Colleen Simard

  • Connecting the dots of aboriginal injustice

    My husband asked me to go on a road trip with him a few weeks ago. I was mostly happy but a tiny bit terrified. He wanted us to go to Sioux Lookout, Ont., for the weekend to visit his old residential school. Worst-case scenarios littered my thoughts. Would he show me unmarked graves of school children? Break down into a shuddering lump on the ground, or share stories that would give me nightmares?
  • Unravelling a distrust of cops

    I used to be scared of cops. It goes back to when I was about 11 years old. Back in the 1980s, we lived on Charles Street in a big brick apartment block. We lived on the third floor, and I had aunties who lived on both the first and second floors.
  • No reason to not create your own rapture

    So, if you're reading this column, then the Mayan doomsday predictions about the world ending on Dec. 21 were wrong -- or at least off by a few days. Yesterday was supposed to be the day of reckoning. Perhaps the Mayan long calendar was misinterpreted. Mayan people are South American Indians. We indigenous people of Canada have a few end-of-the-world prophecies of our own. Our stories, however, have been interpreted to mean that the end of a way of life is coming, not necessarily the end of everything.
  • Winter is a blessing, not a bummer

    I used to love waking up on winter mornings when I was a kid. My great-grandpa Alphonse would always have the radio on CBC and something cooking on the wood stove in the front verandah. I'd join him for breakfast and we'd drink tea together and look out the frosty windows. Winter is a time for storytelling. It is the time to tell kids stories you want them to remember, both of a traditional and modern nature. It's a time of rest and retrospection -- the Long Snows Moon.
  • Forest and the poplar trees

    Parliament unveiled a tribute to residential school survivors this week. A beautiful stained glass window inside its central corridor, named Giniigaaniimenaaning, which means "looking ahead" in Ojibway. It depicts the journey of aboriginal people through harrowing times, and into a new era of hope. It's a good gesture, which will be seen by MPs, prime ministers and visitors to Parliament for years to come. More such tributes, however, should dot the Canadian landscape in coming years.
  • How to give an aboriginal business a bad name

    With my daughter's second birthday coming up and a fresh batch of snow on the ground, I decided to scour the Internet for a pair of baby mukluks. I found a few options, but a new aboriginal business was the main contender. I like to support aboriginal businesses whenever I can, and this new mukluk company seemed good.
  • Depression quietly afflicting natives

    There's a good chance depression is a silent epidemic among aboriginal people. The thought struck me while reading Jan Wong's memoir Out of the Blue. Wong was a renowned journalist at the Globe and Mail when she covered the Dawson College school shootings in Montreal in 2006. A small bit of personal analysis in her story said part of the reason behind the shooting -- and two previous Quebec shootings -- may have been a racial divide between those who were of pure Quebec blood and those who were not.
  • Let's bring back the bannock slap of love

    If you haven't seen any YouTube videos by the the 1491s, you should google them because you are missing out on a good laugh. The aboriginal comedy group has a lot of popular videos, but my favourite has to be Slapping Medicine Man. In the video, a bunch of people go to see a medicine man for help with the troubles in their lives. But instead of giving them healing or words of wisdom, the medicine man slaps them soundly and tells them to "Knock it off!"
  • A star to wish upon

    The package was small but heavy. I wondered what it was. Once in a while people mail me handwritten letters, homemade gifts and little treasures from the past. This one turned out to be from the last category. It was a multicoloured beaded star, measuring almost 60 centimetres in diameter. Wow.
  • K-pop to A-pop -- aboriginal singers could learn from Psy

    You can't go anywhere lately without hearing the Korean pop star Psy's big hit Gangnam Style. Not that I'm complaining... at least not yet. Like the rest of the world, I really like the satirical singer's catchy song. It makes me smile every time I hear it or see the video. And what's not to love about those dance moves? Even my toddler gets in on the action and dances around when she hears Gangnam Style.
  • Learning how NOT TO DRIVE

    I learned to drive when I was 14. It was a confusing experience, since I had two different driving teachers. My Dad would take me out for a driving lesson and would tell me to speed up, because I was driving too slow.
  • The day I stopped talking (and eating)

    Back when we lived in the apartment building on Charles Street, my mom used to take me to see the dentist quite often. His office was over on Main Street. The reasons for this were twofold. It seemed like all I had to do was look at a gumball and I'd sprout a new cavity. I believed the cause to be my "Indian teeth" inherited from ancestors who snacked on pemmican, not chocolate bars.
  • Precious lessons from, and for, our daughters

    Nitanis -- my daughter -- has been on my mind lately. She's almost two years old now. She makes me see just how precious girls are; how they need so much love and protection. But even when you do all you can, you can't control everything.
  • The day Auntie Rosie got me back to school in style

    Going back to school always meant I'd get a new pair of runners, except for one year. My mom broke the news very matter-of-factly. There were too many bills. We couldn't go shopping in time for school, so better luck next month. I was crestfallen.
  • Sugar and ... spike?

    My mom and I took a walk down Selkirk Avenue the other day. We couldn't help but notice how the old neighbourhood has changed over the years. Back in the '70s, we lived at the Coronet, an apartment block at the corner of Main Street and Pritchard Avenue. First my Auntie Jeannie moved there, and then Mom followed along with me a few months later.
  • Kid with an axe cut down to size

    One time I hit my sister Dallas in the head with an axe. It was an accident, of course. Let me explain. Our family was living in Grandpa's house in Bissett. Two wood-burning stoves were the only means of heating the place. There was always a lot of wood to cut so everyone chopped, including me once I was about 13.
  • Memories of the Harvest Moon's seduction

    Waatebagaa-giizis. The Leaves Changing Colour Moon is on its way. I can feel the season changing in the breeze that blows by me while I sit on my front steps. Some people call it the Harvest Moon; I think they are one and the same. Waatebagaa-giizis reminds me of my parents. Once, many years ago around this time of year, my parents were arguing about something. They got along better in those later years than in the beginning, but it was still a pretty rocky relationship at times.
  • Public acts of faith comforting, welcome

    I was at Patricia Beach, reading a paperback, when I realized the people making a spot next to us were doing something interesting. Ever the nosy person, I decided to give my book a break, and peer at them from behind my sunnies.
  • 'Native American' art in name only

    I'VE been spending a lot of time on Etsy, an online marketplace where you can buy and sell vintage and handmade goods. I've found some great stuff on the site and opened my own vintage shop -- which is a chance to clean out my closet and get rid of old treasures. But now I'm thinking of creating some handmade goods of my own to sell on Etsy. The hardest part is figuring out what to make; I love to sew, bead and even paint.
  • Let's cut the Biebs some slack

    I was surprised by the Justin Bieber backlash last week. The young pop star ruffled a few feathers with comments in a recent Rolling Stone interview about his aboriginal heritage.
  • Honky Tonk tribe embraced country music

    COUNTRY music legend Kitty Wells died a few weeks ago. I took note because my grandma Noella was a big fan of hers. Ah, Kitty. I can still hear her voice in my head. Her big hit It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels was heard in our household many times while I was growing up, along with those of the other old classic country crooners. Everyone talked about them on a first name basis, like they were family.
  • If you are not already a neechie, you could be

    I needed to "neechify" my medicine wheel rock garden. Never heard of the word? No problem, because I just made it up. It comes from the Ojibway word neechie, or neechi, -- which means friend and is also often used as slang for a First Nations person. For example, I am a neechie, and you are my neechie, too, if you buy me a coffee.
  • Making amends is good for the soul

    I got an email from an old friend the other day. I hadn't seen the guy in a few years. The message surprised me. He wanted to make amends. He said "I owe you an apology for anything that I might have said."
  • While we wait for an inquiry

    I was driving home and had just turned off Jarvis Street when I spotted the guy in the car. He'd turned from the back lane in front of me so it was easy to pull up beside him at the four-way to get a better look. He looked familiar. Did I know him?
  • Alone with Shawn Lamb

    1Was it the same Shawn Lamb I'd met? There were two reasons why I remembered him: his 2008 letter to me and his visit.


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