8th Fire in 2012

Tan’si! Hi….this feels awkward only because I haven’t posted in so long.  I obviously missed the obligatory “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” posts but I hope you all had a great holiday.  Now that we are well into the new year our lives are all returning to normal.  Thank goodness. 2012.  I thought for sure I would have a jetpack by now.

I was having coffee with my dad the other day and he was looking through the pictures on my laptop of my children over the holidays.  He told me how lucky they are to have so many pictures from their childhood.  He said he only has a few baby pictures of himself and I mentioned that I had a couple that I found online.  He stared at me blankly and I reminded him that I had told him about it over a year ago.  He continued to stare at me so I directed him to this website and showed him this picture. The caption of the picture (from a newspaper at the time) was

“Santa Visits Indian Kiddies at North Battleford.”

Can you guess which one is my dad?

He was completely stunned.  He stared at the picture for the longest time and named all the other boys without reading the caption below it.  He laughed and told me, “We even rounddanced for him. That was a nice day.”  My dad was sick a lot as a child, and spent quite a bit of time in the hospital.  He told me that was why he was only in residential school for a year, he was taken out and put in the hospital .  Maybe being sick saved him from years and years in residential school like my mother had to attend.

I thought of this picture not only because it pertained to Christmas but because I watched 8th Fire – Indigenous in the City on CBC last night, hosted by Wab Kinew.  It is a powerful 4 part documentary that I hope has inspired conversations today.  View it here if you missed it last night.  Please watch it and share the link.  Talk about it as well.  I loved it.  I’m anxious to see the next part and I can’t wait until my children are old enough to discuss it with me.  I myself am not an urban Indian.  (Yes, I just said Indian instead of native, but that is my right.  I was Indian as a child and in my own head I still use the term.  This however doesn’t mean I appreciate others using it in a derogatory manner.)  I grew up on Thunderchild First Nation and only left for university.  Now I find myself living in a small town 10 minutes from my rez, it is not a city but this program resonated with me.  Living in town is so different.  I have neighbors, I can hear vehicles that are not coming to visit…it isn’t quiet and still like I am used to. 
I’m fortunate in that I know what it is like to grow up with my traditions, I was always proud but I wanted more.  I hungered for something I didn’t quite understand.  I always wanted to be “better,” to be “more,” to be “successful.”  I don’t even know where those desires came from, or where or if I even heard them expressed aloud by an adult.  As a child I loved to write, sing in talent shows, dance pow wow and enjoyed performing in plays…but I always knew I was going to university, because I had to.  My parents pushed me towards education, telling me it was my future and that it was the ONLY path I could consider for my future. 
As you know I am now a Speech Pathologist.  Currently I am the only native SLP in my home province of Saskatchewan.  I’ve had people ask me why I choose to live here, why I don’t take my degree and go to the city.  Clearly these people do not understand me.  I might only be 10 minutes from my rez, but it feels farther.  I don’t know that I could move farther because my heart is there.  I love to travel and have not done it much lately but I want to be able to see the world, go to the city and then come home.  It grounds me.  It heals me.  It is me.
(btw the boy with the biggest smile closest to Santa is my dad Gordon Angus)

It’s a Good Day to Dance

When asked what interests, motivates and inspires me besides Speech Pathology several things run through my mind:

1)      Shopping (certainly)

2)      Food (definitely)

3)      Social media (most assuredly)

However, my strongest and most important interests and sources of motivation and inspiration are best described by my twitter handle @ndnspeechmomNdn is an abbreviation of the term “Indian” which, although not politically correct is the term I grew up using to describe myself as a First Nations individual.  Speech seems self-explanatory and mom is the title I wear most proudly. 

The importance of family and cultural identity is the cornerstone of my life and is something that I plan to pass on to my children.  As a child I danced Pow Wow and was even once Thunderchild Junior Princess in 1986.  (If you’d like to see my beaded moosehide sash my dad has it in his man cave.)  It is difficult to describe the feeling you get when you dance to the drum.  It has been years since I was part of the Pow Wow circle but whenever I hear the drum and the singers start those familiar songs I can feel it in my heart.  Someday I want to dance again, but I especially want to raise my children to be comfortable traveling on the Pow Wow trail.  I was so proud on August 28, 2011 at the Thunderchild Pow Wow because that was the first day I got to take all three children into the center while they danced Tiny Tots.  My nervousness as to whether they would like it melted away when I saw my daughter lift her arms and begin to dance.  I was surprised because I didn’t even know that she knew any steps.  My sons were more reserved but they didn’t panic even with the crowds watching them.   I was so excited I forgot to take as many pictures as I would have liked. 

This compilation video includes pictures from the Thunderchild 2011 Pow Wow and several from my family photo album.  The music is a song called, “It’s a Good Day to Dance” by the drum group Blackstone. 


This is a video that I shot with my phone of the drum group that sat directly in front of us.  I was proud that my children enjoyed listening to the drum so close.  The two men visible onscreen are my cousin Marvin Thunderchild and my uncle Eric Tootoosis.  The name of the drum group is Saddleback and I believe they are from the Edmonton area of Alberta.

I feel as though my focus on family and culture serves me well in my professional life as well since I am a school based Speech Pathologist travelling to several different First Nations communities.  I find it rewarding to work with children in the communities around my home reserve of Thunderchild and I hope that I can encourage more First Nations  people to enter the fields of Speech Pathology and Audiology.   I encourage everyone reading this to partake in the beauty that is native culture and to feel the heartbeat of the drum.  It is always indeed “A Good Day to Dance.”

Me? Speak Cree? (i wish)

I was watching APTN and they were speaking with interpreters for native languages at a conference way up north. I loved hearing the different native languages and am pleased the conference was being done in traditional languages; but I was left with a little shame in my heart.

Don’t misunderstand…I’m not ashamed to be First Nation, I’m very proud and thankful that the Creator made me Cree. I feel shame because I don’t speak Cree fluently. I was born and raised on the rez, and both my parents speak Cree fluently. I love hearing my dad speak Cree with his brothers and his friends. I just wish I could do the same. The little Cree I know is what I can remember from elementary school. So sad really.

(Once I asked my dad why he didn’t teach us Cree at home, which resulted in the following exchange.)

Dad- I had a lot of trouble in school because my English wasn’t very good. The grammar and rules for Cree and English aren’t the same. I wanted you guys to be smart and not be mixed up.

Me- I wouldn’t have been mixed up, and it is difficult to acquire a second language as an adult.

Dad- I still think in Cree and have to translate to English. I thought if you wanted to learn it you could when you grew up.

Me- But dad…children under 5’s brains are hard wired to learn language. During that time kids can learn multiple languages and speak them like a first/native language.

Dad- See! I did the right thing, look how smart you are.


He didn’t say so, but I honestly think it all goes back to residential schools. I know the heart of it was a desire for me to do well in school. My parents have always been proud of my scholastic achievements, but deep down I’m jealous of everyone my age and younger who speak Cree fluently.

I don’t blame my parents that I don’t speak Cree, they raised me well and I’m fortunate to have them. I know I’m an adult and I am responsible for my own learning. I need to either find a class or a little old lady who speaks little English. Because I’m a SLP I really dislike when I mispronounce Cree words. (Yes, I started a sentence with because.) Cree words tend to be as long as my arm.

Little cat (kitten)=minosis
My kittens=niminosisak

At least I have my by ever deadly rez accent.

Indian Tacos 101

Indian Tacos are delicious. There is no other way to put it. Whether you call them Navajo Tacos, NDN Tacos or Indian Tacos they all translate to one thing…a happy tummy.
For the frybread base you can either use a yeast based bread or a more traditional bannock. Most tacos that I have had that were made with bannock are a bit on the heavier side once all the toppings are on, so I tend to make a yeast based frybread.

Behold my beautiful frybread!

It’s lighter (in texture not calories…it’s still fried bread after all.) For my fry bread, I use my favorite bread recipe from my Home Ec. teacher in High School.

White Bread

2 c. milk
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. lukewarm water
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
6 1/2 to 7 c. sifted all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. melted butter

In small saucepan, heat milk just until bubbles form around edge of pan. Remove from heat. Add sugar, salt and 1/4 cup butter, stirring until butter is melted. Let cool to lukewarm (a drop sprinkled on wrist will not feel warm.)

Check temperature of warm water (aim for lukewarm.) Sprinkle yeast over water in large bowl, stirring until dissolved. Let sit for 5-10 minutes so yeast can get all bubbly.  Stir milk mixture into yeast mixture.

Add half the flour; beat with wooden spoon, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing it in with hand until dough is stiff enough to leave side of bowl.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured board. Cover with the bowl, let rest 10 minutes. Knead by folding toward you, then pushing down and away from you, with heel of hand. Give dough a quarter turn, repeat kneading, developing a rocking motion. Continue kneading and turning 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place on lightly greased large bowl, turn dough to bring up greased side. Cover with towel. Let rise in warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk (2 fingers poked into dough should leave indentations rising is sufficient.) Punch down dough with fist, turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into smooth ball. Cover with towel, let rest 10 minutes. Take small balls of dough and flatten.  Pierce the bread dough with a fork so they will fry evenly.  Fry in mild cooking oil, flipping once to brown each side.

The following is a recipe for bannock.  If you are planning to use your bannock for tacos you have to FRY your bannock dough.  Otherwise, just enjoy the delicious oven baked bannock.

Bannock : These measurements are an approximation as most bannock makers do not follow a recipe. Trial and error is the key to perfecting bannock.

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup water or milk (or a combination of these 2)
½ cup cooking oil or melted (cooled) lard
1 egg (for baked bannock NOT fried bannock)

Sift or whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl; creating a well in the middle. Add wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to form a soft & moist but not sticky dough. Mix and knead and bake at 350F until it smells so delicious that you can’t stand it (Approx 20-25 minutes, but watch your oven carefully. My mom flips her bannock near the end of the time so it can lightly brown on both sides.)
**FOR FRIED BANNOCK**Flatten the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut with a sharp knife or pizza cutter into squares. Score 1 or 2 lines into each square of dough so that they can cook properly. Carefully fry each piece in oil until brown and “puffy,” turning once.

Taco Meat Filling
I fry lean hamburger with the holy trinity (onion, green pepper and garlic) and drain any grease that remains. Then I add mushrooms (fresh is best but canned will do), taco-y spices, kidney beans and tomato sauce (homemade or canned.) Actually the meat base is a matter of personal taste…some people just use taco flavoured meat, others use chilli. My preference is a combination of these.

Toppings (personally I hate raw tomatoes so feel free to adjust toppings to your taste)
Shredded Lettuce
Chopped Tomatoes
Diced Onion
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Sour Cream
Taco Sauce/Salsa/Guacamole

NDN(speechmom) Taco