I am a Status Indian here in North America, of the Mi’kmaq people, my mother originating from Listuguj, Qc. Our people’s lands spread from all the Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland) as well as Quebec (just north of New Brunswick) and Maine.
BIT OF BACKGROUND BELIEFS OF THE MI’KMAQ
Back in the day, every person of the tribe had a purpose, which contributed to the survival of their people. Every role was vital and everyone’s contribution was vital to the survival of all, providing each person with a tangible example of their self-esteem and worth. Even the very old, who were not physically able to contribute, did not lose their sense of being valuable, because they were the keepers of knowledge, sharing the rich stories and solid values with the very young. Everything had value, every act was a lesson, and was deservedly respected in a profound way.
There has been a vast disconnect of our modern Mi’kmaq people. Not only have our families been scattered across the continent and the world, like many of the people of the world, we have suffered the horrendous attempt to eradicate us from this planet at the hands of the settlers from across the great oceans. Not a newsflash for sure, but the devastating effects of history is felt to this very day. We have many Mi’kmaq who do not speak the language, they do not know their own history, and they have lost their very identities, never fitting in anywhere they go. Residential Schools tore apart the very souls of our parents, replacing pride with shame. They tore the children away from a loving world and raised them in a world of hate. Then they returned them to their people as broken adults, unfamiliar to their people and to themselves. They left shattered, full of anger and self-hate.
This affects me in a most profound way. I lived and worked in a world that was strange to me. My mother lived with shame and anger until the day she died. Imagine her bewilderment and fear when I, as a teenager, proclaimed to all who would hear that I was
When Indian Affairs and the government finally passed the laws that enabled me to legally claim my status as a Mi’kmaq (Micmac is the Anglicized spelling), I was jubilant and so proud. I finally belonged.
Unfortunately, my mother, as well as her 13 brothers and sisters, we’re not forthcoming with information about our ways. I know now it is because they did not know the answers to my questions, all knowledge having been beaten out of them. Even my grandparents refused to talk about anything at all. They all spoke the language, but only amongst themselves, in private, and never with anyone outside the family present.
Jump to today, where my cousins, for the most part, live on the reserve, and are learning about our people, customs and beliefs like me. The Catholic Church is a heavy influence since way back, and remains that way to this day. Every reserve has a well attended Catholic Church on it.
And most of them now have a sweat lodge too😄
But I digress. The point of this long rambling is to ask:
Why are we so surprised to find ourselves floundering whenever we have a disabling illness, or even when aging is enough to send some of us into the deepest of depressions?