Miskâsowin: Discovering my Identity

The term Miskâsowin refers to finding one’s sense of origin or belonging which initially struck confusion in my brain. In the past, when I have been asked to describe or name myself, I usually start by saying my name is Kendall Schneider and then I begin sharing aspects of myself such as my age, interests and hobbies.  Despite all of these things being characteristics that do describe me, I realize that these are all fairly surface-level ideas of myself, and attributes I want others to know about me. But what else makes me who I am? After reading the first two chapters of Indigenous Writes written by Chelsea Vowel, I feel motivated to begin disrupting the shallow ideas I have about who I am and strive towards defining myself in terms of being a treaty person. It is important for me to begin challenging myself to consider who I am, as an individual living in Canada, and what has made me the person that I am today.

Thinking of myself as a Treaty person is something I have avoided in the past because of the negative history between white settlers and Indigenous Peoples. It is not okay for me to live in denial and although it may be uncomfortable it is important that I identify myself appropriately in order to move away from the past in a positive direction. I am a Settler because I belong to “the non-Indigenous peoples living in Canada who form the European-descended sociopolitical majority.” I recognize that because of this label, I am automatically privileged. I know that the land that I grew up on and call Canada did not belong to my family who settled here and that many customs that are a part of my everyday life originated from settler colonials who are my ancestors.  I am a treaty person because my European Ancestors signed the treaty agreements and I am currently living on treaty 4 land and benefitting from treaty rights.

Beyond being a settler and treaty person, I am a Canadian, White, able-bodied, middle class, cis-gender, straight, Christian women and I am fortunate due to many of these identity features. But what do these labels really mean for me? I know that many of these titles place me in majority groups and thus, I am benefited by the societal norms and social constructs simply for fitting into the categories. For the purpose of finding my sense of origin, I will explore the term Canadian in relation to my personal story comprehensively.

Canadian is a term that I have used for as long as I can remember and I always thought of it as simply a person who lives in Canada. As a white settler in Canada, I am able to hide behind basic elements of my country such as the colours red and white or the temperature being cold because that is where the focus is placed in the media but it is important for me to acknowledge the serious attributes that represent my nation. The Canadian Grand Narrative is problematic because it demonstrates the idea that Canadian history begins with the arrival of Europeans and entirely disregards the people who were on the land prior to this settlement. It is important that when I call myself Canadian, I take ownership of Canada’s true history rather than showing ignorance by believing the stereotypical definitions of Canadians. After consulting my parents, I believe that I am a third-generation Canadian meaning that my great grandparents were not born in Canada but settled on Canadian soil during their lifetimes. All of my great grandparents’ heritage traces back to be German but other than a few phrases, which I struggle to remember, there are no German traditions that are practiced within my family today. Thus, Germany is part of my origin story but not something I relate to.  I challenge myself to continue to explore what being Canadian means to me and my sense of belonging on this land.

Throughout this semester, I look forward to committing myself to explore uncomfortable ideas of my identity and to become content with accepting that the history of my peoples is not all positive. I hope to open myself up to unlearning about what I have previously thought it means to be Canadian in order to welcome and learn new ideas that help to define my identity. I pledge to be honest, open, and resistant to jumping to conclusions with the purpose of avoiding difficult thoughts, in order to strengthen my understanding of myself as a treaty person and how that influences my identity.

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