Aabitooshkine: It is Half Full and Overflowing
by Lesley Belleau
Watching what is happening is both overwhelming, amazing, hurtful, distressing and historic at the same time. Watching Chief Theresa Spence of Attiwapiskat First Nation step forward and, in self-sacrifice, lay her own life down, makes me understand fully the being of women and mothers and leaders. When I heard her tell how she spoke to her children to let them know that she might not come home again, I thought of the moment of each of my children’s births and the unbreakable cords that I held in my hand long after they were cut from my body. I slept that night with my babies long cries in my throat and my mother’s fading song in the cusp of my memory and I curled into the spirit body of Chief Spence as a long lost daughter and felt the generations of mothers and daughters breathing hard like a first wind that is driven by creation itself. I slept fitfully like the inside of a fever, like the inside of a fervent sweat. I slept under blankets of stories and they kept me warm enough but just not warm enough. When I woke, I dreamed all of those stories, but in pieces and I tried to figure them out until the world caved around me, small rock-etched figures pressed against my skull, fingers carving history as thick as the turning of daybreak. I thought of world around me. And then I looked inside myself and where I came from.
I come from Ketegauanseebee-Gitigaan-ziibi Anishinaabe- or as it is known, Garden River First Nation, Ontario. I come from a beautiful place- where the waters flow clearly like they are coming from an untapped, spiritual place. It is a place where you can feel the water move underneath the ground. It is a place of strong motion and voices, where trees bend with the wind beside currents of stories and faces and memories. It is a place where I learned who I am and where I come from. I come from residential school second generation. I come from sexual abuse and alcoholism. I come from genocide. I come from forced patriarchal systems such as Christianity and sexist establishments bred out of power structured frameworks. I know what it means to be a young Anishinaabe girl in a world that does not honour us as people. I come from screaming, choking voices. I come from a place that forced me to write instead of speak because I could hide the writing, as long as I was silent. I come from direct oppression.
At the same time, I am a descendent of the First People of Canada. I come from warriorship. I come from matriarchal strength. I come from working the land. I come from honour. I come from the creation of respect. I come from our Great Creator who guides us. I can’t forget or ignore any of this. My father’s fight reminds me of this. My mother’s patience reminds me of this. My sister’s solidarity reminds me of this. My own motherhood reminds me of this. My community’s voice and struggles and accomplishments remind me of this. Mostly, Theresa Spence and the #idlenomore movement reminded me of this. As Indigenous women, I realized that there are times where we must sacrifice. We must forget ourselves and re-focus on the world around us. We must reclaim our voices. We must tell the truth, no matter the cost. We must speak, no matter the cost. We must survive, no matter the cost. We must learn our languages, no matter who finds this unimportant. All of this is vital to our own survival as people individually and as a nation, collectively. We need to protect our lands, treaties, communities, families, animals and resources. We need to unite in a way that history refuses to accept is possible.
Lastly, I am a mother of four children all under ten years old who are so beautiful and innocent and accepting that it hurts a place sewn into the back of my heart that used to exist, that is coming back to life in small bursts of consciousness. They need to live to see oppression’s thick skin break wide open. They can step through these skins and walk freely into a place I may never see, but exists for all of our children. We need to leave these skins drying against the sun behind us until their fragments are as untraceable as grains of sand wound around each other within the scream of centuries. Freedom, truth and survival are a pathway that is our children’s future. But we need to scream and fight it wide open in any way that we can; through language, through writing, through protest, through humour, through speaking the language of truth at any time that it is possible. Let us break through these skins for our children and future generations in any way that we can resist. By resistance we will survive and paint our voices around the sky, wrapping and twining the multitudes of words rope-like until we encapsulate the universe and rain down, our children’s mouths wide open.
Aabitooshkine: it is half full and overflowing.
Lesley Belleau comes from Ketegaunseebee Gitaan-Ziibi Anishinaabe, also known as Garden River First Nation. She is the author of The Colour of Dried Bones (Kegedonce Press) and an upcoming novel called Sweat (Scrivener Press), released Fall 2013. She is a Ph.D candidate at Trent University in the Indigenous Studies department and a mother of four children, ages 10, 7, 4 and 2, and we hold hands, walking the future together.