Michelle Dawn Kirkham
I am new to Twitter and since I’ve joined this past year, I’m surprised at how many people are ignorant about First Nations history and struggles, oppression really.
I am a Woodland Cree from Lac la Ronge Saskatchewan, and my opinion is fact ... as this is what I went through, this is what I’ve experienced.
Racism has been prevalent throughout most of my childhood, teen and adult years. I was adopted into a white family at the age of 4 (part of the 1960s scoop) in southern Saskatchewan. I have brown skin and had daily lessons about finding my identity in Canadian culture. When I was growing up I was constantly teased, harassed and beat up at times from some boys in an all white school of 300 plus kids, (only a handful of us Native kids). I was made to feel ashamed of my skin, I did allow it to define me, hence the drug and alcohol abuse. So, yes, I have had my issues with drugs and alcohol, but at the end of the day, it does not define who I am.
Don’t get me wrong, I love and respect my adopted family, but there is so much history of negativity and judgements because of color, and the stigma, that we are all welfare bums and alcoholics. There is a lack of understanding and respect about our history and culture. I believe this is what allows hate and racism to continue.
When I was in grade school, there was no teaching of our culture etc. It should be mandatory, for all schools, and people are missing out on something that could benefit everyone.
When I see racism and close-mindedness being played out everywhere, I often think to myself how much those people are imprisoned in their own minds. The weight of the hate they carry around must be so draining. My heart’s cry isn’t for them to be put in their place, but that they would take those blinders off, and take advantage of opportunities to glean and grow from one another. It’s not that hard really, but sometimes it is a bit humbling, which is the best pace to be anyway.
I have tried to hate, but I could not. My experiences have shaped and defined who I am today, and I’m good with that, including the ugly. So, I embrace and welcome change, if only the ignorant would do the same. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s a mind trap.
Michelle Dawn Kirkham is Woodland Cree, and Youth Care Worker for at-risk youth. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org