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THE CIRCLE: Boo-zhoo!

Boo-zhoo (hello), and welcome to The Circle with Mi’Azhikwan!

As this column is from my Anishinaabekwe perspective, I’ll start by introducing Niin (neen), aka myself. Who I am in spirit has a traditional Anishinaabe name that is known by the Spirits. Mi’Azhikwan is my spirit name and means a very specific action. When there’s turmoil and activity in the sky — a lot of stuff happening — and then out of nowhere is a bright, blue, beautiful sky. That action is my spirit name.

When I think about the preconditions that occur in the sky for niin to exist, I can’t help but make a connection to how we find ourselves collectively living in these unprecedented times.

During the past two pandemic years, we’ve all been in situations that have pushed us to the limits of fear, doubt, loss, confusion, and uncertainty. Not permitting these moments to become all-consuming has proven to be a difficult balancing act. If you have struggled with any overwhelming feelings, know that you are not alone. These are not normal living conditions and certainly not a new normal world that I subscribe to. This is survival.

The way we are living reaffirms my belief that life is a journey, not a destination. This really hit home for me following the 2021 federal election. I deferred all personal & professional obligations to devote myself to running as a candidate. Post-election I was unable to resume picking up my life where I had set it down. It wasn’t that a month’s worth of work was waiting for me; it was that I had substantially changed. And I didn’t expect to. I didn’t know how deeply I would be impacted by the election experience. Upon self-reflection, I eventually came to know that the people, including those who may not have the same perspectives as you, are part of life’s journey, not ancillary to.

While we wait for the world to reopen and attempt to find pandemic-life balance, let us find solidarity through the experiences that we’ve had to date: the struggles, the frustration, the helplessness, all for the overriding need for survival. While we may have been isolated and alone during the pandemic experiences, we can come together now. Human beings are social creatures and we all have a role to play in sharing narratives or actively listening to them.

To paraphrase the words of an Anishinaabekwe leader from Shoal Lake #40, “share the experience, not the virus.” (This came from a discussion of reducing Covid-positive stigma in our communities and suggestions on how to break down virus fears.) But it got me thinking. We must, and can, do a lot more communicating with one another. For open and honest communication to occur with others, we have to have a solid understanding of ourselves. This is an individual self-reflection process that may require time, or space, depending on the emotion and historic trauma being worked through.

On my end, I feel motivated, inspired, and am called to write. It is my desire that when the world reopens, it is a reimagined society, one which would be better suited to fit the collective need. The pandemic has shown many cracks across all systems, which has proven to be unsustainable if left unfixed.

To understand how the collective world may operate, we must start listening to one another as individuals.  This column will be a space intended for these communications to occur and I invite everyone along in this shared experience!

Miigwetch! (Thank you with respect)

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About The Author

Janine Seymour is an Anishinaabekwe organizer and lawyer practicing in Kenora.