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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Moving on

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Aug 30, 2019

I spent a lot of time alone this summer, reflecting on my future and my goals. Healing is an ongoing process and even though I’ve grown and changed, I am still working on myself. I’m not perfect and I realize I can be very bitter at times.

I was in ceremony the other day and noticed a lot of wemstikuusiiyuu (white people) around, and some of them were participating. Of course, my first thoughts were negative, and I knew I needed to unpack that anger, because ceremony is no place to be angry. Carrying that anger on a daily basis gets old, so I decided to address it.

There are many layers to that bitterness. I think it has to do with the colonial history of this country or just isolated incidents, like seeing outsiders cutting in front of Elders in line at the feast. I think it’s also jealousy from seeing white people thrive in our healing circles and communities while there’s a lot of unnecessary hardships that come with being Indigenous that we have to face.

I decided to move permanently to Waswanipi and the only thing in my way was housing. A single woman without children like me can’t get housing quickly through the band or my job. Meanwhile, folks from outside get a house as soon as they move to the community. I tried to pinpoint the source of my bitterness and I think I found it. The thing is, we welcome many non-Natives in our communities and offer them housing with their job. We offer them an opportunity to settle down and start a life here while we don’t necessarily get the same opportunities.

While I understand we need to provide housing for them to stay, I think locals should get the same advantages. We are told to go to school and get a post-secondary education, and when we do it and return, there’s nowhere for us to stay. I know a lot of young people who worked really hard to get where they are today, and yet they still get their ass kicked by the housing crisis.

In my community, 64% of the population is 34 years old and under. At this rate, the housing crisis is not going to get any better. I acknowledge the efforts of my community to fix the situation, but this whole thing is alarming. I think to myself: “I’m from here. I went to school. I have a stable job. I got sober. I deserve stable housing.” But then again, housing is a fundamental right. Everyone deserves a place to stay.

It’s hard to put it into words. It’s a delicate and complex situation. I don’t hate non-Natives who come up North. Many of them get involved in our communities, bring valuable knowledge to our organizations and genuinely appreciate this land. Even I come from a union between a white woman and a Cree man. Keep getting involved in our communities because it’s the right thing to do. That bitterness is mine to work on.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.