“But, is she Indigenous?” The directness of my aunties question startled me. I love her bold, often brash attitude, my dear Auntie – she’s always laughing, but when she first asked me, I was startled. I realized she was asking me as if I might have actually had answers. Many of us were, are, seeking understanding, but while I had thoughts, feelings, ideas, I didn’t have any concrete answers, and so, instead, we began to unpack, together.
As I fold and unfold the layers of this story I am awakened into my own. I ask my Mother ‘where do I belong?’ and she says ‘right where you are.’ She tells me that formal adoptions are steeped in ceremony and tradition, and to be respected, but that there is a difference between ceremonial adoption and blood relation. She tells me ‘you have thousands of years of belonging in your bones.‘
I question my sense of belonging, but see that there is difference between feeling one belongs, and belonging. One is a fact, the other – a process.
My journey of arriving ‘home’ here to Denendeh started 8 years ago, in dreams during a time of grief, after I began ‘seeing’ visions of my Grandmother, Georgina Blondin. Not so much in dreams at night, but out of the corner of my eye most days. I remember going to my GP, at the time, who had seen me struggle with undiagnosed CPTSD and said “Well, that’s it doc, I’m hallucinating. I’m nuts. It’s finally happened.”
He looked at me, this dear, brilliant, considerate human, and quietly said I was not, in fact, bonkers, nor was I hallucinating. He said ‘you’re brilliant, in fact, too smart for your own good sometimes.’ If I was crazy, he reassured me, I wouldn’t be sitting there in front of him. Because I’d believe what I had been seeing, I wouldn’t question it. Or myself.
He then asked me to do something that would forever change my life – this non-Indigenous, Doctor who had seen me through the birth of two children, the same Doctor who had seen my son through multiple surgeries – looked at me over a nondescript clipboard and asked me to speak with my elders about the spiritual relevance of visitations from past relations during periods of grief, or in dreams.
And that’s just what I did. What I have been doing ever since.
I am here because of those dreams. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it has been a beautiful, healing one. I realized in considering Buffy’s story that I came full circle with my own. But that is the potency of moments like this – of challenges the collective Indigenous psyche faces. May this remain a time of continued deep questioning, compassion, unity, and grace.
I was grieving the loss of a beloved icon, at first, but realized that there are so many stories of our Grandmother’s, our Mother’s, our Aunties, and ourselves that, too, are meant to be shared. Stories filled with us our, grit, and grace, and that, too, is the gift of this moment – the wide open space this leaves for so many stories to fill.
This unveiling, however many myriad intense emotions may be, and were, collectively felt, remains an opportunity for potent discussion, and a time of holding deep compassion for one another.