As a Métis woman on Canadian holidays, I live on both sides of the line. This past weekend was May 24 – the May long weekend. Queen Victoria’s birthday celebration in Canada. We celebrated the traditional way – lots of time outside (with our bubble), a meaty BBQ, a lot of food, a few drinks, and of course fireworks.
As a Métis woman teaching colonization and decolonization, I can’t help but find odd moments in celebrations that are purely from a place of colonialism. There is not much need anymore for Canada to celebrate the Monarchy. There is even less reason for Indigenous to celebrate the Monarchy. But here I was, having a typical Canadian colonial celebration in 2021.
I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t think we need to stop celebrating May 24… but it does make me stop and pause. What exactly were we celebrating? Does anyone actually think about the Queen on the long weekend? Anyone? Didn’t think so.
So why do I bring this up?
Teaching this native studies course for the first time in 7 years has made me reevaluate old material, and rethink my own position as a Métis woman who grew up very colonized, not knowing my Indigenous ancestry. It brings me back to the Canada 150 Celebrations in 2017. Likewise, I celebrated Canada Day with big public gatherings (oh how I miss those in 2021!) and grand displays of fireworks. Like now, then I had this nagging that maybe I shouldn’t be celebrating 150 years of colonization… but I did anyway, with moments of glee with my children.
Both of these brushes with colonial celebrations remind me of this fine line I live on. I’m on both sides of that line. One side is your standard Canadian, enjoying the benefits of colonialism with my “pass for white” family, which is presumably what my Grandmother wanted when she denied her Metis heritage on her deathbed. I grew up in evangelical Christian churches. Indigenous issues were far from my mind for the first 25ish years of my life. Yep, my head was buried deep in the sand.
On the other side is the life I missed for those 25 years. A spiritual side that always called to me but I consistently turned away from for years, being told it was evil and sinful. In truth it is a beautiful and rich spirituality. A hidden family past that takes twists and turns through history, including battles in the War of 1812. A rich Métis community and culture. A difficult relationship with governmental and colonial systems. A side to myself I am discovering more every day.
But back to fireworks.
I sat watching them and observing my family. My older son got involved in picking fireworks, and getting too close to Daddy as he prepared the fireworks. My constant reminders to move away kept him safe. My younger son sat in awe of the fireworks and loud bangs, alternating between covering his ears and giggling while signing for more.
In between these moments of family bliss, the colonial thing crept in. Don’t get me wrong, my family has our fair share of non blissful moments. But fireworks bring that childlike sense of awe and wonder out of everyone. Does this awareness of colonization ruin things? No. I don’t let it. I could, but I don’t. I just notice it and acknowledge it in the moment, and let it go. I end up reflecting on it later, as I am in this blog.
Colonialism and I have a complicated relationship. I’m a product of it from both an indigenous and non indigenous perspective. I can see sides of both because I am experiencing both. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes I can acknowledge it and move on like I did this weekend.
Like me, my sons will straddle the line in many ways. They are growing up knowing their Métis heritage and culture, something I didn’t have as a child. They are growing up knowing the values and beliefs of Christianity and Indigenous spirituality and teachings. They aren’t so different and certainly are not mutually exclusive. My boys will know both a colonial system as well as people working to decolonize the system. We are learning about this complicated thing together. For now, we will enjoy the fireworks.
I’m a Métis wife, mother, daughter, friend, teacher, and advocate. I love coffee and squirrels. I married my high school sweetheart and don’t know where I’d be without him. I’m a mama bear to two amazing sons with autism who teach me things every day. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I find joy in the little things in life. I discovered my Métis heritage in my 20s and have been learning about Indigenous traditions and issues since. Life has taken me on many twists and turns I never saw coming. I try to walk the path with Bravery and look to Love.