On Growing Old

At a certain point
the water deepens,
the ground beneath
begins to shift,
the earth becomes invisible
each step becomes an unknown risk.
You can become afraid to move,
You cannot leave a game unwon
important things remain for you.
… just get them done.


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Today I grieve for my country.
I grieve for a family
that has not yet seen justice
from the moment a handgunned farmer
pulled the trigger and killed their son.
(why does a farmer need such a gun?)

I grieve for a mother
who saw the police
arrive at her house as though on a raid
and treat her like a criminal
and not like the victim she really was.

I grieve for those mothers
with empty arms
who think of their loss
at the hands of such others.
and the lack of the answers
that haunt them still.

I grieve for the youth
who now see no hope,
and whose hunger for justice
gives rise to an anger
that more and more turns
from a dangling rope
to a violence directed at them.

I grieve for the children
whose lives have embraced
an unwanted, dangerous, jeopardy.

I grieve for the elders
who’ve seen this before.
And whose wisdom will not be enough
to get all of us through this evenly.

I may grieve for some time to come.

But then to be true…
we have all been in grieving a very long time.
So long, it is part of our DNA

And so, this is why
No matter how hard we might try
we can’t “just get over it and move on”.
We all can easily say:
“My country won’t let me.”

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Love Sucks

A Note
to my angry, broken-hearted Niece,
because she thinks love sucks.

Love sucks?
Why, yes it does, when it goes wrong
It hurts and makes you cry.
It fills you with despair and hate
and makes you wanna die.
It brings you to your knees
and makes you wonder why
you even try.
And it will drive you mad.

It will cause you to believe
you should stay out of love
and you’re never gonna let
that stupid feeling get into your life again.

Until it does.

It does… because the moment that you catch the eye
of someone special looking sideways
as you’re looking sideways too
the memory of pain will disappear.
As your heart begins to flutter
and your throat gets tighter too
and your palms begin to cool with sweat
and your tongue becomes all knotted
and speaks gibberish despite the fact,
you know just what you wanna say
but there’s this foolish little giggle
that keeps gettin’ in the way.

You try to push those feelings down,
But it makes no difference how you frown
‘Cause it won’t matter how you sound
you know inside you’re going down
’cause love will stick you in the ground.
And as your cheeks begin to flush
with warmth from who the hell knows where,
you’ll find that you’re in love again
despite the painful past despair,
You’ll breathe the purest air of airs
and every song you know, you’ll share
You’ll feel so kind and sweet and fair
You’ll smell each smell, you’ll see each hair
As time stands still.

But here’s a tiny secret truth,
escaping adults and the youth:
to keep that happy love alive
you have to feed it, make it thrive
just as it feeds and cares for you,
you have to give it something too.

That means that you must learn each day,
with things you do and words you say
just how to make that other
fall in love with you again.
For if you don’t,
or can’t
or won’t,
each day will be a sinking stone,
and, sure as hell,
for each of you

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Our children do not set out in life to fail

Our children are the ongoing prize in the cultural war that Canada declared against us over 150 years ago. Canada may believe that the war is over, but until the automatic weapons it created as part of that war, have been taken from their hands or altered in fundamental ways, or disabled totally, the war continues of its own momentum.

The Child Welfare System, the Youth Justice System and the Educational System all function from the inherent, fundamental, belief, that we as parents in our own communities do not have the right to birth, raise, educate, discipline and protect our children from Canada’s inherent racism.

Canada believes fervently in the benevolence of its policies and fails to accept its own failings, because we are the faces of those failings. They treat us poorly because we are not like them, and they ignore our wounds and the deaths that result from their actions – past and present -, because we are not like them.

We are asked to help Canada do better – to be better – and we willingly accept that challenge because Canada must change. But the struggle to create the change that Canada must undergo will be resisted and it will be a constant repetition of “two steps forward, one step back”, or sometimes three. It will not be easy.

What our leaders must realize is that we too must change. We must stop playing the victim’s role of looking to our abuser for the help we need. We must accept the challenge of standing up and walking on our own two feet. And we must walk to the beat of our own drum.

We must demand that our leaders show the leadership necessary to strengthen our communities.

We must demand that our leaders show the leadership necessary to strengthen our families.

We must demand that our leaders show the leadership necessary to strengthen our children.

We need leaders to fight that ongoing battle with the enemies on the outside of our walls, and we need leaders who will fight the enemies who are inside the walls. Our traditions have taught us that.

Our children do not set out in life to fail. They want to be someone. We have to be the someones they want to be.

We have to tell them about those of us who have come from the same ground they stand upon, who have the same kinds of community, parents and history that they have, and who look just like them, who are someone.

We have to make them believe in us and we have to train them how to become someone and we have to let them try.

…then we have to create the blankets with which we can wrap them when they stumble and fall, and we have to love them enough to help them get up and walk again.

No one escapes this world unhurt and unharmed. We will all be bruised at some point. But our traditions have sustained the warrior spirit inside us for thousands of years and they hold the key to our future. We will not survive by being better at the whiteman’s game than the white man. We will survive by being the best Anishinaabe we can be.

Tell them I said this.

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Apartheid in Canada

Lessons From Canada’s Apartheid

In this colonizer’s editorial, recently published in the Globe and Mail, (https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/indigenous-peoples-and-the-need-for-a-way-forward-made-in-canada/article34568640/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com& ) lies the racist fallacy.

On the one hand the editorialist says it is difficult to assess the population of Canada at the time of contact but then goes on to say, without any evidence, that Canada (and, by implication, North America) “was thinly populated”.

That essentially dismisses everyone else’s view but the writer’s, who has absolutely no basis on which to say it was “thinly populated”.

That argument of low numbers is essential to maintain the mythological doctrines of “terra nullius” and “discovery”.

There are several expert reports which say that the population of the Americas was higher than the population of Europe at the time of contact, and there are experts who assert, with considerable evidence, that Columbus and his conquistadors (“conquerors”) were responsible for the genocide of more than 20 million Indigenous people within a very short period of time. Some estimate that number as high as 90 million. There is no doubt that such a genocide did happen, and there can be no doubt that it was done solely for the purpose of wiping out the larger numbers of Indigenous people (“thinning the population”) in order to sustain the fallacy of terra nullius.

That genocide did not stop until the 1520s when the Pope and the Catholic Church, after much debate, ruled that Indigenous people were “humans” although a lower form of humans.
The editorial then goes on to say that eventually the number of Europeans became higher than the Indigenous population and therefore what happened here couldn’t have been apartheid, since European numbers were higher.

Excuse me, but apartheid is exactly what happened here.

Canada’s apartheid era officially started with Confederation, when Canada was created and the population of Indigenous people outside of the original confederating colonies far outnumbered Europeans.

Through chicanery, lies, and duplicity (i.e. the Treaties) the government lulled the Indigenous leaders in the West into a false sense of security, and after asserting the extension of Canada’s legal jurisdiction, enacted apartheid laws over them. Only after such laws were enacted was Canada able to increase the population of Europeans in the West in order to overcome the much higher Indigenous population.

That apartheid system still exists, and it is what we, who are working for reconciliation, are all working to dismantle.

We do have a lot to learn from the South African experience. They include:

1. Never trust the colonizer’s history.
2. Racism is hard to overcome
3. Tribalism after colonization ends can become the new “problem”.
4. Apartheid is economic as well as political and legal.
5. Even with a supportive government, reconciliation will take a long time.
6. Without immediate economic and social reform, the legacies of racism easily live on.

And so, colonizer editorialist, next time do your homework.

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The angry, hungry, thirsty being
staggered from the darkness 
of the creature 
which had been his life
for all these many years
He sought to find
those ones who had denied 
his true existence
to see 
if just perhaps 
they now believed 
he could survive.
They did.
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Residential school reading list

Many of you have asked for a reading list on the topic of residential schools. Ask and ye shall receive. Here’s part of a larger reading list I use.

There are several related topics of course which I recommend people take a look at such as Genocide, Colonization/Decolonization, Indigenous activism, child welfare and Indigenous children, Indigenous people and the Justice system etc. I also highly recommend all of Vine Deloria’s books, Thomas King’s Inconvenient Indian, Richard Wagamese’s book Indian Horse, all of the Research papers compiled by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation at http://www.ahf.ca, and the website of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation http://www.nctr.ca.

This is far more than what most people are expecting but, you can choose what you wish. Besides I had to read them all (and many others 🙂 ) and they are all helpful in one way or another. Good luck:


Barman, Jean and Jan Hare, Good Intentions Gone Awry: Emma Crosby and the Methodist Mission on the Northwest Coast. University of British Columbia Press, 2007.

Cariboo Tribal Council. Impact of the Residential School, Williams Lake, B.C.: 1991.

Chartrand, Larry N., Tricia E. Logan and Judy D. Daniels. Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada/Histoire et expériences des Métis et les pensionnats au Canada. Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2006. http://www.ahf.ca

Deiter, Constance. From Our Mothers’ Arms: The Intergenerational Impact of Residential Schools in Saskatchewan. United Church Publishing House, 1999.

Grant, Agnes. No End of Grief: Indian Residential Schools in Canada. Pemmican, 1996.

Huel, Raymond J.A. Proclaiming the Gospel to the Indians and Métis. University of Alberta Press, 1996.

Jaine, Linda. Residential Schools: The Stolen Years. University of Saskatchewan, University Extension Press, 1993.

King, David. A Brief Report of the Federal Government of Canada’s Residential School System for Inuit/ Bref compte-rendu du Régime du pensionnats pour les Inuit du gouvernement fédéral du Canada. Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2006. http://www.ahf.ca

Lascelles, Thomas A. Roman Catholic Indian Residential Schools in British Columbia. Order of OMI in B.C., 1990.

Métis Nation of Alberta. Métis Memories of Residential Schools: A Testament to the Strength of the Metis. Métis Nation of Alberta, 2004.

Miller, J.R., Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native residential schools. University of Toronto, 1996.

Milloy, John S. A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986. University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council. Indian Residential Schools: The Nuu-chah-nulth Experience. Nuu-chah- nulth Tribal Council, 1996.

Young-Ing, Gregory, Jonathan Dewar and Mike De Gagne, eds., Response, Responsibility, and Renewal: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey/ Réponse, responsabilité et renouveau. Cheminement du Canada vers la vérité et la réconciliation. Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2009. http://www.ahf.ca

School Histories

Dyck, Noel. Differing Visions: Administering Indian Residential Schooling in Prince Albert, 1867-1967. Fernwood Publishing, 1997.

Furniss, Elizabeth. Victims of Benevolence: The Dark Legacy of the Williams Lake Residential School. Arsenal Pulp Press, 1995.

Glavin, Terry and former students of St. Mary’s. Amongst God’s Own: The Enduring Legacy of St. Mary’s Mission. Longhouse Publishing, 2002.

Graham Elizabeth, ed. The Mush Hole: Life at Two Indian Residential Schools. Heffle Publications, 1997.

Jack, Agnes. Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Theytus Books, 2006.

Haig-Brown. Resistance and Renewal: Surviving the Indian Residential School. Arsenal Pulp Press, 1988.


Ahenakew, Edward. Voices of the Plains Cree. McClelland & Stewart, 1973.

Apakark Thrasher, Anthony. Skid Row Eskimo. Griffin House, 1976.

Blondine-Perrin, Alice. My Heart Shook Like a Drum. Borealis Press, 2009.

Brass, Eleanor. I Walk in Two Worlds. Glenbow Museum, 1987.

Dandurand, Joseph A. Looking into the Eyes of My Forgotten Dreams. Kegedonce Press, 1998.

Ennamorato, Judith. Sing the Brave Song. Raven Press, 1999.

Fontaine, Theodore. Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir. Heritage House, 2010.

French, Alice. My Name is Masak. Peguis, 1976.

Goodwill, Jean and Norma Sluman, eds. John Tootoosis. Pemmican, 1990.

Grant, Agnes. Finding My Talk: How Fourteen Canadian Native Women Reclaimed their Lives after Residential School. Fifth House Books, 2004.


Alexie, Robert Arthur. Porcupines and China Dolls. Stoddart, 2009.

Armstong, Jeannette. Slash, Revised. Theytus Books, 2007.

Boyden, Joseph. Born With a Tooth. Cormorant Books, 2009.

Highway, Thomson. Kiss of the Fur Queen. Doubleday, 1998.

Lakevold Dale, and Racine, Darrell. Misty Lake: A Play. Loon Books, 2006.

Loring, Kevin. Where the Blood Mixes: A Play. Talon Books, 2009

Loyie, Larry and Manuel, Vera. Two Plays About Residential School. Living Traditions, 1998.

Mosionier, Beatrice. In Search of April Raintree. Pemmican, 1999.

Simon, Lorne Joseph. Stones and Switches. Theytus Books, 1994.
International Experiences

Adams, David Wallace, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience 1875-1928. University Press of Kansas, 1997.

Bartels, Dennis A. and Alice L. Bartles. When the North Was Red: Aboriginal Education in Soviet Siberia. McGill- Queen’s University Press, 1995.

Child, Brenda J. Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families 1900-1940. University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

Ellis, Clyde. To Change Them Forever: Indian Education at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School, 1893-1920. University of Oklahoma, 1996.

Lomawaima, K. Tsianina. They Called it Prairie Light: The Story of the Chilocco Indian School. University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

For Younger Readers

Campbell, Nicola I., with illustrations by Kim LeFave. Shin-chi’s Canoe. Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2008.

Loyie, Larry, with illustrations by Constance Brissenden. Goodbye Buffalo Bay. Theytus Books, 2009.

Olsen, Sylvia, Rita Morris, and Ann Sam. No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School, Sono Nis Press, 2001

Sterling, Shirley. My Name is Seepeetza. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1993.

Joe, Rita with Lynn Henry. Song of Rita Joe: Autobiography of a Mi’kmaq Poet. Ragweed Press, 1996.

Johnston, Basil H., Indian School Days. Key Porter Books, 1988.

Kennedy, Dan. Recollections of an Assiniboine Chief. McClelland & Stewart, 1972.

Knockwood, Isabelle. Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi’kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, N.S. Roseway Publishing, 1994.

Lawrence, Mary. My People, Myself. Caitlan Press, 1996.

Moran, Bridget. Stoney Creek Woman: The Story of Mary John. Arsenal Pulp Press, 1997.

Willis, Jane. Geniesh: An Indian Girlhood. New Press, 1973.

The Legacy and Reconciliation

Battiste, Marie and Jean Barman, eds. First Nations Education in Canada: The Circle Unfolds. University of British Columbia Press, 1995.

Burnaby, Barbara. Languages and Their Role in Educating Native Children. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Press, 1980.

Crey, Ernie and Suzanne Fournier. Stolen From Our Embrace: Abduction of First Nation Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1997.

Castellano, Marlene Brant, Linda Archibald, and Mike De Gagne, eds. From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools/De la vérité à la réconciliation – Transformer l’héritage des pensionnats. Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008. http://www.ahf.ca

Chrisjohn, Roland and Sherri Young. The Circle Game: Shadows and Substance in the Indian Residential School Experience. Theytus Books, 1997.

Regan, Paulette. Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada. University of British Columbia Press, 2010.

Schissel, Bernard and Terry Wotherspoon, The Legacy of School for Aboriginal People: Education, Oppression, and Emancipation. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair (Author), Warren Cariou (Editor):  Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water – Jan 24 2012

Wadden, Marie. Where the Pavement Ends: Canada’s Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation. Douglas & McIntyre, 2008.

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