Monday, March 12, 2012

Aboriginal Irish Blood Memory

I have been searching for a word lately. The lack of this word has seriously impeded my ability to communicate on this blog.  The word, or rather the lack of the word, has been the metaphorical brick blocking my creativity.  My writer's block had become a word and the lack of it was preventing me from writing.

I was in northern Ontario, Kenora, recently.  My dear friend has lived there for nearly twenty years now and it is only the second time I've gone up to her.  Now that my own child is nearly grown up I can avail of the independence both of us now have.  I am enjoying being able to make the time for trips and people I deeply care about.  This friend in Kenora is a special connection that I hope continues for many many more years and with many more shared trips such as the one I had last month.

In the early 90s, this friend of mine got her teaching degree and obtained her first position at the school I first attended in Toronto.  I only attended this school for not quite two years (junior and senior kindergarten).  My parents moved to Brampton before I finished kindergarten.  My friend and I thought this was an interesting coincidence since she moved to the very area I spent my early youth exploring with wild abandon.  She was not long for the city though.  Whilst knocking herself out in her first years of teaching she embarked in Ojibwa lessons at night so that she could move north and teach on a reserve.  She has native blood and it was screaming at her during our early friendship so she honoured this and arranged her life to be more in touch with this calling.

It is fitting that during my trip up to see her that she introduced me to the native concept of blood memory.  I had been mentioning a research article I had recently read that announced the fact that yes, the cells of our maternal ancestors never leave us and as mothers, we carry the cells of the all the children we have ever borne.  That moment, when she connected the native blood memory legend to the scientific reality of it was like turning on a light bulb to me.  I have always been drawn to native lore.  I think most people can't help it. Everything they talk about resonates with clarity in my being.  I heard Clayton Thomas-Muller, the noted indigenous activist, talk last week and not only did that one lightbulb of blood memory awareness get brighter but an additional stadium of lighting got lit up in my mind.  [If you want to see Clayton in action yourself, check out this fantastic 25 minute video of him talking about the indigenous perspective on the Occupy movement.]

My people are pure Irish.  I am Canadian born but my Irish ancestors go back at least two hundred years and most likely for thousands.  The burning of nearly all Irish records hinders the ability of the Irish to prove this reality.  The practical ramifications of the pillaging of Irish culture by the British means that we can not go back more than seven generations or so.  During the live talk that I attended, Clayton mentioned the many native legends about the seven fires prophecy.  I started to tingle when he mentioned this.  You see, while I was in Winnipeg I had written the following quote, penned by Lois Riel, and transcribed by myself into my brand new travel journal gifted to me by my Kenora friend, on Manitoba's Lois Riel day 2012:  "My people will sleep for 100 years, and when they awake, it will be artists who give them back their spirit."

And yet another interesting thing has happened as of late.  My maternal grandmother has visited me recently in my dreams.  This has occurred in the past and I've always found comfort in these shadowy meetups.  She died when I was quite young so have very fleeting memories of the last trip I had to Ireland when she was alive.  I was four and I'm the only descendant of my generation to carry any memory of her since I am the oldest of my cousins.  My mother is working on a memoir of her life and I eagerly await it.  There have been other Irish-themed occurrences that have demanded  my attention as of late.  An Irish friend gave me a necklace crafted in the manner and form that my ancestors would have done and in the area where my maternal line descends from.  In this relatively new blog I've already written twice (here and here) about ancient Irish celebrations.  Orangemen Order references by high school mates.  I reconnected with an Irish acquaintance who had been not far from my thoughts.  Etc, etc.

And now we return to that metaphorical brick, the word I was seeking out.  I felt it was Irish even though I do not speak Irish.  And after talking to my mother today and trying to suss out the word I realized that perhaps it wasn't a 'word' at all.  Perhaps it was my aboriginal Irish blood memory screaming for a voice.  And so here it is.  For me, the prophecy of the seven fires now includes the Aboriginal Irish.  We too are awakening and joining indigenous people across Turtle island.  Our ancestors, the ones oppressed, starved, murdered and culturally nearly annihilated are screaming in my blood.  I am listening and writing, once more.

This quilt was made by Kim Ratuski and is one of seven exquisite quilts made by her and are
 hanging in the music room at a Kenora high school.


  1. I love that your totem is a turtle to reinforce what you are feeling now. And there is such a strong movement now in Ireland to reclaim our spirit and heritage.

  2. May I suggest a 4 day time lag before capcha kicks in? I did this on mine and suggested it to others. The new capchas often take 4 attempts as they are nearly illegible. Spammers are always weeks/months after the post.


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