What she couldn’t see was that those teachings and languages and ceremonies that she thought would hurt us will be what save us.Read Danette Jubinville's This is what forgiveness looks like.
New Westminster, BC
Saulteaux Cree (Pasqua First Nation)
My name is Danette Jubinville, and I belong to the Cyr family (Pasqua First Nation) on my father's side. I am also of French, German, Jewish, Scottish, and English ancestry. I am grateful to the Coast Salish peoples, whose traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories I have resided on since birth.
I wrote this piece because I believe that in order to gather the strength that decolonization and Indigenous resurgence require, we have to take on the work of healing within our families and our own bodies. This piece represents my own path towards forgiveness and strength in my identity. Because I look mixed, and because I wasn't raised with my culture, I often found myself buying into the idea that I am not authentically Native - whatever that even means. Sometimes, I even found myself feeling resentful towards my family, for not raising me with a strong sense of what it means to be Saulteaux and Cree. But as I began to learn more about Indigenous experiences of colonization in Canada, I realized that my temporary disconnection was not so strange, and that my grandmother made really tough decisions in order to protect our family. She made those decision with a heart full of love and hope for her children; she did not want to see us harmed in the same ways that she was at residential school. Once I realized that, I realized that I do not have to buy into the harmful belief that I am not "Native enough". I only have to realize that my generation is called to a different task, and for me, that means dedicating my energy to recovering who I am, to honour the generations of ancestors past and the generations of ancestors to come.
Forgiveness is where I take my first humble steps on this journey.
My kokum told me that as a young girl, her mother gave her strict instructions to never rely on a man for anything. She was raised to know that she had to be able to provide for herself. That is the ethic that led her off reserve, to pursue post-secondary education. That is the ethic, then, that resulted in the loss of her status card, my father’s status card, my status card. That is the ethic that keeps me legally excluded from decision making in my Saulteaux/Cree community, and disconnected from my family’s ancestral land base.
How could I be mad at my grandmother?
In spite of what she was taught to believe at residential school, her mother’s Nehiyaw values didn’t ruin her; they guided her towards choices that helped her to love herself. To help her children to love themselves. Raising us without culture, days away from our traditional territory, meant that we were raised without the fierce colonial violence that she endured in residential school and on reserve. But what she didn’t see was that keeping our culture hidden and shielding us from Indian Act-imposed borders couldn’t protect us, not fully. Because we were still brown. And we still had to go to school and learn that we were savage. We still had to read in the news that we would most likely end up drunk and incarcerated or prematurely dead. What she didn’t know, because nuns and priests don’t talk about things like blood memory, is that our ancestors would still speak to us when we closed our eyes. When we walked on the land. When we lied awake in bed at six crying, wondering if our dads would ever come home. When our “intergenerational residential school traumas” resurfaced in every intimate relationship we ever tried to have. And our ancestors would speak to us very clearly:
You come from beautiful people. You are loved. You did nothing wrong.
My grandmother was forced to choose from such dismal options, one could hardly say that she had a choice at all. She did the best that she could with the tools that she had. She loved and cared for her children always. There is nothing “less” or “half” or “non” Native about that. Or about our family story. What she couldn’t see was that those teachings and languages and ceremonies that she thought would hurt us will be what save us. Because our ancestors are alive inside us. Maybe it was too scary for her to imagine, but her strength is what helps me to see it now. And I forgive her.
I forgive her.