Turtle Island

turtle ringThis is the first ring is the very first piece of jewellery that I bought with my own money that didn’t come from a gumball machine.Because I have had it so long, it comes with many stories.

Because today is the last day of National Aboriginal History Month, I will share this one.

Tomorrow is Canada Day (and the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. It’s funny how these two dates intersect because the history between indigenous and First Nations and settler peoples in Canada is complicated and often painful.

Because my dad was always proud of our indigenous heritage (also complicated — a mix of Innu and Inuit) he tried to expose us to as much Native culture as one could when Labrador is so very far away.

We spent part of many summers at Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. We had family friends who had a cottage there (also a complex and painful story there — RIP Dudley George). It was there that I bought this turtle ring.

For many First Nations, including the Ojibwe of Kettle and Stony Point, Turtle Island is a synonym for North America (except of course, in their own language). When I was buying this ring, I was told the creation story and that the turtle was a reminder that all things are created equal so we must live in harmony with nature.

This ring has always reminded me that we share this land and we exist because this land provides, so we best take care of it and each other. I share this note because, although I am not Anishnaabe, I believe it’s very good advice for all peoples.

I need a reminder because sometimes I forget the message. My Diet Coke addiction is just one of profligate ways that I fail at being a good steward of nature. I am often a pedantic blowhard with my fellow humans and I have murdered many plants and one frog.

But I can and should strive to remember the past and fix those wrongs in the present to be a better human in the future. Remember, I’m also descended from settlers and more recent immigrants. And even that side of the family knows that it doesn’t matter if you personally didn’t run a residential school or scoop kids away from their families — telling people to “get over” the past doesn’t fix our present problems.

My dad was also a proud Canadian (I think we also visited every historic site from Kitchener to St. John’s), and the Canada he believed in was a country that would make good on the injustices of the past because in the long run it would benefit us all. And not just with symbolic gestures, but by actions.

Anyway, thinking about my dad makes me weepy (both good and bad tears). Tonight we will celebrate all the heritages by going to a Canada 150 celebration with a band from Iqaluit and Buffy Saint Marie.