I was four years old in preschool and had no real idea about racism. But I remember some other child asking me if I was an Indian.
I said, “I think so.”
Then he called me a dirty Indian and he kept calling me a dirty Indian and stupid. I felt so angry, hurt, scared and ashamed. I was ashamed of being an Indian and I hit this kid in the head with a big toy truck, one of those old metal Mattel models with a big trailer. He cried, and I cried, and it was awful. I don’t think the preschool told my parents.
In the 1980s the city of Victoria was fairly progressive when it comes to First Nations but the times I was faced with it I’ll never forget.
Unfortunately, a common feeling among those who have been the victim of racial slurs and/or violence is the shame. I remember I hit that kid not out of anger at his words but because he was pointing out something I was trying my best to hide. I didn’t want to be different. LOL! Good luck with that!
A common feeling among those who have been the victim of racial slurs and/or violence is the shame
My folks were good with all that stuff though.
What was so messed up was we didn’t know anything about my heritage. All we knew was that I was considered a full-blood Indian and that I was born in Lethbridge. So I grew up thinking I was Blackfoot - or Piegan or Blood! My parents would sometimes take me to gatherings and feasts on the West Coast but it wasn’t the way of my people. We were welcomed and fed but I am Neh’yo _______
I was a part of something called the 60’s Scoop which was a tactic the government used to try and assimilate First Nations’ children into European Caucasian culture by placing them with white families.
Throughout my life, I’ve met a great many other First Nations’ people who had almost identical stories to mine, from being adopted into a white family, to feeling alienated, unwanted and unloved as a child to, for the most part, ending up on the streets, Juvie and usually jail. I no longer feel sorry for myself or angry at my adoptive family for what, as a child, I thought of as stealing me away from my people.
I understand now how lucky and blessed I am to have been adopted by the family I was. My Mom and my Dad are just that - my family. I love them as any son loves his parents and I understand they are victims of the 60s Scoop as I was.
When I was 13 years old I ran away from home and spent a week or so smoking pot and hanging out with street kids. My Mom spent almost every night talking to street kids and looking for me. My dad is an intellectual man and I think it was hard for him to express his emotions sometimes but as I’ve grown older we’ve developed a bond that’s as strong and as true as that of any father and son. Our conversations about love, life, movies and the hooks of addiction have always inspired and stimulated me. I’m so thankful to Creator for blessing me with not just one family. He must have known I was going to need extra support in my life and was generous and loving enough to bless me with two families.
Oh, but it was hard. On all of us. I knew I was different. I knew my family loved me and wanted me but, in my spirit, I also knew I was somehow out of place.
Sometimes you can know something to be untrue but feel it as true nonetheless. I always felt unwanted and abandoned by my (blood) mother. I believed in my heart that I was unworthy of being loved because, if my own mother didn’t love me, there must be something fundamentally wrong with me.