Traditional healer should sit down with community members and listen

To the Expositor:

This letter is in regards to the letter to the editor in the August 15 edition of The Expositor by Jake Ago neh ‘Writer takes Sheguiandah protestors to task’ (page 5).

If you would like to share some truth, why not share it all, Mr. Ago neh. Why hope to educate the public at large rather than educate your community members? Just who is that important to? You? The insinuation of being duped and or misled, frankly, is judgmental, would you not say? Your community members are suffering great heartache and you talk about housing arrears? And yes, you would have to wonder what is going on or through the protestors’ minds because you don’t know. You haven’t spoken with them, let alone succeeded in communicating with them.

Housing arrears? Let’s talk Attawapiskat, and all the other First Nations with housing arrears, water contamination, mould infestation, economic depression, suicide rates, maybe even murder in our First Nations? Shall we? And let us talk about truth. Let’s talk about these issues. I have the truth. I know the truth. And if you truly want to talk truth as a “traditional and true Anishinabe,” then let’s do that, sincerely. So, I would ask that we together inform and educate, as you say, the general public. Because when you have the truth, and you know truth, truth prevails. You don’t have to hide or justify, rationalize, or even rule with an iron fist. Wouldn’t you agree? Truth will set you free. This I will leave with you to ‘wonder’ about while I address your further concerns.

Your assumption, and if I may quote your writing, referring to the protesters’ minds, “all we have to do is protest and then we don’t have to rent and we go back to the way things were with previous leadership.” Really? Seriously? Are you insulting the ‘general public’s’ intelligence, as to put such an assumption in writing? Please, I will speak for myself as a member of Sheguiandah First Nation! May I remind you of the Oka crisis, the student fasters in Ottawa, ‘The Walk’ to Ottawa, and so on? Are you saying that you had to wonder what those protestors were thinking? Further, did you even talk to those protestors?

Mr. Ago neh, do you wonder all the time?

Again, I quote you, “The protesters probably never gave this any thought…” “Probably” means you are not sure. May I suggest you try talking with them to find out first before you speak, then you would not have to hypothesize about your community members. You would know about what they are thinking, saying and feeling. I’m sure that if you went to the protest site without your ‘elected’ power and sit side by side and talk with them with your human power of humbleness, you would surely know what they are thinking.

You are too funny with your take about ‘where did there community go?’ Good joke, but totally inappropriate considering the suffering your community members are undertaking for what they believe in. It makes me terribly saddened to think a ‘traditional man’ would laugh in the face of human suffering. Is that not what you refer to yourself as, a traditional medicine healer? What type of ‘medicine’ is this, Jake Ago neh?

As to elder abuse, did your chief not admit to two charges of assault? And in writing? I’m sorry, but a chief who can blatantly admit to these charges, and in the next breath speak of vindicating these actions and behaviours then go on to boldly state that he will remain in power? Further yet, seek re-election?

What is assault of an elder classified as? Vindicated assault? Is this justifiable abuse? Or a rationalization of, as you say, the “only” elders being abused. Please, explain or educate me on this matter!

Remember you were sharing some truth, again I say, why not all of it? How many elders are there on the inside of the protest? The people have to go off reserve to get their mail, or access their buildings (paraphrasing your words) are people not accessing those buildings. The only buildings (the community members cannot access are the ones that were locked by the chief, and was it not you with him locking the doors and spreading “medicine” around the premises? Is this the open door policy the chief and yourself are implementing? Further, what exactly was this medicine, I ask for education purposes? Misconstruing truth is not educating, my dear niichki.

Your educating of the public, per se, involves airing financial information about bingos and deficits and whatnot publicly, again I say, really? Defaming past chiefs, insulting the integrity of the readership’s intelligence, and degrading your community members is education? “The staff’s wanting Christian and traditional holidays” is an absurd generalization, and again a misconstruing of truth of a right of traditional peoples by which you, yourself advocated for back in the day, had you not? And of which you practiced yourself and I might add, enjoyed the benefits of both holidays? And you speak the word “audacity”? In your words of “outside agitators,” how can you so boldly belittle your fellow Anishnabek like this? Especially as a so-called “traditional man?”

How can you claim to make history about an education or any type of policy? They have been around for years. These are just carbon copies of the government’s act (and the way they impose and want us to act) and I’m not talking ‘act’ as a noun, but as a verb. This is something you may have to wonder about to understand. Policies are an ongoing process as well as a procedure—they grow and change with the times. I am curious, what type of history making are you and your chief referring to and claiming ownership to?

Once again, I quote you: “This is a small community and everyone knows who the troublemakers and hardcore drinkers are. These people than have the audacity to hold up signs at the protest.” Did you not participate and instigate a protest yourself? But I have to agree that yes, everyone does know who the troublemakers and hardcore drinkers are. I’m sure even a small percentage of the readership can vouch for this as well.

And yes, let’s talk about Natural Law, Jake—the law of balance and truth. I reiterate once again, I know truth, I have truth. The innuendo you establish in your use of this very point will not be misconstrued to those that know truth. It cannot be used as a threat, weapon or a justification of any type, shape or form. And yes, it will happen. Are we ready for this? I’m sure the Creator will see truth when it does happen. All I can say is, zhawanamishnaa, Gzheminidoo. No one will get away with anything but truth.

Your perspective of the two “protesting councillors” is unique, and I’m sure personal, however I would beg to differ on this point. I would see these two particular councillors not as protesting councillors, but as honest to goodness, grassroots councillors. My hat would tip to them, but I don’t wear hats, so kudos to them for standing beside their fellow Anishnabek and community members, taking an active listening, unbiased stance and truly listening to their community members, and standing beside them in their hour of need and in their desire for change. And at the same time, feeding the young, old and in-between, sharing coffee and their experiences with each other and all those that stop by and visit. I would not hesitate to say and refer to them as true and prime examples of true Anishnabe men. Thank you, uptcha – Chi-miigwitch, you two councillors, for showing your true colours to our community and for our extended community members with their “vested interest” of the true Anishnabe kind and peaceful spirit.

So, Jake Ago neh, it’s been nice to chat with you and the readership. I could go on and on, really, but enough said for now. It would be good to visit, share coffee and experiences with you some more. I offer my sincere miigwitch to you for putting your letter in last week’s Expositor for a vested and inspiring education—I appreciate your thoughts. I anxiously await your next topic of conversation or education, in the near future.

One further ‘concern’ you speak of is the bingo funds and the “lady” who raised funds (to supplement funeral costs). I, as one member of the community, who has a great respect for “this lady” who has implemented this type of fundraising out of the goodness of her heart, and on her own time, and I might add with the help of her family and friends for the past 10 years. Is this not one of the chief’s victims of dismissal from Sheguiandah First Nation employment after being employed for umpteen years? Did the chief not ‘refuse’ her from having any bingos? Now wonder why she couldn’t help you during your time of need. You say your wife raised money as well, well good for her that she made good profit. I can also vouch for good profit of fundraising, as well as below profit fundraising, however, maybe we can talk bingo later.

Kari Smith

Sheguiandah First Nation