Word Prompt: Presence | Story Prompt: from the book “Black Water” by David A. Robertson

Write It Out: Instruction Video

“”Me not learning about the Cree part of who I am, was that something intentional, or what guided that decision?” I asked Dad in 2019, in my office at work, him on the grey couch I’d bought from IKEA, me on an office chair, leaning forward as though watching an intense scene in a movie. I’d asked him thousands of questions over almost thirty years, but this was one I’d not asked. I can’t explain why; I guess I’d just assumed the answer.

“You are who you are,” he said. “We talked about Melita. I never went around telling people I was an Aboriginal person. People knew. I’ve never hidden the fact that’s who I am, but it also doesn’t do me any good walking around and saying, ‘I want you to know that I’m an Aboriginal.’ That’s how I live. There’s a way of life in being an Aboriginal that helps you be the person you are. One of the teachings of the Cree people is the concept of non-interference. That is, you don’t interfere with another person’s life. They’re going to learn what they’re going to learn. Since I am an Aboriginal, there’s a part of me that still remembers that. That is, you don’t interfere with another’s life. You live the way you live, and that should show the kind of person you are. There was never an attempt for me to show you how to be an Aboriginal. I was going to teach you to be a man. In being a man, you’re going to find out who you are, and you’ll decide for yourself. I’m not going to decide for you who you are. It should show in my life, that within you there’s a Cree stream, because I live that. But for me to have said, ‘I’m going to teach you to be an Aboriginal’ — how am I going to do that? How am I going to say, ‘Well, now I’m going to teach you to be an Aboriginal person? You are. I don’t ever remember saying, ‘This is the way I want you to live because you’re an Aboriginal person.’ I’ve tried to live a life that shows I am an Aboriginal person, and shows you that as well.”

The choice my parents made, then, was not to hide the Indigenous part of our identity, our genetic makeup, or to raise us as non-Indigenous, but rather to raise us as humans and let us define for ourselves what it means to be Indigenous. Let us go on that journey of discovery in our own way, in our own time. And that begs the question: What is Indigenous identity?”

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I am finding so much wisdom in books written by Indigenous authors. Books that make me pause, like this one, and feel grateful that their voices are being heard. Books that make me feel like I’m better person for having read them. Books with a presence all their own.

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