“I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow those walls down because I want what you have.”
“I will take your power your innocence and leave you feeling a living dead girl broken and not able to see your own light.”
At a very young age I had my “NO” taken away and learned you need it to hide your true self. Put on a smile, do what you’re told, suck it up, be a good girl, and big girls don’t cry.
I was born into a family where most could not see my gifts and forced me to suppress them and those that saw my specialness decided to greedily take a piece of it for themselves.
Not able to verbalize what was going on or chastitized for telling the truth, I built a wall of straw because I knew I needed protection. This wall was to protect me from my family because although they were supposed to protect me they failed to do so as they had their own issues add their own issues. Alcoholism, abandonment, and abuse left me with an insecure attachment and not knowing what love or acceptance looked like. I did not know where I fit in or where I belonged. I knew I was a part of my family, I looked like them, talked like them, liked what they liked, but I did not feel like one of them.
Those walls broke down easily and at school and in the community, I learned you needed stronger walls. So, I built walls of sticks and wood. Teachers can be cruel. They have their favorites and succeeding doesn’t get you anywhere if someone has slapped a label on you.
Difficult, hard to handle, too emotional, not a good role model, and not good enough to be Valedictorian despite straight A’s.
It was better to judge me or call me names and degrade me then find out what was really going on with me or show some interest in my life or well being.
A desire to be a part of something beggar, to see the world, to be of service to humanity, and a thirst for knowledge led me to join the Canadian Armed Forces. A quest to hopefully get educated enough to become a doctor.
I built walls of brick in attempt to be Bad-Ass, tough and able to take on anything. I wanted to be the best me possible and be all I could be. A defender, a protector, a leader, and a helper. Children that don’t feel wanted, grow up and often go into professions where they feel needed.
Well in the military they know how to blow things up and friendly fire on domestic territory left me and my walls of bricks shattered into a million pieces and a desire for safety and security that led me to run for a safe room.
Betrayed, abandoned, rejected yet again and conditioned to believe I was a bad person, that things were my fault, and I was a failure I then locked myself in a safe room metaphorically where the only way anyone could get near me was if I invited them in. Letting people into my safe room was not a successful way to move forward. Those I invited in brought their trauma, issues and conditioning into my safe room with them making the environment toxic, negative and full of bitterness and ungratefulness.
I wanted better. I wanted to move forward and go from surviving to thriving. I began to understand my vulnerability was my strength. My adversity had made me resilient and able to overcome any obstacle. When I started to tear down my walls and be true to myself, I started to accept myself and love myself.
I found a way to leave the safe room and face the Big Bad World. By conquering fears, wanting change and more for myself I was able to transform my hurt to lessons. By challenging myself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable I can transmute the darkness to light. I can finally step into my power by taking control of my feelings, my actions, my behaviors, and by being accountable to myself. I fall down a lot without the security of 4 walls protecting me but they only kept me in a Box where I could not see my true potential. I could only see shadows and glimpses of what could be. I was looking through the window of my safe room watching the Big Bad World but not participating.
I feel so I can deal than I can heal. I left the safe room and I’m finally free to be the real me.
A long time ago, I think I may have been married to my second husband at the time, I was going through a “pre-awakening.” I was still asleep, but I was searching. Searching for something that I thought was bigger than me but eventually found it within myself. I had a strong sense of being different and not belonging. Conventional psychology/psychiatry in my hometown was not helping me grow. Religion had not held the answers I was searching for. My first husband was a Jehovah’s Witness and although it was not for me (apparently neither was he) I learned to look at theories and philosophies and see them from different perspectives. Big pictures. I went to a past life regression therapist and had an enlightening session although I was still a little skeptical at the time. At the end of the session, he led me on a meditation to see if I had wings. I saw the most magnificent huge Rainbow wings radiating from my body. I could not wrap my head around that vision, but it left an impression and always stayed in the back of my mind. Big Beautiful Stunning Rainbow Wings. I could not wrap my head around the vision because I was stuck in a negative mindset where I though I was forsaken, everything bad happened because of me and I was a failure that could not do anything right. I could not look in a mirror without seeing everything that was wrong with me and all my flaws. I lived and breathed my sons, yet my own trauma kept me from being a real mother. I was more of a friend, and I wanted them to love me so badly I made many mistakes. I look back now and know that I did the best I could at the capacity I was able to. Ever since I was young, I had a desire to serve humanity and a feeling I was different from the rest of my family. I wanted everyone around me to be happy. I felt all of their emotions and often felt like a peacemaker or peacekeeper. I smiled all the time because that is what “good little girls” are supposed to do. My desire to serve humanity led me to join the Canadian Armed Forces where I dreamed of being a part of something bigger and making a difference. It did not turn out the way I planned, and I ended up leaving the military with feelings of abandonment, betrayal, and rejection, thinking I had failed and that I was only good enough to be an object for men’s pleasure, it also left me with some amazing skills and abilities to be able to adapt and overcome any situation placed before me. I learned some ridiculously hard lessons through trauma that have allowed me to turn my knowledge into wisdom. Going public with my story from the Military and my desire to make sure others did not feel alone got met with ostracism, disbelief, and lots of judgment. Assisting others with no framework or understanding of trauma and not realizing or comprehending the fact I could absorb the emotions of others led me to decide I needed to educate myself, research my own trauma and get a better understanding of how to assist others. I took my 2 young Sons and met the Director of the new nursing program that was starting at Trent University and applied for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Other than wanting to help others I did not have a clue about what I was doing. I was in survival mode, and I wanted a better future for my sons. As much as I wanted to give up, those two kept me going. There was something in my blood that kept me fighting. My dad tried to instill in my brother and I to be lovers not fighters, but I learned young I had to fight for his attention and love. His Father (my grandfather) had been a boxer and we learned young how to use our fists. I was competent, just not supported or encouraged. I had my grandfather’s boxing Spirit of no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get back up. Sometimes I have tripped and fell down myself and I know its important to get up, dust off and keep going. I also had to acknowledge self-sabotage and how my trauma was affecting all of my relationships. So, after I literally knocked myself out one day (seriously, I threw a rocking chair, it bounced off the wall, hit me in the head and knocked me out; not sure if my head cracked it or the wall). I had to take a cold hard look at what I wanted and what I was willing to accept in my life. I was in the process of leaving my third husband who thought I was a white devil whore and had awakened me from my Sleeping Beauty-bubble state in more ways than one. The reconnection to Mother Earth, nature and an introduction to Indigenous Studies provided me with a different perspective on life I was extremely grateful for. The knowledge from the strong, beautiful Women he had introduced me to was what guided me after the cell phone to the side of the head awakened me to the fact, I needed to break free, find myself and look deep within. I had to look in my toolbox and discard the tools that were no longer working for me (metaphorically I had a fisher price hammer and a couple Barbies in there) and get some new upgraded grown up tools. Boundaries were what I needed, not to mention some self-worth, self-respect, self-value, and some confidence. I had been badly submitted, dominated, and conditioned by my family, my community, my teachers, leaders, and Society at large. I had been told by my ex-husband and my brother that I could never survive on my own and I was silly enough to believe them at that time. Everything changed the day I met a man that stood before me like a mirror and somehow radiated back to me (like a mirror) an image of myself that saw how all these previous failures could be reframed into accomplishments. It was like a light switch was turned on. I had been looking for a switch outside of myself in therapy, relationships, compassionate acts, love, and the switch had been inside of me all along. All the lessons in all the hurt and trauma were overwhelming and hard to process but I could see the light in the darkness finally. I was now on a quest to discover what I enjoyed and what I was capable of. The possibilities before me now were infinite and I was looking at the world through child-like eyes where everything was a blessing and opportunity. It was like I was seeing it all for the first time with new eyes. Something kept taking me back to those rainbow wings. I wrote a lot about rainbows after my mother passed away, picturing her dancing under one. In my first act of my own rebellion, I decided to get those rainbow wings tattooed on my back. I was going to go big or go home. I challenged myself, went way outside my comfort zone and moved to a city where I knew few people. My friend found me a tattoo artist that turned out to be a Wizard. I told the Wizard my vision and we discussed the meaning of my wings. I told him they will represent everything I have overcome. Every feather would represent a trauma that taught me a lesson and gifted me with wisdom. I started my wings on my Granddaughter’s 6th birthday and spent 23 hours getting a priceless piece of art tattooed on my back. The process was finished the week of the 20th anniversary of going public about military sexual trauma (which had become a hot issue again 20 years later). The Wizard had provided me with and experience that left me feeling like I was really growing wings. They itched, they peeled, they hurt and sometimes were prickly. The whole time the Wizard was doing his magic he told me he would also fix my cartoon Pinocchio ship on my lower back I had gotten may years before. Injury forced me to be patient and heal before I could return to cover my ship and I felt like I had just broken my wing I had just grown. The healing journey from my injury involved many lessons that were all for my own benefit and assisted my developmental growth. Later in the year I had a black mysterious ship with a lighthouse placed over my old tattoo. When I saw it finished, I saw my wings as heaven (Angelic and from above) and the ship as hell (darkness and below heaven). The ship was the vessel that would take you down the River Styx if you harmed me. I had dark and light, I had balance. I sought out the past life regression therapist and went to see him again. It was a joyful day that brought much healing. There I did sessions with him and his beautiful wife and discovered what my rainbow wings meant. He told me I could communicate, with anyone, at any age, at any level and leave an impression, make a difference in their lives. It started to make sense. I always thought I never fit in anywhere. After this I realized I did not fit anywhere because I belonged everywhere. I realized the only person I needed to please, accept and love was myself. The external reward system of society would never lead me to confidence, respect, value or worth, these must all come from within. My wings remind me to love myself, believe in myself, and to have faith in myself. They are my heaven. My ship is everything I have been through, the rough journey on the Sea of life yet as much as it represents HELL, the lighthouse reminds me to look to the light and reminds me of my wings. I can go through hell, but heaven will always be with me too. Balance……….
I wanted to write an academic paper about International Women’s Day full of statistics about domestic violence, sexual assault and gender barriers. Then I wanted to write out a long thank you honouring every Woman that has encouraged and supported me along my healing journey. I wanted to acknowledge all of the special Women I have met and their contributions to Society. I have met Women who have been firsts in their field. I have met Women that defy all odds. I have met Women who have overcome huge obstacles with grace and dignity. Every Woman that has ever served her Country is a Warrior, no matter the capacity in which they served, they are a Hero in my eyes. Counselors, Doctors, friends and my Veteran family have aided me in so many ways and I am so very grateful for each and every one of them. However on this International Women’s Day I want to honour my late Mother, Sue. We had a tumultuous relationship. I was the firstborn. A daughter, with a brother following 11 months later. At 19 years old after already having her own traumatic past she set out raising the both of us with my father. They were wed 11 days after her 18th birthday in a small ceremony when she was already 4 months pregnant with me. My Mom did the best she could with what she had. I could not see this for most of her life. She had a grade 8 education and was barely an adult when she was all of a sudden raising 2 children. She was the youngest of six children and her brothers and sisters treated her like a baby, even when she was older. They treated her like she couldn’t think for herself, like she didn’t know what was good or right for her. I always felt like my Mom was trying to make them proud but they wouldn’t see it. They only saw everything she did wrong. My Mom’s mom died when I was 10. I found out on my 10th birthday. She had died the night before. This was my Mom’s breaking point. She had been drinking more and more since my baby brother was born when I was 8 and the depression hit hard after Grandma was gone. We lived with our other Gramma. My Dad’s mom. 5 people in a 2 bedroom apartment above her. I shared a room with my brothers until I was 16. I watched my Mom and how she treated me and I judged her. I blamed her. I hated her. I wanted to be anybody but her daughter. I was a self-absorbed teenager that wanted to be noticed in my family and could not see that my Mom had her own issues. As an adult I can look back with hindsight and wish things were different but see them for what they really were. My Mom was suppressed for years. She was not allowed to truly be herself. She was barely an adult when she met my father and had already been through things no young woman should ever have to go through (prostitution, incarceration). My Mom made choices, some turned out good, some turned out bad, just like me. She made the best of some pretty shitty situations and kept moving forward. I thought I was the reason she drank, the reason she was so unhappy and in turn I blamed her for my unhappiness and my issues. My Mom and I finally started to have a good relationship and enjoy each other’s company. We finally started to understand each other and communicate when I realized it wasn’t her fault, she did the best she could. Truth is my Mom didn’t know how to be a Mom, just like I didn’t have a clue raising my Sons. Took me over 40 years to see my Mom for who she really was. An amazing beautiful Soul with a huge heart and stunning smile. My Mom started over after 35 years of marriage. She got her own place and finally got to discover who she was and what she wanted in life. She had friends and traveled a bit. She had a family in AA, as she was sober for almost 26 years when she passed. She lost most of her sight due to diabetes and had painful laser surgery to correct it enough she could see things. She had terrible pain, used a scooter, had chronic lymphocytic leukemia, congestive heart failure, neuropathy, kidneys at 10%, broke her hip and had a mini-stroke but she kept going. She did the best she could every day. She kept journals and every newspaper clipping I was ever in. I didn’t realize what a difference my Mom had made in people’s lives until her funeral. The people that showed up and told me how my Mother had made a difference in their life. I couldn’t see my Mom because I couldn’t see myself. I was so busy not wanting to be like her, blaming her and resenting her that I couldn’t see how truly amazing she was. When my mind was focused on the negative and my own trauma I only saw the bad. When I started to have the same issues with my Sons as I gave my Mom I suddenly realized that she was never to blame. As I got older and progressed on my healing journey I came to find that it doesn’t matter who broke you, or who is to blame, it is your responsibility to fix yourself. My Mom fixed herself and because she did that she was able to assist others on their journey. The Woman I never wanted to be now inspires me to be the Woman I choose to be today. She may be gone from this Earth but she still walks with me every day as I learn from the time we did spend together and the lessons I was too stubborn to learn because I was absorbed in my own trauma. My Mom led by example. She fought til the very end and she left this world independent, courageous and brave. She proved she didn’t need anyone but herself and that she could make good decisions and she lived her own life her way. My Mom is my hero, a real Angel and I am going to be the best me I can possibly be to honour her memory and to provide an example for my granddaughter. Hurt people hurt people, healed people heal people. My Mom was living proof of this and my Mom made me. I am the Woman I am today because of her and I finally accept and love the Woman I was, am and choose to become. Happy International Women’s Day to every Woman out there. May you find happiness,love and peace on your path to finding yourself.
In Memory of Susan Ann (Harrison) McIlmoyle April 25,1954- October 19, 2015
One only has to look at a Globe of the Earth or a map of the planet to see that we are a world full of water. Mother Earth is covered in Water and it has been told that in the beginning before the Earth was even a habitable place it was all Water. There were many creatures living in the World of Water however no humans (D. Longboat, 2017). The Creation story holds many valuable lessons but one of the most valuable is that Mother Earth has provided for us everything that we have ever wanted or needed (D. Longboat, 2016). If I were to paraphrase Professor Dan Longboat (2017) for the three rules of Creation I would say they are to be good, kind and loving and respectful to all your relations; to be good, kind and respectful to all of Creation and let it be your teacher; and Be thankful for all things that keep life going in a cycle and sustain us. In an introduction to Indigenous Environmental Studies course I was taught that we are taking things for granted. Our physical bodies, our minds and our environment. Our health has a direct correlation to our environment (D. Longboat, 2016). If we are degrading ourselves and our environment then how are we showing honour to the Creator and all things yet to come. If we do not live responsibly than what will be left for our children, grandchildren and their children. The coming generations are what is most important, what will be left for them if we continue the path that society is walking. When considering Mother Earth and our Environment the most important thing we need to remember are the 5 R’s which are relationships, respect, responsibility, reciprocity and restoration (D. Longboat, 2016).
It is my humble opinion that our Mother the Earth is suffering because she is not being thanked and not many people are grateful for her sacrifices. So many people take from the Earth and they never give back. How exhausting it would be if people were constantly giving their time and energy but never receiving anything back. If people did their jobs but never got paid they would constantly complain and probably not go back to that work environment. What makes the Earth any different? Could you imagine someone digging your insides out and not caring, not even using anaesthetic. Our Water is becoming polluted at an alarming rate and most people are taking it for granted as if clean water is a given and will always be here. More and more people are turning to bottled water and paying money for a resource that has always been here and should be appreciated. Water has been turned into a commodity for enjoyment and pleasure. You only need to go to a lake on a weekend in the summer to see what Society has done to our beautiful waterways. Water is not being appreciated because people do not see what it is for. This paper will discuss the importance of water and how it can be used to heal people. Water deserves reciprocity. Water gives the Earth and Creation so much vitality and it is rarely appreciated. It is the writer’s opinion that more and more people are getting sick physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, because the Earth is sick. By returning to nature and giving the proper thanks for the wonderful gifts it gives us may be a turning point. Mother Earth is suffering. Her blood is polluted and her guts are being exorcized. This paper will attempt to show that by respecting the Water and learning about it we can use Water in a reciprocal relationship and by healing the Water we can heal ourselves. This paper will be restricted a Canadian Indigenous view of our Mother Earth and water. I will attempt to weave relevant literature which will lead to an ecopsychological viewpoint of how we can take Indigenous Knowledge of the Water and benefit all human beings that are in need of repair through such things as mental illness and PTSD. Our Mother is out of balance and society is out of balance so if we (Human Beings of the Earth) could restore balance and harmony to nature and make it feel important than perhaps we could save Mother Earth and all of humanity. This can only be done by through the intimate knowledge of Indigenous people and the lands they care for.
In 2010 a paper was commissioned by the Atlantic Centre of Excellence of Women’s Health and the Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence by Kim Anderson where she interviewed eleven grandmother’s who were of First Nations, Metis and Inuit decent. This paper will be the basis of my literature review as I discuss the topics brought up by these traditional knowledge holders of this beautiful Country we call home. The body of this paper starts with a lovely quote from Grandmother Jan Longboat about how “Water is life.” The direct quote from her is:
“Water is what sustains us. Water is what brings us into the world, and water is
what keeps us in this physical world. And so, it’s our life. – Jan Longboat p.9”
Water comes in many forms and I think many people forget this. It is a well-known fact that our bodies are made of water and that we will die if we do not have access to clean water. I do not need to reference this as it is something that every person should know regardless of race, religion, gender, age or prestige. When a child is born into this world it enters the world with a rush of water before it. Its amniotic fluid yes but it is the water of life. According to J. Longboat in K. Anderson (2010) everything that our spirit in this world needs is contained in the water in the womb. Your feelings and thoughts right from conception are with you in the womb. Grandmother Pauline Shirt also adds that when you are in the womb with the water for the gestation period and you are taught and cared for by the person carrying you. Your mother. When you are born she states that the spirit of the water helps with the birth and the child flows out like a river. Water is life as it sustains the baby in the womb and helps with the delivery, it is also in the breast milk and colostrum as soon as a baby is fed upon birth. The biggest thing I noticed when reading these teachings was about how the baby was washed and cared for when coming into this world. I have had two children and watched many born and in the hospital, they did not really wash the baby down. The nurse grabbed a wet cloth and wiped enough to make the infant clean but that was it. It is the mother’s responsibility for that first bath and it is usually not easy without guidance. The Grandmothers discuss how important it was for ceremony and medicines with the birthing process and that because water is spirit it can be used for medicine (Anderson, 2010)
Women are the water keepers of our Mother the Earth, although this is mostly only acknowledged in Indigenous societies (McGregor, D, 2008). It is well known that the World has been fighting water issues and have made some big policies as I found discussed in White, Murphy, and Spence (2012}. What I have discovered in much of the research I did on Indigenous Women and Water in Canada is that they are very excluded. There have been many commissions done about safe drinking water in Canada and many studies done (White, Murphy, & Spence, 2012; McGregor, 2012; LaBoucane-Benson, Gibson, Benson, & Miller, 2012). It is alarming to me that when knowledge is sought about water in the Communities by the Canadian Government and legislating bodies they do not ask the women. The men are approached for their stories of the Water and what it means to them. Men do not have the same connection to water however it is just as important to them. Upon visiting our class in 2017 an Elder named Solomon Wawatie spoke of how the DNA of Indigenous people is in our rivers and lakes, ponds and streams. It is the very blood of our Mother and filled with the spirit of its original inhabitants. In one paper it is discussed how colonialism has resulted in leaving Indigenous peoples feeling powerless over their positions and futures. Because of colonialism and society becoming patriarchal women have lost their positions. The Indian Act and residential schools only added to these attitudes that women in Indigenous societies were not important (LaBoucane-Benson et al., 2012). This paper also includes teaching but from a male Indigenous perspective but includes the information about how we all need to come together and work as a community collectively with no distinction. It is even stated how children of the coming generations need to work with Western and Traditional Knowledge if we are to have hope for tomorrow (LaBoucane-Benson, 2012).
As a non-Indigenous settler to this territory I have realized how important water is to our environment and this literature review was eye-opening for me. Continuing in Anderson (2010) we find Grandmother Josephine Mandamin speaking of how Water is sentient and Water forms relationships. Grandmother Jean Aquash O’Chiese in Anderson (2010) points out the relationship between the water in our bodies and the water on our Mother the Earth and the interconnectedness. Life is dependant on all of these connections. They are what sustain us continually. Many of the Grandmother’s also pointed out that water is changeable. It can carry different energies and different spirits. Grandmother Pauline pointed out that all water is special just like people, it all has different purposes and different work to do. The Grandmother’s point out in this article that in the past people knew the purpose of the different waters and who was to enter them and who wasn’t. What was sacred and what wasn’t (Anderson, 2010). Water is now a commodity that most people have no clue where it originated from or what they are putting in their body. One of the Grandmother’s commented on how anything that is put into plastic is dead so essentially it is my belief that bottled water is doing nothing but killing human beings because we are drinking something that the spirit has been taken from.
Water is being taken from Indigenous communities and diverted so that Cities can have clean water. Indigenous people are being denied access to clean water at an alarming rate whereas people who have no clue what the water means are just abusing it. Shoal Lake First Nation Reserve #40 has not had clean water for over 20 years and it is only recently anyone is doing anything. A few documentaries have been done on this Reserve and how the city of Winnipeg has clean water but they do not. An interesting one to watch where Shoal Lake #40 is mentioned is Colonization Road done by Firsthand and CBC Canada. (http://www.cbc.ca/firsthand/m/episodes/colonization-road). White, Murphy, and Spence (2012) point out the paradox Canada has in what they even view as what safe drinking water is. Committees and policies are adapted throughout the Country for people without even asking the people. Indigenous people are often left out of decision processes because of colonialist practices. Environmental discrimination is a well-known fact to Indigenous people and has many references in this article however the main point is that the Canadian Government has created a dependency and is now limiting growth. They pour money into projects with little or no thought as to the process of such things or who should be involved (White, et. Al., 2012; McGregor, 2012; McGregor 2008).
Water as Medicine and for Healing
Anderson (2010) then goes on to discuss that Water can Heal and what it takes for the Water to be able to keep sustaining us. Grandmother Ellen White is quoted as saying:
“Water will agree to help you with anything you ask of it.”
-Ellen White p.21
Water is often used to cleanse us when we are dirty and in this way, it protects us from harmful bacteria and things that may make us sick. Water is often used in ceremonies for protection and cleansing of spirits. This paper references Grandmother Ellen White saying that people used to ask for protection from the water and then dunked themselves in it four times (Anderson, 2010 p. 22). While attending a Full Moon ceremony at Curve Lake First Nation a Grandmother told a teaching of how she had asked for an answer for menopause and the answer was in the water. I do not have permission to use the exact teaching so I will not go into detail about it. Suffice to say it was the first time I truly realized that water was for more than drinking and bathing. In an Indigenous Studies class I started to attend in the fall of 2017 we had a visiting Elder Grandmother Shirley Williams and she spoke of how the water was always important to her and when she was in mischief as a youth her Elders sent her to the water. She said she learned so much from the water and it had a profound impact on her life.
Water carries spirit; therefore, it is just as alive as you and I. Water can hear and if you listen water will talk to you. It is explained in Anderson (2010) that we can get negative energies entangled in our own and when we bathe, shower or go to the water we can ask it to wash away these energies. This reminded me of when I have heard people say they need to wash their sins away when they have had indiscretions. This must be done in a respectful manner though. You could not just get in the water and ask away for a million things. There is no respect in that. This is where Reciprocity comes in. If someone asks you to do something in a manner where it is an order and there is no thankfulness in it you would most likely not want to carry that out. You may do it grudgingly and then hold a resentment against that person because that is the way society is conditioned. The water will clean us, it will nourish us and it will be there for us whenever we want and it does this without asking for anything from us. However, one only needs to look at the condition of the water anywhere in the world and you can realize this isn’t free. The water is suffering and not many people who are not close to the land can see this. As a little girl I can remember seeing the pollution in the water and knowing it did not belong there. This was 40 years ago when we could still swim whenever we wanted to. The lakes and rivers were not polluted to the extent that they are now. I was never taught that water was important but I knew it was and I had a connection with it. I have conducted mini social experiments with women and water on my own and not in a scientific manner. I have asked women who know nothing about Indigenous culture or traditions to explain to me what water means to them. I have not had one woman yet tell me that water does not bring them peace and tranquility. Many women tell me that when they are sad they often go to the water and one of the most interesting things I have learned is that when some women are in pain they seek solace in the bath. It reminded me of a childhood commercial where the woman is in a bathtub with bubbles and soap saying “Calgon take me away.” These women have no clue that they have an inherent physical, emotional, mental and spiritual connection with the water. They see it as a convenience provided to them to cleanse them or relax in. I asked some of these women if they had ever thanked the water for joy it provided them and I got looked at like I had three heads. Suddenly I was an outsider in the conversation because I had suggested thanking a natural resource. Why would anyone do that? I often go back to the Biocultural Framework taught by Dan Longboat (2016) when I explain things to people about how everything that we do has an impact on us, the Earth and all of Creation. To change people’s behaviours and practices we need to change attitudes, which consists of changing values and beliefs. This all boils down to culture and how each and every culture applies to an ecosystem (D. Longboat, 2016). Our Earth is multi-cultural and each nation holds its own beliefs. Within Canada itself we have a broad range of nationalities and the First People here know this land intimately (Anderson, 2010; Anderson, Clow and Haworth-Brockman, 2011; McGregor, 2012; McGregor 2008). We should be listening to the people that know and care for the land the most. As normal human beings we advocate for the things that are most important to us. Our health care, our justice system, our education, our possessions. These are not the important things. And how often are we thankful for the things that are given to us quite freely. Most people do not get upset until the things that they use so freely are no longer there. In society I would not keep giving freely to someone who kept taking from me and did not say thank you. So why should our Mother the Earth be any different. Her frustration is building and she is getting so sick and people are complaining. Our waterways are polluted. Springs and ponds which once were homes to animals and plants are now polluted. The spring where my own non-Indigenous family first settled in Mount Pleasant, Ontario as one of the first settlers in the area is now undrinkable. When my son was born in 1994 this was my only source for clean water for him and I. I would drive there and fill the jugs to sustain my son and I but I never thought of thanking this precious resource. Now it is polluted. No one can drink from it. People took advantage of the resource and did not appreciate it. I often go to this place and I talk to it and try to make it feel important again. I take it gifts and on special occasions I go visit for the serenity it provides me. I may not be able to drink it anymore but I can make sure it knows it is still loved.
When these women I ask about thanking the water look at me strangely and I begin to educate them in a way that I feel I have no right to I ask the Creator to help me remember the teachings of my teacher Dan Longboat and the true honest teachings of all the people that I have heard and felt in my journeys. I tell these women that if we can appreciate the water the way we appreciate superficial things than the rewards are endless. Indigenous Women are leading the way through Ceremonies and Water Walks. They thank the water every day. The spirit of the water is with them in everything they do and every cell of their very being (Anderson, 2010; McGregor, 2008). I tell these women that it is so simple to thank something that gives us such nourishment and joy but it is not something that is high on their list of priorities. I cannot change their attitudes or years and years of conditioning that we ask for things without giving the proper recognition to what really deserves respect and honour but I can plant seeds. By my constant educating and asking them questions it causes them to think about the water and how important it really is in their lives. When my young girlfriend was leaving for an extended trip to Australia the advice I gave her was that when she was homesick and sad and felt like she had nothing to be thankful for to think of the water. She giggled and said I was sweet but almost every single picture she sent me from Australia had the water and her in it. Conn (1998) speaks of an ecopsychological perspective of health. She speaks of how in Cartesian Duality humans are separate from the non-human world and somehow think they are superior. Each person must identify with something separate from another. This causes disconnection in Society. Most people do not realize that their own illnesses are manifestations of their exterior energies (Conn, 1998). She describes the definition of a Native American word for insane/madness in the Okanagan language. This spoken word includes four syllables each with a definitive meaning. Briefly the first syllable represents the tendency to talk inside your head; the second syllable is speaking of being scattered and having no community; the third syllable is for having no relationship to the land; and the fourth and final syllable refers to a total disconnect from the Earth (Conn, 1998). Well if this is a definition of insanity and madness than it is my opinion and mine alone that a good majority of the world is insane or totally mad.
Conn (1998) goes on to reveal in her paper that in order for one to have good health one needs to feel connected and unique. That includes opening oneself up to the Universe and realizing there is more out there that just material reality. Last year I conducted research into using nature as a healing tool for PTSD and mentally ill Veterans and I have been watching Veterans groups and seeing more and more people turning to nature to heal. More and more of them want to run away and live off the land but they do not know why. Many wounded people have begun to look to Indigenous ways to heal as they know the land better than anyone and they know the Universe. I can remember being young and the only thing I knew about Indigenous people was that they knew everything was alive. I knew this as well but when I spoke of it I was quickly silenced. I never understood how someone could tell me that what I thought wasn’t right but the people that lived a few miles from me could believe that with all of their hearts and beings. I was ostracized and abused for holding different beliefs and then finally supressed them all. My connection with Mother Earth was suppressed and my healing did not begin until I was reconnected to her. My ecosystem is the Earth and the Water is her veins and lifeblood (Anderson, 2010; LaBoucane-Benson, et al. 2012). Water is often appreciated for its physical and chemical qualities and the fact that it can do amazing things like be a solid, liquid or gas but rarely is water ever acknowledged for its spiritual properties (Blackstock, 2001). Blackstock (2001) also points out that Western Science’s definition of an ecosystem includes the organism is separate from the environment. Each organism and environment is studied individually and broken down to its basic compounds. Everything is separate from each other. Water is not really mentioned as a separate part of the ecosystem it is grouped in with the physical environment. Indigenous people and women especially know that the water is alive and has a spiritual component to it that is too often forgotten. If you go back to mythology and look at the Gods and Goddesses they have connections to the water, it is even mentioned in Blackstock (2001) the ancient Greeks believe the Earth was once a water world formed from water.
Humanity needs to go back to basics and start appreciating the things that really matter before they are gone. The water is polluted, used as a commodity and for summer enjoyment. The animals and plants that depend on the water are getting sick from the pollution. Cottagers are complaining about things like manoomiin (wild rice) growing and blocking their prestige expensive waterfront. At a town hall meeting the cottagers were so frustrated they resulted to name calling and speaking about how they were entitled to be able to get their boats and jet skis in and out of their properties because their families had owned it for generations. One woman spoke of how her grandfather had owned that land on that lake for 80 years and there had never been an “invasive species” like manoomiin there to her recollection. My heart hurt and I was filled with pain for a plant that has just begun to resurge. The water is shallow and something has happened which has allowed for optimum conditions for Indigenous people to harvest manoomiin. This little hardy plant is coming back because it’s people need it. The water, the plants, the trees, the animals, they are all sick but still here for us because they know their original purpose. Professor Dan Longboat (2017) stated that if we are not thankful for things than they will disappear. I have a granddaughter and the day she was born my whole life changed. I was not worried about the world when I had sons but the minute she came into my life my awakening began. Our Mother the Earth provides us with everything we need and all she asks of us is to be thankful. How hard is that? How hard is it to appreciate the little things? We say thank you for things all the time without thinking twice because that is the way we were raised for the most part.
My task at hand is to bring the Bio Cultural Framework alive in everything I do and make sure that people realize that the Indigenous people of Canada and all over the world have the answers. Everyone has the answers if they can open themselves up enough to the Universe. Trauma rips people open spiritually leaving them with a wound in their soul that only our Mother the Earth can heal but she can only do that if she is healthy. I am going to take my stand with my Indigenous brothers and sisters and my wounded friends and I want to help ensure that our Mother is appreciated, respected, honoured and cherished ALWAYS by all people. I am a human being of the Earth. She is my mother. My father is the Sun, my grandmother is the Moon, and my grandfather is the Sky. I am neither a woman or a man, I am a free spirit and I live to please the Creator each day. I pray I can do him justice and honour him in all that I do each and every day on my journey to reconnect women back to the water and its importance. I have a granddaughter now. It is my duty. My Service to Creation. I hope this paper serves as an introduction into why water is important for health and how we can begin to use it to heal but only if we are thankful. Reciprocity in everything. Thank you for your time and again this is my interpretation and my words of the research I have done. My thoughts and I am only one person.
Anderson, K. (2010). Aboriginal Women, Water and Health: Reflections from Eleven First
When in conversations about gender-based violence (GBV) we automatically conjure up images of physical brutality. Violence is often thought of as overt. An assault to your physical being. With this kind of violence there is usually some sort of proof. A broken bone, bruises, a black eye, or even scars. There is physical damage from this type of violence. Damage you can watch heal with your own very eyes. When the wounds are healed and you can no longer see the bruises or when the cast is gone and you can use your arm again, those around you will think you are okay now. They fail to see the psychological damage that is done to the person’s psyche. The wound that takes longer to heal. The injury to their Soul that leaves them wondering what is wrong with them.
As a female non-Indigenous settler growing up on Anishinaabe territory of the Mississauga’s in Ontario I have experienced many different aspects of gender-based violence. From a patriarchal father who thought boys were of more value, sexual abuse in sea cadets, military sexual trauma, sexual assault, abusive marriages, domestic violence, and plain assault. I have been demeaned and revictimized for standing up and speaking out for myself and others. When speaking out about abuse in the Canadian Armed Forces I was told I was “a black mark on Canadian history” and “the worst thing to happen to the CAF” by older men who thought that Women had no business serving their Country and were there for their pleasure. I was chastised and belittled by my local police department when trying to keep safe from my abusive ex-husband who already had 15 charges. I had many judgements imposed upon me for being a single mother without a consistent support system.
The psychological trauma I have faced throughout my life for being a Woman has been more detrimental than any assault to my physical being. I have been objectified and put in a box with a label like a present just for being a Woman. I have been used, abused, and thrown away like a disposable paper plate but I do not go away. I am judged by my looks, what I wear and how I act consistently. I am objectified for wearing things that make me feel good but make other people feel uncomfortable.
The whole problem started with the conditioning by my parents of “what a good girl” consisted of and what they knew about gender conformity. I never felt like “just a girl” and they could never explain it to me. My brother was eleven months younger than me and I could never comprehend why he got to do some things, but I could not because “I was a girl.” I never understood why I could not play football because “I was a girl” and encouraged to become a cheerleader. I could not understand why my other girlfriends thought this was ok. I have done and accomplished much in my life. Graduated high school, served my Country, raised 2 sons basically alone, owned a home for 16 years, got a Nursing degree while working full time and raising those 2 sons, and I left 3 abusive marriages. However, in my Dad’s eyes I will never be as amazing as my Brother. In my family my brother could do no wrong and I could do no right. This left me with a constant desire to prove myself to my Father to my own detriment so now my desire is to prove to myself that I can persevere and continue this quest called life.
When I think of gender-based violence I do not think about the military sexual trauma or the domestic abuse, the demeaning, or the belittling for being a woman, I think about the barriers and limitations that were put on a young girl that kept her from discovering who she truly was because she was too busy fighting the stigmas attached to gender conformity. I think about how it feels to think “maybe if I was a man, they would help me, listen to me or believe me” I think about the young girl who is constantly underestimated, misunderstood, and called things like overdramatic and crazy just because of her gender.
I think about how males and females are equal, complements of each other. I think about how the job should be based on ability to perform and qualifications to do so, and long for the days when gender is not a barrier. I long for the days when women find their voices and the words “because you are a girl” are never spoken again. I choose to believe that one day we will all see each other as family and encouragement and acceptance of all will be the way. Women’s voice will be heard. The masculine and the feminine will unite and gender-based violence will become a thing of the past, like cannibalism.
All views and opinions are mine and mine alone and it is my hope you view them with an open mind and an open heart.