RECLAIMING the grandmother’s place
involved and more and more families are looking for support.”
Levinia Brown has more than 40 grandchildren. Originally from Rankin Inlet, she has seen her voice in the family and in the community weaken. It seems everything is up for a vote now, everyone has an agenda, but things don’t seem to be getting any better, she says.
“They call it a democracy, but I only see a few people happy. In the old days, I was approached for counsel by the young people. For whatever reason, that stopped and suddenly no one cared for what I had to say anymore.”
It’s not just the young who have been searching for direction, Belinda Vandenbroke says. Adults, and even elders in the community, are also struggling with the concepts of identity, too.
“You can’t say that every grandmother and every grandfather knows that they’re aboriginal, but most don’t know anything more than that,” she said. “So many families have been separated ( through residential schools)... so much was lost during that time.”
Vandenbroke, 65, speaks from the heart. Her regret over not fully exploring — sometimes not even initiating — the conversation of history and tradition with her own grandparents comes through in her voice. She wonders what traditions and stories she’s missed out on through circumstances both in and out of her control.
It’s a vicious cycle: Her disconnect as a child led to disconnect with her own children.
“People are waking up to the fact that traditional knowledge needs to be acknowledged,” she said. “It never went away. It was hidden during those dark times. I worry though, that we’ll never know about some things, some of the traditions, and it breaks my heart.”
It would have been difficult to have those conversations with her grandparents during the residential school chapter of Canadian aboriginal history: Parents and grandparents weren’t allowed to have any contact with the children.
Like the other grandmothers participating in Saturday’s march, Vandenbroke catches herself worrying about the future and wondering if the modern daily distractions available to everyone across all cultures are too ingrained with the younger generations. The apathy is like a disease, she says.
“But you have to keep talking about it,” she said. “I feel like we don’t have a choice. It’s what needs to happen.”
Seven- year- old Ryleigh Todd- Moore ( left) sits on her mother’s lap while singing and drumming with a drum group on a float under a Main Street bridge Saturday.