Art | Indigenous | Opinion

Homesick

Missing the holiday traditions of a First Nations community.

I’m thinking of home during this holiday season. Usually preparations are being made for the annual pow wow back in my home community, Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation near Kenora, Ont. This year I won’t be able to go back … travel restrictions and all.

I will miss the sound of the drum and watching the dancers in their regalia. Sitting in the circle with my friends and family. Of course a baby will be placed in my lap. I won’t know the name of the baby, but that will be alright. It will be loved by all the grandmothers and aunties in the circle. I am a grandmother, but in this stage of my life, I would be considered an auntie – an advisor or helper to the younger people. Not an Elder, that title is reserved for the knowledge-keepers.

A 2019 Christmas pageant at Vivian’s church Place of Hope in Winnipeg.

I live in Manitoba, and even the bannock is different in each indigenous community. The bannock here is flatter and back home it’s more fluffy. The odd things one remembers of back home. Going to miss the wild meat. The best cooks are always known by the community; the ones who make the deer meat taste so delicious and can conjure up different types of soups that are so tasty. And of course the tea.

Now I have to watch the Christmas celebrations on Facebook. Go through the list of children for the presents to be given. Secret Santas are being set up. Not sure how that works. They may still have the pow wow, but on a smaller scale. Only on-reserve; Band members only, due to the pandemic restrictions. I might still be able to watch the events online, but it’s not the same.

Going to miss holding that baby in my lap. Getting teased by my nieces and nephews. The smell of the food. The sound of the laughter in the hall. The memories when stories are shared. Most of all, I am going to miss hearing my language spoken in that circle. Miss listening to the Elders share their stories of our past. Stories that can’t be written in any form. Oh, and that home humour with a bite to it.

I am going to miss my home community this holiday season, knowing that the Circle is going to be smaller. We might even lose a Knowledge Keeper or respected Elder. So there is more to missing my home community than the cherished traditions. It is the fear of losing loved ones.

  • Vivian was born in Kenora, Ont., and attended a residential school run by the Presbyterian Church in Canada. She is a writer and social activist, focusing mainly on healing and reconciliation work.

  • “Christmas at the Old Quick Church” was painted by Caitlin Ambery, an artist born in rural, northern B.C. who grew up in Victoria and now lives in Smithers, B.C. She paints predominantly in acrylics, with many thin layers building upon each other. She often incorporates people into her artwork, as “a way of exploring her views on the importance of what it is to be a human being, participating in relationship with creation and creator”.

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