Saturday, May 29, 2021

Making choices For Health and Happiness

Water infused with sunlight
This morning the sun is shining the birds are singing.  I sat comfortably with my face accepting the radiant sun and I am happy. 

I make choices daily to ensure my optimal physical health. 



I recognize I am privileged. I live in a beautiful natural
surrounding by the Ottawa River. I have a compassionate and empathetic family that I lean on for help. 

I  am aware that my life could have turned out differently.  I am Dene, an indigenous woman raised in a large family (16 in my generation). 

 

Girls in the family

When you look at statistics of indigenous people in Canada there are so many challenges that we are face because we are Indigenous.  We are faced with obstacles that the rest of society does not have to think about.  Not the least of which is our history of residential schools.  

In yesterday's news over 200 bones of young children were found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia. 

As  a former residential school student I know the trauma that this news can  bring up.   However, I don't  view at my experience in residential school as being a victim. I prefer to look at the resilience within me that it brought out and I am grateful I did not perish in the school.   

Like plants, my natural instinct is to search for the light, and to acknowledge when I see the light.  

I also believe that the small choices we make daily can create abundance and a brilliant future.

This is not to say that I don't have challenges in my life, and more importantly, that I am not special. I am ordinary.  I don't  have wealthy parents.  I created the life I have by the choices I have made.  

However, I do recognize what sets me apart from others is my unstoppable optimism.  I acknowledge that having a supportive family helps with my unique perspective on always looking for the positive.  Moreover I am not in survival mode. I have the  privilege of pausing and making good decisions.    

In 2018 a stroke left me blind in one eye and with mobility issues.  This situation did not create a crisis within me.  I didn't ask, "Why me?" It didn't diminish my resilience.   In fact, it strengthened my resolve  for healing. And it actually pointed me in a direction to create space for knowledge and learning.  

I have devoured books on neurology and brain health.  Furthermore, I believe in synchronicity and because I am open to receiving information that will enhance my life  the powers that be have led me to Jacob Liberman.  All I had to do was take notice. 

Sitting in the sun, allowing its heat to radiate through my body and filling me with brilliant light.  In that moment I am happy. Not thinking about tomorrow, or the past.  Just being.  In this moment I am whole. 

Recently, I got some upsetting news that my field of vision was not improving and I would have to wait a few more months before trying again to meet the criteria to obtain my drivers license. I began reading books on how to improve my eyesight.  For sure, I am aware that my right blind eye cannot be  restored, but that does not stop me from ensuring that my left eye's field division can't be enhanced and healthy.  

I connected with Jacob Liberman, author of Light Medicine of the Future and Luminous Life.  His thinking resonated with me and I am totally  aligned with his point of view on healing.  Light it is  medicine that can heal and is in  abundance. The sun.

 

If we can  recognize when opportunity is in front of us it may just lead us to our life's purpose.  The interesting thing is it often does not look like what we expect.  

Thursday, April 29, 2021

A Conversation Stick


 

A Conversation Stick

 

My walking stick arrived and It is pretty cool. I never imagined I would get excited about something like this. Using a mobility aid is not something that I eagerly embrace, and I believe a lot of people resist using it for the same reasons that I reluctantly started using one.  

 

I have been using one for a couple of years after a stroke to prevent falls and give me some assistance when I am out and about. 

 

It's interesting to me that I was unwilling to use a cane, mostly because I thought it made me look vulnerable and old. And it shouldn't really, because in Indigenous cultures elders are revered. In current times, though, even Indigenous people are not living up to how our ancestors treated their elders. But I also didn't like answering questions about what happened to me and why I had to use an aid.  And if I am completely honest, perhaps I just didn’t want to be judged as weak.

 

When I thought more about it, though, I wondered why underneath I felt shame for requiring a cane. Where does that come from? Why did I feel shame?  It really doesn't make sense. After all we don't have those same feelings if we wear glasses do, we? I should just be grateful that I am able to have mobility, albeit slowly. 

 

Then, my daughter sent me a link to Neo-Walk, a company that designs and sells pretty cool looking walking sticks. They call it DNA. Which stands for “Do Not Ask.”  The updated design using vibrant colours and clear acrylic material are a huge step up from the traditional canes. Neo-Walk also makes customized walking stick. This interests me, and I'm going to put my mind and creativity to think of a design I would like them to make me.  I definitely like the feel of it.  It is sturdy and feels safe. What more could I ask for? Once I create my design, my conversations will not be focused or why, and I needed to use a walking stick, but on the cool design. Taking this perspective is empowering.

 

As with any challenges we faced, resilience happens out of the necessity of being creative and having a perspective that empowers. Living in a global pandemic has proven this over and over again as our freedom became restricted and we had to pivot the way we do business. Perhaps I will design a walking stick similar to the staff wielded by Gandalf from Lord of the Rings: something conveying resilience, greatness and perhaps even magic.   

 

Walking softly on Mother Earth, carrying a big stick.  When you see me walking approach me and don’t ask me about any disability. Ask me about my magic because this is what resilience looks like when you are a proud owner of a Neo-Walk walking stick!

PS My stick is also better than bacon!



Monday, April 12, 2021

I AM DENE; THEREFORE, I SPEAK DENESULINE

 





 Six generations of   incredible Dene women,  all fluent Desuline speakers My great grandma,Sophia grandma, Christine Adam my mom,  Therese Deranger big sister Dora Flett , her daughter, Donna Deranger, and her baby, Sandra  photo taken in the 1970's. Three generations of Dene speakers left in my family, by 2021



I was raised in a small northern community in Alberta, Canada, in the Hamlet of Fort Chipewyan among Cree, Dene, M├ętis and non-natives (settlers). Why did I put settlers in italics?  I don't like to use the term settlers because I view it as derogatory and dehumanizes a collective group.  After all, none of us are personally responsible for the actions of our ancestors. Moreover, in the age of reconciliation there is no need to shame. Reconciliation will only work if both parties know their actions have consequences, particularly in current times because we know better. To perpetuate the term settler does not bring us closer to reconciliation, but in fact continues to divide us.  

My parents and my grandparents spoke Denesuline fluently. Neither my parents nor my grandparents attended residential schools. We were poor but we spoke our language. As I get older, I am beginning to appreciate truly the richness of my Dene language and culture. It was the younger children like me who in my family attended residential school. You may be aware these schools were created by the government of Canada to kill the Indian within the child, and by and large it worked. It started first by preventing us from speaking our language and then creating a feeling of inferiority surrounding being Indigenous.  The culture of residential school perpetuated the feeling of never being good enough or measuring up to the non-Indigenous population.

I am a product of residential school at the same time I have the resilience of my ancestors flowing in my blood.  Residential schools created the conditions for Indigenous peoples to become ashamed of speaking their mother tongue. I had no choice into which family I would be born, just like those of European ancestry, which is why I feel strongly not to perpetuate calling them settlers. Why would I want to shame them?  

I have always held pride in the ability to understand Denesuline.

Really? To be completely honest with myself there must have been something holding me back from being able to speak Denesuline fluently. However, I will not blame residential school for not speaking my language today. It is ridiculous that I didn't master my language. After all I was raised hearing the language being spoken all around me. I should be fluent. But I am not.  And there is no pride in that.

 To say I am proud of being Dene comes with responsibility. That responsibility and honour is to keep our language alive.  And it is not too late.  A good friend, an advocate for keeping the Blackfoot language alive, Dr. Betty Bastien, once said to me all you need are two Indigenous speakers to keep a language alive.  Thankfully, we have more than that.  And after speaking to an author who wrote 90 books this weekend who said he writes books not about because he knows about something but rather to learn about a subject, he writes to learn more. It made perfect sense to me.  When I blog I am often trying to process something I'm going through.  He says we should question. Well, I am on a quest to learn why I am not fluent in my native tongue, and to change that fact.

 I am taking a stand to ensure that in the next generation, those under 60 years of age will become fluent in Denesuline.  Beginning with myself. The journey will begin with asking the question: “Why am I not a fluent speaker already?”   

When I moved to Ottawa my mother was still alive, and she kept the language alive for me. But recently I realized that I didn't know any Dene speakers in Ottawa, and I was losing my fluency. I wasn’t even hearing it any more. I knew I needed to do something fast before it was too late. This realization ignited a sense of urgency in me.

To that end I have made arrangements for a group of Denesuline speakers to meet monthly, beginning next month, to visit and speak our language. And since it is a pandemic and we are all over Canada, this will take place over the phone.  I think that the inquiry as to why I am not a fluent speaker will be something I will be discovering on my own and perhaps among this group, who have surely all faced challenges in maintaining their fluency. I want it to be like a group of friends just visiting, like in the old days.  But we will only be speaking Denesuline, even myself.

At the end of the day, I ought to discover pride for my mother tongue. And more importantly, to help revitalize a language that is far too close to extinction. Then I can honestly say with satisfaction” “I am Dene; therefore, I speak Denesuline,” because I will be assuming my responsibility for keeping Denesuline language alive in honour of my mother, and ancestors. This is what me being proud of being Denesuline looks like.

Walking my talk finally, by not fooling myself.

 


 



Sunday, March 14, 2021

It's Always You

 

DARLING

 

 

 

It is you

It’s always been you

being little

took your voice

 you needed to discover for yourself

the choice was yours

the way you wound up being limited, small unimportant is no accident

with an open mind


With Brothers Roger across from me, Rossi next to him and Chris next to me at Holy Angels

as delicate as a flower

you realized your story

took all your power and

 imprisoned you by giving meaning in that moment

darling you know,

and you know you know.

It was always you

you held tight to be right

until last night.



My classmates -I am in the back, second from the left.

 Larger, more powerful

uncovering you had the key

 freedom was yours when you let go of being right

you’re larger than life open to unlimited possibilities

whole and complete.

And this darling this is you too.    

A Hero

A Hero 

I am taking a leadership course with Unstoppable Communications; it is the second time I have enrolled in this course, completing it last summer in August, 2020. 

One of the first exercises we did was to discover what word defined leadership. As I pondered the exercise, I discovered that the word I would use to define a leader is being a hero. In particular, someone who undertakes action that no one else would take and at a great cost to themselves. 

A few days ago, I became aware that a good friend, Dr. John O’Connor, has been honoured. He received the first ever award from Ryerson University for being a whistleblower. John received this award for drawing attention to unusual incidence of bile cancer in Fort Chipewyan, in Northern Alberta. This is my home community. He linked Cholangiocarcinoma (bile cancer) to pollution resulted from the oilsands industry. 

His actions came at great cost to him both personally and professionally, if you have been paying attention to any of the conversations around the oilsands you will know that the backlash was swift and severe. His actions resulted in complaints from his professional colleagues that led the Alberta Medical Association to suspend his license to practice medicine. 

As an Indigenous woman from the community of Fort Chipewyan I view Dr. O’Connor's actions as courageous. 

He put his reputation at risk to raise awareness of the damage being done not only to the environment but also to the very people who live on the land. His actions are not only brave but also demonstrate his integrity. In a news article I read he is reported to have said he was only doing his job as a physician. His fight took years before he received validation on his concern regarding incidence of bile cancer, but by then the damage to his personal reputation was marred. 

Dr. John O'Connor and his wife Char
When he took a stand for my community’s health and well-being, he inspired my Chief Allan Adam to take up a political fight against industry and the damage caused by the pollution. Having someone in the medical profession with credibility created the collaboration he needed, and the Chief was able to use the studies on the pollution to move his agenda forward, with a campaign against industry’s destruction that and raised funding for the community to take his fight through the courts. 

Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and  his father Alex
Without Dr. O’Connor’s actions I believe no one would have made the link between Cholangiocarcinoma and the oil industry in northern Alberta.


Only Dr. O’Connor could have made this link. First, he had prior awareness of this rare disease from a case in his own family. As a result, he was able to recognize it and also to realize how unusual it was when he first saw it in the community. Second, when he noticed the occurrence was higher in the community of 1500 souls it was his good character and sense of duty that led him to sound the alarm in spite of the negative consequences to his reputation.
 

Who else would take this kind of risk for an isolated Indigenous community? I echo his call for an independent research study of Cholangiocarcinoma in the community of Fort Chipewyan and surrounding communities in the region of the oil industry. I am extremely honored to call him a friend. 

He is an extraordinary leader, a hero. 


PS I sent a draft of this post to Dr. O’Connor and he replied: “The connection between pollution and cancers in the community hasn’t been formally made-despite the numbers, the documented toxin exposure and the U of M 2014 report-that’s where the health study comes in. Science hand in hand with Traditional Knowledge would complete the picture. Otherwise this is perfect!” 


Thank you, John!

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