Healing together always best

To the Journal editor:

Boozhoo (Greetings),

Aboriginal, Indigenous, Native American, American Indian, Tribal, First Nations are all names that my Anishinaabe ancestors have been called by others. Anishinaabe is what we call ourselves. I am a mixed ancestry Anishinaabe person. My mother is Anishinaabe. My biological father is Irish American. My adoptive father is German American.

I am a descendant of Waabijiijaak (White Crane). Aajijaak ndodem (we are of the Crane Dodem). My family has lived along Lake Superior since time immemorial, including the place called Gichinamebineziibing (Place of the Great Sucker Fish River) aka Marquette, Michigan.

I am a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, a federally recognized tribe that is part of the original Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy. Marquette exists in our tribal service area. Our tribe maintains housing, an elders association and a health clinic here. It also provides assistance with food programs and casino revenue distributions to local municipalities.

My wife and daughters are also Anishinaabe. We are very proud of our heritage. We attend ceremonies, dance at pow wows, and are relearning our Native language. We hunt, fish, gather, and garden Indigenous foods, and celebrate Indigenous holidays.

I am a teacher. I teach people about the history of Great Lakes tribal relations and contemporary issues including education. The history includes our traditional Anishinaabe ways of teaching and learning, where our Native language and spirituality are core to our way of life. It also includes how our beautiful way of life was seriously disrupted by colonization.

Education was used by colonizing nations to undermine our tribes. Our children were forced into boarding schools where they were beaten, raped, and told that everything about our Native cultures was bad. Our children were later forced into public schools that were unprepared to deal with Indigenous people at best, and at worst, were so biased against them that they openly ridiculed them in class and mocked them in the curriculum.

If people are serious about wanting to honor Native people here in Marquette, I want to help them do that in the best way and that is to become educated about us and our history. Let’s spend some time together in a low stakes educational environment where we can talk and debate and try on new ideas. The only way we heal from the pain we cause each other is by healing together.

Miigwech (Thank you),