Red Stone Snake Woman
We all at some point in our lives come to a fork in the road, where we are called to make a choice. Every day a more urgent Grandfather Sun greets us than the day before, as it is the time of the 8th fire prophecy. A decision must be made: we can continue on this road of chaos or we can choose the path of peace. I am Mihko-Asiniy-Ginebik-Iskwew, Omushkegowuk from Moose Cree First Nation although I now reside in Ottawa, the unceded territory of the Algonquins. I am an advocate and educator on truth and reconciliation.
As a youth, I quickly discovered deep seeded racism toward Indigenous people in this country, and was heartbroken by the stereotypes and accusations. I was defensive for the suffering of my people and the destruction to our beautiful culture, and dedicated my education to better understand Indigenous issues, such as residential schools. Learning more about this part of Canadian identity shattered parts of me that I did not know could be broken.
You see, when my ancestors were no longer needed in this country for the fur trade or as military allies, and were outnumbered by settlers who needed land, we were seen as “impediments to Canadian progress”, as Indigenous versus Western ideas on how you treat the Earth are very different. And because Canadian leaders did not feel like they were making enough headway with our elders, it decided to target our most vulnerable.
While Canada was in the process of confederation, it was also stealing Indigenous children from their parents, forcing them to live in boarding schools created to destroy the Spirit of the Indian. Love and wellbeing were replaced with trauma and shame, and the “kill the Indian, save the man” mentality at these schools was horrific and often killed more than just the Spirit, and took the lives of thousands.
These schools existed until 1996, and leaders in this country have tried to keep this a secret, so our suffering is compounded by a country that does not acknowledge this part of our collective Canadian story.
And this ignorance continues to feed misconceptions, and inhibits us from doing the work we need to do as a country to heal. I work in the field of child welfare, and half the youth in care are Indigenous because of this legacy, and the current systemic racism that puts our most vulnerable at a disadvantage. We are meant to raise our children, to relate, connect, love, and nurture them, and to receive their love as well. It is the essence of the human experience. How can a parent or child find peace when forced to live with such pain?
I have learned to allow this pain to ignite in me a fire for a torch worth its weight in carrying. A torch lighting the way for reconciliation and peace in this Nation. It is time to inherit the beautiful parts of who we are culturally and spiritually.
In this journey of healing, I received my Spirit name, which is the name Creator has for us, and the path he intended for us to walk. As Red Stone Snake Woman, I have been called to represent the sacred hoop of life, and so part of my purpose here is to guide others to reconnect with our Earth and our interconnection to each other. I aim to bridge relationships so we can gather together in unity. I aim to facilitate the understanding and compassion needed for us to come together because there is still so much ignorance, racism, anger and hurt out there creating walls that must be broken down.
Red Stone means I am strong, and when I am on stage knees shaking and voice trembling as I speak of our suffering, I am reminded that it is in embracing these moments of vulnerability that may make us feel weak, that is in fact a strength. We all must make a choice where we step out of our comfort zones, and step up and do what is right. It is the path of the Rainbow Warriors, where we all come together in harmony.
If this country indeed stands for peace, then we must all gather in compassion to protect our most precious resources, and that is our beautiful Mother Earth and our most beloved children. And we must gather now.
All My Relations. Gitchi-Meegwetch.
By: Jenny Sutherland M.S.W., R.S.W., Indigenous Treatment Program Coordinator, Connor Homes.