My mother raised us to “be proud of our heritage”. We rarely talked about it, so I wasn’t sure what she meant other than the fact that we were “part Chippewa”. She still tells a story about the time I proudly stated to one of their friends “I’m part Chippewa”! Intrigued, the friend said, “that’s wonderful, Patty – and what’s the other part”? I could only reply – “Umm – Catholic”?
My grandparents and one Auntie raised their families on the Turtle Mountain Reservation near the Canadian border. We visited occasionally but were, for the most part, “urban Indians”. We lived our lives without exposure to the traditions of my people and didn’t know much about our ways. I spent my Grandmothers last year of life on the reservation and still felt like a “visitor” in my own homeland.
Pemmican Patty changed all of that! I learned that the word “Chippewa” was actually slang for Ojibway. I learned that my heritage was actually that of the Metis – a beautiful blend of cultures from European and Indigenous people. I learned of the boarding school era that impacted Native languages and traditions in families across the continent. I learned about the history of my ancestors and their struggle to maintain their way of life and of the incident (a massacre) that determined my very existence!
The more I learned, the more I wanted to know! That desire prompted conversations with family members that brought about understanding and healing, bringing us closer than we’d ever been! This stirred a strong desire in me to be “proud of my heritage” in as many ways as I was able.
Pemmican Patty Food Company has opened the door to an opportunity for me to keep our culture alive for future generations, not only in my family but hopefully in others. Being a part of revitalizing Native foodways and supporting sustainable, healthy nutrition for my relatives gives me a feeling of “connectedness” that I am compelled to share.
To me, every month is Native American Heritage month. I feel it is my responsibility to do my part to provide a better future for generations to come. I can do that by being mindful of my impact on others (including the land) in my thoughts, words, and actions. Take no more than I need and share all that I have. To be a “good relative” out of respect for my ancestors.
Giga-waabamin menawaa (I shall see you again)