I’m qel’nal’hw, I’m angry and this I freely admit because this has been my reality for much of my life, but not all of it. The qel’nal’hw that I now carry with me that will not abate is due to two factors, love and hate. The hate that created this reality for me is the racist, violent, destructive reality that I have been mired in all of my life, and the love is the love of those who are also suffering due to the never ending destruction, oppression, racism and violence due to colonial occupation and racial genocide inflicted against everyone and everything I love deeply and am protective of. My qel’nal’hw came into existence long, long ago when this racist, colonial hate was directed towards my lhe sila, my grandmother.
My lhe sila was easily the most wonderful human being I ever had the honour and fortune of knowing, it was she who made my life magical, beautiful and worth living. It is because of her that I still have so many good memories to counter the never ending misery that the colonial racist reality is creating. Due to her I have had positive experiences and memories, of picking berries with her, helping her in the garden, going on long walks with her, drawing pictures for her, eating my mush for her, doing the dishes for her, working on my sewing and beading for her, going to the beach to dig clams. Although I will admit, when it came to the clams, I was not that good of a helper, I would dig a few clams, but then the shqwun’u being so near was too much for me to resist, it would not be long before I would find myself the appropriate log and stick to paddle and be off over the waves on my own personal little canoe. My lhe sila never scolded me for this though, she never scolded me for anything, she was quite happy, digging clams and watching us play, as she had done and all the children had done for thousands of years when the shqwun’u called to us to come and play. And this is when I was happiest, and never once made to feel qel’nal’hw.
You see when I was a small child I was not qel’nal’hw, I was not qel’nal’hw with my pure anglo cousins when they taunted me for being a looking like little blond Indian in the summer when the sun bleached out my hair. I was after all a little blond Indian, being of racially mixed blood. When I was just a little girl I did not understand what was behind those laughs and that teasing, I just thought my bigger cousins were a tad simple for finding humour in what was to me obvious and rather insignificant fact, that I had a better tan than they did. I never mentioned their pallid complexions, I never even considered the differences in our appearances back then, nor did anyone take the time to explain to me what my skin pigment had to do with any of it. At least they were nicer than the kids I went to school with, they never beat me up like those kids did. Even that did not make me qel’nal’hw when I was very little, it made me cry sometimes, when the group of them hurt me bad enough I cried, but only found out that that would make them hurt me even more so I learned not to cry.
The teachers who were in charge had many rules, we had to line up just so, we had to sing Oh Canada just so, we had to say the Lords prayer just so, we had to keep our books, coats and pencils in their proper place, print our lessons perfectly with the lines on our note books, but there was no rule against those daily assaults that I was aware of. If I broke any of the other rules or failed to do anything asked of me just so I was punished but no punishment was ever inflicted on those kids for beating me up so I assumed that was just the way it was and violence became part of my daily lessons and life. I did not get qel’nal’hw until the day I got beaten up for wearing the new dress my lhe sila had made for me. When they made fun of that dress because it was home made and not store purchased like their clothes where, when they called me poor, and when they ripped it and it became soiled with my blood, and I knew how much it would hurt her when she found out I got very, very qel’nal’hw. No one insults or hurts my lhe sila and gets away with it, after that even though I was much smaller and very much out numbered, I worked very hard and figured out pretty quick where to hit them and how to get them to the ground to lay the beating on them instead. I’ve lost some fights since that day, got bloody again but it I was never, ever the one crying, that I cannot do anymore.
The truth was I had a white daddy too, how he came to be married to a native woman is perhaps the subject for another story but not today. He was just as violent, nasty, racist and rich as theirs, I was not poor but I was just a miserable in spirit with him as they were with their white daddies, but not with my lhe sila. I wanted to wear the clothes my lhe sila made for me, I wanted part of her with me when I had to go to that awful place. It was bad enough being there amongst them, I sure did not want to wear what they wore, I didn’t want to be like them. Sure my lhe sila was poor, economically, my native family has always struggled under the systematic, racist, oppression brought about by Canada, when they illegally occupied our lands. That is the reality no matter what their classification of you is, whether they consider you status or not, you will suffer no matter what.
She was also very rich in the ways that mattered, ways that those people could not understand, their hateful, greedy minds were closed by their racist culture, they still are. If they did not continually make me qel’nal’hw and have to fight with them I may of even felt sorry for them. They didn’t have lhe sila making clothes for them like I did, all they had were store bought and paid for meaningless rags to wear and nasty store bought food to eat, no good clams, berries and fish like I had. No good stories, or games or walks, they just had their t.v.’s and sat in the back of their parents cars going from shop to shop, but I never figured that was any fault of ours so I refuse to feel pity for them.
My lhe sila would have probably scolded me if she knew all the kids I beat on and made cry after that day, she probably would have been sad had she known about all the white men I left bruises on in my life too, but I never told her because I never wanted her to be sad and I know these people hurt her too and some things we just don’t talk about to spare those we love. Honestly though I have not had any choice in the matter, it was not like I went looking for white men to beat up on, I am not stupid, they are a lot bigger than me and taking them is not easy but not impossible. Every time violence came it was them looking for someone to hurt, and it isn’t very practical to let someone physically harm or sexually assault you now is it? And it isn’t like the police would do anything to help me if I let them have their way, more likely they would thump me too so I stay clear of them people.
Also I know I am luckier than most, never had to go to those ugly residential schools, but those are just a piece of the nasty that Canada has dumped on us and continues to dump on us and the Mother. And I am very qel’nal’hw about those too, I am not in the least pleased about the amount of misery and horrors so many are still enduring due to that lovely attempt at Christian charity. And I become qel’nal’hw every time Canadians open their mouths and make their racist comments regarding the survivors, or any of us, or worse when try to play victim because they chose to be ignorant and believe the con their government uses in the matter, that makes me qel’nal’hw.
When I walk past a native person who is coping with the trauma by getting drunk or using other poison or when someone who refers to themselves as a ‘dirty little Indian’, I become qel’nal’hw again. Every time the agents of the colonial people’s government takes a child from their family and places them with strangers, when they take that child from their lhe sila in order to assimilate them to their hateful culture which is a very cruel act I again become quite qel’nal’hw. I get qel’nal’hw when they steal more of our resources, or dump their garbage and poison all over the place polluting everything, or makes plans to destroy more of the Mother on our un-ceded territories, it makes me qel’nal’hw! I could continue to list many, many more examples of what makes me qel’nal’hw about the colonial oppression and genocide of so much and so many, but I will spare the reader and instead leave it to the individuals to perhaps research and consider the reality, develop and exercise your empathy for a time and if you do perhaps you will understand the one thing that makes me most qel’nal’hw and that is when some settler says, yet again, ‘I don’t see why we can’t all just be Canadians!’
To those people all I can say is ‘That is the truth, you don’t see so why not simply just open your eyes for a change!’