Is the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs still Relevant?

We are now entering an election period for Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. This election raises some important questions, that require answers and direction.

First, is the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs relevant?

Is electing a woman as Grand Chief the answer to AMC’s problems?

How is the AMC going to support the victims of the former Grand Chief and in doing so how are they going to operationalize the implementation of the 231 Calls to Justice that is trauma informed and guided by family and survivors?

In 1994, the federal government and AMC established a Framework Agreement for the dismantling of Indian Affairs in the Manitoba Region. An independent review of that agreement took place in 1999. Not sure what the results were, but DIAND and its various iterations are in place in Manitoba.

In 1981 the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak INC (MKO) was established to address the inherent Treaty, Aboriginal and Human Rights of their member northern communities.

The Southern Chiefs Organization INC. (SCO) was established in 1999 to represent the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities fr the purposes of protecting, preserving and promoting First Nations inherent treaty rights as committed to under the treaty making process.

There are also 7 independent Tribal Councils in Manitoba representation a specific area of the Province.

There are also 3 active Treaty Organizations in Manitoba.

There is also one Regional Chief that is elected by and represents the Chiefs in Manitoba.

Chiefs of Manitoba have at least three different representative venues dependent on where they are located to voice their concerns and impact change for the First Nations in Manitoba. These organizations all are concerned with inherent and treaty rights and or rights that maybe acquired.

There are 63 First Nations with a total on-reserve population of 93,840 (57.1%) with a total population of 164,289 registered First Nations persons in Manitoba (retrieved 17 Oct 2022 from I do not think this number includes those from other territories within or without Canada.

Of these organizations, none have addressed the issues of portability of rights that would account for 42.9% of the population that live in urban areas or off reserve.

In 1994, the federal government and AMC established a Framework Agreement for the dismantling of Indian Affairs in the Manitoba Region. An independent review of that agreement took place in 1999. Not sure what the results were, but DIAND and its various iterations are in place in Manitoba.

In terms of substantive issues, the AMC has failed to address the environmental impacts of climate change including the health and well-being of all sentient beings. And equally important is the implementation of the 231 Calls to Justice within the governance systems of First Nations in Manitoba.

If the Chiefs of Northern Manitoba formed MKO and the Chiefs of Southern Manitoba formed SCO because the AMC was not addressing the substantive and collective issues of your communities, why do you continue to support AMC as a representative body?

For the past several years, AMC has had to deal with the crisis of leadership of the Grand Chief. In the early summer of 2019, these concerns were brought forward publicly by two victims of the Grand Chief. The matter was referred to the Women’s Council who refused to take a trauma informed approach to hear out the truth as represented by the young women. ( This failure of leadership allowed for the behavior to continue and in fact allowed the former Grand Chief to run again for this position. I believe that anyone that was a member of this council should not allow their name to stand for election until they can make things right with the victim(s).

Again, in 2022, the Grand Chief was accused of sexualized violence of a staff member and a police report was made. As a result of this report, several other women outside the workplace came forward. The AMC steadfastly refused to give hearing to the other victims. This despite the presentation to the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S+ that:

“First Nations women and girls deserved a process that was transparent, 

accountable to them, and reflective of their identities and culture.”

Had the AMC applied it’s stated processes and standards for a Grand Chief, this sexualized violence would not have continued to happen to others since 2019.

After six interventions, following the removal of the Grand Chief in June 2022, to find a way to work with the AMC that would provide an opportunity to follow a traditional cultural process to give hearing to the many victims. This is also inline with the mandate statements and articles of incorporation of the AMC, we were advised that we would have to wait until after the election of the new Grand Chief. So this should be the first order of business and candidates need to advise how they are going to support the victims and what measures will be put in place to address further issues.

Does this mean that the Grand Chief should be a woman or that a woman could do a better job? Not necessarily. If the candidate has not spoken up on this issue or spoken on the issues of violence against women or has done anything concrete to address the issues of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people, then that candidacy would not necessarily create change. And yes, this is a clear cut issue, because our women continue to be murdered, continue to go missing and continue to be subject to sexualized violence. This is one of the issues the ended for the first time in AMC history the term of a Grand Chief.

In the final statement to the National Inquiry, the Grand Chief on behalf of AMC stated, ” We will reclaim our traditional jurisdictions and continue to lead the way in protecting and honouring First Nations women and girls. We owe it the families and survivors. It is incumbent upon us to do better.”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs – It is time to do better!

Is the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs still Relevant?

Standing on the Chains – Once Again

“The more things change – the more they stay the same”

Louis Riel MP Provencher

In August 1869, Canada sent a group of surveyors to the Red River to begin surveying land prior to negotiations to enter into the confederation[1].  To add insult to injury, the surveyors where using a Canadian survey method that did not take into account the river lot system already in place.

Louis Riel and the Metis were not having it! Riel led a small group of people to stop the surveyors. They stood on the surveyors’ chains and did not retreat.  The Canadian survey company retreated and came back in October with an army.

Later, Riel was elected three times as an independent representative of Provencher despite being a fugitive and rebel to Canadians. In January 1874, Riel stole into the House of Commons and signed the register as the elected representative of Provencher.  He was never allowed to take a seat.

Here we are almost 150 years later, and another man is elected and ejected for challenging the deeply entrenched patriarchal and colonial systems.  Jagmeet Singh like Riel has spent his life standing on surveyors’ chains and attempting to open systems to create change, be inclusive and act on social justice. Like Riel he is being denied a voice to speak that truth in the rooms of power.

Jagmeet Singh MP-Burnaby South NDP

Jagmeet Singh kicked out of Parliament on June 17, 2020 for calling out a racist

History has once again repeated itself.  Jagmeet Singh has said that he is “not sorry for fighting systemic racism.”  It is the same racism that was present when Manitoba was brought into confederation under a long gun, despite having a legally representative government in place. 

There has been in my opinion more offensive, hurtful language that is misogynist and character shaming that has not resulted in any kind of censure in the House.

Canada can make a commitment to truly address the privilege of white immunity[2] that is embedded in the very structures, the policies, and practises of its institutions.

Whether its Riel or Jagmeet or the thousands of Missing and Murdered Women, Girls and gender diverse people or Black Lives matter – colonial and patriarchal rule is no longer acceptable.

 Institutions must take steps to immediately reset the course in a significant meaningful way.

Time for meaningful engagement and action – once again you are reminded as the chains of colonialism and patriarchy are being held still once again – 150 years later.


[2] Cabrera, N. (2018). White Guys on Campus: Racism, White Immunity and the myth of “Post-Racial “Higher Education (The American Campus). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Standing on the Chains – Once Again

Beyond the Land Acknowledgement

Womens March Winnipeg 2020

First, I love being in places and hearing a land and Treaty acknowledgement, whether its at a community meeting, a sports venue or in my granddaughter’s daycare.  I think Yes, we are still here!

I was speaking with my friend today about the Womens March that is happening tomorrow, January 18, 2020 in Winnipeg.  She asked who is speaking?  Are there Indigenous Women speaking?

We have both attended previous marches because like many we believe in the paramountcy of Human Rights which are Indigenous Rights which are Womens Rights which are Children’s Rights which are 2SLGBTQQIA rights, which are Environmental Rights!

What has been missing in all the Womens Marches in Winnipeg is the voice of Indigenous Women.

For sure, organizers are mindful of land acknowledgements and bringing in an Elder to offer a blessing, maybe a drum.  Missing always is the action beyond the March.

In Canada, we have all been witness and Indigenous Women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA sisters have just finished participating in the most contentious and trauma-inducing National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.  This had been an Inquiry into the situation of Missing and Murdered Loved ones that families and advocates had fought for over many years and successive governments.  The marches have never acknowledged this hard-won victory for Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples.

The National Inquiry found that successive Governments have advanced genocidal policies against Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples. This is from policies such as the Indian Act which in fact created refugees known internationally as internally displaced persons for generations of Indigenous Women and their families for generations and have done nothing to remedy this situation.  Every move towards the acknowledgement of these genocidal policies has been because Indigenous Women stood up, went beyond a march or a public protest and took governments to court.  They have won in every instance.

The final report of the National Inquiry released on June 2, 2019, issued 231 Calls to Justice which are legal imperatives for Governments to Act.  For those that organized the Womens March across Canada and in Winnipeg, I urge you to take up the Calls to Justice, to take up the call for allyship.  If you are not sure, how to do this, go to page 30 of the Calls to Justice for resources to support you.

I would also like to bring to your immediate attention, the Calls to Justice for All Canadians.  The National Inquiry and indeed Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA peoples call on you to give life to these Calls to Justice.  We will move farther together when we address the causes of violence and work together to create a safer society for all of us.

15.1       Denounce and speak out against violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

15.2        Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area. Learn about and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ history, cultures, pride, and diversity, acknowledging the land you live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today.

15.3        Develop knowledge and read the Final Report. Listen to the truths shared and acknowledge the burden of these human and Indigenous rights violations, and how they impact Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

15.4        using what you learned and some of the resources suggested, become a strong ally. Being a strong ally involves more that just tolerance; it means actively working to break down barriers and to support others in every relationship and encounter in which you participate.

15.5        Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia, and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs; in your home, in your workplace or in social settings.

15.6       Protect, support and promote the safety of women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people by acknowledging and respecting the value of every person and every community, as well as the right of Indigenous Women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people to generate their own, self-determined solutions.

15.7        Create time and space for relationships based on respect as human being, supporting and embracing differences with kindness, love and respect. Learn about Indigenous principles of relationship specific to those Nations or communities in your local area and work and put them into practice in all your relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

15.8        Help hold all governments accountable to act on the Calls to Justice, and to implement them according to the important principles we set out.

Beyond the critical importance of land acknowledgments is the responsibility to take action.  What will you do to ensure that the Calls for Justice will be implemented?

Womens March 2017
Beyond the Land Acknowledgement

Genocide and General Elections – What Candidates are not talking about

2019 beyond the bar b q and kitchen gatherings in this election as candidates from all political parties, what are they not talking about?


On June 3, 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issued their final report to Canadian Governments. Each government recieved a copy of this report in their hands. It seems like each government immediately put it on the shelf or in the shredder. Nobody is talking about it!

The Inquiry found that the reason for this on-going national tragedy in Genocide. I won’t go into the details here or the 231 recommendations. I will encourage you to spend some precious time to educate yourself and read the report. It can be found here:

I was curious when no party leaders attended the open debate on gender issues, as to what the party positions were on the report and the Calls to Justice. Provincially, no political party is addressing the finding of genocide. As to the Calls to Justice, again there appears to be no plan – no action to be the changemakers we require except for the NDP, who have “committed to establish a MMIWG committee of cabinet led by Indigenous Women, who will work with families to implement recommendations coming out of the inquiry. ” Its a start. The suitation of Indigenous Women is not an emergency requiring action now not more time to twiddle thumbs.

check out these links to the Provincial party platforms and make up your own mind. Conservative Party NDP Manitoba Liberal party Green Party

I encourage all Manitobans to make an informed choice and urge you to require your candidate to be bold and decisive: Do they even know what genocide means?

Genocide and General Elections – What Candidates are not talking about

Protection, Privacy, Principles

I think that it has been firmly established that that is completely legal to record a conversation, meeting, call without the consent of other parties. Was recording a conversation, when one anticipates harm, a valid reason to not inform the other party?  Was it enough of a reason to toss a senior member of cabinet out of the building? What role did gender and ethnicity play in this drama?  I was once in the position where I was once unknowing recorded in a meeting of several people.  One or more individuals, other than the one surreptiously holding the recording device knew the proceedings were being recorded.

In this case, it was primarily Indigenous women at the table, some represented the community and others including myself represented government.  The bottom line is that we were all trying to put the best interests of the Indigenous community first.  Even so, there seemed to be an effort to lead me and my colleagues into a rabbit hole.  I’m not sure the situation would have happened if it had been white men at the table. I found out later about the recording.  I contacted several different individuals both within the department I worked in and outside the department about my rights.  I clearly felt that consent to record by all parties should have been granted by all parties and that my individual  rights had been violated.recorder Apparently, no crime committed – no consent necessary.  I suppose taking a bird’s eye view, in this day and time of technology, we are always being recorded, whether it be while driving and traffic cams or in casual conversation with friends and finding later advertisements coming up based on your conversations.  Lesson here is assume an audio video capture even if you are sitting on your sofa!


The bigger question is, why did the individual feel the need to record the proceedings?

I can only assume it was a meeting with governments, not with individuals that was the primary reason.

Governments, that we as Indigenous Peoples have been subjected to in maintaining oppressive colonial structures. I believe it was the policies of the system that have continued to marginalize Indigenous people and communities that was the cause of feeling unsafe and a need to protect rights.  On the other hand, meetings are generally recorded, by minutes and or electronically, so it would have been totally acceptable.

jwr-1I won’t even attempt to imagine the requirement to protect herself that Jody Wilson-Raybould felt. Many Indigenous women have felt the same way.  In fact, many believed that they could change they system by being in it, rather that fighting it. For the most part, this has not proven to be the case.  In fact, one Indigenous Women had filed a Human Rights complaint against a federal department.  One of the prevailing attitudes that she was subjected to, was being told by her supervisor that, “we want people that look like you, but think like us”.  And there is not doubt, that this was the attitude that surrounded Jody Wilson-Raybould with in that there was an expectation that she was like us (government).  Governments and certainly the liberal party, did not realize that the Laws of the Big House superseded their own.  Perhaps that is why the prevailing liberal conversation is that “Jody was difficult to work with.” For sure, difficult is what happens when two different systems, two sets of rules are in play.  What did the liberal party expect when they courted Jody to run under their banner? Did they think that as a regional representative of AFN, that she was just an extension of government?

Despite these circumstances that Jody Wilson-Raybould experience at the highest level of colonial government. (and many other Indigenous women in different levels of governments).

She still managed to set the course of the iceberg by ensuring guiding principles be adopted by the federal government. These principles are:

  1. All relations with Indigenous Peoples need to be based on the recognition and implementation of their right to self-determination, including he inherent right of self-government.
  2. Reconciliation is a fundamental purpose of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  3. The hour of the Crown guides the conduct of the Crown in all of its dealings with Indigenous Peoples.
  4. Indigenous self-government is part of Canada’s evolving system of cooperative federalism and distinct orders of government.
  5. Treaties, agreements, and other constructive arrangements between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown have been and are intended to be acts of reconciliation based on mutual recognition and respect.
  6. Meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples aims to secure their free, prior, and informed consent when Canada propose to take actions which impact them and their rights on the lands, territories and resources.
  7. Respecting and implementing rights is essential that any infringement of section 35 rights must by law meet a high threshold of justification which includes Indigenous perspective and satisfies the Crown’s fiduciary obligations.
  8. Reconciliation and self-government require a renewed fiscal relationship, developed in collaboration with Indigenous nations, that promotes a mutually supportive climate for economic partnership and resource development.
  9. Reconciliation is an ongoing process that occurs in the context of evolving Indigenous-Crown relationships.
  10. A distinctions-based approach is needed to ensure that the unique rights, interests and circumstances of First nations, the Metis Nation and Inuit are acknowledged, affirmed, and implemented.


Now the question is, Will the federal government as represented by its department implemented in their daily process and policy application. Will provinces and other governments also adopt and implement.

We don’t need the principles to be an election platform. In the interest of reconciliation this can and should be implemented now.

Protection, Privacy, Principles


 When will Justice come

We have been here before – to many times.  Hoping for Justice.  

My heart breaks for Thelma Favell and her family, Tina’s family and her community.  I don’t even know how hard it is for your hearts to be broken wide open again.  Never forget she was just a girl.  She was a girl who wanted a bike.  She was a girl who was lured because she was promised a bike.

Please take a moment to say a prayer for Tina and her family.


My hearts go out to all the family members and survivors of violence, who are once again forced to relive the pain of their lost loved ones as one more miscarriage of justice is flung at their feet.

My heart goes out to the jury members, who could only make a decision based on the evidence they were given.  It will be forever burned in my memory, the juror who looked like a Grandmother herself as her shoulders shook while trying to contain her tears and she covered her face.  Or the young man who looked like he only got his health card the day before he was called to take on the enormous responsibility of sitting on this jury.  His grief was visible and overwhelming.  They could only make a decision based on the evidence they were given and that evidence had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  it was not a question of race as we saw in the Gerald Stanley case.  It was a question of the judicial system continuing to be a failure.

And we walk back to the police investigation.  What more could the Police service have done to ensure that the evidence was beyond circumstantial?  The police really need to review their investigative process to ensure that the evidence they present to the courts can get a conviction.

Canada has stated that they want to establish a new legal framework.  Start by implementing the Recommendations of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry,  The Royal Commission or any other report where we have shared our hearts for change.  Stop ringing your hands.

Tonight I can hug my daughter and granddaughter and tell them I love them – to many mothers can’t.

Tonight, I am just going to curl up in fetal position.  I promise all of my ancestors, I promise my daughter, my granddaughter, my sisters of birth and of choice, that I will get up in the morning and I will stand for justice until my last breath.  I make that commitment, to stand with love.  I honor you dear loved ones.

We have been here before – to many times.

Tomorrow Manitobans will commemorate Aboriginal Justice Day – it is not a holiday, it is a day to take action, a day to demand Justice and expect nothing less.  On Friday, Febraury 23, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. we will gather for Tina Fontaine as a whole community and March from the Law Courts to the Forks.  If ever the words, First we mourn and then we take action meant something –  This is the time!





Women of the Moon

Sounds wild and exotic, doesn’t it? Women of the Moon.  What does that mean – that women came from the moon?  Women worship the moon? Not really. But let me tell you about meeting women of the moondance.  I had been wanting to attend a women’s moon dance for over a decade and was given an opportunity last year. However, the timeframe was less than a week to prepare, so it was again left to another time.  Another opportunity come around this February 2017.  With a group of Sundance women and their families, we attended the moon dance ceremony led by Grandmother Ana Carmona in Costa Rica.

Like many women in North America, I came to a reclamation of ceremonial and spiritual ceremony through male medicine men and patriarchal influenced practise.  My most consistent learning and practise has been through Sundance ceremony.  Sundance is seen primarily as a man’s ceremony where space has had to be created for women.  And while over the years, there has been an acceptance of the role of women in ceremony, it has been a grudging acceptance by men and by some women as well.  As much as Sundance was and is a home base for me and many women, I still felt like there was a space that women can feel fully at home.

I came to the moon dance with the objective of observing and determining if this was a ceremony or a lived practise for me and for other Indigenous women to support a reclamation of self.  I needed to find a safe place where women and girls could shift from the mindset of victim and survivor. I needed to find a place of safety for women to again re-engage the possibility of moving the line to creator, co-creator, genius, recreator to live from a place of strength, but beyond that to live from a place of joy.  Finding a safe space and safe ceremony was critical in this exploration, because we often subject ourselves to lateral violence and hierarchal complexities even in a female environment.   My mind was challenged to release my gendered conditioning for ceremony while my heart had found a home.  It was a strange experience to walk into ceremonial grounds, and move freely about with the gendered based protocols that felt and seemed so normal in my life experience.  Being in a complete women’s space, where the men of the fire were in complete service to women was a complete upheaval of my conditioning -ceremonial and daily living.  I thought to myself and spoke to one other person, that I felt this may not be the answer I was looking for. I felt sad about that realization.  My gendered ceremonial conditioning so entrenched that I wasn’t sure I could create the space to learn.

I felt like my mission had failed and then I found myself spiraling into a complete physical breakdown. The journey became personal: no movement of my neck, extreme should pain, migraine like symtoms, but not a migraine.  Extreme vomiting on the first day in camp that was managed by pharmaceuticals and a neck brace.  On the second day, acupuncture, acupressure, etc. gave some time limited relief.

All these modalities just gave me limited relief.  I finally had to surrender as we prepared for dancing, the second night and meet with the grandmothers. I had to let them know that I felt I could not dance because of my physical issues.  They advised me that I would go into the dance at be the altar for the night and let the grandmother moon take care of me.  This I did. I laid down my blankets at the altar of the moon.

I climbed into my sleeping blanket and I guess left my body.  I did not return, hear, or see a thing until I awoke just as dawn approached.  Fully conscious, alert and pain free.  I knew something was very different for me and that something had shifted.  I could have full range of motion for my neck.  My mind was clear.  With this surrender, I also lost my judgemental mind.  I could just be in my body and in my heart.  I could attend the teachings of the grandmothers and be open to their wisdom and willingness to share their knowledge.

One of the grandmothers had shared that life is all about balance.  I believe the Moon dance rooted in Indigenous tradition is one of the cultural/spiritual traditions that can support our moveas women to reclaim our fullness, free from violence – personal and systemic that impacts our daily lives. I believe this particular ceremonial tradition is definitely one that can be of service to supporting our work of reclaiming our wholeness.  I highly encourage you to attend and find out for yourself.  Interested?


Women of the Moon

Where are Joseph Boyden’s Grandmothers?

He is Ojibwe from Nottawasaga Bay traced to the 1800’s on his mother’s side.  Nottawasaga Bay was originally home to the Anishinaabeg of the South Georgian Bay.  The Anishinaabeg were among the early casualties of forced government policy of relocation.  Senator Murray Sinclair when chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission often spoke of the fact that seven generations of Indigenous children were displaced due to colonial policy.  I can only think of those grandmothers that through their grief had an undying hope and laid down their prayers seven generations ago, that our people would survive.  Joseph Boyden’s story is one of surviving that displacement.  He is the seventh generation.


While he made not have had to suffer the very disempowering effects of growing up as a direct recipient of the effects of colonial policy, because by all accounts, the policy worked in his lineage. And it is in this vein that most people have tried to dismantle his claim to his indigenous roots.  Joseph Boyden’s story is however, indeed one of the failure of the colonial construct to disempower and assimilate the Indian. Joseph Boyden felt his connection to his roots and the land and claimed it.  Is that not what we teach our children each day, “Be Proud!” “Don’t let anyone shame you or your people!” So as not to confuse the discourse, he [Joseph] is not Grey Owl, he is not Little Hawk, he is indeed Indigenous by blood.  The question posed by APTN is blood quantum .  There are other arguments that have been brought into the discussion, but they are collateral and not applicable to the question put forward by Jorge Barrera and need to be discussed in another forum.


What we need to examine is the recognition through this discourse is how deeply the scars of patriarchy and colonialism run.  Commentators both Indigenous and non-Indigenous  are quick to focus on his uncle, Earl Boyden aka Injun Joe, and the dominance of his Celtic roots while completely dismissing his Mothers Ojibwe roots.  How colonial is that!  Yes, Joseph Boyden has tried on many different identities and this is in fact a legacy of colonialism and patriarchy.  People are trying on different identities, trying to find a place to fit, especially when no family or community claims them.  This is the reality of the orphans of colonialism – who is going to claim them or are they forever going to meander through legal definitions of belonging.


About the controversy, my daughter said, “ancestry is who you believe you are, and where you think you belong.  It’s your social ties.  Race is often misused, it’s a term of the past.  We cannot impose upon someone, what we think their race is or what we think it should be.  Rather, we must support and uplift those willing to do the work to find their ancestors and their stories.”  Sure, Joseph doesn’t have a beading pattern or colours that identify his connection to his mother’s people and neither does his mother.  That is in fact, a residual effect of the colonial construct.  Even Joseph Boyden’s own statement, released on twitter in response to APTN’s story, “A small part of me is Indigenous, but it is a huge part of who I am,” is an testament to how deep the twin flames of patriarchy and colonialism run.  I am thinking that he is referring to the concept of blood quantum and legal definition as most people do, because its easy and not as messy and telling the story and living the story of lineage.


The story of lineage is mostly a matriarchal process that has been under attack since the first settlement.  To fully claim Joseph Boyden, means to fully claim our mother’s lineages and indeed her power.  That might be too much for some and has proven to be to much for the heavyweights in the arts industry. We can see how quite easily these heavyweights dropped the reference to his indigeneity and supported him only for his literary works and talent.  Indeed, his indigeneity is disposable to Canada.  This is very troubling, in a perceived era of reconciliation as Canada begins its celebration of 150 years as a country.


For Joseph Boyden, that “small part of him that is Indigenous”, is what makes his heart beat and gives him the resilience to bear the current discourse.  In becoming the poster boy, he has helped frame the conversation as we continue to seek reconciliation within our own ranks, brought on by historical and indeed by contemporary systemic trauma of colonization.


It is not a question really of how Indigenous he is, Joseph Boyden is Ojibwe from his mother’s lineage.  It is time that the grandmothers of his mother’s people, the grandmothers of Georgian Bay should claim him and give him a place to be rooted and to be home.


For my relatives, who don’t fit the image of a Hollywood Indian or the circumstance of the Indian Act, and all those children that have been displaced or stolen through egregious Child welfare policies, I hope they won’t be judged by legal colonial standards that are being applied in this case.


So, to all the aggrieved, if you believe that our grandmothers prayed for us seven generations ago, to remember who we are, you must believe that Joseph Boyden and many others were part of that prayer.



Most definitions of indigeneity invoke four criteria: historical precedence, non-dominance, cultural distinctiveness and self-ascription. Historicity denotes a group’s prior occupation of a geographic area that is partly or wholly subsumed, but not necessarily aligned with, the boundaries of the nation state. Non-dominance is usually understood in the political rather than demographic sense though, in the settler states of North America and Māori demography in Aotearoa New Zealand 61 Australasia, the two are synonymous. Colonialism and the attendant diminution of indigenous sovereignty are central features of non-dominance, usually underpinned by contemporary political claims for some form of self-determination (Maaka & Fleras, 2005). Cultural distinctiveness refers to patterns of social organization, beliefs and customs that have an historical basis but which have typically been affected by colonialism. Self-identification denotes the power for groups to define their own parameters using criteria that are meaningful to them. 3. The introduction of Māori descent and iwi questions in the 1991 census




Barrera, J., (2016)


Boyden, J. @josephboyden on [twitter] published 24 December 2016


Kukutai, T., (2011). Maori Demography in Aotearoa New Zealand: Fifty years on.  New Zealand population Review 37: 45-64 retrieved 1/9/17


Lederman, M., 2017. Amid heritage controversy, publishing heavyweights stand by Joseph Boyden. The Globe and Mail. Pub January 06, 2017 12:08 PM EST


McMahon, R. (2016). What Colour is your Beadwork, Joseph Boyden? Published on on December 30, 2016.


Thompson, N., 2016. Author Joseph Boyden defends Indigenous heritage after investigation. The Canadian Press posted Dec 28, 2016 2:20 PM ET last updated Dec 28 2016 4:30 PM ET

Where are Joseph Boyden’s Grandmothers?

Digital Story-Telling

Inter-generational effects of Residential School on Indigenous People

The inter-generational effects of residential school is often difficult to understand, not only by the observers but by the impacted. I had the opportunity to attend a talk given today by the Women whose research into the effects and impact on their own lives. The women were professionals whose lived experiences were recorded in digital story format. You can view these digital stories at:

The first womans digital story was against the photo of her beautiful young smiling mother. It was the haunting picture of her hazel eyes that told parts of her story and parts of her daughters story. It was difficult to sit quietly detached as my own emotion was riding just behind the surface of my own questions. I also caught my shoulders riding up to my ears, like I was trying to hide from the pain of my own remembering. Catching my physical reactions, I sat back and willed myself to breathe deeply, center, and listen to the stories, that were not unlike my own. I gazed at the photo of this young mother, and heard her daughters voice as their stories and lives were woven together. Like many survivor children, her daughter only heard parts of her story through her statement to the Indian Residential School settlement process. Out of respect, no questions are asked. It was only when the digital story of the daughter was shared and published, did the words “I love you and support you” take on a new meaning. Through reflection, the daughter found that she had experienced similar coping mechanisms to deal with the loss of identity and fear of abandonment and violence.

One womans digital story was against the backdrop of “the apology” proclaimed by the government of Canada in chambers in 2008. Five years later, the question is: What is the merit of the apology in the understanding of the inter-generational experience? In the moment of the apology, there was a feeling of relief that in fact, our experiences were real and had been validated by the perpetrator. There was profound relief that finally the perpetrator had admitted guilt. This validation gave us the opportunity to grieve the generations that had been immediately affected by the horrors of abuse and the generations who then lived the abuse in the shadows of a fearful parenting model.

The lead researcher, in the project, Roberta Stout,stated that, “telling our personal stories gives us the power to disrupt the affects of the colonial power within us”. And that is true, as once we are able to uncover the pain, we begin to grow out of it and see the power of our collective stories. We begin to see in our stories, the complete and powerful resilience of our mothers and our fathers to live with these painful memories. We can begin to see how this powerful resilience exists within all of us and carry in our cell memory. This resilience will guide us for generations to come.

In honoring this resilience, then my gratitude will always be extended to Phil Fontaine for his bravery for being the first public figure to disclose the horror of residential school. He walked with us through the valley of darkness and we began to understand that we are not victims and we are not powerless. The extent of the systemic and organized attempt to destroy a people, our people, is still being uncovered. However deep the pain and depraved the system has been, it no longer holds the power of the unspoken. We continue to rise and stand in our own power as nations of people, as proud human beings whose ancestors, whose mothers and fathers paid the blood price for our freedom and gave us

Digital Story-Telling