By Jaydene Lavallée
Generations of my family denied the blood that wound through their veins. It was both too light and too dark. The women in my family powdered their faces with flour. They gave up speaking Cree and Michif in order to hide in plain sight. When you have no land to call home, pushed from river bank to road allowance to government settlement, it becomes hard to remember that who you are is important. It’s not that they gave up, they fought for their lives in battles against the Canadian government even when they knew their stones and nails were no match for the encroaching army’s Gatling guns. My existence here today proves that my ancestors did not lose the Resistance in 1885 1.
1. The Northwest Resistance of 1885 was an armed conflict that arose when the Canadian government cut off rations to Métis who had been forced onto reserves in what is now Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
My family was always very politically Métis, but we were also Christians. I was told that I passed as white and that I was supposed to be grateful for this fact. We were taught to respect indigenous tradition, but that it was not for us. Yet the years Catholic priests spent beating these thoughts into my ancestors in residential schools were in vain because even as a child I knew there was something spiritual about being in the woods, the bush, the desert. I believed in magick. I believed in the trees.
I refused to be another generation of my family that suppressed our indigeneity because society privileged whiteness. I refused to allow the Métis fear of rejection from the indigenous community to
hold me back from rekindling the spirituality of my ancestors. I felt it was my responsibility. It took me years to nd the courage to start searching for what it all meant. On my journey, I constantly battled the voices which told me to give up, told me that what I was doing was futile.
You have no community, no clan, nobody will accept you. You’re too white. You know nothing, you have no teachings, you don’t even deserve them. You’re too white.
You are from nowhere.
How vicious we can be to ourselves. Last summer one of my white aunts told me that I “wasn’t as dirty as those other Métis”. Though I thrashed her with my tongue, I shamefully thanked her in secret for not calling me white. Her ignorance was palpable: that I would take it as a compliment to be so different from the same people I was trying desperately to nd myself within!
I did, however, and more than struggle through these times. I found it in the women, in my queer femmes, in my non-binary loves. In the indigenous women who welcomed me in because they saw that I was serious and that I was trying. But also in the astrologers, the herbal healers, and the witches. It was their love, their presence, their touch, their strength that fueled me.
And as I learned to identify and resist the colonial voices in my head, I learned to reject the patriarchy. I learned those two struggles were one and the same. For years I teased at women, especially white women, embracing witchy things. Yet were these folk not doing the same thing as me? Searching out a way to anchor themselves to something beautiful, finding a way to honour the life all around us. I was wrong. Even European histories have their own traditions if you go back far enough. As long as they tread lightly with respect and reflection, as long as they don’t contribute to harm through appropriation, I won’t tell those surviving gendered and capitalist-colonial oppression that they can’t seek out a connection to our Mother they nd in rocks or plants or the stars. Because patriarchy and colonialism seek to do just that. ey use the language of logic and science to discredit the intuitive, emotional, spiritual power of the feminine. I have more in common with a white witch than I do with an indigenous man who treats me like a walking womb and tells me it is my spiritual duty to bear children. Solidarity.
A while back an indigenous woman reading my cards told me that my ancestors called out to me every day but that my fear and my skepticism held me back from hear- ing them. I opened myself to the possibility that they would lead me where I needed to go. I followed a trail of blood memories. I stood on the graves of my ancestors, only layers of dirt and skin separating our bones. I listened to the drum echo through the hearts of my sisters in a sweatlodge. I sat on the banks of rivers next to trees who still remember a time before there was a city in their midst. I offered semaa (tobacco) to the grandmothers. I laid by myself in the forest and heard the animals come to drink from the river near my head. I was reminded that encountering a deer fly on the trail can teach you humility in the same measure as a bear. Elders in all forms.
I choose to reject the cold politics that claim belief is a distraction from the work of revolution at hand. I respect the courage it takes to seek out and connect to the things that bring you meaning and power. Spirit – magick – is real because it exists in the spaces between us. It pulls us together. It holds us together. I honour you as sisters. As siblings.
And brothers if you choose to prove yourself as such.
My name is Jaydene Lavallée. I am Red River Métis Nêhiyaw-iskwêw. My ancestors lived along the banks of the Red River and then settled as a community in Meadow Lake after the Resistance.
maarsii & kinanâskomitin & miig- wetch & thank you for the love and power you bring into the world.
Jaydene is a queer Métis-Cree woman living in Dish with One Spoon territory (Hamilton, Ontario) searching out places to channel all her love and rage.