Today I have woken up in much reflection and as I'm writing this, I do so in hopes to reach readers in a positive way through sharing about some of my experiences. I know that not everyone who reads this will make it through the whole thing and that's okay but my hopes is that some people are able to take something tangible away from doing so. Out of respect I want to also advise a trigger warning to anybody who is in recovery and grieving.
As I opened my eyes this morning, I am currently laying in a bed located in the housing of where I am staying while on tour with the Going M.I.L.E.S. Youth Conference in Deer Lake First Nation, Ontario, Canada. One of the first things I have done today is open the blinds to let the sunshine in and have opened the window to breathe in some fresh air. Today I am grateful for the life I am able to live, the friends and family who have remained a part of it and for continuing to love myself by committing to my sobriety.
While on tour in the community we were in previous to this one, we were witness to how severe addiction and alcoholism was there. A frontline worker in the community provided a statistic that the rate of addiction there was 95% and throughout the week we heard several cries for help which we did our best to assist with. During our visit there, we worked with a group of their youth who were absolutely wonderful and knowing that they felt empowered by the end of our time there was rewarding in so many ways.
We had left there yesterday and during our travels, I found myself reflecting on how the week had went and how Gitchi Manidoo (The Great Spirit) had put me there alongside such an incredible team so we could help initiate hope together. Even in the trenches of addiction in a remote community, there was still a light shown there and we saw it through their future generations. This also served as a reminder of why it is so important to support their voices and to create safe spaces for them to thrive. I was also in reflection of how this all took place leading up to today and how on this day in 2012, I chose to make a life changing commitment to loving myself and creating a better way of life for myself.
On March 18th, 2012, I decided to “Put the plug in the jug” as my dad would say and to also throw out the unused needles I had in my room. Thinking about this makes me reflect on how far I've come, the experiences that I've had, the people that have come and gone, the self growth I have had throughout the years and why I do the work that I do. Today I continue to be grateful to have made this decision for myself and to have nurtured self love and acceptance throughout the years. Reading back on my blog post from 2021 makes this even more so.
Throughout my sobriety, I've learned that trauma is the underlying root of alcoholism and addiction. In 2018 when my mother passed away at the age of 55, I found myself in a pit of despair, feeling numb and not knowing where to go next. There had been a place where I thought of drinking again but knew where that would lead and didn't want to re-open that door for myself ever again. I instead reached out for help and put myself into therapy. I've also reflected on how I had gotten into a relationship shortly after her passing with someone who I spent 2 years with and eventually it ended.
When it ended, it was like I was grieving all over again which lead to panic attacks for the first time in my life, several moments of anger, rage, sadness and depression and ultimately feeling alone, disregarded and helpless. I found myself falling back into a pattern of dating women who were abusive to me and also discovering a new issue which was trying to fill the emptiness I had inside from the loss of my mother with another feminine energy. This made me more self aware that I was actually struggling with some co-dependency issues connected to the loss of my mom and that wound that was there before became deeper.
Through therapy, I was able to better understand grieving, the loss of a parent, how certain things in my childhood affected me and how experiences in high school affected me as well. Now I've been able to heal and make that a priority for myself. My point in sharing this is that as a man we often keep our emotions bottled up and never want to appear weak in anyway. Toxic masculinity is prevalent in the western colonial society that we live in and is a main reason on why men won't ask for help. I'm grateful to have challenged that and to have made my sobriety and becoming the best version of me my biggest priorities. Gaining the emotional maturity that I have today really puts a lot of things into perspective as well in regards to what I will and will not settle for.
Getting sober was a personal choice and I'm grateful that I chose to do so when I did. Drinking and drugging while suppressing my emotions wasn't acceptable anymore and I wanted to change for the better. Many people who are older than me often question why I quit when I did and the best answer I can come up with is that I wanted to live. I am a bi-racial Indigenous man who is 30 years old, going on 31, and if we look at statistics I'm not supposed to be here. One of my biggest hopes in life is to empower and motivate others to live a better life for themselves.
Meeting other sober people has allowed me to feel supported in this decision that I've made for myself and if I'm being honest, I'm thankful to have created a whole new circle of friends. My personal opinion in regards to friendship is that a friend will take a bottle, needle or drug away from you versus give you them. Otherwise they are simply an enabler who is finding comfort in using with you and when that ends, they may or may not disappear afterwards.
When I was using, I didn't have the best relationship with my family. Today, I am grateful to be healthier version of myself and to have a loving, supportive and strong relationship with my family. I also hold a responsibility now that I am very grateful for which is being an uncle and my nephew has been such a beautiful gift from Gitchi Manidoo (The Great Spirit) to our family. My father, my brothers, my nephew, my other family members, they all give me purpose to continue living and motivate me to continue walking the red road.
Today marks 11 years of sobriety but if I've learned anything throughout this time it is that from moment to moment we commit to loving ourselves more and more. It had to start somewhere and I'm grateful that I've been able to continue. Here's to self love and to living mino-bimaadiziwin, the good life.
Cody Coyote: Music and the journey
A Letter To Pope Francis
I have found myself in much reflection after Pope Francis’ words yesterday on Twitter and if you are reading this, I hope you have taken the time to be mindful of this as well. I am writing this as an intergenerational survivor and as someone whose family was torn apart by the church, the Government of Canada as well as the Canadian Residential School System and Canadian Child Welfare System.
Let’s dissect this together by firstly acknowledging that if somebody is making an apology there needs to be accountability and action behind it or else it’s just empty words and lip service.
“I join the Canadian Bishops and the whole Catholic Church in Canada in expressing my closeness to the Canadian people''. At this point I’m going to change the approach of writing this to direct it towards Pope Francis. Pope Francis, you’re joining the Canadian Bishops and the whole Cathloic Church in Canada in expressing your closeness to those who are actively oppressing the Indigenous nations whose homelands they reside on? The same homelands that your churches occupy and have benefitted from for generations.
You should be joining the Indigenous residential school survivors that the church has directly impacted as well as their families. You should also recognize that you have said you are expressing your closeness to the “Canadian people” as opposed to the many nations who were here prior to the creation of “Canada”, the nations whose children were forcibly taken to Canadian Residential Schools, the nations who have been affected by these acts of genocide, the nations who are STILL HERE.
We are not Canadian, we are our own people, our own tribes, our own nations and I am Anishinaabe. Identifying as a Canadian would be disregarding our existence and that the lands in which Canada resides on, are our ancestral homelands. In turn for those who do identify as a “Canadian”, it’s important to recognize that it is oppressive and so is any celebration of “Canada”.
This brings me to the next part of what has been said, “Who have been traumatised by shocking discovery of the remains of two hundred and fifteen children, pupils at Kamloops Indian Residential School”. Pope Francis, “Canadian people” are not the ones who have been traumatised and we are not going to center them here. The INDIGENOUS people whose homelands were invaded and have been on the receiving end of the acts of genocide and crimes against humanity from the Vatican and the Government of Canada are the ones who have experienced the trauma.
We as Indigenous people are the ones who have been traumatised from this, specifically the families and survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School right now, and have been healing from the trauma as well as intergenerational trauma caused by the church, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Residential School System for generations.
This also isn’t a discovery, it is a confirmation of what has already been known and validates the research that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has done estimating that the amount of Indigenous children who died at Canadian residential schools, at the hands of the church and the Government of Canada, is far beyond 6,000.
You, the Vatican and the Government of Canada, need to recognize that accountability needs to take place, ALL residential school sites need to be surveyed for further remains of Indigenous children, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s “Calls To Action” need to be implemented and action needs to be taken to help Indigenous people heal.
You also said, “These difficult times are a strong call for everyone to turn away from the colonial model and walk side by side in dialogue, mutual respect and recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada.”
You are right in saying that we need to decolonize and from the understanding our ancestors had with things like the Two Row Wampum and treaties established between the Government of Canada and Indigenous people, we were supposed to live harmoniously with those mutual respects and recognition but that didn’t happen. Instead, the church and the Government of Canada set out to colonize through forced assimilation and acts of genocide which has brought us to where we are today. This is still happening and the Government of Canada is still taking Indigenous children from their families.
Let me be very clear in saying that I as an Anishinaabe man AM NOT and WILL NEVER be a “son of Canada”. I am a descendant of Michel Batise, the first Chief of Matachewan First Nation. I am from “Where The Water Meets” and after 25 years of not knowing my family due to what the church and the Government of Canada has done to them, I am writing to you to say that THEY DID NOT SUCCEED.
I am also writing to you to voice that I am standing in solidarity with the families and survivors of Kamloops Indian Residential School as well as all the other families of survivors of the Canadian Residential School System. This is something that I advise you to do as well and to be accountable as well as to actively take action when you provide an apology.
Never Worry About Crying Again
I've been in much reflection lately of how society has defined masculinity and the toxic elements that are included in that. With my birthday coming up on April 17th, I've also been looking inward and am grateful for the growth I have had as I've gotten older.
There's been times where I would hide my emotions and would try to find somewhere private to cry because I didn't want to be a burden for anybody else around me. Even at 28 I find myself doing this from time to time but check myself in knowing that it's okay to cry even if other people see. I've learned that it's okay to show my emotions and to be vulnerable, but admittedly there are still times that I feel I need to have my guard up due to the abuse that I have faced in the past as well as other experiences that I have had.
Bringing things into a bigger picture, men need to know that it's okay to cry and to share their feelings. Heck I cried in private last night before falling asleep and wanted to cry earlier today after a sleepless night. This was because I was feeling alone and wanting to talk to my mom, which is something that has been present from time to time since she passed away in 2018. Thoughts of her not being present for my 29th birthday were in my mind last night as well as today and I found myself at a stand still.
My mind was racing and I began to spiral because I initially got triggered by something which brought on other feelings of being unwanted and insecurities deriving from what they call "Fear Based Thinking". I would normally speak to my mom in these circumstances for guidance but the fact that she isn't here and I have to deal with it on my own has been challenging, but I know I'm growing more when doing so.
The more I learn about mindfulness and mental health, the more I understand "Loved Based Thinking" and the qualities associated with that. Focusing on loving ourselves enough to provide reassurance that things are okay and that new experiences, relationships, surroundings and other factors in life are not those of the past but are those of the present. When focusing on "Loved Based Thinking", I've told myself that I'm safe, I'm cared for, I have people that love me, if I need to cry I can let those tears out and it's okay to be vulnerable. I then turn to the things that I enjoy doing which contribute to my wellbeing and try to recenter myself when doing so.
A societal problem is that men are often told that they have to be "tough" or that they have to be "strong" in these situations, when really we just have to be who we are and offer acceptance to both ourselves and others. How many times have you heard folks say things like "be a man", "man up" or "quit being such a pussy"? I have heard this numerous times throughout my life and sadly I still do from some people.
Let's dissect this a little bit, "be a man" or "man up" meaning what? What does it mean to "be a man" or to "man up"? My view on this is to honour that some men like to be big or ripped, physically strong and have hair on their body, will have an ego the size of their muscles, will most likely know the ins and the outs of a vehicle, will be into sports, will be able to build things, will most likely hide their emotions and let things bottle up inside etcetera, etcetera.
Other men prefer to be the body type of their choosing, be well groomed, feel fabulous and love themselves regardless, will carry humility, will know little about vehicles, sports and building things but will perhaps know more about other things in life, will openly cry when needed, they may be sensitive and will understand that it's okay to be vulnerable. News flash fellas, out of everything I've said above, women or non-binary folks can have these traits too so why do we feel that they are directly associated with masculinity? That's toxic masculinity in itself.
Second thing to dissect is "quit being such a pussy"...if I had a dollar for every time I have heard this in my life whether it be in the men's locker room or elsewhere, there's a number of things to reflect on here. The first is that one of the most sacred parts of a woman's body is being brought into this phrase in a negative way, you know, the part that allowed you to come to life, from where you entered the world that you live in today. Another thing to draw attention to is how it is often said in a derogatory way to belittle somebody else while also making women inferior when doing so. Men, we really need to check each other and honour that part of their being. Now if we were to flip the script and say something like "be a pussy", wouldn't that sound more empowering and less toxic? Think about it, be something that has so much power within it that it can bring a new life into the world, cleanse itself and do so much more.
Coming back to when we hear these things, I feel it's important to call it out, to challenge it and to empower one another in accepting each other for the way that we are. We also need to support each others emotional wellbeing and normalize things like crying, being vulnerable and talking about our feelings. Part of this is also unlearning toxic behaviours that we may have learned along the way from generations before us so that the generations after us can be taught the healthy ones.
When unlearning these toxic behaviours, we have to look inward as well as outward. While looking inward, think of that young boy or young man inside of you that has been hurt and speak to him. Find out what hurt them and begin the process in helping them heal. While looking outward, think of any harm that you may have caused somebody else in your lifetime and although it may not happen right away, do your best to reflect on what you could've done differently. When you feel capable of doing so, sincerely apologize and try to make amends but also respect boundaries if those that you have hurt may not want to talk to you. While doing this, focus on changing for the better and to grow into the healthier, best version of yourself.
Closing things off, I'm going to say love yourself, accept yourself, be kind to yourself and continue to be present while focusing on your growth. Focus on love as oppose to fear and know that it's okay to cry, it's okay to share about your feelings and it's okay to be vulnerable. Never worry about crying again!
Growth And Understanding
Today as I write this, I do so in a way to put my thoughts somewhere in hopes that somebody is able to take something tangible from my words. Fact of the matter is, I know not everyone who reads this will make it through everything I have to say but I hope to reach those who will take the time to do so in a good way. Out of respect I want to also advise a trigger warning to anybody who is in recovery or has experiences with violence.
As I have began my day, I am reflecting on what things used to be like waking up with the taste of alcohol in my mouth, the smell of it in my breath and the uncomfortable feeling of a hangover after a night of partying the night before. I remember trying to make sense of it all at times and would normalize it while making excuses on why I continued to drink. Admittedly there were several nights where I didn't remember a thing due to blacking out and I would purposely get to that point so I didn't have to feel anything. As I've grown older I understand now it's because of the hurt and the trauma I was carrying.
The feeling of being numb became comforting for me and the recklessness of my behaviour while intoxicated didn't matter to me. Truth is, I didn't care about myself, I didn't care about anybody else and it got to the point where the relationship with my family was damaged. I think about the nights where violence was present and how I woke up the morning after with a swollen hand, not being able to recall what had happened. I do remember two incidents clearly though and have often looked back at them too.
My younger brother, our friends and I had all went to a night time beach party where they had a DJ and there was quite a lot of people. The night began in a good way with socializing and hanging out together but I remember turning my head to see a white male grabbing my brother aggressively and my brother feeding him punches. I remember tackling this guy to the ground and punching him numerous times in the face then stomping on him. At this point my brother backed off and I took the guy's head and drove my knee into his face. Somebody tried to pull me off of him and I shoved them out of my way and continued to lay a beating on him. Eventually this was broken up but I remember the guy lying there motionless while I was walking away. Waking up the morning after that, I had text messages from people telling me that he went to the hospital and that things weren't looking that good. Thankfully he was alright and that was the end of that...or so I thought.
On a separate night we are at a house party and this same guy is there, is drunk and is picking a fight with one of my close friends. I remember jumping over a couch and on my way down punching him in the face. Drinks went flying, the music stopped playing and all hell broke loose. I kept punching him until my friend pulled me off of him and we quickly got out of there. Out front of the house the guy apparently got knocked out by somebody else at the party and the last thing I remember was us getting into a car and taking off.
Fast forward a bit, I had been working at a retail store full-time doing order picking and was in the receiving area. I turned around and who did I see? It was the guy from the beach party and he was a new employee at the store. I remember him looking at me with fear in his eyes and I stood there in that moment reflecting on my actions. Having that feeling wasn't good at all, knowing that I was feared by somebody on that level hit me in my heart and I spoke to him from that heart space afterwards. I apologized to him and I asked for his forgiveness. At this point in my life I was trying to cut back on my drinking and turn things around for myself. Hearing him say that he forgave me was huge and we ended up being civil with each other moving forward.
As I look back on these moments, my mind has spiralled to everything else that had happened while under the influence. The violence, driving while intoxicated, committing crimes, being in trap houses, having stomach ulcers numerous times then having to take medication and overall making poor decisions is where my brain has taken me today. As I reflect on all of this, I also think about what things were like when I was taking steroids and how that amplified things. The biggest thing I'm stuck on is how I didn't love myself, how it affected my family and how my hurt played a part in all of this.
Now I'm okay with being transparent enough to share this stuff but some things are better left unsaid as I am still continuing to work through them today but let that be a key take away, to work through it and to do so with a healthy support system. Truth is, I don't really talk or associate myself with anybody that I used to party with. A lot of those people weren't my friends and they didn't care about my wellbeing. All they cared about was that I was an extra person to pitch on alcohol with them and party with. This realization was a big one for me too as I learned a friend is somebody who would take away the bottle if they knew it affected you in a negative way as opposed to feed you one.
Today I am thankful for the healthy relationships that I have in my life and am grateful for where things are right now. I have a great relationship with my family and I have good friends who are also living a life of sobriety, both contributing to have a strong support circle which has been a huge asset for a lot of things. Growth and healing comes from actively working through traumatic experiences and when it comes to recovery, working through them one moment at a time.
When my mom passed away in 2018 at the age of 55, it broke me and even today I am still healing from it. She was my rock and was always there to listen to me no matter what. She is also the person who taught me how to be kind and have a loving heart which is something I am very thankful for. Having PTSD from that has been something I have been working through in therapy and although it has been hard, I know it's better than going out and getting loaded. Instead I choose to love myself everyday as best I can and if I am in need of some extra support, I know I can turn to the folks in my support circle.
9 years ago today I woke up hungover after a night of drinking and a bar fight on St. Patrick's Day but told myself enough is enough. Know that healing takes time but that it is possible and it starts with us having the want to do so. It doesn't matter how old you are when you make this decision, this isn't trauma olympics, and know that your experiences and your voice are valid. After having that want, we need to make it come to life somehow and we are the only one's who can decide what that looks like.
Setting boundaries for yourself is also important and take it from me, as somebody who is in the public eye and a place of influence, people have a lot of expectations from me which can be stressful at times. I often tell people to live with appreciation versus expectations for this reason and to meet people where they're at because we all have our own individual life experiences and with that our own capacities.
Today I say miigwech (Thank you) to my family, to my friends and to the people who continue to support me along this journey. I also give thanks to Gitchi Manidoo (The Great Spirit) and to my spirit for allowing me to walk the red road one moment at a time with growth and understanding.
Sometimes you need to go back to where you’ve been before you can have a clear picture of where you’re going.
This is my old elementary school in the hood I grew up in, where the hurt child inside of me was first bullied, where my negative self talk began and where I learned to be a kid with thick skin. A lot of memories unfolded while walking on these grounds and felt as if I was opening a time capsule, some were good and some had been opening some old wounds.
From my brother and I confronting the kid who stole my Yu-gi-oh cards on the basketball court, to the kids picking on me for my appearance at the red set of doors, to my first girlfriend and childhood crush hanging out with me at recess, to the thoughts of where all my childhood friends ended up...it all hit me as soon as I walked past the fence by the parking lot.
I walked down a path that was notorious for people getting robbed on and thought about everybody I grew up with and where they ended up. I remembered one night I had come back to the neighbourhood to visit a friend when I encountered three people with bandanas over their faces, I recognized them and it’s crazy to think that me saying one of their names saved me from getting jumped that night too.
Seeing this school and walking down that pathway again made me think about how folks I knew also got deported for severe acts of violence, drug dealing and everything in between. Knowing I navigated my way in and out of that lifestyle later on in life made me reflect on a lot during this visit too. I thought about how many times I’ve heard of people I grew up with ending up in some of the worst circumstances and how sad it was to hear that news. I also thought about how one day my family and I were heading out somewhere and once we got to our van, there had been a coat hanger in the ignition. This was the leftovers of someone trying to steal our family vehicle.
Growing up in this part Ottawa’s east end, you either did something with your life or you fell through the cracks. Thankfully, I was able to do something with my life and survived the hardships I went through. I feel visiting this place has helped me take my power back as well and has contributed to healing old wounds. As I write this, I hope that my words are able to help other folks reclaim their power that was taken away from them by others and I hope that they find the ability to move forward after doing so.
Healing is possible, it takes time and only we can determine how long that will be.
Wake up. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Staring at the ceiling, motionless waiting for something to lift me out of this feeling of being numb. This is when I heard the voice of one of my younger brothers from downstairs and he called me on my phone telling me to get up.
Today marks 2 years of my beautiful mother no longer being with us in this physical world and it hasn't gotten any "easier", as some folks would say. My mom was a huge part of my life and helped nurture me into who I am today. Throughout the days I was bullied at school, faced racism, had gotten into fights, had gotten into trouble and at times been arrested, to having heartbreak, needing someone to talk to or having a shoulder to cry on, mom was always there. Through the tough times she always had my back and was always willing to listen no matter the time of day or if she was busy. This is the type of love I grew up with and I'm grateful for having that in my life as it has taught me much about compassion and has helped me to have a good heart.
One of my favourite things in the universe was seeing my mom bopping away in crowds at my shows and I think the best part about this is that we were both able to enjoy those moments together. She was so proud of me and she let everyone know it wherever she went. Till this day, nobody can ever claim the title of being my "biggest fan" because that belongs to my Mama Bear.
These are just a few things I've reflected on today as I've woken up and began to start my day. Admittedly, all I want to do right now is spend time with my family and be close to them because they know how I feel and have continued to be a strong support system throughout all of this. My mom loved her boys and loved her brother. With that, I feel we've grown closer and continue to get together to honour her and support each other throughout our grief.
Today, we are going to feast for mom and put out a spirit plate for her which has been very helpful for us all. I can't speak for the rest of my family but putting our love and intentions into the spirit plate has been important to me and has helped me connect with my mom. I would literally do anything just to hold her and hear her voice again but I know that won't happen again in this lifetime. My dad said something very special earlier today that has been sitting with me and it was that mom would "prepare a home in the spirit world for us". I know that day will come when we are all connected again and until that time, I know that living our best lives in this physical world would be the way she would want things for us.
These anniversary days aren't easy in anyway, shape or form but knowing there is support out there helps. I think the best thing I've seen other people do is simply check in without offering advice, their two sense or trying to say "I know how you feel" because frankly, nobody except my family does and there's no debate around that. Those that I've built trust with are usually the people I turn to, they know who they are, and I'm grateful to have them in my life. At this point, I've learned that it's also okay to express my feelings and to let others know them.
As I'm writing this, I'm selfishly doing it to put my thoughts somewhere but to also share something with folks who are willing to read it and hope there may be some take aways for them. My life has been changed completely and even today I am only taking on what I feel I have the capacity to do. This also means I'm not going to break my back to meet someone else's expectations nor am I going to cater to anybody but merely offer what I'm able to. I have a lot of broken pieces inside of me that need fixing and it will take time to heal which I am doing at my own pace. Rather than saying it's one day at a time, I often say it's one moment at a time because it truly is. One moment you can feel ready to take on the world and in the next you can get triggered and at times completely shut down.
I've learned this is a part of the grieving process and it's unfortunately something we have to learn to live with. Folks who don't understand that may not be the best people to associate with and even acknowledging that it's okay to disengage in conversations around this to protect your own wellbeing. I've learned it's okay to also seek professional help and have found that to be helpful too.
Going through the motions of all this has been difficult but I know my mom would want me to continue showing off the smile that she let everyone know I get from her. Today I am going to focus on the great memories we had together and as a family. I will also focus on what she has instilled in me and will continue to give thanks for raising me to be the person I've become today. If you're still reading this, whether your mother or that mother figure is with you in this physical world or is in the spirit world, let them know how much you love them in your own way. Make your love come to life and know that every heartbeat you have is honouring theirs.
Gi zah gin (I love you) Mama Bear, in our hearts now, always and forever.
Why Are You Celebrating So-called “Canada Day”?
Why Are You Celebrating So-called “Canada Day”?
In so-called “Canada” this false idea of being one of the greatest places in the world has been established and while it continues to operate because of this, it is far from that for Indigenous people who are the original caretakers of these lands. Indigenous peoples of these lands have been here for over 13,000 years with archeological proof to back that which far surpasses so-called “Canada” as it is only 153 years old. So-called “Canada” was founded on the genocide of Indigenous people through tactics like the Doctrine of Discovery, the Indian Act, forced starvation methods, forced relocation from their homelands, forced assimilation, violence, racism, oppression and colonization. Why celebrate that?
Have you ever asked yourself whose traditional territory you reside on? Or how you benefit from acts of genocide and oppression as a European settler? Rather than celebrate a so-called country that has continued to be harmful to Indigenous people, why not reflect on how the “Canadian Government” and other European folks have acted towards them and try to create something new together? While “Reconciliation” seems to be a word that has been thrown around, it’s become lip service at this point and it truly comes down to if you genuinely care and are ready to unlearn behaviours, acknowledge your privileges and advocate for change. For those who are migrants and new comers to these lands, we as Indigenous people can't blame you for what you have been taught by a colonial society but we also hope to continue building relationships with each other, to have conversations with each other and to support each other.
A good introductory resource to look at is the “Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada” series: https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca
Things you should know while celebrating so-called “Canada” Day”
What is the Doctrine of Discovery?
The Doctrine of Discovery came from a series of Papal Bulls from the Pope originating in the 1400s. Under the “Doctrine of Discovery” established an ideation of spiritual, political, and legal justification for colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians.
What is the Indian Act and who was John A. MacDonald?
The Indian Act was enacted in 1876 and allowed the Canadian government to control most aspects of Indigenous life: Indian status, land, resources, wills, education, band administration and so on. The Indian Act clearly aimed to assimilate Indigenous people into Euro-Canadian society by any means necessary. Indigenous people who earned a university degree would automatically lose their Indian status, as would status women who married non-status men resulting in them no longer being seen as an Indigenous person in the eyes of the Canadian government.
Between 1879 and 1996, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly apprehended and were forced to attend residential schools designed to eradicate their language and culture. Many suffered from physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse and according to the NCTR (National Centre of Truth and Reconcilation), the number of children identified by name, as well as unnamed in death records, is about 4,200. John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first prime minister, was the architect of the Indian act and Canadian residential schools. Indigenous people are still living under the Indian Act today.
For more info about the Indian Act and John A. MacDonald please visit:
“Canada doesn’t have a racism problem”
While the average “Canadian” would turn a blind eye and go as far to even state that there isn’t severe racism in so-called “Canada”, many Indigenous people would disagree as this country was founded on it. If you are seeking an immediate example of what I’m talking about, just look in the comment section of any news articles that have Indigenous topics and also look at the ones where the comments have been disabled. Also reflect on how quick non-Indigenous people are to bypass truth because it causes them discomfort.
An important thing to reflect on as well is this:
Photo credit: Stuart Center, https://stuartcenter.org/resource/racism-scale
In a so called country where there has been ongoing violence towards Indigenous people since as early as the first arrival of European settlers, it’s vital to acknowledge that there is systemic racism in it. We are now in 2020 and Indigenous people make up over 30 percent of the Canadian prison population.
Acknowledging that there is still ongoing acts of genocide in so-called “Canada” is vital as the number of missing and murdered Indigenous people is increasing. There are over 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous people in “Canada” and while the average Canadian has the choice to either turn a blind eye to it or do something about it, the families are still left behind and deal with this loss everyday.
Adding to this, over 8 Indigenous people have been murdered by police since April 8th, 2020, 3 of which happened in the span of 10 days, and this has been the continuum of a broken system. Upon its creation under the “Indian Act”, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s job was to monitor and displace Indigenous people, to move them onto reserves, to forcibly remove Indigenous children from their homes and place them in residential schools.
It’s important to also acknowledge that revisiting these sorts of things can be emotionally taxing for some Indigenous people for obvious reasons, which is why some of us won’t be the ones to give you the answers you're looking for and will encourage you to find it in your heart to look into this information for yourself. Note that silence is violence and if you choose to keep quiet, you are a part of the problem.
This has been something I have been able to write out at the capacity I’m able to offer right now and I am a strong believer in meeting people where they are at as opposed to having expectations from them. At the very least I would hope this can shift your mindset on celebrating this so-called country and give you some insight as to how it is a continuum of oppression. Ask yourself again, why are you celebrating “Canada Day”?
A Life Changing Commitment For Myself
8 years ago today I made a life changing commitment for myself.
There's a lot more than meets the eye when you look at someone and every person has their own story. Before being a successful multi-award nominated and winning Hip-Hop/Electronic Artist and Motivational Speaker, I walked a road early on and experienced things that most people would never even think of. This road plays a important part in who I am and it has allowed me to be where I am today.
When it comes to addiction and substance abuse, I can't help but associate my experiences with both to be connected to trauma. In my past I made a lot of bad decisions, I hurt people, I lived a lifestyle that was reckless, I did things to my loved ones that I'm not proud of and I had a suicide attempt. Portions of my story I've been able to share but others I'm still healing from and am working on too.
Growing up I faced challenges such as racism, bullying, intergenerational trauma due to my father being a part of the 60's scoop, cultural disconnect, loss of cultural identity, depression and substance abuse. These challenges contributed to my use of drugs and alcohol, the use of steroids due to negative thoughts of my own body image, gang involvement, committing crimes, violence and having unhealthy relationships. All of these things were a part of circumstances leading to self destruction.
Without getting into matters too deep, there came a time that I wanted to make a change in my life for the better and it took everything in my power to make that happen. I used to carry a sawn off 22 caliber rifle in the back seat of my car, have sold weapons to various people, sold drugs, broken into places, was a driver for high ranking gang members, committed acts of violence, drank alcohol and used steroids frequently. This is just a glimpse of the chaos I immersed myself in and what I feel comfortable sharing right now. After much reflection on this throughout the years, a lot of it was because I was angry and upset with how I didn't know anything about my ancestors, my culture, my blood relatives, where I came from or how to manifest everything I was feeling. Being bullied and facing racism certainly played a big part in all of this as well.
Being introduced to a way out was when I was charged with mischief under $5000.00 the day after I had my suicide attempt and had hit rock bottom. I remember being in a healing circle with elders, family members and case workers where I was able to share about things I had experienced. After this I went to a sweat lodge for the first time in my life, had been introduced to round dances and had attended pow wows which allowed me to understand that there was hope to get away from the lifestyle I was a part of.
Although this had all happened, I remember exiting gang life and distancing myself from people I would regularly see, often party with and committed crimes with. For a while I had stopped using steroids and made an effort to stop drinking which went well for a period of time but I found myself in a watering hole afterwards. For some reason I found myself back in a bar on St. Patricks Day and I slipped despite trying to stop drinking. That same night I was in a big bar fight and woke up the next morning reflecting about the night before.
After endless thoughts and fighting with myself, I said that enough was enough. From that day forward I made a strong commitment to recovery and thankfully found myself with people who had done the same who then became my supports. My father was the biggest one and I'm lucky to have had him present during these times too. Going to sweat lodges, writing poems and songs and exercising became regulars for me and remain to be.
Closing off, I came a long way from where I've been and it's been a journey in itself to get to a point of sharing. Forgiving myself was the first step and having a support system in place was another but ultimately having the will to say "no" and focussing on living my best life became the strength I needed to begin healing. The choice to navigate my way into sobriety was mine and mine alone, nobody will ever take that away from me and I hope that through sharing my own experiences I am able to help others who have faced those of a similar nature. Making amends to folks that I may have done wrong became a part of this as well and even today I find that I am still apologizing but it's all a part of recovery.
We are the only ones who can make the decision to commit to this walk of life, some are ready and some are not, but no matter the case there is always those who are ready to help and it's important to acknowledge that we are never alone. Mamawi wi chi itata, all together we support each other.
What You Should Know When Booking Live Entertainment
When it comes to booking live entertainment for an event, have you ever wondered what the process should be when doing so? As an artist who had been managed for years and now manages themselves and understands this process, here are some pointers that may help you down the line whether you are the one doing the booking or the artist/band who is being hired.
What Artists & Bands Need To Know:
As an artist who has been operating in the music industry for years and has learned how to carry themselves in a professional manner, it wasn't always this way. My advice for you is to know your worth, how to conduct yourself in a professional manner and to acknowledge that it's okay to say "no". I'll keep it real with you, I've been screwed over by promoters, event organizers and other personnel and have unfortunately had to learn things the hard way by not getting paid correctly or at all. My most important words of advice for anyone who is being booked for an event is to put it in writing or else it doesn't exist.
Some would agree that leaving a paper trail is one of the best ways to keep a record of any agreement that is made between an artist/band and the client that is booking them, for me I personally believe in creating a performance agreement. When creating a performance agreement it should clearly state the legalities surrounding who is involved, where the event is taking place, what date it is on, the amount of pay that is due on the date of the performance, if there is any deposit that is required prior to the event (which I personally feel is the best way to solidify the agreement) and any valid information pertaining to the event.
Artists/Bands or their representatives are to provide the client with a rate card to begin the negotiation process and to ensure a fair price is met for their work. During this time tech and hospitality riders should also be provided to ensure the proper tech is available for the performance and to ensure that the costs for hotel, travel and meal per diems are taken care of.
After a fair price is discussed, tech is taken care of and talks for hospitality are out of the way, the artist/band or their representatives are to provide a performance agreement to the client to make things official. Once the performance agreement has been signed by both parties, the artist/band or their representatives and the client will abide by the agreement. If cancellation should be needed, it should be clearly indicated in the performance agreement on what the process is for these circumstances.
Once the performance agreement has been signed, the artist/band or their representatives are to provide the client with an invoice for their services that clearly states the service that is being provided, the amount that was agreed upon and the date that it is due. Once the payment has been made the artist/band or their representatives are to provide the client with a receipt for payment.
What Clients Need To Know:
As a client who is looking to book an artist/band for an event it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold up your end of the deal that is created between yourself and the artist/band you are hiring. Agreements via email, text message, online chat or phone aren't as valid as a performance agreement and if you want to be taken seriously when booking an act, signing a performance agreement is the best way to do so to avoid any conflict or problems in the future. This means that if you have signed an agreement, you are legally bound to it and need to abide by what has been discussed between yourself and either the artist/band or their representatives.
In order to keep everyone happy, I always advise folks to follow this process:
1. Review artist/band rate card and don't be shy to voice that you may be working within a budget because that's where negotiations will come in.
2. Clearly review the performance agreement once it is provided to ensure that you are able to fulfill your side of the deal.
3. If the artist/band or your venue can't provide the proper tech, try to propose some alternatives to see if they may work for the artist/band that is being hired and if you are still unable to, the best practice in this case is to rent equipment from an outside source.
4. If the artist/band has to travel for the event, covering transportation, putting them up during their stay and providing meal per diems is always a great way to ensure that things run smoothly but also creates a better working relationship for future events.
5. Let the artist/band know when their soundcheck time is as well as who their main point of contact will be.
6. When the artist/band or their representatives have sent you an invoice for their services, pay them on time to avoid any conflict or being blacklisted from them.
Will security be needed for the artist/band?
Depending on if a liability agreement has been signed, you may or may not be responsible for providing security at your event. Normally if there are large crowds at the event it is always a good practice to have security present anyways to avoid putting their safety at jeopardy and to make the artist/band feel welcomed.
By following this process from both sides I have found it to be a great way to conduct business and feel that everyone should make this a practice when it comes to booking live entertainment. With hopes that this has provided insight to artists/bands and to those looking to book them for events, please feel free to use this for future reference and to share it with anyone you feel it could potentially be helpful for.
Today I have felt the world sit still and have felt numb. I've been missing my mom more than ever and when I close my eyes she's all I can envision. It's crazy to think that a year has already gone by without her in this physical world and it's been the hardest year of my life.
While people try to call me, text me and message me continuously to reach out for support, I can't help but feel the need for personal space and to be alone in my thoughts at times. I've also come to know that there are expectations from others and I hope they understand that they shouldn't carry any expectations from me but rather appreciation for what I am able to offer right now.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night and felt the feeling of wanting to be with my mom. Being reminded that I couldn't hold her again, hear her voice and laughter, play crib with her like we used to or just overall be with her made it very difficult to fall back asleep. Lack of sleep has become a regular thing for me lately and it's often because my mind is racing.
Today, I had my interview at CBC and had tried to call my dad but got the voicemail that's set up on the phone. It still has my mom's voice on it and reflecting on that now makes me sad because I wish she could've heard my interview. She used to always tune in and congratulate me afterwards which has also been a first for me. There seems to be a lot of those lately and I'm learning how to deal with it.
I've come to know that it's okay to feel sad, angry, upset and to cry. There have been people who have disregarded my emotions for their own comfort and this is something I feel I should voice. These have been the people who tell me that "It get's better" or "It get's easier" which are not words of comfort whatsoever and in fact makes things feel even worse because it doesn't feel that way right now and I need to feel this completely in order to heal and to move forward.
In terms of truly being there for someone, I feel the best thing to do is to just listen and be present when they need you to be. Telling people that you know how they feel isn't a good idea at all either because nobody knows how I feel except for me. Someone may have an idea of what it feels like to lose a parent but to have lost my mom before her time isn't fair and it hurts more than anything I have ever felt before.
I felt it is important to voice all of this because as someone who has been hurting and has been still, it's hard to find hope right now but it is not impossible. I needed the kind of hope to be able to continue and to see the light that this world may offer and the only way I've been able to feel that completely is by focusing on the love that my family offers me during this time. Mourning and grieving for the one person who gave you life is something that is not simplistic to express but if I had to try it would be to share that it is like someone took away one of your reasons to wake up every morning, to breathe and to live.
My mom was someone who taught me so much throughout my lifetime and prepared me to be the man I am today. She was the kind of person to open our door to anyone who was in need and to be there for them. I remember my friends coming over and having a place to stay if it was ever needed. If they hadn't eaten that day my mom would often ensure that they were fed before leaving our home. My mom taught me how to take care of others and had also reminded me to be gentle with myself. With this being said, during this past year I have been learning much about taking care of myself and have put a focus on self love. I also have chosen to honour my mother by continuing to be kind to others as she would have and to utilize the teachings that she instilled in me while doing so. At every one of my shows I have also made it a habit to highlight that and to challenge folks to say something kind to those that are around them as well.
One thought that often crosses my mind when thinking of this is, "What is the meaning of this gift of life that we all have?" another is "Why are there different qualities of life and class systems that focus on dividing people and separatism?" In today's society we're all stuck in living in a dog eat dog world or at least the social norms push that onto us. Take it from me when I say that life is way to short and we should much rather be focusing on being kind to each other as well as understanding, accepting and supportive of one another.
Closing off, one thing that my mom has taught me above all is being remembered for doing good in this world and for being kind to others. Often I ask myself what I want to be remembered for and I know I want to remembered for being a good human being with a kind heart who helped others just like his mother did. What do you want to be remembered for?