There are some times when the whole reality about being adopted jumps up into my face and says ‘boo.’ As I have written before, I am a native adoptee, meaning that I did not grow up in or near a native community. Through no choice of my own I grew up in a non-native community with non-native parents and non-native family.
For years I thought I was of the Ojibiway nation, only to discover after meeting my biological family that I was actually of Ojibiway-Cree origins. I had only done some reading and research on my Ojibiway heritage so finding out I was part Cree left me wondering about that side of me too. I have been writing for the Nation now for almost a year and have learned many things on the job about the traditions and heritage of the Cree. Some of the things I learn leaves me feeling a little sad, such as realizing what I have missed out on, like the walking out ceremony. Everything else I learn makes me feel very proud and strong. It encourages me to learn more.
What I have been looking forward to for many months now is the chance to go up north into a community for the first time to meet people and experience things first hand. This finally happened to some degree a couple of weeks ago when I was assigned to cover the BSW graduates in Val d’Or. I know it was not the same as going to a Cree community but I was going to meet some people and witness an event. I was both excited and terrified.
Terrified because the last time I went to a native community, where I was born, I was going to meet my biological family. I knew people there already, but here I was going to be among ‘ complete strangers that I had never met before!
I went to it feeling very insecure and out of place, wondering how I would be accepted and treated. I still tend to feel as though those who live in their communities are ‘better’ than I am. When my insecurity rears its ugly head, I feel like a fraud and worry that is what everyone is thinking.
When I feel strong though, I look forward to everything that I am going to learn and all the wonderful people I am going to meet. When I feel strong I am not ashamed of my ignorance because I know that my adoption was not something I did and I know that the only way to learn is to just do it.
When I arrived in Val d’Or, it was late at night, as I had missed my plane earlier that morning and had to scramble to take a seven hour bus ride just to get there. I arrived at the reception while everyone was seated with their families and friends, finishing off their dinners. At the front were the MC and the various speakers who were handing out gifts to the grads and delivering congratulatory speeches. I scanned the audience hoping to see a familiar face but as I had no contacts and had not met anyone in person before, there were none. So I kept to the back wondering whom to approach. I finally walked up to George Oblin (the MC) who introduced me to his wife, Caroline, who introduced me to Edith Gull, one of the graduates.
After the speeches were done, I had a chance to sit down with Mrs. Gull for over an hour and she answered all my questions and filled me in on all the wonders of the program. I sat there and looked in awe at this wonderful courageous woman. Her daughters and grandchildren came up now and then and we were all introduced and they looked at me a little curiously.
As I learned how the program worked I was just so impressed with it all, especially the students. I completed 8 years of university, so I have an idea of the trials and tribulations involved. I also have a child of my own now and leaving her for the two days it took for me to go to Val d’Or was somewhat difficult, so I can only imagine how difficult two weeks would be. All I could think about was that it was amazing that these 41 students had managed to complete a 90-credit course while working and managing a family over a seven-year period. Plus they had to leave their communities and their families four times a year in order to do it.
After speaking with Mrs. Gull, I found that my shyness and insecurity got the best of me though and I lacked the courage to simply go up to people and start talking. I sat and watched everyone around me, I took notes and looked them over, listened to the music and hoped someone would come talk with me.
All in all it was an okay experience. I was a little disappointed with my lack of courage but it hasn’t gotten me down. I know that this was my first visit up north, and I realize that it was up to me how I approached the whole experience. I tend to be an observer and not much of a talker in general. I am still looking forward to the time when I will go to one of the Cree communities and experience more of the wonderful culture and just meet people. Maybe next time I’ll get a handle on that shyness and insecurity.