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