Sunday, May 29, 2011

Neechie Pride (CCELD Day 2)

If you identify with the term 'Neechie', can I get a WORD?!?! I had 3 moments today where I was so proud to be Neechie. For those non-Neechie readers, the term is a casual one used by Aboriginals used to reference other people of Aboriginal descent, generally in a positive way (according to the Government of Canada, the term Aboriginal refers to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit people of our land). So where was I...yes, 3 moments:
  1. Opening Welcome: We were able to hear from a beautiful woman from the Algonquin Nation who gave us a blessing in her Neechie language. She mentioned the importance of sharing gifts, and made reference to the beauty and the balance contained within our Medicine Wheel. It literally brought tears to my eyes.
  2. MCQ (aka the Question I asked at the first speaker): I am always loud when I go to these things, because I feel like I need to represent. When I looked around the conference, I didn't see a lot of young people, and to date, have yet to discover a Canadian on this trip that is Aboriginal themselves. Anyway, out of my usual duty to represent, I asked a typical MCQ (Michael Champagne Question) at the discussion on Leadership. I asked the panelists: what role do you see youth playing in making decisions that affect them? I believe our actions speak louder than words, and so there really wasn't an answer that was gonna make me any happier about my current situation. The summarized answer, is it is youth's role to act as translators and info receptacles so that they can train the older generation how to deal better with us younger ones. I like it!
  3. Hoop Dancing Plus at the Museum of Civilization: OK, so today, we went and checked out the Canadian Museum of Civilization, designed by the awesome Douglas Cardinal, and were treated to some entertainment in the Grand Hall (after we toured the Canada Hall). This entertainment was a group of amazing Neechie (Aboriginal) people. There were some drummers there named Bear Spirit and dancers from several different groups. I was SO happy to see the familiarity of grass dancing, jingle dress dancing, fancy shawl and hoop dancing! I even got to see some new stuff though, because I was not familiar with the Smoke Dance that comes from the Mohawk people. It was an amazing experience that reminded me of being home (woa am I ever feeling homesick today...).
So anyway, that was the official opening of the conference. It was great to hear from speakers talking about Leadership, Economic development, sustainable social growth and then some! Tomorrow I get to check out Parliament Hill and then will head off to Newfoundland. I am exhausted.

Love & Respect (to all my neechies, and the non-neechies too)


PS - Just for the record, this is a super amazing opportunity that I look forward to sharing. Not only in sharing the experience with all of you blog readers, but also I hope to get involved in this 'Commonwealth Study Conference' Alumni thing where I get to hook up other young leaders with amazing leadership development and international opportunities.

People & Privilege (aka Day 1)

So I am about to begin this CCELD conference and I am jacking their free wireless connection. Technically today is Day 1 of the conference, but my adventure started yesterday when I began my travels. Yesterday I traveled from Winnipeg to Toronto to Ottawa to Gatineau. In traveling by myself, I did a lot of people-watching. I really enjoy people watching at home in Winnipeg. It is nice to see people I can relate to and try to guess what kind of journey they are on and try to guess what we may have in common.


The one thing that I noticed about the airport people in Winnipeg, Toronto AND Ottawa is that they are very...privileged. They seemed very...untouched by the struggles of least on the surface and in the way they carried themselves. I am an eavesdropper, and these folks were talking about 'last week in London...' and complaining about how they had better service at some other airport, and even speaking in a tone of voice that implies they are entitled to even more service than what they are receiving. This attitude of entitlement is way too overwhelming for me, which is probably why I spent most of that trip in silence and didn't want to smile at people and didn't want to engage in conversation. This privilege (to me) almost seems like a sickness. A blindness where people are unable to appreciate the gifts they have received and an almost deliberate ignorance of the struggles of those around them. I hope I am never that privileged.


I think that when we go places, we never really go by ourselves. All of those privileged folks have families and backgrounds and experiences that I cannot pretend to know. As such, I should not judge these people, just because they have lived a more privileged life than myself. What I can do to help, is be honest about the people that I carry with me in my journey. I carry the North End of Winnipeg with me when I go places and every young person that I have come to know and love, and I take very seriously the job that I have to REPRESENT when I am out in the world. I want to make sure that I act with Respect and Humility and remind those around me that when we roll, we roll with Love. I represent my home community of Shamattawa, and indeed our entire vast beautiful province of Manitoba. I will try my best to share the amazingness that has been shared with me by the people in my life. I will take all of you with me and share all that I have with those that I encounter. I do this, so that my example can be shared with young ones, the next generation, and the next group of inner city ghetto children that go traveling abroad, represntin' internationally.


This generosity and sharing is the antidote for the illness of privilege. It is ok to have fancy things, like a fancy hotel, or a fancy trip, but those experiences are not yours to keep. The are your memories, and your moments, but they must be captured in some way, in ashareable format that will benefit others in your community. When we share these things we are able to cure greed, and set an example to those that do have privilege, what they should be doing with it.

Love & Respect


PS. This beautiful Algonquin woman just gave a beautiful opening prayer for the conference, and brought tears to my eyes. Our medicine wheel, and our people are so beautiful and so strong.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The State of Our Elders

I don’t know if this is a common thing that people say…but I believe that you can tell a lot about a people by the way they treat their elders. I am so concerned that our Winnipeg community is screwed. I shouldn’t say that, but I am quite discouraged at the moment. I just read a Winnipeg Police Service E-mail update and am so upset and hurt for the Elders in our city thinking of the abuse that they shoulder. A 54 year old male was assaulted and it has been determined his death was a homicide; the suspect is a 15 year old youth. A 61 year old woman was assaulted by a 35 year old female that was known to her that resulted in her death. Finally, at Garden City, a 73 year old man was struck by a vehicle being driven by an 82 year old man, with a 77 year old woman in shotgun. Holy shit. All of this came in one single update from the WPS District 3 Updates moments ago. (you can subscribe by signing up with your e-ail addy, here)


The thing that kills me is that this is only a snap-shot of a couple recent incidents…the real abuse is so much more widespread and common and its probably happening to someone we love. That hurts eh? It hurts to think that the people we love…the Elders that we love…those old folks that bring us such joy in our lives…its hard to think about them hurting and being hurt. Its hard to think that someone would deliberately do harm to them. But if we want to be REAL we gotta look at the things that hurt us…maybe it will help us heal (?). Maybe it will help us learn better how we can fight these issues, and make sure that they don’t happen to the Elders we love.

I feel like one of the main challenges of young people today is the absence of a strong Elder presence in their life. I know that for me, my own exposure to Elders was small and I didn’t understand the value and importance of sitting and listening growing up. I think that if that simple skill of listening, and of respecting/taking care of Elders was to arise as a dominant, admirable and common trait amongst Aboriginal youth, we would be able to better achieve our goal of bringing unity back to our Turtle Island community. Our youth are leaders, and once they start standing en masse and leading by example in such a powerful way, real change and transformation can take place within our nations.

We can do this. YOUth can help.


Monday, May 16, 2011

MC goin' Caribbean

Something crazy has happened. I have been selected to go to the Carribean as part of something called the CCELD (Canada-Caribbean Emerging Leaders Dialogue). What that means, is from the May 28th until June 12th, I am going to be off on a crazy adventure that takes me from Winnipeg, to the Opening Ceremonies in Ottawa, Ontario to St. John's, Newfoundland which will be th first half of my trip, the Canada half. Round 2, the Caribbean half, will see me go from St. John's to Roseau, Dominica and FINALLY to the beautiful locale of Barbados. Check out the Google map below:

View CCELD in a larger map

I will mostly be in Dominica, which seems awesome from the sound of this article: The island is a veritable garden of trees, plants and colourful flowers. Much of it is luxuriant rain forest, majestic in its spread over mountain ranges and into lush valleys. The entire terrain is adorned by gushing waterfalls; narrow, flowing rivers and hot sulphur springs. Not surprisingly, it is home to hundreds of species of birds. Private operators in Dominica have also developed a vibrant whale-watching industry, taking advantage of the country's marine life, and providing an added attraction for its visitors. The island, therefore, is an eco-tourism paradise.

This is promising to be a very exciting trip where I can go out, and internationally REPRESENT the Indigenous folks of Manitoba. I have to send out 2 special shout outs, firstly to Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour and of course, my awesome employer SAFE Workers of Tomorrow. These folks have made this opportunity possible and I am forever grateful.

International Relationship Building

So I know that there will be 120 people on this trip. I know we will be studying leadership, at the government, business, labour and community levels. At the end of the conference (@ the closing in Barbados) each group will present their observations and findings, along with what info/skills/notes/techniques/strategies we will be taking back to our communities. From what I can gather, this event, organized by the British Commonwealth in an attempt to strengthen relationships between these 2 common-wealth nations. An interesting concept that's for sure. I must say, I am a fan of trying to build relationships in such a way, by sharing what works well in each country and hoping that there is some benefit to be gleaned by mingling these 2 groups of 'emerging leaders' together.

So in any event, I thought it would be exciting to share with the world that I am off to Dominica. I'll keep you blog readers posted on how things go once MC hits the Caribbean.



Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gravy Challenge

Dear World,

Once upon a time, many moons ago, MC was eArLy for a meeting. I know, this is rare, but I was actually 1.5 Hours early for a meeting that was to occur with the AYO! Leadership Team. This meeting took place at George's, a fine finding establishment in the North End of Winnipeg that has awesome burgers...and awesome gravy.

In this particular video, MC was dared by Jenna (who handles AYO's Youth Engagement Strategy) and Rocky (who leads out PolitiX project) to drink some gravy through a straw. Its one and a half minutes of pure gross gravy-licious awesomeness.

And yes, that was gravy skin on my tongue


Monday, May 9, 2011

Suicide in our HoodZ (RE: Today's Urban Nation)

Today on Streetz (Urban Nation) I was listening to a prof from BC talking about Indigenous youth suicide in New Zealand. They said a few thins that I would like to speak to because...I am opinionated like that. They discussed a few things, smoking, online engagement and youth suicide. I'm reminded of the impact that helping others (especially where the currency is human lives) can have by this article from 2006.

my initial reaction
Thanks so much Rick, for discussing this on StreetZ, last week and this week. I feel like it is such an important issue for young people and all of our communities to be aware of. Specifically in isolated Northern communities and isolated inner-city ghettoes the rate of youth suicide is huge. I think about my own experiences being from Shamattawa, and living in the North End, and the amount of young people that I personally know that have attempted/committed suicide is very high. I know this is an issue, and my initial reaction is gratitude. I feel like we have to acknowledge unhealthy alternatives and raise awareness. Because I have lost family and friends to suicide, I feel the pain of our people when one of our young people feels there is only one way out. I feel like this is a conversation all of us must have.

planting the seed
Rick (the host of UN) mentioned how you received a text last week where someone implied you shouldn't talk about these issues as the broadcasted conversation will plant seeds among Aboriginal youth. I DIS-AGREE with this sentiment completely. It is an issue right here in Winnipeg. I believe that anti-suicide initiatives such as the event that is occurring at Circle of Life Thunder Bird House tomorrow called 'Circle of Life Gathering: life after Addictions and Suicide' are imperative to addressing this issue. It is a 2 day volunteer gathering aimed at people who have suffered the loss of a loved one through suicide and addictions. Please contact TBH for more info I also believe that we show LOVE to the people in our life when we care enough to talk about the tough issues. f course it take COURAGE and HONESTY, but if we focus on tha Love...I tihnk we'll be okay :)

how YOUth can help
Thanks for talking about what young people can do to help their peers. I agree that young people are way more likely to be the receivers of disclosures of suicidal thoughts from their peers. We are so lucky in Winnipeg to have many young people that are passionate and committed to helping their peers and communities. However, if we want to have hope for our youth, we must ensure that as adults and helpers in youth issues, we stand beside these young people and offer our supports and resources as readily as possible. These grass-roots leaders need to be empowered and educated in methods of helping their (our) bothers and sisters to deal with their challenges. They can contact the MB Suicide Line @ 1-877-435-7170. Aboriginal Youth Opportunities is also currently in the process of working an a youth-led response to the high-rate of suicide within our communities. There is some interesting info, again from BC, specifically about men and suicide.


So I was at home Thursday, trying to be sick, when I was awoken by a knock on my door. When I asked ‘who’s there’ I was greeted with ‘you weren’t expecting us, but are you Aboriginal? We are trying to reach out to Aboriginal families.’ Now, being the MC that I am, I looked at this as an invitation to go and engage with other people who are trying to do more of the same work that I do.

Reach Out. Build Resilience. Share Opportunities.

So I went outside, and had a conversation with these 2 women. They said that they were Jehovah Witnesses and were trying to reach out to Aboriginal communities in this area (North End). They shared some print material with me and tried to explain some of their ideology to me. The materials were awesomeness because they were translated into Swampy Cree and in syllabics. The woman was constantly referencing families from the North that she knew, and also spoke in a ‘we’ mentality. It was awesome because I assumed that she was Aboriginal as well which made me feel more comfortable. I explained to them that I work with young Aboriginal people from this community and we are committed to healing from our people’s previous interactions with those kinds of systems (residential school, CFS, Government shitiness etc.). She explained to me that the past histories of residential school were done by religious folk, but God didn’t tell them to do it. And because of those injustices, the JW community is reaching out to Aboriginal families for healing.

Appreciated and offended

I do appreciate the courage that it takes these folks to walk around in the hood and knock on people’s doors unannounced and preach (to Neechies) about residential school. I also commend them for being so solid and strong in their own spiritual beliefs that they would like to share it with other people. H O W E V E R, I was quite offended when I asked this woman which community she came from. She said she came from the ‘pacific island’ community referring to her Asian-Pacific ancestry.

At this point, I felt very deceived because throughout our entire interaction she kept saying ‘we’ and ‘our’ in referencing children and communities. I don’t appreciate that she is masquerading around the community, talking to Aboriginal families and they don’t even realize that she is NOT neechie herself. She deliberately ignored the question when I asked her at the beginning of our conversation, and out of respect for her comfort level, I left it alone until the end of the convo. I know that I felt very deceived and also offended at the fact that she would have the nerve to barge into places where we live and try to tell us about religion, knowing full well the devastation and evil present in the historical and colonial relationship between First Nations and the church. It just felt really dis-honest, ya know?

Responding Honestly

And so, I felt like I needed to be honest with these people with how I was feeling. I explained to the woman and her partner that I was very skeptical of the content of the materials she provided to me, and that my own personal experiences cause me to have quite a large dis-trust for Christian based religious ideologies, but I would read the materials with an open mind. Having responded in that way is preparing me for the next time I am in such a situation so I can confront them with more informed questions and really try to dig to understand what (in their mind) makes its ok to 'reach out' in such a fashion. Just seems really dis-respectful to me.


North End MC

My photo
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Representin the North End of Winnipeg since 1987. I will share my journey tryna set an example and live a proud Cree life. I'll include my challenges and feelings and progress in terms of AYO! Aboriginal Youth Opportunities. You(th) are the reason.