Sunday LIVING INTO THE FUTURE
Over the summer, a technique I learned about in a course was how to live into your future.
We started with setting a date we want to accomplish something, and then you reverse engineer what you hope to accomplish by that date backwards until you reach today’s date.
For example, my friend Wants an organic orchard on his land not too far for from here. He asked me how can he accomplish this using this method? I gave him these steps to follow.
- Create your team. His team is a horticulturist, seed supplier, and a friend who has an orchard near Niagara Falls. He needs at least six members on his team.
- Meet with the team assign tasks and a system for measuring accountability.
- Map what needs to be done each week until you reached the specific date of completion.
- Visualize walking through the orchard look at the details how does the soil underneath your shoes feel is there a scent on the trees. I always have problems with this type of exercise because I have aphantasia, which means I can’t visualize images in my mind, but I can experience the feeling I want. Our brain does not know what is real or imagined, what feeling does a walk through your orchard give you I asked him?
Inner Peace is in You
Discover Inner Peace 2022 March 13
It was after reading a friend’s Facebook page post it prompted me to write this blog post. Paul is a mediator and his words helped me focus on this piece. Thank you for your wisdom, Paul.
Inner peace comes from a relationship that is based on acceptance, intimacy, and curiosity. Like a garden we need to weed out what does not serve us, and cultivate beauty, resilience,and strength. Sometimes this requires a change in perspective.
The late Zen Master, Thich Hanh Often wrote that peace should not be possessed, it should be a catalyst to help others suffering to discover peace.
As a long time, meditator, I am comfortable exploring my feelings in meditation. To know yourself more fully, explore with wonder each layer of who you are. My meditation practice became a lifeline after a brain injury a few years ago.
In 2018, I was diagnosed with left side neglect ((ischaemic right brain stroke during surgery, which meant at first , my brain could not recognize objects on my left side. I approached my brain injury with curiosity.
This injury led me to change my diet and empowered me to respond to a new version of who I am. I spent many hours researching the brain, reading, and listening to podcasts on neurology.
My first thought was not why me, but how interesting is it that our brain works like this. I was really intrigued. It was not easy but I persevered, and made peace with what happened by understanding what happened in my brain. One can always reconcile a negative event with a positive perspective. It helps the process to have the right question or statements of inquiry that will lead you to peace.
There is no right or wrong way of discovery. You’ll know it when it happens. I have found the key to peace is acceptance. Paul added the following steps, It is not verbatim. Meditate on these statements; to create a new perspective.
- I create my reality (trust). This perspective becomes available once we are aware of cause and effect.
- I am choosing what is happening (trust). Seeing ourselves as being endlessly creative.
- I welcome what is here (accepting our current experience).
- Appreciating physical sensations (intimacy). Appreciating the physical sensations in our body right now invigorates and increases the intensity of what we are experiencing. Think about eating your favorite food. When we slow down and taste each bite we feel more.
- I am the entirety of what I am experiencing (intimacy). What I am experiencing is creating the sense of me.
- Viewing life as being connect to all. (Cause and effect.,we are all connected) A flower does not exist without rain,sun and wind.
- I don’t know what I’m experiencing (Curiosity). Letting go of all ideas and labels about what it is we are experiencing. Looking at life as if we were a newborn baby seeing things for the first time. (wonder)
- I don’t know what I am. Creates space for possibilities.
- I experience a sense of excitement about what is about to happen next. Discovery of endless possibilities.
Discovering your way to a peace is not easy, we all have our own pain, sorrows, and fears. Give yourself time and space to embrace and recognize how you’re suffering. Be compassionate and gentle when,Starting an inquiry to self. However, remember there’s no right or wrong way to do this.
Luezan Tue called Our Name
My family were environmentalists well before the term became popularized.
We are Denesuline people, from Northern Saskatchewan. We are strong, proud. Stewards, of Mother Earth. We take this responsibility seriously.
In the 70’s our dad answered the call of the land, and took his older children, to our traditional hunting lands. They hadn’t been back there for over 40 Decades until last summer of 2021. This is my dad’s legacy.
He answered the calling of the traditional lands, Luezan Tue, and inspired four generations to return to Djeskelni. He passed his baton to the next generation. He reaffirmed our sacred connection to the land. Everyone he took back to the land were transformed and carries the calling deep within their spirit.
In August, 2021, a small group of about of 17 family members went back to our land, organized by my nephew, Donald Deranger, who had gone there with Baba in the 1970s. They went to spread my late brother Patrick’s ashes around the lake to fulfill his last wish.It is clear to me that Patrick’s death facilitated a renewed interest back to our traditional land. The family answered the calling to return to the land. It is difficult to deny how powerful this spiritual calling is.
- Increase the quality of life for seven generations by building upon our rich Denesuline traditional heritage based on being stewards of the land, lending a helping hand, and create business ventures to generate profits and financial independence. Our family embodies Dene cultural tradition the pillars of which is respect, and to honour the teachings of our ancestors.
My family, like most Indigenous families, is complicated, affected by intergenerational trauma of colonialism, and residential school.
We have sometimes temporarily lost sight of family, our connection to each other and the spirit of our traditional lands. We are easily triggered and often will cut off one another from our life.
That said, I adore my Dene family, dysfunctions and all.
I read somewhere when you change the beginning of your story it changes the end of the story.
After I wrote this blog piece I went back and changed the beginning of our story.
I remain hopeful for the next seven generations. That they will continue to answer the call of our traditional lands. I see renewed interest in some of my nephews and nieces. The calling is strong in them, and I am hopeful.
My brother, Roger for keeping traditional prophecies of the Denesuline alive.
My nephew Donald Deranger for holding the baton for the next generations, and last, but so important, my late brother Patrick, a sacred pipe holder for passing the baton to his daughter when he gave her the sacred responsibility and honour of spreading his ashes on our traditional land.
2022 striding into the new year with eyes wide open
My intention in 2022 is not about losing weight although I could stand to lose a few pounds, it is not about exercising more. I could do more of that too.
My intention, my goal for 2022 is to not live small, to show up in life because my actions matter and the people in my life deserve to see the very best version of myself, Which is to show up in service to indigenous peoples struggling with addressing their trauma.
The next Being a Leader course starts in January 2022. If your interested in creating the best life for yourself connect with Tanyss Munro email@example.com 2022 I will continue my journey of growth and transformation, particularly as it pertains to my foundation Seventh Generation Indigenous Foundation and Training. (G.I.F.T) I’m really excited To be part of a group of extraordinary humans on the foundation. Our vision has capabilities to be a game changer in the delivery of services to indigenous communities across Alberta.
First, I am excited to confirm renowned physician and expert on trauma Dr. Gabor Mate has agreed to support GIFT foundation in the capacity as advisor to our curriculum writers. secondly, we start the new year by inviting additional board members who hold expertise in the areas of psychology, sociology,, law, and curriculum development.
January 1, 2022!
Awe is always around Us
What does it mean to be awestruck? Do you actively cultivate awe in your life Kelter)
As an Indigenous person, a Dene. I am gifted vibrant oral stories passed down for generations and our traditional ecological knowledge, we are intrinsically part of ecosystems. The Importance of nature, trees, green space.
Seeing sunrise and the sunset brings awe. Walking in nature brings awe. I looked outside this morning as it was raining and the trees looked vibrant, that for me was Awe. And feeling awe brings me joy.
Dacher Kelter A professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His book is AWE: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and how it can transform your life. The following is f what I got from his book.
He makes a bold statement at the beginning of his book; Awe is an emotion. He recommend a look at maps of emotional intelligence, think about the images that make us feel. They tend to be astounding. and Trippy tall trees, storm clouds the images in part that makes us feel beauty or more kind of pleasing landscapes. Pretty faces Renoir like scenes in paintings they’re different. The Physiology of the vagus nerve is understanding the body and neurophysiology. When we are awestruck, there is a physical reaction.
The Physiology of the emotion people tell us what it’s like to feel awe they would say I was at this festival of Guadalupe in Mexico City, or I saw the Grand Canyon and it blew my mind.
This emerged in mammalian, in evolution to help us connect and be open to other people and it’s correlated with feeling open to others empathy kindness and in studies when we see incredible imagery of nature people have elevated vagal tone and that’s good news for how you function in the world.
The tears are coming out of the lacrimal gland behind your cornea it’s again part of social kindness-oriented regions of your nervous system the parasympathetic branch and you tear up when we see young people perform on stage, or you’re walking through the streets of the city and see somebody help another stranger we tear up at these moments of people being communal and kind and the goosebumps are amazing. The rushes of goosebumps up the back of your neck and your arms when you’re emotionally touched.
- Warm sensation in the chest- the vagus nerve is the largest bundle of nerves in the mammalian nervous system really complicated starts at the top of your spinal cord wanders through your chest influences breathing, and heart rate.
- Tearing up
- Goosebumps those are little muscles around your hair follicles they contract, and they tend to signal in the mammalian world like it’s time to be together and a face mystery together there a sign of togetherness and leaning into each other.
I ask the question for each of us when we feel these deep experiences How do we interpret it? For some people it’s about divinity and it’s “God” it’s I have a soul.
I personally I like Wilson, the evolutionary biologist he’ stated isn’t it incredible that evolution working for billions of years billions of adaptations natural selection produce nature and ecosystems that can appreciate. Niagara Falls, Sand Dunes, it blows my mind I feel it’s a very personal and complicated question but one worth reflecting on.
My friend, Dr. Bastien transition into the spirit world on Mat 8, 2023. She knew she was dying. I asked her how she felt about dying. She responds, each breath is a gift and when I take my last breath, I will whisper Thank You! That gave me goosebumps. I experienced awe as my friend transition to the spirit world. It is profound. It is transcendence. We can find Awe in grief. She lived with courage and died in grace.
Recovery – a Road to Self Discovery
It can be difficult to get your groove back after taking steps in your recovery, transformation, and healing.
Maybe you went into recovery because you felt your life depended on it, and there is no denying that it did. It was this desperation that propelled you down the road to recovery. Do you agree? But it was based in fear. and got you on track. Perhaps you found yourself in that sacred place called rock bottom, where you faced the truth of your addiction. That was your first step on your healing journey, but it could get lonely.
Sober, your old friends create too much temptation, and you decide to stay away from them. Essentially you feel you’re not having any fun. You’re alone and miss your party buddies. You want to have fun and hang out with them., but you know they are a danger to your continued sobriety.
So maybe for the first time you surround yourself with friends who are also in recovery, you listen, take their advice and before you know it life becomes easier to stay sober and you’re having fun again. Now that the initial desperation that led you to recovery is gone, how do you stay sober?
Ask yourself why you want to be sober? Perhaps you can look at your sobriety as a road to discovery and the possibility that you will learn to love who you are without taking substances.
Notice how on this road your transformation went from fear, and loss. The fear of losing your family, your job, children and or your health, to embracing love. To feel and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. You begin to love yourself, maybe for the first time in your life.
Your commitment to not use substances can be transformed into a goal that gives weight to your decision that gives philosophical meaning to your decision to be abstinent from drugs and alcohol they feed each other. The love of who you have become as a sober person and being connected spiritually, and emotionally to life.
This new paradigm shift can be an inspiration not only to yourself but to others. You have removed fear and transition into loving yourself. Maybe you have discovered you are no longer chasing excitement, drama, and chaos. You discover you are content to be alive. You’re able to enjoy the subtleties of life without drama. And you discover you want to reach being an elder.
Not just getting old but stepping into your wisdom and being a compassionate and a kind guide on earth.
To be able to support those who ask you for help and to show up and be helpful to those people as an elder. Make it your intention every day, to aspire to that. It is a subtle thing compared to the things that you thought about in your twenties, thirties, and forties. It may not be exciting for people to hear about but its real.
You get to have a real contentment. It means to be truly at peace within your own skin and to be at peace spiritually.
Some people have success renewing their cultural ceremonies, as my Aunt Marie did. The triggers all but diminish. You get to experience a depth of emotion sadness, happiness, contentment and to challenge all of it . A full range of human emotions you get to have deeper relationships with people in your life. How does that sound? Incredible right? And It is achievable.
The truth is I have never had an addiction. So why would you listen to what I have to say on the subject?
I challenge you to consider if what you’re doing isn’t working, it might help to change your perspective and consider a new way to reach your sobriety goal. You don’t have to do it because I say so. However, I invite you to try. I may have never experienced addiction to substances, but I do have some practical experience in addictions.
First, I’ve spent decades on the Board of Directors, first as Vice Chair and then Chairperson of an institution that looked at supporting addictions and First Nations people in recovery. I have been on teams developing curriculum to address addictions.
Secondly, some members of my family struggle to get sober, and to enjoy their life. It is a challenge. I know this because I’ve witness them struggling, falling off the wagon and getting back on the wagon repeatedly. But most importantly, I am a compassionate and empathetic person. I hope that I have conveyed here resonates with some of you and gives you hope. No matter how many times you try keep trying because you are worth it and you are loved.
At the same time, I ask myself, do I really appreciate this struggle? How can I when I have never experienced addiction.
What I know, I know from watching some members of my family struggle. I know it is a real struggle and that no one chooses to be an addict. Yes, there are facilities and support systems available to help. However, sometimes a person is just not ready to ask for help. It doesn’t mean they want to remain an addict. But the decision has to be theirs to embark on this self-discovery of love. You can enjoy life and friends without relying on altering substances.
Thoughts and Prayers … And Indigenous Land Acknowledgments. Meaningless Words?
While I accept the gesture of someone saying my thoughts and prayers are with you when I experienced a loss in my family, these words don’t really comfort me. And yes, I understand they are meant to comfort.
Meanwhile, I began noticing people acknowledging they are on Indigenous territory, on TV news stations, and at conferences. I too say this out of respect when I end my podcast Empathetic Witness because I am recording from unceded Algonquin territory, and my career is working with First Nations to correct wrongs that were done to them when their lands was stolen by colonizers.
That said, when others say it, it sounds like hollow meaningless words. Words said to be politically correct. Most people who say this don’t know the history of how the lands were stolen from Indigenous peoples, and moreover I don’t believe they care about the history. I may sound like I am bitter but frustrated would be more accurate.
For context, let me explain why I feel this way. My late father Isidore Deranger was an Indigenous hunter and trapper he lived on the land and made a living to support his large family by hunting and trapping. His hunting and trapping territory was in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta on the shores of Lake Athabasca.
In the mid-seventies the Bennett Dam upstream in British Columbia began to be operational. That year the muskrats and beavers began to disappear as the water receded, so did my father’s livelihood.
At the same time as my father’s likelihood was disappearing the residential schools’ policy kill the Indian was in full force. The degradation of language and culture was swift. Within one generation Indigenous peoples lost their language and cultural practices, largely because it was illegal to speak our language and practice our ceremonies. The Bennett Dam, residential schools, and the oil sands industry created a perfect storm for cultural genocide to occur.
Isidore decided to go to our traditional trapline N22. (Luezen Tue) Within a couple of years on being on the land, El Dorado mining began mining for uranium. Once again, my father was displaced. Uranium City where my grandparents lived was closed by the federal government in the early 80s because of radiation from uranium tailings. Most of the population was compensated and moved to southern Saskatchewan. My grandparents were never compensated. Not only was fishing compromised, but the land was also uninhabitable. Isidore moved our family to Fort McMurray, Alberta. There too, he could not escape encroachment on the lands by industries like Suncor and Syncrude and others that followed. The degradation of our territorial lands continue to this day. My older sister, who was a teacher in our hometown of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta had to resign her position because of the effects of toxicity from industry when she was unable to continue to teach.
What is meaningful is the land back movement. My late friend, Marion Cummings, gave two properties back to First Nations, one in Victoria BC and the other in Nova Scotia, both valued at millions of dollars. Marion Cumming left her multi-million-dollar Oak Bay home and property to the Victoria Native Friendship Centre in the name of reconciliation prior to her death last year.
Tell me, do you think a land acknowledgment at a conference or by CBC, or Global before a news report is enough? When you give land acknowledgement, please think of Isidore Deranger’s story. We can all do better.
I interviewed Marion on my podcast Empathic Witness, and she talked about why it was important to her to give land back for reconciliation.
Here is the link:
How I Imagine Stuff – I Don’t
What is in people’s Mind? Could be nothing at all
“I tasted it, and that was all I got. A one-time deal. I can’t taste it again in my imagination.” -Brian Leibold It is like that for me too because I have what is called aphantasia. It was discovered in 1880 and coined it in 2015 by cognitive and behavioral neurology scientists, Adam Zeman in the UK.
I discovered I had it quite accidentally. What this means for me is that it confirm I don’t see images in my mind. It is a neurological condition of not being able to visualize imagery in one’s mind. At first, I didn’t think it was extraordinary until I discovered I was anomaly. I have a condition that only 1 to 3 percent of the world’s population has.
I discovered I could not visualize what my daughter was saying when she asked me to imagine a red ball on a table to test a theory, she had about me. Whenever I shut my eyes all I get is a blank slate. I can’t picture anything in my head at all! I replied no, I can’t see it. That is freaky because if – like most people – you can see in pictures in your mind, it must be hard to believe that others can’t do what you can so naturally do. Another insight into that amazing organ, the human brain. It fascinates me. And a ha! moment for me. This knowledge significantly deepened my understanding of why I am the way I am. Like why I am geographically challenged and can easily get lost. I cannot envision lakes, rivers on a map, indeed , I cannot even see a map in my mind. And furthermore, it now made perfect sense that when I was talking to architects who were designing either a layout of the kitchen, bathroom, or landscaping, I could not envision what they meant until it was completed, even with the swatch of color paint and tile in front of me. I could only see it when the job was done with my eyes wide open.
Until then I always thought when people said they saw something it was more a metaphor … or like remembering with sense feelings like me. It is an interesting self-discovery because I always thought that it was an intellectual process and not a situation of conjuring up an actual visual image with the mind. This knowledge does not change me. Although it does help me understand to some extent how my brain works or doesn’t work like others.
Four years ago, I had a partial stroke during surgery. After that incident I developed curiosity of how my brain worked because I was diagnosed with left side neglect which fascinated me. Although, I understood that the eye and retina are connected to our brain, I didn’t understand how my eyes could not see things on my left side, until someone said there is a cup on your left side, and I would look again, and it and there it was. My eyes saw the image, but it did not relay the image to my brain. For some reason the synapses did not work. I was fortunate that my mind continue to sense my limbs in space, so I knew where my arms legs were thankfully.
I thought my aphantasia was the result of the stroke. However, upon further consideration I rejected that notion. My daughter confirmed this because she is aware I connect through my feelings, and with a powerful sense emotionally. I often said I can’t see that image in my mind, but I thought everyone couldn’t either. My memory works by connecting events that I have experienced and how I felt in that moment. I have a memory of a sweater I received for my birthday as a child, it was orange, cotton blue and black thin horizontal stripes and felt so soft and warm. I know I had that sweater. But I can’t conjure up the image of it. But I can feel what it felt like on and I can describe it.
That said, when I think of people, I don’t get an image of them in my mind. instead, I get a “feeling” of them. Which is why I have a picture of my late big brother, Rossi on my phone, as soon as I open my cell phone his image is right there. and it will help me remember how he looked, the cellphone image is facsimile of a visual image, if I could image him.
You may think that I can’t dream but you would be wrong, I often dream in vivid colour. Which could mean my brain can create imagery when I am asleep, meaning it is possible it is stored in a different place than the images we can create in our mind when awake. I can’t voluntarily create images in my mind, but I can dream. Interesting, huh? I think it is like all the data is stored in my brain on a hard drive and it can be reassembled when needed. But it is not stored as pictures but rather in concepts, thoughts, and feelings. I feel deeply. I once blogged that this was my superpower. My daughter corrected me and said mom your superpowers like a psychic ability. Of course, she is correct. I can often “feel” people’s past and their future, is it an aspect of aphantasia, I don’t know? It would make a fascinating conversation with a neuroscientist. I have read many of Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist, and author’s books because I admire his intellect. My curiosity of the brain began prior to my discovery of aphantasia and partial stroke. I have memories of my childhood home which of course, I don’t see as imagery but as I said, it is a felt perception. I enjoy reading fiction, the more detailed the description the more enjoyable the book is for me. And, if I play background music related to the book, for example if what I’m reading is set in India or Africa and play music from that country it deepens my enjoyment and I feel like I am right there. Don’t make the mistake that all aphantasia is the same. unlike the author of this article, I can easily recall my past and I have an exceptional memory.
I am a long time, meditator, I believe having aphantasia allows me to be an excellent mediator because there are no noise, sounds in my head or images passing through my mind to distract. I can be fully present in the moment and go inward, my happy place. To learn more information about aphantasia. This is an excellent article to read. https://psyche.co/ideas/aphantasia-can-be-a-gift-to-philosophers-and-critics-like-me
Dreaming a Little Dream
“I think I will do nothing for a long time but listen.
And accrue what I hear into myself…and let sound contribute toward me.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I began reading a friend’s husband’s book South Asian Adventures with the Active Poor. Gem Munro is an excellent writer and put me right slap bang into rural Bangladesh, immediately from the exchange at the airport and the taxi ride to a hotel I was captivated. I couldn’t have imagined such an extraordinary adventure. You can purchase this book at:
If money were no object and the sky is the limit, what would I want? How can it be so difficult to dream a little dream? Indeed, I can think up all sorts of stuff that would make my life more comfortable. However, to imagine something so random and off the wall crazy is, for me, a challenge.
Remember as a child how we spent many hours daydreaming, or was that just me? Back then, I wished that my house would have a special room just for chocolates filled to the celling. I would have the finest chocolates from all around the world. Paris, and Switzerland. That’s what I’m talking about. Dreams.
I decided to challenge myself to some serious daydreaming. To make an intensive effort to dig deep down into my core and to reach up to the moon and grab a star or two. When I first started this exercise, I couldn’t daydream anything spectacular. But after carefully exercising my daydreaming muscles I realize it’s not “things” I want but life experiences. Unexpected experiences with a twist, the more unusual and crazier the better.
When I was a young girl, I loved books. So, it was not unusual for me to daydream that my adult house would also have a library, with floor to ceiling books. As soon as you enter the library you would smell a combination of the leather on the wingback chairs and the musky smell of old pages in the books. And until recently I still fancied that dream. But now with eBooks and tablets I can have all the books in the palm of my hands. To think, that was someone’s “crazy” dream.
And what little girl didn’t dream of the perfect tea party? My perfect tea party included the Queen of England. That daydream sort of came to being. Although it wasn’t Buckingham Palace but Rideau Hall, the Governor General’s residence in Ottawa (which was not too shabby). I did enjoy a lovely garden tea party with the Queen of England one summer when I first moved to Ottawa. I even ended up talking to Prince Phillip until I got away from that conversation because he was too dull.
And we all must have at one time or another daydreamed of meeting a famous person. For or me that somebody was David Bowie. On a very hot August evening, 55,000 of us saw an outdoor concert where he put on an amazing performance. Still, I think having a conversation over dinner with him would have been extraordinary, especially, if he were dressed as Ziggy and sang to me. Sadly, like Queen Elizabeth Bowie passed away.
What could be more exotic than an experiences of another culture? In Jakarta during Ramadan over 30 years ago I will never forget the chanting and praying 24/7 emanating from the mosque nearby. I felt like I was in a movie with a beautiful soundtrack, and it added immensely to my experience of being in an exotic foreign land.
To sip chai in a marketplace in India with my eyes closed and listen to the hum of the crowd while smelling exotic spices in my chai would be an adventure. I’d open my eyes and consume the colors, the aroma, the spices, and feel the unbearable heat and listen to strange dialects.
Then from extreme heat to the extreme cold. I’d watch my breath hang in the air as I hear polar bears play in their natural habitat in the far north of Hudson Bay. Feel my fingers numbing with coldness as I try to capture the view on my iPhone. Then, nothing says adventure like a traditional winter picnic as the northern lights cascade across the sky, dancing in all their brilliance. I count myself fortunate as a young child we often witnessed the brilliant Northern Lights over the lake. We believed they were spirit of our ancestors. I always thought that was a lovely way to see them.
Then sailing to the other side of the globe to lay awake under the Fiji night stars. In our comfortable bure and listen to the waves lap at the shore, all the while trying not to freak out because I know there are crabs crawling around on the beach at night. I know this because I’ve been there. Although at the time, I didn’t know there were crabs on the beach until later while we dined close to the beach and went for a walk after dinner and witness all these little crabs crawling on the beach. Yikes!
I enjoyed exercising my deep dreaming muscles, as you can see most of my daydreams have a bit of reality stemming from my previous experience. I like to continue working on daydreaming and create magic in my life, opening a space for unusual experiences that activate all my senses, from the sights, smells, taste, and how they make me feel.
Dog Days of Summer Dene Style
Welcome to my Dog Days of Summer Dene Style blog. When I pick a subject to blog, I am careful to not portray victimhood, at the same time, I don’t exaggerate. After all, hardship is not synonymous with victimhood. I like things to be simple, straightforward, and balanced. If you read my blog to the end and feel entertained, or even learned something new then I am satisfied.
I grew up in a large Dene family, with humble beginnings. Growing up in a large family was a blessing. Our first house was a small log cabin that my father built from the logs in the surrounding area. This home was without electricity or plumbing, The woody fragrance coming from the burning logs in the stove and constant flurry of activity around comforted me. We slept four or five to a bed. We had three bedrooms. The boys and girls had their own room and Mama, and Baba had their room. Later we moved into an Indian affairs house in the 70’s.
I had ten brothers and five sisters. My older brothers were billeted in Edmonton for high school. My brothers enjoyed reading, so there were always plenty of books around in the house. I remember reading one of my brothers’ books John Stienbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The Story was so interesting. As I read it. It unfolded much like a movie in my mind. Immediately my love affair with books was born. It was the gateway to escape from the chaos in the home.
My father, Isidore Derange (Baba), valued education although the only book both my parents could read was the Dene bible, which was written in Densuline syllabics . My mother, Therese (nee Adam) Mama, on the other hand, didn’t like us girls sitting around reading when there was cleaning that needed to be done. She was strict and if the cleaning was not done to her high standards, she would make sure it was redone. An interesting fact, dishes were never left unclean overnight. There was never a dull moment in the Deranger household and no room for boredom.
Although Baba was self-taught and trilingual – Dene, French, and some Cree, he was a man of few words unless he engaged in telling stories about his travels. He delighted in telling those stories and would keep us all transfixed for hours. He had the gift of making a simple hunting story become an amazing adventure. His storytelling spirit is a part of me and a force for me to blog and chronicle bits and pieces of my life.
Mama’s OCD around cleanliness kept my sisters constantly occupied and is a separate story on its own. Mama was the boss. She brought order to that which might have otherwise been chaos with a houseful of young children without electricity or other modern amenities.
In the dog days of summer, Baba would put the cooking wood stove outside so, when Mama baked bread, it would not make the house uncomfortably hot. There was no television; we created our own amusement. Music came from a small transistor radio which my brothers hooked up to a ground wire. Our entertainment was listening to 630 Ched and CBC. If you’re From Fort Chip, you will recognise Good Morning, Good morning It’s a West Montgomery morning here to wake you up, and get up on time! lol
My brothers were also big comic book readers and would trade comic books with the Cree children in our neighborhood. I, as the youngest girl, I liked to make paper doll clothes and cut them out.
Most afternoons Baba would take my brothers and me for walks down to the lake to get water, if we ran out of water before the delivery man, Leo came by. Baba used an apparatus he constructed out of wood that rested on his shoulders and allowed him to carry two large pails of water one on each side. While this was being done Mama and the girls prepared dinner.
Summer nights were fun. Our neighbor would have tea dances, with lively music emanating from their home, we were never invited because we were too young. The dancing fiddle music would last into the wee hours of the morning.
Our older sister Dora often would tell us ghost stories in the dark until we were sleepier instead of scared and fell asleep. The one constant in my childhood home was laughter. As I write, phantom sounds of laughter echo in my mind. Every day was a good day.
Season Two Empathetic Witness Podcast
“You must be willing to give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” ― Joseph Campbell A Hero’s Journey
One might wonder with literally thousands of podcasts in excistendence why did I create Empathetic Witness without any experience.
- I bring a unique perspective as an Indigenous woman. A Densuline from a large Catholic family in Northern Alberta, 10 boys and 5 girls.
- I am a Indian Residential school survivor.
- I have a vision to create a safe place for conversions that bring people closer with empathy and compassion.
- I am creating life with passion and curiosity.
- I chose guests who excite my curiosity.
Season One of Empathetic Witness produced seventeen (17) episodes and was my debut into the podcast world. I found the process to be both exciting and exhilarating. The podcasts satiated my curious nature, aided me in meeting and getting to know new people, and discovering new knowledge and information. Sharing is an important part of Indigenous Peoples worldview of being and doing. I want to share the experience of discovery of new skills and the feeling of purpose and a reason to be and to wake up each day with podcast listeners.
Empathetic Witness invites you to challenge assumptions about Life. It encourages people to embrace reconciliation as we examine truths, explore reparations, and show up in the world willing to learn and accept the responsibility for our actions.
Empathetic Witness in its first year looked at a whole array of topics encompassing the impact of the creation of residential schools, cultural genocide, the Indian Act, mental health, resilience, and survival. The end goal is to have every listener finish the podcast of the day with a sense of hope and optimism, no matter how difficult the conversation.
Each podcast is an hour long. Listening can occur in a commute to and from work, a road trip, an hour set aside for self actualization, or even while preparing a meal.
All podcasts involve conversations with people who share their experiences and honour each and everyone of us with their enthusiasm, presence, and wisdom.
Season Two has begun with this same enthusiasm and a new focus. The new focus includes generating more podcasts that invites a larger audience and an expansion of learning. You will notice international guests with a passion for life that gives them meaning, and joy.
The first season had a vision of supporting Seventh Generation Indigenous Foundation and Training (GIFT) seventhgift.ca and its original focus was trauma related. As the season progressed While I still support the work of seventgift.ca I realized that the original focus was too limiting. by broadening the conversation it becomes inclusive.
The second season will concentrate solely on Empathetic Witness and its journey. It will include fewer conversations on addictions and trauma and will concentrate more on hope, triumph and resilience. Empathetic Witness guests will be inspirational humans who will share personal stories that will encourage and motivate listeners to thrive rather than survive.
A highlight of season two was a conversation with film producer David Solomon from Adelaide, Australia regarding his documentary “Two Brothers Walking found at:
Future episodes will include interviews with a human rights activist from Lima, Peru, a Canadian naturopathic doctor, Indigenous musician, a Dene language keeper, a Program director working with rural African farmers, a Founder of a school in Bangladesh for marginalized women, and much more.
Grab a tea, listen and take part in the Empathetic Witness Podcast journey of discovery, excitement, and pride. All podcasts are recorded on the unceded territory of the Algonquin First nation.
See You There.
Denesuline Therese Deranger – May 08, 1919 – February 12, 2016 The last Traditional arranged Dene marriage.
She was born into this world at Old Fort, Alberta on May 08, 1919. Eldest child of 11 Children, 2 sisters and 8 brothers. she got married just after turning 15 on July 1933 in Fond du Lac (Isadore Deranger) and became a widow on April 4, 1992 in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Born into an era where modern convenience was for others, she lived without electricity, plumbing, telephones, TV and many other amenities taken for granted by many. Her life, was about survival.
Born and raised in the traditional Dene lifestyle in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, on the shores of Lake Athabasca. It was those very conditions that makes her who she is, who I am, and who we are as family.
Mama had an amazing life journey, from bush life to city dwelling, from dogsled to jet, from moccasin telegraph to emails and texting.
Once, she told me that she wanted to go to school but grandpa would not allow it. Thankfully, after learning about what happened in these residential schools, it was a blessing he didn’t send her to school.
However, I remember when I was a child, she went to continuing education for upgrading. She was so thrilled that she could do some rudimentary reading and writing, particularly when she was so proud to be writing the names of her children. Her eye shone bright and her smile was radient when she showed me what she wrote.
Mama was a teenage bride, she was married at the tender age of 15 through an arranged marriage to a stranger who was in his twenties.
This was not unusual in the Desesuline custom. She became pregnant almost immediately, and had her last child well into her forties. Earlier in her marriage she would run away back to her parents’ home, but each time her grampa returned her to her husband. She resented this most of her life.
She gave birth to nineteen healthy children; the majority of her children born without the help of a doctor, except for the youngest ones. During one of the pregnancies she had to walk about 10 miles to the nearest community in early spring with the ground snow-covered, so she could make it to the midwife’s home for the birth of my brother. There were no prenatal classes to help her cope with understanding the development of pregnancy and caring for babies. There were no nurses to talk about baby blues. No one to help her understand what her body was going through, no one to help her understand the emotions that comes with exhaustion after having a baby and being sleep-deprived caring for babies whilst living in a tent miles from the nearest town.
Can you imagine, there were no Pampers, no baby formula and no prepared jars of baby food. Everything was home-made, and all those diapers had to be washed by hand. Fortunately, as the babies grew they became helpers in the care of the younger ones.
Mama experienced many challenges in her life time. My dad was a trapper and so he would leave her alone for extended periods. As with most women in her generation, she had to cope on her own. Some people would argue that many other women of her day were in the same position, and maybe this is so, but that does not minimize the hardship she endured.
She once told me a story about how she hated the sound of the wind blowing because it reminded her of a time when she was living in a tent during the early years of her marriage. It was in the fall, and she had a head cold. Throughout the night the wind was howling and she was all stuffed up. She said she was alone with some very young children at the time. Sometime during the early morning her head was aching so much, that the increase pressure in her ears eventually blew her eardrums. She remembers the warm blood pouring out of her ears. She said that ever since then, she has had problems with dizziness (she may have damaged her inner ear). Another time when one of my sisters was just two weeks old with the wind blowing the walls of the tent, my sister took ill and died a week later. She suffered so much grief.
How it must have been difficult for her to cope with the loss of a child when she herself was no more than a child. Later in her life she would lose five more of her children, as recently as in 2012 late December her son, my brother, Billy died of an apparent heart attack.
Indeed, that Christmas was a difficult time for her. Parents should never have to bury their children, it was heartbreaking to see her overwhelmed with grief.
In her thirties she had breast cancer and had to have a partial mastectomy. Over the years she has had eleven operations.
Years later, I remember one incident where she was very sick in the hospital, I was a young child at the time, we all gathered in her empty bedroom in Doghead in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta and prayed for her to get well. She made it through that ordeal. Later, I remember her telling us that she had a dream that she saw a man surrounded by light standing at the foot of her hospital bed, and she asked him to not take her because she still had young children. She came home from the hospital, and in her mind it was God’s will that she survived. And not for her sake but for the sake of the children who still needed her.
There were times of difficulty involving alcohol during the sixties and seventies. I can recall bits and pieces but mainly because I was too young, I was oblivious to what really was happening. Thankfully, she and baba stopped drinking. We, her children, did okay for ourselves, being educated and becoming contributing members of society.
I believe we survived because of Mama, and not in spite of her. Her guidance allowed us to be strong individuals much like her. I am amazed at her will, whenever she decided something she did it. Like to quit drinking, and then later she actually stopped smoking cold turkey too. She just decided she was not going to do those things anymore and that was that.
Mama’s life is not all gloom and hardship. She enjoyed life and loved to travel. Visiting with her grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and her friends.
Indeed, helping others made her happy. Her joy, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, which number over a hundred now. Her passion was beading and sewing things for her family before her eyes failed her.
She says that she enjoyed keeping busy. Her Dene beaded jackets are distinctive and recognizable all over the territory. She did the most beautiful beadwork. When I was a little girl she looked at my long thread as I was beading and she said, “Don’t be lazy, make your thread shorter.” She was right of course because when your thread is shorter it does not get tangled up. It takes longer to bead, but the results are perfection.
If things were not done right, be it sewing, cleaning or anything, she also had you redo it until it was done properly. I don’t know how many hours were spent cleaning, even when the house was already clean. Her standards are high for all of us. People nowadays don’t take enough care to do things right. Rarely do we find anyone that actually takes pride in their work.
She enjoyed the yearly pilgrimage to Lac St. Anne, Canada’s largest Indigenous healing pilgrimage. She enjoyed visiting with old friends and family who also have travelled a long way from isolated communities to attend. There she always bought Holy Water, blessed statutes, and pendants like St. Christopher, which she gave away as gifts. I still have a few she has given me over the years.
When I was younger I always enjoyed the fresh bread, and bannock she baked in the summer. The wood stove was moved outside because it was too hot in the house. At Christmas she made the best bread pudding I have ever tasted. I also really enjoyed the fun we had making homemade taffy in the winter.
I honour Mama. Her gifts to me are strength, courage and reverence. When I’m worried or upset, I clean, clean, clean, I know she gave that to me too. S But most of all, she gave me life. and taught me to never give up.
I could not resist adding a story, as told to me by Margo
” Mama grew up in a hard life and she did the best she could. Yes. Many times I could see the stresses in her life. With so many children how would anyone not understand her. I only have a couple, and my God I get stressed, I now fully understand mama. I have always had a great respect for her.
“One day long ago, I took mama, my mom, and Adeline TripdeRoche to Lac St. Anne with my old car. My car had holes on the floor, which I tried to cover with a cardboard paper. Highway 63 was still a gravel road. I tell you each time we hit a bump puffs of dust would fill the car. The ladies in the back seat all had polyester suits on. We would stop on the way a couple of times getting out to stretch. My goodness they all would brush the dust off their suits, all the while laughing about it.
As we were getting closer to Grassland, my mom said in Dene, “Oh, not too far now we will be stopping in this place called “Greengrass“. Mama then said in Dene “No, it’s not called that, it’s called “Gasline” and here is Mrs. Tripderoche with her high pitched laugh practically rolling with laughter in the backseat. This was so hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing too. They were all so cute. Mama is a very strong woman and inside mama she is very loveable, and I love her.”