I want you to consider building a better future for the next seven generations, writes Mike "O'dah ziibing (Heart of the river) Ashkewe
O'dah ziibing indizhinikaaz. I am Heart of the river. I am also a Sixties Scoop survivor, and I am a product of Canada’s violence and colonization against its Indigenous population.
I was raised as someone who only knew being Indigenous as a hustle, and it was something not to be proud of, but rather hidden and shameful. I was stripped of my culture, my language and the very core of my Ojibwe identity. I would not begin to explore who I was until I started to attend college in 2006. Even then I would face racism and I was relatively alone there. I started to talk with people who looked like me, had the same experiences as me from rural Ontario, but also I would be exposed to new things. I was exposed to compassion, understanding, and empathy. I was welcomed as an Indigenous student and I could be proud of where I came from.
It would take the lawsuit against Canada regarding the Sixties Scoop for me to really begin to explore my roots, discover who I was, and what my blood was calling to. My biological mother, Kim gave me up when she was a teenager and as a result, we didn’t have a traditional relationship and she never told me about where I really came from. She told me about the lawsuit and what it meant. She told me that I was illegally adopted by the people I thought were my parents, and she told me that a lot of my childhood was a lie that was wrapped in an alleged compassion.
I would meet a group known as the 60s Scoop Legacy of Canada and that would prove to be an amazingly transformative experience. I would learn about the true horror of the scoop but most importantly, I would learn that I was not alone, and that my story was not unique. I had brothers and sisters who were united in a painful experience that was considered completely legal and only spoken about in hushed tones, hidden in plain sight.
This is where I would begin my journey in earnest and I would talk to elders, advocates, politicians and others in asking hard questions but chiefly among them,
A lawsuit would be filed against Canada and it would be settled and it was determined that our stolen childhoods, cultures and languages were worth a paltry $25,000. Our very identity was determined to be worth less than the poverty level for a single family of two. This hardly seems fair but then again, when has Canada ever been fair to the country’s original inhabitants?
I decided that my trauma could be something I could harness and use to fight back for a better tomorrow for my people. We have a belief in our culture that speaks of seven generations and that our actions will echo forward seven generations. There is an opportunity to rebuild, grow and change the future of our shattered cultures and fractured relationships. I look back at all the wrongs that have been done, and I have promised that I would not willingly allow that to happen to another person again regardless of what colour their skin was.
My Indigenous spirit name translates to “Heart of the river” in Ojibwe. My name means that I build community and like the river, I can connect all things and be the flow of life itself. Water connects all living things and is the essence of life, it is necessary to all things and it is necessary to build successful communities.
We can’t change the past but we can change what happens in the future and we can promise that we won’t willingly visit those wounds upon future generations.
O'dah ziibing indizhinikaaz. I am Heart of the river. I am a Sixties Scoop survivor and I want you to consider building a better future for the next seven generations.
Mike "O'dah ziibing / Heart of the river) Ashkewe is from Neyaashiinigmiing, Ontario. Mike is a disability and Indigenous activist in the city of Guelph. Mike has had a career in the media since 2007 in a variety of different roles such as commentator, reporter and podcaster.
He also wrote: