Written by Abi Turner
What did I dream of when I was younger? To belong. That seems like an odd fact because I did belong in many places. Whether that be at home, at school, in the dance studio or the swimming pool. Being biracial is difficult, it’s fun, but it’s difficult. You have two diverse backgrounds but in some cases they contradict, you get caught in the middle of those famous crossroads. Caught in that middle space where you float about unable to get a sense of yourself. You desperately tell everyone around you that you are a person not an ethnicity pie but don’t assume I am one or another. Don’t make me choose. You see, I am Native Canadian and British. My ancestors on my Father’s side colonised my ancestors on my mother’s side and brought genocide, residential schools and generations of problems upon them. Do you see a slight contradiction yet? Plus as an activist with one of her main focuses on aboriginal issues I find myself often challenging my British side and very much disagreeing with the systems that those that came before me created.
Challenging the systems of a county which lie of the foundations of white supremacy, colonisation and the total mistreatment of women is not in anyway a bad thing; in fact, it’s a pretty great thing. But it often leaves the annoying conversations about how, "Abi, you know you’re British too." I bring up an issue to do with indigenous affairs in which Britain had a negative role or I say ‘my culture’ in referral to my First Nations culture and I’m met with the disapproving sighs and questions about how much Native I am really? It’s frustrating because I’m just Native Canadian and British. I’m not half and half, my blood does not have different colours for my different identities nor is it separate. The fact that my father is British doesn’t diminish myself as a Native woman. It doesn’t make me unfit for my culture, yet that seems to me the message that is being received. My tribal name is still Saayehstakshitl, I am still a part of my two tribes and I am still the granddaughter of the late Chief Robert Thomas of the Snuneymuxw Nation. I still carry the stories of my ancestors, especially the stories of my aunties and grandmothers.
I often doubted where my place was in both communities. I felt that I was too British to exist within my Native community and too British to relish in my potlatches. But I felt that I was too Native to be roped into British ways or that I was too Native to be called white. However, I know that those feelings were incorrect. I have found my place in both identities. Existing as myself wherever makes me who I am, who I was destined to be and who my ancestors dreamt me to be. I debated whether the colour of my skin was a defining feature if it swayed me one way or another. I thought that my connection with my cultural Native Canadian roots meant that I could not grow on both lands. I wondered if my dismantling of the unjust British systems made me an unwelcome citizen. However, I came to the conclusion that I can and I have built my own mould. My connection to my roots just makes me a stronger tree to grow in two places, changing the way I look at British history is allowing me to create a better present and I know that the colour of my skin represents both sides of who I am coming together to make me. A Native Canadian-British woman (teen) activist whose dream, now that she feels as if belongs, is to change the world; one word at a time.
Gif by Analí Jaramillo