I have a small part in healing the whole, and for that I am responsible.
Artwork: Shield For Water Protectors ©2018 Marie Dion All Rights Reserved
Recently, I traveled up to Canada for the fast and sweats that we hold for preparation prior to ceremony. On the last morning of the fast, I was startled awake upon hearing a woman’s evil laugh. Instead of fearing it, I took a deep breath and asked my ancestors what this was about. “Who was she?”
“She is the last living relative of your step-grandsons,” they answered. “She was abused in the residential schools and her mind is not healthy. Do not
research their genealogy any further until she makes her spirit journey, and we will tell you when to continue.”
My grandfather then said to me, “Just as you will, of course, protect your grandsons because you love them and do not want them to be harmed, so too is the reason why you were born into an Italian, white family at this time. So you could be protected from harm as well.” I started to cry with this realization.
I did not grow up on a reserve, and over the years I have struggled with the issue of identity. My soul’s memories are real, as if the struggles I endured in past lives happened in real time to me in this life. But those memories are not from this life. In this life, I was born into a safe environment in order to allow my soul to recover from the intensities of the last few lives I lived. I struggle with this because I can identify so closely with all those who have grown up on reserves in this life and continue to struggle under the aftermath of colonialism, but if they do not believe me or understand the ways of Spirit, they think my understanding of them is not legitimate.
I have a connection to my Native ancestral bloodline in this lifetime, but that is only part of who I am genetically and spiritually. I didn’t even know what that meant until halfway through my life. My ancestors have told me, “Be authentic. The truth of who you are will be revealed when your soul finally meets its purpose.” I have a small part in healing the whole, and for that I am responsible.
I do not need to focus on who believes my experience and who does not. Yet it is difficult to feel that I am being authentic and doing my part when people think that I am using stories and history that, to them, do not look as though they belong to me because of my genetic identities in this lifetime. Though I try to take comfort in my ancestors’ words to get over this feeling, it is still a struggle.
This is true for all people, not just myself. Whether you can trace your ancestors’ blood lineage directly to the blood running through your veins, or whether you only feel the connection through your soul, you’re still here to heal our Mother Earth and to heal past traumas to “your” family line. The issue of cultural identity, and how we identify ourselves individually, is important only to us personally. Prejudice and racism are the effects of people focusing too much on their current identity and how it differs from others, rather than focusing on what we all have in common and what we can do to help each other heal and progress.
Grandfather explained judgment to me. He said, “Imagine you are looking at the outline of a human being. Then envision that human surrounded in light that includes a spectrum of all colors. Now, as you stand next to them, you fixate on the color blue, to the point where you only see the color blue and none of the other colors. When only fixated on one color, you do not see the entire human being, only that one aspect or trait. That is what judgment is.”
It is hard to overcome this view, however, because the pain and trauma caused by racism and prejudice are very real. Here in the Northeast, we now struggle to recover cultures and ancestries that were destroyed or hidden by genocide and assimilation from the first part of the American colonization. From my memories of my past lives, I recall these words that were said by the elders to the white soldiers who were involved in the massacres during the westward expansion: “We will be born again and return as your sons and daughters.” From what I have been told by my ancestors, this has come to pass as a way to help create the needed empathy between the souls that have had either a European or Native history.
Even though I sometimes struggle to balance my current life and past life memories, one thing I know for sure is that my connection to my ancestors is strong. They continue to guide and teach me every day.
Searching Tribal Rolls
My spirit grandfather, Onachowa, was Blackfoot. His ways were, and still are, powerful, and he has strong medicine. When he prays, I can feel his strength and this gives me faith in his guidance through all that I do. My family’s connection to our Native lineage was broken when my great-grandmother was murdered. Other families lost their connection through adoption, children taken to residential schools, or displacement of family members who pursued work or other necessities. After my great-grandmother’s murder, the rest of my family hid that part of their identity to protect their children from the prejudice and stigma that indigenous people had to endure. Many Native families were just trying to survive and protect their children by having them blend in and not be seen as Native. Though my family recognized the importance of telling us that we were Native, nothing more was said about it after that. We lived in a world that did not see Native people as equals. As a result, the connection to our traditions was cut, and I would have a long road ahead to reconnect with and heal my family’s lineage.
When I was searching for my memé’s Native lineage about twenty years ago, going from reserve to reserve on the East coast of Canada, I was guided by my ancestors to places all across the Gaspé Peninsula. I found my pepé’s name, along with the names of his father and brothers, in the Malecite tribal rolls in Canada. Finding this information was difficult at the time, because tribes were receiving some government benefits, and suddenly opportunists who had heard a story of a Native in their family were out to prove their heritage to get those benefits, even though neither they nor their families had ever lived on or been close to a reserve. This was not my intent. My ancestors started waking me in the middle of the night to tell me I needed to find this information, which shocked and scared me. I had not grown up in the environment of the Native reserves, and had no idea what was ahead of me.
But once I started the search, it was hard to convince anyone of my true motives. When I found my pepé’s name and family, I told the woman in charge of the rolls. She immediately closed the book and made me leave. She had just been humoring me and hadn’t really expected me to find my family, but when I did, she did not want me to make the final connection of proof. After that, I was never able to contact her again. At first I was upset at her reaction, but I understood the threat that was posed to limited tribal resources by all of these distant connections coming out of the woodwork for a share. It was enough for me to have found them and know that what my pepé had told me was true. I was given this small glimpse of the truth so that I could move forward to relink my family to who we are and where we came from. Since then, I have found that we are Blackfoot, Mi’Kmaq, and Malecite (Algonquin). I was guided to these discoveries through the story of my family’s migration, as told to me in spirit by my Native grandfather.
My grandfather’s people came from Northwest of the Great Lakes region. He was Blackfoot and only a young man at the time the Europeans started coming to our continent in droves. When they began arriving, the tribe decided to move westward to get away from the Europeans. My grandfather and a few other young men decided that they wanted to go east instead, and went in the opposite direction from the tribe. They traveled far along the St. Lawrence, and eventually my grandfather met and married my grandmother. Her people were Mi’Kmaq and lived on the Gaspé in Quebec, Canada. He never saw his Blackfoot family again. I am his seventh generation granddaughter, and he has told me that I am to bring our ways back to my family to heal our lineage and reconnect with the family that was lost so long ago.
The Karma Of Lineage
At the same time that I first started learning about my deep connection to my lineage, I also learned that I was never alone. My angels and guides have been with me, protecting and guiding me, for my entire life. But now I was starting to meet more of my spirit guides on a more frequent basis. They were introducing themselves to me, now that I was speaking with Grandfather and I knew that they were there. One night I dreamt that I was in a barren room of boards, like a shack, and I sat across a table from this beautiful, black–skinned woman who was very dear to me. I was very upset. I pointed to my skin, saying to her, “Look at this! Look how light my skin is!” I was yelling at her with tears in my eyes, saying, “I do not want to be this color. Why am I? I want my skin dark!”
The woman started to laugh, a very deep belly laugh, and then said to me, “Honey, you had to be this color in this life. It is part of your purpose. It is part of your karma, for you hated the white people in many lifetimes. So now, in this lifetime, you have to experience being white. You are a bridge for the healing.” She said this matter-of-factly and continued to laugh as I woke from the dream.
In the dream, the woman’s wisdom had seemed to fill the space we shared as I intently listened to her, thrilled that she was visiting me. Upon waking, I could still feel her immense love for me, and I felt an amazing connection with her. The lessons you learn through each of the lifetimes that you endure stay with your soul forever. You may not have an actual memory of them, but they become innate to who you are and who you will become. None of this experience is ever wasted, not even a single lesson you learn or a single talent you develop along the way.
I tell my nieces, nephews, and grandchildren that we all have a treasure inside of us. Nobody else can tell us where or what it is. We have to find it ourselves by going within, by truly getting to know ourselves. Once we do, that gift will be revealed to us. Creator has given each of us a purpose for being here, and we have only to seek it out within ourselves. To know yourself is to know your connection with the divine, and your purpose. This can only become clear when you mature and grow, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Once you are ready, synchronicities happen in your life that you cannot explain, but they serve as validation that you are moving in the right direction and fulfilling your purpose. These events not only validate your path forward, but also make the path easier for you. Once this process begins, do not let fear get in your way. Have courage, patience, and compassion. Be fearless in faith, and you will accomplish what your soul has come here to do.
In order to reach that place of forward motion, we need to take responsibility for ourselves on an individual basis first. As we do that, we can then heal ourselves, our loved ones, our families, our people, and our ancestors. The ripple effect will continue out through the generations endlessly. We are each put on this planet with a unique gift from Creator. It is up to each of us to find that treasure inside ourselves and offer it in service to others, as we strive to be better human beings. If we are successful in finding this purpose, we can have an impact that is not only apparent to those lives we touch now, but echoes throughout generations.
Marie Dion, author of Journey of a Red Soul, traces her ancestral heritage to Mi’kmaq, Malecite/Algonquin, Blackfoot, French Canadian and Italian lines. These provide the inspiration and motivation for all her creative pursuits, including her artwork, jewelry, sculpture and photography. Visit MarieDion.info.
Reprinted with permission of the author from Journey of a Red Soul, ©2017 Marie Dion.