How being a mother helped me discover what being Mi’kmaw means to me

This first-person article is the experience of Alisha Knockwood common problem.

When I learned that I was pregnant with my son, I started to ask myself: “What does it mean to be a Mi’kmaw mother?”

When you don’t know what it means to be Mi’kmaw, this is a difficult question to answer, let alone being Mi’kmaw’s mother. At that time I began to look back at my life in the reserve.

Growing up, I never thought that I was any different from my friends or the people I met on the street. For a long time, I think everyone went to mawiomis/powwows and lived in the community with their families.

I study with my son so that he can see that he can accept his culture instead of being as scared as I used to be.— Alyssa Knockwood

It wasn’t until I was in elementary school, about 4th grade, that I realized that living in a community with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins ??is not “normal”. People don’t get together every summer, dressed in costumes, playing drums, singing, and dancing.

Alisha Knockwood said that when she grows up, she doesn’t really understand what it means to be Mi’kmaw. When she found out that she was pregnant, she decided to change the situation. 2:25

Understand what it means to be Mi’kmaw

It took me a long time to truly understand the meaning of aboriginal people, for better or for worse. I remember that I was called aboriginal, aboriginal, Mickma, Indian, and other very prejudiced and hurtful words.

Many of us are taught to keep our heads down so as not to attract people’s attention. We are afraid that if people know we are Mikema, they will say or do to us.

Alisha Knockwood and her son Simon. Knockwood said that she knew she was Mi’kmaw since she was a child, but she didn’t know what it meant. (Submitted by Alisha Knockwood)

When I was a student, it was obvious that my cousins ??and I were different from everyone else.

Many people will avoid us, making us less willing to accept our traditions.

During school, we only learned very little information about indigenous peoples and protected areas.

There has never been information about how many different countries, boarding schools, traditional ceremonies, kingships or languages ??there are.

Fear of teaching tradition

I have never been taught our language or what it means to practice our traditions.

The ceremony was never explained to the younger generation, because many elders in the community had attended boarding schools.

Knockwood’s father learned cooking from his mother, and now he passes this to her son Simon. Here, he is teaching Simon how to make Bannock. (Submitted by Alisha Knockwood)

Some elders are able to take back many of their traditions and languages, but are afraid to teach them to their children and grandchildren.

My grandfather was in a boarding school and did not teach my parents for fear of being punished or sent to the boarding school.

Take back my culture and identity

When I became a mother, I realized that I needed to take back how much my culture and identity were missing.

If I don’t learn it myself, I will never be able to pass on the tradition. I have a responsibility to learn and teach our legacy from my children.

Knockwood and her son are now learning the Mi’kmaw language and traditions together. (Submitted by Alisha Knockwood)

As I study it more and more, how much is missing is very prominent. As the mother of Mi’kmaw, I must take back what I took from us and teach it to my children so that we don’t lose it again.

I learned my language with my son; I was very happy when I heard him say Mi’kmaw. My son goes to school in a daycare center in our community, where he also learned how to say Mi’kmaw.

My son won’t be as scared as before

Our study may still have a long way to go, but I will never give up seeking help from my elders. It was my grandfather Roddy Gould. He was a survivor of the boarding school. He taught me how to smear and why, and how to pray.

He taught me that it’s okay to accept our traditions, and always ask questions when I don’t understand why a certain ritual or prayer should be held.

Knockwood said she still has a lot to learn, but she is learning to accept her culture so that her son can too. (Submitted by Alisha Knockwood)

I have started to learn to play drums, and each song has a deeper meaning for different occasions or ceremonies. My father has been singing traditional songs to my son since he was born, and he allowed my son to play prisoners of war with him on some occasions.

I study with my son so that he can see that he can accept his culture instead of being as scared as I used to be. I still have a lot to learn about our heritage, history, rituals, royal power, etc., but I am very happy to be able to understand and understand all of this.

My journey as the mother of Mi’kmaw has just begun.

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