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Hi, My Spirit Name Is...

Indigenous Identity, Reclamation, Trauma...& Humor, And Why It Makes Everyone So Uncomfortable - Even The Indigenous

Unless you've been hiding under a turtle shell, you've undoubtedly heard one of the many indigenous "controversies" currently swirling amongst various platforms and media. Canada elect's its first First Nations Premier, a referendum vote in Australia to even allow an indigenous voice to be recognized within government fails, there's an honest to Creator argument to search landfills in Winnipeg for indigenous BODIES...like, people are actually arguing whether it should be searched - even though bodies have already been found. Umm...fairly certain that meets most readily accepted standards of reasonable belief, just saying.

And then there's Buffy. And the GREAT BIG BLUFF. Or, is it? And am I REALLY going to go there? *shudders*


Yes, apparently I am. Maybe it's because her last name, real or adopted, is Sainte Marie. And I was born in a town called Sault Sainte Marie, named by a French priest meaning the Rapids of Saint Mary. In Ojibwe, it's referred to as Bawating, or Place of the Rapids. I don't know if there's any relevance between this town and the story of Buffy, but I like coincidences that catch my attention.


So, long story short, Buffy Sainte Marie is currently under fire for having been exposed as being a "pretendian." A pretendian, for those living off the rez, is someone who appropriates indigenous culture for personal gain, but has no proven genetic connection to any First Nations ancestor. In explanation, she explained she had been adopted by the First Nation Piapot Tribe, according to traditional Cree custom over sixty year ago. Her explanation has been corroborated by members of the tribe but that has done nothing to quell the uproar.


I myself have gone back and forth. In a time when, for once, first nations people are regaining their voices and cultural reclamation is an ACTUAL thing, real conversations are being had and like the great big bluffy - the truth isn't always easy.


Buffy used the platform she was provided and did shine light on indigenous culture, even if she wasn't born into it. One of the things she was most known for was her song "Up Where We Belong," and just like the Migiizi (eagle) she sings about, her music career soared and she won a Juno award in 2018 for her efforts and use of her indigenous background. The OTHER side of that story, that resonates a little differently now, is that there were OTHER nominees in that category, Indigenous Album of The Year...other actual indigenous artists. One of whom would end up being unalive within a year, at her own hand. She committed suicide after struggling with issues surrounding childhood trauma, bullying, and racism. Kelly Fraser, a 26 year old Canadian, recorded a cover of Rihanna's "Diamonds" in her native language, Inuit, and it is positively haunting. Even more so, given her death.

So, the argument that Buffy took up space that our indigenous ancestors died for, in order to for us to survive that we may one day be able to take up that space once again, isn't an inherently wrong concept. That space that we stood on originally but was taken from us. We inhabited these lands for thousands of years before we discovered Columbus lost at sea and, Creator willing, we'll STILL BE HERE thousands of years after. But that is a result of resiliency, sacrifice, and determination to not allow the genocide that nearly decimated us to continue to define us through our collective intergenerational historical trauma.

Despite disease laden blankets, despite thousands of graves of children being both found and forgotten under the dirt on the grounds of hundreds of Indian Residential Boarding Schools, despite Wounded Knee and the Sixty's Scoops - we are STILL HERE.

I've brought up tribal sovereignty before, as my own tribe is currently embroiled in a culture of corruption that runs the risk of us losing our sovereignty. The acts of a few, a small majority sitting in stolen seats on our tribal Board of Directors, is endangering the 50,000 strong membership's federal recognition as established decades ago. Even though the US federal government's formal recognition of the original inhabitants of this country's right to self-govern themselves is a "right" that can be taken away at whim by Congress with their plenary power to enact legislation to abolish the sovereignty of tribes - it is STILL the only protection we have against our voices once again being silenced...relocated...allotted....severed....terminated.


All things that have happened before. And nearly erased an entire culture of people. And, as the recent failed referendum vote in Australia demonstrates, voices that some humans still don't want to hear.

What does this have to do with Buffy and the bluff-y? (sorry, had to) :D

Sovereignty provides autonomy, the freedom from external control. The Piapot Tribe exercised theirs by following their Cree custom and adopting Buffy, something they have acknowledged. Being an enrolled member of a tribe who has a similar adoption policy, I know this happens. And, despite what our former disgraced and corrupt chairperson states in his Facebook posts, the rest of us Sault Tribe members know that adoption does NOT actually make you of indigenous descent. Even if Aaron has assured you it does.

Its honorary and meant as a gesture of inclusion and appreciation. Two things that indigenous life is based upon - inclusion of all things and appreciation for all things. And humans are things - shitty ones, sometimes, but still - they check the boxes for nouns. Just saying.


And who are any of us to judge, much less condemn, another indigenous tribe from honoring their own customs, how ever they see fit? Choices were made. We can't go back and change sixty years of a story of acceptance that ONLY highlights the gentle and accepting nature of the Anishnaabe (Original People) - and why would we want to? How Buffy Sainte Marie chose to represent herself is on her - our intentions and customs are ours alone, her actions are hers.


If we continue to attack and "cancel" because she's not who WE thought she was, even though the tribe who adopted her stands behind her, than we are affectively attacking and cancelling our own right to handle indigenous matters autonomously, outside the long arm of colonization, and according to traditions that our people have died for, for our kwe (women) we are still digging out of massive city landfills and bones of our children we keep finding in old church "gardens."


As I've stated many times before, we didn't come this far to ONLY come this far. But if we cannot figure out how to stop attacking our own, for circumstances forced upon us by governments that have been trying to exterminate us from time immemorial, WE will be the ones to finish the job they never could. Kill the Indian to save the man.


"A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man."

- Captain Richard H. Pratt, when espousing the virtues of Indian Residential Boarding Schools.


My mother and many of her brothers attended the Holy Childhood Indian Boarding School in Harbor Springs, Michigan. She survived, having been taken to the school at the age of 5. In 1956. The school ONLY just closed a few short years ago.

This is not history, this is a fight that till goes on today - the right to even MATTER, to exist, to have a voice and take up space.


A space that, had our CHILDREN not been stolen from us, we would've retained our ancestral right to, instead of nearly drowning what was left of our culture with the tears of our babies.




Wahsay Geezhgo Kway

"Shining Sky Woman"


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