All my mom’s sisters have passed away as have her brothers except for three. The Aunties left in our family are three through marriage. The ache I feel for my Aunties and Uncles, mosoms, and kohkoms, my older generation’s physical presence in my life and their unparalleled, unconditional love is so tangible, I can feel the pain, sometimes. My son, my mama, my grand-babies are at the core of my heart.
All of this emptiness and loneliness is quickly filled up, though, with others who have also become my family.
I have the gift of non-biological Lodge Aunties whom I didn’t get the honour of growing up with, but who have taken me under their wing – they give me the same kind of love – it is like a beautiful, warm familiar blanket.
I also have sisters and brothers who are truly my siblings in every sense of the word. I have Uncles and even another Father who adopted me, and because I am his Dawnis, I have others who are my family through him. I have countless nieces and nephews and now even grand-nieces and nephews whose little voices sound Aunty and even Nohkomis alongside my own little granddaughters’ voices. I have three additional families: my Water Walk family, my Lodge family, and my Clan.
Over and over, the echo of “you are never alone” fills up the empty spaces that sometimes appear, even now, as far along on my own walk that I am.
It is this relationality that ensures our collective Indigenous survival in every sense of the word. The isolation is what kills us as Indigenous people; the isolation and feelings of loneliness lead us to suicide ideations and/or addictions and other self-destructive behaviours.
That colonial energy wants us to feel divided, alone, without our kinship web because that web is what catches us and keeps us alive.
Agents of colonialism tried to destroy, and still try to break apart, our family units and take away our children. The destruction of this kinship web is why they encourage us to break our relationships with each other, our families, with the Waters, Lands, our Clans, and the rest of Creation, with all our Relations.
The threat of knowing we belong inside a complex web of all our Relations is why they want us to forget our own ways of knowing and being in the world. It is why they outlawed our Spirituality and continue to try to assert dominance over it. It is why they try to keep us in jail cells. It is why they clap in celebration when we destroy each other through lateral and outright violence.
That colonial energy wants us completely isolated, broken down, without hope: without kinship.
We never are alone, however, and this simple fact is what has allowed our people to survive brutality, oppression and racism over and over again, in every kind of traumatic situation you can ever imagine being in. As Indigenous people, we create and recreate our kinship webs, Waynaboozhoo style, through new and innovative ways, but also by returning to our Ancestral understandings.
This simple fact of relationality is why you see so many people standing up on colonial legislative steps, in front of trains and pipelines: for each other, for the Lands, Waters, for our future generations, and for our non-human relatives.
The bundle of relationality is one of our greatest respective Indigenous Ancestral gifts left to us. It is really easy to pick up, too. Anyone can: just go to Nibi/nipiy, the Water’s edge, to askiy/Aki, the land, find a Lodge, Midewiwin, Sundance, Wabano, Rain or another respective Indigenous spiritual tradition, create a community, urban/rez/land; find a sister, father, brother, become an Aunty, an Uncle, a kohkom or mosom. Start stitching your web together with healthy, loving, kind people and with the medicines of the Water and Lands and the rest of Creation. Your spirit will know when you tap into this beautiful, powerful energy. It will become a part of you.
This life-giving relational energy will catch you when you fall and then you, in turn, will catch others ❤ instead of pushing them off the edge colonial style. As our kinship webs grow stronger, our families, our Clans, our Lodges, and our Nations grow stronger. With this strength of collectivity, no matter what that colonial energy tries to do, it simply can’t break us.