I want to start off by apologizing if I offended anyone with my last column. Social problems unfortunately exist in all communities, not just in Behchoko. There is no such thing as utopia, even in our Nations. Before colonization we had our struggles entwined within our great success stories and in the future we will too. However, Indigenous communities are becoming stronger each day after all that we have been through. More and more we are coming back to our original governance systems because of our unwavering resiliency. Yet as a writer, I can’t only talk about the good. I must sometimes address the hard truths because subjectivity is one sided. If you read my work, you will know that my writing reflects on the empowerment of Indigenous Peoples first. How strong we are. How beautiful we are as a people. How connected we are to each other and to where we are from. I know that the goings-on in Behchoko are not all negative. There are great programs taking place and although it may not seem like it is my place to speak about Behchoko because I have not ever lived there, tragic events have taken place in Behchoko -- that I’d rather not speak of – that have deeply impacted my immediate family to the point that the trauma will be passed down through generations. For that reason, I do feel that I have the right to speak on such matters of extreme violence in our communities, brutal violence against ourselves and each other that is most devastating when it is taking place within our own blood relations. There is no place for it. Yet tragedy and trauma can often follow us on our future paths, live with us in the present and linger in our past. I try not to bring my trauma with me wherever I go but sometimes it presents itself without my awareness. One way trauma can resurface is when one is triggered by certain places that carry memories. Entire communities can hold various energies that individuals might perceive differently which is why it is important that we live by our principles of caring for one another as found in the Dene Laws and follow in the footsteps of our respected Elders and ancestors.
Lately I have been working on solutions-based journalism and what this type of reporting attempts to do is compare one situation with another. I realize what I did in my last column is subconsciously act like an ‘Auntie’ who doesn’t live in the house yet spoke my truth of what I thought was right at the time which was sort of along the lines of, “Hey look how good your little sister is, be more like her.” Some might say its right, some might say it’s wrong. Chief Clarence Louis recently wrote a book called “Rez Rules” and although I haven’t read it, I’ve heard that he expects a lot from the Indigenous community and is quoted as saying “If you want to call yourself a warrior, then get a job. You’re not a warrior if you’re on welfare,” which I don’t agree with, but I do not hit him with hate speech either. I do believe, however, that as a well-known male leader he is in a safer position to say these things than I am as a woman. I feel that when a woman speaks out on such matters, we are told to be quiet, while if a man does so he is respected and supported.
Gender aside, I am a writer, and it is my job to provoke, to start the difficult conversations that many people don’t want to bring up. I try only to write from what I know, from experiences and opinions that I have, this can sometimes come across as judgmental, but I can’t please everyone, and I have learned the hard way not to even try. I have been known to be taken the wrong way by those who don’t know me.
Lately I have been extremely busy. I am being pulled in many directions which has caused me to become somewhat aloof. There is something to be said about taking responsibility for our own actions. Apologizing is not a weakness. I will be the first to admit that some of the words in my last column could have easily been misconstrued but we must not cancel each other out for speaking our truth, especially when we are trying to elicit social justice, as Adrienne Marie Brown so accurately puts it in her book, “We Will Not Cancel Us.” She asks what happens when we direct our righteous anger inward at one another? Nothing good comes out of hatred. Effective change comes out of the acceptance of our diversity where differing opinions can coexist.
Nevertheless, in hindsight I should have taken more time to review the last column before it went out the door to make sure it was received without looking as though there was inference on my part. Now I know to do better going forward. So thank you to those who felt compelled to address my words because it has taught me to take more time with the art of writing and remember that words can have a tremendous impact far and wide and are not to be taken lightly. Words are mightier than the sword as they say. Listening before we speak and using our words carefully is something that we all can improve upon, especially when expressing ourselves on social media. Words can cut like a knife and can’t be taken back and when the comments started pouring in on my last column, my anxiety rose. If we are constantly using hurtful words towards one another then we are in dangerous territory. The one thing that really struck a chord was being told that I am not a Northerner. Even though I have moved away to go to school and have made a life for myself down south I will never turn my back on the North. I suppose now I am considered a visitor on my own homelands, but I will always be a Northerner at heart. I miss home when I’m away, and I even miss it when I’m there. If I could sing a song about my love for our northern communities I would, but many of those closest to me know Creator didn’t give me the gift of singing, Creator gave me the gift of writing and I will always use that gift to the best of my knowledge and always for good.