My EXISTENCE is RESISTANCE.
White Feather Woman Can Fly.
Falling in Love with Creation.
These are some of the titles from a powerful anthology of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry written by First Nations and Métis staff at CAMH that is being released in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st.
Connected in Creation: A Collection of Lived Experience through Cultural Expression is a tribute to all those who bring forward their voices to inform service delivery and system initiatives,” says Dr. Renee Linklater, Director of Shkaabe Makwa at CAMH.
In fact, it was a series of connections that sparked the creation of the anthology in partnership with Inkwell Workshops, which specializes in creative writing workshops for people with mental-health and addictions issues.
“As members of the staff collective at CAMH, we recognize that we carry many experiences related to our mental health and substance use issues or the challenges experienced by our family members,” explains Dr. Linklater. “We too are part of our communities and are often accessing ceremonies and services to help us heal and maintain balance.”
Fifteen First Nations and Métis staff at CAMH took part in a series of Inkwell’s workshops to help them reflect on their lived experience and write about their journeys.
The results speak for themselves. With poignant clarity and an abundance of wisdom, the contributors to Connected in Creation speak of the hurt and losses of colonization, along with the hope, resilience, and fierce resistance found through Indigenous ways of knowing and healing.
“At the age of fourteen, I felt lost. […] I had to grow up fast and take care of myself having worked since the age of five here on the streets of downtown Toronto. No identity, no hope, no religion or spirituality to be found, “reads an excerpt from one of the contributions, Eighth Fire of the Anishnaabe, by K’okomis Shkabaywos / Walter Lindstone. “Now, I look back at the age of forty-three, I am a proud father of five beautiful children and ask myself daily, ‘How did I survive?’”
Another contribution from Kawennanoron / Cynthia White reads, “Allow the Creator and the Ancestors to dress you in the finest regalia. You will see that you are whole and complete with spiritual gifts. We transform into real human beings. We are proud of who the Creator made us while we walk in the footsteps of our Ancestors. We are filled with love, kindness, and peace. We walk without fear, without pain. This is who we really are.”
By sharing their stories, the contributors to Connected in Creation wish to inspire others to speak their truths and add their voices to decision-making processes.
“We put forth this collection of our lived experiences as an offering, in hopes that people will be inspired to join us in our efforts to ensure that those with lived experience find pathways to share their voices and inform system improvements and culturally relevant services to advance the healing and wellness of Indigenous peoples,” says Dr. Linklater.