Even if you are far away, it’s never too late to establish contact with your indigenous culture

This first-person article is the experience of Georgette Aisaican. She is a member of the Cowessess First Nations and now lives in Whitehorse. Find out How to promote your own story to CBC North here.

I did not go to boarding school.

I also did not grow up to understand my indigenous culture. That was later-it’s worth the wait.

My mother is from Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and attended Marieval and Lebret Indian boarding schools. After going out, she taught herself cooking and other life skills.

When I was growing up, Baked Bannock was the closest to any culture she knew.

When I was four, my non-indigenous stepfather took us from Saskatchewan, across the prairie, and finally moved to Whitehorse when I was ten.

There are so many Aboriginal cultures in Yukon, but I couldn’t enjoy them at first. Some local aboriginal girls bullied and challenged me to fight after school. I was not accepted.

The mental and physical abuse of my stepfather started when I was five years old, exacerbated this depression. He demands obedience and does not allow any personal gain.

When I was 13 years old, I met an energetic and kind-hearted Northern Tucini girl. She introduced me to her family, and they fed me dried meat and smoked salmon from Paley. That was the first time I saw a healthy indigenous family-I am still a member of this family.

Yukon has truly become my home. There, I was exposed to drums, smears and one of my favorite comfort experiences-Yukon-style fried bannock and jam!

Signpost near Carmack, Yukon. (Paul Tucker/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

My mother later moved back to Cowessess and sent me a video from powwows-“This is Grande Entry, Fancy Dancers, Jingle Dresses!”

She shared the Cowessess Facebook page and I saw the chief explaining the meaning behind each dance.

He said, “powwows bring us together, and dancers dance for those who watch to heal.”

I hope that our own people have a cure for the spirit. My daughter was diagnosed with Rett syndrome when she was very young, and she is dependent on others in all aspects of her daily life. I feel that I need strength on the next journey.

I wrote an application directly to Jordan’s principles [the federal program that provides funding to First Nations children with unique needs] Request support to participate in the 2019 Cowessess First Nation Traditional Powwow, our request was approved!

This trip was not easy. I physically moved my 85-pound daughter from her wheelchair more than 86 times. But it’s so worth it!

Georgette and her daughter Selena went to Cowessess First Nation traditional Powwow in 2019. (Submitted by Georgette Aisaican)

I was 44 years old and my daughter was 19 years old. Our chief Cadmus Delorme delivered a heartfelt opening speech on powwow, welcoming us home, and then we enjoyed three days of recovery and culture.

We accepted our spiritual name and participated in a healing feast where the food was blessed by traditional prayers. I drank some water for my daughter’s tube feeding.

We watched the dancers-even our leader performed his famous chicken dance. We have received many traditional blessings and prayers.

Our chief invited us during the final grand admission, and when I pushed my daughter’s wheelchair across the grass of the powwow field, we were introduced. At that moment, I realized that I might have taken her there, but she took me home.

Later, with the help of many people, she stood with her grandmother at the last inter-tribal dance. For a moment, she stood proudly in a pink ribbon dress. An elderly person dressed in costume came over, put his hand on her, and gave healing blessings and prayers in our traditional language.

Dancers from Cowessess First Nation performed earlier this year. (Matt Howard/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Our trip has had an incredible impact, beyond my imagination. I am rediscovering who I am, and for the first time I am proud of being a strong aboriginal woman.

Our life journey is full of challenges, but I believe that my ancestors and relatives have been with me on the other side.

When I return to my home in Yukon, I will regularly attend the sweat lodge and apply for treatment and guidance. I pray to relatives and others in the world, pray for the missing children, and pray for all our relatives.

We can now watch powwow on social media posts from different cultures, where singers, drummers and dancers share their gifts. It exists for everyone, all over the earth, under the same sky, beautiful and free.

A wise Elder Geweiin taught me that no matter where you are from, you must strengthen your connection with the Creator, who listens to your prayers through your heart.

I am the Guardian of the Wind Girl.

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