I miss singing and dancing, I miss hearing the drums and the smell of sweet grass. I miss the language, the feeling of family. I wish I payed more attention, and took the time to remember what the culture was suppose to be. All I see now, is what it’s turned into.
My cousin Stephane posted a picture of him, playing a traditional Cree drum. The first thing that I remembered: singing(howling) at my Great Grandma’s funeral. Then I remembered the festivals and celebrations I used to dance in. Growing up, I was so proud of being Cree. I was proud of my name.
I’m part of one of the largest Cree bloodlines, many of my close relatives have a name for themselves. Winston, Wanda, Stephane, Elsie (I love you Grandma). Yet, I distance myself.
The pride I used to have for being Native, was immense when I was growing up. I was proud to dance. I was proud to know the language, even if it was only small fragments. I loved and cherished my true birth name. N,tanis (which is prounced En-taun-ce, best I can do.) Growing up in Texas, being the only Native family – it was different. Americans portray Natives like in Cowboy movies, very traditionally. Growing up when I was in Canada, I only really knew the traditional Native ways. Coming home, things started to change.
The Wuttunee family is a very large family, though I’m not sure how the numbers are now. A lot of Wuttunee’s have had their names well known across the country and oversea’s. Winston Wuttunee – my God father – has been producing records since as long as I can remember. Stephane Wuttunee – who’s picture is above – an author, adventurer and a person who has embraced the old ways with the new. Elsie Wuttunee… my grandmother, who was commanded by Queen Elizabeth the Second herself, for tea.
Grandma (Elsie) once asked me who I wanted to marry, I was 8 years old. I told her I wanted to marry a man from France. 15 years later, give or take – I met my husband in high school. He’s the first born Canada, his family is from France.
She would be appalled by me right now. Not because I was right, but because of what I turned into. The little girl who had big dreams, big idea’s, and the shine that could blind – grown up into a being who has thrown away her pedigree, and turned into a stray. If she saw me now, I don’t think she’d recognize me. My long thick black hair, now mostly shaved, with a few pieces left behind. Tanned skin that once was the envy, now paled and dull. My sense of belonging, severed. I hold no rights to the Wuttunee name, I’ve disgraced it. Not only have I become something she would be ashamed of, but I’m only adding the numbers that want to crush what she’s tried to accomplish.
Elsie was an educational worker, with the mission to improve relations between Natives and Canada. Funding for schooling, so that Natives had a better chance to go to post-education programs. Metis rights. She fought for a lot of things, we now take for granted. Money that would mean I had a brighter future, a chance to make something of myself. I could do it, still. So why haven’t I?
Most people wouldn’t have a clue I was Native, and those who do, are often surprised. Why? For one simple reason. I’m not what they expect.
Racism exists! It will always exist! It’s not our faults. Stereotyping exists, and this is with good reason. These are related, but not the same thing. For example.
“I hate how immigrant cab-drives drive.” <— This, is racism. This is also, stereotyping. If you have ever been to India, you know how the rules of the road are vastly different. It’s basically move where you can, and try to make it there alive. It’s not surprising that many cab drivers are a bit scary. However; let’s say everyone from India was the same race, and still drive like they do – we would still go “Stop driving like you’re in a big city!”
“Fuckin’ injuns need to get a damn job.” <— That’s racism. My town’s ‘homeless’ population, are mostly native. Most ‘Natives’ we think about ,especially on reserves – are heavy drinkers and gamblers. They rely on the gov’t to look after them. They take what’s given, and flip off the white man for beating them down.
I can’t speak for anyone else. This is just what I see. It’s what I see with my own eyes, and how I watch others.
I am so afraid to take money from the Gov’t to go to school. I want to go, I really do. I don’t know what I want to do, but school is something I want. All I have to do is bring my family records, and get my Metis status. I don’t qualify for Treaty. So why haven’t I done it yet?
My perception of what Native means – is not the same what it meant when I was growing up. The sense of belonging, of pride… it’s disappeared. I have physically removed myself from my immediate family. My parents, my brothers, even my niece. I know I’m running out of time with my father. Every day, I know my dad is suffering, missing me. I also know that going home, would only bring harder aches.
At least I know where I stand. Here, I’m safe. Here, I have options. Here, I’m not at risk of being bullied and harassed by people who I’m suppose to love.
The blood that runs in my veins is strong, but it’s also why I’ve retreated so far away from. How can I cherish a name, a culture – when going home to the people I’m suppose to love – send me back to the shadows? I love my family. I miss my family. I don’t miss the verbal massacres from simply walking through a door.
At least where I stand now, I have a family who I can trust. A family who has taken the time to help me, understand me, and work with me.
I miss what my name stood for.