Who I am. Who we are.

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Melody Charlie / 

Community Voices

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience." - Melody Charlie, First Nation Photographer 

June 21st is recognized as National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. Real Life community member Melody Charlie shares her voice, thoughts on the day and her work with us.

Indigenous Day for me is a reminder that I am who I am everyday regardless of what the colonial calendar says and celebrates. With so many mixed emotions about it all, I want to share who I am, who we are, but also feel like we’re more than just a pretty picture once a year or when convienent. We’re so much more than how this country selectively chooses to share our lights and hides their darks (residential schools). With so many of our people trapped in trauma  & so much stigma sticking to us, it can be hard to celebrate these shadows of ours. But every time I go and visit my alcoholic sister on the streets, or my oldest son drives past me, I am reminded that intergenerational trauma and residential schools are still stealing spirits. But everyone already knows those sides of us and constantly remind us that was way back ‘then’ but for so many of us, this is still now. Regardless of the dark places we’ve been, there are always lights. Thank $%&#@ god for lights! 

So let me shine and share some of these beams. 
 

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Every day we are respectfully harvesting, giving thanks and sharing, those harvests are Indigenous Days. Each morning my grandfather wakes before the sun rises and makes his way to the river or ocean to cleanse, is Indigenous Day. Every time a ceremony is held, whether it be a name giving, celebrations of life, or a memorial, when 500 plus of us sit down to share a meal a few times a year, those too are Indigenous Days. Every day an Indigenous child is born is a celebration of Indigenous Day, especially after attempted genocide, but we are pretty good at baby making and have enormous families so thankfully we are still very much here. 

Every word & prayer learnt in our Indigenous languages are vital. It’s in those sacred spaces that guide us back to the lights and also to our roots. 

Because we kind of have this magical connection not only to who we are, but also to the land & to the water. It’s through these connections that bypass the masses, that we celebrate all we are. After all, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience and hišukiiš c̓awaak - we are all one & everything is connected.

A celebration of resilience and reminders us of what was, what is and what will be.  A reminder that our ancestral ways await our return.
 

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What are you afraid of?

Afraid that one day soon I will no longer hear my Indigenous languages spoken or heard, especially in ceremony. Currently in ceremony nobody listens, because no one understands, the English language is a sickness and oh how I would love to be cured but those residential schools barriers still have my elders scared to speak & have also left them toxic, torn and terrified.
 

What is your greatest joy?

Greatest joy, is hearing and understanding parts of my language spoken when elders are sharing, I feel like some secret under cover agent with magical powers! 
 

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Who is your ideal mentor?

Ideal mentors are John Hudson Webster (Ahousat) and Tom Curley (Tla-o-qui-aht) who share our language so very beautifully and are always happy to share,  teach and put up with me and all my documenting devices.
 

What does the concept of 'success' look like for you?

Success looks like to me, less work and more mom which I’m gratefully living.  As Indigenous people we live very simple lives, don’t need fancy, fast, flying around, which I’ve also done but gratefully have come full circle.
 

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When motivation is low, or has disappeared all together, how do you respond?

When my motivation is low, I first refuel spiritually which is usually with elders & language while also giving myself permission to feel and be exactly where ever I am. Then gently & slowly surround myself with higher vibrations which is normally connecting with others who are healing and helping beings who could never pay them back. Those are the best highs that lift and carry me to places of peace. Inspiration is always found there for me. 
 

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Callandra Caufield