Oshkibimaadiziig- The New People
Taanishi kiyawâw. Danielle LaRose dishinikaashoon i Amiskwacîswâskahikan niwiken. Ni wahkohmakanahk Métis de ni papa aux nommes de Daze, Nadeau, Marchand, Bouvette, i LaRose Red River i Pembina d'ooschiiw. Aen femme michif niya, aen koonteur niya, aen otipemisow-iskwêw niya. My maternal line has Mennonite heritage, names Kehler and Abrams, which can also be traced back to Red River to what is now Altona. They fled Russia in 1875, arriving on Turtle Island in the wake of the Red River Resistance when the Canadian government was forcing Métis people off their lands to make way for more appealing settlers ( aka white, non-Catholic Europeans). Effectively, the Canadian state forcibly removed my Métis ancestors from their lands in Red River in order to give that same land to my Mennonite ancestors.
While I still have cousins from both sides of the family back in Manitoba, we haven't lived there for several generations. Like many Indigenous people, my Métis ancestors were forced out; displaced and disenfranchised by colonial policies, robbed of our relationship with land and community, and driven to reject our Indigenous traditions, relatives, and way of life in favour of safety through assimilation. While my settler ancestors benefitted hugely from the "free" land they were given, mein grootmuttasche Menniste (plaudietsch for my Mennonite Grandmothers) also chose to flee Red River in order to escape the severe and abusive patriarchal structure of the Mennonite religion and way of life. And so, both sides of my family found themselves in Central Alberta on the banks of the Red Deer River, where Treaties 6 and 7 meet and where I was born and raised.
Artists like myself are being called upon to share our backgrounds and situate ourselves on the land as part of the essential work of reconciliation and kwayskahstahsowin- setting things right. As a person with mixed heritage, and therefore a mixed relationship with the land, this duality can be complex and painful to unpack. I acknowledge that I have and I will continue to benefit from colonialism and white privilege. I also acknowledge all that was stolen from my Métis ancestors and I hold myself accountable to my Indigenous community by committing to reconnection, learning, and sharing. kinanâskomitinawâw to my mâmawâpiyak and all the Elders, artists, and Aunties who continue to support me on this journey.
My work as a theatre artist and story-teller is just one way in which I can fulfill this bridge-building responsibility and celebrate all my honoured relatives in wahkohtowin.
While I may sometimes welcome further conversations about my cultural identity, I respectfully reserve the right to share that knowledge. maarsi.
Acknowledging Spirit in Language
Words are ceremony. I have known this in my work as a theatre artist, but also in my efforts to reconnect with my Métis heritage. They carry the resilient spirit of generations and connect us deeply to one another, but they must be used and shared in order to be kept alive. I am a guest on Treaty Six, so I learn Nehiyawin to honour my hosts. My First Nations roots are Anishnaabe, so learning Anishnaabemowin connects me to those grandmothers. As a French speaker, Michif is both strange and familiar to me. In Michif Pekiskwewin (the Michif Language), the interweaving of Nehiyawin, Anishnaabemowin, and French speaks to the interconnectivity of Indigenous relations. There are innumerable beautiful dialects, and all these words are teachings and gifts.
I want to presence and acknowledge some of the Elders, Knowledge Keepers and mentors who have shared these gifts with me. Here are just a few word offerings that have helped me to self-locate within creation: