be full of perilous ups and downs throughout my son’s school years.
I struggled to give him a normal life with at least one of his own parents. A life that would not include the addictions, abuse and the interference of a social structure that was not friendly to us.
We would remain in our up state of well-being for an indefinite amount of time.
However, my son began to resist everything that I had struggled so hard to avoid in my attempt to put forth our rights to live a normal life.
I struggled within myself to accept him for who he was and for his resistance. There were days that I just wanted to scream and shake some nonsense or something like that into of him. My friends told me this was wrong.
History was repeating itself right before my eyes.
I questioned myself on how did I become like my biological mother?
I found myself treating my son exactly the way I saw my mother treating my younger brother. For years I had detested everything about my mother. I did not understand how she could be so mean to her own children during the time when I was suppose to be reintegrated in my own family. It wasn’t until years later that I, like her, had been removed from our culture. I was apart of the sixties scoop, she was apart the residential school. She lived through her entire childhood under the apartheid; I grew up seeing the end of it during my early teens.
I knew that I did not want to be at all like her--at least not in the way I was remembering her. I never spoke out loud about how much not being able to bond with my mother meant to me or how important it was for me to know why I was placed in a children’s hospital for more than eight years of my life.
Over the years the answers to these questions have become less and less important to me because there have been a number of events that have happened to me that have been really positive ones. Like the time that I invited more then fifty students and their billets over to my house for a small after school gathering first and then informed my parents at the last moment that were a few people coming over. It was awesome. Everyone was well behaved and people chipped in and helped with everything. This was an incredible feat in itself because the students were from Lester B. Pearson College. This college is a school that welcomes students who came from other continents. We had to learn to understand cultural differences and overcome the language barrier if we wanted to communicate.
Both my Dad and my father spent a lot of time doing a lot of mundane things such as gardening, clipping my toe nails, operating tug boats, driving around and checking out garage sales and telling me oral stories of my family history when I was feeling sad. It was our way of having some one-on-one time with each other.
I have a few fond memories of the first time I felt the touch of my mother’s hand when I was thirty-six years old. They were the softest and warmest hands that I had ever touched since the birth of my son. This was a very important thing for me because it meant that I really was connected to her.
Then there was the time when she told me that she just loved having my son around because he was one of the most, well behaved out of all the grandchildren she had at the time. I think this was her way of letting me know that I was doing a great job of parenting. In her own way she has given me enough strength to let me make my own decisions with less of an uncertain stance.
Culturally I have never really been exposed to my own traditional practices so I have adopted many different Nations’ brothers and sisters through my natural abilities to befriend people. This extended family has invited me to come and join in their sweats, songs, their dances and drumming. On one of my many trips to Vancouver I have attained recognition as being an elder every time I go and visit the Vancouver Native Friendship Centre. This is the only place that I can say was one of my most perplexed transitions were I don’t really know when this happened. But I do remember standing in Vancouver famous blood alley with the Mohawk grandmothers sing the women peace song and asking for peace all over the world; as the aroma of salmon and bannock was waffering through the alley that normally had the wafering of urine and people’s sweats. The sight was a beautiful one. The image of the grandmothers will be for ever etched in my mind as I stood there with them in their full regalia singing and reminding the new generation what it means to be respectful to yourself, your family, and community and to the generations to come. Their words sounded as sweet as the taste of the chumas to come. Some of the people who are all to often over looked by today’s society were showing their dignity and respect for everything around them, others got up and danced the same way the old ones taught them when they were young. They were eating and singing and praying with us as we prayed for world peace. The elders had announced that we were going to walk over to where the other peace rally was being held after everyone had had enough to eat. As we walked through the alley and past Victory Square I was told that I was to lead the grandmothers to the peace rally and deliver a message of peace to my union brothers and sisters on the other side of the downtown core. I could feel the energy of the grandmothers coming right through my voice and echoing around the Vancouver art gallery. Now every time I go to Vancouver I am told that I will always have a seat at the elders table. I told the women warriors that I am not a grandmother yet. They said that it didn’t matter. What does matter is that I continue to show my respect to all life and that I continue to love and share my story, and just say things that I see the way that I see things.
I dream of the day that I wear my own traditional regalia and sing my song for my mother and of receiving an Indian name.
I am proud to proclaim my status as a proud First Nations woman from the Killer Whale clan, community advocate, activist for all human being and being called a warrior woman.
To answer one of my own many questions of would history repeat itself?
I would answer yes and no.
I still have a lot of unanswered questions that I doubt that I will ever get answered.
My desire is to make my existence worthy to myself, my son and my family through educating people in my community about my life’s experiences of growing up in the institutions of a children’s hospital and then in government care for the first nineteen years of my life.
The Creator has blessed me with multiple gifts.
The one that I cherish the most is my son Joshua James born on Christmas Eve 1981 who I credit for saving my life.
I believe that it is through children like him that the poverty and racism inflicted on them, simply by their birthright, will slowly disintegrate.
To my biological family and foster family, thank you for being there and never giving up on me.
To the community that I live in, thank you for accepting me as I am.
A proud First Nations woman who has survived life’s ups and downs and does the best that I can for today and today only.
I pray that for everyone who reads this story this learn to never give up on themself, a child or pass judgment based on another person’s race, ability or disability, religion or gender.
It has been through my son’s unconditional love and my own personal beliefs about what Spiritual, Physical, Emotional and Mental (S.P.E.M.) means to me, that I survived this first part of a perilous journey into adulthood.
Growing up in this maze has led me on an incredible journey and into a career that has yet to be determined.
When my son and I came to Victoria eighteen years ago, we came with the idea that I would be going to college for a couple of years; then I would return home and move into a brand new house that Indian Affairs had built for us.
Instead of graduating I failed my course due to my poor English skills and managed to get a full time job because of my race and my nurturing skills. I held onto this job for a couple of years until one day I was accused of crossing the boundaries of my job.
I returned back to school.
During the early 1990s I entered into an employment program that would once again reveal the issue of my poor writing skills. Soon this would be another one of my failed attempts at addressing this subject. Again I would end up on welfare, only this time as a married woman and a mother to a very angry young man.
After this job I had a few seasonal jobs and then ended up on welfare and working on the Provincial Cabinet Minister’s Advisory Council for people on income assistance. I had been nominated as a representative of one of the volunteer boards that I still am involved with.
I have received a few recognition certificates from the organizations that contribute to enhancing peoples’ lives and from the medical professionals who acknowledged the work that many of us volunteers do. Then there have been the ones for the many different projects that I have implemented.
I did my best to deal with my son’s anger until one day one of my husband’s friends told me that my son was dealing some hard core drugs. After I got over the initial shock, I became very angry with everyone and thought that the best thing that I could do was to put my son into the foster care system, to protect him from the life of an addict. This is what I had told myself to validate my own actions. The real reasons did not surface until long after I had signed the papers that would put him into a short contract foster care home; after he completed a program in the children’s hospital where he was supposed to learn how to deal with his anger.
Throughout his early years my son had been exposed to all sorts of experiences. Some that were very familiar to me because that was what I had been exposed to as a child, and others that I had imposed on him because I had never learned how to be a parent, and did not know how to cope in appropriate ways, with the issues that come along with being a mother.
I remembered my Father telling me about his school friend living in Victoria and what a great man this person was. I sought him and his wife out. I found them very quickly through my network of friends. When I did get a chance to speak to them, I told them about my son and the problems that I was having with him. I asked them if this was normal for boys this age. They said no, not in real life, but yes it was normal for everything that I had gone through and for the things that I was putting my son through.
I told them that I did not want my son to grow up the way I did, not knowing my biological family, living off the streets and knowing absolutely nothing about my culture.
I then asked them if they would consider co-parenting my son.
They said yes.
Making this kind of decision was the easy part because I did not want to lose him to the streets. This would be the first time that I would have a say in how my son would be brought up into his adulthood. I had been able to pick who his surrogate parents would be. This decision was one of the best one that I have made. The family that I had chosen would be able to offer both my son and myself something that neither one of us had ever been exposed to.
They are a blended race with very strong family values and knew my father’s family history.
History has repeated itself.
I feel like I have come full circle and breaking away from the shackles of an institutional upbringing.
Stage Two and Half
My upbringing has definitely had a huge impact on every aspect of my life.
The impact has been so huge that it has reached beyond the realm of what my friends have told me of their personal experiences, or would ever fathom in their life time.
It has been through my life’s experiences that I have learned to advocate for myself and for the people who enter into my realm.
I no longer have to depend on a system that controlled most of everything in my life.
I have attained a new sense of freedom.
My son has been well looked after and entered into his manhood, learning the traditional ways of our people and wanting to continue his education.
Does history repeat itself?
My relationship with my son is similar to that of mine and my parents, but yet very different.
We talk to each other occasionally and usually in passing. We both work very hard at whatever task the creator puts in front of us, but we do not do the deep rooted emotional stuff that I think most families have between themselves.
I believe that this phase that we both are in will eventually pass in its own time.
I know that as each phase comes and goes, I get a little stronger in finding out who I am and where I am going with my life.
I have learned that it really doesn’t matter in what birth order I arrived into this world, nor does it matter which culture I grew in or where I fit into my community. What does matter is that I have survived insurmountable strikes against me in a world that is not so friendly to its own First Nations community or children who need just a little more tender loving care.
I am finding that I am embarking on a new extension of my journey; one that I never ever dreamed of.
It is a journey that I have been blessed with a new found strength that I did not know that I had. Through my own misfortunes, I have found my voice and my compassion and love for my son, my mother and for other people in my realm.
I have this built-in tool called "my voice" that to this day has been my most used tool. It has gotten me in and out of trouble.
Falling in the spring of the early 1990s was one of the best things to happen to me.
I ended up on welfare again. They initially turned me down because they said that I was eligible for unemployment. I did my best to maintain my composure and not lose sight of why I was there; so I politely told the receptionist off and asked to see the supervisor. I was told that she was not available and was told that they wouldn’t see me until I finished filling out their forms. I had to fill out all the forms just to get a decent pair of shoes.
For a short time my son and I went to a family treatment centre that was run and staffed by First Nations. This was the beginning of my attempts to establish some kind of cultural identity and work on parenting my son with his dad.
Since the early 1990s I feel like my life has been soaring for a plateau that I have yet to reach.
I have done a little bit of everything as far as work goes, attempted to return to school on at least three different times. So my yearning to get a certificate in something is still present in my life twenty years later.
I have done things like being nominated to the provincial board of cabinet ministers’ advisory council, traveled to Durban South Africa, represented Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition and received numerous awards for the warrior spirit in me.
Giving birth to my son was what saved my life.
Stumbling and breaking my ankle was what taught me to speak up and out for my rights to receive an adequate income from the government. This led me onto the advisory council for the province. Failing a college course is what got me into becoming a family support worker which was what got me married. So hearing and seeing nothing but people’s human rights being neglected and abused has incited me to act on my own instinct which has taken me to places like skid row in Calgary Alta. to Vancouver, to London, England and to Durban, South Africa. So nothing has really ever come easy for me and most definitely nothing has come in the normal way for me.
Over the years, I have had a few fun moments like when I was sixteen years old and I had invited a few of my new found friends for a small gathering after school at my place. I kind of forgot to ask my parents first and a hundred sixty plus people showed up along with the schoolteachers and principal. It turned out to be the best party of my life because I got to meet students from other countries and I was finally accepted; by my own peers. As for my parents, they loved what they saw and politely asked that the next time I wanted to do this that I give at least a full day’s warning so at least they could cook a little extra. Years later my parents still receive letters from a few of the students. Every once in a while a few of us still see each other in our travels.
When I was eighteen years old I attempted suicide which caused me to develop a very close relationship with my biological great-grandmother. This was about the closest I would come to my own culture and family for the next twenty years. My granny’s love meant everything to me. Even to this day I can still vividly picture her standing over me and saying, "What the hell do you think you’re doing damaging the fish hatchery like that?" She grabbed my injured arm and dragged me up the eighty foot embankment. "This is going to cost the community plenty because of your stupidity."
My parents are still waiting to hear the official story of how James and I met each other and how I accepted his proposal while I was crossing Pandora Street on my way to a rally or something like that. I gave him his answer by the time we reached Johnson Street but didn’t take him seriously until we were standing inside Brannon Lake Correction Centre getting a marriage licence. That is when I told him we couldn’t get married because we didn’t have rings or witnesses. For our wedding rings, we gave each other a pumpkin head flash light and a ring of flowers. I think.
I have met a few well known people like Tom Jackson and Prince Charles while I living in Calgary. Later I would meet Nelson Mandela of South Africa and both of his wives; Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader; Danny Glover, movie star, activist of Human Rights and descendant of American slaves; and the King of the Zulu Nation, Robert Macomba.
Tom Jackson and I use to hang around on the streets in Calgary and dream about the days when we would no longer have to work the streets. We had dreams of a place where we would both be safe and free from all of our abusers. Then we would have a few good laughs, a few drinks and try and forget the shit that we were in because we weren’t out there hustling our bodies or the drugs that neither of us really wanted to sell. When we didn’t make enough on the streets doing this, Tom would bring out his guitar and he would just start singing up a storm. Soon he was serenading me with his songs. One day I didn’t see him anywhere. He was just gone. It wasn’t until two years later that I heard our song on the radio and found that Tom had gone to stardom.
When I met Prince Charles in Calgary I didn’t believe he was a Prince so I just treated like any other Joe and had a few good laughs with him when I was cleaning his suite.
When I was in South Africa attending the United Nations World Conference on Anti-Racism as a representative of Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition, I met Nelson and both his wives. We were able to sit down on several occasions, have a good cup of South African coffee and some serious talk about what we saw for our peoples’ future. We shared a lot of laughter and tears about the things that brought us together***** (Indian Humor).
Yasser was in South Africa to remind us of the business of why we were there. Soon after hanging around with us we had him laughing with us.
During this conference I was invited by the UN officials to join the delegation of representatives from Canada to attend the Zulu King’s five-day wedding ceremonies to his thirteenth wife.
Danny Glover and I got to spend very little time speaking to each other once we reached the King’s wedding ground. We both were treated like VIPs. Him, because of his movie stardom and his activism, me because I had been asked to present the wedding gifts to the king and all his queens from the First Nations People of Turtle Island.
The host of the place where I was staying in Durban used to tease me and say that the King might chose to marry me and that I would have no choice but to accept. My House Host in S.A. told everyone it was because the king had taken a liking to me because of my sunny disposition. She told me that I better be prepared because the King just might take a fancy to me and take me as his next bride. All I could say to her was he had better be prepared for a little bit of cheeky talk back, a lot of protesting about the living conditions and the spicy food.
On the day I returned from South Africa would end up being a day that no one living on Turtle Island will every forget. I came back on Sept.11, 2001 full of hope for the Eradication of Racism and that the world would take heed to the messages being sent to them about their Racism. It was a day that I came totally exhausted from my around the world trip and remembering what I had learned from being around people who spoke and understood the same language that I did. The language of multiple levels of discrimination and knew that barriers that I had to over come just make it to this conference. Because I am so proud of being a woman of color and proud of everything that I have accomplished in my life that I wanted to share my community a piece of my culture. I succeed at raising enough money with the help of a few friends who believed in me a little girl who had to learn to co-exist in a blended world of growing in the children’s hospital. Then moving onto a an all white family where I was the middle child of seven children going to an all white school where the children were able bodied and the grass was green and where I could play and not have to be supervised. As a teenager I was told that I was the only girl and the oldest child in my biological family. I had also learned that I was the only child out of four children who was placed into a foster home. I also learned that my biological parents had to endure a lot of criticism throughout the entire sixties scoop for having children at a very young age. They to were rebelling and suffered a loss. As I have gotten to know them I have to some kind of a better understanding as to why I am the person I am today.
Perhaps this is I get my desire and strength from in wanting to share a piece of my legacy and apiece of my culture. It is through this deep desire that I really wanted to share a piece of my family’s culture that a few of my friends and I fund raised enough money for this two-week trip and managed to pay for this trip without any government assistance. This trip was one that the entire world will never forget. I pray that one day the people in power will take heed to the messages of activist like me have to say about all the ISMs.
Since this day world has been a different kind of roller coaster life. I feel like I have almost risen from the ashes like the Phoenix goddess and am still soaring for a new plateau one that has yet to be revealed to me.
Now as I am getting ready to enter a new phase of my life, I am a little bit more optimistic about giving people hope, and wondering what is in store in my future.
Some of the most weird and crazy things happen to me. Things that just make me laugh and kind of wonder what the creator has in mind for me.
This past weekend on Saturday morning I was out and about doing some of my usual things. I stopped at a tiny coffee shop. I was standing at the counter waiting for some service when this lady came up to me and told me I had the most striking native features that she had ever seen. She said that if she had her camera with her she would snap my picture. She asked me if I would consider having my picture taken for some possible movie scenes. I just smiled at her and thought about for a moment. Then I laughed and said, "Yep, I would consider it". She quickly gave me a business card and said, "I will see you on Monday." I just laughed and said, "I might see you on Monday."
When I went to the POW WOW at the Songhees reserve later that afternoon, I thought I was just going to sing a few songs, take in a few dances and socialize with a few friends.
Then something even more bizarre happened to me that made me smile. I was all psyched up and ready to sing. Then bang, a friend came into my realm and said, "Hey Rose, are you ready?" I said, "Yes." She said, "I have something here for you, if it fits you." I looked into the back of her van and there it was one of the most beautiful dresses that I had ever seen. It was blue with sewn-on matching ribbons. The design was just like that of the people of the plains. With this offering she had adopted me into her family. She kept telling me that her children were growing up without an elder in their lives. I think that this is the role that she wants me to take in her family’s life, one that I will probably gratefully accept.
All that is left of of this era is the memories. The scares on a set of kidneys that did not work at birth, the mental scars of being someone middle child, only daughter, oldest child, only native child. Over came the fears of living under the thumb of a foster care system that did not know me. Strengthen my strength in my ability to deal with the Racism and Classism that came my way at birth. I some how had managed to limp and stumble away with a rebuilt foot, permanently damaged, left arm, shoulder, hands, fingers and ribs. Minus a few missing teeth and organs and the knowledge that I can over come almost anything that the world can send my way.
Wednesday, 01 June 2005
I’ve become aware of another plateau in my life that deeply disturbs me because I am struggling to find my nitch in life and have try to learn to utilize the skills that I have been taught and in herited from my realm. It has been eighteen months now since I was abruptly separated from my world of full time employment at a job that I had come to love because it offered me a sense of self fulfilment and stability, to a world of once again full of uncertainty.
In the past eighteen months I have returned to school and really worked hard on improving my English writing skills, so that I could stand a better chance at succeeding in getting a certificate in some kind of a career. Instead of finding a job that will pay our family’s rent I have received an awakening, which has inspired me to write about the events that are happening in my realm and how they are affecting my family. This has allowed me to go through a grieving process and prepare myself to once again go without some of what our society considers the most basic needs to just live. My a waking also allowed me to heal at a pace that seems to be as slow as molasses some days and as fast as my two fingered typing will go, creating an avenue for my words to flow from my mind to the paper via computer, mapping years and years of ravelled oppressive thoughts to transforming them to ones of merits.
People like me have experienced being told “we stupid”, “not good enough”, or “your kind is not needed here.” I have found that the pendulum continues to swing both ways. I have proven to myself and to the rest of the world time and time again I definitely don’t fit into one of these categories because I have broken the mould set for me by the society we exist in. I have done this by educating myself about life, and become aware of being exploited because of my skin color, and gender to the do work that no one else wants to do. It seems to me that people like me are only good to have around when it comes around to applying for more government funding, or when a person needs sexual favors or a whipping post’s stand-in.
Then when people like me decide to apply what we have been taught by the mainstream system, through our compliance with the system, we become a threat to the organizations’ well being when we start advocating for ourselves and other people living in our realm. Existing with this thought is what really bothers me because I can see how what I have learned by this system can be a positive step towards a productive life.
It seems as if the organizations don’t want people who have the best hands on education possible to work for them because these people don’t look like they fit the part, they don’t have the educational paper, or in my case are considered too political and therefore I could endanger their organization core funding. So the price people like me pay for learning to advocating for the rights to exist. We are now considered too old or too young, members of the wrong race or gender, not educated enough or too educated, and definitely too political in my own case.
I have been penalized all throughout my life for being too stupid, being First Nations, being overweight, but never before have I been penalized for speaking out or being affiliated with or working for the wrong organization. It seems to me that my affiliations with these companies has created a major rift in my ability to find work. So the people who are accepting my applications or resumes are scrutinizing my associates rather then looking at the skills I have to do the job at hand, as if I was some kind of goddess to fear. They are not recognizing the assets that I can bring to their company.
So, what is that organizations fear about in people like me?
Is it our knowledge, skill, ability to say it as it is?
Or is it because we continue to survived some of the most oppressive discrimination in all of this country’s history?
I just read my last posting and found my self if aw and bewilderment, and wondering what happened. I now what happened and am now on the verg of tears as I come to grips with the loss of my mom during the last week of school. She was my birth mom who loved me so much that she gave me the best gift that she could possible give me. She gave me life and then had to watch me grow up litterly just minutes away from her bossum and blood family, and grow up with another family.
I never ever saw her cry or scream at the injustices done to her; but I did see her struggle for her right to exist and to meet the needs of my brothers and Dad. I heard her once get made at someone for ripping her off as she was selling them a bottle of water down wine. But that anger only a few minutes but long enough for her to let the individual know that she was hip to them and that she was not going to sell to them if they did it again.
She always greeted the birth of each grand child as if it was her first. She loved them all. They gave her a much deserved joy of life. This was a act that her was not able to give to her off spring when she was young. The only other love that she had greater then her grand babies was her love for my Dad. He passed away in the spring of 1996. I think this was the longest that she had ever been seperated from him. He was her first love. They had been together for 36 years before he died suddenly; just as she did.
In one thought I am glad that she went quickly and in another I am so sad because for no other reason other then selfish reasons I feel like I have been abandon once again. Never to feel my mother's hand, hear her voice saying Ruby-Rose why haven't you called me? Are you mad at me? What are you doing? Are you still with James? or Did you lose my number? (which is quite possible because she was always changing her tele#-at least twice a year). I never could tell her that I didn't know how to to communicate with her. Yet there far to many times that I yearn for her affection.
It wasn't unitl her funeral that I found myself assuming the role of a little girl washing her mom's dishing, visiting her like I did when I was child and learning a whole bunch of new things about her and Dad. I learned that she was a historian/ photo nut and craved any attention that she could get from me. I also learned that hers and Dad favorite song was Blue Berry Hill by Fats Domino and that both my brother and I were named after their other favorite songs for the year that we were born(which explains to me why I love the songs of the fifties).
There was one other thing that my mother wished for. That was her first born and only daughter's attention and undying love. You see my mother phone me the day before she left for the spirit world. I chose not to respond to her request because I was to busy preparing to attend a Buffy St.Marie concert which was being held during the world peace conference;off which I had plans in participating in. So the one thing that I craved from her I was recieving all along and now regret my decision when I chose to not respond to her dying request. Even though I spent years yearning for her affection I myself felt that I could not stop my life long enough to give her just five minutes of my time.
So to the womyn who gave me life and taught me how to be a warrior I will never forget you or forgive myself for not being there for you. Love your daughter Ruby-Rose
Creating Hope for The Future A Gathering for Children of The Sixties and Seventies Scoop. November 3,4 and 5, 2006 Ramanda Inn 11834 Kingsway Ave., Edmonton Alta. website address is www.creatinghope.ca