Four years ago some very loving and kind ladies I met online at the WTE Sept babies forum, heard I was having a very hard time with paying rent, buying food, and then celebrating Christmas. They rallied round and we got a food hamper delivery, Christmas presents, and money for presents too. Then my cousin and his wife gave me their Christmas hamper from our nation as well. Wow. My heart was over flowing and how blessed I felt that my kids had presents to open and we had a turkey to cook for baby Jesus, and therein lies a huge reason why we stopped christmas and just said no to the addiction that is cheap consumer goods in the name of a god we don’t believe in and who’s followers tried their very best to commit genocide on us.
The stress, the capitalism, the unsatisfied kids and us when it came present time and no one got what they were wishing for. The fact that Santa was way nicer to kids with rich parents and we are not Christians nor have we ever been. How is it we could celebrate the birth of Jesus, and celebrate a religion that not only harmed us through residential schools and molestation, but also colonized and conquered so many of the indigenous cultures in their own land? Millions died to make Christianity the world power it is today and it felt like the worst kind of hypocrisy to perpetuate this belief system into our children’s psyche any longer, in my spirit I just knew something didn’t ring true and I felt I was disrespecting not only Christians but my ancestors. We have a rich and living culture with our own times of feasting, gifting, and celebrating. So why were we celebrating Christmas? How come it was so important to keep up the status quo and make sure my kids sat on a fat old white guys lap and tell him their wishes? Hope mongers, sad fact is that most ndn kids will not even get close to what they hoped for, or need at Christmas time. It seemed awful to tell them Christmas miracles happened and then year after year they see the lie and fallacy of pretending to be happy. Christmas is a great big facade over the veneer of dominant culture. Why do so many get depressed over the holidays? Why do so many commit suicides over the holidays rather than any other time of the year? This is because society feeds us a commercial lie, a lie that Christmas miracles happen, that all our troubles will be fixed, that instant credit will relieve of us debt for the month so we can purchase unrealistic items that will be swiftly forgotten over the year. Christmas has never solved anyone’s problems and in fact can create such a debt that people pay it off until the next year.
Christmas is for white people and is a lie, you don’t ever see anyone in the commercials and the ads in the malls that look like us. In all the shows and the Christmas specials on TV there is never any mention of our people or what we suffered through. Or for that matter you never see a commercial with a happy “first nations” family looking super rich and buying each other the latest $1000 tablet like assholes. We are the forgotten and hated bastard children of a society that would rather we were not here to make them feel uncomfortable.
Growing up the way I did, I lost faith in santa really early. Living in Buffalo New York with my mother were some of the coldest winters I had experienced in both my life and of course in actual degrees. Getting a broken slinky placed on the TV because we had no tree and watching my mama fake hilarity with drugs to make herself feel better for having nothing left a lingering hatred and sadness that to this day still hurts my little girl heart. I remember spending a Christmas with my dad and other mother. He told me before I went to bed about solstice and while I lay in bed and cried for my sisters and mama it was comforting to think of my ancestors dancing and singing by the firelight on the longest night of the year, celebrating something that was OURS and for us.
Giving it up was easy… for us. Not so much for the children, we still celebrate on the solstice and have food, presents, and family time but I know it is hard on them because we are “different” for the younger ones they are happy to be different and tell their classes we celebrate our own way. For the older ones they get it and love us and celebrate with us, but the middle ones the teens it’s harder for them to accept it. They still feel left out and weird, it’s hard on teens to be seen as different from the norm. They have asked us why, why can’t we be normal or be like other families. Why do we always have to do things in a way that no one else does. There is no easy answer for that and in struggling to find where we fit in this world that is seeking to assimilate us and create a global village of many different and beautiful cultures sometimes I feel lost in our goals as well. It would be way easier to just follow the colonial flow and participate in the death of our culture at the hands of cheap consumerism.
Mostly though crazy childhood aside (thanks genocide, manifest destiny, and colonization) I got tired of making snide comments on Christmas day. I got tired of being the “hater” and realized oh yes, I have free will; I am an autonomous being with a rich culture history and love of indigenous life. I felt shame and anger for participating in a celebration that felt weak to me and I felt bad for putting my feelings into the celebrations of those I loved. The situation was unfair to us all, it’s not my place to tell anyone how to celebrate but I can remove myself from that which carries such a heavy price tag and allow others the joy they feel but I cant bare to mimic any more. Not to say that I didn’t spend my fare share of years desperately trying to keep up with a mainstream ideal of what holidays are and spend a shit ton of money we didn’t have on a day I can now openly and with relief say I hate.
We have family members who are Christians and my husband and I respect their right to believe in what they believe in for any reason, as is there ‘god’ given right. For us though we knew and felt a different way was appropriate to us and our culture. We decided to stop celebrating a religion that was and still is central in the colonization of our people, our strength is in our resolve and we knew that to protect our own sense of history, self, and our indigenous identity we could no longer pretend. Our children deserve better. They deserve to know the reality of consumerism, corporatism, and Christianity, how the last 50 years in Canada is a big white washed lie and that we are not all participants in this scheme.
The children of our people have a right to know our own celebrations, have a right to be proud of whom they are. Reinforcement is needed to create a healthy relationship of our ways, many decry our culture is dying yet do nothing more than pay lip service to the teachings that are begging for us to recognize and revive them. This is so important to me, it is a dream to see our nations reclaiming our indigenous celebrations and celebrating them freely and proudly. It is ok for us not to be like the dominant culture, how freeing to know now is a time when it is not illegal to practice our ways, the Indian agent is not going to come and jail us for singing and dancing; anymore. The shame and the past history that has wounded us all even those yet to be born does not have to impact our spirits so deeply that we do not even remember our own ways. Reclaiming the very real and relevant holidays that our people enjoyed has to be much deeper and more involved then it is.
Today in these times of shopping malls, plastics, mining that impacts indigenous people for the electronics we so desperately need is not our way. Yes we are all complicit in attaching ourselves to these products and rabid consumerism. Christmas and Easter are the biggest scam in colonial history. Sacred ancient customs and reverent ceremonies have been taken and bastardized by corporate culture until it is so twisted today that it would be unrecognizable to the people from a century ago. I aint no angel and I have definitely been and am as GUILTY as the bible says Eve was for the original sin, yes I admit I get sucked into the consumer nightmare. BUT as I grow and evolve I can RESIST, and resist I do. We do not need to feel guilt or different for these acts of resurgence and sovereignty. Giving up Christmas is not a trend or a band wagon, it’s a jump into a whole world of unknown adventures, a lifestyle, living closely to the earth and feeling the pain our mama is enduring for our toys, purses, iPhones, make up, and toilet paper (another pet peeve for another time LOL). Not to mention ‘thanksgiving’ and the reality for indigenous of the new world eating turkey on a day celebrating contact and the beginning of our genocide is like Jewish people giving thanks and celebrating the day Hitler opened Auschwitz.
How can we be self determined if we are not reclaiming every last little bit that was stolen from us, beat from us, and shamed from us. How can we entertain the ideas of governing ourselves if we are not a culture whole and as intact as we can be after contact and colonization has damaged us so? Our elders are dying, literally for us to talk with them, learn from them, record their knowledge in our hearts and minds and share it with those younger than us. I suffer tremendous guilt and shame some times because even though I am busy and have plenty of beautiful brown babies to look after I still feel badly. I don’t visit enough, learn enough, or try harder.
To be a good ancestor in the living flesh means to do all we are able to ensure the continuity of our living history, culture, lands, and celebrations. This means eschewing the ways of the colonizing culture, and working hard at reintroducing ourselves to our own ways, it’s easy in theory to do but even as committed as my husband and I are, it still creeps in. When we feel discouraged I just pray and think of how happy those in the other realm who are watching over us are to know that we did not forget. That all their hard work, and efforts in keeping the sacred bloodlines open and the connection to us was not in vain. The knowledge that died with the genocide and the attempted extinction is still there. It is in running in our veins, it is in our spirits, and it is in our ceremonies. When I sing, when I dance, when I share ceremony my spirit and my ancestors are always reaffirming this is right, this is good, you are making us happy and we are grateful. It breaks my heart wide open and pride and rightness fills me to an agony of joy. I have never felt so emotional and fulfilled celebrating Christmas, Easter, or thankstaking. To feel the touch of those who have gone before is a gift that I treasure and a right that we all have as the true people of these lands. Our ancestors died for this moment. They had faith in us, let us keep the faith and honor them. We are living ancestors and we must against all odds work our asses off to do them justice. The way they worked for us. Every time we breathe we are their breath and they feed us with the gifts of heart pumping, lungs swelling.
Of course on this journey we had many questions and not enough answers, we got heart but we are sadly human and real and we can only learn as we go. In recreating the old realities of our people we asked around and found the affirmations we so longed for. YES! Solstice was special and acknowledged and the people celebrated these days of the sun sitting still on the water. We celebrate Ti’Kwaas, we are still learning and are brand new at this so I can imagine many mistakes in what we do but with the passing of knowledge that we were gifted with and with our own sense of family, fun, and uniqueness we have fumbled our way to a celebration that fits us as a family and is culturally appropriate.
One of the many questions our children asked us was what about Santa, what about a tree, what about food and presents. Can we still decorate? So we made our own stories to ease the transition. Instead of Santa we have the Solstice Sasquatch (many interesting and disturbingly funny pictures ensued) we gave him water, and fish for a snack. Thankfully we didn’t get eaten but there was much screeching and joking in the night, Solstice Sasquatch (who I always picture looking like a happy Chewbacca with a mac jacket on) got some very endearing and interesting letters from the kids and me alike. Instead of a Christmas tree we have the holy Kwakmis Tree, kwakmis is a seafood indigenous to our area and it is the roe of herring, trees are used to catch the eggs so we can eat them and it felt right to place our hopes for a big herring run in that tree and wish to be rich in kwakmis during the season.
Of course we still struggle. There is temptation everywhere around us. Happy people passing out cards, wearing santa hats, and the droningly familiar Christmas songs that remind me of sad lonely holidays, and ghosts of drunken Christmas past, there is the feeling of once again being alone in a different way because we for some reason just can’t conform. We are the boulder that tumbled into the river and created the stream for a new way. Memories of shopping trips and crazy money spending in a fervour that rivals any addiction, the many Christmas parties and get together’s with friends and family. Sexy Mrs. Clause outfits in the name of baby jesus were lost to me forever more. I’m ok with that after all, since when was Christmas for mindless shopping for consumer goods that probably was made by a factory slave, or impoverished child in the indigenous lands of somewhere else. If Christians want to keep the Christ in Christmas then they need to stay out of the malls, and those who aren’t need to stop appropriating a culture, cultural appropriation goes both ways. They take from us and we in turn take from them. When it really comes down to it, part of decolonizing and taking back our warrior spirit is so much more than speaking about it, writing about it, or teaching about it. It is about living and breathing it. Who cares whether my makeup is MAC, or my purse is Chanel, or if my kids only wear racist Gap duds? Not me and certainly not my husband. There have been many times I have felt the all too real urge to say fuck it and get into the Christmas spirit with my friends and family and just do it like Nike; thankfully as the seasons pass this urge has gotten less and less.
There is a responsibility I have a life and love that transcends the frippery and froth of vapid self indulgence and competition that these mainstream holidays bring; and it’s unhealthy. It’s dangerous because in these homogenized holidays there is a feeling that we are losing our humanity our compassion and our strength as a people. For every holiday of our own that we ignore for the holidays of the settler society a baby Solstice Sasquatch dies. JUST KIDDING; but you get my drift. It’s just too chancy to risk losing our own ways just so we can be seen to be fitting into Canadian ideology and the flakiness that makes this country what it is today.
Yes we still feast, and gift but we don’t appropriate someone else’s culture to do so; we shop for very little we buy used, we make things, and we spend quality time together and enjoy the life we carved for ourselves outside of the consumer culture of the dominant society. For some they may say we do it to be different and to get attention, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. We do it because we care. As dorky and menial as it sounds we care about the planet, and the air, and we care what we put into fuelling a society that runs on money and destruction. We care about the lands we live on and we know that life is realer than that.
A large part of our decolonization was giving up on these things, the ways of the colonizer and the mentality of the dominant culture. They came and they killed, they settled, they stole, and then now 500 years later we are told to get over it and that we can’t mourn it. Thousands and thousands and thousands of years of history and culture, since time immemorial we resided on this coast, such a rich long history. Forgive us if we choose not to get over it and as more people are awakening and seeing the way that holidays like thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter perpetuate the new mythology of Canada as a melting pot of cultures even as it strives to forget the way that it sought to exterminate the first peoples of this land, they might realize and take matters into their own hands and lives and walk away from these holidays.
Many think that we reject these things out of anger and that we are haters but the simple truth is these ways harmed our people and participating in the culture of the colonizer, that seeks to make traditions out of hockey, and tim hortons coffee is anathema to me. How could anyone once they realize the truth of the matter and acclimatize themselves to the real history of the way that Canada treated us participate in what is essentially the celebratory patting themselves on the back that they won, they assimilated what they couldn’t exterminate, and the fact we turn our back on our own culture to celebrate the one they made up to pretend at longevity here in our lands is nothing less than a betrayal to our own ancestors.
The life we chose is not an easy path, it is fraught with many dangers and the realist danger we face is of our own people who are comfortable collaborating with the colonizers. We face the scorn and the ridicule of our peers by holding strong and resisting assimilation, many of our people forgot it’s only been a generation or two when we were forced to celebrate or face the wrath of the colonizers. Colonizers through the means of the breakdown of our families; relocation, residential schools, and the church has done its job well; That is no excuse though in these days of awakening to our spirits and our culture, it’s so much more than singing and dancing, it is ceremony and reclaiming our own ways, it is living and breathing it all day, a lifestyle.
There has been a shift in the way we do things our world has been turned upside down and we have accepted the flipped world as our own. This world is as new to the dominant culture as it is to us, we were busy being raped and killed and while we were clinging to replenishing our people and surviving to this day they were busy with inventing new ways to make life easier and in doing so they have destroyed much of the new world. Part of waking up is remembering our obligations to every ancestor we have, that bled into the land and died so we could be here today. Those who hid our medicine and ceremonies so we could have the privilege of being able to practice them, our obligation is to respect the history that brought us here and to return to our ways of old. There is no reason we have to access and partake in the plastic and fake lives of the jersey shore world, of shopping in the name of baby jesus.
Creator put me here, put us all here in this time and in this life at this time, we made the choice when we were spirits residing in the Milky Way to come down to earth and be here, in that choice and with Creators will we have to realize and recognize our true journey here on this planet. What is the purpose of those of us who are collectively sharing this space? Colonization is all around us, those who choose to live on the avails of colonialism are living in the veneer of the western world. A space designed to enslave our minds and keep us compliant; a space that is used to create a false sense of security, this world is one of white noise to drown out the songs and the voices of our ancestors, and our very spirits. We need to remember our realness, we don’t have to do what they say, live to work, work to live, we can step outside of the colonizers world and create our own sovereign spaces. When our own people laugh, and look down at us, we can be comforted in the fact that we are beginning to find each other, slowly we are gathering and sharing, and those of us who remember and feel in our hearts the wrongness of the corporate government world structures are drawing our lines in the sand, we are declaring war on westernized society, colonialism and we are not afraid for the world to hear our war cry.
If you feel me, give up holidays and start building, villages are waiting for you to help breath life back into them..