Traveling + a Baby

I remember the advice “travel before you have a baby.” It’s like some age-old advice ingrained in our current society, or something like that. So when I became pregnant we discussed vacations and had decided that we’d wait until our baby was a bit older before doing something big and tropical. It seemed the smart, responsible thing to do. “Wait until she can remember.”

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Over this past summer we took a few “mini” vacations within the province.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. It was time for our annual family road trip to Las Vegas (which we missed the previous year because I was pregnant). Its a long drive for us (that we split up into three days of travel), and we’re there for about 7-10 days. Insert some serious nerves about bringing a teething 11 month old on vacation, thanks to above mentioned “advice”. What I wasn’t expecting was that before the end of our trip we’d be planning a tropical vacation for the following year!

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Something never sat well with me and the advice to “live your life” before a baby. I was someone who yearned for motherhood for quite a few years before my husband and I made the leap into parenthood and I remember doing so many things with my extended family wishing I had my own little to enjoy it with me (including going trick or treating every Halloween, I was the aunty without children tagging along, ha!). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed and fully appreciated the wonderful time when it was just my husband and I in our relationship and I will always value that, but now that my daughter is here I can’t imagine doing life without her!

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Where I’m going with this is that children are not a stay-home-and-fun-life is over sentence that they’re made out to be. Of course there are challenges and changes that need to be made to accommodate them, and I don’t have the experience of parenting a toddler (which is its own challenge) but I can’t help but imagine our ancestors, traveling across North America, with their families in tow. What I take the most from them is that it really does take a village. If you have extended family, relatives willing to help, use them! We were in a fancy restaurant (in our hotel) and my daughter was going nuts in there. There was no way I could eat, when she just wanted to explore. Luckily my mother in law graciously kept her in the hotel room and let her run wild while I enjoyed a meal. She was in her hotel room and I asked, and she happily took the crazy child. Do not be afraid to ask for help if its there.

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Overall, apart from teething and getting sick of her carseat, my 11 month old did so good on this trip and it was worth it seeing her eyes get huge at all the new things to see. It seems she came home a new baby, so much further developmentally than where she was before we left. It may have just been good timing, or the the experience itself but she knows and understands so much more now. We enjoyed ourselves and now we can’t wait to take her to the ocean within the year. I could kick myself for thinking to not travel with a baby, and that to do big trips she should remember. I’m going to remind myself to enjoy this time with her and even though she will not remember, that these experiences enrich her life regardless, and mine as well.

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Art, Inspiration & Fashion – April Johnson, Guest Blogger

Fall is in full swing, and I couldn’t be happier about it! Summer is great and all, but the older I get I realize I’m more productive in the colder months, and kinda like being a homebody! So yeah, I’m looking forward to getting i*sh done, but will definitely make
time to also step out in Vancouver to take in the beautiful fall colors!

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When I’m getting into ‘the zone,’ I’ve got my routine down – steep the tea, throw on the moccasins and sweats and light my favorite cedar incense. All this usually gets me ready to pour my heart into my photos, scripts and film ideas.

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However, over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking over in admiration at other artists more than I’ve been looking within, and although I want to get sit, sip and bring my ideas to fruition, I also want to celebrate the success of some kick-ass ladies working hard at that they love. Really, these ladies deserve a shout out!

Two people I’ve looked over to and found inspiration from are Joleen Mitton, Founder of Vancouver International Fashion Week (VIFW) and activist and filmmaker Rose Stiffarm. I met up with both ladies in Vancouver to discuss staying focused on art, inspiring others and indigenous fashion.

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April: What advise would you give to youth about staying focused and following their artistic interests?

Rose: I know that some of my mentors in the arts have told me to keep practicing; you’re only going to get better… and if one art form doesn’t work our for you, there’s always other art forms out there to help express yourself. I think a lot of what’s wrong out there in society is that we keep a lot of our emotions inside and we don’t have a way to express ourselves, but it’s important.

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April: What about your personal style? How do you feel fashion helps you express yourself?

Rose: I definitely look to trends to see what’s out there for fashion, but I don’t let it dictate what I wear. I add to it with other pieces that reflect more so who I am. It feels like myself isn’t necessarily reflected in mainstream fashion, and so it’s nice to have my own spin on things, and I noticed that because of that, I end up having a lot more interactions with strangers. In a way, it’s more about being seen in a society where we we’re not always seen.

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 Joleen Mitton, portrait by Thosh Collins

April: What inspired you to start Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week?

Joleen: I was a model for a long time, since I was 15 years old. I was working in really shallow industry and then come out of it and worked for the community; I was becoming really drained because I was a frontline worker for a long time. So I really wanted to do something with both my frontline work and my fashion identity from before, because both didn’t really fit my personality, but put together, they did. So, being able to help my community without draining my emotions with intergenerational trauma was something I was trying to do.

April: What fuels your ambition?

Joleen: A combination of things, like me making Canada native again…making it a safe space for First Nations to be in the city is really one of my main focuses. I’m trying to create native spaces all the time and I can’t help it. Making sure that the next generation coming up is comfortable in Canada, because it’s unceded territory is very important. The only way that we’re gonna survive is if we keep on doing stuff like that.

April: If you could describe Indigenous Fashion in a few words, how would you describe it?

Joleen: I might need more than a couple words, but: visibility, resilience, artisanship, reclaiming…

April: Any words of wisdom for youth about staying focused?

Joleen: Yes, I guess ‘don’t give up!’ (Laughs) I’ve noticed this with a lot of youth, some are great right out the gate, but sometimes it takes until you’re 30 to really get all your ducks in a row. And so it’s never too late to go get what you want. But do it slow, don’t do it fast, because once you do it fast, I feel like that’s when people slip up the most. Work on your relationships and work on yourself, and don’t take the fast road, take the slow road. It took 7 years to make VIFW. I feel that if you go at a slow pace and do things in an honorable way, and have the right relationships and nurture those relationships, you can succeed in anything. You don’t appreciate things you get quickly. You millennials out there stop that (laughs).

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— See what I mean? These ladies are great, and it’s awesome they’re sharing their gifts (and their wisdom) with the world. Just re-reading their interviews has me motivated to get crackin’ on the creative ideas buzzing in my head. With that said, I’ll gotta get to work!

 — april johnson


April Johnson is of Metis/Cree (Muskoday First Nation) and Settler ancestry and currently resides in Vancouver. She attended the Indigenous Independent Digital Film Program (IIDF) at Capilano University and has been working in media and independent film since 2015. Her interests include screenwriting, photography and promoting Indigenous women’s health. // stay in touch and connect: web: apriljohnson.net // insta: @aprilej

Native Sistah’s Unite

Since moving to the big city, much like Amanda in her last post, I’ve been experiencing some challenging transitions. Having this be my 4th move in one year and as a newcomer to the city, I definitely have my moments of longing to be back in a small community with all its laughter. Luckily, I have my amazing partner who continues to remind me that those things take time to build. One warming sense of community I feel like I always have, however, is our blog. ❤

When one of the Tea&Bannock members first posted that they were coming to Portland to be extras on Portlandia, I became super thrilled. I thought, not only was I going to meet another Tea&Bannock artist, but I was going to have some super rad Indigenous woman to roam the city with!

Already knowing that Joi was part of our blog made it super easy to reach out and offer a place for her and Leah to stay. This was always how my Nanuk treated her friends and friends of friends, even. In her case, it was always more the merrier. Her house was never empty growing up.

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Having Leah and Joi’s company reminded me of why our blog is so comforting. When our ancestors were living off the land, one of the strategies of weakening our cultures were to divide and conquer. When my Nanuk was displaced from her hometown tent life in Aklavik, she mentioned moving into “box houses” and hating the sense of division it created.

As a member of Tea&Bannock, this space has always felt incredibly genuine and supportive. For me, It’s been a major platform to reconnect with my native sisters – and whether we’re Inuit, Navajo, Inuvialuit, Lakota, Dene, etc.., we’re all Indigenous sisters connected through survival of great resistance.

Moments where we can comfortably sit with our tea and bannock (in our case. it was sangria and Mexican food) and chat about being an Indigenous woman in an urban society while giggling at all the follies we’ve experienced and sharing how to deal are incredibly wonderful and healing.

 

 – Caroline Blechert

No More Silence

I remember it vividly. Social class, 2007. Our teacher, Mr. P., was always great at starting class conversations and he was teaching us about World War II, and The Holocaust. I remember thinking about how ridiculous it was that the Nazi’s were able to “get so far” with their hate and that so many people died. It was unfathomable. It still is. I remember thinking to myself that people should have “done something sooner”. “Why didn’t people speak out against it?“. “I would.” Of course, people were. Good people. I also remember the message that we learned at an even younger age, “why do we have to learn about history?” “So we can learn from it.

I was young, naive, and foolish. I found it inconceivable that something like that could touch us here in this day and age in Canada. I knew there were some racists out there, but I had yet to really have any experiences myself. I looked around at my “diverse” (or so I thought at the time) classmates. Less than 15 of us in our class. Of varying backgrounds. We had the Cree kids from the reserve, and the farm kids from the country. We all got along really well. I loved my classmates and my teachers and high school was one of the best experiences for me. Again, I was an inexperienced kid and just didn’t know about the real world. I had very little knowledge of World Wide events. Everyone didn’t have Facebook quite yet (hello, Nexopia), no iPhones, and our limited free time that we did spend online was chatting on msn messenger (at dial-up internet speeds).

Fast forward a decade. 2017. I have more experience. I have seen, experienced, and heard some horrible things. With Facebook, news travels as fast as our fingers can move. With the recent Charlottesville protests, it is quite clear that the hatred surrounding Second World War is very much alive. It’s terrifying. I cry for 17-year-old me. I cry for my daughter. I stay up late thinking about it. I whisper with my husband at night discussing it. Long drives with my sister talking about our disbelief, anger, disgust at the White Supremacists. Shock in the US President. Private discussions where no one can hear us. Then I realize that that is how hate groups gain momentum. Passiveness. Being “hush hush” about it. Looking the other way. Pretending it’s not happening. The mentality that “it’s not affecting me directly so I don’t need to do or say anything” OR “I don’t need to say anything because obviously I’m against the White Supremacists, because I’m not white” OR “Other people with louder and more important voices will speak out.” I’ve noticed a lot of silence on this topic via Social Media, and in-person with people. There seems to be a “don’t talk about it” attitude, and I noticed I wasn’t talking about it either, unless it was with the two people closest to me. Or maybe people just don’t know? For the sake of Love, I think we do need to talk about and acknowledge it. For my daughter’s sake, I need to acknowledge it. No more pretending it’s not happening and sticking our heads in the sand. Jimmy Fallon said it best when he stated that it was important for people to speak out, that ignoring it is as good as supporting it. That spoke to me.

How would I explain to Alba when she’s older that I didn’t speak out? In my minds eye, I see us having conversations, and I hope I can tell her I was stronger than I am. Less scared. More brave. Condemning the bad, instead of quietly watching it unfold, unknowingly in the middle of it. These groups also exist in Canada and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. So here I am, for my sake, my daughters sake, and for the future, speaking out. Raising awareness, and saying that it’s so very wrong. Opening the conversation. When Alba asks, “Mama, what did you do when the White Supremacists had their rallies with their torches blazing and their Nazi flags flying?” I can say with confidence that I spoke out against them, instead of whispering behind closed doors about it. It breaks my heart that this is happening in her lifetime, and I pray and will work towards a less intolerant future for her, full of more compassion, love, understanding, and acceptance.

I have hope.

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 – Claudine Bull

Laugh with me

Since my family and I moved from Alert Bay to Victoria, all I’ve been thinking about is how much I miss laughing with my friends up island. My first week back in the city I was texting them and telling them that people weren’t laughing at my stories. I was never much of a story teller but something in me changed. I learned a few things about living in a small community during my three years in Alert Bay, and the most important teaching that I picked up is that shit happens and we are all in it together so let’s laugh about it.

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I remember the laughter of my relatives in Saskatchewan. Most of the time we laughed because someone was being teased. I close my eyes and I can see my aunties with their eyes squinted, heads titled up to the sky with big smiles, I hear their cackles and I smell their cigarettes. It didn’t matter who was being teased; we all laughed, especially the one being teased.

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When I was little, my dad was always away working up North and my mom didn’t have very much time to herself, between cleaning other peoples homes and taking care of my sisters and I. She had to bring us along to do everything with her. There were the lawyers and doctors homes that our mom cleaned while we vacuumed or daydreamed about living different lives. We went to the the bank where we were told to behave while all four of us stood and waited in the line, and eventually one of us would start to swing on the stanchions (my husband had to look that one up) and we’d either get a scowl from a back teller or our mother. And now I have the convenience of an ATM or doing my banking from home without distractions. She brought us along to the grocery store (I need to practice deep breathing to avoid loosing my shit when I take the boys to the grocery store) where we would be told that if we behaved we could have a free cookie from the bakery. In the days of no iPads or iPhones my mom would visit her friends at their homes and tell us to sit and behave, there were no electronic distractions. I remember that as I got older, I enjoyed listening to the adults talk and laugh. Their was Milli, who was like a kohkum and we all called her Milli Vanilli. She lived in a small apartment where we would look at the most recent items that she knitted or beaded. There my mother would learn how to make moccasins. I would listen to them talk about their week and notice when their voices became quiet which was when I tried harder to hear what they were talking about and then suddenly they would erupt in laughter. In the evenings we would go visit Leah. She was such a tiny lady with a huge personality, great hair and a big heart. She was always, always laughing; it was infectious. We would go to her place to visit but also to do some shopping. It was her place where my mom bought my very first and only pair of brand new Guess jeans, the pair with the ankle zippers. They were so cool and I wore them with my favourite purple silk blouse. Leah was earning her money on the side while my mom was trying to please her eldest daughter who refused to go shopping at the Sally Anne. Years later I learned that Leah died while being held in a prison cell in Saskatoon.

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In my circles we laugh, sometimes too much and I am told by a three year old that -we are too loud and that it is not funny. My laughter had always been loud but after living in Alert Bay, it is even louder. Not too sure how that is possible but it has happened. I always knew how to laugh but living in Alert Bay awoke something within me – I learned how to laugh like my aunties and grannies used to. We were always laughing. We laughed at everything and anything. If you were hurt, we laughed.  If you were sad, we laughed. If my husband told his “wing wing” joke, we laughed but not always. And its that laughter that allows us to survive even when we are hurting.

-Amanda Laliberte

it’s in the quiet times…

I did something extreme this summer – something that has caused me a lot of grief, guilt and shame.

I know… what an intro.

My parents are taking care of my kid for the summer.

There, I said it.

I feel wrong just saying it.

There is so much to unpack here.

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It started in the middle of June. I went to Vancouver for two weeks for two academic conferences and my Mom was watching my baby at my place in Saskatoon. And we chatted about it – and she agreed to watch Aerie for the summer up North. I’m still studying for my PhD (one day I will write more about this) and I am working hard on passing a big test that will determine whether or not I continue in academia in two freaking weeks. So much pressure, and on top of all this – blogging, photography, and a new book out to promote. Mom saw all this and was offering to come stay with me in the city, but she hates the city. And Aerie loves the North. It was easy to see that Aerie going North would help me out so much, and that it would be easiest for my parents.

Let me say this right away – I am so blessed to have my parents around to be able to do this, and the only person feeling guilty about this is me. My parents love having Aerie, and she loves being up there. There are no problems there at all.

So this guilt, this shame, and this self-loathing – it’s all internal.

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I like to say that this is an example of a community raising the child, which is an idea that I have taken to ever since my ex and I broke up. Although he and I are still friends, I am the primary parent of our child. And I do need help – and help is here. My brothers and their families, my parents, my best friends, my friends, and so on. If I need help, I just have to ask. Aerie is loved by many, and that is so good. She has a million aunties, just like any rez kid.

So she is doing amazing. She swims, boats, fishes, road trips, eats all the foods, makes all the friends. She is having a dream summer. We talk everyday and I make the trip down to see her very 7-10 days or so, even if it’s just for a night. But this was the longest time we have ever spent apart, and everyone has a comment.

Taking the summer to focus on my academic needs and myself gives me insane guilt, and that’s ok. I know – I KNOW – that this is the best for her and I right now, and that I needed this extra time to focus. But it’s hard.

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It’s hard when my own brothers make “you’re like an auntie to her ha ha ha” comments, while they sit in their two-parent relationships. It takes everything in me to not verbally cut them down because Mama raised me better than that. And I react because I fear what they say is true. Which is insane, I know, but I’m still teary just thinking about it.

It’s hard when I get asked by friends who don’t know the situation – “Where’s Aerie?” I drown in guilt and massive explanations when I don’t need to. I want to justify this to everyone, and I’m the only one who needs that.

It’s hard when it’s quiet at night, and I turn on a cartoon, just so I can feel like she’s around. It’s hard when I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking she called for me, and I remember she’s not there. When I go grocery shopping, and she’s not there, trying to sneak in her favourite snacks. So many moments where I miss the every day feeling of having her by my side.

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But there is a light – we are coming down to the end of summer. Her days at the beach are getting shorter. Her hair is getting longer. Her tan is incredibly dark, and she is thinking about her Grade 1 class and who will all be in there. My exams are coming up, and soon after that, she will be home with me. Those early morning cuddles where I have to convince her to get up – I can’t wait. Our Friday afternoon Starbucks dates – I can’t wait.

I really didn’t even wanna share this – I hate sharing my struggle – but I do know that the academic world is not women-friendly, it’s not Indigenous-friendly, it’s not mother-friendly. And that to succeed, sometimes we have to make sacrifices. This was mine. I gave up my summer with my kid.

But it’s only my sacrifice – as this was Aerie’s gain.

These were the moments where her relationship with her grandparents, her community, her land, and her culture – it only got stronger.

And come the Fall, I can’t wait to hear her stories.

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 – tenille k campbell

fish camp

From the moment I jumped into the boat to head my Jijuu’s fish camp, I could literally feel my mind ease and my body begin to let go of tension and stress. I can honestly say that our fish camp is my happiest place on Earth. It is where I can think my straightest and find my balance all while learning about my Gwich’in heritage and spending time with my Jijuu.

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While at fish camp, there is always work to be done. The nets have to be checked all day long, the fish need to be scaled, gutted, cleaned and cut to be dried, we need to gather the right type of wood to be burned for the fish to dry properly, fetch water from the creek, cook meals, keep the place clean and we always end our nights with a game of soccer. Some would say that the best part of fish camp is the nightly soccer game – it can get pretty crazy sometimes, especially when everyone is out on the field. It isn’t so much about the score or who’s winning, but the laughter and teasing that we all share together, especially my Jijuu who stands on the side lines coaching and laughing like it’s going out of style.

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It is a really great feeling to be up there with my family and seeing everyone working together as a team to get all of the work done. And it really fills me with so much pride to watch my Jijuu pulling fish out of the net, cutting it up and hanging it in the fish house that her father had built when she was just a child.

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I can never stress enough, how much I admire and appreciate this little woman who I call my Jijuu. She is the epitome of strength and resilience. She is the hardest worker I know. Although she is in her late 70’s, she is always working, always moving, always doing something – right from the moment she rises right until she lays her head back down to sleep. In the time it takes me to cut one fish to dry, she’s finishing off her fourth. While I’m struggling to get up the hill, she’s already pouring herself a cup of tea and lighting her cigarette. She amazes me beyond words with what she is capable of. I can only hope and pray to one day be half of the women that she is. She is my truest friend.

 – shayla snowshoe