Yep, and the most irritating anyone can say to me about it is… “You don’t look it.”
What’s that supposed to mean? Well to me it means you believe in the stereotypes more than you know actual First Nations people. My dad is French Canadian from the East Coast of New Brunswick, so another description that irritates me is, “Oh, so you’re a half-breed or Metis.”
No, and no. I’m not a dog. And the Metis are a certain group of people who banded together during vogeur times to establish a unique identity for themselves. You don’t generally create ‘new’ Metis but combining a First Nations person and a French person in modern times, yet I’m sure it happens that way for some – just not me. My dad wasn’t a voyageur or Metis, he was French Canadian.
I have the right to define my identity as I see fit. If you ask me what I am – my answer changes. I am proud to be all of these things. I am a full-status Ojibwe kwe (woman) AND a French Canadian. However, I wasn’t raised French Canadian, I don’t speak French, nor do I speak Ojibwe. However I speak a little of both languages. I do practise and live a large number of my Ojibwe teachings and I participate in the living culture of my Ojibwe community. Yes, an actual Indian Reserve. I understand the history of myself better as an Ojibwe woman than any other part of myself. I’m also not an Indian – Indians are from India, however my own government still holds onto those labels so we must also regularly deal with them.
I identify primarily as Ojibwe because that is how I live. That is who my closest family is. I write novels for my blended Ojibwe children about being this blend of cultures. “Strawberries and Sweetgrass” was self-published on Amazon and Kindle. I didn’t write to fit into your genres. In fact my book was rejected by traditional publishers because it’s content was too Ojibwe, yet it was also rejected by First Nations publishers for not being Ojibwe enough. So you see no matter where I go I’ve had to forge my own identity. I am many things and Ojibwe is a strong part of me that I am very proud to live, teach and fight for.
I don’t fit your stereotypes nor will I strive to do so. I will fight for my rights to be who I am on my own terms. I am a proud Ojibwe kwe who will stand up against ignorance and stereotypes for all. If you have questions, I am very knowledgable about the history of my people, something I feel is not taught well enough in schools. For a start history of First Nations should not begin at the time of contact nor should it skip over Residential Schools, government oppression and genocide. But I know that most people just want a simple answer to all questions, as stereotype is easier to process because it requires less work to understand it.
I am Ojibwe. And that’s me, keeping it simple because this one word hold the greatest truth for me and my identity.