It wasn't until last night when I realized that my idea for this blog - reconnecting with my Mi'kmaq culture by exploring other Aboriginal cultures - relates to a poem that my grandmother, Rita Joe wrote. The poem is called I Lost My Talk. The poem is about how she was forced to abandon her beliefs in a residential school and about how she acknowledges two cultures.
I grew up knowing my culture and traditions, right up until I was about 12. That’s when I threw away my culture and my beliefs. I was taught by my grandfather. I did sweat lodges every weekend, traditional ceremonies, eagle funerals, and fasts. I was smoking out of a sacred pipe by the time I was six. I remember doing a ceremony and being awarded my rattle, which I don’t have anymore.
I was that typical native child with a dream catcher earring, and wore things that reflected my culture. But my grandfather turned out to be a horrible man, and I didn't want anything to remind me of him. All through junior and high school I took Mi’kmaq classes, but this was because I wanted an easy credit. I never really took it all in.
Then I graduated high school and my culture started to come back to me. This was because I went to a wake, a wake that wasn't for a Mi’kmaq person. It was strange to me. Why was I in a funeral home? We have wakes in family homes for three days, praying, smudging and sharing stories of the dead person's life and thanking the Creator for letting us to be able to spend time with them.
After being away from my reserve, I came to realize that my culture shouldn't be thrown away. I decided to accept and relearn things that I've forgotten, but also to learn about the other tribes and their culture and traditions to see how they are like the Mi’kmaq traditions. I want to learn about not just my tribe, but everyone’s. I have to discover the Aboriginals of Canada before I can truly discover myself and my culture. I want to relearn the things I've forced myself to forget.
Let me find my talk, so I can teach you about me.
Madison Joe is currently a student in the Professional Writing program at Algonquin College. Madison Joe hails from Membertou, a Mi'kmaq First Nation in Nova Scotia. He can be found playing his Playstation or roaming the streets of Ottawa completely lost.
For more information on my culture visit these sites: