Sunday, November 19, 2017

We are Broken People


This is about my First Nation, the Athabasca First Nation (ACFN) and should not be interpreted as a commentary on any other First Nation.

Since the summer it has been all about the settlement of our Agricultural Benefits Claim (also referred to as Cows and Ploughs).  Arguments within our community were started over the Cows and Ploughs settlement and at times tempers reached a boiling point.  The settlement relates to a long outstanding obligation of the government of Canada under Treaty #8.  The government failed to provide agricultural assistance as the Treaty, which our First Nation signed in 1899, promised.  The process took many decades to negotiate and resolve.

The Treaty obligation, if it had been implemented as it should have been in the past, would have given some benefits to individual First Nation families and other benefits to the Chief, for the use of the First Nation as a whole, to help the community adapt to a farming way of life.  The federal government negotiated this based on models of what it would cost today for a family of five to start a farm.

The settlement in our First Nation’s case was arranged so that a majority of the settlement is held with ACFN, to be held in trust for collective community purposes. However each member received an amount of money on November 15, 2017 from the First Nation, representing about a quarter of the settlement proceeds.  In the day since the distribution I have been feeling pensive. It is not much, but we all have more than we had on the 14th.  Most members will be able to catch up with outstanding bills and maybe buy something nice for their family.  Unfortunately, by the end of the week some will return to their poverty-stricken life.  And our homeless will still be homeless.
 
The questions I have been asking myself are: how does this improve our life overall? How will the funds in the First Nation’s account fix our social problems? Will there be any fundamental changes in how we do business? Will this money actually make a difference? And if so, how?

The truth is that no amount of money will change the lives of individual members in any meaningful way unless we change the way we are. The problem with our nation goes deeper, many layers deeper.  We have seen that money cannot solve these problems, whether it is held by the community or individually.  We only have to look at the residential schools settlements, right?  Sadly, some members received in excess of a hundred thousand dollars and are in no better position today than before they got the money.

To understand how we got here we have to go to the signing of the Treaty. Once the Treaty was signed in 1899 we were effectively doomed as a nation. We became disenfranchised.  Treaty #8 was signed with a group of people who didn’t know how to read, let alone understand the various concepts being translated through an interpreter. In particular, the notion of ownership of lands was a completely foreign notion. When you add the effects of alcohol combined with a gradual loss of purposeful economic work, the decline of a beautiful people began.

Then came the Indian Act to administer and transfer Indian lands to non-indigenous people, and regulate the Indians. The drafters of the Indian Act certainly didn’t expect it to last into the 21st century because they likely believed the “Indian Problem” would be solved by assimilation and acculturation, especially after the Indian Residential School system began. By now we are all too familiar with that horrifying legacy.

Fortunately, after 1951 it was no longer illegal for First Nations to hire lawyers, after amendments of sections of the Indian Act that had been in place since the 1920s.  The courts to some degree have been on our side over the years.  However, legal victories did not prevent us from continuing to be seriously damaged. Much of the damage goes back generations, stemming from lost of livelihood, lands, and culture.  Once we were stripped of our self-sufficiency we essentially became dependent.  And in the 1960s, the welfare state came to our communities.

Today we are a broken people, spiritually and physically.  Each clause of the Indian Act is used as ammunition to diminish our humanity.  The Indian Act shackles us.  Notwithstanding that there have been amendments and challenges to it over the years, it still controls every aspect of being an “Indian” until death.

There have been talks by the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government of doing away with the Indian Act.  This is proving to be difficult. How can we eliminate the Indian Act when First Nations themselves are of two minds about it? They see it as our saviour and the bane of our existence at the same time.  It gives us just enough to make us feel like it is protecting our special status but not enough for true liberty.  It is complicated.  Like an abusive marriage that contains just enough promise to keep trying to keep it together.

There needs to be a paradigm shift among our people. A fundamental change in the way First Nations are run.  First Nations today are run like the colonial system, without the checks and balances of good governance.

We can’t continue to do things the same old way and expect our communities to improve.  It has to be a change that is dramatic and that rejects the “normal” way of doing things.

In my own First Nation, there are members who distrust our leaders.  Some feel that the leaders are not acting in their best interest and they feel abandoned. Even though we are one of the lucky ones for owning a multimillion-dollar business that services the oil industry there are still too many members living in poverty. The demand never ends. And I am certain that our leadership feels overwhelmed by those demands. The Cows and Ploughs distribution will provide a stopgap for a couple of weeks and then the demands from those who don’t have enough will return.
 
My First Nation’s Chief and Council saw a need for change and chose to reward themselves in advance for their hard work, and without notice to the Community, doubling their salary three months into their term and making it retroactive to back to the election date. I agree, that being on Council is difficult and stressful work but unilaterally doubling their salary is not the way to handle this problem. Is this behavior the reason for the distrust of our leaders? This is not the change I am talking about. And if any member brings this up they are scorned and told they are being too critical of the leadership.

Can we agree that this is insane?  Because, it is actually our own members who are saying not to be critical of the leadership no matter what they do. It is as though they are so cynical that they believe they don’t deserve better governance.  To follow leadership blindly without question is the absolute definition of being broken.

The band-aid approach of fighting one crisis after another is not working. Honestly, our Council is not equipped to govern; they are simply over their heads. Are there enough healthy ACFN members that see this?  We have over 800 voting members, yet it is the same people running for election each term. There must be a way to get more members to take an interest in local politics.  Perhaps the new salaries of approximately, $270,000 for Chief and $160,000 for each Council member will be enough incentive to get new members to run. It is even being received tax free, I might add, although the basis of this is unclear to me, the First Nation having lost a test case on the application of the Indian Act tax exemption some years ago.
  
I don’t have the answers to fix us but I do know if we don't do something we will continue to have high suicides, addictions, sickness, moldy houses, lack of education, economic losses, unemployment and abject poverty.

Our future health depends on us getting out of a spiral of decline. How do we get unbroken? It is clear that our nation must not rely on government to improve our circumstances.  Being entitled and waiting for the Government to tell us what we need to do is fruitless. We must be innovative, take risks, and change the conversation from victims to an empowered healthy community.

Our leadership must use the funds from the Cows and Ploughs settlement to create not only economic stability but also a plan to address the social problems.  The initial information from Council does speak to a general economic plan but is silent on addressing in any fundamental way the social issues that plague our nation.  In my view, in order to have economic success we can’t continue to ignore these problems.

We are going to have to look in the mirror and honestly confront what has happened to our community and its individual members in the 118 years since our Treaty promised us a future of healthy coexistence.  We were poor in material terms but we had what we needed to survive.  We worked together to overcome difficult times.  Nobody imagined they were entitled to handouts.  Life had meaning and our culture was strong.

Settling Treaty claims is good and should provide compensation on what we lost.  But how do you compensate for the loss of meaning and hope in a people?

ACFN members deserve HOPE and a MEANINGFUL life without despair, no matter how challenging the task is for our leadership.  


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Finding Forgiveness


Coming from a large family is a blessing.  Although, at times we are faced with having to navigate emotional pitfalls.

A few months ago, a nephew hurt me deeply by writing inaccurate and hurtful things about me on a  private family group chat. Someone from the group copied it and emailed it to me so I would know what was being said about me.  Thank you.
Words like these should not affect me but it did, I found it to be mean-spirited especially from someone who I thought was better than that. However, he has not said these words to me directly. In fact, we have not spoken in years. 
I have been trying to work though my hurt but each time I read what he wrote I am taken back to the anger I feel.  I guess, I should stop reading it, right!  I have even been avoiding family gatherings because I don’t want to have a confrontation with him while I still carry this anger, or have family take sides. More importantly, I don’t want to just ignore him. I don’t want to be angry and at the same time I don’t want to pretend his words and attitude didn’t hurt me.  So I have stayed away and will continue to avoid family gatherings until I have made peace with it. I think, I am almost there after a dream I had last night. 
In my dream I was at my late brother Rossi’s grave with some family members.  I was okay emotionally until I tried to take a picture and then I was overcome with emotional grief.  This nephew tried to console me but I wouldn’t let him.  I could see that he didn’t like to see me in so much pain and he just stood there and watched helplessly.  I was inconsolable.  I felt like the day we buried my brother,  totally heartbroken.  Then I woke up. 
My understanding of this dream is seeing my nephew try to help me deal with my pain and sorrow.  He may have said some harsh words about me to family on social media but I don’t really think he meant to hurt me, and even if he did, so what.  At any rate, it is not about my relationship with my nephew because we really don't have one, not one that counts.  I am certain that he has not thought about what he wrote since he wrote it, so the only person hurting, is me.  I keep hurting myself, over and over again, just thinking about what he wrote. It is just a story in my head.  It is my story!
The only way forward for me is to change my thinking about this incident. My intent is to forgive him, not for him, but for myself. The way I see it forgiveness is for the most part, for the forgiver.  It is to set our mind at ease and it does not matter if the other person accepts the forgiveness or not. At the end of the day, we don't need validation from anyone.  
My forgiveness Note:  
Dear MD:

I am writing today to let you know how I felt when I read something you wrote about me on a private family chat on Facebook. It is so long ago that you likely don't even remember it. I am embarrassed to say that it bothered me this long. That said, I am not sure why you said what you said about me to other family members. You may not know this, but it really upset me.  I was angry and very hurt.  Why would you say those things?  You do know it was untrue and if you don't, I would gladly explain to you. Based on your tone in your message it sounds like you really must hate me or have very little regard for me. And that is okay. 

In addition, I am not asking for your explanation or state of mind at the time you wrote what you did because what is done is done. The only thing that matters is how I respond to what you wrote. At this moment those words don't need any more attention from me. I choose to not have them impact on me anymore. I have decided to not be affected by it anymore, it is just words.

I want you to know that I FORGIVE you for writing those words, but more importantly,  I forgive myself for having carried the anger and hurt for way too long.  You wrote, “We must remain united…” I hope you also included me in that statement since I am still part of the family.

Today is the Canadian Thanksgiving, making this a perfect day to move past this.  There is so much to be grateful for. I am grateful for having had a time in our life where we loved and respected one another.  I am grateful for the members of my family who truly love and understand me.  I am grateful for my dream last night, which led me to the understanding that the hurt feeling was really my own doing and that I have the power to change it.    I just reread what you posted and I am pleased to say, that I feel nothing. 

Perhaps one day you will actually ask me to explain to you what it is we do for First Nations across Canada.  And, maybe you will get an appreciation of all the positive changes they have made to their nations resulting from the settlement of land claims against the federal and provincial governments.  It is rewarding work and I am completely satisfied to be on the right side of the table.  It is gratifying work and I am blessed.   
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!
See you at the next family gathering.  

I remain,
-->
Your Aunt

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Keeping it REAL


Nothing Motives a Person to make Changes like a Health Crisis   

When you get lemons, make lemon Aid! 
An incident in August 2017 resulted in me being a reluctant guest at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, for a night. This is what happened. Earlier in the day I had a migraine that quickly turned into severe vertigoSeveral hours later, I was still feeling somewhat off and just to be cautious I suggested hubby take me to the hospital to get it check out because we were flying back to Canada in a couple of days. The Doctor at the Royal Infirmary, after a number of test and blood work, decided to admit me overnight for observation due mainly to the fact that I was dehydrated and some of the blood work showed a slightly elevated reading, indicating some form of mild infection.
 
I will take this opportunity to say this is an excellent hospital! Not only were the staff so helpful and extremely nice. But it was the shortest wait time I ever experienced in a hospital. I came to emergency at around 10 pm, saw a triage nurse within twenty minutes and then a doctor a short time laterBy 11:30 pm I was admitted and in a hospital bed! This would not have occurred in Ottawa, Canada in less than six hours.

The next day, my tests levels were normalThe doctor believes that the vertigo was due to a combination of happenings, jet lag, exhaustion, dehydration, driving for hours on narrow roads with traffic situated on the opposite side of the road and the general stress and strain of travel. My brain couldnt deal with it.    I was discharged from the hospital the next afternoon with the advice that if my symptoms occurred again to see my family physician in Canada.

I had no idea what was happening but it couldn’t go unanswered. I have not even had a cold in over five years! I am a healthy person, or so I thoughtIn fact  had not been to the doctor in over five years.

My saving grace through all this chaos was having my very good friends Gerry and his wife Mavis visiting the day I received news of the hypertension back home in CanadaThey absolutely helped me remain calm, that really helped outI appreciated their company. 

Because I had already had a battery of test in Glasgow, which didnt show anything more serious, my first reaction when I got back to Canada was to see a naturopathic doctorI didnt want to wait for another episode of vertigo. I didn’t know if the incident was an anomaly or what.

I made an appointment at Living Science Wellness Centre in the suburbs of Ottawa.

We all deal with a medical issue differently. Some will go directly to their doctor and address the issue with medication. Others will ignore it and hope it goes awayMe? Well, I like to know why something happened. What is behind it and how can I fix it

The first thing the ND said is she thought that I may have a vitamin deficiency and gave me a heavy-duty supplement intravenous infusion therapy. I was told my blood pressure was high and that I should monitor it for a couple of weeks. This really surprised me because, like I mentioned, I am by and large a healthy person.

My blood pressure was very high: 172/79. The naturopathic doctor also recommended I take Magnesium (495 mg per dose 3xs a week), and vitamin B12 (2000 mgonce a day) In addition I decided to also try a tyramine free-diet, to guard against any future migrainesThis is basically a program to avoid foods that are fermented, cured and aged. I was not sure if this is what caused my migraine in the first instance but I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try it. This means that I am eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds more earnestlyI am basically looking at getting help with plant nutrition all the research I’ve done seems to support this method.

Furthermore, I am categorically aware that hypertension is not something to take lightly. I have family members who are dealing with it under a doctors care with prescribed medications.

I began to think about how I got here.

The last few years I have had a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I am on the computer for at least seven hours a day for work, social media and blogging. Because I live in the country, I drive everywhere I need to goSo, walking, not so much lately. By the time the workday is over, I am too tired to do any exercises, or I just make halfhearted attemptsI was not being consistent in my routine.

For years I have given advice on juicing greens and avoiding junk foods. I am a
Beet juice! 
strong advocate of healthy whole foods. And believe me, the irony here is not lost on me. I eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables.    Herein could be the problemBeing a vegetarian and for the most part vegan, I may have not been aware that my nutrient levels could be deficient, especially in Vitamin B12, Magnesium and IronThere are all kinds of reasons for this, but basically not paying attention to the combinations and amounts I am eating. It might be healthy but maybe not as balanced as it should have beenMoreover, I was not consistent in my eating habits.

I had to take a hard look at what I eat, not what I think I eat, but rather what I actually ate. We tend to think we eat healthier than we actually do simply by minimizing the junk food here and there.  It is not until we record everything we put into our mouth do we know for certain what we eat.  
My weekly delivery of organic food

I am a vegetarian and have been one for over twenty years. I dont drink coffee or smoke. Frankly, I cant even say that I was a true vegetarian for most of those years because I ate fish and chicken occasionallyI would say that I have been mostly vegetarian for five years, with bouts of veganism during that period. I would put me at 95% Vegetarian and 5% fish, chicken, and cheese.  I am about 75/25 on a raw food diet, more so in the summer and less in the winter. That is about to change, as I deal with the health issues facing meI am committed to an actual paradigm shift regarding my relationship with food. The saying, “Let food be thy medicine” will be tested in the next few weeks. 

I have been more keenly aware in the last couple of weeks that what we put into
our body will have an almost immediate reaction. People who have food allergies know this all too well.

I have the knowledge and tools to eat healthy, so why didnt IThat is the questionThere is an absolute disconnect here. We eat unconscientiously, socially, but when was the last time you’ve asked yourself if what were eating is really good for youIf we question what we eat, we minimize the “bad foods” and tell ourselves that we will eat better at some later date, as we eat just one more pizza, drink that coffee, eat that sugar laden dessert, etc.

Some of us treat our cars better than our one and only body. We know.  We know. 

One way to explain it is to use a car analogyOur body runs on fuel, just like a carWhen you buy a car, you want it to run at its optimal performance and get the best gas mileage possible. You make sure you put in the manufactures recommended fuel. You wouldn’t put diesel in a gasoline car, would you? You take care of your car, getting regular oil changes and getting it checked out by a mechanic. You wash it regularly and take pride in your car, right?  Then why wouldnt most of us treat your body the same way?

I thought I was putting the best fuel into my body, nearly always healthy organic whole foodsHowever, there are many times I opted for the lower quality foods (read as low life force).  I ate aged cheese and the odd pizza and maybe even a donutAnd dont get me started on breads. If the bread had just been baked, I cant seem to pass itUghDefinitely that is my kryptonite

Basically, I am really good for a period and then it is a slippery slope to picking up bad habits again and againThe point I am making is that what you put into your body results in how your body performs and it is important to keep trying to eat rightThere is no getting away from that fact. What is dis-ease? It is when our body is out of balance and harmony.  And believe me everything affects it, from the air we breathe to everyday stresses and what we eatThus, the biggest factor is the food we put into our body. How much oxygen we get into our blood, so that many people don’t even notice when they are shallow breathing.  Get out there and exercise in the fresh air.

We only get one body and so we better pay attention to it. Treat it like a brand-new car. I have a clear intent on what I need to do to reverse the negative effects of years of bad eating. And research on high blood pressure and natural remedies seems to support this.   I am committed to get my body in balance without prescription drugsI am still being mindful that if I am unable to do this, prescription drugs may be my last and only resort. And I will have to seriously consider it. However, I am doing  my best to not go down that road as though my life depended on it.  Because it does. I am proceeding cautiously.


WHAT I DID


The very first thing I did was quit my nearly daily soy chai tea latte at Starbucks. And I developed a chart that included information like what supplements I am taking. I am monitoring my blood pressure several times a day, noting what I ate, and how I was feeling each day.
It seems I already have the tools to change this aroundOver five years ago I studied the effects of juicing fresh greens on health, after my sister was diagnosed with breast cancerI read heaps of literature on holistic methods.   What I learned helped her with her recovery from cancer.   And, I am counting on it to help me now.

No more excuses for me

I needed to pay more attention to my body, and to my intuitive side
I have to get back to mediating twice a day instead of every other day.
I need to get out into the sun and fresh air.  Breathe in the fresh air.

These things I knew but became too complacent about my health. Indeed, life
happens, but what I have learned is you are the one in control of your life. Your priority should always be on your health first before work or anything else.

TWO WEEKS LATER...

In the first week, my blood pressure went from 179/79 down to 142/70. Still a high number and should be observed.  It really fluctuated during the first week but I was encouraged to see this result.

Day 12: Imagine my surprise when my blood pressure reading was 128/69! That is amazingHowever, I still got readings of 144/77 depending on what I was doing. I didnt think there would be a noticeable change so quickly.  I continue to be encouraged
Almond Milk made by me! 

Day 14:  124/70 Again, very pleased with the reading. That was in the morning.  However, it seems that the long weekend trip to Halifax to take my son back to University must have taken a toll on me, and my blood pressure spiked again around noon.  That was a minor setback, in the evening it was back down to 129/76.

I know what I am doing is working. Combined with changing my diet, I am also drinking traditional tea (indigenous medicines) (natural picked by traditional medicine-man).   

Even under prescribed medical care it can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to see a marked difference in lowering blood pressure. To see this after only two weeks is encouraging. 

To maintain a  downward trajectory  on my blood pressure readings to a normal reading of 120/80, I have to continue implementing this program and treating my body like a brand-new car.  I still have a lot of learning, mainly how enzymes and our digestive system works. I have a dehydrator coming and I am so looking forward to it. I will continue to watch what fuel I put into it and will listen to it to ensure it is running optimally

It is going to take dedication, observation, consistency and disciplineThis is my new habit and I am all too glad to do it. After all, I am worth more than a brand-new car and besides I cant go out and buy a new body, now, I, can I?  



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