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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Paulette Steeves, PhD


My Indian Name is Pyroepistomology

My ancestors used fire

to care for the land

Fire is healing

Fire feeds life overburdened by invaders

 

Fire flows freely in my blood

in my heart and soul

I descend from a long line of fiercely glowing embers

Embers who refused to be extinguished

ancestors who stand strong in dreams and visions

 

I spit fire when I speak

My words terrify settler academics

I do not mean to be a fire-breather

But this comes as natural as telling the truth

to an honest Indigenous woman

 

Aww, yes, the truth shall set you free

Unless you are a settler listening to Indigenous truths

Then it shall Imprison you

Lock your heart and mind in genocidal ancestral landscapes

You will need a healing fire

Lite one tonight and call me in the morning

 

So please do forgive my truths, my words, my fires

Fire is sacred, a path to healing

Fire cleanses an overburdened landscape

Fire burns dehumanizing discussions

 

Fire cleans the land

Words clean literary landscapes of un-education

Fire creates a fresh canvas

where new life emerges

So people of all colours can start again

in open fields of healing and peace


Finding Home

I often wonder where all the hate and anger of colonization came from.
Settlers who invaded Turtle Island brought a heavy burden of burning pain.
They set fire to Indigenous Nations, and when fires began to dim, settlers added fuel to ensure the destruction of the Indian problem.
The fuel of sexual abuse, murder, genocide, alcohol, dehumanization, laws that made cultural practices and Indigenous languages illegal, laws that paid cash for Indian scalps.
What kind of humans carry so much hate, anger and destruction within their souls.
I wonder how it was even legal for governments to plan and carry out genocide; then today, in 2022, we witness this again on the European continent; how is it not a crime that the world steps in to stop.

It is even sadder that after hundreds of years, some Indigenous people have adopted and normalized this settler hate, this destruction, this dehumanization.
Some Indigenous Nations have denounced their relations and barred their people from their homelands and community.

Many Indigenous Nations live by the Seven Grandfather Teachings, Love, Wisdom, Bravery, Respect, Humility, Honesty and Truth.
But I have to ask why some Indigenous people who claim to live by the Seven Grandfather Teachings practice The Seven Settler Teachings, Deceit, Fear, Greed, Hate, Egotism, Disrespect, and Cowardice.
It is clear that the pain of colonization clouds the minds, hearts, and spirits of many people; they have lost their way, lost their spirits and minds.

Thousands of Indigenous children who were stolen from their communities grew up in an alien settler world, red-skinned children raised by white-faced people.
Many of those children heard their ancestors calling in dreams, thoughts, and hearts, and many began the long journey of finding home.

I am always so happy to read about Indigenous children who grew up in a settler world, and then as adults, they found their way back home and found their ancestral communities and lands. It pains my heart to read about those who are still looking for their homes, their ancestors, their relations, and those who remain lost. Those who face racism and violence in settler worlds and when seeking to find their ancestral homes face resentment, anger, greed, fear and violence from some Indigenous and settler people.

Children did not ask to be stolen, forced to live in alien worlds and lose their language, culture, and families. I wonder if those Indigenous people who block the path of Indigenous children trying to return home ever think about what it is they might bring, rather than fear what it is they might take.

It is often not an issue for famous or wealthy Indigenous celebrities who were stolen and grew up in settler worlds to return home; they are welcomed with open arms. There are many well-known musicians, scientists, athletes, academics, and Indigenous business people who, after being stolen, eventually found their way home and were accepted with open arms.

It is not so easy for many Indigenous children, many so wealthy with knowledge and spirit but not necessarily holding large monetary accounts.

Colonial governments vowed for decades to end the Indian problem, to kill, deny, and disenfranchise as many Indians as they possibly could until the Indians no longer existed.

But the colonial governments failed. Indigenous Nations have worked to bring Indigenous women back into their rightful place within communities by working for decades to rewrite laws created on policies on genocide.

So much land was stolen, so many communities were destroyed and scattered to the winds, many Indigenous children have no home community to return to.

They float through crimson skies over white urbanity, lost and seeking relations, anything to tie their hearts to small spaces of healing.

I have never found my older brother and sister stolen from my Cree- Metis mother by settler government agents, torn from her arms and heart in a frozen settler city in Alberta in the 1940s. She never recovered; her heart was torn, her mind tormented from the loss for the last 44 years of her life.

I pray, and I hope that in some small way, my older brother and sister, whom settler agents stole before I was born, have found a piece of home, a grandmother’s name, a vision of ancestors. They would both be in their 70s now, and once again, I begin the work of seeking, asking for government records to be opened, and praying daily that I will find them or find out if they lived a good life.

In working to build paths to reconciliation, there are many flames in ever sacred healing fire; finding home is one, regaining language another, relinking to homelands another, just so many flames to tend to live Pimatisiwin a good life.

We hold back a tsunami of tears when we tend healing fires so as not to diminish the fires and the sacred flames of healing. One day I will find a raging river and unleash those tears. One day when I return to the spirit world, I will surely find all my relations waiting for me and welcoming me home.

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Paulette Steeves. Ph.D. (Cree- Metis) is an Indigenous archaeologist and an Associate Professor in Sociology at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous History: Healing and Reconciliation, and an adjunct faculty at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB. Her research focuses on the Pleistocene history of the Western Hemisphere, reclaiming and rewriting Indigenous histories, and healing and reconciliation. In her research, she argues that Indigenous peoples were present in the Western Hemisphere as early as 100,000 years ago and possibly much earlier. Dr. Steeves argues that counter stories to Western narratives of Indigenous histories address issues that remain critical to Indigenous people; sovereignty, self-determination, healing and reconciliation. Dr. Steeves’s writing, teaching, and research are framed in Indigenous Method and Theory. Dr. Steeves first published poetry at the age of ten; she has written songs and poetry and published her creative writing since 1965.


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