It shook me up a bit on the weekend to hear a woman I hardly know tell a group of people, “the North is where our friend Albert would stand because he is raging and angry.” I’m quite certain that the lady who spoke the words did not have malicious intent when she did so. She had sized me up as someone, perhaps just a bit out of control, and relayed her view of me to the people in an attempt to bring clarity to the message of an exercise she had initiated involving the four directions.
Let me be crystal clear on this. I am not “raging” about anything. Rage is an emotion I shed from my life along with the dark days of imbalance and addictions which were crushing me spiritually, over 25 years ago. When I think of what creates rage I imagine the top of a person’s head being lifted up and trowels, filled with anger and frustration being packed into the exposed brain of an individual ill-equipped to deal with the invasion because of being emotionally crippled by the actions of an unjust society. Rage would consume every thought the person had, effecting them even to the depth of their bowels. I do get angry. Anger is healthy, I keep it under control.
Part of what I said previous to the assessment (“raging”) made of me, was this: “If the people who came to our continent (Turtle Island) from afar really had our best interest at heart when they rounded up our children, and by force placed them into Residential Schools, they would have been better advised to grant us the right to vote in 1850 instead of waiting until 1960 to do so.” My identity as a member of an Anishinabeg nation does not weaken when I vote to oust politicians whose beliefs are such that if they maintained power, it would be at the detriment to the health of my children. To vote yea or nay to the laws of a government does not mean you have agreed to take your place in the whitewashed corridors of a foreign society. You have lost nothing of your rights as an Aboriginal person when you exercise your right to vote.
Something else I said to the group is the following: “I renounced my Christian beliefs when I was twelve years of age. By then, I had been under the relentless attack of a cruel teacher for two years. The teacher was a Christian held in high regard by others of the Christian faith. I was left deeply scarred, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The teacher told me that my ancestors were in hell. I did not believe this to be true. If Christians were people who condoned vicious attacks on the most vulnerable human beings (children) around them, it signalled to me that I could not have anything to do with such a religion.” I did let the group know that even though I renounced Christianity, I still believed in God.
I felt back then, and the feeling is around me yet, that the breath of the Great Spirit engulfs me as it does all other life placed here on Mother Earth. Let us all be honourable and humble before the greatness of the land and we will do well as human beings. Respect for one another will finally come to pass.
Spiritually, I know when an action of the government will bring destruction to the life of a forest. Spiritually, I am directed to physically act to stop what it is that would kill all of our relations on the land. For me, my duty to protect the land begins with anger.
A current example: Members of the Elsipogtog First Nation are resisting fracking on their land (in New Brunswick). When I read the description of what “fracking” is, I cringe physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually. It’s painful to imagine what this process does to the land. My blood pressure rises, my temples begin to throb. I get angry! Spiritually I am overcome with the desire to protect the land, with prayers or with actions.
Do not confuse the feelings of becoming annoyed or frustrated as something similar with the emotion of anger. There is a huge difference. I know when I’m angry, I know when I’m annoyed or frustrated. I’m an activist and it comes with the territory. Yes, I do get angry. But raging? No, I’m in control. I don’t even like being in the same room where rage is occurring.
UPDATE: Good news for the Elsipogtog First Nation! On 21 October, a request by SWN Resources Canada to extend a court injunction that prevents some forms of protest near its staging area and and storage facility in Rexton, N.B., has been denied by a judge.