Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Change is in the air.

My tiny corner of the Internet (or locker, maybe?) has been quiet lately. Between my full-time university job, teaching a college course, and trying to maintain some semblance of a personal life, I haven't had time to think about much other than the immediate tasks at hand.

I think maybe this is the framework that has allowed this new idea to grow.

What's the idea? It's radical. Dare I say, crazy. Really, really... really out there.

I want to go home (ni-endayang).

There is sort of a perfect storm of events that have recently occurred that have made space in my mind and my life for this idea to form:

  1. My Chief's Talk: A couple of weeks ago, my Chief, Gilbert Whiteduck, was speaking at a conference I was at. One of the things he talked about is how people have always told him throughout his career: "Baby steps. Stepping stones are important. We'll get there." While no one would deny that all of these small changes connect to one another to formulate something great, Gilbert says: "What we need now are leaps and bounds. Our people are in too dire of a state for baby steps." And I couldn't agree more. I love the work I do and I believe in it. But it's not a leap or a bound. On a more cerebral level (and I'm not sure how well this will translate to a blog), he described an experience returning our ancestors to the land and what it means to just be in the community; and, all throughout his talk, the words that kept running through my mind were: "I have to go home. I have to go home. I have to go home."
  2. Red Man Laughing: I just finished listening to the Red Man Laughing podcast featured chat with Mskwaankwad Rice, who talks about his decision to leave behind his life in Ottawa and move back home to his community, sit with his grandmother, and learn his language. The simple facts of his story got me excited; if he could make this decision and move from Ottawa (the same city I'm in now!), maybe I could, too? Just maybe? They had a really thought-provoking discussion about our generation and how we're basically writing our own rules. We're in a unique position as Anishinabe youth/young people living in the world today and, in some sense, no one has written the guidebook on or beaten the path that determines how to live as Anishinabeg youth in the wake of the acts of genocide committed directly against our grandparents' generation and the impacts its had on our parents' generation.
  3. My Career Path:  While I cannot overstate how much I care about the work I'm doing right now in the university, I know that this work is not my final stop on my career path. My career goal is to become a professor and contribute to the growth of the field of Indigenous Studies. But, over the past week something has become crystal clear to me: My education is imbalanced. I've learned a lot about the history of colonization in this country, critical perspectives of Canada, and the impacts its had on our people. That's important, but after teaching these perspectives to my college class this fall, I've realized that it's only one side of the story. What I'm missing in my "repertoire" (a career-focused way to say self-actualization) is the knowledge and education that exists only in my family, my community and amongst the Anishinabeg: our family stories, our language, our ceremonies, our community history, our ways of knowing the world. I can't be the kind of professor I want to be or make the changes I want to make without this education from my own family and people.
Something has happened within me and it's happened quickly. That's not to say I'm going to be quitting my job and making a Musky-esk change tomorrow. But I'm closer than ever to believing I could do it.

I've always had this goal to learn my language before I have children so I can pass it on. What have I been doing about it? Not much. I've been "talking the talk." I need to, in the words of Ryan McMahon, "walk the talk." I've always thought I wanted to give my future children the opportunity to grow up on a reserve because, although it comes with all of its complexities, it brings with it a love that no Anishinabe child should be denied of. No matter these goals, I was always immediately struck down with stress afterward, wondering, How? How do I make this happen? After having lived in the city for so long, gotten my degrees, secured a good job, and started a life with an amazing partner, the possibility of going home seemed to move further and further away until it was nearly insurmountable.

I can't explain the change in me, but on Saturday morning it was suddenly like all of these barriers had been lifted for a moment. And, luckily, I am still in that moment. So maybe it's not "a moment" after all? I suddenly realized (and this is a deliberate pun, since I'm watching the US presidential election as I type) that yes. I. can. I can leave my amazing job if I want to. I can give up my apartment if I want to. I can go home if I want to.

And guess what? I want to.