Category Archives: Book Spottings

Good Relations – with the whole kit and caboodle, 10 of 10

Goose 4 4 14 With sincere thanks to Michael Chokomoolin for his generosity in loaning me this series of paintings.
Goose 4 4 14
With sincere thanks to Michael Chokomoolin for his generosity in loaning me this series of paintings.

The last words of this series go to two people I respect greatly. The one you already know. The other is a beautiful, grace and spirit- filled aboriginal healer.

From Francesca Mason-Boring in “Notes from the Indigenous Field”:
Technology is defined in Mirriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition, as the practical application of knowledge. The aboriginal tradition of meeting/healing in a circle, smudging, the concept of healing coming from within nurtured by nature, and the concept of enlisting ancestors to assist in healing are among a host of tribal technologies.
We are all connected to the universal indigenous. We all come from the cave. We all have morphogenetic (as Rupert Sheldrake’s term) access to our own ancestors who were indigenous, and we all have the option to be indigenous, which simply means coming from and connected to the land, creation, and the authentic feminine.
And from Martin Luther King Jr.:
We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made.

Amen, Francesca! Amen, Rev. King!
OH CANADA, our home ON native land…

Good Relations – Families, 6 of 10

Crane 5 17 12 by Michael Chokomoolin
Crane 5 17 12 by Michael Chokomoolin

At the conclusion of Emma Field Book Two and the beginning of Book Three, the young Jessabelle-Rose Matheson, on the threshold of a new life, falls gravely ill. It is Orenda Pierce, matriarch of the displaced Seneca nation, who understands that the girl’s heart’s loyalty is to her family, which, freshly ripped apart and long bent by the oppressive arm of slavery, is keeping her from fully stepping into her future.

How often are we like Jessabelle-Rose – on the edge of something we’ve wanted all our lives when the saboteur within us raises its ugly head and demands that we scurry back to being small? In my experience it has happened more often than I’d like to admit!

Orenda Pierce, and other First Nations, Inuit and Métis elders who hold their people’s traditions understand that our families are like great puzzles. When each of us is born we fill the hole in the puzzle of our family made by the departure or unresolved circumstances of other family members. Centuries before Freud’s first patient lay upon a couch, or Jung began to dance with archetypes, native spiritual leaders understood that to look clearly at the difficulties of the ancestors and to draw upon the strength of the family unit is to face the future with shoulders squared and head held high.

So why are there not more aboriginal children able to do just that? First of all, the wounds inflicted on Native Canadians were of a colossal magnitude. Gabor Maté M.D. says the “destruction of traditional relationships, extended family, clan, tribe, village; economic and social change, and displacement of people from their homes pulled apart the sense of belonging in morals and the spiritual world.” (pg. 263 – In The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts) Even the “simple” gut-wrenching act of removing one child from the familiarity of home, family, language, homeland and culture to the confines of residential school is traumatic. But there were 150,000 children (and their parents who were unable to protect them) who were traumatized by this.

Let’s turn for a moment to epigenetics – where behaviours, toxins or trauma of one generation can impact the expression of genes in subsequent generations.

One study on the eating habits of multiple generations of families in Sweden showed that grandfathers who went from a normal diet to routine overeating had grandsons who died an average of six years earlier than the grandsons of those who didn’t. Epigenetics may, in time, provide hard scientific evidence of intergenerational trauma of Native Canadians and link it to the diseases that currently afflict them like diabetes and cancer, not to mention the mental health issues that drive a disproportionate number of young aboriginals to suicide or dependence upon drugs and alcohol.

So why did First Nations, Inuit and Métis of this country not apply the poultice of their spiritual practices to the life-threatening wounds they received? Because they weren’t allowed to! The Indian Act of 1885 prohibited their traditional religious ceremonies until 1951!

Yet somehow, somehow, despite all of this there are people all across this country smudging, fasting, taking part in vision quests and crawling into the searing heat of a sweat lodge. In so doing they are healing their past, present and future in one fowl swoop. I know some of these people. They are in my own family.

But it isn’t just “the victims” who need to be healed. We all do. German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger, who combined the work of psychologist Virginia Satir with what he learned from the Zulu of South Africa to create Family Constellations or Systemic Constellation Work, knows this more than most. He has long observed in his work that those families who descend from WWII members of the Nazi party often require as much healing as descendants of the Jews who had been persecuted.

Whether we employ Hellinger’s Family Constellations or revive traditional aboriginal consciousness, it is entirely possible to heal the past and present by honouring family wounds without being limited by them. In so doing our children, be they aboriginal or not, may be born into new patterns and endless possibilities!

Good Relations, 1 of 10

"Eagle" by Michael Chokomoolin
“Eagle” by Michael Chokomoolin

I need to begin this series with a story about myself that I am not proud of. I grew up in a beautiful rural community in eastern Ontario. For reasons I do not understand, as a girl of about 7, I took a turn at mocking Linda Mindle, a sweet, gentle girl in my class, for being “Indian”. When my parents, who were farmers and active United Church members found out, there was hell to pay. I don’t remember the punishment, but I do remember the shame I felt for the cruelty of my actions. Then a few years later our parents adopted a one-year-old half- Ojibway girl from Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron. I completely fell in love with her. She had curly black hair and black eyes. She was soft and chubby and slept snuggled in with me in our father’s boyhood spool bed. She was the baby sister I had always wanted.

Janine, is now married to Michael Chokomoolin, a Cree artist and is the mother of three fine young women. She is closely connected to us, her adopted family, and to many of her extended birth family and the community in which she was born. Her own nuclear family is deeply committed to the native ways that are honoured in the seasonal ceremonies.

Our parents had always told Janine she was special and had been chosen through adoption by our family. But life wasn’t always easy for her and if I am really, really honest, I know that; tied to the wonderful gifts she gave us and we gave her, there was a string attached to the idea that we had “saved” this child…and she should be damn grateful for it. Ya., I know. It’s a crazy dance that happens when you take on the role of saviour. Someone has to play “victim” for you (and be indebted to you) and someone else has to be a “tyrant” (often times there is a “rebel” nearby too). I hate to admit it, but in my mind Janine had been the victim, her parents the tyrants and we white folks the saviours.

But this dance of the tyrant, victim, saviour and sometimes rebel doesn’t work. Its movements are based on who I need the other person to be – not the truth of who they are or the truth of who they have had to become because of outside forces. In this dance we can’t create anything new together. We’re just locked in step – I do this…you do that. It is vastly different from being simply “a good relation”. “A good relation” seeks to understand the other person over and over and over again. They welcome the truth and they stand up for the other.

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair is Anishinaabe and an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba. In the newly-released Masculindians by Sam McKegney, he says, “Every part of Indigenous cultures – if we’re talking about anything pan-Indian – every single ceremony that I’ve ever been a part of is about being a good relation. There’s nothing more simple than that, or more essential. A good relative is not always an idealized romantic image either. It’s sometimes where you have to stand in front of a bulldozer. It’s sometimes where you have to stand up for the water or you have to remind others of the sacredness of the Earth. It’s sometimes where you have to make food. It’s sometimes where you have to open a door. Every single part of being an Indigenous person, in the most meaningful way that I know, is about being a good relative and about thinking of somebody or something other than yourself. “


So it’s not about being a saviour, a tyrant, a rebel or a victim, it’s about being a good relation. I have seen the power of that in our own family. I have seen the power of that in 19th-cent

ury Quaker reformer Lucretia Mott who went to great lengths to be a good relation to members of the displaced Seneca nation; to women, especially marginalized Irish immigrant-girls; and to African Americans, be they male or female, influential or enslaved.

I think it’s time all of us became good relations to the Aboriginal members of this Canadian family.

New Offerings

The first day my brothers and I set eyes on our new little sister.
The first day my brothers and I set eyes on our new little sister.

In the month of June I’ll be writing entries connected with Canadian Aboriginal History Month. My interest started in 1970 when an adorable one-year-old ½ Ojibway girl toddled into our lives and became a sister to my brothers and me.

Free give-aways:
The e-book of Emma Field, Book Two, will be available as a free give-away on the next three Saturdays by going to

The e-book of Emma Field, Book Three, will be available as a free give-away for the following four Saturdays starting June 28, 2014 at

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – Lucretia Mott, 7 of 10

Lucretia Mott was instrumental in gathering 300 people together for the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls.
Lucretia Mott was instrumental in gathering 300 people together for the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls.

In the summer of 1848 Lucretia and James Mott travelled to northern New York State to visit the Seneca on the Cattaraugus reservation.  As members of the “Indian Committee” for the Quakers of their region they were especially concerned about the plight of the Seneca. From there they travelled to Canada where they visited settlements of escaped slaves* before returning to upstate NY to visit Lucretia’s sister Martha. There, the idea of a convention for women’s rights was conceived and within a matter of days, the convention took place with 300 people in attendance! The Smithsonian Institute has a nice concise explanation of the events that unfolded at:

*For those who have read the Emma Field series you may be interested to note that this was a year and a few months before Wm. King established the community at Buxton.  On an additional note – Lucretia Mott preached in Bloomfield Methodist Church, now Bloomfield United Church (and my home church) on one of her visits north. As I read this my heart started to pound and I hoped that the visit would have been significant for either Lucretia or her audience. Sadly for me, nothing special was noted!

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – A blog about Lucretia Mott 2 of 10

In the 19th century women could not vote. Therefore, they could not change the laws that restricted them.
In the 19th century women could not vote. Therefore, they could not change the laws that restricted them.

I find it helpful, when thinking of the battles waged by Lucretia Mott, to recall the tight restrictions placed on women in the 19th century. At that time:

-upon marriage all property owned by a woman went to her husband

-all wages she earned went to her husband

-men had full power to punish their wives

-no matter what the state of the husband (he could even be in a constant state of inebriation), any children born of a marriage “belonged to him”

-few occupations were open to women

-very, very few opportunities existed for advanced education

-women had no voting rights to change the very laws that held all of the above in place.

The Settlement Begins – Wm. King, 18 of 28

Isaac Riley, his wife and children, were the first settlers.

Isaac Riley and his wife and children were the first settlers.

Mob violence was the next option for those opposed to the settlement. King was to meet the Government Agent and a surveyor from Chatham to have the land in Raleigh Township surveyed. The surveyor informed Larwill who assembled “a number of Roughs (who) came out to drive us off the land.” (80) But the Government Agent had become ill and the meeting was called off, but not before Larwill, the surveyor and “the Roughs” had spent the day in the woods drinking and threatening what they would do to the minister when he appeared. “A few coloured men in Chatham who had heard of the threats made against me by Larwill and others went out armed to the land under the pretext of hunting, as it was the fair season, but really to protect me from violence should any be offered. They continued all day on the land hunting. Had I come out that day there probably would have been bloodshed. “ (80)

“When informed of the treachery of the surveyor, I paid him off and employed another who remained with me until I divided the block into lots of 50 acres each and prepared it for settlement. I purchased 100 acres in the middle road and moved unto with my coloured servants.” (81)

Word of the settlement had travelled far and wide. When he and his former slaves moved in Rev. King found that he already had coloured neighbours. “Isaac Riley had entered on a lot adjoining mine as he told me afterwards that he might be near the School and Church to give his children a good education. He had just come from Missouri with his wife and four children. His Master was about to sell him to the South. He got word of it, crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois, made his way to Chicago, got on a boat that took him to St. Catherines, where he heard of the Elgin Settlement. He returned back with his family to Detroit and from there made his way to Buxton, entered 100 acres of land and became one of the best settlers.” (85)

I like the Rileys’ sense of agency. They, like so many of the refugees who were to head to Canada, were bold in their actions. They “made things happen”.  I invite you to think of those you have met who have that same sense.

First to Louisiana – Wm. King 15 of 28

King had to settle his affairs in Louisiana.*
King had to settle his affairs in Louisiana.*

Still surrounded by sorrow, William King finished the last of his theological studies and exams and accepted an appointment as missionary to Canada. But first he needed to return to Louisiana. His father-in-law had also died that year and King – now Rev. King – was named executor, along with Mr. Phares’ widow. “I could know see the dispensation which appeared so dark and mysterious to me at the time that I lost my whole family that it was preparing the way for me to manumit the slaves that were coming to me by inheritance. By my being appointed Executor of my Father-in-law’s estate and the death of my own family I was left free to do what I pleased with all the slaves that belonged to me which I could not have done had my family been living.” (62)

Things were not going well on the plantation King owned. “The cotton crop had been destroyed during two years by the Army worm, that great pest of the cotton plant. They are so numerous when they come that a large field of cotton will be eaten bare with them in a few days.” (65) King sold the plantation, paid the debt and placed the slaves on his father-in-law’s estate until matters could be settled with it. The widowed Mrs. Phares (his father-in-law’s second wife)  was young. She “expected that King would settle down in the south and become a Planter, put an overseer on the Plantation, take a church and preach to the Planters.” (65)  But Rev. King had other ideas. He turned down an offer of $9,000 for his slaves and another to hire them out at $900/year. He announced that he was taking them to Canada where he would free them. “They seemed not to understand what was meant by going to Canada. Most of them thought it was some new plantation that I had purchased. I explained to them that Canada was a free country, that there were no slaves there and that when we reached that Country I would give them their freedom and place them on farms where they would have to support themselves by their own industry.” (68) “They had come to consider that slavery was their normal condition.  They did not know what freedom meant. They thought that to be free was to be like their master, to go idle, and have a good time.“ (69)

“One of my slaves had married a woman in my absence in Edinburgh. The woman belonged to the Estate of my Father-in-law and had a child two years old. In the division of the slaves, the woman fell to me but the child fell to another of the heirs. The woman came to me with tears and asked if I would not buy her child that she might take it with her. The heir had agreed to sell it for $150. I told her I did not see it my duty to buy children and set them free. However the woman was so distracted about leaving her child that I bought it. Here is a bill of sale, a curious document in its way. He is warranted to me to be a slave for life although I was going to set him free in a few weeks.” (69) This was the boy Solomon.

I invite you to tell of a time when you turned down money because it would involve selling your soul.

* This photograph is a story in itself. To learn more about it see

You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask – Wm. King, 11 of 28

King travelled across the Atlantic as a Second Mate - never having piloted a ship before!
King travelled across the Atlantic as a Second Mate – never having piloted a ship before!

That April, William King planned to return to America for his wife and son but when he arrived in Liverpool he discovered the ship that was to sail that week had a full complement of passengers and could take no more. So he asked the Captain if he had a full complement of ship-hands. Luckily he required a second mate, so King “bought himself a red shirt, and a Sou’Wester and shipped as Second Mate. When we left the harbor I was on the quarter deck doing duty, and every day at noon I took the sun’s altitude with a quadrant that the Captain furnished me with. The rest of the time I was in the Cabin reading until the Pilot came on board at New York , then I was again on the quarter deck doing duty; and when the Manifest was handed in to the proper authorities in New York my name was read out as Second Mate.” (53-54) Not bad, for a student of theology!

You are invited to tell of a time when you, or someone else, found a way through a dilemma with a brilliant solution.