As hard as I try

I can’t remember your smile
All I can see is those sad eyes
Speaking to my soul one last time

Don’t worry
I barely remember our short time

Can you feel time if you have none left?

Dust

I take comfort in the belief
That my Soul
Needs the Moon and her glow
When the Moon is full
Tilt your face up to where she sits in the Sky
Then her light
Falls down on your Soul
Like Dust

Now it is dust
Sun lifted small particles
And they were lost on the wind

A dark mourning

We were up all night
Sharing our lives
Future dreams of love and travel and babies
Beauty of my dreams

Morning comes
Light runs through your hair
Eyes, eyelashes
I come

A shadow covers his face
Underneath the shadow I can’t recognize him
Crows cawing
Man sighing
Sharp inhale
He’s lost

Find yourself inside of me

Reaching

I walk down endless hallways
And dream of spinning webs

Soaking and showering
Shivering sweet dreams
In winds of times unknown

What if I am the time unknown?
A breeze on the water
A lift for your wings

Tickling my soul
With a gentle man’s caress
Just a look
A slight touch of your fingers
On my shoulder
Reaching

And we glide together
Up and down
In and out

Bitter

always looking off in the distance
watching the Birds
Dancing
But I promise I’m here
Listening to your voice
~
Grapefruit tingles
From your toothy grin
I’m shaking
I don’t know where to look
If I look in your eyes
You know everything
Floating away (on your touch)
Leaving
On a soft breeze

Disappearing into Smoke
Where did you go?
It seems I…
Let you crawl
away

Raining down
No water
No matter
Just you at the yellow light
Slow down
Leaving dew drops
on my skin
You…
You make me want to go home
And think
About no one else
You
Caught me
off guard,
Out of breath,
In a web

Stuck
I thought
Something is stuck
In my throat
But it was in my stomache

I don’t know
I don’t know anymore
Even if I did
I don’t think…
I never think…
I never thought

Not hard to swallow
Not like anyone else
You pick up my thoughts where I left off
You hear me
See me
Catch me
Spin me
Drop me
My heart
To my stomache
I think
The Soul is heavy
Do you hold yours?
And others like mine
When you look at them
With your liquorice eyes
~
Spicy
I barely taste the salt
You threw the keys down to me
I’m not sure what to do with them
Then you asked for them back
I don’t know what to do with that either
~
The web in front of me is so beautiful
In the moonlight
I’m stuck
I see the dew drops
Sun setting
watch him from the West
Shades of Rose,
The Blues
And something like… Grapefruit
Star anise
Tall
Dark
Spidery liquorice roots

Gwelgwelgwelen

Gwelgwelgwelen

Def: to be fired up to find what you are good at, to be moving so fast that you are setting the ground on fire. Used as a metaphor to describe the amount of area you covered: Gwelgwelgwelenlhkan ti tmicwa kwen nscwilem kwen sn7ama, I am covering a lot of land looking for something that I am good at and travelling so fast that it seems like I am setting the world on fire.

“Gwelgwelgwelenlhkan ti tmicwa kwen nscwilem kwen sn7ama

I am covering a lot of land looking for something that I am good at and travelling so fast that it seems like I am setting the world on fire”

pl̓ukw:

smoke rising from fire or ashes

my eyes are burning

pouring out tears

a thousand each for ones who have passed

who suffered at the hands of greed and fear

my aunties and uncles

my cousins

my grandmas and grandpas

the unborn

nkakúsent:

star

ashes of the nkakúsent that burn brightly

they shine on me

they guide me

pl̓ukw

rising from their ashes

cuystwí malh ít̓em, pulák7am múta7 saq̓úta!

come, lets sing, drum and dance

oh ne na

oh ne na

hey na ha

the loon on the water!

see how she dances

there is life in us yet

there is still water and earth

there are still songs and dances

gwelgwelgwelenlhkan ti tmicwa kwen nscwilem kwen sn7ama

like I’m setting the world on fire

k̓éxám-em

the wind blew on me

so I won’t go out

so we keep burning

qeptsaka7

sgaptnaka7

sutikaka7

dance with the winds

look at the grass

see how she grows

there is still wind and fire

there are still songs and dances

and the world keeps turning

gegp!

move me fast!

wá7lhkalh q̓wezílc!

we are dancing!

with the winds

k̓éxám-em

so I don’t go out

qeptsaka7

sgaptnaka7

sutikaka7

dance with wind in the meadow

wá7lhkalh q̓wezílc!

move with your ancestors

pl̓ukw

rise from their ashes

from nkakúsent

so we will never be left in the darkness

dance like grass in kexem in the meadow

wá7lhkalh q̓wezílc!

tsukwkalh kelh lhkakwassasa

we will quit when evening falls

nkakúsent, give us light while we sleep

Záqem: to Bake Bread

*Edit: I want to share that I chose to not share the beginning of this essay. The intro and first paragraph are missing.

My great grandfather was a knowledgeable story teller, fluent ucwalmicwst speaker, and canoe carver. My identity is rooted in our modern day ecw7úcwalmicw, Lil’wat ways. Pelpa7 wi i úcwalmicwa múta7 ti tmicw, the people and the land are one. This is our belief. I was raised by my community, and the land I grew up on. My mother taught me to love the land, and to love myself. She took me to visit the bodies of water on our land. She let me explore the land on my own, and nourish my body with the berries that surrounded us. Whenever I cried she told me to give my tears to grandma. In doing this, she introduced me to the most beautiful part of who I am. I am a part of the land, and I have a relationship with my ancestors. My grandma taught my mom to make bread. My mom always loved making bread and giving me and my siblings a warm fresh piece when it was done. It is a symbol of love. It is how we survived what was done to us. Through all the challenges colonization presented us, we still found ways to pass down our love to each other. When I go home, I will learn to make bread from my mom, so that I can pass down the love of my grandma, my mom, and me to my children.
My identity is also greatly impacted by colonization, and western worldview. There is no way to undo this, and that is something I am coming to accept. However, I can do my best to learn my language, and approach it in a way that I associate it with the actions and images, rather than associating it with its English words. I learned this in a Māori language class in New Zealand. The teacher is a man who only spoke Māori as his first language until the age of 6 or 7. He thinks and dreams in both Māori and English. I believe this that this way of teaching could help people find the language in themselves, and on the land. There are so many places inside ourselves that are ready to be explored. Our bodies are much bigger than what we see. We carry parts of ourselves all around us. Sometimes when we pray, and we are at certain places, we can feel that part of ourselves. There’s something about this program that makes a good attempt to prepare Indigenous students for the world of western academia education, while at the same time giving students an opportunity to be creative in the process of learning what it means to be Lil’wat, Metis, or Sechelt etc.
Where I am now, is a place I am learning what the best way is to approach my kwezúsem, my work. I have learned from the women in my life to care for and uplift the youth of our community. So many Lil’wat women have shown me love, and support. As a child in care, who stayed at several homes on the reserve I got to experience a way of caring that Indigenous communities raise children. I believe we can improve on this practice by incorporating more ecw7úcwalmicw. For example when a girl comes of age she is guided through training by her aunty or a relative other than her mother. In this training the girl learns how her spirit has a power that she needs to be careful with. During her training one of the most important lessons is about patience. In one lesson, the girl has to pick off each needle from a pine branch until she gets all of them. Patience is something I struggle with quite a bit. I am impatient with myself and this seems to impact how patience is with other women. If we could incorporate lessons of patience to our young girls today, in school or child care programs, I believe this would strengthen our relationships with one another. I learned the ecw7úcwalmicw from many people in the community. Many of those people, have been traditionalists. I understand that it is important to preserve our culture as best we can. I also believe the revitalization of our ecw7úcwalmicw would require us to evolve. We know we can not get all of our culture and values back. We know that we can not ignore the presence of non-Lil’wat in our territory and all the values and cultures with them. So we can share our culture, and we can allow it to change so that we can apply it to our daily lives in this new world. Our culture needs to be normalized. Our language needs to be used. Knowing all this has made it difficult for me to decide how to accomplish what I want to do in my work. I believe if I were to become a teacher or help create an education program I would probably incorporate many of the ways of my professors at Camosun, and the ecw7úcwalmicw. One class that I found to be very productive was in Gender and Identity. Earlier that day we had a class where we discussed loss. In our next class it was decided that we would not do work. Instead our professor Cha-win-is told us about the importance of taking care of ourselves in this program where we discuss a lot of heavy topics that often are very personal. After this check in and class discussion I felt lighter. I think in communities like mine this kind of approach can help us connect and understand each other more. It is in a way already part of our protocols we follow.
The events of my life are what has led me to wanting to get an academic education. The injustice of what happened to my mother, then to me have made me want to take action. My mother has always wanted to build a women’s transition house, and I would love to see her dream become a reality. I want our women and girls to have more opportunities to connect with our Grandmas. Learning from our Elders about our cultural values would help us lift each other up, instead of putting each other down the way it happens too often in Indigenous communities. The Stolen Sisters March that we attended for this course is a good example of strengthening our relationships. As we walked together Indigenous, and non-Indigenous men, women, children, and grandmas and grandpas, to the parliament building we are thinking of our sisters who have been kidnapped, raped, and or murdered. We are letting our loved ones know that we have not forgotten, and we will not let the country devalue our women’s lives.
To conclude I would like to acknowledge all of my professors that have given me a number of valuable lessons. Richard Spearman, who has changed my perspective on a couple of important topics in a good way. Todd Ormiston, who has given all the students many amazing opportunities to grow and learn from, such as the visit to the provincial court, the prison, and this trip to New Zealand. Bernadine Mawson, and Victor Underwood for helping us through this difficult journey. Thank you to all of my professors for the Indigenous studies classes who have each in their own way have had a positive impact on me. I thank Úcwalmicw for raising me, and believing in me. Most of all my mom, who taught me how to love and care for the women in my life. All my relations.

An Unfinished Poem

Kwísteqw7am, he said “you’re emotional,

you’re like a waterfall,

and I just want to stand beneath you”

reflecting a summer sky blue

Wa kwis! when did I start pouring?

elders say it’s better to do it in the morning

then wash your away your tears

and let go of your fears

Tswaw̓cw, river woman going too fast

crazy to see how much time has passed

how far I am from home

without it, I feel so alone

It̓em, so I sing to my Ancestors

who, despite the oppressors

stayed strong, and they take my pain away

tell me they love me, and I’m going to be okay

Lil’watmc, protectors of the Land between three rivers

we women are the life givers

our spirits are angry at what is being done to tmicw,

we ucwalmicwa,

learned better from our grandmas and grandpas

Xexzúmal̓k, I’m now on a land with big waves

Far from my ancestors’ graves

But I can still feel them in the hawhawláncw

They love me, nxwezíl̓tem

I feel calm at the t̓elt̓úl̓, where I live now

Vagabond

*Edit: I just want to share that I am not entirely happy with the way I wrote this but I’m unsure of whether or not I want change it. I don’t really want to make it private either. So I want to share that the names are changed to protect a couple of people’s privacy. I also for some reason lied about not seeing my dad since he left when I was young. It’s a bit of a mess so it might be hard to read but I feel like maybe that demonstrates how I was feeling about my story at the time. My understanding of things has grown and it will continue to grow. I hope people still get something out of this. In any case you’ll find out a bit about who I am.

I haven’t always had a home. There were a lot of times where I had to live in someone else’s home. Some stays were longer than others. I made connections with people. It was obvious that some of them really cared. Although it was incredibly nice of those people to take me in, they were never what I could call my home. I ran away from those places a lot. I’d never had a real sense of stability. My life was in almost constant change.

Mount Currie was one of the only things that didn’t seem to change after my parents split up. Growing up on that reservation was both a blessing and a curse. The land itself is godly but the people are hurt and when people are hurt they tend to hurt the people around them. There were so many places that I could go to to get away from the people and find peace.

As a child I was not very disciplined. My mother is a survivor of residential school so she never wanted to treat us the way she was treated. She let me do what I wanted and the rare times she asked me not to do something I was too undisciplined to listen. So I had a freedom many of us children had in Mount Currie. I got to wander the land as I pleased and it was always an adventure. I spent a lot of my childhood in the wild. I was the epitome of a little Indian girl, running around the reserve picking berries like black caps, yellow caps, raspberries, wild strawberries, you name it. There are trails all over the reserve and I found them all. There was one close by my house that led to the creek. In the summers me and my sister and friends would go to the creek, take our shoes off and play in the shallow pools in the creek. Then we would climb up the creek, not on the path next to it but in it. Sometimes I went out on my own. On my own with mother earth, the world seemed to sparkle. The sun shone through the trees like gold, making the leaves glow. The creek made a sound that washed over me, and cleansed me of bad spirits. Even the sun seemed to wash over me. I could lay on a hill in the tall dry grass and look at the sky for hours, imagining beautiful worlds where nothing bad happened to anyone.

I was told by my mom that we moved around in a trailer with my dad and my sister. We were vagabonds. That word makes it sound pretty cool. Which some parts of it were. Although my mom did once admit to me that she scrounged for food from the garbage bins for us. We lived in the Okanagan where my mom and dad picked fruit and we slept in a tent. We had a cat named Bart. I remember seeing a picture of him on top of a ladder in the middle of the orchards. I really liked that picture. He looked so peaceful up there, unreachable.

I don’t remember too much about my dad. He left about a couple of years after my sister was born. My memories of him are vague. Like a hazy dream, which I suppose some of them could be. Dreams.  I remember a picture we had of me holding a bucket and there was a little black kitten waddling around with one of those donut shaped plastic toys stuck on his neck. The picture was cut and I could see the shadow of a man. That was my dad. A shadow cast over the path. A part cut from the picture of my life.

I’ve only seen one picture of myself as a baby. My mom is holding me in front of her and my head is tilted to the side like a puppy begging for a treat. My hair is thick and black. My cheeks are chubby and pink. There’s a lot of question in my eyes. My mom is wearing big, old fashioned glasses, her signature kerchief wrapped around her hair, and her beautiful smile.

We lived in Squamish a couple of times, me, my mom, and my sister. I remember seeing a picture of the three of us there. It was a sunny winter day in Squamish and me and my sister were wearing parkas. I still remember one of them. I’m not sure if it was mine or my sisters but we shared most things being so close in age. It was a beautiful blue flower print parka with a pointy fur trim hood. Me and my sister were holding our mom’s hands on either side, our cheeks rosy from the bite of winter. We always fought over who got to hold the hand with her wedding ring. That ring was the only thing that proved to us we had a father who, at one time, loved our mother.

Looking back on my life I realize that my mother was my home. Whenever I was with her I felt safe. Her presence offered me a comfort I found nowhere else. Whenever she walked away or I was taken from her, I felt so many different awful things. Most of all I felt unprotected and lost. In all my travels I realized that home is where you have someone who loves you unconditionally.

*

I don’t know how old I was when the Ministry first took me and my sister away from the gentle love of my mother’s arms and put us in a countless number of homes. My mother was deemed unfit to raise us. She didn’t have a job, she drank, she smoked weed, and sometimes she left me to take care of my brother and sister. Unfortunately none of those things were unusual in Mount Currie. She never let us go hungry though, and I always had clothes to wear and a roof over my head. It wasn’t an ideal home in the ministry’s eyes but little did they know it was to be the best that I ever had as a child. Maybe there were a few traumatic experiences that happened under her care but I will never hold any of that against her anymore.

In the foster homes I was treated alright at most places, and very poorly at others. Even if I was treated okay none of them could offer me the love I needed, my mother’s. When I misbehaved the foster parents scolded me a little harder than they would their own child. When I accomplished something they gave me a little less praise than my mom would have. When I cried they would ignore me, send me to my room without wiping my tears away and saying, “Give those tears to grandma.” Like my mother would have. I learned to hold everything in like a well of tears since there was no one to take them away for me. I built a wall around myself and decided not to let anyone in. Especially not the social workers. They came and went like waves in a storm, bringing in debris from the wreck and leaving them on beach to be lost and forgotten.

There was one social worker, Colleen, who I began to believe really wanted to help me. She made herself available to me more than any of the others had. Colleen talked to me and listened to me. One day when I didn’t open up to her she screamed at me “I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me!” We were in a car and I was more than a little frightened. She was a strange woman but I think that’s why I almost let down my walls to her. Then one day she told me that she was moving away. I cried and I felt ashamed that I had shown her so much emotion, so much weakness. I felt that she didn’t deserve to see my tears.

My last social worker’s name was Marissa. She had been around as some type of assistant before she became a social worker. Me and my sister and were one of her first cases. She became my legal guardian. She seemed a very sweet and gentle woman so I took it easy on her, plus I think by then I had grown tired of fighting them. Marissa was a good social worker. I learned that she wasn’t quite as sweet as I originally thought. She was very firm. I did like her though. She made me feel like my opinion mattered. She was one who trusted me to sign a youth agreement so that I could live on my own. She gave me an independence that forced me learn that I had to be responsible for myself. She was the one who said that I had a story to tell and she asked me “Amanda have you ever thought of writing a story about your life?” I said “Who would want to hear my story?” No one wants to hear a story without a happy ending, I thought. The idea stuck with me though.

It was Colleen and Marissa who made me realize that these social workers are not the enemy as I had grown up to believe. They’re innocent people who, going into these jobs, really want to make a difference in a child’s life. It’s a tough job to take a child away from their home, especially at a place where a lot of people were taken away as children to residential school. A lot of the times, it isn’t right to take a child away from their family and their community but sometimes it can help that family grow stronger, it can help that child learn to take care of herself. Maybe one day that child will be able to take care of her mother, who so needs it.

*

I only recently realized that I was always running away. Not only from the foster homes but from all the people who wanted to help me. I pushed them away. Deep down I thought nobody wanted me in their life. On the surface though, I felt that I was a really great person and that I was quite lovable. Anyone who thought otherwise can just get out of my life thank you very much. They didn’t know me. I see now that I was mean. I tried to be funny but even as a kid I hurt other’s feelings when I made jokes. I really didn’t think I was very mean even though my friends told me so. Thinking back on it I see that I chased them all away for fear of being abandoned. For fear of not being wanted.

As a teenager I rebelled in any way that I could. I did all sorts of bad things and tried my best not to care. I tried my best to turn off my humanity because being human hurt. I wanted to be numb. I never could be numb though. In fact I cared a lot about myself and everyone else. I cried more for other people’s pain than my own. I come from a very spiritual and emotional Nation. Even though so much was lost, there was still so much present. You’d never think that there could be so much connection amongst a disconnected community. We all felt so alone and yet so together in our suffering. Unknowingly the person whose pain I felt the most was my mother’s.

My mother’s pain was something I couldn’t understand and I wanted to get away from it. I hated not being able to understand something. I don’t know when I started running away from her but I know I was quite young. We were taken away from her so many times and I think I started to believe the social workers, who came barging into our lives, when they said that my mother couldn’t take care of me. Eventually  my mother became so hurt from my rebelling that she didn’t want me anymore. My brother and sister went back to live with her and I went to live on my own when a social worker talked to me about possibly signing a youth agreement that would allow me to live on my own.

*

When I was sixteen one of my friend’s dad took me and three other friends to pick up some puppies in Whistler. My friends picked the the more outgoing ones. The one that I picked was very shy and it took her a while to get used to me. She was a beautiful small white dog, part husky and you could see that. I named her Luna. I took her for walks, more like runs really because she was so hyper-active that I could hardly hold her back from running. I took her with me on my little adventures into the wilderness that I still went on even as a teenager. There’s one place that the old logging roads took me to with a really amazing view of Mount Currie. Luna had so much fun on those walks. I loved watching her run ahead into the bushes, chasing birds and squirrels, then come running back to check on me. I played with her. I taught her to sit, lie down, turn around, jump, and roll over. She hated rolling over. Whenever I held a treat in my hand and said “Roll over.” and did the hand motion, I could see she knew what I meant but she didn’t want to do it until she could see she wasn’t getting that treat without rolling over. She loved me so much and I loved her more than anything in my life at the time. She knew when I was sad and she would come to me and lay with me on my bed. I could pet her and feel her love for me and I would feel better. Unconditional love, something that seemed very rare for me to come across.

Then one day my social worker Marissa told me that I could live on my own. She said that if I got a job and continued going to school I could get my own apartment. I was seventeen when I moved out. I had to leave Luna behind because I couldn’t find a place that I could take her with me. I asked my mom to take care of her. She said she would. I got a place just across from my high school. I had never been more excited. I started letting Luna out of the house on her own and eventually she had puppies and I was happy about that too. Until I came home one day and Luna didn’t come running to meet me. My sister told me that my mother had called W.A.G. and had them come pick Luna and her puppies up. I was devastated. I yelled at my mother but she didn’t care what she had done. She didn’t care that she sent away the bestest friend I had ever had. I couldn’t get her back. I called to tell them that my mother wasn’t the owner and the workers at wag told me that my mother had signed as her owner. There was nothing I could do. You had to be twenty one to adopt a dog. I cried and cursed at the woman on the phone. She didn’t care either. She just thought I was some stubborn little rez girl who didn’t deserve to have Luna. So I lost her. The one friend that would always forgive me if I took my anger out on her. The one friend that I could always count on to be there when I cried.

I didn’t only lose my dog that day. I lost my mother for a while as well. Only this time I chose to lose her. I didn’t talk to her for over three months. When I started talking to her I was cold and abrupt. I only talked to her if it was absolutely necessary. I slowly forgave her and realized that I was more mad at myself. I should have got her spayed. I should have trained her to go to the door when she needed to take a dump. I had to accept that I wasn’t going to get her back. I was never going to see her again. I know she must have found a good home though because I called W.A.G. after she made an appearance in the local Whistler paper about how great of a dog she was. The advertisement seemed to target active healthy people so I am sure she must be somewhere nice.

The day I got Luna, me and my friends all went down to stay at one their places, it was a long drive. It was night, but the moon was full and high in the sky. I named that little puppy Luna, because she was beautiful and her fur was enchantingly shiny and white like the moon. I named her Luna because when I got her she seemed lonely, like the moon, and like me. Now whenever I look at the moon I know that she has found a good home. I know that wherever she is, she is being taken care of, and she is happy like me. She was a comfort at a time in my life where I most needed it. I will always remember her. I will always miss her.

*

Aside from Luna, I spent a lot of my childhood being ungrateful for the good things that I had, especially my mom. When I was a teenager, I was mad at her for a lot of things. As I grew older though, I learned of some of the horrible things that happened to her. I started to appreciate how hard she worked to take care of us. She did the best that she could and it was more than enough. Living on my own and working made me see how hard it is to take good care of yourself. I started to understand more about what residential school did to our people. I started to see how much my family needed my help, so I decided that I would stay with her for a while before finishing school. I decided to get a job and help pay the bills and put food on the table. When she started to see the changes in me she started to tell me how proud she was of me. It was one of the greatest feelings ever to hear her say that she was proud of me.

My mom is the most beautiful person I know. She’s a survivor. Not only has she lived through hell, she lived through it and she came out and stayed true to herself. More often than not when people go through hell they come out with at least a little bit of meanness. They come out with a tough side that wants people to know “Don’t mess with me.” My mom hasn’t got a mean bone in her body but she did find a strength in herself that I believe I have inherited. Us kids from Mount Currie inherit a lot from our parents and our grandparents. We’ve inherited their pain, their anger, their strength, their will to survive. I inherited all those things from my mom but I also inherited her passion to help people and that is the greatest gift that anyone she has ever given me aside from unconditional love, which is what fuels the passion I have.

At the age of seventeen she paid for me to get another of my greatest gifts. A tattoo. “It’s a present she can’t lose.” My mother said jokingly to someone that asked me about my tattoo. I got a rose and around the rose it says “Like roses we blossom.” That was around the time I decided I wanted to grow up. I decided I wanted to change. I wanted to be happy and make other people happy. The fact that she bought me that tattoo makes it all the more special and true.

Going home to visit her these days is hard, because I hate seeing them still living in poverty. It’s always so great to see her though. Her hugs are the best feeling in the world. She has the most comforting warmth to her. Not even the warmth of a fire in the cold of winter could shine a light to that warmth my mother gives. She is soft and seems to become more frail with the years. Her voice is so gentle and sweet when she says to me “Love you forever, like you for always, my baby you’ll always be.” That’s from a book she read to me and my younger brother and sister as children. She cried when she first read that to us. She let it all out like rain. Her tears wash over us with her love. The tears tell us everything that she can’t without saying a word. Every word she says to me will leave an imprint on my soul.

I forgave my mom, for everything I wrongly blamed her for, when I decided to take responsibility of myself. I am no longer a helpless child. She may have needed a lot of help to raise me, but it takes a community to raise a child. She is the one who taught me the most important lessons, and she was the one who gave me the love that I needed, in the beginning, to grow. Like a rose in a spring shower.

*

 After my parents split up I lived with my dad for a while. Then I lived in a couple of foster homes. Until finally I came home to my mother. She fought the Ministry for us and won her case. She went all the ways to Whitehorse to pick us up and bring us home. It was a 5 day trip on the Greyhound. When I moved in with her we were living in a building complex. Attila’s mom was our neighbor and she loved me and my sister a lot, she always had us over to visit. I don’t remember Attila much but he was there.

When me and Attila started dating it was something different. I was so shy even though I’d known him most of my life. Not long into our relationship, I realized that this was serious. There was actually hope that this relationship could be real. He had dreams just as I did, to get an education and help our community become a better place. One day he came over to my mom’s and we cooked dinner together. As usual my family were all in their rooms. We were listening to Elvis or some old jazz music in the kitchen. I put my arms around his neck, and he put his hands around my waist and we started dancing. We were just being silly at first but then it was the most romantic thing I had ever experienced. I think that’s when I realized that I was falling in love with him.

One night we were sitting together outside on the porch at my moms. The road my mom’s house is on is called Lake View Drive because it has a beautiful view of Lillooet Lake. The moon was high and bright. The mountains weren’t just silhouettes that night, they were crystal clear. It was past midnight. We had stayed up together all night talking, getting to know each other in a way we never had. “I want to tell you something.” He says. I knew what it was that he wanted to tell me because I felt it too. “I want to tell you something too.” I say. I regretted saying that though because then he wouldn’t tell me what he wanted to tell me. “You tell me first.” He says. He knows, and I know, we both know what it is we want to tell each other. “I’m scared.” I tell him. He asks me why and I don’t know. It takes me hours but I finally I manage to say it “I love you.” “I love you too.” He says. I had never said it to guy and meant it like I did then, like I do now.

*

Today I have two homes. One home in Mount Currie with my mom, my sister, and my brother, and one with Attila. He’s far from perfect. He’s no prince charming as he likes to say sometimes when he thinks I’m mad at him. To that I tell him “No. You’re not a prince. You’re a warrior.”

We’re far from perfect, but we’re constantly working towards being better people and that’s what makes us perfect for each other. My life is more stable than it has ever been. I have never been happier in my whole life. After all those struggles and hardships, I am now exactly where I want to be. My dreams have never seemed more attainable.

Sometimes I question if this is actually real. I know it is but I get this weird feeling. How can I really be this happy? It’s a feeling that will take time to go away, because who I am is affected by a past that I can’t fully understand. I was a child without stability, without discipline. I was a child whose identity was taken away from her before she was even born. A child suffering a pain that was passed down to her unintentionally, a pain that she could not understand. Today I understand it enough to know that it isn’t my mother’s fault that I didn’t have stability. In fact, I feel blessed to have lived the life that I did. The pain is something that I am learning to let go. I am learning that I don’t have to run away.

All the people in my life had their effect on me. It was mostly good, and I learned from the bad and grew stronger from it. I come from a community affected by residential school. We are still healing, but we are a strong nation and we will continue to fight for our rights. There are people who can’t fight anymore, but I can and I will fight for those people. The people who were there for me when I had nowhere to go, the people who did their best to take care of me, the people who believed in me all along.

©Amanda Poirier

Health Problems Caused By Sleep Deprivation

There are many health problems caused by sleep deprivation that we can avoid by educating ourselves.  “…sleep has many vital roles in proper health maintenance, although it’s probably easiest to discuss those roles by looking at some of the problems and conditions that have been linked to lack of sleep…” We should always be very mindful of what is going on with ourselves. By knowing what our minds, bodies, and emotions are trying to tell us, we can prevent certain health problems. In this research paper, I explain how sleep deprivation causes mental, physical, and emotional health problems.

Mental health problems such as cognitive impairment, and difficulty learning can be attributed to sleep deprivation. Camille Peri explains:

Sleepiness slows down your thought processes. Scientists measuring sleepiness have found that sleep deprivation leads to lower alertness and concentration. It’s more difficult to focus and pay attention, so you’re more easily confused. This hampers your ability to perform tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought.

We all experience some these problems at one point or another. Which is why drinking the night before work or school is such a bad idea because you get sleep deprivation and a hangover (we’ve all done it). When you are sleep deprived you can’t quite focus as well as you normally could on a good night’s rest. “And many studies have shown, of course, that sleeping well is not only extremely helpful in the ability to learn new tasks, it’s also very helpful in the ability to retain the new learning.” (Hister 254; Ch. 8) So what is the point of staying up late to cram for exams if you won’t be able to retain that knowledge? Lack of sleep will also affect our cognitive impairment in the long run. “One disturbing study that is bound to keep all midlife insomniacs awake even longer tonight found that sleeping difficulties that arose in midlife ‘accelerated cognitive aging’ by four-to-seven years, that is, the poorer you sleep, the faster your  brain deteriorates.” (Hister 252; Ch. 8). So to prevent cognitive impairment, we must do our best to sleep better.

Another health problem sleep deprivation causes is obesity. Which is a physical health problem and can shorten our life and make it significantly less enjoyable. Obesity is one of everyone’s worst fears. We think we need to be thin to be physically attractive. “…dozens of studies have claimed that the gradual drop in the amount of good-quality sleep we’re getting in North America may be one of the main culprits in the rising weights we see around us.” (Hister 251; Ch. 8) When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies want to make up for that by telling us to eat more food than we need. So if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Sarah Klein tells us:

Too little sleep can spur some less-than-ideal food choices, including serving yourself larger portions, and a hankering for junk food, thanks to some complicated hormonal changes that occur when you don’t get sufficient shuteye. It seems that six hours of sleep or less bumps up production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and limits leptin, which helps you balance your food intake, according to a 2012 review of 18 studies of sleep and appetite.

Finally, lack of sleep has a negative effect on our emotions. This is one I’m sure we all know. When we go to bed too late, in the morning we feel grumpy and want to bite someone’s head. Whether that’s because our body is telling us to eat more or because we’re moody, that’s for you to decide.  Camille Peri describes:

Lack of sleep can alter your mood significantly. It causes irritability and anger and may lessen your ability to cope with stress. According to the NSF, the “walking tired” are more likely to sit and seethe in traffic jams and quarrel with other people. Sleep-deprived people polled by the NSF were also less likely than those who sleep well to exercise, eat healthfully, have sex, and engage in leisure activities because of sleepiness.

If we allow ourselves to become emotional, we are making our lives much less enjoyable. We also make the lives of those around us less enjoyable. As we all know, when we are moody we sometimes get mad at the people we love. So if we want to be happy and we want our relationships to be healthy, we should make sure we are well rested. Our days are much more enjoyable when we have had a good night of sleep.

So as you can see, sleep is more important than we used to think. Our bodies are not simply shutting down, they’re taking care of our mental, physical, and emotional health. Many of us take sleep for granted and some of us even see it as a waste of time. “Surveys reveal, for example, that the majority of North American adults now sleep less than an average seven hours a night…” (Hister 247; Ch. 8) It’s important for us to know how much sleep we need and how to sleep properly. It’s also important for us to know if our bodies, minds, or moods are trying to tell us something (like ‘you need more sleep’). You should also know that you don’t want to get too much sleep. The best way to figure out the amount of sleep you need, is to time when you go to bed and when you wake up naturally. However long you slept is normally how long your body takes to be well rested. That is of course, if you do feel well rested. Once we master the art of sleep, our mental, physical, and emotional health problems will be significantly decreased.

Works Cited

Hister, Art. Guide to Living a Long & Healthy Life. Revised ed. Canada: Art Hister, 2003.

Peri, Camille. “What Lack of Sleep Does to Your Mind.” WebMD. 2010. 12 Apr. 2015. <http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/emotions-cognitive?page=1>

Klein, Sarah. “8 Scary Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation.” The Huffington Post. Updated: 18 Sept. 2014. 13 Apr. 2015. < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/18/scary-sleep-deprivation-effects_n_2807026.html>