In honour of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (August 9th), YWCA Toronto staff member Theo Ross shares a moving letter to her child. Theo recently won the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary at this year’s Hot Docs festival for the documentary “êmîcêtôcêt: Many Bloodlines.” The documentary looks at the journey Theo and her white partner take to parenthood as an interracial queer couple.
Dear Nichiwâsimisinan (Our Child),
I told the story of êmîcêtôsêt-Many Bloodlines because our family is a microcosm of the world around us. I exist within my Indigeneity, with the pain of Residential & Day School, watching language dissipate because my mother’s generation was too traumatized to teach it; while holding on to it so I could pass it on to you with my own tongue, as our people have done since time began. I am the step between the past and the future. An Indigenous Womxn from the reservation raising an Indigenous daughter in this bustling city of Tkaronto. You are a beautiful mix of Cree, Tongan and Pipil – globally Indigenous. No matter where you are, you are home. In creating you, we made the intentional decision to Decolonize our bloodline, and in turn, re-Indigenize Turtle Island. You are healing medicine for the Land and the People. You are the future.
Your journey home began in 2017 when we began the IVF process with appointment after appointment to make sure we were healthy, prepared and able to get pregnant. After all the excitement and worry we were given the good news that my eggs were in great shape and your mommy’s uterus was ready to hold you. Little did we realize this was just the beginning of the excitement and worry that would come with parenthood. Especially parenthood to an Indigenous child. I began to recognize the differences in the experience of being a parent to an Indigenous child. Where white mothers dreamed out loud of what their babies' futures might be, I found myself in prayer for what I hoped your future would not be. That it would never be a headline, a red dress, a hashtag.
On October 16th, 2019 I went through the most powerful experience of having my eggs harvested for fertilization. From the moment it began I was singing our songs and connecting to Spirit. I’ll never forget feeling that this was my moment of birthing you. I’ve often struggled with my body, with my femininity and how to identify and connect with it, but at this moment, you were already teaching me just how powerful my Womxnhood is. I was creating life and your life was healing me.
Your late Kokom’s birthday is on October 21st, the same day you were placed gently into a cozy little pocket of your mommy’s uterus. My spirit told me that you would be there until your birth. At that moment it was as though you were already with us, and I immediately became a mother to you. I felt protective and nurturing and whole in a way that I’d never felt. We went for lunch right after and it was our first table for three.
There were so many emotions through our pregnancy that related to bringing another Indigenous child into a world where we are often overlooked, undervalued or just discarded. The state of the world can be enough to make you think you should just stop. Stop moving. Stop feeling. Stop creating. Stop rebelling. Stop birthing. Stop growing. Stop hoping. If there’s anything I can share with you that your life has taught me it’s to never stop doing any of those things. Your joyful existence is rebellion. Your brown skin is a beautiful protest. Your songs are prayers to the ancestors who are always watching over you. Your dances are medicine to whatever your feet touch.
Soon, my Little One, just one month after your first birthday, you will have your Walking Out Ceremony. It will be the first time your feet touch the Land and the first time you are embraced by our Mother Earth. It will be a moment of reclaiming Ceremony, reclaiming Land, reclaiming Identity. You are the first one in over three generations to be given a Walking Out. As you grow, I pray that you forever carry the immeasurable power of that moment close to your heart because, with it, there is nothing more powerful than you, Little Indigenous Girl.
Theola Ross is originally from Pimichikamak Cree Nation. She completed her Bachelors of Social Work Degree in 2018 and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba in 2000. In addition to her love for the arts, she has many years of frontline experience in the social services sector and is a strong advocate for her community. Being able to speak her own language is important to Theola and whenever she gets the chance to speak to a Cree speaker, it's the primary language she prefers to use.
(Image courtesy of Theola Ross)