Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hardly Getting Over It

The thing about grief is that you never know when it’s going to sneak up behind you, whirl you around, and kick you in the teeth.

It can be during the most mundane moment, or in the middle of a task that you really need to concentrate on. It can be first thing in the morning or in the darkest hours of the night. It’s fast or it’s slow, it can creep up on little cat feet or stomp into your awareness in heavy combat boots.

And then you find yourself helplessly weeping over the things that were lost, the might-have-beens, the should-have-dones. Leaving you bereft, and sad, and having to feel everything all over again.

When we were home for Christmas, my daughter got an article of clothing that was Jewel’s. In keeping with Haudenosaunee custom, we give away a deceased person’s belongings, so that everyone has something to remember them by but also so that the person’s spirit will not be tied to the earth by their possessions and are free to continue their journey. Carole got a cool, neon-green crocheted beanie which she hardly took off for nearly a month until we agreed it had to get washed. But it was so imbued with Jewel’s style and her carefree joie-de-vie that we smiled and got all choked up in equal measure.

Days can pass and I can think of her without pain. Other days hit me like a brick and the pain arises anew.

And if this is happening to me, what must it be like for her mother and her father? For her brothers and all those who knew her better than I?

There has to be a way to prevent this kind of loss.

As for me, I’m facing some surgery arising from a whole shitty crisis with my kidneys, so perhaps my outlook is not as healthy as it could be. It’s the middle of January which is not my favourite time of the year, and I wasn’t well enough to go home and catch some of the Midwinter ceremony feasts. So I think I’m just feeling blue.

Hopefully this too shall pass. In the meantime I try to think of Jewel, dancing. That always makes me smile.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Salt in an Open Wound

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Christie Blatchford is writing a whole series on the issue of aboriginal suicide… “Lifting the Veil on Native (there’s that N word again!) suicide” is the name of today’s atrocity I mean column.

That she has the audacity to do this is amazing to me. It is so loaded with her smug, white privilege and consequently that hand-wringing – “Oh look, those poor NATIVES are so despondent, the white people have to rescue them” thing, which is pretty much the tenor of this article. It centers around some benevolent white policemen – her favourite fucking subject – who are trying to work in suicide prevention in the Nishnabe Aski Nation. More power to them if they can make a difference, but we have been working on this terrible issue ourselves and need to develop more of our own culturally-relevant ways, thank you very much. But since this new series comes in the wake of her so-called “expose” of the poor white folks’ problems in Caledonia, I’m feeling a tad suspicious as to her underlying motivation to write this column.

It makes me want to scream. Especially since I am so raw in light of my family’s loss -- all I can think is, fuck you Christie. You have no fucking idea. About us or why suicide is such a tragic, terribly common affliction in our communities. About the fact that our children choose to kill themselves before they reach adulthood, rather than live as indigenous people. About how fucking hard it is to deal with the realization that our people are thought of as a waste of space, as a money-sucking black hole of all the hard-working taxpayer’s money as most Canadians do – or about the fact that the most common perception is that we are conquered and dead already, so why don’t we just shut the hell up?

It’s hard to be indigenous in this colonially-occupied country, where every move that your community tries to make to lift itself out of the economic cesspool of poverty and resultant cultural stagnation is scrutinized and passed judgment on by a government agency that would rather be doing anything but working so that you could actually do something for the benefit of your people. It’s hard to try and make something of yourself when right from the beginning the educational deck is stacked against you. Hell, it’s hard when your very identity as an indigenous person is dictated by an outmoded, racist piece of legislation written up by colonizers that decides whether you have enough blood to be shoved into the concentration camp – whoops sorry I mean reserve.

I feel so raw about our beautiful little Jewel that this just feels like salt in an open wound. I know that the issue has to be more broadly publicized, that more people need to understand the realities of our communities – but why does she get to be the voice? And herein is the crux of my problem with it – that a white woman with all the attendant privilege and forum to do so gets to wring her hands and essentially wail while the subtext of her writing is, those “natives” just can’t get their shit together. To which I say, get out of our fucking way and maybe we could.

Here's a link to it so you can see for yourself.
Lifting the veil on native youth suicide - The Globe and Mail