The problem with Traditional
I am thinking about how I got here, what a strange journey! I’ve decided I don’t have to take on a different name than Thirza, in an ironic way I kind of like the name. But I do still feel very strongly that I was this man known as Marion Sarain Stump. And I have always kind of known that, but I never accessed his memories, only the ones from a female life previous to that. Yeah, transmigration of souls sounds weird, but I do believe in it because I know in my heart it is true. And I can see various clues he left for me to pick up on here, and they are very self affirming for me because they come from a time when I really was in a male body. But that life did end, and I’m still growing into something. I think for me right now I am very interested in this idea of women and women’s stories, because colonization changed so much of who we are as a people today.
I have had a very difficult time in the aboriginal community for various reasons, mostly having to do with witnessing a dogma enter under the onerous title of Traditional. There’s nothing wrong with tradition, but if you’re doing it because you believe it’s the only way to do it and because the culture isn’t allowed to change, that’s not very healthy. Something I had admired in looking at the Jewish faith was how this continuing story of oppression and slavery was integrated into the culture, there are specific rituals for the group to process some great historical injustice. Just like Easter is a time when Christians remember that a horrible thing happened to the person who was leading them out of slavery. But what they sometimes forget is that the man leading them out of slavery was an observant Jew. Instead there’s this thing about the Jews killing the Christian savior. That’s inaccurate. What killed Jesus was the fact that he was a revolutionary during the reign of Herod, who was a dictator basically, running a fascist police state. He knew he was going to be killed, yes, he talked of it frequently, but if you look at his place in that society, it made sense he knew he would be killed. He was a revolutionary and revolutionaries are often murdered for political reasons. He could have been talking only of practical issues, but he would still have been murdered because he was encouraging people to think for themselves and transcend an oppressive regime.
I think that sometimes with past lives we feel doomed to repeat them, because it seems inevitable. But I also think that in my last life I did one thing to make sure I knew I didn’t have to carry that burden anymore. And I don’t feel I do.
There is a saying that to go away is what makes a monk, but to come back is what makes a Buddha. This really just means, you can have all kinds of visions and do all kinds of things, but if you can’t translate that into a practical action in the here and now, then you’re still far away. We feel that we are in a spiritual war, but there isn’t an external enemy, that’s all fear tactics. There’s an internal “enemy” that’s at play, and it’s figuring out how to work with that and make it not an enemy that’s important. Lucid dream techniques say that if a monster is chasing you in a dream, you should just turn around and ask it it’s name and what it wants. And sometimes you get surprising answers.
I was on a panel once of various Aboriginal thinkers and I said that we had to abandon this idea of Traditional because it’s not something we can go back to. And of course all kinds of people got really huffy at me and I ended up sitting at a seperate table after the panel when we ate. But I didn’t have a chance to articulate what I meant by that, so I will say so now.
We can’t go back to the Traditional because times have changed and things have happened to us. We desperately want to go back to before these things happen, but you can’t, it’s part of who we are now. But working with this great colonialist tragedy which happened to us can help us continue to grow and yes, bring back values which are lost. But we can’t bring back values that are gone from our community without healing these specific abuses which happened to us.
Right now there’s a finite money available from the Residential School Healing fund, and everyone’s trying to figure out how to use it in the best way, because so much needs to be done. But I think for a moment we have to stop and look at exactly what happened to us there and how that can be addressed. There are all kinds of things which happened, which makes it seem really muddled and overwhelming. That’s why we don’t need ONE leader, we need many, all over the place, all doing a little part of this whole. And we also need to remember that being a spiritual worker or healer does NOT mean being an Authority, and that’s hard for colonized people to remember. A healer/spiritual leader is really a servant of the people, not a dictator. And a really good healer is someone who can integrate the whole community in various projects, rather than set up a hierarchy.
And in truth, I don’t believe talking circles are working for certain healing that needs to be done. I believe that healing needs to happen one on one for individuals, individually tailored for the needs of that person. I said that at the panel too and got in shit again, because we have to think of The Whole Community and not individuals. Bullshit. That’s just another way of saying the needs of everyone else usurp the needs of one. And everyone is valuable and everyone deserves respect and love and the chance to be who they are, not who the group wants them to be. Once you get into group politics having to be perfectly in synch, you get into dicatorship territory, and I don’t really give a fuck if you try to call that Traditional, giving it that label doesn’t mean it’s right.
I have this idea now, still, of one thing I want to do, which is to start a Soteria house in the forest. It would have a meditative walking path in the woods, a labyrinth on the ground people could follow, a snoezelen room and an art room and a library with internet access, and various people would be involved in making it a healing space without forcing someone’s process into a specific way that people think is “right.” It would acknowledge that people heal in diverse ways, and some people who are highly sensitive or went through extreme trauma will have one special room just for screaming and ripping things up and being very destructive, because it’s a cathartic moment and it does pass eventually. And it isn’t a damn Quiet room, it’s a Howl room, in memory of Carl Solomon. If you haven’t read Ginsberg you won’t get that though. And I have this very beautiful dream of a place lots of people know is necessary, so I’m sharing it here because I know that many other people have been thinking about this issue and have various talents or ideas that can work. I don’t want to be the sole originator of this sort of healing place, I think it’s going to take the whole community using various talents that people have. I also think that it’s an idea that can be applied to all kinds of communities across Canada, and probably the world. It’s going to be tricky though, or course, because people naturally have to dispute certain things, but I think we can do that in a healthy way where we negotiate ideas instead of label them Good Bad.
Anyway, my aunt came over this afternoon to pray with me, but I realized I don’t want to pray anymore, now I want to talk. So we did, we talked for a long time about all kinds of things, and it was really good. And I think in a lot of ways various rifts in my family felt healed, because we could finally talk about things we’ve noticed and things we need to change and looking seriously at how to help people who feel lost. And afterwards my mom said the most interesting thing, she said that I was giving off a smell, and it was coming from my sweat and it smelled like stagnant water. And when I think about it, it makes sense. I really made a huge turn around in my healing these days, and I don’t feel quite so, hmm, overwhelmed by life and history and current political climates. And it was good to talk with the women in my family about how women have been cut out of Cree culture.
One thing which made me so sad about Christopher’s funeral was that it seemed the men were doing all the spiritual work, and the women, of course, very powerful women, were in the kitchen cutting bannock. And I knew they were supposed to be involved too, not just cutting up the damn bannock. And so it made me sad, because I felt that half of the potential of that healing/funerary rite wasn’t allowed to happen. One might say it was because Christopher was a boy and so men are supposed to do all the big work. But Christopher also had a lot of women in his life who loved him in various ways and wanted to talk about him, and to see them feel so frustrated and unable to speak was harrowing.
There’s a myth of the Aboriginal person precontact, which is some kind of glorified patriarch paradise. And it’s so wrong, oh man. I can’t speak for other tribes, but Cree people had egalitarianism, women and men speaking were important, because it was how we were whole. And now women speak to women and men speak to men and we’ve all turned into some freaky deaky people, because women and men are supposed to talk to each other. And then two spirited people are supposed to be allowed to choose whatever role they feel comfortable in, even if that role means being a woman and a man. Some women were hunters, some men just spent time in the home, nothing was this cut and dried. And people were visionaries, because they could connect certain things and help make something possible, even if it was a new possibility that seemed silly before.
I think that whatever you say causes a psychotic episode, if it’s a forced awakening or a desperate bid at healing or a genetic switch being flicked, it doesn’t make too much of a difference, because there have been various methods discovered throughout human history of allowing those things to happen safely and to avoid telling someone they are permanently broken. Psychiatrists are not psychics, they can’t honestly say someone requires drugs for life. I think you can have all kinds of theories why something happened, but what really needs to be allowed to happen is someone to go through their process and when they’re ready they can start saying why they believe they flipped out.
I want this residential abuse cycle to stop, and it’s going to take a lot more than detox centres and talking sticks. It’s going to require a loving haven away from the city, where people can be as scary or sad or curious as they want without freaking out all their friends. And it’s got scientific evidence to back it up from various places. I also think we have to let go of this idea of Traditional, because what happened to us was unprecedented, we don’t really have a clear route yet of how to heal that. However, other people have gone through some really similar trauma, and those people have some damn good ideas, even if they aren’t aboriginal. I think we have to stop thinking of ourselves as entirely outside the scope of human history and other tribes, because we really do all form each other’s reality. And healing from ritual abuse is a heavy duty thing, even for the generations after that happened. It never just sits static in a place in history, it always has repercussions which move along the line. And we know this, we’ve seen a cycle develop.
Anyway, that is what I am thinking about, and I am also spending a few days making this eight sided mandala, because I think it will help me order my brain and heal this schism within me.