“The individual whose vision encompasses the whole world often feels nowhere so hedged in and out of touch with his surroundings as in his native land.” – Emma Goldman, activist
“… I REALIZED I’M A VICTIM OF IT, TOO…”
Malcolm was a forty year old, tall man, but with a slouch, so he looked less imposing than he might, had he held his shoulders back. He had a full head of pitch black hair, held in a ponytail by an elastic. He had a soft, quiet voice, which suggested to me, his wisdom may not have been heard, at times in the past, when he offered it.
Malcolm was a member of the the Mi’kmaq tribe, a First Nations, Aboriginal Canadian. He wore a small, beaded, multicoloured pendant around his neck which was shaped like an eagle’s head. Malcolm was also a long-haul truck driver, who spent long days, and nights, on the road. And, he was very devoted to his family. He said, he liked his job because it gave him lots of time, to think.
Malcolm had been married to Miranda, a nurse, for twelve years, and they had a ten year old daughter, Marcy. Miranda was fortunate to only work day shifts, so she was home for Marcy. This enabled Malcolm to take longer routes for the trucking company he had been with for a number of years.
When I asked Malcolm how I might serve him, he replied, “Several weeks ago, I was on a run to Vancouver, listening to the radio, when I caught a news clip on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was talking about its prevalence in our military. And, as they described the symptoms, I realized I’m a victim of it, too…I have several of the symptoms…and I have never been in the Armed Forces.”
“…NOT JUST A VICTIM OF IT, YOU ARE ALSO, A VICTOR…”
“Well, PTSD is usually generated by a trauma. And, we can be traumatized by just about anything. What symptoms are your referring to, exactly, Malcolm?” I asked.
“Well, I have trouble sleeping, I have nightmares, and even flashbacks, at times. Part of why I like my job is because I don’t have to sleep when other people do. That let’s meet hide how difficult it is for me to get to sleep sometimes.” he said.
“Those symptoms certainly suggest PTSD. But, it sounds like you’re not just a victim of it, you are also, a victor over it, because you have learned to work around it, with the job you have, for example. Is there any truth in this Malcolm?”
“Well…I suppose there’s some truth in that…but, aren’t I still a victim of it, as well?
“Yes, you are! But, you get to decide, like everyone else, whether to see yourself as a victim, a victor, or both!
“How do you mean, Ken?”
“Malcolm, life ensures everyone gets traumatized, everyone gets to experience significant losses…they are part of every person’s life. PTSD usually focuses on losses of personal safety. But, any significant loss of family, friends, financial security, employment, health/mental faculties or even spirituality, can induce trauma very quickly.” I explained.
“That makes sense to me. But, I don’t see where I have been traumatized in my life. So far, I haven’t had any significant losses of family, friends or health. I have a good, secure job and even my finances are OK.” he replied.
“…CAN YOU ALSO SEE, THE VICTORIES OF YOUR PEOPLE?”
“Then that leaves your spirit…I’m wondering about your spirituality, Malcolm. As a First Nations’ Aboriginal, do you carry the perception you have been traumatized, you are a victim of the times you live in, and even, the country you live in?”
“Wow, that’s a tricky question, Ken! Our people have been, over the past three hundred years, not just marginalized, but also, poisoned, abused, kidnapped and even murdered. So, how could I not be a victim, with our history?” he said, not with anger, but rather, with sadness.
“Malcolm, that is, of course, all very true. You have clearly been victimized. But, can you also see, the victories of your people, Aboriginals?”
“What victories are you referring to, Ken?” he asked, confused by the question.
“Your culture, as I understand it, holds Mother Nature in high esteem, and keeps its ties to her, and respect for her, as one of its primary values. Is that true, Malcolm?” I asked.
“Yes, it is true! In fact, we feel we are part of Mother Nature, and so, to respect Mother Nature, is to respect ourselves.” he replied in a tone of confirmation.
I said, “One of Mother Nature’s most basic laws is the law of balance or symmetry. Science tell us it is found in virtually every level of nature, from subatomic particles to galaxy systems. In fact, many scientists spend their entire careers, trying to find exceptions to this natural law. We walk upright in balance, we strive for a balance in our health, our relationships…really, in virtually every aspect, of our life.”
Then, I added, “And, as you said, First Nations believe we are all part of this system, so it must apply to us as well…to our biology, our chemistry, our families, our communities, and even our history. One way you can think about it is to know, there is a progression with every regression, a good in every bad; or a right in every wrong. This means you can’t be a victim, without simultaneously, being a victor…you can’t be victimized without being the victor, in the same second. If you can talk about it, then, you have survived it, and are automatically, wiser and stronger, in some important way and better prepared for your future. ”
“The most common trait of all primitive peoples is a reverence for the life-giving earth, and the Native American shared this elemental ethic: The land was alive to his loving touch, and he, its son, was brother to all creatures.”
– Stewart Udall, politician
“…THERE ARE OVER 1.4 MILLIONS INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN CANADA, TODAY.”
“Ken, are you suggesting First Nation people are victors, as well as, victims, historically?” he asked, skeptically.
“I think, only you can decide that, for yourself. But, let’s explore the idea a bit. Can you see any ways Aboriginal Canadians, have been victorious, are victors?”
He thought for a moment, and then replied,with a hint of anger to his voice, “Well, I guess we are still here…we survived…we weren’t exterminated as a people!”
“Exactly! You did survive, in spite of systematic efforts to wipe your people out. Just recently, I read, there are over 1.4 millions Indigenous people in Canada, today. But, what else Malcolm?” I asked him.
“I guess, for me personally, I’m very conscious of the need to ensure my children, nieces and nephews, are aware of, and proud of, their Aboriginal Heritage. It’s the only way to ensure our nation survives within Canada.” he said, with a hint of pride this time.
“Can I offer you another perspective, on the same point, Malcolm?”
“Sure!” he replied.
“Of all the various minorities in Canada, it seems to me, there is none, as strong in spirit, as articulate in their goals, or as proud of their culture, as First Nations!” I said.
“That’s really true, isn’t it?” he said, smiling to himself and me, simultaneously.
“And, Malcolm, I don’t know of any other minority in this country who have been better at retaining their dignity; garnering support from Non-Aboriginal Canadians, or modelling the respect we need for a multiracial society.”
“… I’M VERY CONSCIOUS OF HONOURING THE LAND I CROSS AND THE PEOPLE I MEET…”
“Ken, I’ve never noticed those things before. But, as I think about them…they are true! My people have retained their self respect, are getting educated, are building successful lives, and are taking on leadership roles, all across Canadian society.”
“Malcolm, since you know, there is truth to these victories, how else does it benefit you, to be an Aboriginal Canadian?”
“Well, besides having a strong sense of my own identity, culture and family, I also think this gives me a strong spirit, anchored in my heritage.” he replied.
“And how does that impact how you see yourself as a person?”
“Oh, it gives me an appreciation of who I am, and what I am?” he replied, again with a sense of personal pride.
“And, how does that appreciation serve you, Malcolm?” I asked him.
“Ken, that appreciation… that gratitude, shows up in my work, my friends, and even my health.” he replied.
“Would you give me an example?” I asked.
“Sure!” he said. Then, he thought for a moment and then, continued, “In my job, I have travelled across much of North America. So, I get to see the vast countryside at all times of the day and year. With time to ponder, I get to think about how my people, my ancestors, have been doing the same thing, travelling the land, crossing Mother Nature’s land, for thousands of years. And, I’m really, just continuing to do, the same thing. This gives me a certain pride in my job, and in how I do it. So, I’m very conscious of honouring the land I cross and the people I meet, treating them both with the respect that honours our Aboriginal history and our Mother Earth.”
“Wow! I never thought of a long haul, truck driver as honouring his people by doing his job..that really appeals to me…and, makes sense, as well. How does your gratitude show up in your social circle, with your friends and neighbours?” I asked.
“Since the beginning, Native Peoples lived a life of being in harmony with all that surrounds us.”
– Dennis Banks, educator
“I HAVE ONE MORE QUESTION FOR YOU…”
“Ken, I have friends who are Aboriginal, and others, who are not. Being First Nations has enabled me to determine very quickly who is a bigots, and who is not. And so, this skill, which comes from my Aboriginal heritage, has enabled me to build close, lasting friendships with others.”
“So you saying your heritage has been an asset in building relationships in your life?” I asked to confirm his comments.
“That’s been my experience, Ken. And, as I think about it now, these benefits we have been uncovering have been significant even in promoting my health and well being, since, on a daily basis, they reduce my stress in so many ways.”
“Malcolm, can you see how, being an Aboriginal, has equally served you in your evolution as a person, in living by your highest values, and in being purposeful in your life?”
“I can see what you mean, now! I never really considered it this way before, or sat down to identify how being Aboriginal has served me in my life. I wonder if other First Nation’s members have this awareness?” he said.
“It would be worth checking out, wouldn’t it? I have one more question for you.” I said.
“OK!” he replied.
“Would you trade all you have achieved as a person, as an Aboriginal…give it all up, for a different history?”
“Do you mean, has it been worth it to me, to be an Aboriginal?” he asked.
“That’s exactly what I’m asking, Malcolm!” I replied.
“Yes, of course! I’m OK with who I am! I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far in my life!” he said with an air of certainty.
“So, Malcolm, now can you see, the pain of the past has been instrumental in creating the pleasure you see in your life today, and in the future…each individual, regardless of who they are, uses their past costs to create their current benefits, in keeping with Mother Earth’s law of balance.”
“Most of my younger Native American friends are not in any way looking for sympathy, and they’re not looking to lay guilt on anybody. They have their dignity, and they do what they do.“
– Robbie Robertson, musician
“PEOPLE LEARN WHEN THEY ARE READY TO LEARN…”
“I can see that now, Ken! But what about other people, like my sister, who refuse to understand this truth?” he asked with concern.
“Mother Earth will provide them with the people, and events, they need to learn this truth.”
“Yes, I see that with my sister. I have been watching her struggle for a long time to uncover this truth…but she resists. I have tried to teach her, but it hasn’t worked.”
“Talking isn’t teaching. People learn when they are ready to learn, when they are motivated, usually by pain, to open their awareness to the truths of Mother Earth…those Laws of Nature.”
Malcolm smiled at me, and then said, “You be careful…you’re starting to sound Aboriginal.”
“I should be so lucky…?” I replied, smiling at him.
“Thanks Ken, this has been helpful!” he said, serious again.
“We are all on the same journey, just using different paths to get there…eh, Malcolm?
“Eh!” he replied.
“What springs from earth dissolves to earth again, and heaven-born things fly to their native seat.”
– Marcus Aurelius, soldier
Until Next time…
Now you know everyone experiences trauma in some form. But traumas are vital learning opportunities which we can use, to enrich our life, or handicap our life…our choice! So, find the minority you belong to…everyone belongs to some minority, and then, uncover how it serves you now, and in your future.
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