By J.H., an Adopt4Life Community Parent
Tawnshi, (Hello), I am the adoptive parent of a First Nations Metis Indigenous son. J. was 2.5 years old when we first met him. He was a wee boy, with long, thick, dark black, eyelashes, surrounding his dark brown eyes, that looked like they knew more than he was willing to share. He had a medium skin-tone and a smooth complexion. His cheeks looked like they had been touched by summer suns, winter moons and caressed by autumn winds. His head was round and his dark hair had been shaved, almost to the skin. Thus, he became, in my heart, “my Budda Boy” and this love-name has stuck with him, even to this day, twenty years later. But, my “Budda Boy” is not from the Eastern regions of our world, but his heritage belongs to the First Nations Metis Indigenous People. “Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada.”
We adopted J. not fully knowing his social history or background. It was not until about one year later, when we received his social history in the mail, from our local C.A.S., that we read about his heritage. J. is, on his maternal grandmother’s and mother’s side, of mixed First Nations Peoples, but they were not sure from which tribe they belonged to. J.’s biological grandfather is of Irish and French Canadian origins. His biological father is French Canadian.
Like any mother, I want only what is best for my son. I immediately began to look in to the history, culture, language and spiritual practices of the Metis peoples. I was determined to offer my son information and more importantly than anything else, connection, with his heritage and to his people. The desire to “do the right thing” burned inside of me.
As J. was already 3.5 years old by the time we found out about his background, I was able to tell him stories, read him stories and sing to him. One of my favourite lullabies is a song called, “Ho ho watanay”, which means, “Sleep. sleep, little one.” It is an Iroquois lullaby and I sang it to J. every night. I would first sing it in Iroquois, then in English, followed by French and I would sing it one more time, always ending in Iroquois. Interestingly, at age 3, J. would tell me, “Just sing in English mummy.” This is one of my first memories of J. seemingly resisting learning about the First Nations heritage from whence he came.
As J. grew, we would take him to Native festivals and Pow Wow’s. I was fascinated and loved, particularly, the drumming, chanting and dances. The beat of the drums, the peacefulness of the chants and the energy of the dances moved me to the depths of my soul. Yet, for J. these experiences seemed to roll off his back. He would often express his desire to return home to play at the park or to build with his Leggo.
Over the years, as he entered his teen, I offered J. to attend First Nations events, community get togethers, or any cultural events that might help to teach and connect him to his heritage. I offered to find out if he could be registered with a Band. J. turned down all offers I made. The older he got, the more he seemed to resist. One day when I asked if he wanted to attend some sessions to learn about drumming, J. turned to me and stated, clearly and firmly. “Mum, if you want so badly to be a First Nations person, you should go out and do that. I’m really not interested; and right now, I have no need to do so.” He then walked away. I was shocked and mostly sad for J. that despite my efforts, he was not connected, nor seemingly had any desire to connect with his people of origin.
I did much soul searching at that time. I wondered if I had pushed too hard. I wondered if J. felt sad to be with us and felt angry, so was trying to push away or deny his heritage in order to keep from feeling the pain of loss and grief. I wondered if he felt different inside. J. was a boy of “few words”, so I was really unsure. I like to think that somehow a wise spirit guide helped me during those years. A guide who told me to slow down, take a breath and just listen to my son’s voice and spirit. So, I stopped and followed my heart-spirit’s guidance I let things rest.
Here we are, twenty years later and my son still has those dark brown eyes, framed in long, black thick lashes. His hair is no longer shaved, but worn long and as per the fashion today, he even sports a “man-bun” sometimes. His complexion is darker than when he was a boy, because he is always outside in the sun. As he has grown into manhood, to me, he no longer looks like my “Budda Boy”, but he does, indeed, look like a First Nations man. J. has, on his own, developed a passion for being in nature. He expresses the beauty he sees and feels in creation. He seems calm and relaxed when he is outdoors. He loves to bike to old quarries and loves to dive in to the deep, cold water to swim. He loves to canoe and kayak. He loves to be quiet and contemplative. He also loves to sing, write lyrics to music and he tells me that he is, “quite the entertainer”. At age 18, J. did have an opportunity to meet his biological family, on his maternal side; and he stayed with them on their reserve for a short time. He chose to, “not return”, as he shared with me that he did not feel comfortable—yet—to be there, with them, at the reserve. He tells me he still does not find the need to connect with his heritage. J. tells me, “Mum, I’m connected to my family. I’m connected to my girlfriend and my friends in general. I’m happy with who I am right now.”
My role as a wise and loving mother, is to respect and support his decisions. To me, J. is finding himself and finding his own voice, as he travels his own life journey. He is free to do so, at his pace, in his time, based on his needs. This is what self-determination is all about. Like other Indigenous people, J. wants and deserves to have his voice heard and respected. He wants to be master of his own path. In many ways, he is following in the footsteps of his forefathers and daring to forge his own way. Louis Riel once said, “You got to be brave and have courage, believe in yourself, because that is the first thing to success is to believe in yourself.” J. believes in himself and in who he is right now, in the present time of his life. What I am learning, is that J. has not left his forefathers and mothers behind, nor has he forgotten them. Their spirits run deep in his blood, in his mind and in his soul. J. is who he is and for that, I am forever thankful and grateful. I leave you now with a First Nations Metis Indigenous blessing, Meena kawapimitin (See You Soon).
This June, Adopt4Life shares stories from those touched by the issues in and around LGBTQ2S+ as we close in on Pride, and further explores FNMI narratives in light of National Aboriginal History Month.