by F. P. Favel for Indigenous Times News

1996 Vigil
1996 Winnipeg vigil, decease Edee O’Meara,
Emily Rivers, Cheryl Edwards,
LannaMoon Perrin, Heather Milton-Lightening
edee
Edee O’Meara and her children

March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day was celebrated on the Poundmaker Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, by Anishinabe poet Edee O’Meara with family and friends in a small ceremony around a sacred fire. This fire was lit to honour a woman, Colette Schooner, Indian name Aluusta, a Bella Coola woman who had succumbed to cancer after a brave battle in which she had rejected White Man’s medicine. In her honour, fires were lit across the country at mid-day, including Poundmaker, a Cree Assiniboine community in central Saskatchewan. Aluusta was a 33 year old warrior woman eco-activist who, at the age of 12 to protect her people’s forest, stayed in a tripod she had built on a tall tree. Songs were sung and tobacco was burned for her, and for all warrior women past and present. The prayer extended to all of our mothers, sisters and daughters as well, as it takes a brave person to raise a family.

Edee O’Meara is Anishinabe from Lake St. Martin First Nation, Manitoba. She studied writing at the Enowkin International School of Writing in Penticton, British Columbia, and later became the founder of the Native Youth Movement which began in Winnipeg, Manitoba and has since extended to have many chapters across North America. In 2011 her home community of Lake St. Martin, Manitoba, was deliberately flooded by the province of Manitoba that left her landless and homeless, and she is currently working on a book that recounts this experience.
In March, 1998, Edee sat with Native Youth Movement and supporters to organize a vigil to honour and bring attention to all the murdered Indian women on this continent. This action ended up being named Anna Mae Day, in honour of Anna Mae Aquash, a Miqmaq woman whose body was found in South Dakota in 1976. The FBI had cut off her hands allegedly to send her fingerprints to be analyzed. The discussion around Anna Mae’s life, death, and after death was what sparked the discussions and led to the fire that was lit in the center of the intersection of Dufferin and King in Winnipeg’s north end. The north end, known as, the ‘low track’ where many Aboriginal people had ended up living with many social issues.

They were about 10 young people who created this vigil, one of the very first vigils for missing and murdered Aboriginal woman to take place in this country. The fire was kept going on a very cold night. There were no permits for this vigil yet police did not try and stop this event. The young people felt that permission did not need to be given to honour and sing for all the women that have been murdered with no justice served. “Nobody dared put our fire out,” Edee quietly reflects, “I remember Native Youth Movement worked hard and humbly to raise awareness of this issue. At that time we were able to compile a list of 20 missing and murdered Aboriginal women, these were women we knew or were aware of and at that time there were no databases or reports focused on this issue. Now there are lists and databases across the country and the names of the missing are now well into the thousands. This vigil was not a protest, there were no placards or signage of any sort, it was an honouring, a remembering by the sacred fire...”
This summer, 2015, Edee is planning to host the 20th anniversary and commemoration of Native Youth Movement. “More and more young people are looking to the older generation to lead them, to tell them stories, to inspire them as they move forward trying to help the future generations, that is why I would like to host a gathering sometime this summer.”

Her community, Lake St. Martin First Nation in Manitoba, was deliberately flooded by the province of Manitoba to save the city of Winnipeg in 2011, and Edee along with 2000 other evacuees from other First Nations as well as Lake St. Martin were forced to live in hotel rooms in the city of Winnipeg. Red Cross is responsible for all evacuees’ accommodation and basic sustenance while they wait for home and a land base However, evacuees are not allowed to live, work, or study out of province or they lose their benefits, essentially making them prisoners or wards of the province. Chief Duane Antoine of Poundmaker has granted her symbolic refugee status which allows her the freedom and safety to work on her book in a safe quiet setting, away from her home province of Manitoba and she now divides her time between Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Chief Antoine believes that this evacuation and the flooding of Edee’s Anishinabe people is an international and national issue and transcends any provincial jurisdictions or laws. This is an Indigenous Rights issue, as well as a human rights issue.

At present there is no immediate solution for her people and no one knows how long this evacuation, which was to last 2 weeks, which now is in its 4th year, will last. She is now working with a well-established publisher based in Halifax, Nova Scotia on a book she is writing which tells the story of this evacuation, this evacuation that has destroyed her community and caused great harm to her people. •

by F. P. Favel for Indigenous Times News
1996 Vigil
1996 Winnipeg vigil, healing Edee O’Meara,
Emily Rivers, Cheryl Edwards,
LannaMoon Perrin, Heather Milton-Lightening
edee
Edee O’Meara and her children

March 8, 2015, International Women’s Day was celebrated on the Poundmaker Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, by Anishinabe poet Edee O’Meara with family and friends in a small ceremony around a sacred fire. This fire was lit to honour a woman, Colette Schooner, Indian name Aluusta, a Bella Coola woman who had succumbed to cancer after a brave battle in which she had rejected White Man’s medicine. In her honour, fires were lit across the country at mid-day, including Poundmaker, a Cree Assiniboine community in central Saskatchewan. Aluusta was a 33 year old warrior woman eco-activist who, at the age of 12 to protect her people’s forest, stayed in a tripod she had built on a tall tree. Songs were sung and tobacco was burned for her, and for all warrior women past and present. The prayer extended to all of our mothers, sisters and daughters as well, as it takes a brave person to raise a family.

Edee O’Meara is Anishinabe from Lake St. Martin First Nation, Manitoba. She studied writing at the Enowkin International School of Writing in Penticton, British Columbia, and later became the founder of the Native Youth Movement which began in Winnipeg, Manitoba and has since extended to have many chapters across North America. In 2011 her home community of Lake St. Martin, Manitoba, was deliberately flooded by the province of Manitoba that left her landless and homeless, and she is currently working on a book that recounts this experience.
In March, 1998, Edee sat with Native Youth Movement and supporters to organize a vigil to honour and bring attention to all the murdered Indian women on this continent. This action ended up being named Anna Mae Day, in honour of Anna Mae Aquash, a Miqmaq woman whose body was found in South Dakota in 1976. The FBI had cut off her hands allegedly to send her fingerprints to be analyzed. The discussion around Anna Mae’s life, death, and after death was what sparked the discussions and led to the fire that was lit in the center of the intersection of Dufferin and King in Winnipeg’s north end. The north end, known as, the ‘low track’ where many Aboriginal people had ended up living with many social issues.

They were about 10 young people who created this vigil, one of the very first vigils for missing and murdered Aboriginal woman to take place in this country. The fire was kept going on a very cold night. There were no permits for this vigil yet police did not try and stop this event. The young people felt that permission did not need to be given to honour and sing for all the women that have been murdered with no justice served. “Nobody dared put our fire out,” Edee quietly reflects, “I remember Native Youth Movement worked hard and humbly to raise awareness of this issue. At that time we were able to compile a list of 20 missing and murdered Aboriginal women, these were women we knew or were aware of and at that time there were no databases or reports focused on this issue. Now there are lists and databases across the country and the names of the missing are now well into the thousands. This vigil was not a protest, there were no placards or signage of any sort, it was an honouring, a remembering by the sacred fire...”
This summer, 2015, Edee is planning to host the 20th anniversary and commemoration of Native Youth Movement. “More and more young people are looking to the older generation to lead them, to tell them stories, to inspire them as they move forward trying to help the future generations, that is why I would like to host a gathering sometime this summer.”

Her community, Lake St. Martin First Nation in Manitoba, was deliberately flooded by the province of Manitoba to save the city of Winnipeg in 2011, and Edee along with 2000 other evacuees from other First Nations as well as Lake St. Martin were forced to live in hotel rooms in the city of Winnipeg. Red Cross is responsible for all evacuees’ accommodation and basic sustenance while they wait for home and a land base However, evacuees are not allowed to live, work, or study out of province or they lose their benefits, essentially making them prisoners or wards of the province. Chief Duane Antoine of Poundmaker has granted her symbolic refugee status which allows her the freedom and safety to work on her book in a safe quiet setting, away from her home province of Manitoba and she now divides her time between Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Chief Antoine believes that this evacuation and the flooding of Edee’s Anishinabe people is an international and national issue and transcends any provincial jurisdictions or laws. This is an Indigenous Rights issue, as well as a human rights issue.

At present there is no immediate solution for her people and no one knows how long this evacuation, which was to last 2 weeks, which now is in its 4th year, will last. She is now working with a well-established publisher based in Halifax, Nova Scotia on a book she is writing which tells the story of this evacuation, this evacuation that has destroyed her community and caused great harm to her people. •
By Armand LaPlante
For Indigenous Times May 2014 Edition

RMCHANDS1

Ryan McMahon is a star, cialis bringing his no-holds-barred style of native humor and storytelling to the mainstream. Using an assortment of multimedia, pilule from live stand-up to podcasts and everything in between, Ryan has progressively innovated the comedy experience. His shows feature a mixed bag of routines, such as reading excerpts from his book “50 Shades of Pow Wow” -- his parodic take on Indian country and the adult novel 50 Shades of Grey.

Ryan has had many remarkable successes including appearing on the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montréal, and being the first native comic to a one hour comedy special with CBC called “Un-reserved”. Ryan recently recorded another one hour special with CBC called “Red Man Laughing” (also the title of his podcast) which is set to air this season.

I was very appreciative to sit down with Ryan before his show in Saskatoon at Louis’ and talk to him for nearly an hour; in that time it became apparent to me where a lot of his drive and motivators for change come from. Here is the interview.

Indigenous Times: First off, where are you from?

Ryan McMahon: I grew up in a small town called Fort Frances, Ontario, right beside Koochiching First Nation. Some of my family are from Minnesota, most are from Ontario side. My mom is Anishinabe, and my dad is Métis; I was born and raised in north western Ontario in treaty 3 territory.

IT: Your approach to stand up, how does being aboriginal affect that for you?

RM: It doesn’t. I wake up and I hear the news on the radio through one lens. I read the paper through that same lens. I experience the world through my own way of being, my Anishinabe worldviews. I’ve been asked to change that, I’ve been asked to not be a “native comic”. When I was at Just For Laughs, I was told it was detrimental to my career because I’m not visibly native -- I don’t fit that stereotypical role. I’m not going to get cast as a native guy at a comedy festival because I pass as white and I’m not going to get cast as a white guy at a festival in a mainstream festival because I’m native.

Unlike Don Burnstick or Howie Miller, these guys are visibly native; I’m in a grey area that is good and bad. I’ve been told by agents and management companies at Just For Laughs when I was being asked to go down to LA and NY to not mention it. They said ‘you bring it up in the first minute of your acts how you don’t look visibly native, so why do you talk about it? If you pass as white then why do you bring it up?’ it’s because I am who I am, I’m an Anishinabe and I can only be that.

I like to think my comedy can reach everybody. My audience when I tour is very mixed; a lot of people from other cultures come through. I like to make my material accessible to everybody but you’re still going to get my point of view.

IT: Have you ever been heckled before? Is it racial?

RM: I have yes. I’m writing a book called The Politics of Indian Comedy, that book is all about how when you come from a cultural community you need to be really careful because you work within a niche, and if you’re pissing off people within that niche, pretty soon your phone doesn’t ring anymore.. Pretty soon people don’t want to bring you to their community for an event because you don’t line up with their beliefs. It gets dicey, it’s ugly out there; it’s not easy to please everybody that’s in an audience.

There was a woman that was super drunk in the audience, she came up to me after the show and wanted to take a picture and I was like ‘I will take a picture with you and do what I’m supposed to do here but I want to tell you that what you were doing was not cool’.

She interrupted the start of the show.. Ten minutes into the show went onto her phone.. Told me to shut up. I want to be respectful but I have to tell you what the rules are. There’s nothing worse than an audience that isn’t paying attention. It’s my job to make you pay attention; it’s my job to be funny. But she thought she was helping, (in Ryan’s most annoying heckler voice): “I was trying to give you something to work with!”

One thing people should know about comedians is that we have a plan; we work really fucking hard to make sure we know what we’re going to say. We start at one place and we end up at another place, and we have a way to get from here to there for every show.

I work really hard to make sure I know what I’m going for so for hecklers (directly into the recorder): WE DON’T NEED YOUR HELP.. EVER!

IT: Indian Country recently lost the legendary comic Charlie Hill. Tell me about your relationship with the late Charlie Hill.

Charlie Hill was the dad I didn’t have. Charlie and I were supposed to be on tour right now. We had planned a tour called the Indian Medicine Comedy Review that was supposed to start in Seattle and end in Denver.

RM: Two years ago when he got sick we were in the road together in Wisconsin and he couldn’t eat anything. Anything he would eat would irritate his stomach; I think that’s when he first got sick. During his last couple of months.. I still have the texts in my phone.. I’ll probably never erase them, but we were texting and there was a point where he stopped texting back – he was too sick.

He was one of my best friends, a mentor, somebody that I really respected.

With Charlie, the pursuit of the art is something that really inspired me, and people like him, like Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman, Gordon Tootoosis, Buffy Ste. Marie, you look at all those artists from that first generation and how hard they worked to open up that door. I don’t think we can afford to sit back and be in our own little niche and collect our little cheques at conferences and do entertainment after mealtime at the drug & alcohol awareness conference you know? We owe it to all those people that came before us to do that -- to fight for our community and give our young people something to look forward to. To give them something to look up to […] we need to now stand up and show people who we are.

I think that’s what IDLE NO MORE showed us through the politics -- the whole world listened to us. BBC, Al Jazeera, CBS, NBC, everybody was talking about it which to me is positive proof that the world is waiting for us to tell them who we are. That means we as the artists need to keep pushing forward until we find that space and it’s going to take our people supporting us, us continually getting better, working hard, and I know there’s room out there for us.

So many people live in a rough way; I see it all the time. My greatest privilege in this job is travelling and I get to see a lot of amazing things, good things, but I see a lot of bad things too. I think these young people often don’t see that there’s a good life out there for them, we need to show them. The more of that space we take up and the more we get people to listen to us, the better off we’re going to be, because the time is now.

This is a really unfunny interview. (laughs)

IT: Well it’s important to get people thinking though once in a while.

RM: We don’t raise our people up enough. We’ve got this thing about “humility”, and it’s not even about jealousy or “crabs in a bucket” , I think that’s a small percentage, I think we just take things for granted sometimes, and that’s not a native thing that’s a human thing.

IT: Tell me what you got on the go ..

RM: I just recorded the new one hour special for CBC, it’s called Red Man Laughing, it’s a National radio special. […] The podcast Red Man Laughing, which is independent of CBC, is still going strong. That’s at www.redmanlaughing.com
I’m starting a media network, that’s my next project. It’s going to start as a podcast network, then we’re going to branch out to a full-fledged media entity like Vice, doing documentaries etc. The business plan is being done right now. It’s to create a platform for our content. I think they’re waiting to hear from us. If we start doing these documentaries, if we start supporting our artists by bringing them across the country, if we start selling merchandise, if they say 75% of our population is under the age of 40 and we are more educated than ever, I have to wonder where that disposable income is going.

We have to recognize that the system is broken […] It’s like a wild west all over again. Remember that cowboys and Indians shit where people were just planting flags all over the place going ‘this is where I live!’? That’s what we need to do on the internet and we have these young people that have nowhere to hang their hat right now -- writers, documentarians.

The time to build [the portal] is now, by just looking at the contacts on my phone, the people I know, there’s so much talent out there and so many of the artists out there working are just struggling to pay rent that we’re not in a position to promote excellence right now. We’re just surviving. So I want to build a platform that supports all of this work and really gets us to the next level.

[…] A multi-platform focusing on music, fashion, that kind of thing, and not being exclusive about it.. like you don’t have to be some famous native that’s been on APTN. Celebrity culture doesn’t belong in our communities; for my podcast Red Man Laughing I’ll have anyone from a Pow Wow singer, to an academic, to an artist, and anywhere in between. All voices need to be represented, I had a guy that just raises dogs, and that’s his whole job and he told me like an hour and 20 minute story about dog sledding in the north -- it’s the most listened to episode of my podcast ever. It gets probably 400 downloads a week just on that story about this guy raising these dog sledding dogs and it’s all about his connection to the land, an incredible story about being lost in the dead of winter on the great Slave Lake in the North West Territories and he thinks he’s going to die and he prays for himself.

All the stories that connect us back to the land which has given us our life. That’s what we’re all about as native people so we all have something to give, to add. and that’s why in the media company too the third pillar of that whole media company too is doing something that I’m calling legacy projects which is basically selling projects to communities in formation to go in there and do immersive storytelling, documentaries, language work, and getting it all digitized on a website for them. As our elders pass.. back home my grandma was the third last language speaker on my reserve and she passed in 2007, and there is only 2 left and a bunch of people went into kind of panic mode and started relearning the language. There is a big movement for it and so many communities now are in that exact same danger, that’s why that legacy project is important.

[Podcasting] is my thing, I beat my chest real hard about this stuff, but we should all be podcasting, we should all be writing, there should be no shortage of material it should just be fucking everywhere. Our generation is the first generation that’s free, we do suffer from the intergenerational effect of residential school, I have come from a family of addicts, I have my own difficulties in my life and many of us are still in that cycle but we didn’t go to those schools, we can do better, like my kid, I don’t have to pass any of that shit onto them, I’m big enough, I can hold that, I won’t give that to them so I think we’re all in the same spot, I think we’re all struggling to figure things out.

IT:  So comedy is a medicine right?

RM: I don’t know, I don’t buy it, cause in a sense, I think saying that really takes a lot away from us, you know “comedy is medicine”. We laugh to heal, healing is laughter and yeah that’s true but then so often when we say that, that’s where we stop talking, and I think that laughter is so much more especially for us as First Nations.

Yes, there used to be a way of storytelling and humour was so important to it.

Yeah, and laughter, the idea of the trickster -- Nanabush, Wesakechak, whatever you want to call him showed up in these stories, to teach us something. If you go down to Arizona they have their healer they say is like their jokester -- their tricksters. And you go to any indigenous nation they all have it; so wait a minute, why does everybody have this central character? It’s because we didn’t scold our kids the way they did, we didn’t do it that way; we had a different way of teaching and healing. I think with laughter, you have the whole cliché of ‘you go to a ceremony or a funeral and there’s more laughter at a funeral than anywhere’ because yeah we are healing each other we are making ourselves feel better right? When you go to a real serious sweat or something, that pipe carrier is teasing, everyone’s laughing and so it’s deeper than just laughter is medicine.. It’s who we are […] even old round dance songs from what I’ve been told were all about like laughter, and it’s all in the language but it was all about laughter and yeah there are ceremonial songs too. In general we don’t separate science from our lives, we don’t call it biology or ecology or geology, we don’t call it these things, so yeah I think it’s a lot more complex than laughter is medicine and we’re lucky because that’s innately who we are, it’s in all of us.

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