Friday, March 31, 2017


Wampum from the National Gallery in Ottawa
Wampum teachings have caught my interest the past few weeks.  The first paper I read was by Angela M. Haas “Wampum as Hypertext: An American Indian Intellectual Tradition of Multimedia Theory and Practice”.  I will review  a couple of the other article over the next few weeks.  This article interested me as I have personal experience of the teachings of beads, a child very interested in computer languages and two children who are learning disabled, so that other ways of preserving and distributing information than written text is of particular interest for me.  As I was reading this article, the children and I also undertook some research on wampum and then they wrote stories in wampum/symbols.

In this article, Haas describes what wampum is and makes the argument that it should be considered as a kind of hypertext and part of the technological history of indigenous people on Turtle Island.  She sets out to show how, "...wampum belts have extended human memories of inherited knowledges through interconnected, nonlinear designs and associative storage and retrieval methods - long before the "discovery" of Western hypertext." Haas argues that indigenous peoples should be recognized as the first multimedia intellectuals on Turtle Island.  She acknowledges that there is not a direct continuity between wampum and hypertext, but rather wants a recognition that wampum is a sophisticated method of data transmition that should be positioned as part of the intellectual tradition of data storage and retrieval.

Hass describes how the messages in wampum records require regular community "reading" of the message while simultaneously revisiting the relationship between the people who are part of the message.  She speaks of it as, "embodied memory...extends human memories of inherited knowledge via interconnect, nonlinear designs..."  We tend to think of this kind of layered communication of text, meaning and message as being a modern development arising from a linear western European tradition. But it is really an integral part of ingenious thinking bringing to mind the medicine wheel and it's multiple teachings and meanings.

Haas argues that the intellectual history of hypertext has followed the western linear story of discovery, exploration and exploitation, but that there is value in reclaiming older Turtle Island stories about hypertext in order to challenge the idea that hyper text, and multilayered storage and retrieval of information are new concepts.  This will support a more exclusive vision about how we study technology.

Wampum beads, their colour and the very linkages of these beads produces nodes of knowing.  As colour and design are used by western designers to signify certain information to, so does the wampum usage of colour and material carry messages.  Like memes, reading wampum is only possible when one is part of the community and maintains the knowledge to read this text accurately.  Outside of this context the message is lost.

The other similarity between wampum and hypertext is their non linear nature where one piece of "information "can have multiple layers of meaning and any one node can lead us to something else without resorting to a hierarchy.  They have thus both subverted the traditional hierarchies in information.  They set us free from the card catalogue, a specific shelf in the library, and a specific book.  They allow us to follow the links to the layer of information that we need.

The story that is retrieved from the wampum at anyone time is based in the needs of the readers and their understanding and ability to access the layers in the text.  Wampum she argues extend the oral story across time and space.  It requires a regular returning of the parties to read and extend the information further into time or space.  It refreshes the information and renews the links.  The dead links cease to exist and the community guards against corruption of links, something that is mostly missing in online hypertext.

Her argument shows how we can reclaim indigenous histories of technology and re-fresh our own understanding of how these intellectual traditions interact with indigenous life.  We can reclaim technology as a solely western idea and question the messages we received about whether a particular culture is technologically advanced or not.  Haas suggests that we extend this rethinking to other indigenous technologies and related "literacies" such as petroglyphs, quilts, beading, songs, drums and baskets. 

She notes that, "such research also answers Osage literary scholar Robert Warrior's call to examine how we can make American Indian discourse more inclusive of contemporary American Indian experiences".  This path shows us the cultural continuity of our modern technological tools with older traditions and ways of knowing.  The ideas of indigenaity and technology are complementary, not opposites as they are often constructed.

It is reclaiming intellectual sovereignty and shaping what that means.  It is thinking critically about what we believe and how we fit into the dominant paradigm.  It is telling our own stories about how we got to be here.  It is querying and indigenizing the ways we ask questions and the questions we ask.  Hass says, "I call that we resists the dominant notions of what it means to be technologically "literate or "advanced"(with roots in manifest destiny) and that we critically reflect on struggles for and engage with discussions about digital and visual rhetorical sovereignty."

In small ways I  bring this into my own work by using stories, creating spaces and sharing images that challenge the idea that economists and analysts must be purely rationale and removed from the work we are doing.  This is the idea that we must be pure and put our untouched numbers out for the world.  Cause numbers don't have any biases.  I try to support people to think about themselves (and their biases) as part of these processes.

Telling these renewed stories about the relationship of indigenaity and technology may be challenging.  They won't follow one path for all indigenous people.  They may not be linear and there maybe no heros to hold up.  This is not history with a great man we can look up to.  These stories will be fluid and adapting to changing needs, while preserving the wisom of our ancestors and other (non-human) relations.  These stories will likely be relational and non-hierarchical and will destabilize the colonizers narrative.  Not everyone will welcome this change.

I found this article  a really exciting reclaiming that also suggests tools to navigate the future. We need to address the legacies of the past, but we live now and live in a very changed world from the ancestors.  I think these discussions about how we thrive as indigenous peoples in the now and future are very fascinating.  What does indigenaity look like in the 24th century? 

Métis Fear 226

Deer illustration // by Chris Thornley:
Deer illustration // by Chris Thornley
Métis Fear 226: deer rappers are going to take over my neighborhood and keep us up at night with their sick beats.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Métis Fear 225

Toni De Muro -
Toni De Muro
Métis Fear 225: My Mooshum always told me that I would meet a bear if I wore my shoes on the wrong feet.  I still haven't met that bear.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Beading snake

I finished Runa's white first Moon time dress with the snake.  It is actually more of a shirt but I can easily add fabric later if she wants.  The one I made for my older daughter was almost too small by the time she needed it, so I wanted to generous this time.  I like how the snake turned out.

Métis Fear

This thirsty girl:
Métis Fear: It is not always clear what lessons the animal relations are teaching us.

Maskwa swallows a bitter pill

Maskwa gets caught up in modern life

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fox and rabbitt think about decoloniztion

Elizabeth MacDonald

Métis Fear 224

i don't think i properly fit into outhouses either.:
Métis Fear 224: a bear brother will break my toilet and use up all the toilet paper.

Métis Fear 222

Artodyssey: Nick Eggleston:
Artodyssey: Nick Eggleston
Métis Fear 222: I fear we will get caught up in the fantasies in our minds and not enjoy the wonders all around us.

Indigenize your underpants and outerspace

Susie Johnson created some very cool beaded underwear and Halfbreeds Reasoning has another amazing poem up.

I enjoyed this piece about immigration and I am working through the new Richard Wagamese "Embers" which I would as always recommend.

I found this article about an indigenous woman on the short list to go to space which reminded me of "Métis in Space" if you need to indigenize your listening.

I am always so inspired to see all the awesome things my brothers and sisters and doing.  What are you going to indigenize today?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

Identity futures - Thoughts on the Daniel's Decision

The past few days I have been sitting in on the Daniels Symposium and reading Susan Faludi's book "In the darkroom".  The intertwining of these experiences got me thinking again about identity and its past and future.  Before I go any further though, I want to stress that I respect the different histories and lived experiences of the indigenous peoples across Turtle Island.  I write this with respect.  This issue of identity is not a simple one and I have no solutions, just some thoughts.

The Daniel's Symposium discussions were rooted in two areas.  Firstly, how should membership/ citizenship in the indigenous community be determined and what rights/services should these people have.  It was a contentious discussion given the history of membership criteria and specific issues related to extensions in the definition.  I did not know anything about Qualipu, the metis reserve in Alberta or any of the related membership issues.  People shared some difficult stories.

Over the same days I was reading the new book by Susan Faludi who is the author of "Backlash".  As a young women this Backlash was electrifying.  Faludi set out the state of the world for woman and painted a very clear picture about this issues and challenges for women.  She later wrote a similar book about men in the 1990s.  "In the Darkroom" is a sort of dialogue between these two earlier books and extends these themes to explore how they intertwine with other elements of identity.  The project began with an email from her estranged and enigmatic father announcing a new gender.  The book is her meditation as she tries to understand her father, their family history and unlock what motivated her parent.  Through this time she is drawn into the identity politics of gender, national identity and religious connection.

This book involves a scary excursion into the history of the Jewish population in Hungary and events of the second world war.  Things that seems so far now, but even as I was thinking this, I found myself sitting at the table with a veteran of this war.  Not so far away as we like to pretend.  A war where identity mattered and the wrong one could lead to death.  Unlike our current situation, identify was not just a question of consumer purchase into a community of like minded persons, but something you couldn't escape.  You could not really convert from Judaism.  It was in your blood.  What you did didn't matter.  Blood would show.  This echoed in the symposium as people talked about their experiences of not being Indian enough to be Indian but not white enough to be white.  Half-breed.  Blood would show.

So while we were talking about how the government should act regarding the definition of indigenaity, and really the happiness of people who might be allowed into the tepee, I also thought about the potential darker side of identifying ourselves.  Jews in the late 1800s Hungary were happy to be in an inclusive and safe place where integration was accepted.  This was a time when you could be Jewish and Hungarian, until these very traits became a reason for fear.  These Jews became reviled for the very fact that they could "pass" and thus tainted the vision for a pure Hungary.  While this time feels far away, it is not and we see the continuation of this kinds of thought with the rise of fascist parties in many countries, the rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims.

I am not saying that Daniels is not good for our people.  But it strikes me, that as we work through these issues, we should also think about two things:
1. That the linear idea of history moving towards something "better" is not ours.  It is tempting to see Daniels as a step towards something better.  I hope that it is.  But circle time is our time and bad times may come again for our people.
2.  I recently did a course on forecasting, helping organizations to understand their possible futures and build their muscles and minds to respond to these possible challenges.  As a people, we need to move forward in hope, but also remaining vigilant that we maintain the strengths and tools we need to respond if times get bad.  We need to pay attention to the larger dialogue about identity and belonging in Canada and watch for those paths that may lead us to the darker days again.  To do this, it is my opinion that we need to stand in the intersectional spaces with other groups that suffer these same vulnerabilities; women, the GLBTQ, visible minorities, differently abled peoples and other minorities.

I guess, while we are working through Daniels and who gets in the tepee, we may also want to think deeply about where we are setting up that tepee and try to set that space up in a good neighborhood with a larger community that can support us and whom we cans support.  These were the ways of our people, we don't want to lose our focus on these ways as we are figuring out the specifics on this issue.

Métis Fear 220

Rafal Olbinski.:
Rafal Olbinski.
Métis Fear 220: I don't recognize the full cost of what is on my plate.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Métis Fear 219

Dracula by Susan Herbert from Movie Cats:
Dracula by Susan Herbert from Movie Cats
Métis Fear 219: I may not have been paying adequate attention to my cat's extra curricular activities.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Métis Fear 218

Illustration from a set of Scandinavian Animals:
Métis Fear 218: I haven't given my animal relations enough opportunities to explore their artistic interests.

Letting go of a pretty lie

I have had a hard time writing these past few month.  I have been mourning my attachment to the normatively framed good life.  But that is not our path. The Dr told us there was nothing more they could do for Runa's anxiety.  Sophie was coming home saying she felt stupid all the time.  The whole family has now been diagnosed as clinically depressed and anxious.  The normative good life and the safety of privilege are not for us.

I know that if we are not careful, we will end up each in our own room watching tv to dull the feelings and survive the days.  I don't want to live like that and I don't want to pass on that kind of dysfunction to my children.  I don't want them to see life as something we just get through and family as just another problem you have to negotiate.  I began thinking about options for us as a family.

My oldest, Sophie, now Qrow, identifies as two spirited.  At the same time people kept telling me that I should not "encourage" this behavior and that  Qrow is only identifying this way because "we were too liberal and let her know about these things."  This left me thinking about the choices we had made in raising our children and what we needed to do to support this child as they worked their way through puberty hearing these kinds of messages about the core parts of their self.

Even when it came to marriage where I thought the loyalty issue was pretty clear cut seemed to be in question.  When I asked our Dr what I could do to help my spouse who is disabled, she told me that I did not have to stay married to him and had the option of not dealing with his problems.  The final straw was when the Dr suggested that we could ask children's services to come into our home to help with Runa as there were no other solution.

That was very hard to write.  In that suggestion, all lies I told myself about the normatively framed good life were exposed.   I froze when she said that.  I felt like such a failure as a parent to get to this place and need such a "solution".   I just sat there remembering the residential schools, the 60s scoop, the modern abuses of indigenous children who are in care and I said no.  The Dr was surprised.  She is a nice white lady who would trust the state to look after her children if a Dr told her too.  I felt numb for a while. All of this added up to the certainty that we need to dramatically rethink how we live our life.

I started by pulling the children out of school so that we can homeschool based on the medicine wheel, story medicine and indigenous resources.  We are focusing on taking time for each other and listening more carefully.  We are building skills to support ourselves and each other and we are listening to our bodies.  We are reaching out to the community.  I am pulling together all the reading and research from the past few years to teach my own children about how to be healthy people.  I don't want them to be people who just know how to do math problems, sit quietly and just survive.  We started reading Richard Wagamese aloud each evening and talking about poverty, alcoholism, despair and community.  We are learning about plants that changed the world and the medicines that the creator has given us.  We are playing with rocks and thinking about racism and slavery.  We are taking it slowly.

I feel very nanaskomowin (grateful) for all the lessons that the indigenous community has shared online that I am benefiting from right now.  I am learning from things like Leah Dorian's thesis on growing Cree and Metis children, "Stories, Dreams, and Ceremonies -- Anishinaabe Ways of Learning" by Leanne Simpson (I will review shortly) and Kim Anderson's "A Recognition of Being".  These as more, are providing so much information and courage as I take this step.  While I know this is the right step for our family it is also scary.  It is a path where I can't buy into the myth of the normatively framed good life.  That myth was a comfort to me even as I knew it was a lie.  I am drawing from the strength of the ancestors and the words on the Elders that I need to be a strong mother like bear and protect my children.

So, if you have any resources your would suggest or know of any other parents homeschooling from the indigenous lens, please let me know.  I would love to keep learning.  Hai hai / Giitchi Meegwich

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Métis Fear 217.5

Yeti's Best:
Métis Fear 217.5: Yeti may no have been giving me his best all along.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Métis Fear 217

ana elisa egreja:
ana elisa egreja
Métis Fear 217: I should have paid more attention when I was cleaning up the living room.

Métis Fear 216

Gratitude Magnet – The Mincing Mockingbird & The Frantic Meerkat:
Gratitude Magnet – The Mincing Mockingbird & The Frantic Meerkat
Métis Fear 216: I fear I may believe my own lies. 

Maskwa, behind the scenes and inspiration

Found this lovely bear for my garden enjoying a very healthy fish.

Was struck by the back of my beading piece for Runa.  There is a sort of loveliness in what lies behind.

Found this piece by Naomi Ityi hanging on the wall of the Conference Board of Canada while on course.  So much beauty. 

Plastic Shamans

I have been really trying to get back to reading and not letting the darkness consume me.  Last week I finished, "Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality" by Lisa Aldred.  Aldred examines why there is a persistent consumption of Native American Spirituality by members of the New Age Movement and how this group rationalizes their consumption, in particular, she is interested in how the focus on purchased identity is at odds with the good red road these people are wanting to participate in.  I was interested in this article given conversations I have had about consuming Indigenous identity and the perceived fear of non-Indians on my behalf about "going Indian".

Aldred begins by describing how this group, "...pursues(s) spiritual meaning and cultural identification through acts of purchase."  She argues that the New Age Movement relies on consumption to obtain meaning and connection to community and she wants to explore why this is so.  In particular, why is this romanticized ideal of Indigenous spirituality so powerful while the modern day reality of indigenous peoples is not of interest.

She outlines the fully immersive experience of Indianness that is possible for those who will open their wallets.  These people can drink, listen, smell, and consume the "Indian ways".  They can have an authentic experience without ever leaving the house or having to actually meet an indigenous person.  Any guilt related to consumption can be whitewashed through recycled packaging or token giving back or profits.  She names this consumption of the other as a false path and calls for an authentic engagement with indigenous peoples rather than a removed purchase of their "lifestyles".

She explores the theory of why the modern dominant culture has translated spiritual experience and community into commodities.  Why has purchase become a ticket to join a community?  Why are we trying to use consumer goods to recover lost meaning in our lives (here she is referencing McCracken)?  Why is the "good life" so far from the reality of our daily lives?  Why are we romanticizing another culture - wanting to consume "the other" and how does this consumption lead to our increasing withdrawal from the public realms? (Lauren Langmen)  Aldred provides some reasons for these kinds of changes, including the up rootedness that capitalism brought, which leaves us to find/purchase/steal roots however we can.  We were ripe for the marketing of the lives of others. 

She quotes Vizenor, in how this obsession with the authentic Indian undermines support for current indigenous people, especially when survival and ideas about authenticity may not be fully compatible.  The " Indian warriors must embrace the complexities of postmodern culture to help indigenous people survive, rather than play into notions of "Authenticity." Furthermore, this ongoing focus on authenticity preserves racist ideas of what real indigenous peoples should be, taking the focus away from the need for real supports for a healthy continuation of a culture.  This focus on what is authentic, policed by non-indigenous peoples continues the oppression of indigenous peoples.

Aldred then discusses Philip J Deloria's ideas about playing Indian.  Noting in particular, "...a change in focus from collective concerns with social justice toward a strong focus on individual freedom.  Deloria insightfully recognizes that this shift inward coupled with the idealization of Indian spirituality in the abstract has erased the complex history of Indians.."  This focus on the personal and positive aspects of indigenous lives blurs over the hard work of building a healthy future for indigenous communities and supports the fallacy that we can build a better society by working only on ourselves.  A concept which is really the antithesis of the good red road.

I geuss I see this piece as a reminder to myself and my journey.  This process of reclaiming was pretty personal as I started out not know where to go to find community.  This was a period of being worried about authenticity, wondering if people were going to reject me because I did not look, live, or seem Indian.  However, as I have walked on this path, I see that these things don't really matter, not to me and not to others in the community who are very welcoming.  I think that it is also a reminder that I have work to give back to the community and that I need to find ways to do that while raising these children.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Métis Fear 215

Fantastic Mr. Fox:
Métis Fear 215: I fear that the teachings on lab safety for the animal relations are not sufficient.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Métis Fear 214

"Lena Revenko: IN RED" - Lena Revolenka, Lena Revenka:
Lena Revenko: IN RED"
Métis Fear 214: I will become mesmerized by the chaotic beauty of my dysfunctions.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Métis Fear 213

Métis Fear 213: City dwellers really don't understand the animal relations.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Métis Fear 212

VIRGINIE MORGAND Princesse au petit pois:
VIRGINIE MORGAND Princesse au petit pois
Métis Fear 212:  I fear that now knowing the reason cats cannot settle on a bed, there are no more mysteries left in my life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Métis Fear 211

Hippopotamus Tamer Circus Act by Capucine Mazille Art Postcard:
Hippopotamus Tamer Circus Act by Capucine Mazille Art Postcard
Métis Fear 211: I fear that this is my life.  Trying to do impossible things, for no obvious reason, with relatives that are suspicious of my motives.

Métis Fear 210

Moose With A Bow Tie And Jacket:
Métis Fear 210: urban dating brings out the animal in some of us.

Sad news

Read this weekend that Richard Wagamese walked on to the spirit world.  He shared a lot of story medicine that spoke to me.  I wrote about his work a number of times and I suggest this post for a quick introduction.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Métis Fear 209

Dandemouselings by Aimee Stewart:
Dandemouselings by Aimee Stewart
Métis Fear 209: I will never be as happy as this mouse.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Métis Fear 208

mystic fridge of wonders...:
Métis Fear 208: the nasties in the refrigerator will finally give birth to a whole new kind of life.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Métis Fear 205

Shiori Matsumoto - Smoking cat, 1998:
Shiori Matsumoto - Smoking cat, 1998
Métis Fear 205: the urban life has led to some bad habits for the animal relations

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Friday, March 3, 2017

Métis Hope 88

terbear :: Solarus Webmail :: Hi, Terbear2510! We found some Funny Minion and Miss You Pins and boards for you!:
Métis Hope 88: I hope you are ready for any truth telling the relatives are looking to lay on you.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Something new

The tree outside the clinic yesterday full of sap.  It smelt so good on my fingers.

I wanted to try something new after enjoying a lot of really cool collages this week.  I took my fox and played around to create "going home".

Fox is trying to get back on the good red road, but must first face down modernity and those who police the borders.

Métis Hope 87

А он умеет обращаться с женщинами!:
Métis Hope 87: I hope you can find time to share a moment with your good friends.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Métis Hope 86

Beardnest // Sandra Dieckmann:
Beardnest // Sandra Dieckmann
Métis Hope 86: I hope the kittens in your beard are well behaved and delightfully playful.  If you don't have a kitten beard, I hope you get one to cheer you along.