When I see the cultural appropriation and identity theft of Indigenous people — the Latimer situation and others like it — it stirs something ancient in me, that resonates deep like the heartbeat of Mother Earth herself.
I was part of the Sixties Scoop. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it refers to the tens of thousands of Indigenous children apprehended by the government to be assimilated and raised in non-Indigenous homes. In my case, the AIM (Adopt Indian and Métis) program of Saskatchewan from the 1960s and 1970s placed me permanently in a white family in small-town Saskatchewan.
I am part of the national Sixties Scoop settlement which seeks to compensate those wronged by the erasure of our cultural identity and birthright.
Now, five decades later, that loss echoes in all that I am and do. I make my home in Témiscaming, Quebec on the beautiful Ottawa River. I remain an activist on Indigenous issues, but the recent spotlight on Indigenous identity, race shifting and cultural appropriation tears at the core of me. I find myself sitting wondering, where is my buffalo robe?
The buffalo robe I speak of is my Indigenous identity (Plains Cree) and I am one of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people displaced by centuries of Canadian government policy, left to forge my Indigenous self from scraps left by politicians, capitalism and exploitation. That's why these issues strike so deeply for Indigenous people.
My buffalo robe is my identity. It is my jingle dress on the pow wow trail. When I dance, the spirits move me and I dance without tiring, without shame and with great pride. Pow wow is a ceremony: flying ribbons, eagle feathers, all the colours of the rainbow moved by the resilience and humility of my people — a glimpse of that sacred buffalo robe on my shoulders.