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  • Sunday LIVING INTO THE FUTURE

    Ottawa River Sunset

    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.

    1. 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.
    2. Meet with the team assign tasks and a system for measuring accountability.
    3. Map what needs to be done each week until you reached the specific date of completion. 
    4. 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.

    My garden

    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.

    My meditation space/sauna
  • 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.

    FAMILY MISSION

    1. 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.

    3 generations, my nephew Donald Deranger, his son, and grandchild.
    Sand dunes on our traditional lands
    Older sisters preparing wild meat from our land for the feast.
    Brother-in-law John Mercredi (not at the camp) when you listen closely to Dene drum you hear the heartbeat of the land.

    Acknowledgment

    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.

    Patrick Deranger
  • 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 tanyssmunro@gmail.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.

    My late dad, Isidore and older brother Fred Deranger
  • January 1, 2022!

    Living on the river shore is captivating, every day there is something phenomenal happening on the river, the neighbors made a ice rink over the weekend.

  • You Can chose The Life You Want





    October 5     A new day!  You are under no obligation to be who you were five years ago – Alan Watts
     
     
    I follow through when I start something. But there are times when I have changed my mind.  I like when I Moved on from a job, and a fiancé, in fact, I sold my condo and moved to a different province. It did not mean I failed.

     According to natural law, events happen as they are meant to happen, so we can learn from our experiences.   When we view our experiences as learning steps it is never a failure. When couples break up one will question, what in the relationship was real?  But in retrospect, one could view the relationship as a learning experience. What did the relationship teach us, and what positive elements can we take from the relationship.  Both the teaching and the positive aspects of the relationship can improve our next relationship when we learn from it. This applies to anything, business, education, and friendships.  Often, we will stay in the same relationship whether it is a business or personal relationship because of the fear of the unknown, or we feel comfortable, but that is not a good reason to stay In the place that does not bring you joy.
     
    The truth is, there will be another relationship, another, opportunity. As we evolve and grow from experience, we will discover happiness and joy, because along the way we figure out what works best for us, and we chose to not settle for mediocrity.  We are complex humans. Indeed, because something is expected of you doesn’t mean you are stuck with it. Ask the question what is the message?
     
    Perhaps the message is you are growing evolving, and it may be time to make new choices, it is not giving up, or quitting it is pivoting as you continue your journey in a different direction. Nothing stays the same, we have 40 trillion cells in our body, we are not the same person we were years ago. It makes no sense to hold onto something you said you were going to do at 20 years old.  Understand there will be times when you need to make space for something new, demand for yourself, happiness, and joy by living life to the fullest and don’t be afraid of change.
    Ottawa River with Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal, me and son, Andrew Pratt

    water feature at office
  • TOWN BOUND

     It is Almost 30 years Since he went into the Spirit World. I visualize him walking down Franklin Avenue in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Thirty years, seems as though it was yesterday.

    My dad as a young boy

     Memory of him is etched in my mind. Imagery that stirs precise emotions within me. I see my dad, Baba, is what we called him. He was a warm, generous and a wise man. He loved going for walks. He was a hunter and trapper. He didn’t speak English, just Denesuline, our traditional language. 

    He was a man of medium build; his movements gave the impression of true strength and confidence. Head held high. His hair thick, cut very short and was snow white. His eyes, clear, dancing, thoughtful. Steady was his stride, not too fast and not too slow, with his hands firmly held behind his back he walked.  

    What might he be thinking as he is walking along in this city?
    Might he be thinking, how the afternoon summer sun feels hot, and the slight breeze feels soothing? 

    Might be he remembering, years earlier in another in simpler times when he took some of his younger children to Holy Angels Residential school playground. Taking them there to play on the swings and to read at the priest’s house in the summer?  He had nineteen children, sixteen surviving. He had ten sons and six daughters, and grandchildren who he raised along with his own.  He never attended residential school.


    Might he be thinking how easy it was to make his children happy by just taking them for a walk on the dusty gravel road in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta in Doghead. Back in the day  in the early 70s very few if any cars whizzing by, but he might hear in the distance the trotting of hoofbeats that he knew belonged to Leo, the waterman’s horses. Perhaps if it were a Monday, Wednesday, or a Friday he might have heard the PWA jet overhead. Might he be thinking, as he walked silently, his children softly murmuring and laughing amongst themselves that his life just could not get any more perfect.

    Might he be thinking of a time and place where his spirit was truly free.  (Luezan Tué) where the birds singing, and wildlife are so near you can hear them in the bushes?  

    Our Traditional lands, Caswell Lake in Saskatchewan

    Perhaps he was thinking about how clear the water is that you can see the huge trout swimming in lake? Where he could hear the sound of waves gently rolling in and see the forming of small indentations on the perfectly white beautiful sand dunes, which was as inviting as any sandy beaches of distant tropical lands. In the distance the sound of the loons, which provides him useful information about the activity around the lake. The sky a bright blue and peppered with cumulus clouds. 

    Simply beautiful.  A time never forgotten. 

    My dad and brother Fred
    Algar Towers

    While he enjoyed the warmth of the sun, feeling the cool afternoon breeze, what might he be thinking? 

    Is he remembering sitting by an open fire, enjoying fresh brewed  mint tea, and freshly made Bannock, as he listened to stories told by his old friend Doc Holiday? Is he recalling that he too told some of his own stories, surely his were more outrageous, and yes, he knows they were.  Indeed, he was a great storyteller. He was also a very cultural man who lived in harmony with nature. He never gossips or said a bad word about anyone. 

    What might he be thinking while he walked in the hot summer heat? 

    Perhaps, about the perfect little log house he built out of nearby trees for his family in Doghead.   And how when he entered the porch, he had to struggle with the many pelts hanging overhead drying. Those days before the BC Bennett Dam diminished the water and emptied the marshes, when trapping provided a generous bounty for the community. 

    As soon as he entered warm air from the wood stove hits his face and the smell of cooking stirred up the hunger he had been suppressing.  Someone would shout: “Close the door!” and he wrangled with all the shoes and boots in his way, but he finally gets the door shut. He looked for a place to put the results from a successful trip to the trapline. You know, he was a good trapper and provided well for all these children and often had enough to share with the community.  Might he have been thinking how good it felt being in the warmth and security of home with his wife and family after days out on the cold trapline? Could life be more perfect! 

    “Town bound”, he would say. 

    What might he be thinking, as he walked down Franklin Avenue In Fort McMurray that hot summer afternoon? 

    Had he been thinking of how things are changing so quickly? Changes that he knew were coming, but, worried that they may not all be good. Was he thinking about the future for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?  Was he thinking, if there was one thing, he could teach them would be that they should strive to be happy, kind, educated, and good strong Dene. Perhaps most of all to accept the simple things in life, like being completely content knowing that you’ve done your best. 


    But if truth be told, I believe he was walking in silent meditation being one with the environment, being present. To know him, is to know that he was an integral part of nature and was the happiest when in his element.  His element was anywhere he was. He was at home anywhere. A man who was a strong silent type. A man of few words. Ironically, when you caught him in the mood for storytelling, you better be prepared to stay awhile. 


    He was a good man our Baba, Isidore Deranger Denesuline Nene. (Djeskelni) (Deranger) We never knew his exact   birth date, but he was baptized when he was  already a teenager in 1909,  and  went to the spirit world in  -1992

  • Honoring our Love

    A cross was installed for my late brother, Patrick in August 2021,
     
    The pandemic has given rise to more funerals than normal, and we know ceremonies are crucial. It helps us process the departed as we go through our levels of grief.  
     
    Unfortunately, due to COVID I have not physically attended any funerals, it is sad because the ritual of funerals and showing up is the best way to show your support and honor your loved one.
     
    The key to honoring is to give meaning to the life lived. I blogged about family members who have passed, and I write to honor and give meaning to their life.   
     
    The process is different for every family. In my family we have put together a slideshow with favorite music.  For my brother Patrick, we honored his last wish to have his ashes scattered on our traditional lands, we sang an honor song, had a feast, and told stories around a fire.  It is important to mourn. The funeral ritual assists in that mourning.
     
    When I first moved to Ottawa a friend passed, the family held one day of visitation at the funeral home and the next day, she was buried.  I had never experienced that before, and it felt weird.  
     
    In my family we hold a three-day wake, we prayed around the clock with the body present, and on the fourth day a burial, after the burial we have a feast. The three days of wake I am sure is influence by Catholicism.  In my Denesuline tradition the church has infiltrated so deep that most of us cannot separate the nonindigenous rituals with our traditional ritual for the deceased.
     
    Public displays of grief near the body were discouraged in my family because our indigenous belief is that the spirit is still connected to this realm after death, and we believe that loud hysterical crying keeps the spirit tethered to this world longer than necessary hindering it from its journey into the spirit world. In the Denesuline tradition we hold the belief that our ancestors show us the way in the spirit world, and death is a natural process and part of life. 
     
    Did you know historically the family of the deceased would give funeral gifts to people who attended the funeral.  By and large they were practical items, like rings, gloves and men were given scarves that were sewn into their jacket lining.  The culture was very much to honor the dead and theses gifts would serve as a living memorial and a remembrance of the loved after the funeral. I think this is a tender Idea.
  • There is a Crack in Everything, that is How the Light Gets In 

    Funeral for our nephew, James Desjarlais
    My son, Andrew a with a Gift from the Dene in Northern Alberta

    There is a Crack in Everything, that is How the Light Gets In 

    The pandemic of COVID 19 has brought us some joy and some sorrow. 

    Because of this pain many people accessed their creativity, I founded a charitable foundation, seventhgift.ca (G.I.F.T.) for Indigenous people in Canada to address trauma.

    We can reframe the sorrow we experience in a beautiful way to serve others, like the mother who lost her child in a drunk driving accident who created an international foundation Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.  (MADD) The bittersweet gift is to see both the pain and the beauty.

    Each loss brings with it a distinct emotion. Recently, I heard of a friend’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. This news is tough because I know in months or maybe in a year this beautiful soul will be on a journey into the spirit world. I received similar news from another friend, a former assistant who called me to tell me of her terminal illness a few months before her passing.  In both cases I was touched by their willingness to share this personal information with me. I felt their sacredness and the weight of their words, and it touched my soul. I wanted to be a witness for them as they transition in their last journey and to give meaning to them telling me.

    Facing one’s own death is I can only imagine is overwhelming. I believe the first instinct for most people is to keep the news to themselves. When they revealed this to you, it is a message from their soul to yours. How do we embrace this experience?  

    I had a conversation with my older brother, Freddy several weeks ago. When he called, I asked him how he was doing, he said “I was experiencing some health issues, but I’m okay now”. I told him our oldest brother, Peter seems to be experiencing some health issues as well, and I was concerned about him because he lives alone.  Freddy said, don’t worry about us you’ll understand when you get there. I wasn’t sure what he meant, and I asked where I am going? He laughed and said you are quite a bit younger than us older folks, we, get aches and pains we can’t do the things we used to, that is part of life, don’t worry.  When our time comes, just let us go.  I said I don’t want to let you guys go. I want you guys to live forever. He laughed. In a strange way this conversation with my brother does help me process life which is part of nature and temporary.

    Indigenous peoples understand that all life has an expiration date, and when the time comes. we should go gracefully into the spirit world. No one knows what happens when we die. It is respect for our ancestors that we believe they are waiting for us and will celebrate, with a huge feast and a drum dance to welcome us.  

    This is like Buddhist philosophy, only in Buddhism there is a thought that we live many lives.

    As I reflect on family and friends who went into the spirit world during the pandemic, I came to realize that for a meaningful life we need to be mindful of our interactions with one another, put our iPhone away, give the person we’re with your complete attention, touch their hand and feel the connection.

    Make every moment count. If you ever met a person who makes you feel whole and complete, and understood. You can be that person for everyone you meet. This is called living a purposeful life. Every moment is a mindful action.

    Living in this manner you will have no regrets because all your interactions will have a sacredness, a connection to another’s soul.

    Speaking of regrets, since the recent loss of ten family members and a couple of friends I made a conscientious effort to clean up my behaviour with relatives.  If I couldn’t reach them on the phone, I send them an e-mail taking responsibility for my behaviour and I would like to repair our relationship. That said, in part it is not only for me that I do this, but it is so they too are not left with any regrets about our relationship.  

    Please if you are in an estranged or difficult relationship with family or a friend that you reach out to express your desire to improve your relationship, apologize if you must for your behavior and clearly express how your behavior has impacted on your life and their life, and make a promise to be better friends. 

    On our traditional lands

    Isn’t our deepest desire to have amazing loving relationships? It can be done no matter how complicated. Recently I picked up the phone and called a friend who I had a complicated relationship with and apologized for being not a good friend. I explained how I felt this impacted my life and, in their life, for one because we were not speaking to each other I wasn’t there for her, and she wasn’t here for me when I lost many family members. She was incredibly gracious; truth be told more gracious than I would have been if the situation was reversed. We picked up where we left off before the incident as though nothing had happened, our relationship is complete. This is the gift we gave each other, seamlessly weaving our complicated relationship with a renewed purpose and love.

    To capture the knowledge my friend has we will be developing a new course through the Seventh Generation Indigenous Foundation and Training.

    The objective is for students to explore and examine holistic knowledge and perspective on afterlife . The course structure will be reflective and provide direction towards research and study on different indigenous worldviews from a variety of indigenous cultures .

  • Excited about Life?

    The summer my sister Mary came to visit and we hung out, a few years ago!

    August 13, 2022, I am having fun thinking, about how to improve my podcast Empathetic witness I am listening to other podcasts with the intention of noticing what works for them, in this process I am learning.  In the last couple years, I have found a few of things, a Charitable foundation I created, seventhgift.ca my podcast, and my blog on Word press.  

    I am passionate about these things, and it gets me up in the morning feeling excited about my day.  The key is to look for something that involves being of service to others, and for a greater cause. 

    A couple years ago feeling frustration about social media and wanting a deeper connection with “friends” on several social media platforms and I created the private group on Facebook as an experiment. The idea was to see if I can gently nudge people to interact on a deeper level.

    Two years into this experiment I am pleased to notice more interaction on a deeper level not just liking post but comments that engage one another. the best are open-ended questions.

    what is your experience with social media, are you satisfied with the interaction you are experiencing?    

  • Call to Adventure

    Maggie, Daniel, Nantan

    Margaret Ann MacNeill (nee Deranger) 1974 – October 23, 2021

    A CALL TO ADVENTURE

    Acording to her natal chart, she continue to help others, going where angels fear to tread, listening, and providing advice.

    I wrote this piece shortly after her passing. As a blogger writing about a loved one who has recently passed is for me difficult but necessary. It helps me process and keep them alive.  Yesterday, August 6th, my family Celebrated her life. I write thoughtfully, and respectfully.  I don’t put it off too long because in our Denesuline culture, we believe that the dearly departed travel to visit the people they loved over three days, after their body is separated from their soul, their spirit embarks on an adventure to visit.  I feel her close as I write this, like she is guiding my heart and my hand. I hope what I write will come across and people will feel her close to them as they read this too. I made sure in honour and respect her and to call her by the name by which she wanted to be known, as Maggie. Most of us family in Canada knew her as Margaret Ann. I totally get it, because when I moved away from home, I also chose to be called by my second name, Angelina.  She was quick to accept that.

    Maggie was a free spirit and answered a call to adventure early in her life. Fear of the unknown never did discourage her.  Over 20 years ago with her young son Christopher, she accepted the call to adventure to move to a new country, and a whole new career overnight.  Well, it would seem to those of us left behind that it was spontaneous but I’m certain she thought carefully about her decision to move, considered the consequences, and decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, into the unknown, on the other side of the world.

    She never let what others thought of her hold her back. I loved that about her. She was spirited, in other words determined I loved that about her too.  She was athletic and loved sports. In high school she joined the rowing club.

    When she left Canada for Australia, she joined the South Australian police force in Murray Bridge. I remember her telling me it was physically grueling, and about an incident when a male police officer broke her nose during a training exercise. She believed that he did it on purpose. But that didn’t stop her.  She kept going and graduated from the Academy. 

    She had determination and when she wanted to do something she got it done. She didn’t do anything in half measures. Maggie loved completely. I loved her sense of humour and could listen to her laughter for hours. She had a soft spot for animals, often taking in dogs.  When for a time, she worked as a by-law officer, I remember her sending me pictures of snakes and other animals that I was petrified to receive. She would just laugh and say: “Nah they won’t hurt ya.”

    She graced our life in Fort McMurray, Alberta in the summer of 1974, then a small northern oil company town.  As a young child she was feisty. She was very close to her cousins, and particularly my daughter, growing up together. Their relationship was like siblings. They fought, and then they made up.

    Regularly, they even dressed up in similar outfits, like twins.   Because I lived with her parents, after I moved away, they spent many holidays together when I went home. They continued to be in close communication right up until Maggie’s passing this weekend.

    The small town of Fort McMurray could not contain her for too long. She was meant to share her brightness in the world with others. She made fast friends wherever she went, a beam of light in darkness. She led the way for others. By her gregarious nature we were never left questioning her true loving intention for us.  She loved deeply and completely, and we all felt it deeply.

    She was kind, thoughtful and compassionate.  Our schedules meant that we often talked early in the morning, in my time.  In one of our early morning calls she asked me if I read a book she was reading.  She knew I was a meditator and followed Buddhism. I said, absolutely, I have it right here on my shelf.  She couldn’t believe we both had the same book.  And we shared a laugh together. I think it made us feel closer to be holding the same book title.

    Her young life had to end so tragically and abruptly. It is a challenge to grasp, why a beautiful soul would be taken from us.   I thought we would have so many more conversations, and laughter. We all do because we avoid the elephant in the room and seldom talk about death.  When Maggie and I ended our calls, she always said she loved me, and I would tell her I loved her more. 

    What gives me solace in this tragedy is knowing she lived life on her own terms to the end, and she embraced her adventures fully with enthusiasm. The last time I saw her in person was in Melbourne in 2008 when we went to the movie Australia shortly after it was released. She invited me to this movie even though she had already by that time had seen it three times, but she wanted to experience it with me.  After the movie when we talked on the phone, she would say “I sing you to me. Which meant come visit me, from the movie.

    I am very sad; at the same time, I have a desire to give meaning to her death.  It’s difficult when someone passes and there is regret, things unsaid. Her death is a poignant reminder to all of us of the fragility of life and how suddenly it can end. There is no guarantee that we will have an opportunity to fix relationships that have gone off course.  Since her passing I have had a couple of conversations with people and have implored them to repair their relationships with people still walking this journey with us.  I hope my words aren’t falling on deaf ears.

    Maggie, you made the world brighter for everyone who knew you I promise to be available to your sons to help guide them when they ask and if they need someone to be a compassionate listener, I will be there for them. I am so proud to be your aunt, you have made me proud by your accomplishments, your integrity, and your authenticity. Until we meet again forever in my heart.

    Competition!
    Norma Jean & Maggie
    Maggie and her mom, my sister Mary
    Maggie and her sister Tracy
  • Unstoppable Confidence

    Unstoppable Confidence
    Painting by my brother Roger

    We live in a world where anything is possible! I listened to David Nurse in a podcast. He is a best-selling author, speaker, and coach to NBA players as a former professional basketball player. He talks about the psychology of being the very best is to be in integrity with who you say you are with your actions.

    1. When we tie our self-worth to our results, we limit ourselves: things like tests, job interviews, how much money we make, the kind of house we live in, the car we drive, and if they don’t measure up to what we believe is success we lose confidence in our ability, because we tie it to what we make it says about us, but it does not have to define us. Results are not who you we are,

    2. Self-awareness in who we are, what we stand for, is what defines us.

    3. Confidence is knowing that even if things don’t turn out, you’re going to be OK. I ascribe to the thought when one door closes four doors open. All my experiences, including failures, are bringing me to opportunities for a fulfilling life, leading me to what I am ultimately meant to do.

    4. If something is not working out, pivot, try something different. Changing directions is not failure.

    5. Redefine the context of the meaning of words. Quitting could mean it is not working for you now, but maybe later it will. Challenge yourself. Venture out of your comfort zone and don’t worry what people think of what you’re doing.

    Let go of life you thought you should live, to live the life you are meant to live. – Joseph Campbell

    Sunrise

    In my life, I have been a hairstylist, a teacher, a manager of land claims and researchers, the executive assistant to a National Chief, (AFN) Assembly Of First Nations a Human Resource Manager, podcast host and producer, founder of a Charitable Foundation and a writer. I work in land claims correcting injustices against Indigenous peoples. I get the most gratification from doing work for a cause, such as my podcast and foundation.

    I don’t know what else I’ll be doing next , but I am confident I will continue to grow and expand my knowledge. I will continue to not see failure as an obstacle but as an opportunity and challenge. The word pivot comes to mind, to change direction.

    I ask myself three questions to reflect on how well I am doing in the previous month and if my actions are aligned with my image of who I hold myself to be.

    · Big or small, what did I accomplish, even if it was a challenge?

    · No matter big or small, who did something for me?

    · No matter how big or small, who did I do something for?

    Over the summer I enrolled in a course at university of Alberta, and in the first test I was multitasking and received a mark of 35%! that surprised me! Then I looked at my notes. I barely took any. I had to take better notes and did. My next test I received a grade of 75%, and the next one after that 99%. I changed my notes and it worked. I got better grades and kept going.

    I noticed a growth mindset leads to opportunity and success, but that means we must put in what you want to get out of it, if you put in 100%, you’ll reap 100%. I didn’t let the first grade lower my confidence; I knew it was the result of the little effort I put into my initial work. If you tie your confidence to results, it leaves you with nothing but feeling like a failure and often spirals downward onto unhappiness and funk. We are in this loop we use our emotional state to change your mental state and vice versa mindset and behaviour are powerful in creating the reality we desire.

    I will tell you another story.

    Yesterday, I had a podcast interview booked, and five minutes before the scheduled time I got this text, “Sorry I’ve been offered a boat ride I can’t miss that opportunity, we need to reschedule.” This was upsetting, I felt that my guest didn’t take the podcast seriously, I sent her an email telling her that each guest I give my complete attention, I do my research, organize the questions to get the best impact, my dog is occupied, I scheduled it when I know there will not be deliveries or any other disruption. I turn my cell phone off, In other words, I take it seriously and I don’t waste people’s time or my own. More importantly, I knew I had to be clearer in my intention and expectation of my guest in the future. This one is on me.

    It is the story we tell ourselves when we are disappointed, and it affects our confidence. I could have tied her disregard for the interview with me to mean I was not professional or not worth her time, but I didn’t, her action said more about her than it did about me, sadly, I am not sure she noticed.

    The intention, goal I have for my Empathic Witness Podcast is that it will be the number one on Spotify. To that end, I will continue to attract interesting guests and invite conversations that matter to Indigenous people. I will be consistent in booking guests, and will be clear in my expectations of them. The summer is booked, and I am currently booking for October.

    1. I stand to empower people.

    2. My word is my bond.

    Dene Youth Drumming

    6. Making time in my day for fun, to laugh, and be present.

    7. Creating the life, I want with a plan and with my actions.

    8. My gratitude, my joy is foundational to my life.

  • Farewell to A Dene/ Cree Warrior

    Horse
    James and his brother, Joe

    Goodbye to a warrior!   James Desjarlais July 26 1980- August 2 2022

    If you had the good pleasure of meeting my nephew, James Desjarlais (Horse) you would have met an amazing, kindhearted man.   He loved meeting new people and was accepting of all people. He enjoyed learning a few words in the language of the people he met. He could say greetings in at in at least a dozen different languages. 

    He was his mom, Rose’s protector, the baby of the family.

    Early in the new year, when his mother was in the St Paul’s hospital in Vancouver recovering from COVID he visited her daily, bringing her a rose each time.  A nurse I talked to said, I don’t know how James gets through security because he is not vaccinated, they wouldn’t allow him on the ICU floor, but somehow, he made it to the ICU and gave a rose to the nurse to give to his mom.

    He was in a group of young youth involved in the Native Youth Movement (NYM), an activist group started with his brothers to raise awareness of Indigenous youth on the streets. In the 90s, James was a very sharp dresser.  It was as if he stepped out of a GQ magazine.  As his addiction took a toll on him, it became more challenging for him to buy nice clothes.  He had a strong work ethic and wasn’t afraid of hard labor. 

     

    Horse, Joe, his mom Rose, niece and nephew. Winter, and Ohosis

    In June of this year, he went to the traditional lands of our family. 

    It was hoped that this experience would heal him of his addiction.   He was happy being there with his family.  He decided he wanted to go to treatment for his addiction and his mother, my sister Rose, drove him back to BC, to the treatment center in Kamloops. Sadly, he was turned away.  And now he is gone.

    As is the case when we lose a loved one tragically and unexpectedly, we reflect on their life. I counseled my sister to not go down the road of wondering would he still be here if she had done this or that differently.  James’s life had meaning and purpose.  He loved and was loved.

    As a writer, I have written too many stories of extraordinary people who have left us way too soon, and I search to look for meaning in their life.  For James I don’t have to look too far, he brought laughter and love to everyone he met, a gentle teddy bear of a man, with a smile that you had to return.    

    When he began his journey into the spirit world his loyal puppy,Cobalio a Shepherd wolf cross stayed with him until his mother came to get him.  “Horse” will be remembered by his brothers, son, and mom and also many cousins, aunts, uncles, and nieces.  His memory will be cherished.

    Aunty loved you James, and I am grateful you visited me one summer in my little piece of paradise.  God speed James. You were a beautiful soul. My face is wet, and my eyes glistened like stars in the night sky.  You walked softly on mother earth, gentle and loving, now you are our guardian angel, and we will feel you near when we need you most.  I am making a commitment in your memory to continue the work in the charitable Foundation I created to help people with addictions:  Seventhgift.cahttps://seventhgift.ca/

    Ride into the spirit world, Your ancestors will greet you.
    On the way to our Traditional lands 2022
  • My Legacy of Residential School 2022

    I am top 2nd from left smiling

    My Legacy of Residential School 2022

    Pope Francis came to Canada to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in residential schools in summer of 2022. His visit stirred up many emotions, and opened wounds.   I submit that it’s these stories being told and retold that give rise to our suffering.   150,000 children entered residential schools; and some never made it home. The legacy of residential schools has impacted many generations.  We talk of the trauma, the hurt, the disempowerment, but how often do you hear stories of the resilience, and the strengths despite the horror?

    I am a residential school survivor; I was in Holy Angels residential school for 8 years.  

    I want my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren to know I was resilient.  As a child I was curious, and loved learning, reading any book I would get my hands on. In the early days it was always Christianity books about martyrs.  In my teenage years I enjoyed mysticism and witchcraft.

    I have a weird quirk in my brain, called aphantasia   it is the inability to create images in my brain.  I wrote about it when I first discovered I had it.

    “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 was discovered in 1880, and coined in 2015 by cognitive and behavioral neurology scientist, Adam Zeman in the UK.  

    What this means for me, is that I don’t see images in my head.  Crazy!  And it means that I have a condition that only 1 to 3% of the world’s population has. It never occurred to me even to investigate this phenomenon. I never knew that people have a superpower of generating pictures just using their mind! Who would have thought?

     Incidentally during a conversation with my daughter, I discovered I could not visualize what she was saying. Whenever I shut my eyes all I get is darkness I can’t picture anything in my head at all. I also don’t hear sounds in my head, like music either.

    It was an aha! moment for me, when I discovered it, I suddenly understood why I am geographically challenged. I cannot envision lakes, rivers or roads on a map. And further it now made perfect sense that when I was talking to designers who were designing either my layout of the kitchen, bathroom, or landscaping I could not envision what they were creating until it was completed, and I could see in in a drawing or in 3D.  

    Until then I always thought that when people said they saw images in their mind it was more like a metaphor … or like remembering.  It is interesting to find out because I never knew what it meant to imagine something visually. I always thought that it was an intellectual process and not a situation of conjuring up a visual image with the mind. This knowledge does not change anything, although it does help me understand to some extent how my brain works.

    For me, I connect through my feelings. My memory works by connecting events that have taken place directly to how I felt about it. When I tried to remember somebody, I don’t get an image of them in my head; instead, I get a feeling of them. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and author, wrote a book titled  The Man who mistook his wife for a hat. 

    It is difficult to explain.  I think it is like all the data is stored in my brain on a hard drive and can be reassembled when needed. But it is not stored as a picture.

    That is freaky because if – like most people – you can see in pictures it must be hard to believe that others can’t do what seems so natural to you.  

    Later in life, I read health books, neurology, philosophy, nonfiction, and biographies.  

    I strive to push my boundaries past my fears. I studied at the University of Warsaw in my early 20s, I went snorkeling in the great barrier reef in my thirties, even though I am afraid of the sea.  I went sailing in Fiji.  I love traveling. I began studying Buddhism and picked up meditation again which I first learned while at university, to help me study. I don’t know what fears I will face in my 60s and 70s, 80s and 90s, all I know is I will continue to push through my fears.   

    As a youth I made choices in my life and took specific a path away from chaos and dysfunction.  I was one of 16 children, I had ten brothers and five sisters.  I was the youngest girl.

    I can’t think of the specific moment when I decided I would not drink alcohol. I am very stubborn, and not susceptible to peer pressure.    

    Maybe it was when I saw an older brothers tied to a chair because as a drunk he was violent, or maybe when an older sister who was hungover and moody after coming back from a binge drinking, or maybe it was my mom yelling at drunks to go home who came to the house to buy alcohol, or maybe it was seeing a yellow room with blood stains splattered on the walls and or seeing an older sister with a broken arm because her husband  beat her when he drank.  The point is, there is no shortage of the negative impact of drinking in my childhood and I had no use for it in my life. 

    I made a choice to make a different life for myself.  I remember working the night shift as a summer student at a youth detention center in Edmonton (YDC), one of our charges was acting out and I witness the social workers put her in one of the lock cells, screaming and kicking. It was traumatizing to watch.  I wondered what pain she was going through to act out so violently.it was the first time I connected trauma with emotional outbursts. I worked on a closed unit for more violent youth. It was here I developed compassion for youth; I could see the goodness in them, no matter what they were in for.

     Back to the resilience I spoke about earlier, I bet if we thought about it, we could come up with many stories of resilience.  The first time I stood up to a nun who slapped me, I silently stared at her and did not shed a tear after the slap that echoed in the room.  I remember that moment poignantly, I remember thinking it hurt!  The nun said I couldn’t see the movie that evening as punishment, but I knew I would anyway.  And I did.

    When the movie began, I silently crept down the stairs from the fourth-floor dormitory and sat on the last step, when the movie ended and I heard the students clapping, and I ran back upstairs to bed.

    If you are a former residential student, I invite you to look at examples of your resilience and share that story. These are the stories we should be sharing, stories of triumph, determination, courage, and strength.  In addition to Sunday night moves, we played bingo, and had weekend trips to the lake and ran wild on the hills.

    I developed creative problem solving in residential school, and the knowledge that we are not alone in our suffering. We make a choice, what stories we decide to tell. Will it be about pain and victimhood, or will it be about our resilience, strength, and courage?  It is your story to tell, make it one that gives you strength, and pass that strength to the next generation. In my Podcast Empathic Witness, I search for stories of resilience, bravery, and tenacity.  I understand that the horrors must not be forgotten, at the same time frame your story in a way that frees you from being a victim, like the story above where the nun slapped me, I decided to embrace my power, I didn’t allow her to punish me, and listened to the movie on the steps by myself.  it’s a brief story of my resilience as an eight-year-old girl. When I tell the story I feel brave.