A pin that declares ‘enough’
Medicine of beading joins seekers of their place in Indigenous culture
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My sister Christina gifted me a beautiful, beaded orange shirt pin she made. A small tribute to recognize and remember residential school survivors leading up to National Truth and Reconciliation Day and in all the days before and after Sept. 30.
The pin is a reminder of the thousands of Indigenous children, like our own grandmother, who were taken from their homes and forced into residential schools. It also symbolizes a connection my Anishinaabe sister has made to our culture. One she sought out, to learn herself several years ago, and which has become a source of peace and joy.
For her, beading is medicine.
With every poke of the sharp needle into the leather hide, positioning beads to create a mosaic of art, she reclaims and revitalizes a little bit of our family’s lost identity, while creating her own. She has spent countless hours cultivating her craft, and becoming more skilled with each stitch of a bead.
Her art is a gift; not only for the people she makes it for but also to her.
We didn’t grow up in ceremony. We were never taught the teachings of our ancestors or the way of the land. Our parents did their best: my father (who is Anishinaabe) and my mother (a settler) created an environment that was safe and comfortable and they gave us a wonderful childhood.
But there was always something missing.
We grew up in a world that didn’t really fit us, no matter how hard we tried to fit it. And now, at this stage of my life, I am trying to forge my own path to reconnect with my culture — and it is tricky. The imposter syndrome is heavy, and I am constantly feeling as though I am not enough.
I feel like it’s really important for people to say this out loud, especially people like me who have a platform. Because I know that I am not alone in this feeling, and I know it’s common for Indigenous people who are trying to reclaim their culture and sense of self to feel as though they are not enough or like they are imposters in their own skin.
I know it’s common for people to feel inadequate because they’ve never taken part in a ceremony or been gifted with teachings and learned traditions. Or, if they have, they are still not as far along on their journey than they think they ought to be. I know it often feels easier to give up and accept this is just how it is. But I think it’s important to understand (and say out loud): none of us are imposters for not knowing who we are.
How could we be? Indigenous culture and history has been stolen from every single person in society, and only recently have we started to learn the truth about the past. We are living in the shadow of a genocide.
I’ve had this conversation many times with several folks. Some who are community leaders even. I used to be surprised when they’d share that they, too, felt the heaviness of imposter syndrome when it came to their identity as Indigenous persons, but now I realize this is something most of us have in common.
There are so many of us who are trying hard to figure out who we are. So many who are on a journey of self-discovery to reclaim the lost parts, and probably just as many who have accepted they may never find those parts. The journey is different for everyone, though the path is the same.
If there is one thing we can do to honour our ancestors it is that we can be proud of who we are, and teach our children to be proud.
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.