I am a privileged Indian. I was born into a middle-class home in one of the most affluent rural area in southern Ontario, so I have reaped the benefits of class privilege. I am also of mixed race ancestry, inheriting my father’s post-European features that come from lands across the Atlantic (mostly Irish and Scottish). Because of this, I have also reaped the benefits of having light skin, escaping the horrors of racial profiling experienced by other Indigenous people.
I didn’t grow up on my reserve (Aamjiwnaang First Nation), but I knew I had ties to it when my mother presented me with my status card at a young age. I struggled to pronounce the name “Aamjiwnaang” and wondered about my identity as a Chippewa/Anishinaabe kwe and our ancient ties to Turtle Island. Despite many situations of discrimination and challenges that my mother faced in her past, in her beauty and resilience, she always taught us to be proud of our indigenous heritage: No. Matter. What. I have also been extremely fortunate to be gifted with many teachings from knowledge keepers and elders as I have struggled to find my place as a “white passing” Indian. My healing journey has led to new understandings of my responsibility and my place, in the circle. Witnessing the identity struggles of my family and the real and lived oppression that many Indigenous people cannot escape it is clear how devastating Intergenerational Trauma, Historical Trauma, Current Oppression and Racism truly are in the lives of many people across this great land. It has also been clear to me, for many years, the difference in privilege often evinced between myself and others in the community. This painting is the start of a new body of work that will explore Indigenous Collective Identity and my own healing journey, as I continue to work with Indigenous youth.