Okin illustrates and investigates the power dynamics of the traditional western concept of marriage. The writer will leave Okin's words to her writing, and use Okin's final two chapters of "Justice, Gender and the Family" as a starting point for this paper. Traditional western marriage, in short form, is where the woman is dependent upon the man in every way possible. Most importantly, economically. From this economic dependence branches other symptoms of unequal power sharing. As Okin illustrates, the basic necessities of life are fully dependent upon the income that the man brings in to the home, clothing, food, and shelter. Furthermore, the unpaid labour of domesticity also falls upon the woman, based on these traditional gender roles. Maintenance of household duties by tradition fall into the domain of women whether she likes it or not.
That being said, the writer would like to shift to an illustration of pre-colonial Blackfoot society. Historically, women ran the entire camp. In a camp of 250 - 4000 People, the daily undertakings of life were headed by women. When necessary work such as hunting and gathering were to be done, which was throughout the year, both men and women had equal responsibilities within the tasks. Men in a group would hunt, and the women in a group would clean and prepare the meat for preservation. When gathering berries, roots, and vegetables, everybody took part in common. When making political decisions, the men would sit and talk, while the wives would sit beside them. Blackfoot people were polygamous, and so his first wife was titled "sits by the husband" meaning that in all political forays she would talk to him, and through him, to the rest of the group. Though seemingly unequal in social status, she in fact has far more power than even contemporary women given the current political system as her decisions were final say as far as his decisions went. It is assumed by the writer that "sits by the husband" would speak through him as humans are sexually dimorphic, with males tending to be larger in size and strength. If any fighting should break out during political discourse it would be between the males, and the females would be left out of the fracas. However, that's neither here nor there. Child raising was performed communally, with each member of the tribe taking responsibility for all of the children. Food resources were shared communally as well, as were necessities such as animal hides for clothing, shelter, and storage of goods such as instruments of daily living and water. The Blackfoot "marriage" differed from western marriage in that the Blackfoot were polygamous, and any one of the wives could be free to divorce and marry someone else if she so chose, particularly if the husband was abusive by any means. There were social checks and balances in place to prevent abuse from happening, which were enforced by the tribe in common.
Now to compare and contrast with what Okin had provided in the book, it can be plainly seen that women are socially disadvantaged in almost lynch pin sorts of ways. The social functioning roles as per families of western society is predicated on her being responsible for the children and domestic duties. For Blackfoot society, one can see a far more equal footing as far as what was expected from wives and husbands. Though the writer's illustration is not in depth, it need not be for the purposes of this paper. As an answer to Okin's illustration of the issues facing women in traditional western marriage roles, part of a solution can be found in applying Blackfoot philosophy to western practices. This would be in the form of a living wage paid by taxpayers to all mothers.
Now, not all women are married, and not all women have children. Okin's writing is over 30 years old at this point. The practical demographics of who is having children and who is taking care of those children have changed since then. Contemporarily, there is the "phenomena" of "unwed mothers" and "teen mothers" in much larger numbers than there have been historically. Single parent families have risen, and in turn, continue to rise. As money is the resource today that is ubiquitous in usage as Buffalo was to Blackfoot people pre-colonization, this resource would have to suffice. The core principal guiding Blackfoot philosophy is that what is done is done for the means of life and the continuation of life. So in turn, to have sustainable living there needs to be symbiotic interactions with the environment to ensure continual resource use. Where resources run low, the group then moves to a different place using the resources there, while the previous area replenishes. In a capitalistic, stratified, and sedentary hierarchical society as today, resource depletion is the name of the game. Historically, western societies would simply "go out and conquer" more land, subjugate more people, and establish a different iteration of this hierarchy, while feeding into the original "mother land" via taxation and distribution of goods back to the original dominion. As we run low on resources, some fantasize of "going out into space and colonizing other planets" which is hopeful but very unlikely.
That being said, a living wage given to all mothers would address some key issues facing the public today. First off, this living wage would be in direct payment for the unpaid labour of domesticity. Here then, the mother is not dependent upon anyone for her food, shelter, and clothing, but rather interdependent with everyone. This living wage would address symptoms of poverty that face many single parent homes. Of course this is also directed at mothers purely for the more equal distribution of power between the socially constructed genders, which is the underlying thread of Okin's writing. Since not all women are married, and not all women are mothers, the unmarried and childless people can in turn pursue other endeavours such as school, training, work, surfing, being a hobo, or clergy, anything under the sun. If we as a society are unwilling to alter the historical traditions or abandon capitalism, we should very well take a cue that what we are doing is highly immoral and inequitable for a large portion of society that is charged with domesticity. To bring a more equal footing within the parameters of living that are contemporarily valued, a taxpayer funded living wage to all mothers is at the very least a great starting point.
"Dreadful Domesticity" a living wage for Mothers in response to Susan Okin's "Justice, Gender, and the Family"
Katoyis is an archetype for Blackfoot People. A super hero of sorts. He lived a life that was focused on protecting people from monsters, saving people sometimes from themselves.
There's a story of his I'd like to share with you, told to me by an older Blackfoot man.
Katoyis was traveling in the mountains.
He walked, and as he walked, he felt a breeze.
He walked and the breeze grew stronger. He walked and the breeze became a wind.
The wind was an odd wind, it seemed to be pulling him.
The wind grew stronger. So strong he lost his footing, and still the wind drew him in.
Katoyis tried hard to get back up again. He tried to hold on, but the wind was too strong.
The wind pulled him in.
He lost his footing, and tried to grab hold of plants, but the plants gave way, the wind was too strong.
Soon he saw that it was no wind, but it was a monster. The monster lived in a cave, and in this cave the monster was sucking the air in.
The monster sucked him into the darkness of the cave, into its gut.
Katoyis was trapped. He tried fighting his way out of the monster, but each time he was close to the mouth, the monster sucked him in again.
In the stomach, Katoyis felt around, and he realized there were many other people inside.
Some were still healthy like him, some were a little weak, some were very weak, some were dying. Some were dead.
Some of the living people had given up, and told him just to stay where he is. It's no use trying to leave they said. The monster won't let anyone leave.
Katoyis didn't know what to do. He became frightened. He felt powerless.
Then he heard this sound.
This beating sound like a drum.
This beating drum was coming from above him. The beating drum was just above his head.
He realized it was the monster's heart.
Katoyis knew what to do.
"Take your knives! Take your knives and tie them to your head! Tie them to the top of your head!" he told the people inside.
They did just that, and he said "DANCE!"
They danced. The living people got up, and they danced.
They heard the drum, they heard the heart, and they danced.
As they danced, their knives stabbed at the heart of the monster. They danced and they danced, and as they got stronger, and happier, they danced higher.
Soon, the knives pierced the heart, and the monster was killed.
Then the dancing stopped.
Katoyis helped the weakest out of the monster, the healthy people did too.
When all was done, it was another good thing.
Katoyis walked on.
This story isn't meant to be taken fully true. This story, like all of our stories is mostly metaphor mixed with some truth.
The wind in the story is when we begin to get sick. We try to fight it, but sometimes the sickness is too much. The plants don't save us. The medicines don't save us.
The monster in the story is when we are with illness full swing. The monster is when hope is lost, and the end is inevitable. The monster is the words of the person who gave up. "There's no use, we can't leave." The monster is sickness, the monster is the apathy a person can resign to.
The answer Katoyis gives when in the deepest throes of sickness, apathy, and resignation is to dance. Dance! Be alive!
Dance to be alive!
Half of healing is to fight for survival. Fight for your life. Sometimes all that has to be is to dance, and regain the strength needed to survive.
A person can resign to fate, but with or without the monster that fate was sealed a long time ago.
Sometimes it is in holding on to hope. Part of hope is finding meaning. Finding happiness. FInding a way to crawl out of that sickness, out of that monster. Find some music, and find that way to make the situation right.
We live in a time where the monster is strongest in our minds.
We find ways to overcome that monster.
We find ways to dance.
Take from that story what you will. Take it with a grain of salt.
But never, ever, stop dancing.
Dance like your life depends on it.
I had never seen anyone die before.
I was married once. I had met her online, in an old chatroom. I can't remember if she talked to me first, or if I talked to her, but I asked to see her.
She turned on her webcam and I saw her. The next words I wrote were "My name is Martin Heavy Head, and one day I'm going to marry you."
She said "ok."
Years later, we were living together in the Midwest. Neither of us had any formal education to our names, but she was brilliant. I never realized how smart she was until way later.
Her best friend had wanted to take a certified nursing assistant course. She talked to me about it and I thought it would be a good idea to join up too. We did a three-month course, and eventually we were all certified.
Her best friend couldn't take the sensations of working in that field, so she never really got into the work. My wife and I are both over six feet tall, and very strong. So, we took to it immediately.
Jobs were scarce at the time, so the only work I found was a few towns west. Not too far of a drive, maybe half an hour.
The first thing that I noticed when I walked into a nursing home was the smell. The smell is a mixture of illness, anger, and feces. Mostly anger.
I did my clinical at a nursing home in town, and they were simple. For a few shifts I just had to shadow one of the workers. We are taught in the class that often, there are soft moist sterile sanitary wipes to be used on someone's perineal area. This is of course the area that comprises the butt cheeks, anus, and genitals. The training videos are always happy People doing happy things. They're following the rules. They knock on the door, and announce their presence. They find the resident they are looking for. Their scrubs are immaculately clean. The smiling nursing assistant walks up to the resident in the clean room and politely says "I am going to perform X cares on you." Then, with the consent of the resident get to work.
When I shadowed the nursing assistant in my clinical, it was very different than the training video.
I walked into the nursing home and the smell hit me. This energized smell of rot. I almost got sick, and I thought I'd never get used to it. The hallway was full of old People who were either dressed in hospital gowns, and sweatpants/sweatshirt combos. Wheelchairs abound, and walkers.
None of them seemed real. I had never seen People that old, or that angry, or that withered in my entire life. They seemed like caricatures of humans. They were all in pain.
I shadowed the worker, and she said "We gotta work quickly here, so there's no time to wet down a towel and wash my hands room to room and all that bullshit."
The worker went into the room, and grabbed some rough brown paper towels out of the dispenser. The kind that are in bus station bathrooms with filthy walls. The resident was wearing a gown, and the worker said "Hey Rose, need to get on the bedpan?"
Rose rolled over in her sweat stained bed. Her back was white with sagging skin, as if it were a shopping bag full of tapioca. The worker rested the bedpan underneath and while she lay in bed, Rose took a very loud and foamy shit. The sound was normal enough, but what got me was the smell. Like a warm air mass the smell hit me across the room all at once. It smelled of decay and sour meat. I've never actually smelled anything like it before. I suppose I'm not doing it justice.
The smell was so wretched I started to puke, but held it down. I remember watching a tv show where some smart cookie said "If you smile it supresses the gag reflex."
So right there, I put on the biggest smile I could muster, and kept it on to save myself and the others from being puked on.
I could taste the smell through my teeth.
The worker asked "So what do you think?" and she turned and there I was smiling like a crazy person. Her smile dropped.
From then on, our working relationship was kind of cold. I think the smile freaked her out. I tried to explain why I was smiling, but it fell short.
I left the room, and walked into the hall. There, in an over sized brown wheelchair was a tiny old lady with the body and posture of a melted wax Kermit the frog. She was tiny, and hunched over, settled in the middle of her wheelchair that was way too big for her. She had foot rests on the chair, and her little arms were draped over the arm rests with her hands on the wheel. Her mouth was slightly agape, and her head was tilted to the side. Her bottom lip wasn't keeping the drool in, as she slowly inched the wheels forward and made her way down the busy hallway.
There was a nurse at the nursing station doing paper work, leaning on one foot, while sort of resting the other, like a stork. She was filling out the papers, and her ankle was a little bit exposed from high riding scrub pants.
The little old wax Kermit lady inched her way over, and as soon as she was near that exposed ankle with a great back twist of the right wheel, and forward twist of the left wheel hammered the nurses’ ankle with the foot rest of the wheel chair. The nurse hollered in pain, but brushed it off as an accident.
The little old lady so slyly and slowly smiled, straightened out her chair, and wheeled on to find her next victim.
I was massively entertained by this, but I didn't say anything.
I saw my wife, and the rest of the group walking toward me, and as I went to join them an old man in a large reclining wheelchair grabbed me by the wrist. His skin was the texture of a reptile. Almost dry calloused cracked flakes floating above tissue thin skin. He had no fat on his body, but if he were standing, he would have been maybe around six foot five or so. Skinny yes, but too skinny. His skin was melting onto his contorted bones like everyone else there, and his eyes were grey. He was an old bald white man. Though from all signs he looked like he spent the last 90 years working and starving. He was lizard leather barely attached to bone that was barely attached. He grabbed my wrist with incredible grip and speed and in a dusty church organ voice that had lost air pressure yelled in a whisper: "YOU WON'T FORGET ME WILL YOU!?!"
I looked at him in the eye, and said "Oh no... I’ll never...ever forget you."
His name was Earl.
That started my work in the field, and from that visceral welcome, I began the best job I ever had.
There is no concept of "creator" in Blackfoot ideology. The modern creator concept is a consequence of colonization and the residential school system. Christian missionaries came to "the new world" with the intent to convert indigenous populations of the Americas. With the concept of an omnipotent monotheistic God; the colonists also brought the concept of the Devil. Often, the monotheist creator concept is adopted and used by contemporary First Nations individuals, and often those who use the concept have little or no idea that it is essentially a Christianized view of reality. They often do not realize this, because the assimilative practises of the colonists were insidious, violent, and for the most part effective. To really appreciate where First Nations perspective is from, one must appreciate that First Nation's locality. This paper will not focus on or speak for all First Nations in Canada and the United States, but rather that of Blackfoot People. Blackfoot territorial boundaries are at the North Saskatchewan River in the north, to the Yellowstone River in the south, from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, to the confluence of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers in the east. This territory is roughly the size of Great Britain, and this territory is where one must begin.
Blackfoot People did not name themselves "Blackfoot." There is an extensive nomenclature for the people who live within the territory, the main tribe being Apaitapii. Apaitapii literally translates to "The White Robe People." However; there came a mistranslation by colonists, who saw the people wearing red paint during a ceremony. "Apai" is close to "Apaan" in pronunciation, "Apaan" translates to "Blood" and the colonists, seeing the red paint, figured that the people were covered in blood. Due to the appearance of the people, and mistranslation, the name of the tribe was then known officially as "The Blood Tribe." The other tribes are Aamskaapipiikanni, Apatohsipiikanni, and Siksika. Originally, Aamskaapipiikanni and Apatohsipiikaani were one tribe, but as they were separated by the Canada/U.S. border they became two different tribes. Each group has their own dialects of the Blackfoot language. Each group is connected by their speaking of the language, the territory they are in, and the ceremony that they practise. Each group has their self-referential names; but each group falls under the categorization of "Blackfoot," as the Crown has a particular system of organization and categorization that is hierarchical. The name "Blackfoot" was given by the enemies of Blackfoot people, as every season Blackfoot would burn the grasslands of their territory in controlled burns. As they walked through their territory their footwear became blackened by soot. From that controlled burning and venturing forth, they earned their name from their enemies.
Prayer in Blackfoot ceremony begins by calling on four main entities, which together make up a fifth concept. Blackfoot prayer begins often enough; with variation depending on the one praying: "Aiyo Napi Naatosi, Aiyo Ksahkkomitapii, Aiyo Kipitaaki Kokomikisomm, Aiyo Iipisoowaahsi, Aiyo Ihstipaitopiyopah." These in order are "Calling upon the Old Man Sun, Calling upon the Earth Being, Calling upon the Old Lady Moon, Calling upon the Morning Star, Calling upon the means by which all life exists." The first four entities are the Sun, Moon, Earth, and Morning Star. Each is considered to be an entity onto itself, though altogether each have their stories and parts to play in Blackfoot mythology to make up the fifth concept of Ihstipaitopiyopah: "The means by which all Life exists." This concept can also be called "The source of all Life" and most recently due to Christian infiltration; has been mistranslated as "creator."
Prayer in Blackfoot ideology is not necessarily ritualized; ritualized as treated in the Abrahamic faiths; such as the "Hail Mary" of the Catholic Church. Prayer is often public in Blackfoot ceremony, and there is no one form or one correct way in which to give prayer. The spoken prayer is in the form that the speaker sees fit with no set time or time limit in which to speak it. Though prayer is not ritualized, the daily life of a Blackfoot person is inundated with moments of prayer especially before the taking of resources. Every part of a historical Blackfoot person's life from food, shelter, and clothing was taken from local resources. Pre-colonization these resources were plentiful, and were not taken lightly. For example, there is the use of the "forked stick" in ceremony. If one were to look in museum collections of Native American artifacts the "forked stick" is unique to Blackfoot people, as they were the only ones to use it. This is a giveaway to the trained eye as to what artifact belongs to what people. If a "forked stick" is included with the piece or pieces then it is most certainly Blackfoot in origin. The stick is made from Saskatoon berry shoots. The person searching for the particular shoot will be in the river bottom, find an area to where Saskatoon’s grow, and see if a forked shoot is growing on one of the branches. Only someone with a transferred rite can take the shoot and make a "forked stick." He would then most certainly pray before he cuts the shoot out of the main bush. As he prays he would leave an offering of Tobacco. Prayer is given in reciprocity before the taking of any resource that is to be used; and exchanging that resource with an offering of himself which is often Tobacco. The Tobacco is an offering in place of himself. This is the closest to ritualized prayer that a Blackfoot person would take part in. The purpose of the "forked stick" is to take coals from the fire, and "smudge." "Smudging" is taking a coal from the fire, resting the coal in the centre of a mound made of raw white clay that was taken from a badger hole. The mound of clay is always on the western side of the lodge, between the fire and the sleeping area of the lodge owner. Once the coal is on the mound, sweetgrass is placed upon it and prayers are spoken into the smoke, and the speaker then using their hands bathes themselves in the smoke from the smudge. Since one needs coals for this process, one needs a forked stick to take them from the fire.
There are some 6000 uses for a single Buffalo by Blackfoot people. Not all of them will be listed, but one of the main uses are for the hide is to cover the lodge. The hides are elegantly tanned, sliced, and sewn in a particular fashion to make a lodge. The lodge is made of the buffalo hides, and 21 poles of Lodgepole Pine that are skinned and dried. Four main poles make up the base and are tied together to create a quadropod. From this point five "ribs" are rested at the top in a particular order on the north and south sides of the structure. Then, the front and back door poles. Once this structure is raised it is called the "skeleton." From here the pole with the hides attached at the top of the main pole is raised and rested on the "skeleton" and this is called the "spine." The "skin" which is the Buffalo hide is wrapped around to the front and buttoned shut. Then the "skin" is pegged to the ground, as tight as a drum that one could actually hit the skin of the tipi and it would resonate like a drum if it were put up correctly. The whole process of putting up a lodge can take fifteen minutes to an experienced person. To finalize the process there are two poles on each side of the lodge that are placed through flaps at the top called the "ears." Once the outside structure is finished, the liners are attached inside. These liners are tied to a rope that is wrapped around each pole, about five feet above the ground. At the top, the liners are tied, and at the bottom they are tied to the pegs on the outside. All Blackfoot lodges face the east, to face the rising Sun. If the wind is blowing from the west, then the "ears" are open and pointing east. If the wind is blowing from the south, then the northern "ear" flap is open and pointing north, and the southern "ear" flap is closed and pointing north as well. The "ears" in tandem with the liners create a vacuum inside the lodge that takes the smoke from the fire up and out of the lodge. The fire place is in the centre of the lodge, and is made of a circle of stones. Seven stones arranged from the east from largest to smallest on the north and south end of the hearth are arranged, and symbolize the big and little dippers, as well as the circle of the fire symbolizing the Sun. Even at night, the Sun is in our presence. Fuel sources for the fire were often Poplar branches that had fallen, or dried Buffalo dung. It is said that if a lodge is raised correctly, then the strongest wind will not blow it down. Recently there was a flood in Southern Alberta, and many areas along the Bow River were overtaken with water. Houses were lifted off of their foundations and washed away. Interestingly enough, there were Blackfoot lodges in Siksika along the river bottom that remained in their place the entirety of the flood as houses were washed away.
There is no funeral ceremony for Blackfoot people. There were however, steps that could be taken by the loved ones of the deceased. If a spouse died, the surviving spouse would cut their hair, and cover their clothes in ashes. This would begin the grieving process, which was finished when their hair grew back to its former length. Perhaps in a year. During this time, they would not go to social functions such as dances, feasts, or ceremony. They would remain mostly in their own company and mourn their loss. When a person died, their body would be cleansed, and they would be wrapped in an Elk robe made of tanned Elk hide. Then, their possessions such as clothing, weapons, pipes, war honour trophies, and other personal items were taken to their burial site. Now, the word "burial" does not refer to the act of being buried in the ground. Blackfoot people buried their dead in the sky. The wrapped body would be left atop a scaffolding made of cotton wood logs, on top of a high hill. Or, and most often, they were left with their possessions in the branches of a sturdy tree in the river bottom. The purpose of this is a practical one, as birds need to eat as well. A self-referential name of Blackfoot people is Kakotositapii, literally translating to "Just a small Sun being" but meaning in English "Star Being" or "Star Person." As we say in Blackfoot: we come from the Stars, and when we die, we go back to the Stars. This is also a reason for sky burials, though not the main reason. After colonization, the people built "burial lodges," replicas of their own cabins on a smaller scale, where they were laid out with all of their possessions. However, as the colonizers were Christian, they imposed their burial practises upon Blackfoot people, by burying the dead in the ground. This is not explicitly for hygienic purposes. This practise is Christian in origin, as they believe that Jesus will return, so the body must be preserved and laid with the head to the west and feet to the east. For when Jesus returns, he is coming from the east, and they will rise from their graves in order to look upon him when he arrives.
Robert Hooke was the first scientist to observe the microscopic structure of what we call today "The Eukaryotic Cell." Hooke observed the structure of the eukaryotic cell and found it akin to the cell of a monk. A wall, a bed, a table, and a chair are generally what could be observed in a monk's quarters to which he bestowed the name unto what he was observing. Hooke observed what were later identified as the cell membrane, a phospholipid bi-layer. Encased within the membrane is cytoplasm, an electro chemical conducive protoplasm which is mostly water. The various organelles such as the Golgi Apparatus, the Smooth and Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum, and Mitochondria all perform various tasks that when associated together and are mutually beneficial to the metabolic process. Then encased within the Nuclear Envelope is the Nucleus. The eukaryotic cell is performing various functions and interactions within itself in order to maintain homeostasis. Within these basic intercellular interactions and processes operate ribosomes and lysosomes. Lysosomes digest a plethora of "waste" materials and breaks them down to structural components of simple molecules. They are fundamentally the recycling system of the cell. Ribosomes, alternatively, build proteins. Their main function is protein synthesis within the cell, where there exist in tandem free ribosomes that travel anywhere in the cytosol and perform their function anywhere in the cell, receiving information from mRNA to build proteins. The ribosome is found within every eukaryotic cell. The cytoskeleton is part actin and microtubules that are the micro fiber protein structural foundation of the cell, surrounded by cytoplasm. These fibers interact with the Cell Membrane, and their detailed structure is not known.
Reflective of the continuum of life, one can establish the relationship between the eukaryotic cell, and that which we call human. The cell membrane is reflective of our skin, the cytoskeleton is reflective of our skeleton. The various organelles of the cell are reflections of our organs, the heart, liver, pancreas, spleen, intestines (large, small, duodenum etc.). Like all of the components of the cell working together to maintain homeostasis and metabolism our organs work within our bodies to do the same. The organs function cooperatively in order to maintain homeostasis and metabolism, they cooperate and conspire to maintain our Lives. It is intuitive to reason that humans as being part of the continuum of life are much like the simplest structure of their manifested bodies. That is to say an expanded expression of the eukaryotic cell itself. The structure of the human body then is reflected in its smallest living component. We can then view the eukaryotic cell as reflective to that of the entire systems of the planet. The cell membrane is akin to the atmosphere and water, the organelles are reflective of the various continents and land masses, the ribosomes and lysosomes are reflective of the plant and animal species all living in tandem to maintain the homeostasis and metabolism of the planet.
A fundamental difference in worldview exists between colonists and Blackfoot people. This worldview can be illustrated by how water is viewed and interacted with. Water, as treated by Blackfoot people, is an entity unto itself. Water is all connected as one being, from the rivers, lakes, oceans and rains. Water is such a central part of life for existence on the plains, that in a particular Blackfoot ceremony while praying, water is offered to the earth to drink. In prayer, the person calls upon the Sun, Moon, Morning Star, and Earth to protect water. The prayer is often spoken to the effect that water is always clean, that water is always present. This is not a deification of water, but an acknowledgement of how important water is to all life in general, and of its importance to ourselves as Blackfoot people. From the colonist's point of view, water is a single molecule, H2O. Therein is the illustration of difference. To the colonist point of view, water is treated as an unconnected singular molecule with a mathematically based chemical description. To Blackfoot people, water is one connected entity throughout the entire world and all that lives within it.
The point of the sharing of information of Blackfoot people in this paper is to illustrate fundamentally different methods of living between Blackfoot people and the colonizers. Burning the territory before the snow falls encourages new grass growth, and hearty grass growth for the following year. In turn, the Buffalo will be more attracted to venturing north to pasture. This practise also encourages growth of various plants. Practically, this burning encourages biodiversity to the plains as the Buffalo would migrate, bring seeds along with them, and other fauna to follow their path. California Condors were at one time a common sight on the plains as they followed the Buffalo, however, after the Buffalo were intentionally exterminated by colonists, the Condors ended their migration pattern.
References to Blackfoot prayer in this paper is to illustrate two points, that quite literally for this planet the means by which all life exists is the Sun and to illustrate reciprocity for the taking of resources. Our planet is in just the right place to be held by the Sun. There would indeed be no life without our Sun. We pray not to worship, and not to be unworthy before the Sun, but to acknowledge that our life is not made possible otherwise. The Tobacco is prayed with and left as offering to first show respect for the process. That the plant being taken is a living being in as much as we are as Blackfoot people, and that plant serves a function to us as Blackfoot people as well as to the environment as a whole. To ensure that not too much is ever taken, there is always something left behind from the one taking the resource. This offering is left not only in gratitude, but also as a psychological gesture of maintenance. My Kokom (grandmother) was a doctor for her tribe. She knew of many plants and their medicinal uses, and taught my Sister a way of plant collecting. She said "When looking for a plant you need, never take the first plant you see. Look around further and find another. The first one you see might be the last of its kind." This practise, along with the reciprocity of offering Tobacco, encourages a culturally inborn maintenance of the environment. A constant awareness of the fragility of life, as all life from the very beginning has been fragile.
The Blackfoot lodge is a reflection of the body, and serves to illustrate for this paper the connection between the territory, the people, and the universe. The resources for the lodge are taken locally, and the lodge itself is named in structure for parts of the human body. The hearth is the connection to the Stars and Sun. The Blackfoot lodge illustrates the most efficient way of living with minimal resources, respectful of the flow of energy available to the people. The lodge is not considered the home of Blackfoot people, it is a climate controlled temporary shelter for survival. The home of the Blackfoot people is their territory.
The burial practises of Blackfoot people are written to illustrate the acknowledgement that everything must return to the Earth, and everything must survive. To hoard resources is a considered a character flaw among Blackfoot people, and that extends even into death. The birds need to eat, and nothing is permanent. This practise is documented here as well to show the fundamental difference in worldview. Now, the argument for burial in the ground is made for the purposes of hygiene, though the practise is Christian in origin.
The passages in this paper regarding the eukaryotic cell are written to illustrate where me must collectively go as a society. Taking modern science and its worldview of discrete mechanical processes and analytical dissections, while at the same time illustrating the grander interconnectedness between them. This is viewing the information of cell biology with a Blackfoot heart. That indeed, reflections of the connectedness of life are in the very basis of the eukaryotic cell, all the way up in scale to the Earth as a living entity. That all of this is on one grand continuum, that not only extends from the smallest portions of that which we recognize as living, but to the planet and entirety of the universe as a whole. Eventually, there will be a time when the universe is recognized as a living entity, though modern scientists at this point struggle to even recognize the Earth as a living entity itself. Our society, if it is to survive, needs to undergo a fundamental worldview alteration and redirection. No longer can we take from the Earth without reciprocity, no longer can we view the Earth as discrete mechanical abiotic parts of an abiotic thing. To appreciate our lives, we must extend them outwards into the environment, into the planet, and into the universe. That we are reflections of the universe, the Sun, the Earth, and the environment. That we are the biggest little beings that ever could be, because what we collectively decide to do, can make or break life itself.
Anything relating to Blackfoot people and/or ideology in this paper is either taken from first hand knowledge, or oral history passed to me by my Father, and various other Elders which over the time of my life are either too numerous to name, and quite frankly I don’t remember who told me what. All of the information regarding Blackfoot people’s history belongs to Blackfoot people in common. The science relating to the eukaryotic cell and its various processes was given to me in biology classes in school over my life, and this science as it is, belongs to the people as well.
Let's say a group of People, are particularly vicious. They, over time, take technologies not their own (like gun powder, paper, fabric, etc.) and over generations misrepresent those technologies as their own. They even take credit for efficient numerals and mathematics, which of course are also not of their own invention but taken and misrepresented as theirs. Let's say these vicious People build a great amount of wealth by enslaving generations of other People not like them. Let's say these People build upon the technologies they have stolen and misrepresented as their own, and branched their worldview out of their home lands.
These People, cannot live sustainably. The nature of their system is hierarchical, a true Pyramid Scheme. Generally, one male at the top of their Pyramid Scheme rules over the others below that male. The ones ruled over are a subjugated bureaucracy that make up the hierarchy, which primarily rests on the base of the poorest individuals. The poorest individuals are abused to no end, and deprived of everything just above basic subsistence. The poorest individuals are the ones sent to the frontlines of war. The poorest individuals do not upset the apple cart, because they have been fed hope by the People at the top. Hope that they can climb out of their poverty if they work harder and attempt to achieve, even though the Pyramid Scheme ensures this will not happen. Generally, the ones on top are born into wealth and privilege. Occasionally, a few will fall into luck, and a few actually do leave their poverty. Those few keep the hope alive for the majority of the poorest individuals, which will die in that poverty. This is the foundation of their system.
Now let's say those vicious People feel that they are the most evolved of all groups of People, even though the entire group of all People worldwide are too biologically similar to be very different. The vicious People spread their arrogant worldview throughout the world via propaganda in a book, belonging to an organization that says there is an invisible man in the sky watching you in case you break rules; who will punish you with fire and pain for all eternity. The People at the top, are the invisible man's enforcers. Better not upset that apple cart!
Now let's say that because of the hierarchical nature of the vicious People's Pyramid Scheme, they run out of resources rather quickly. They must go out and colonize more lands, and subjugate more People, in order to feed this hierarchy. Their Pyramid Scheme necessitates war. Often, to save money, they kill as many People they meet as possible. After they have shocked the population with killing, they simply assimilate who they find into their population by first becoming slaves. The vicious People find out it’s much easier to kill someone from the inside first, and when they are dead inside get them to join you at the bottom of the Pyramid Scheme.
Now the Leaders, or Rulers, of this Pyramid Scheme have been inbreeding for generations. Because of inbreeding depression, (and also because for many of those generations all they could drink was alcohol, as much of their original homeland was over polluted for generations previous due to the Pyramid Scheme) much of their population suffers from F.A.S.D. which may explain their viciousness. Certainly at least, generations of Leadership affected by F.A.S.D. can explain the vicious ways of thinking set down by their rulers and organizations. After all, anyone against the rules is burned at the stake by the organizations and Leadership.
Now, imagine, that these vicious People are running out of resources again because they are too irresponsible to live within their means. So they must colonize more People and land again, as is tradition.
On the other side of the world are People who live symbiotically with their environment. Hunting Animals, gathering foods, and cultivating foods and plants enough for just what they need. The symbiotic People do this with such efficiency and respect that they can sustain their lifestyles anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 years without ever having to colonize or subjugate anyone. Truly living within their means. These symbiotic People Manage herds of one kind of Animal millions of head large amongst each other, while at the same time cultivating foods such as Corn, Potatoes, Beans, and Tomatoes. These symbiotic People do not own slaves, or subjugate their females, but rather honour their females and each other. These symbiotic People practise true democracy where everyone in their Tribe has a voice and value.
The symbiotic People sometimes engage in war, but they respect Life and Living systems to such an extent that only one person is killed, and then the war is over. Most of their warriors (if you can call them that) don't even use weapons. They use sticks, to hit the enemy and cause humiliation. They will scalp the enemy, intentionally leaving him alive so he'll forever be known to have lost the battle. They keep the scalps as a reminder of the horror of war, and to not engage in it too often. These symbiotic People are for the most part rather kind, very stern, very clean, and resourceful. From the Animals they collectively manage, they have found some 6,000 uses for just one Animal. Again, they are able to sustain themselves as truly free and democratic People for 8,000 to 11,000 years (as far as archaeological sites can ascertain) by living in respectful balance with their environment.
Now, the vicious People need resources, and they force themselves on the symbiotic People. The symbiotic People belong to the land, whereas the vicious People feel the land belongs to them, the vicious ones. The vicious ones kill as many of the symbiotic People as possible, from numbers beginning around 100 Million to a just few million left. The vicious People initially try to take the symbiotic People as slaves, but the symbiotic ones die right away. So, the vicious ones import other People to do their work, as the vicious ones are rather lazy and drunk for much of the time and too busy inbreeding. The hard-core inbreeders stay in the mountains and play banjo, as opposed to the hard-core inbreeders in castles that play polo.
Now that the vicious ones have enslaved and subjugated most other People, literally drunk and inbred, they write their history as triumphantly as possible. They write themselves as morally superior and advanced in every way, even though they stole much of what they lay claim to and have wickedly slaughtered most everyone in sight. The invisible man in the sky gave them the right to do this, because the invisible man is a real psychopathic killer himself. The vicious ones use the invisible man as justification for their evil. Most other Peoples do not wish to kill Life, so they lose the game with the vicious People they didn't even know they were playing.
The vicious ones literally starve, and kill, and hold guns to the heads of the symbiotic People to forcibly and coercively sign away all their property rights. The vicious ones made up property rights with the invisible man, and inbred Leaders to legitimize themselves. The vicious ones figure that the symbiotic People won't live another 5 years, and so the vicious ones make grandiose promises on paper.
This continues on, until maybe around the 1960's (by vicious methods of counting years).
Then, there is an awakening. Vicious children don’t want to be vicious anymore. The vicious children realize that we are too similar to be very different, something the symbiotic People always knew. The vicious children realize their true history. The vicious children realize that vicious drunk inbred men are making decisions on their behalf. The vicious children take up the cause of the symbiotic People, and the enslaved People, and the vicious children try to change the world.
Most of the vicious children give up.
Some don't however. Some continue to fight. Some get locked away. Some of the vicious children go so far as to not even resemble anything vicious anymore. They can almost feel like they are symbiotic. They realize there is a better way.
No more will they be Idle, and let vicious men ruin the planet.
They vote vicious blue assholes out of government in large red numbers. Some vicious assholes write op-eds in national newspapers to hold on to their fading vicious ways.
But the vicious children are no longer vicious. They are Conscious. The symbiotic People are having trouble being symbiotic People, because of the system of vicious men. Together the vicious children and the symbiotic People become the Conscious People.
Conscious People will proliferate, because they took the vicious infrastructure and stolen technology, and used the symbiotic ways of being and thinking. Conscious People will realize that they are of the same. Conscious People will walk together, from now on into the future they build with one another.
...as vicious men fade into history.
Conscious People will fix what the vicious People have done.
They'll do it because they'll start everything with Love. They'll remain Conscious and walk together. They'll do it because it's the right thing to do, as Conscious People know better than to listen to vicious men.
I am writing to you on behalf of every Indigenous Child who was forced to attend Indian Residential Schools in Canada and the United States that were victims of the abuse wielded by Catholic Clergy. I am writing to you on behalf of my Father who was beaten by Sister Thibert for speaking his language. I am writing to you on behalf of my Aunt who was forced to bring a newborn baby to the incinerator by Mother Superior, and who was told by Mother Superior that she was doing God's work. I am writing to you on behalf of my Uncles and Aunts, my Grandfathers and Grandmothers that lost their childhood, their freedom, their happiness, and their way of Life because of the ABUSERS that were sent by the Vatican and Crown to "save us."
MOST of all I am writing on behalf of myself and my own pain, and on behalf of my desire to heal from it. I am writing to forgive the Catholic Church. I am writing to finally Exorcize these Demons from myself and my People, so that we may be bathed in the Love, Light, Joy, Redemption, and Beauty that Jesus so willingly sacrificed himself for.
I am writing to you so that we may move on in the best way possible, and fully, with all unconditional Love, to bring this matter to a close.
I am writing to you in order to reveal this awful wound; and pour on all the Love and all the goodness that is God.
Growing up, I didn't go to Church. I was baptized Catholic but I knew almost nothing of it. We only went into Churches for funerals, and so in my ignorance I thought the Church was the funeral place, and the Priest was the funeral man. Then, as I was exposed to my peers who did go to Church, and as time inevitably revealed the presence of the Vatican and the often beautiful and often brutal history therein...I became bitter. I saw the Catholic Church as nothing but a haven for death worshiping pedophiles. I saw it as nothing but a place of Evil. I saw the Vatican as the Devil incarnate on this Earth. I would have liked nothing more than every Church be rubbed off the face of the Earth, with no memory of it to cause any more pain. I came to a point in my Life where there was nothing about this faith, or this Church that was any good at all. I saw the Church as a mockery of Christ.
I have never been a Christian.
However; as time went on and I read more about it, I saw some glimmers of Beauty. I saw how Jesus Loved us all so much, so very very much. That Love transcends time and space, religion and belief, values and inhibitions. That Love permeates this Universe and all Living things.
I read on the history of my name, Martin. I read that it was first used by St. Martin of Tours who during a cold winter gave half of his cloak to a freezing naked beggar. I read of how St. Martin, though a skillful and powerful warrior, refused to fight again and was placed on the front lines of battle as punishment still refusing to fight, to have his faith rewarded and the war be called off.
I am honoured to say that I have given the shirt off of my back to a freezing beggar, and earned my name Martin.
I have felt such a Holy and Beautiful presence from Father Thomas, a Benedictine Monk from Nebraska who late in the night would speak to me on the phone as I was drinking myself to death and felt attacked by the Devil himself.
I saw these glimmers of Beauty and I knew that yes, there is something good about this Church. I came to know and understand what the goodness and heart of the Church really is, which is the congregation of People in Pain and Suffering who desire to Live a good and Holy existence that follows the way of Life that was exemplified by Jesus, and by his Apostles and Saints thereafter.
My Aunt was called to Mother Superior's office with two other girls, they were not yet in their teenage years. Mother Superior said "Take this brown paper bag to the incinerator, and watch it burn, this is a Holy mission and you are doing Gods work." So proudly they took the bag down the hall, the three of them holding it together, and went to the incinerator. They placed it in.
The paper burned away to reveal a baby that was fathered by the Priest, that was killed to cover his tracks.
WHY GOD!?! WHY!?!! WHAT DID THESE BABIES DO TO DESERVE THIS!?!?! WHAT KIND OF SICKNESS BROUGHT THIS KIND OF UGLY INTO OUR WORLD!?!?!
Yet, as she grew, she Married in and attended Church. She was devout. She wrote to the Pope and waited years for his blessing to divorce her husband who was abusive and adulterous.
To her dying day she Prayed the Rosary.
I could not understand this, that she would continue to be part of something so obviously Evil to me.
Then, my Life happened. My mistakes happened. I walked, wilfully into Darkness. I looked the Devil in the eye and joined right in. I experienced all manner of corruption and ugliness. Then, in that wickedness I began to understand why. I began to understand pain, and mistakes. I began to understand more fully and compassionately what it is to be Human, to understand the effectiveness and cunning of the reverse trinity that is the Devil, and I began to understand the Love that is God.
I see a future where Humanity is always concerned for each other. I see a future where Humanity is concerned not about their own material wealth, but the well being of each other. I see a future where each and every one of us is a living example of Jesus, living the Life that he prescribed, being the best and Beautiful big little Beings that we can be. I see a future where we are all doing the best we can, with the tools we have, where every day we feel and practise the comfort and Love that is God and all Creation.
I see a future where the Catholic Church is not an unholy temple of sex obssessed guilt, lust, hoarding, and abuse that has been my experience of it.
I would like to see what my Aunt saw in her devotion, that no matter what, this place was a pathway to that which is Good, to that which is God.
I see a future where there are happy, healthy, humble, and kind Blackfoot Children being who God made them to be, and who are working on behalf of and for Love.
With that, on behalf of my ancestors, myself, and future generations, I invite you to our Sundance Ceremony. Preferably on my Birthday, July 25th 2015, because the Sundance is usually happening at that time. I invite you to visit with us here in our home, in our church, in our pathway to God. I invite you to come Pray with us and for us and engage in a dialogue of Healing.
I am asking you come here so that I may forgive the Catholic Church, so that my community may forgive the Catholic Church, and so that together we can achieve that Holy and Good future I see for my Children, their Children, and all the generations that follow.
I humbly and respectfully ask that you come and Pray with us and for us.
Father, what we do is for the Living, and what we do is for Life.
Please, please attend.
Martin Heavy Head Jr.
p.s. whether or not you receive this letter, and whether or not you read it. Whether or not it gets thrown away, whether or not my words are heard by anyone, please know that from the deepest part of my Being and from my connection to Creator, I forgive the Catholic Church for what has happened. I forgive the dark history that came about from Colonization and Residential Schools. I forgive your Priests, and I forgive your Nuns. I have nothing for them or the Church, or all of the devout followers therein but Love. I forgive them because that is what Jesus would do. I forgive, and I let that wound inside me and my People begin to heal, to be covered, soaked, and bathed in Love.
Thank you for your time, and if I may ask, please Pray for me. I certainly will Pray for you.
I had never been proud of being "Canadian" and never considered myself to be one. I have never identified with whatever that identity is. When I was a boy, I saw these ankle high black work boots in the basement. I thought they were the prettiest shoes I have ever seen, and wanted to wear them so bad. I didn't know at that time, that those boots were part of the clothes that the kids at the Residential School were given. I just thought they were pretty boots, even though they were worn and beaten.
When I was a boy, I remember seeing on TV a whole school of kids wearing ties and dress pants and matching sweaters in fashionable suits. They were in a boarding school. I told my parents "I want to go to boarding school." They laughed at said at the same time "No you don't." I remember wondering why.
My Dad told me a story about waking up the Priest for mass. He was on his tippy toes trying to open the door to go wake up Father Levalee. On his tippy toes he was trying to open the door, and eventually he got it. As an adult, I was one day walking through the old Residential School on the reserve, St. Mary's. I saw the Priest's office and looked at the doorknob. It was below my waist. I pictured by Dad, how small he must have been to have to reach up on his tippy toes to open the door. He must have been a tiny boy, just barely done being a toddler.
They would tell me stories about that place, and they called it "Boarding School" before what we now refer to it as. I heard awful stories. I was told that one boy had needed to get stitches on his knee, from when he tried to escape his knee was torn while running through barbed wire. He needed seven stitches. He went home and was brought back to the school. They called child tax "baby bonus" in those days, and the RCMP would withhold that payment if any of the People's kids weren't at Residential School. If the kids were missing, the parents also risked going to jail. I was told that was part of the reason why even if the kids did make it home, they were immediately sent back. The boy was stitched, and sent back to school with a swollen leg, so he couldn't kneel. They made the kids pray 23 times a day at the Catholic school. Sister Thibert saw him keeping his leg straight as he got up and down to kneel. She came up behind him and said "I said kneel!" and kicked the back of his leg. He said that to this day, he remembers the sound of his flesh tearing. He hates that Nun. Many People do to this day. She was just doing what she thought was right. Kneel before God, and pray.
St. Mary’s closed as a residence in 1988, when I was 3. The staff that ran the place was still there, and from what I understand Sister Thibert lived out the rest of her life comfortably, or at least, as comfortably as a Nun can. When the Indian Residential School payouts began I was against them. The Federal Government knew that they were on the line for a huge claim, that could have been in the billions of dollars had court cases been allowed to go through. So they did the reasonable thing and settled by having these tribunals to pay out the survivors. I didn't like the idea of People going in to share their stories to a group of uncaring white men who asked old ladies terrible questions. I was told that depending on their abuse, they were given more money. If the Priest ejaculated inside the body then they were given $2500, but if the Priest "pulled out" and ejaculated outside of the body they had no claim on that. So abuse became commodified, under the Harper Government. Old Ladies and Old Men had to go and tell their stories of abuse to tribunals, and go through that trauma again, to get some pocket change from the Feds. That wasn't the TRC that paid out like that, it was a different undertaking. To this day, people are still getting Residential School settlements. I still don't like the idea. Just because, money never solves anything. If anything, money only makes things worse.
For the past ten years or so, Residential School has been talked about. For the past ten years or so, more and more are getting to know what happened to Indigenous Peoples across Canada and the USA. I have been grateful for this to happen, because now I know a little bit more of what happened, of who we are, and how we became this way. With these awful stories I can put the pieces together as to why to reserve is the way that it is. Why so many are in pain, and killing their pain daily. This wasn't "hundreds of years ago" as my own professors have told me in class. This is within my lifetime, this was my parents’ lifetime.
My first memories are of The Sun. The great and bright light that is the means by which our life exists. My first memories are of The Sundance, when we pray. We sleep in tipi, and camp together every year. I go to sleep and hear the Ceremony songs being sung. I wake in the morning and pray with Sweetgrass and hear the camp wake up. My memories begin with knowing Ceremony, and hearing Old Blackfoot People pray in our language. My memories begin with dancing with our Pipes, and beginning every Ceremony with feeding People. My memories begin with Praying to Our Sun, Our Moon, Our Morning Star, and Our Earth. I walk through our territory and know what plants are medicines. I know what we use Willow for, I know where to find Sweetgrass, I know why I pick Sage, I know why I leave offerings. I know how to Pray and how to love. I know all of this because my parents survived. My parents survived the beatings, my parents survived the schools, and my parents loved me into the world. For thousands of years Blackfoot and Cree People were enemies that would kill each other on sight. Somehow, for some reason, in some way, my parents were able to find one another, a Blackfoot Man and a Cree Woman, and they loved their Children into being. They fought for their Lives, in order to give me mine. I didn't have to find out what the Nuns were like. I didn't have to learn what the Priests did first hand. What I knew was that I am connected to this Land, and to these People.
Looking back, I see the courage that it took to walk away from the Church. Many of my relatives didn't have that courage. Many, even with all they had gone through, still only Pray in the Catholic way. It puzzled me for a long time. Though, now that I understand a bit more about them, I don't mind it that much. That's how they know how to Pray, that's how they interact with reality, and that is their connection. I was lucky enough to learn an older way.
I look out onto my reserve and see a lot of abuse. I see violence, I see addiction, I hear of sexual abuse, and death. I see that we are in a crisis as a People. People who were known as the Lords of the Plains, those People that were tall and strong and magic. That history is three generations ago. My great grandfather died in 1988, when he was around 114 years old. When he was a boy they still hunted Buffalo. From his birth to death, he saw the 20th century unfold. He saw me, and I saw him...and sometimes I still do.
Today, MY Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially recognized the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Today I cried and felt so relieved. Under that bully Harper, I was terrified of the Federal Government. I was certain that he was taking Canada into an increasingly uglier reality that was more divisive and hateful than I had ever known. Luckily, Canada saw fit to throw that bully out of office. I'm still upset with that man. He was a mockery of what Canada stood for, what I knew Canada to be.
I look around my reserve and see a lot of pain, I see a lot of tragedy. I see reflections of how this system has failed. I see a challenge. I see People still alive. I see a language still alive. I see Ceremony still being practiced. I see a vibrant and magic People still here. I see their Grandmothers and Grandfathers in their faces. I see those Old People in their eyes. There is hope yet. This planet needs us, and we need this planet. This is our home, this is our connection to the Universe. Today with the final report of the TRC, the Federal Government of Canada dropped its historic antagonism. We are no longer enemies, and we shouldn't treat each other as such.
I look around at my People, and see that there is work to be done. Though, if the Government and Tribe are thoughtful in their approach to one another, we can heal and reclaim what we are. It will take work from the living Elders, from my generation, to know what we need to know, to do what we need to do, to be whom we need to be, for our Children. What I saw the Federal Government do today gave me more hope for the future than I have ever had before. I now have hope because I don't feel like we are going to be exterminated and worked against any longer. I feel hope because those Babies I see growing up will one day have their faces painted, they will be part of our Ceremony. Those Babies growing up now will know who we Pray to, and how we sing, and speak. They'll know what their plants do, they'll know who their People are.
They'll know, because we'll teach them. They'll know because they'll be able to grow up in a place that isn't trying to stamp out who and what they are.
There will be Blackfoot People in the future, there will be Blackfoot Ceremony. We will remain, because my Ancestors fought, my Parents fought, and I no longer have to fight. The TRC Commissioners and that generation, they fought. I won't have to fight to be who I am ever again. I won't have to fight to hold on to who and what I am. Neither will my Nieces and Nephews. If ever I have Children of my own, neither will they fight for that right to be themselves.
I still don't consider myself Canadian. I don't think I ever will. Though for the first time in my Life, I don't feel like Canada is trying to harm me or my People.
I feel like Canada is a better place.
A much better place.
Indeed, from the last election in the fall to this past Municipal Byelection, I had a chance to get to know our City Councillors. Particularly kind to me was Bridget Mearns who won her seat yesterday, and with her experience will bring some positive strength to our City. Some I have met looked at politics as a game to be played where someone wins and someone loses. This way of looking at politics is a formula for failure. This leads to bitterness and anger, quiet gossip and alliances. This is no good! We are Human Beings, and we deserve to be spoken to and about with the utmost honesty and respect.
Often I see someone who is struggling, someone who is hurt perhaps not physically, but emotionally or spiritually in pain. I look at them and encounter them with as much warmth and kindness as I can muster. I think to myself, "How would someone who Loved me wish me to be treated if I were in their situation?" and let me tell you, when I ask myself that question it is a lot easier to feed and clothe a stranger who did nothing to deserve it but just be in need.
In this way, Politics is about relationship building, and we build relationships when there is a foundation of kindness and trust. This is really about building a Community together and giving our trust to a few People who for one thing asked to Lead, and for another we allowed to Lead. We give these People the tools to guide part of our Lives, part of our Destiny. Their work is more than a budget, their work is more than a public appearance. Their work impacts our daily Lives much more than we often realize, and sometimes I think more than they realize themselves.
I think part of the disillusion the Public has with their Politicians and Political System stems from some of the Politicians behaving outright monstrously. Of feeling powerless to be heard, that their words fall on deaf or willfully ignorant ears. Some of our Politicians are more loyal to a party or an ideology, a hierarchy that is lead by some very sick People. Yet some are kind, some are trustworthy. Some have such good hearts and minds I would not feel safe with anyone else in their position they have now.
For those that supported me, Thank You very much. I tried to offer something different, something that would change this World we are in, in the most positive of senses.
I'll try every day to keep doing that.
Every day, we get to try again.
Often the smallest of voices are drowned out in the noise. In this City we have a surprisingly large amount of Poor. The North Side of Lethbridge is home to many People who do not have the luxuries of being able to work just one job but must juggle two or three to make ends meet. In this Municipal Byelection the North Side of Lethbridge was not mentioned once. The popular topics were Downtown and the Budget. As time goes on and prices rise we will see more and more becoming less and less able to afford their Lifestyle.
My political affiliations side with what the Government can do in order to ensure that there is a social floor, a base to which no one is allowed to go beyond. That we as a society would not allow someone to become so destitute and alone that they become impoverished. That is part of what Leadership does; not to "create jobs" but rather encourage prosperity by any means they can with the tools they have. To reinforce what we call Community.
For me, this included setting up the infrastructure for Community Gardens, to amend Bylaw 3383 and allow for People to raise Hens in their backyard if they so choose, to switch our dependency in this City from Natural Gas over to Renewable Energy Resources, to reinforce what we call Community. All of my platform points seek to alleviate symptoms of Poverty and increase the quality of Life for the City of Lethbridge.
The Arts and Artists of this City have added to my quality of Life. Recently, a pal of mine pointed out that just a few years back you would never see the mainstream Community come Downtown, let alone walk into Galt Gardens. Now when there are events like the Electric Eye Music Festival, Love and Records, and Art Walk the People come out and take part. In Galt Gardens there is the new fountain where all members of the Community come out and share. There is more activity Downtown now than there ever was, and that is because of the Arts. Ever since I was a little kid I found Lethbridge to value their Arts and Artists, as they help to beautify our City, to bring People together, and help create Community. Politicians have never changed the world for the better as much as Artists have.
We are not isolated in our own little worlds, we are all part of this World. We are all part of this Community, this Country, and this Planet. Each of us has a voice that deserves to be heard, no matter how marginalized.
At any given time there are 10,000 Native People in the City of Lethbridge. Many are employed, many are professionals, and many are Students. The Street People represent a small portion of the Native population in Lethbridge and Southern Alberta, and yet to the ignorant represent the entirety. To me, the Street People represent our failing as a Community and Society. They represent our own vulnerability as a Community...that we as a society have allowed this to happen. That we allowed some, who for various reasons (mental illness, F.A.S.D, Addiction, Pain, and Poverty) become so destitute and alone many of us look at them as a burden. We have allowed the vulnerable to fall, and that shame is not on them, but on those who choose to not help them stand.
This World is not a Game. This World deserves Leaders who know what the Community needs, and you can't find that in a budget or some political rhetoric. Real Leaders go out into the Community and observe, they read between the lines, and they act when action is needed. Real Leaders lead by example, and find solutions to problems that seem insoluble.
We have a present and future to care for, the decisions we make now will reverberate for generations to come.
Make a good decision on who you vote for today.
Food sustainability is incredibly important for our present and future. Not only in an economic sense of always climbing food prices, but also in regard to our environment. I have used the term "urban agriculture" in reference to community gardens and food forest development, and implicitly as well to the keeping of backyard chickens in the municipality.
In municipalities across the continent more and more People and Governments are realizing the importance of creating the infrastructure for a food sustainable future. Not only will creating the infrastructure alleviate symptoms of poverty, but can also indirectly stimulate local economy. If People spend less of their money on attaining their basic needs such as food, then they can spend their money elsewhere.
City of Lethbridge Bylaw 3383 deals with the keeping of Rabbits and Poultry for food purposes. This bylaw came into effect in 1983 and needs revisiting. As a person running for a position on Lethbridge City Council, I would like to amend this bylaw if elected to allow for a limited number of egg producing hens. This would, of course, be regulated to maintain the high safety standards of the community, for not only the Human population but for the Hens as well. Oak bay Victoria has already had much success with the introduction of their community members legally owning hens, and keep the hens at "five (5) for a parcel of area between 745 m2 and 1,858 m2" as an example. Many people in Lethbridge already are keeping hens discreetly in their backyards with no noise, health, or safety concerns.
There are some harsh realities we must face as a society such as ever increasing food and utility prices, and the ever growing divide between the ultra wealthy and poor. Urban agriculture confronts many of these realities in very direct ways. The establishment of infrastructure to move towards sustainable food sources not only will have positive effects on the financial well being of the community, but the overall health of our community as well. People were meant to work with the Earth, and so we should respect that relationship.
Community Gardens and Backyard Chickens are ways to respect that relationship, a way to move into the future by reclaiming the past.
I really appreciate that No Drilling Lethbridge was able to fend off Goldenkey Oil from drilling Hydraulic Fracture wells on the West side of Lethbridge. This was done through a lot of work by awesome People I know....through them going out and getting signatures on petitions and going out to protest.
It wasn't our Leaders that made the decision though, it was Goldenkey themselves, looking at the situation and, after intense public opposition, they ran away with their tails tucked in.
This was a good thing for the World, and North America definitely, because it shows that the voices of People are listened to, and if a strategic fight is put in motion with good old fashioned petitioning and protesting, decisions can be swayed and lives can be changed. AWESOME.