I never understood why I never spoke my own language.
Why can't they just teach us?
Why does it feel like spiritual starvation for me?
My grandparents spoke & still speak what feels like this ‘secret language'.
I never understood why, until I began to surround myself in their circles just to hear my language.
The eager & impatient starving student in me was so worried I was running out of time
& so very confused why it often felt like I had to beg-pry just to hear our first voices.
I’ve known for years about this country's dark history but still never understood.
Until, a few years ago when elders began to feel comfortable in sharing parts of their survival stories with me.
Then I not only knew why I never spoke my own language
but I now FELT why.
Awhile ago while photographing an elder from xaxlip, I shared my excitement about learning my language.
He shared how residential school beat his language right out of him
& how he was punished for speaking his language then shamed for not knowing his own language when he got to go home.
I took a deep breathe,
held my heart
and suddenly felt a heaviness
that felt like guilt and regret for sharing my excitement with him.
He saw (I think)
how I immediately felt and told me not to feel bad &
that he was envious and proud of the few younger ones who are taking time to learn.
It made me think of this spoken word poetry (can’t remember it exactly or where it came from), but it was something like this:
I speak to my mother in a language she doesn’t understand
because the colonizers now occupy my tongue.
The English language is a sickness & I don't even want to know how many languages have been lost to it.
It's been about 10 years off and on learning where and when I can,
there are so many barriers to learning
but incomparable to the unlearning survivors have had to do from those toxic systems.
łačiƛ - to let go.
If you never heal from what hurt you, you'll bleed on people who didn't cut you.
Hurting people hurt people. History repeats itself.
Trauma travels through time.
It's mind blowing that for someone who never went to residential school,
whose parents never went either
but somehow the grandkids of the grandparents who'd gone are feeling the impacts.
I've heard over & over that we should get over it,
quit hiding behind residential school,
that was way back then.
But for so many the impacts are very much here and now.
travels through generations,
in it's many forms and faces of
Begging to be seen behind it's various masks.
So much strength to carry those heavy stories
that have been handed down and
what courage it takes to stop sharing THAT same story & begin to write your own.
To break those cycles that have left us broken.
Leaves us open often in dark places
that lead us to the source.
It's in those dark places that healing waits with the wounds.
So touch it.
The more you let go.
The higher you rise.
For those wounded in dark places, feeling alone.
For those hiding & holding their wounds.
For those who think they don't have any wounds.
For those rewriting their story.
Sage is down.
Prayers are up.
September 30th is orange shirt day, a day to remember those we lost in Residential Schools and honour those who’ve survived.
To the survivors who kept our language & ceremony underground, to those who somehow kept it alive inside themselves, to those who rebelled & secretly held sacred ceremonies in those schools & to those who surrendered - we remember. To those who have the courage to speak & teach our languages, through your fears, even if very slowly, quietly and shyly, I hold my hands up to you with the deepest respect, admiration & gratitude.
So from not knowing why I never spoke my own language to the amazement that it’s even still here.
Thankfully some felt that English language wasn't there's.
It didn't belong in them.
they wanted it out.
I"m naturally drawn to those diving into who they are.
To those reclaiming their ways & their voices.
I admire them for making this their priority.
For knocking through all the barriers
for not giving up
for sacrificing every little thing
for wanting a part of themselves that everyone else was content with giving away.
Because reality is
one day when all our elders are gone.
we can either choose to heal what was broken in them
or allow it to break us back open to who we are.
It's pretty crazy when you think about it
How our grandparents were once
forced into those systems where assimilation was the goal.
To make us like them.
where we willingly enter those systems
to leave our ways
to leave our homes
to leave our language.
kind of feels like assimilation by choice.
Where we praise, admire and look up to those who've left home
to become educated
to have 'made it' financially
to have really left so far and so long
that they've never returned back home.
Something I myself struggle with my son.
Wanting him to be educated, but not so educated that he forgets who he is & where he's from.
because to me
no amount of education can replace
who we are as First Nations peoples
or the spiritual practices that have kept us connected to the ocean and to the land.
I"m always drawn to those who live such connections to
because who are we if our languages die?
because knowing your language is resistance
so surrender to
because those we lost would want you to
hupiiʔin huḥtakšiiḥ help us learn
t̓aaqsčiikukʷap̓in t̓ašii show us the right path
našuk suqƛap̓in - strengthen our spirit
hišukʷin ququaaca - lets all speak our language
For those we lost
for those we found
for those silent ones
for those loud ones
for those scared to learn
for those afraid to teach
it's survived for you.
To find you
return you back to the land.
To know your language
to know the land
to know the land
is to know yourself.
I'm thankful I have friends who know themselves
who want to go far enough back
that it will take us all forward.