Pamela Palmater’s book ‘Beyond Blood Rethinking Indigenous Identity’ is in my view, required reading for anyone interested in examining how the Indian Act has warped Indigenous nationhood, divided families and for many, caused a crippling sense of isolation.
I am a new status ‘Indian’ and I know all too well what it feels like to not belong. I did not have the opportunity to be raised with a sense of my Indigenous nationhood, despite knowing and feeling that I was Anishinaabe, I was always on the outside looking in. But why is that? What is it about status that we have internalized? ‘Beyond Blood, Rethinking Indigenous Identity’ offers insight.
Why is it that non-Indigenous people have the power to determine who belongs to our Indigenous nations and who doesn’t? Why do they have the power to shape and control our nations? Why do they have the power to divide our families? To take away our sense of belonging? Why do they have the power to legislate our nations out of existence? And they will if we let them! Assimilation has always been the goal.
For all people, feeling a sense of belonging is important for mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing – the Indian Act took that from us. ‘Beyond Blood Rethinking Indigenous Identity,’ really spoke to my sense of disconnection as a mixed blood Indigenous woman. Thomas King reflected in ‘The Truth About Stories’ that most of those he has known who have committed suicide were mixed bloods. I also know that sociologically speaking, Durkheim correlates low levels of social solidarity with suicide. Being aware of where that sense of disconnection comes from is absolutely key to overcoming it, so I must thank Pamela Palmater for sharing her experience.
I had the opportunity to offer my thanks and praise for her work in person in my own dorky way, when she spoke at Ryerson University during the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation. “You’re like my hero Pam! You are like a rock star to me!” I said. Not my most scholarly moment, but it was genuine.