Travelling the world and experiencing many adventures from early on has given me insight and an ability in relating back to others the things I’ve learned. This article then is on the issue of identity. The way we belong. The way we perceive ourselves and other people.
At times, it will appear like I do not make any sense. This is done purposely on my behalf and I offer no apologies. Some subjects, because of their touchiness, need to be discussed from a sideways angle, to ensure no one feels offended or hurt.
The message, however, remains the same.
My name is Stéphane Wuttune. Although I am a registered status Indian from the Saskatchewan area, less than 30 per cent of this ancestral blood courses within me. For the remaining part, my heritage is French, Scottish and Italian.
On my business cards, it says. I call myself an adventurer, an artist, a writer and a lecturer. My living, the way I earn what is called money, is by these means. I interact with people whether young or old, male or female, and of every race and belief.
My mixed blood has made itself very useful. Wherever I go, I am accepted as “one of them.” In Native circles, in French circles, and others.
This was not the case in my youth. I often felt alone. Different. Even strange. I did not look Native, and I didn’t totally identify with French people either. Lying in my bed at night, I often wished I could “fit.” This attitude persisted until great changes came about in my life that forced me to take a deep look within myself.
In 1991, I sold all my possessions and decided to paddle from Edmonton, Alberta all the way to Quebec City. After four and a half months of enduring loneliness, rapids, long portages and bouts of hunger arid thirst, I arrived in the cold, frigid waters of Quebec City’s Old Port Marina. I had done it—4,000 kilometres by canoe!
Then I got involved with Native Peoples’ conferences here and abroad where my services were employed as a guest speaker and role model. For a few years, I enjoyed this limelight. I became known amongst my peers as a Plains Cree Indian, or a Cree Metis from Canada. Which makes me giggle inside.
You see, it is like this. What a person sees when they meet Stéphane for the first time is a soul within a rental vehicle. What I seem to be driving depends on who I am with.
In Benz Mercedes circles and because of my words, others automatically see I am driving a Mercedes also. While at other times I am in the presence of French Renaults and these vehicles see me as one of them. In most cases, many see only the type of vehicle and not the driver. So I let them think I am an Indian, or a Frenchman, or a Scottish Highlander or whatever.
But I know that one day my rental lease will be up. And the Creator will decide this vehicle must be returned for inspection and repairs. So I go back when it is the Creator’s decision, not mine. It is a relief to finally be able to get out of this broken-down car after such a long drive and be at one with the Creator again.
Inside, I am also looking forward to coming back someday, perhaps in a different vehicle. This way, I am a driver who will know the ways of many types of cars, and will come to love them that much more.
So there is “earthway” identity that you and other vehicles see, and there is “spiritway” identity that only the double you and the Creator knows. It is a path only you can follow.
Here on earth, for example, my “earthway” identity may be African. And so therefore on that plane, my ancestors are all my grandmothers and grandfathers who were African before me, and those yet to come.
But in the “spiritway” identity, things go different sometimes. I am in the great school of life, and I have many lessons to learn.
So if I failed to learn my earthway lesson while in my Toyota, the spirit sends me back; either in that same vehicle make or another to learn the same lesson. Over and over if I need to.
So it is like that. Things seem to be one way, but the spirit intends for us to grow and eventually to perceive them another way. We learn what we can accept at the time. Before I can become a part of the ocean, I must first become a part of the wave.
Now that I am in this vehicle, I know I must learn to take care of it by keeping it in good shape and learning how to drive. So I use the four medicines this car was made to burn: sweetgrass, sage, tobacco and cedar. I always pray right now and ask for health and help, since I do not always hold enough wisdom to know what is good for me.
In this way, I become more of what I truly am and less of what the spirit decides I need to leave behind. And if people see only the outside of this automobile, I let them and that is okay too. My contract is between me and the Creator only.
Something must be wrong with my eyes. I should get them checked. For some reason,
I look at another person and cannot see full blood or mixed blood. Maybe I was born with this frightening condition. I should phone a doctor and make an appointment.
So this is the truth of identity. I carry this identity with me wherever I go. Sometimes I switch or go back and forth just to prevent my spirit from getting in a rut and stopping growth.
And I always remember the words of an Elder who told me this saying: It takes a great deal of effort to follow tradition, but it takes more effort to follow tradition and not let yourself be blinded by it.
So I study the stars, the planets and what their language can teach me. I am here to learn and I don’t let other people do my homework or decide what I should learn. I have information processed inside my head on other car brands too.
I look straight ahead and all around, because there is a lot to learn. There are advantages in knowing how to drive several types of vehicle at once. And at the beginning and end of each new day, I pray never to forget this because the number one problem with self-made people is that they often worship the Creator.
In this way I was taught. And it is in this way I show my heart to others. I hope you have enjoyed looking at my heart.