Observations about Thunder Bay’s vote…

Thunder Bay voted last night and democracy allowed us to speak and I made some observations. First, although Tamara Johnson didn’t get elected she received roughly 7% (10,000 votes) of the vote. I was a bit disappointed, but surprised, not really. I love Thunder Bay, but I know that many people carry the hate, racism and prejudice towards my people that she does and she was and is the epitome of these values. We have to thank her for the fact that we all have a task, there are at least 10 000 people in this City who need a lot of Education about who we are, where we have been and most important, where we are going.

For those who voted for her, they can start with a little bit of Education about us, by learning a little bit about myself. I have an Education; this was not free, as I continue to pay off a large student debt. I pay taxes on my home, my salary and I do not get free dental care, my benefits just informed that I will have to pay half of the recent dental work I had done, yes we go to the dentist. I speak and write English extremely well, but analyze it even better, maybe even better than most, but I don’t use it to spread hate, I much prefer to use it to educate and to provide a life for my family.

A little bit about our people, we are a beautiful culture that has a love for the land like no other, the protection and preservation of it can be learned from many of our elders who at this moment are passing it onto our youth, this will have importance in the future, trust me. The population of Anishinaabe people in this City is growing and will increase dramatically, many coming from the North and surrounding communities and I will say again this is a fact, so trust me. Let me tell you why the Anishinaabe population is increasing, education and employment, both the former and latter will not only create awareness, but empowerment to a generation much different than yesterday or today.

I voted for Keith Hobbs because I believe he sees this and I believe he has the foresight and vision to build those bridges between Native and non-Native, crucial, because we will soon have the power to vote City councillors and mayors into power. If I could speak to Miss Johnson, I would ask her why she has such a dislike for our people or myself and family as I don’t hate or dislike her, but rather wish she could take the time to educate herself and her supporters.

I believe that if she accepted an offer to come sit with my sons and I along the lakes and shores of our traditional territory to take in the fresh air provided to our Ancestors for thousands of years, her views might change. They might change if she took the time to listen to my sons discuss their dreams about playing in the NHL, but they would definitely change if she listened to them talk about their love for Thunder Bay and for their people. She would see that the spread of racism and hate, attempts to strip my sons of their pride of who they are and it attempts to change their views on their love for Thunder Bay.

Finally, I would say to Miss Johnson or her supporters that we not just a good group of people, but we are a very humorous and loving people, thus, I would ask her to be my keemooch (just kidding). So in the future let us make 10 000 votes for racism water under the bridge as we leave those votes behind and look forward. A united city is in view, lets just build some bridges to get there.

A citizen of Thunder Bay.

A final tribute to Uncle Bob, but not really…

As I left for work this morning I looked up at the night sky, a moon surrounded by stars, sitting upon a cool and crisp autumn morning. A morning like many before, like more to come I am sure, one in which I thought of my Uncle Bob. I thought of his younger years, a hunter, trapper and fisherman, opening the doors to the mysteries of our North, blazing trails for those who dared to follow. A young man who learned to speak the language of the land, whom learned to listen to the spirits within it and appreciate the beauty of the unforgiving, desolate and loneliness of our home, terms often used to describe the Hudson lowlands.

I thought of the day we sat beside the Sachigo River, our traditional territory. It was mid-afternoon and land was quiet, whiskey jacks jumped from tree to tree and sturgeon splashed every now and again. We sat on old stumps overlooking the river, like kings of the banks, although the giant bull moose close by held that title, as he would raise his binoculars every once in a while, hoping to see a curious one. He says Derek, I used to look after your father here when he was just a baby. Your kokum would make me watch him as she went out on the land and he would cry, so I would shove the bottle in his mouth and say ahhhh shut up, stop crying!

He says I was about 30 when your father was taken from us by the Government, to learn the ways of the Church, where he would lose his connection with the land, in turn the connection to his spirit, in which he could no longer speak his language, hunt, fish or trap, as he came back to us a useless Indian. Even worse, he was very angry and your mishoom and I had to take him out on the land to teach him everything he knows now, including the language.

It was a beautiful thing to see the day he packed his boat and left by himself to wander the never-ending maze of rivers, God provided for us. He was gone for days as our mother began to worry about her baby boy, but when he returned he did so with a successful hunt and trap, providing an abundance of meat, furs and stories. He provided these stories in the language and it brought tears to the eyes of our parents, it brought tears to myself also.

As I listened, he sat quietly and remembered those days. He said Derek, if you are going to succeed in this world, you are going to have to learn to walk in two worlds. You are going to have to be dependent on yourself and no one else, therefore, never work in which you are waiting for a pay cheque from the Government, work so that people are paying you for your skills. He said that your father would not have had the successes he did if we didn’t teach him the value of where he comes from, so ensure that you learn the traditional practices of where you come from also.

That evening we shot a moose just up the Swan River, a river branching off the main river that our home is situated on and when we cleaned him he took a piece of raw meat off the moose and said eat it. From now on, when you kill a moose you eat a raw piece of meat from it. When I told my dad, he said he’s crazy that Uncle Bob, but follow his instructions because he knows what he is talking about. Following Bob’s advice about providing for myself using my skills, I decided to write my law school admissions test to get into law school that year as I figured being a lawyer was a career where I would not be dependent on the Government, but rather dependent on my skills.

This was the impact my Uncle Bob left on my life, a belief that the ability to walk in two worlds and being dependent on yourself is the key to success. This specific memory of him I see now was a teaching, in which we need to remember that our traditional practices on the land are just as important if not more, than the lives we lead off of it. Thus, the continuation of walking in two worlds is ongoing for myself, my sons and our people and although his journey in this life has ended, I think his teaching will form the foundation to the re-birth of a Nation, much like the re-birth he provided to my father.

Although he was crazy, he was also loving, compassionate and smart and he had a love for his people, his family and his land. A visit to our traditional lands is where you might feel that love as his spirit roams the rivers and high banks of our home, where after his passing he joined the spirits of our loved ones, those he missed all those years but never really stopped communicating with. As I know now, he was not alone out there, nor will I be when I continue to maintain and use our homelands as he would have wanted me to, by teaching the ways of our Ancestors to the next generation, my sons. I am off to another hunt, but actually a visit to the land, like medicine to our people, a valuable teaching by him I will not forget. Thank You Uncle Bob, gone but not forgotten…

Daniel Levac. A Young Anishinaabe Brother gone too soon…

I ran into Chief Donny Morris last night and he says hello there Mr. Fox, I enjoy reading your articles in Wawatay, I look forward to seeing them now he says, so keep it up. His view was that he preferred to read a column from someone who comes from where he does, a perspective from a heartbeat consistent with that of our Nation. In that regard, I shall keep on writing, although I have been very busy at work and having difficulties finding time for it as of late. It seems that now is a better time than ever to write something.

Today, my heart is with the recent tragedy that took place at Silvercity movie theatre in Thunder Bay. I think of the young life lost, an Anishinaabe brother who was soon finding his stride if he hadn’t already. A young man with dreams of a higher Education, owning a nice home and providing for his family. A young man whom wanted to say that he overcame obstacles and defeated some of life’s greatest challenges, while reminiscing about the old days with his children and telling them many stories. Stories filled with hidden teachings not understood to them at the time.

I never met Daniel Levac, but judging from his pictures he was a young man driven by optimism and a charming smile. He was from Sachigo Lake, another one of our Northern communities surrounded by beautiful colors and sounds, a reason for his smile. It is fair to say that Daniel carried with him a love for his land and people, like all his people do. It is also fair to say that his passion for success came from his desire and need to provide for and protect his people the best way he knew how, which required him to leave home.

His people walked the Northern lands for hundreds and thousands of years, thus, leaving those lands must have been difficult. Unfortunately, his walk will continue in the next life, not given a chance to walk long in this one. However, his last steps in this world will not be his last, as the work he dreamed of achieving will continue, carried on by his fellow Northern brothers and sisters.

Daniel, like myself, believed that one day his children could grow up in Thunder Bay having received a good Education and taught the fundamental values of success. He believed in building bridges with one another, bridges that would one day connect all perspectives, races, nationalities and ideas, leading to a collective, united and stronger city. The fundamental reason for doing so, to leave something better for his children and grand-children.

I will attend his memorial today and remember a man I never got to meet, but wish I had, so I could say to him that his generation inspires me to be better so that they might follow, because one day my son’s will follow their lead. Today is not a day to voice opinions to which no solutions are offered, it is not a day to acknowledge ignorance, misinformation or hate. Today is a day to remember a beautiful smile and helpful heart, who used his sense of humor to make friends with people of all ages, including his teachers and mentors.

Daniel Levac, an Anishinaabe doctor, lawyer, teacher or our next Grand-Chief, who left us too soon, should cause us to realize that something is wrong with the status quo and that continued negativity will only burn the bridges that form positive relationships with one another. Rest in Peace Daniel son, a nickname I surely would have gave him if we met.