Monthly Archives: October 2013

The monsters under the bed

20131023-115627.jpg

Every day I wonder if I made the right decision by moving back home. Yes, there are many wonderful, new and positive things happening in the community, but there are also the same old negative and unhealthy habits that I left so I could get away from them.

​In my last blog post, I spoke of lateral violence and the poison that this behavior injects into the community. Coming home after being away for so many years means having to face that monster all over again. It’s disheartening to see that it hasn’t changed much. Coming home also means having to face personal monsters (family dysfunction) and the historical roots of oppression that have had long lingering effects on generations of families in the Aboriginal population.

​Indian Residential schools, political battles, racism, ignorance, apathy, denial and in-fighting are all ugly things I can’t avoid anymore, especially now that I am living and working in such a small community. Living in Toronto, it was easy for me to go to work, do my job and then leave, disappear into the city and go home.

​It’s not like that here and I feel that I stick out like a sore thumb. That is just one of many reasons why I have doubts about my decision. Do I really want to deal with all this stuff all over again? Do I really want to expose my children to all the things that made me leave in the first place?

​If I’m going to be really honest, I would have to say that no, I don’t want to deal with it all over again. But I’m a different person now than I was when I left. I have skills, I have experience, I have something to contribute and something to say and I don’t want to let my old fear and my doubts silence the Voice I fought so hard to reclaim.

​The fact is that I chose to come back here because I felt compelled to do so and I firmly believe that this is where I am meant to be, right here, right now. All the negative stuff might still be here and the monsters are lingering under my bed and in the closets, but I’m a stronger person than I was before and better equipped to look those monsters in the eye and scare them off for good.

I’m all grown up now.

An antidote for Lateral Violence

photo (2)

I have been away from my home community for several years. I have had the opportunity to see and do a lot of things. I have travelled and lived abroad, and I have worked in the urban Aboriginal community for a long time and learned a lot of things I probably would have never known had I not left my home.

Returning home, I have eyes that see clearer and wider and I think I can recognize certain things that other community members might not see because they are so enmeshed in…well, the community.

I’ve had my share of gossip and back stabbing. I not only experienced it here where I grew up, but also in my workplace where I almost let the lateral violence destroy me. If you don’t know the term, please check out this link for a quick description on what it is. This behaviour occurs in other groups of people as well, but for this purpose, I am focusing on the Aboriginal population.

In short, lateral violence is basically when a historically oppressed group of people start to act out rage, anger and frustration on each other.  This shows up as gossip, blaming, shaming and back stabbing. It contributes to marriage breakdowns, loss of jobs, alcoholism and drug addiction, just to name a few. This in turn, keeps each other down and perpetuates a vicious cycle of mental, emotional and spiritual violence.

One of the sad things that I have learned since moving back home is that lateral violence is a way of life up here. I won’t say everyone, but a lot of people have never known any other way of relating to others except to tease, blame, shame and gossip about those they don’t like or are jealous of. Even my children have experienced this behavior from other children in the community. This in particular really angers me as we always hear our elders say that our children are our future, so shouldn’t we be teaching them about being open and honest and acting with empathy and integrity?

I have also encountered this since moving back home. It’s a fine line to tread between doing the right thing and unknowingly participating in this invisible poison. It seems like an uphill battle to try and undo the damage that has been done.

I’m not perfect either and I don’t know all the answers. I do know that it takes more than one person and more than just ignoring it to put a stop to it. Already I have had to confront someone who was whispering untruths about me behind my back. I did my best to be straight up but not mean about it. It was scary but I’m glad I did it when I first caught wind of it. I expect a much different outcome in my relationship with this person now that I confronted it head on. I hope the outcome is positive.

It doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but I think confronting it in a good way makes a profound difference. The damage done by lateral violence can’t be changed overnight especially when most people don’t see what it is because they are right in the thick of it. Those of us that do see it and know the difference, will humbly continue to do the powerful work of pointing it out and saying so.

A sense of belonging

photo (1)

I just started my fourth week of my new job and so far I can say that I love it. I can’t get into too much details, but basically my work mandate is Violence Against Women which embodies individual counseling, advocacy and educational group programs. Our mandate is for Aboriginal/First Nations women, however we are inclusive and our services are open to all women who need it.

Besides my new job, there have been a few blips on my radar with our move and the kids getting used to our new lives away from the city, but all in all it’s going really well.

It’s kind of weird being back home. When I first left here several years ago, I walked out of my parents house with two bags and the clothes on my back vowing to never come back to live. I felt even more strongly about this after I had my own kids, thinking that raising them off the reserve was better for them. In many ways, this was the best choice for my children and for me. I love my home, however if you know anything about the history of colonization and First Nations in Canada, you will know that life on a native reserve can be fraught with trauma and heartbreak. I certainly experienced this growing up here and what parent doesn’t want to protect their children from that?

photo (3)

But I think I have let my own personal trauma cloud my vision for many years, and now after being away from here for so long, I have returned and I see things differently. Yes, there are some problems, but I think we are fortunate because my First Nation community is not isolated (which I think has a lot to do with problems like alcoholism and drug addiction), we have a huge land base, economically things are on the upswing and our leadership is modern and progressive. I am proud of where I am from and it feels like the right place for me to be right now. I think I have something of value to contribute.

Basically, what I am saying is that things have changed for the better and are continuing to evolve into bigger and better things. I feel hopeful and optimistic.

I have attended some community functions and it feels good to be back. It’s also good to be amongst my huge extended family, and it’s great to see my kids experience the outdoors the way I did when I was a child.

I enjoy and need my family, and for the first time in my life I realize that not only do I also enjoy and need my community around me, but that my community might actually need me too…

photo

All photos are my own, taken and edited on my iPhone5. Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/bearheartwoman