Kwai Nedoba (Hello friends)
So, a couple of years ago I found out that I have Indigenous ancestry. And with the help of my Nzazis (mother's brother) I researched it, and made application to the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk Abenaki in Vermont. I wrote about this in a blog a while back. Anyway, because it seemed so "sketchy," initially I didn't heard back, and when I did I was told that I needed primary documentation—which would have been extremely difficult to find—and not only that, but there's some family dynamics going on.
I pretty much forgot about it. After all, I've got mystuff - and the stories are always great: My great-grandfather helped build Parliament after it burnt down; my great-great-great uncle is Jesse James; We used to be peers in the U.K., but we went bankrupt.
Oh, I know all the stories. The Jesse James one is funny, because back in Grade 4, during a class when we were talking about our family history, I mentioned it. Miss Robbins, my teacher, poo-poo'd it—and embarrassed me in front of the class. So I told my mom this; and she showed up the next day and, in front of the class, told Miss Robbins that it was true. Take that, unbeliever!
Anyway … on Dec 24, 2018, I was at the South Mountain Post Office because one of Karen's gifts hadn't arrived. It's Christmas Eve—I have a lot to get ready for—but I just wanted one more check before Xmas. In my mailbox was an envelope from the U.S. "Must be from cousin Timmy," I thought, who lives in Osh Kosh (Yes! it's a real place!)
I open it up, and there is a card—like a credit card—with my picture on it and a letter explaining that I have been enrolled in the Abenaki Nation (with my girls and Karen). I was literally gobsmacked, and that's the first time I've ever used that word! I stood in the post office lobby for five minutes just looking at this, this, revelation. It's one thing to speculate about Indigenous ancestry. It's quite another to actually have status and citizenship.
Now I have to be clear: The Nulhegan Band of Coosuk Abenaki are a Vermont-recognized nation only (as are most other Abenaki bands). There are no "perks" for belonging such as "no paying tax" or "education for free." We are a part of the Wabanaki Confederacy and the 7 Fires (Nations) Confederacy, so there are some treaty rights. But mostly it means membership and community.
Does being indigenous change my mind about the issues that are affecting indigenous people such as the 60s Scoop (one of my uncles is my uncle because of the 60s scoop), Truth and Reconciliation? Pipelines? To be honest, no. But I'm not much of a person for social justice movements or political intrigue. I'd rather work with a person to help them, than work with a system, or a cause. I'd rather describe myself as Inkerman's minister than as a minister of the United Church.
So, I probably won't be protesting. But I see a trip to the "Northeast Kingdom" in the near future. My nation makes maple syrup on land that they purchased, the first lands "owned" by an Abenaki band in over 200 years. So maybe I'll head down there and see if they need a hand. And maybe at the same time learn a bit about where I might fit into things.
Wiloni (Thank you)
N'dalgommek (All my relations)
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