Tag Archives: Isaac Murdoch

Working It Out Together: Wayne Rabbitskin–The Long Road Home

Prior to colonization, Indigenous men and women treated each other as equals. They had different roles to fulfill but they still regarded each other with equal respect. But at the time of colonization, governmental policies created social dysfunction, essentially crippling the role of the men within traditional communities, even criminalizing their role as warrior within their families.  This has left men without a role to fill and has ultimately disconnected them from the land and their culture.

Throughout this episode we accompany Wayne Rabbitskin, Chisasibi, QC, as he travels his own journey of reconciliation. Wayne suffers from multi-generational trauma as a result of his parents’ experiences at Residential School. Included in footage are his heart felt words of apology for the pain he caused. He admits to alcohol and drug abuse. He also admits to abusing his former wife and destroying his marriage. This form of dysfunctional behaviour is commonly  referred to as lateral violence. Lateral violence refers to acts of destructive aggression against one’s peers rather than bullying to establish a sense of superiority. It is a means to share pain in order to alleviate pain rather than exerting force to create a social hierarchy.

Wayne is now working to end lateral violence in communities. Following his stay in a treatment centre, where he re-learned his role as a man and came to understand that women are sacred, Wayne committed himself to a 1000 mile walk, visiting other communities like his own to share his testimony. His own admissions are acting to expose lateral violence and inter-generational trauma, and allowing others to heal, while hecontinues to make amends for his own actions.

Traditional Story-teller Isaac Murdoch explains that prior to colonization, ” Women were literally a walking ceremony. They were the water carriers.  And because water is our first teacher, our first medicine, it’s the very thing that gives us life there was a high respect of women because of their strong connection of the land.” Because of this there was a balance in order to preserve life for the generations to come. However, with the arrival of the settlers came the arrival of both sickness and alcohol. Since the men were the ones who traded goods, it was the men who fell prey to the effects of alcohol, destroying the accord between men and women. Isaac believes that men must look back to the days before the settlers arrived and reconnect to the traditional ways in order to heal.

Shawn Iserhoff, Mistissini Youth Chief, also shares his experiences on the land and describes how this connection brings humility and harmony to his life, contrary to his experiences in the city.

Having participated in healing circles myself, witnessing the bravery of Mr. Rabbitskin admissions in order to make amends was particularly moving.


Recap: Working It Out Together- Stewards of the Land

This week’s powerful episode “Stewards of the Land” takes a hard look at the meaning of, and connection to, the land that Indigenous cultures innately have. It also examines the threats to traditional lands that exist in today’s society in the never ending quest for progress. Waneek Horn-Miller reminds viewers that this is not an Indigenous movement but a human movement, “that we do not drink separate water, or breath separate air, we have to live here together, and our children are going to inherit this.”

During  my interview with season three series director Michelle Smith,  she named this episode as one of her favourites. “This episode is such an empowering story of community coming together in order to block uranium mining on Cree territory.”

We visit Eastmain, James Bay, an area considered rich in uranium, and follow Jamie Moses as he takes his son Joshua out on the traditional lands in order to pass on his hunting and trapping skills. Jamie and his son provide the human context for this story. We also follow Jamie’s compelling testimony at Quebec’s Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) hearings, held in 2015, that explored the possible impact of uranium mining on Cree Territory.

Traditional Anishnaabe Story-Teller Isaac Murdoch discusses the balance that the Indigenous peoples had with the land.  They held a preservationist philosophy whilst the settlers considered the land as a commodity to exploit. This meant that the Indigenous beliefs so enmeshed with the land needed to be destroyed as they interfered with the harvesting of resources for the sake of progress.  “When you don’t believe that the water has a spirit or that a tree has a spirit you are able to cut it down,” and it becomes easier to rape the land of its riches. The process of colonization sought to destroy this connection but the need protect the land has acted as the impetus to reconnect with culture.

Shawn and Ashley Iserhoff,  leaders in the fight against uranium mining,  discuss the engagement of the Cree in their fight to deny uranium mining in Mistissini. They believe that the people today need to make responsible decisions  in order to  ensure future generations  will have the ability to enjoy the land as their ancestors once did. Ultimately it was the overwhelming involvement of the youth that voiced their concerns for their future that united the community in this latest battle. Because the Cree were so diligent in their fight to deny uranium exploration on their traditional lands, the BAPE Commission voted to deny future exploration not only on Cree territory, but within all of Quebec.

It was the following statement by Isaac Murdoch that truly resonated with me: “As characters in this sacred story, what is our next move? Do we do something? Do we sit back and watch? Or do we try to be heroes?” We have to unite, and we have to be strategic in our approach to government, and then we can make a difference. It is Jamie Moses’s belief, passed to him from his grandfather that the people keep the traditions alive but also adapt to the modern ways; use the best of both worlds as you move forward in a good way.