I recently helped out at a trauma recovery workshop in Maniwaki, QC facilitated by Dennis Windigo. The Anishinabe (the First People) participating in the program had wisely recognized that a healing and caring hand in the form of the workshop was being extended towards them and they had come to the site to grasp it.
Upon entering the workshop hall I was immediately taken with those beautiful faces of Indigenous women who would add nothing more to a life of purpose than to bring peace, love and honour into their homes via the presence of family members. And I noted too, the handsome Algonquin men walking by, nodding a “kwey” to them with a raised coffee-held hand. As always, the impoverished Anishinabe from any and all isolated reserves of this land bring with them, wherever they go, a shy exterior, and also in tow, their unique wit and charm, staples you might say, which have seen them through much heartache and untold miseries, stretching back to the times of their long-dead ancestors. The Algonquin Anishinabe whose bloodlines are dear to my heart are no different.
I scanned the room to see if any of the workshop participants were known to me. I instantly recognized Tina Fontaine and Colton Boushie. Pretty little Tina, all 72 lbs. of her, and Colton, wearing his ever-present smile that only a friendly, gentle and compassionate man can possibly possess, were among the crowd. Tina and Colton, in the crowd? Indeed they were! I know that Tina and Colton are now being celebrated and feasted in the Great Land of Souls by all their relations, but we have to understand that mirror images of them are still here. Many thousands of Tinas and Coltons still walk our streets, their past traumas dragging behind them like a cross the size of Canada. They call out to us for help but who among us stands to remove the cross from their shoulders? They (Tina and Colton) are living on our reserves and in the country’s cities and towns. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Tina could even be your daughter, Colton could be your son.
If trauma has been brought into the lives of your children, then do something to help them, damn it, before it’s too late! Indigenous young people living with trauma or who have fallen victim to the power of brain-damaging drugs need the help and support of loved ones to assist them in finding that elusive, reassuring light youngsters so desperately need when a merciless, conquering darkness descends into their lives. They need our help – NOW! Too many Tinas and Coltons have already died. We, the mature people of our First Nations communities, have neglected and disrespected the young people around us for far too long. Let us do all we can to assure that the song of life of our youngsters will ring in the valleys and hills of this country long into the winter of their years. Let their song be a long one and also one of great joy.
We need to access our healing and sharing circles again as our people did before colonizers arrived. We need more and more quality time with our children and grandchildren. The lines of communication, between parent and child, regardless of age, must be open 24/7 and must be free of anger or rage. We’ve got a lot of catching up and making up to do but our hearts are big and strong and we’ll do it.
Tina, dead in the springtime of her life. Colton, dead in the early summer of his time. It isn’t fair. It isn’t just. Something good needs to come of it all. Anyone who waits for Canada’s justice system or a police service or politicians to lay the medicine which would remove anguish and hopelessness from the minds of our young people at our feet is in for a big disappointment. As difficult as it might be to believe, the fact is that a great number of Canadians don’t care if true healing ever occurs for the Indigenous Peoples of this land. The emotional and spiritual health of our young people is “OUR” responsibility. The wounds inflicted onto the hearts of our homeland’s Tinas and Coltons by Canada’s steel-toed boots are wounds only a loving mom, dad, grandma or granddad can bring healing to.
If we fail our young people yet again, then we will surely find ourselves someday on a raft of shame, bouncing aimlessly on a rough and turbulent sea made of the tears of Indigenous Peoples, those of the past, of the present and of the future. We cannot allow this to happen.