I Really Wanna Know…Who are You?

I have been thinking upon my past for sometime now, and no one knows me out here, so I figured I would give you a glimpse into the maniacial world of ‘who I am’. Summed up in histories and life events – with the colorful use of Sesame Street wording (best show ever).

A – Assimilation. My people (First Nations of Canada – Cree/Saulteux) were forced to become like the French and English communities that took over Canada. First Nations people had there religion, politics, language, culture, and livelihood taken from them and switched for another one. They were taught to be English or French – not First Nations. I am a by-product of over 150 years of this interaction.

B – Bird, my last name. Originally in Saulteux ‘Mista-keep-ness’ meaning Landing Bird (the original name of the person from whose lineage I come from). Canadian gov’t felt it neccesary to brand my family with a last name so they shortened it to Bird.

C – Colonialism. The English gov’t’s doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’ afforded them the right to overtake Canada and place upon the inhabitants a system they used in Britian. It was the conquering of the land in the name of God and Queen. This then led to the dehumanization of the inherent races upon this land – this still plays out in parts of the world (ex: Iraq). It’s the ‘we know best’ attitude (over and above these inhabitants).

D – Desnomie. My mother’s family’s last name. It’s a Metis name from the late 1800’s and is mix of Cree and French. They were adopted into my reserve via marriage.

E – Education. Peepeekisis, Balcarres, Thomson, Wetmore, Sacred Heart, O’Neill, Johnson, and Scott Collegiate – and the school of hard knox. And tonnes of friends from all the other schools. Stay true to your roots.

F – Family. I have a big family of 6 brothers (one deceased) and 1 sister. I have a mother still living, a father who died when I was 10, and grandparents from both sides who died before I ever knew them. I am now married to a Greek-Ukranian girl for 2 years now.

G – God. For as long as I can remember there was a God. I used to pray to him as a scared child during thunderstorms or abusive nights that happened with my parents. I never thought there wasn’t a God and I saw the need for a God throughout my life. The questions of existence mean as much to me as hope itself.

H – Hierarchy. I have a real love/hate relationship with structured systems. From the days I was small until my teen years I could not trust social services, police, teachers, politics, etc. The system was a cruel bitch to my people (and to me) and I recieved more the lashing of it’s anger than the comfort they say it provides. Thus I am by nature a questioner but I know these systems are meant for so much more.

I – Indian. That’s what Columbus called the first people he met in South America and that name is forever grained in Canadian politics as the term to classify First Nations. I actually use the word all the time with my friends and is within every piece of legislation regarding First Nations people of Canada (ex: The Indian Act). A term used also to classify a variety of Nations under one branding (ex: we are Cree, Saulteux, Mohawk, Haida, etc – lots of nations and people groups).

J – Jason. This is my first name and it is most interesting. I was not named after a single ancestor from my lineage, although every other single sibling in my family is. Coincidence, no. You see I was actually dis-liked from birth (my father was sure I wasn’t his) so my mother was left to the naming – she chose a name popular for the day. I was named after ‘nobody’ (which is somewhat a disgrace where I come from). Odd thing is I was born like nobody I know – I was born in a car on the way to the hospital. I have sinced changed my name to ‘born to fight’ – having been in such a way as to fight for his life.

K – Knowledge. I have a great thirst to know as much as I can about any single thing that sparks my interest. I pulled straight ‘A’s throughout school and have two degree’s (Bachelor of Theology & a Bachelor of Business Administration). But I know I am way short of what I want to know about life.

L – Love. I grew up without love (generally speaking) and was not much of a loving person. I had problems with my dad (physical abuse) and with my mom (who abandoned me at the age of 11), so recourse did I have? But I remember attending church this one time and I felt the extreme freedom of the love of God – of which this day I count a miracle. I can’t say what happened that day but my outlook went from sad to happy, hurt to forgiveness, judgment to mercy…and I refuse to look back from that perspective.

M – Mercy. I am nothing without mercy. I know the life I live can only string itself together under the mercy of those who should look upon me. When I was broken, they cared to fix it. When I was poor, they cared for me. When I was hurt, they hurt with me. When I was wrong, they forgave. When I owed them, they counted it as nothing. I am nothing without mercy.

N – Negative. My outlook on life sways from positive to a negative very quickly, and this from the life I was born into. I am negative, I see my people suffering (as I did) under atrocious conditions of poverty, welfare, discrimination, crime, abuse, and violence. In me is an anger that refuses to be burnt out.

O – Open. I am open to all points of view, not knowing by innate knowledge which is the best to choose. I give people the benefit of the doubt when I am wronged, I have an open ear if your views can only sharpen mine, and I am non-chalant about who I am.

P – Peepeekisis. This is where I come from and this is the name of the reserve my family lived on for almost 100 years. This reserve was a ‘test run’ for the gov’t to see if First Nations people could become farmers – my family comes from Keys (matriarch) and Cote’s (patriarch) and they were shipped here to become farmers (none of us farmers to this day).

Q – Queen City, Regina. This is the city where I made my home at about the age of 12 (19 years ago). I grew up in North Central – our inner-city. I attended the school region with the highest rates of violent crimes and murder (about 90% of murders in our city happen in this area). I never had a single friend that owned a home (all rented), a new car, or wasn’t in trouble with the law. I, myself, have committed every petty crime one could imagine just to scrape by or have pocket change. I rolled with a gang before this city even had them, only because we wanted to protect ourselves (and make some money). I am aware of what poverty does to people and how having ‘no place’ can become a factor in what you become.

R – Residential Schools. My mother and father were products of the Canadian/Church system of Residential schools in Canada (literally a genocide without the death part). These schools were set up so First Nations kids could be a part of Canada – problem was they were also designed to strip every single kid of their culture (ex: language, hair length, symbols, etc – all outlawed). The kids were taken from their homes and shipped to these school systems (without the consent of their parents – mandatory) and the kids may not see their parents at all for the whole school year. The physical and emotional abuse in these schools made them prison-like and the kids were trained to resent being ‘Indian’ – identity issues cropped up afterwards. My mother and father were incapable of the kind of love they desired to offer us kids – I realize that now, they never saw their parents parent them.

S – Salvation. I came to Christ when I was 18 with no education (dropped out), no money, no hope, and no goal for life (my goal was just to live). I had a family mired in poverty (along with friends), alcohol, drugs, and the welfare condition and I had friends who were partying, into criminal activity, violence, drugs, sex, etc. When I came to God, I came willingly.

T – The Action Group. I started this little endeavor earlier this year (jan 06) as a way for churches to address the needs of people within poverty conditions. We haven’t grown from more than 5 members and the idea is still continuing to press on me. I see an endeavor that can both unify the churches and help eliminate some of the conditions of poverty – I have big goals and if I give up, who’s actually going to care?

U – Unity. I have been striving for church unity for about 1 year now, little to no results are showing. It’s just not that big of an issue it seems. But if ‘divided we fall’, then there is only one answer.

V – Violence. I have lived a life surrounded by violence, for as long as I care to remember. I was physically abused, in turn I fought others. The lives around me in my community are shrouded with this time and time again, it’s hard to turn a ‘blind eye’ when you have experienced it first-hand. The jails are packed with violent offenders and some of them are my friends (It has been reported that 75% of Aboriginals make up the population of jails in Saskatchewan). This is one of the reasons I challenge my fears of people, I just won’t play the victim role any longer.

W – Wards of the State. First Nations people were deemed ‘wards of the state’ under Canadian gov’t and even have legislation to prove it (Indian Act). This same act has usurped Indian rights for generation after generation causing it to never gain a foothold of independance. This legislation provided for an Indian Agent to direct the affairs of First Nations people (still exists to this day). They funnell the money, take a cut then deliver it to First Nations for housing and what not. It has been the sole reason for all the problems in First Nations people. They set up the schools, didn’t allow us to vote until 1961, gave us a pass and permit system (so we couldn’t even leave the reserve until the 50’s), started us on a welfare system, etc. If you ever took a look at South Africa, they used this legislation (Indian Act) to build their Apartheid Act.

X – X-cellence. I have this weird thing about winning awards thru-out my life. In Kindergarten I won a trophy (attendance), In grade 8 I won the academic award, In grade 12 I won numerous scholarships, and in university I also won numerous scholarships. I have two degrees in which I never failed a class. Still ain’t too proud to beg.

Y – Youth. I really missed out on a child-hood in my life but I did have the funnest youth experiences ever. All of my friends used to play sports every week – pretended we were pro’s (hockey, basketball, football, baseball, etc) with all the equipment we stole. We used to bumpershine in winter, get chased by the cops for what we called ‘bombing’, kicked down garage doors for pop bottles, stole bikes/clothes/raided gardens together, played all kinds of pranks on one another, collected cards and comics, made our own baseball bats one time, played blind tag in the church, stole from stores (one time got caught), and for that I love every single one of them and they are as close to me as family. This list could really go on and on.

Z – Zen. All things come around that go around. I should have to pay for what I have done. It’s the basic principle I now life my life by.