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“Indian Horse” DAAANNNGGGGG!!!!!

Aaniin, Rezidivism- the tendency for Rez Life to cause a tendency to repeat undesirable behavior over generations resulting in identity loss.

I recently watched the movie Indian Horse. It’s on AmazonPrime for rent or buy. I bought it. The first time I heard about this movie was a few years back. Maybe 3-4 years..... dunno really. Anyway, the trailer was these 2 shinaab boys being hauled by a nun to a the priests office at a school. The priest talked about biblical names blah blah blah. One of the boys refused to speak english and wanted to keep the name his father gave him. The cool part, the boys were speaking Ojibwe. At this point in my learning, I was able to recognize the language but not quite able to understand. I knew he was speaking Ojibwe and the subtitles at the bottom, which I tried not to look at, translated well. The nun starts struggling with the boy that did not want to speak English and the other boy, who was younger, was scared. The nun pushes the boy face first on the desk and grabs a leather strap. She winds up..... AND........ cut scene. (Goosebumps). My heart was pumping. I did not know what to feel. Sad. Anger. Definitely Anxiety. I felt the lump in my throat and tears welling up. I felt pain, emotional hurt and fear.

Coupla weeks ago...... I watched Indian Horse. Right away my blood memory kicked my subconscious into gear and sent messengers to my brain to start the flow of Anxious chemicals to feed my body. Tears were sent forth 10 minutes into the film, they ebbed and flowed throughout the movie. There is a scene which made me think of when I was having trouble learning the language. I hit a peak to where I was not learning more and some stuff I was learning I was forgetting. It was tough and I thought that I was incapable of learning the language. I started feeling the shame of being insufficient to even be Anishinaabe. How can I be shinaab if I am unable to even take my own language on? I started to think about my relationship to the language. What did I think of it? How do I believe I should interact with it? What are my core beliefs in regards to the Language? That question got me thinking. I started thinking about what I believe about the language. When I was young boy, I was able to hear the language everywhere. I heard it at home from my grandma. I heard her talking with her friends and relatives. I heard it at the Cash’s Store, the community center, dancehall, everywhere.(I didn’t leave the Rez much). When I heard them visiting, they were having the best time!! Laughing good o belly laughs!! It looked like so much fun. I would ask what they were talking about and they would say “SShhh”. Every time I asked they would say that. When at the dancehall, I would ask what the old man said, “Ssshhh, just listen”. I formed the belief that I was not meant to know what was said but I was just to listen. Also, they would tell me when my weh’eh was in boarding school the teachers would lock him in the basement if he spoke Ojibwe. I was about 6-8 years old at this time. In my mind, the basement was the scariest place on earth and when my weh’eh ,who was a strong person that went to war and was well respected, spoke Ojibwe they would chain him to a radiator there. I formed the belief that if I spoke Ojibwe, something bad would happen to me.

Couple the beliefs that I am not meant to know what was said but only listen and if I speak Ojibwe something bad was going to happen to me, no wonder I had problems learning. When I started addressing these beliefs, my language learning started to improve. I was not being “Ssshh”d because I wasn’t meant to know, it was because I was interrupting my Elders. Nothing bad is going to happen to me because I speak the language. I still have work on these beliefs because I think there are more not only in regards to my language but to my belief that I capable of being a great being such as an Anishinaabe. Am I even worthy?

The basement scene is in Indian Horse. When I seen it, I can imagine my uncle down there but now I seen it with my own eyes. Maybe in my blood memory there is the link that got passed to me. The fear of the basement. The pain of being whipped. The anxiety of constantly being in state of worry. The shame of not knowing who I am. The pain of having a wound that was inflicted to a distant ancestor I don’t know the name of.

This movie gave me all the feelings at once. In recovery now, I dare myself to feel Emotions. I would cut them off for the longest time but now I intentionally feel. At one point in my life, my therapist said I lack empathy because I turn my emotions off. Trying to connect to people and express myself in order to help and heal, I had to accept that I needed to feel. I need to feel happy. I need to feel sad. Anger cannot replace these feelings for it is an inaccurate expression of emotion. The tears well up quicker and I feel like crying more often. I know that I need to feel in order to help others. This concept is also in this film. Burying your emotions and replacing them with busy work/distractions/addiction does not help. As Obizaan would say, “if you pack all that energy up, you would become like a keg with no air hole. At some point you will blow up but it will only harm you and the people closest to you”. Looking back that’s exactly what happened.

I recommend this movie and would like to hear what you think of it. Also, I encourage you to learn something new about Ojibwe Language, Culture, History everyday. Take 10 minutes and learn something. The more we know, the more we can pursue our collective connection to the Manidoog.

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I know I have been promising the Rezidivism Podcast and I will kick my butt into gear to get it started.


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