RE­CLAIM­ING the grand­mother’s place

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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.

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