I love a good story. To me there's nothing quite like one. The weaving together of words and emotions to create pictures that run through our minds. But also that course through our veins as we feel the excitements and tensions of our story's characters. On this episode of in the house, Jenny Blackbird shares part of her story. She'll talk about what it was like for her as an Indigenous person going to school in Toronto, encountering the many institutions that have been used to marginalize Indigenous people throughout time. Jenny's is one story amongst many, and it is important for us to gather and listen to the one and to the many. So welcome to this gathering place. Pull up a chair. Pour yourself something warm, and take a listen to Jenny's story.
Jenny Blackbird 01:17
Tansi! My name is Jenny Blackbird. My father's family is from Treaty Six Territory Kehewin Cree Nation Alberta. My mother is from Finland. I grew up in Toronto, I work at University of Toronto as the Outreach Communications and Programming Coordinator, also the Ciimaan/Kahuwe'ya/Qajaq Indigenous Language Initiative Program Coordinator at the Centre for Indigenous Studies, as well as working with the learning and community team at Hart House. I'm currently working on several different mini projects. I'm inviting Indigenous artists to facilitate language workshops, or cultural based workshops and also working a lot with Day Milman, who is one of the senior coordinators at Hart House. I've been working at the Center for Indigenous Studies since October of 2016. So, I had not been working in a formal capacity in quite a while before that I had been working a lot of part time jobs and doing a lot of art. And I had a involvement with an arts grant and did a an art piece. So there was a lot of different schedules that I was working with, and a lot of a lot more freedom in terms of how I worked and who I worked with. And I also worked at Red pepper spectacle arts for about a year and that had a lot of involvement with Indigenous community even though the the organizations not necessarily an Indigenous organization. And before that I worked 13 years in music publishing, so that was quite a different switch from sitting at a desk job to doing art and then coming back to a job that worked for a very big institution. So, working within University of Toronto is very different in a way because there's so many different avenues and channels and things you have to navigate through. As an Indigenous person. I'm only one person with my own experience. So for me, it's very important to listen to other experiences and other voices because they may be having a more difficult time. And I always try and find the best ways to listen or offer help when I can and also being in the position working with the language initiative program. I'm also working with non Indigenous students, so it's very interesting to work with people who have no family connection or community connection to language, as opposed to working with people who either have a little bit of knowledge, or they're regaining their reclaiming. So, the emotions are always different and then my own emotions come up because I didn't grow up as a language speaker of my father's language. I heard Finnish in the home, and I speak English fluently. So it's kind of a, an interesting situation because I understand many bits of different languages. But I feel like it's a it's a good opportunity for me to reach out and connect with those who can facilitate, and can, because I'm not a teacher in that sense, I'm not a teacher, not a TA, I'm not a teacher. So I don't really give the lessons I just bring in the people who can either provide, you know, storytelling, Indigenous worldview, teachings, different things like that. So, I feel very fortunate to get a chance to work with so many different people.
I mean, in so many senses, you're acting as a conduit, you know, as as the person who allows it to happen. So it's a very, it's a great position to hold for sure. And definitely one to honor. So, I really do like how you knew on some say, you know that you're one of many Indigenous people. And I think sometimes, in these conversations, while we want to exalt Indigenous people and hold them up and, and make space so that they can reclaim, reclaim, in so many ways in some across so many different spaces, but, you know, sometimes we can essentialize. So, thank you for pointing out that you are one of many experiences and that we need to make space for multiple voices as opposed to assuming some kind of homogeny.
Jenny Blackbird 06:11
Right. And I and I also did work at the Royal Ontario Museum. And that was, that was a big responsibility in terms of reminding the guests, because we would have school groups and different tours come through, and I would always have to remind them that I'm one person, and a very light skinned, so my experience is so different from someone who's very dark skinned. And I want to, I always want to remind people of that. And then there's also Black Indigenous people who are even more marginalized, because they don't get accepted by society at large, they don't get accepted in general by a lot of Indigenous communities, because its anti-blackness is so ingrained in our whole society. So, I always try and remind people to listen more than they talk, you know, okay, we have to two ears and one mouth for a reason. So, don't go assuming and be like, hey, but you don't look... yeah, but you're not presenting this way. So it's, it's always a responsibility when you're in a public situation, and trying to really navigate through the difficult comments and the difficult conversations that people bring up. So, I got a lot of, I got a lot of different feedback. And I was really grateful that my manager was really good and was always like, you know, if it's if it's a difficult conversation, where somebody is just not listening, and they're basing their knowledge on misinformation, you can take your break. *Chuckling*
No, that was it. Sometimes that's the best, that's the best way to do it. Right? Yeah. Not always have to answer back to everything. For sure. Um, and yeah, there is that nuance about, you know, that there is Black, there are Black Indigenous people, right. And we talked about that a bit on some other episodes. And it's, you know, there's many reasons for solidarity, certainly, but it's one big, you know, indicator that, you know, solidarities exists both within people and need to exist across peoples too. So, how do we build those bridges and make sure that we're not fighting single issue fights, right. We can do it collectively across the issues. Um, yeah. So let's talk about your experience in the education system. *Chuckling * Right. And we, I mean, when we talk about the education system, what we're talking about in this context is the formal education system, right? Because education occurs in multiple spaces, but you know, tell me about kind of growing up in this system on stolen land as it were, right, and trying to really situate yourself as an Indigenous person as a mixed person, even I know that you are mixed, do you identify as Métis? What some of the nuance there?
Jenny Blackbird 09:22
No, no, Métis, Métis, yeah, Métis is very specific to certain families from a certain region. Métis in the French, the actual French language does mean mixed. But, there's a definition that it's not every mixed Indigenous person. So, I remember actually having a conversation with my mother when I was really little, because I had heard the term somewhere might have been at school, and I went home, and I said: Mom am I Métis? And she said no because I'm not from that area, I'm from Finland. And so you are a mixed, you have mixed heritage, but you're not Métis because that's very, very specific. So for from a young age, I knew that I wasn't, and I think I think that is actually an important piece for other folks that don't know because there are a lot of people who think that that because of the actual French word, that that's the definition and that's what it means you can be of mixed heritage and that's totally fine. We don't have to have a name for it, there are, there are different kinds of Métis mixes, there's the French Cree, the Scottish Cree, so, that's why you might find a lot of McLeods or the last names are very... the Hirondelle like they're French last names, but there are also Indigenous last names from their communities and because they would have kinship, and you would obviously have either Cree or Anishinaabe cousins, so you would probably speak those languages as well as Michif, and so it's, it's actually quite interesting. And I have Facebook friend, she's always like, while when people would come when the settlers came, and they, you know, had babies with the Indigenous women or whatever, she said, those babies would be identified by the Mi'kmaq, they would be Mi'kmaq, because you got absorbed by the nation. And so she was like, so we wouldn't have said you're half of anything or quarter of anything. And this is way before the Indian Act. And this is way before there was cards, and you have to be a certain percentage to get a benefit. So it's really interesting how kinship works. And there's also people who are not related by blood at all, but they've been adopted. So it's very complex. And so that, once again, you have to actually just listen to the nation that is saying, Oh, we've adopted this person, because they're, I think there's a Black basketball player who was adopted, but he's not Indigenous. But he, he, they say he's our kin. And it threw everybody for a loop and everyone was freaking out. But the community's like, the family is like, No, he's our kin, he's our family. And people are like, but how he's not you blood! *chuckling* So that's another layer of how Indigenous relationships, that you have to just listen to those families, and how they, that's how they call it. Because in, you know, this white society, you know, you're, if you're part Indigenous, you're cast off, right? So that's why a lot of Métis folks, they didn't get accepted by French or, you know, British or the white folks. And they literally, and then they couldn't live on reserves, because they weren't status Indians, so they literally had to live at the side of the road. Because that's all they could, that's, that's the only territory that they actually could live on. So there's road allowance people, and then there's other people who had a little bit more. They had a little bit more going for them. They had a wealthy, like, maybe the white side of their family was wealthy. So, they they had a house and they had income. But so it's very different for -- it's different for every situation.
Right. I mean, that connects a lot to like, you know, mixing in terms of being Black and mixed, right. And it's interesting in terms of like, the linguistic shift of that, because mixed was essentially a term faded as rejection. Right. And it was really as a rejection from whiteness, so that you represented the racial impurity of whiteness. Right? And yeah, but but you were elevated from blackness. Right? So it is it is interesting how those histories align in a lot of ways. And, you know, as we talk about education today, like what is normalized and what is socialized as to be family, or to be person or to be accepted, right. So thank you for that opening bit of education for me, and hopefully, you know, for others too, so that we can expand what we know together.
Jenny Blackbird 14:38
Jenny Blackbird 14:40
And so I just, I want to say that like in my education, my formal education when I started going to school, I grew up in Toronto, so I had a single parent with disabilities, epilepsy, and we had to exist on social assistance at different times in my life. So, my mother did the best because my father passed away, so my mother did her best. I think she had a tiny bit of support from her family. But, you know, it's, it's hard, right? So, going to school for me, was kind of exciting. I actually remember my first day of kindergarten, which was exciting, because I got to wear a new outfit. And I had, you know, I think I was pretty social when I was a little kid. And I got in trouble because I had bubblegum. So I remember the first, the first thing I was told: no. And then there were certain times where I recall putting my hand up a lot because I knew answers. And finally being told no, you have to let other people answer. Because I guess I was just so excited. And I knew some things you know, you kids, kids are smart kids know things, kids pick things up, right? So a lot of the, and this is the funny thing, too. It's like the neighborhood at the time in the 70s, oh I'm aging myself *chuckles* was, it was a mix of like working class, very, you know, very working class, very mixed. So I went to school with kids from all over. One of my little best friends was her family was from Jamaica, I had a new friend whose family was from Pakistan. So I was very, very, like open and very interested like, oh, where you from? What's it like there? You know, very excited. And there was one day when my little friend from Pakistan, someone was making fun of him. And he wasn't there. And they said a word. And I jumped, I literally physically jumped on this kid, sat on his chest and strangled him, and said, if you're gonna say things like that, get off my land. I mean, it's not good. I don't I don't advocate violence I mean in retrospect, yeah, that was wrong, but it's funny, because I was so little. And I was like, get off my land. The teacher had to pick me up by my armpits and I was flailing. I had to have the talk, but I was very defensive. And I was very aware that, I mean, even though I don't live on my territory, I knew that this this is Indigenous land. And back in the day, we would say, you're either Indian, or you were native. So I was used to saying, I'm native, and hey, this is my land. Sort of like, keep, you know, keep in line, right? If you're gonna be like that. And I was always taught, yeah, you know, we do have people from different places and that's cool. And so being aware of that, but not having an incredible amount of guidance from my dad's family, because we couldn't afford to go out west. They couldn't afford to come here. So, I grew up in this Finnish-Canadian home, and it was very hard because I didn't look like anybody else. I was very visibly, not white and we ended up going to Finland when I was five. And people were asking my grandmother is that a Vietnamese orphan, did you adopt? Because back in those days, people would just adopt these kids, right? So there was a lot of interesting things that were happening and things being said to my family. I knew I was different. Ah, I did get, I was not good at math after a certain point. I didn't feel like I had a lot of support in the classroom.
Jenny Blackbird 19:25
So, I had, my mom had to get a tutor. I still didn't get it because I couldn't apply it. French, same thing. I had no reason for it. No one in my home spoke French, so, why am I speaking Frenc. Art was my big thing. Who doesn't like making a mess? Who doesn't like making pretty things? Who doesn't like expressing themselves? So a lot of my expression, the teachers would always be like, wow, that's interesting. And at one point I started drawing frowning, angry faces on things on faces. And the teacher actually called my mom and and said, is there something going on at home? And there was, it was actually because I'd watched an episode of The Waltons, and there was a fire, and their house burned down. And for some reason, in my mind, I thought, if I draw angry faces on things that will scare the fire away. So, I had all these, you know, all these thoughts, maybe that'll scare it away. So there were certain times where nothing was really wrong, but they they raised a red flag, but when there was something wrong, they didn't help. So, it was like they were looking for problems in these in these different spaces. And then not acknowledging that kids get angry. Kids get scared. You want to draw a picture of a cloud and a thunder bolt, it doesn't mean that you're gonna hurt somebody, it just means you're just, you're curious about nature, you're curious about thunder, I was interested in that, I thought it was neat. And then at one point, we had to, we moved, we had to move, so I moved to a different school, different school district. So, being in a different school was very jarring in some ways, but you know, kids are adaptable, and then I had to go back to the other school because the school I moved to was going to French immersion.
We already know, you didn't like French.
Jenny Blackbird 21:39
And my mom was like, there's no reason for her to. And I was like, no, I can't, no there's no point. So I went back and finished my finished my schooling at Davisville Public School, and then I moved to Hodgson seven and eight, which we're...
Middle school, huh?
Jenny Blackbird 22:09
Yes. Which were some of the worst experiences of my life.
Jenny Blackbird 22:15
So, this is the school that was a little bit more, a little bit less diverse, let's say.
Let's talk about your, but let's talk about that first part, you know, that level of awareness that children have, right, that sometimes gets taken for granted? Even if it wasn't the level of being able to analyze it, like we are now as adults and looking back, you know, retrospect, hindsight is 2020. And all that. There is a level of awareness that, you know, children have and cultivate too. Right? Even knowing that, you know, thinking about how drawing an emotion would chase away a negative thing, right, and not realizing that it actually might bring in something more negative in a particular way in terms of other people's engagements with certain types of children's expressions, right? Is there a problem at home rather than are you doing okay? And that translating into either not helping at all or pathologizing? Right. So how did your mom deal with that?
Jenny Blackbird 23:31
I think she's always been very understanding and kind of like, well, what is it? What's going on? And I honestly can't remember if I just said, I saw this TV show, and it scared me. Because fire, you know, I mean, it can be a scary thing. But it's also a good thing when you're when you're controlling it. And I think what I associated the most was the Raggedy Ann doll that got burned, and I had a Raggedy Ann doll, and I was like, oh, no, my doll, I want to protect my doll. So I would put this doll next to the bed and I would wake up and look at the look at the doll like, okay, you're still there. We're not on fire. Because for some reason, I had this big paranoia about fire. And then I actually I just remembered this right now. One of my friends at school, died in a house fire. So that may have been the two events that made me go, oh, no, I have to protect myself. And also not knowing that many people in many cultures, we may write or draw to protect ourselves. So that that could totally be an instinct. I don't want to say blood memory because I'm like, I believe in it. But there's also things that we may kind of know or try instinctively, huh? Like, I'm going to be bigger and scarier than you so that you're not going to tower over me and scare me. Right?
I mean, children have their own protective measures, right? Let's talk about, let's move on to talk about and talk about the middle school experience, you know, shifting that awareness shifting age and what those kind of interactions then...
Jenny Blackbird 25:31
Yeah, middle school. So we moved further in history class and learned more about the "foundation of Canada", this, this place we call Canada. So, knowing that I was always told that I was descended from one of the Chiefs that signed Treaty Six. So, I was always aware of that and kind of like, cool. This is, it's an actually a privilege to know who one of your ancestors was or is, it's lots of people don't know that lots of people don't have photographs. Lots of people who are broken off and they just don't know. So I was always like, this is really cool. I'm excited. And I think: okay, they're gonna do Canada history. Yes! Like, we're gonna learn all about it, and he's gonna be there. And we get to the chapter of I don't even know if it was Cartier or Champlain. They showed up, all their guys had scurvy. And the locals showed them how to get over it. The locals gave them the pine needle tea and help them, so, and then they went on to talk about how great Cartier and Cabot you know, all these all these white guys, all these European guys, how great they were. And I was like, so... Indians get a paragraph. And I remember looking through the book and flipping through it, and there's nothing about my ancestor, there's nothing about my family. There's nothing about, and then I thought about it like later on in my adult years, there's nothing about the women. Nothing. You may hear about Ooh, Pocahontas, and Sacagawea, but that's also stateside and that's also like, very, the history is very inaccurate in some ways, especially with Pocahontas anyway, so it was very disappointing. I think I did well academically in history and art. Math, French, forget it. Because, yeah, actually, I think in grade four, we had a teacher who used to do these like Monster Math. And she would put stacks and stacks and stacks of numbers and then time it. And that was very unfair, becaus I was not quick with it. I look at numbers and I freeze, and I go: Oh, no, why do I have to add seven rows? Or, you know, that pressure of when they say, okay, what's 42 times seven, and then they point at you? And they put and they point at you expecting you to be like, I know what that is!
Jenny Blackbird 28:24
And it's competition, and it's, it's making me feel really awful. So, math, forget it. And then, I think I passed grade seven. And, you know, it wasn't the most exciting time. It's awkward for everybody when you're a teenager. And then grade eight came along. And it was possibly one of the most difficult times of my life. Because everyone decided to pick on me every day.
Jenny Blackbird 29:03
Everyone decided to call me ugly. Everyone decided to call me stupid. I got spat on. Then there was the last name that I have. So, Blackbird is actually an anglicised version of that name, which I do not talk about, because no one could get over the name. They couldn't just say, oh, yeah, that's like Smith. It's like Jones. Yeah, they would make fun of it. Right off the bat. So the first thing when I say my name is Jenny, fill in the blank. Oh, that's a funny last name, blahblahblah, when you go through years and years and years. It's like I just kind of have this the sign my body language and I'm like *deep sigh* okay, yeah, Ha. Ha. It's very funny, and then they then they would keep at it. So then I would have people coming up to me in the hallways and saying my full name and making fun of me to my face. So it was this: Well, what's the point? What's the point of me even engaging?
Jenny Blackbird 30:18
So, I also came into my change of life -- came into that wonderful, wonderful time, where I had to look at things differently and my body hurt, and I don't go into detail because, you know, some, some listeners may not be *chuckles* comfortable, I don't know. But my mother was fantastic. She taught me from an early age, what the body may do in the future, what may happen, and that it's okay. So, I went home that afternoon, I actually went to my grandmother's place. I called my mom at work and said: can I take the afternoon off? I have this thing. And she got all excited. And she she got the afternoon off work I get I think she worked the morning. And came over to Granny's place and sat down and was like, Yay! She actually called my friends and my mother's friend, she called a friend and said, guess what? Because she said, can I tell her? This is exciting! So then, she passes the phone to me and her dear friend was like: Congratulations! Welcome to the world of women! It was really exciting. It was like, okay, I've got this great positive outlook, whereas I've used to read a lot actually I read Our Bodies, Ourselves that great book on everything about being a woman. Hmm. So I read the stories about girls getting slapped girls, getting shamed, being called dirty, you know, being told that you're, oh, great, now you're now you're whatever, fill in the blank. So I was very fortunate that my mom was so supportive. So I, you know, took my aspirin and sat on the couch and relaxed and then the next day, I was like, okay, I guess I'll go to school, and I felt weird. You know, I was like, okay, it's yeah, I got to take the aspirin again. And then the bullying continued. And because I knew that, oh, I could take a day off. Hmm. Okay, Mom, I have to take a day off. I'm in pain. Okay, stay in bed. So, day off turned into a month. Because I refused to go to school. I refused because every day I was getting spat on and called names and told I was stupid, right to my face. And my mom always taught me just to be like, ask them why, or just say, I'm glad you think so. And walk away, because initially it's on them. But in the moment, when you're getting teased by 15-20 children, and I'm calling them children. They were not they were not young adults. They were children. And so I stayed home, and all I did was listen to radio. I read dictionaries and encyclopedias. Because I thought, why do I need people? I have books. I have radio. And it was like that guy from the Twilight Zone? Why do I need people? I have books! Right? And then my grandmother would call me...
That sounds like a very good question! *laughter*
Jenny Blackbird 34:01
So, my grandmother would call me and say, you know why are you doing this? This is horrible. You, you have this problem, and you have to, you have to go back to school. And I was like, why? This is not helping me learn. I said I can learn in other ways, not knowing that I could switch schools, not knowing that I could go to an alternative school. So, we got a letter in the mail, and I was charged with truancy. *chuckles*
Let's talk, let's break this apart a little bit because, you know, it comes back again to that point about how early children learn cruelty and learn the cruelty of adults. Learn the cruelty of our also our social world and systems and how systems can support that cruelty. Right? Um, because you talk about you know, these are grade grade seven, grade eight children who have learned that you can target somebody for their name, who have learned that, you know, some of us are "normal," and some of us are other. And that that normalcy is defined from the point of whiteness without knowing to call it that, right? Because why is Jones or Smith any more normal than anybody else's last name who might not be Jones or Smith or from that same you know, cultural canon, if you will. You know, where some questions to ask where where do you totally learn that when are the earliest times we see it? Right? How, how does that become so normalized that it becomes a point of humiliation to you and somebody else, a point for violence? And, you know, instead of asking, why are you missing school? Right, and have a system that supports again, that violence by adding extra violence on top of it? Truancy.
Jenny Blackbird 34:42
Truancy in grade seven! You know, why are we so quick to make those categories as opposed to investigate the reasons? Tell me some more about that.
Jenny Blackbird 36:20
Yeah. So I had to go to court, which was really, really, I actually was laughing. I showed up, and the they have, what is it? The stenographer? The person who takes the tap, tap, tap, they type out those notes. She had this weird thing on her face. And I guess she was speaking into it. But it looked so bizarre, and I was just staring at it going, what is that? And then my mom's like, pay attention! And the judge, you know, reads my notes and was like, are you you know, not no concern about how I'm doing, but you're saying: Okay, I see by these notes that you haven't gone to school in a month. You know, and by the law, you have to be in school, and blah, blah, blah, blah, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was just like, get out of here. And he finally at the end said, you know, I, I'm going to ask you, have you been truant from school? And I sort of burst out and went, yes. *indifferently* And he just, he just was like: alright, you have two options, I'm going to put: either, you're either going to go to the Clark Institute, or you're going to go to an Adolescent Ward at Sick Kids Hospital. And I was like, well, what's the purpose of this? Why? And they're like, well, obviously, you're having problems adjusting and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, *sigh* okay, fine. Well, what does the Clark do? Well, the Clark is like an inpatient, you know, you're gonna be in there hardcore. And I was like, no, I don't want to be in an institute. Thank you. I'll go to Sick Kids. So I was an inpatient. I think, for two and a half months. I can't really remember the timeframe. So, I had to live at Sick Kids Hospital, on their adolescent ward. And there was several different teenagers with different life situations: schizophrenia, anorexia, there were, there were other folks that just had so much trauma. There was a young woman who couldn't walk, couldn't talk, didn't communicate other than nodding her head in a wheelchair. And trauma, just so much. And, you know, the first little while it was really interesting, getting to know others and their, the ways that they lived and the ways that they coped and rooming with an anorexic teenager who would do jumping jacks on the spot, every second she could. And I remember asking her, I just said, I don't want to be rude, but why are you doing that? She's like, because I look in the mirror and all I see is fat. And she was she was rail thin, rail thin. And I said, okay, so that experience even though it was really crummy, it really taught me how to listen to other people and not be like: well, why don't you just eat? And other people would just be like, Well, why don't you just eat! And then seeing other folks in pain or not being understood. And the counselor that I had, at one point when she had asked me, well, what's your circle of friends like? And I said, well, I hang out with a lot of younger people, and I hang out with my cousins. And they're like five and seven years younger than me. He scolded me and said, that's not normal, Jenny, you need children your age. And I said, all the children my age are not nice to me. And so right there, it was like, something's wrong with me. It's not like I was making friends with five year olds, like it was really -- it was really disheartening, you know, and then they stuck me with a male counselor, after I told them, I don't feel comfortable, because I've had no positive male role models in my life. I cannot trust a man right now. But they just stuck me with this man. And all I did, and this is where it turned horrible, all I did was say, I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to talk to you, I can't talk to you, I refuse to talk to you and then I would say, I would swear at him. And then it would put me in hot water. So each time I would say, eff you, I don't want to talk to you, you effin ugly, blah, blah, blah, blah. I'm not gonna say, then they were like, why are you so angry? Right. *chuckles*
But it's also, you know, um, first of all, the long history of using institutions as weapons against Indigenous people, against racialized people, um, you know, comes into play right there, you know, truancy, as we said before, you know, which leads to another form of institutionalization. Right? Which in itself, opens avenues for, you know, the trauma of: first of all, being institutionalized for something that was pain. And then on top of that, it's being institutionalized in a space where other traumas exist, that, you know, might actually exacerbate your own. And, but, you know, as we do as racialized people, as Indigenous people do, finding ways of making those are using those experiences, you know, to make us stronger, right, and to make us also maybe better people. And it's not to say that, you know, you need to be traumatized to learn. *chuckles* You know, we don't want to make something romantic out of that, either. But yeah, knowledge thing that, that we go through these things, and we have, and continue to try and always make something, make something grow there. Right, and to listen to other people to emphasize with other people comes strongly into play there. Yeah, and even, and we can say, you know, some people might say that: oh, those were the older older times when people were less caring or less... *chuckles* You know, there were certain behaviors that were normalized then. But just because it was doesn't make it good at any point in time. And yeah, and it's also, you know, history repeats itself. And for some of us, those things have not changed.
Jenny Blackbird 43:26
Yeah. And this, then this was 1984, or 85. I can't even remember might have been 1983. Upon reflection of the staff, and the folks that were there for us, the one that I will never forget, I actually had a black female counselor, and she was THE BEST. She was warm, she was open, she actually listened. She actually would encourage. So, she was the absolute best person on that word. Everyone else, I didn't trust. Everyone else, I was like, Get away from me. Anything she, anytime she sat down and was like, what's going on? I would tell her and she would listen and she was fantastic. And then, she went to another job, and it was devastation. I was like, no! And I never forgot her because she was just so encouraging. And the best like, that's the kind of person I wish had been at my school, you know, that kind of teacher who probably could have, that warmth, probably could have extended to the people who are bullying me, because they're missing something. And that took me 30 plus years to figure out that's often the case, but, so going forward, I had to go back to school after a month or two months or whatever. So, to make matters way worse, they sent a nurse with me. Um, so I had a nurse sitting in the corner, and then all the other students were like, why do you have a nurse? What is she doing there? What's wrong with you? Right, so it's just this non stop, non stop like humiliation and it's all your fault. You're the defective one. And then we had grade eight graduation, even though I'd missed like, two months of school, somehow I graduated. I have no clue how and to be honest, and this may be controversial and this this may actually be, I don't want it to be triggering. I actually had fantasies of killing those kids. I actually had fantasies of, if I had a firearm, I would have gone in in my graduation and killed those kids. But thankfully, I don't do those things. I don't have easy access to firearms, but this was a fantasy. This is like a revenge fantasy, and I knew better I knew that's not the solution.
It's not, but you know, I want to I want to stop for a second. And like you said, that might be a hard thing for people to hear, right, but pain and such deep pain can can make us feel like that. Right. So it's so important for us to sit with that because sometimes we say oh, you're just angry without understanding that that anger came from somewhere? That anger is in conversation with something that has happened. Right. So it is not just this thing that we that just naturally arises out of us, we the lesser than. You know, we the "uncivilized" if you know whiteness kind of measure for this conversation really is. But, um, you know, so it's not to say that that is un-rational or irrational, sorry, or unreasonable. Right. So while it might be, might be shocking to hear, yeah, imagine the pain that was the source of that reaction?
Jenny Blackbird 47:26
Yeah, they were there were a lot of jerks. But the funny thing was, that the boy that I had a crush on... oh, my goodness.
Jenny Blackbird 47:40
Right. I was like, that guy's cute. Oh, he's just adorable, right. And of course, being shy, and teenagers are so awkward. Oh, my goodness. And there was a few times he paid attention to me, but then someone else will step in and make fun of me. And then he'd be like, Oh, hehehe, right. He has to go along with it. So I was like, oh, man. So one day, I was walking up the street from my house and there he is on his bike and he actually stopped and talked to me. We actually went into the donut shop and had a doughnut and sat and talked. And it was like, oh, he wouldn't have done this if, I don't know, he didn't like me, or maybe it's the biggest setup in the world. So then, Monday, at school, it was kind of like, awkward. Hey. Hi. And I don't know if they still do this in high school now or middle school now, but square dancing. Very, very complex history, square dancing. But at the time, it was very exciting because when the teacher said to all the kids, and it's so ridiculously gendered, I mean, that part is ubiquitous. But he said, All right, boys, go pick your partners. So all the popular boys went and picked the popular girls. And guess who came over and put out their hand to me? My crush. So we danced, and some of the other girls were really pissed off. And that was it. Nothing else came of it. He asked another girl to dance, but it was this one little kind of, oh, are you really being nice to me? Or are you picking on me so that I'll look foolish? So I was very guarded. I was like, okay, I can't say anything, and his family was Estonian-Canadian. So, that was very interesting because Estonians and Finns are like, just across the Baltic Sea. And so, I was kind of like, oh, there's one common thing. Right? But after that, it was just like, okay, well, he's not interested. And I didn't really date till way later. But it was like the one cute little thing where I thought, oh, maybe, okay, there's nothing really wrong with me.
I mean, it's the way we make sense, I mean, you know, obviously, you shouldn't base our value on other people, right? But, it's the way that we make sense of things at the time. It may seem insignificant. It's so small, you know, moments of connection that are so important, particularly when you're already feeling marginalized. Like, it's not it's not wrong to take those gifts, you know?
Jenny Blackbird 50:50
Yeah. It was cute. And I often thought I didn't want to be the creep, but I looked him up on Facebook, and I was like,oOkay, he's there. I don't know, if it makes sense for me to be like, hey, you want to ask me to dance in junior high and that was really nice. That's it, you know? Yeah. But I just, I closed the internet and thought ... nah. You know, you never know if somebody's gonna be like, get lost, or *laughter* what do you want for me!
Jenny Blackbird 51:26
Because some people are thrilled. They're like, Oh, I remember you. That's cool. But I kind of think like, sometimes I want to thank the people that have given me a little bit of kindness. So I don't know, maybe I'll have to think about it more.
Yeah, but let's talk about that. You know, um, we were talking a little bit before about kind of people helping you through this journey. You know, there's lots of points where it has been difficult, for sure. And you know, the space hasn't always been inviting, but how did how are you able to move through? And as I understand it, now you're working on another degree, right? So how have you been able to, despite everything, make away for yourself and who has helped to do that?
Jenny Blackbird 52:14
So I think that the teachers that were more open minded, that that were, it was mostly the art teachers, actually, a lot of the art teachers were very open minded. And they were they gave really good feedback, really good constructive criticism, which I appreciated. And those that encouraged and that said, oh, you can keep doing stuff like this. This is really cool. And with my high school journey, I actually went in on the first day of orientation and Funny enough, ran into the girl that was in the wheelchair in the hospital ward, she was walking and talking. So, she fully recovered. It was really interesting how, and I kept thinking how interesting the body is when it shuts down and when it regenerates, I don't know what her trauma was, but she, she was fully, fully like, there. So that was really cool and inspiring. And then after the orientation, I went and looked for my name, and my name was not anywhere in the roster and I was really confused. So I went to the office and said, Hi, my name isn't on the roster. Can you call my school and find out? They called the school and said, oh, no, we graduated, you at an advanced standing. Okay, so kid who was truant from school and missed two and a half months. So, how was I graduated at an advanced level? I wonder, because I don't remember how I did academically because of all the trauma, or if they were just trying to like, just we don't want her back here. So, I'd like to think that I did have the brains. I'd really like, I think that may have been it, buut I didn't know that. Nobody told me. Nobody sat me down and said you're doing good. Nobody sat me down and said, wow, you have these options. Nobody sat me down and said, what do you think about high school? Do you want to go to this high school? Do you want to go to North Toronto Collegiate Institute? That's a very hoity toity school. Nobody asked me they just signed me up. So, I went to North Toronto and I said, can I have my school record switch to Northern and they were like, why? And I said, cuz I just want to go to Northern my uncle went there. Okay, so they transferred my records. I showed up, went to school. And as per usual you have to go talk to a guidance counselor because they start that whole rigmarole of: Where are you going to go to college? What are you going to do when you're grown up? So, dude looks at my last name, opens the file and says: uh, by any chanc are you related to...? And he rattled off my uncle's name. And I looked at him, I said, Yes, that's my uncle. And he closed the file and kind of went, oh. And then I recalled, my uncle caused so much trouble at that school. *chuckles* He was throwing desks out the window. He was, I don't know what he was doing. So right off the bat, he was like, not another one of you. So, right away, I'm going to be a troublemaker. Once again, ah, I just I was just really confused. I was like, Okay. Some people are telling me I'm smart. Other people are telling me I'm going to be a troublemaker. It's mixed signals. My mom has always been great. My mom has always been like, you're smart. You can do whatever you want to do. She's part of that 60s. Feminism generation has like, taught me very well that no feminism doesn't mean you're better than men it means you can do anything you set your mind to there's no barriers, we're not going to tell you no, if you want to be a farmer, we're not going to tell you no, if you want to be a dentist, a doctor, a fashion designer, a nurse. So I was like, Okay, I can do whatever I put my mind to. But I kind of needed guidance and the guidance counselor was not a good choice. *chuckles* Right? So after a certain point, this is where it gets fun. This is where I got interested in punk rock. So, it was just after the system, it was cut your hair, dye it. Wear a lots of makeup, middle fingers everywhere. It was great. It was like, I get to do the self expression. I get to do what I want. Nina Hagen was my, my goddess. Like she was just out there with her big hair and her eyebrows. So I was like, I need to be like her. I want to be like, woo! And then I got bullied for another reason. Because I looked like that. And I get it. And I was like, Okay, I get it, you know, and people would, actually even before I, before I changed, I always wore like vintage. I'd wear my mum's old jacket, you know, things like that and there would be students passing me in the hallway going, oh, thank goodness, I don't dress like her. And they'd be pointing at me and I'm like, okay, it's not ever gonna stop because people are just, some people are just rude. You don't have to like what I'm wearing. That's cool. But when it was the, you know, the punk years, I was like, yeah, I get it. You're gonna make fun of me big deal. But I got so bullied by one kid who sat next to me. Every class he would just be picking on me every class, every class. And finally, he passed me a note one day he says why can't you look normal? And I'd had enough and I started crying. And I was like, Oh my god, I can't, it was just like, I can't. So the teacher was like, okay, go down to the infirmary, you know, go home. So I went home and I was like, Oh, great. I had a breakdown in class. How embarrassing. This is just awful, right? So my friend calls me and checks on me. Are you okay? Do you need to hang out? I say yeah, I guess I'll be okay. It's just embarrassing. Right? Because whatever his name I can't remember his name, he's just picking on me all the time. It's annoying. So she says, guess what happened after you left? I said I don't know. So after I left kid who is picking on me was like, all proud of himself. Look, what an idiot. She's ugly. She's stupid. Haha. The boy that I had a crush on, and I don't think, he didn't like me, but he was very, very kind. He actually stood up and turned around and said to the kid, okay, really like that's enough. And a couple of other students said, yeah, you're you've gone too far. And so dude, who is making fun of me, kept pushing my crush. They actually got into a fistfight over it. Because dude just wouldn't give up. So sadly, my crush gets punched. Dude gets suspended. I didn't see him again. I don't know if they took put them in another school, but I wish it hadn't gone to that. Yeah, I wish there was I wish there was some kind of what do you call it? Restorative justice. Right. I wish I could have sat across from him and said, I actually think you're really cool. I don't know why you're picking on me. Anyways, so I go back to school the next day, some people are snickering some people are, are you okay? Yeah, I'll be fine. I'll be fine. Where, by the way, where's my crush? Oh, he had to take the day off because he got punched. And I was like, oh, no, I felt so bad. So I, back in the day, when we had phone books, I went to the phonebook and called everybody with his last name. Asking for him, found him, I called him and said, I'm very sorry, that you got punched out, I want to thank you for standing up for me. And he was like, okay. You know, you're welcome. Right. And after that, I was kind of like, ah, I feel so like, so people did look out for me.
But it's interesting that it was the kids. You know, like, hold up a minute. Wait, hold the phone. Pause on the line, like, wherever the adults? You know, guidance counselor with no guidance, the teacher that sends you home for being hurt once again. Right, instead of taking care. And it's interesting to see that a fistfight is what the perpetrator of being cautioned in any way. And at that point, again, as you're talking about, it doesn't prepare the environment. It just shuns another kid out of school.
Jenny Blackbird 1:01:54
Yeah. And that's, and that's something at the time, I didn't even think about, it's like, how was that kid's schooling, and was anything affected?
Yeah. And it wasn't, to be clear, it wasn't your responsibility to wear that anyway.
Jenny Blackbird 1:02:11
You know, now thinking about it's like, I really wish, I wish there was that kind of restorative circle in any school. Just to say, you know, what, it's not cool that this happened, you don't have to be friends at all, but you can just ignore each other. You know, there's tons of people that can, you can be in the same room, but you don't have to bully. And, and if it's that bad, then find another way to work it out. And, and yeah, the teachers didn't do much. So after that, I think I went to grade 11. I dropped out of grade 11, because it was just too much. And drifted around for a while had jobs. I kept thinking, I don't know, I could go back to school. So I went back to contact alternative school, which had incredible teachers, because they were dedicated, as a alternative school. But at the time, I was not in the headspace. At the time, I really loved art. I really loved certain classes, but other things I just really, you know, and being part of the punk scene, it's like, no future, you know, all you want to do is drink and party. Right? All you want to do is get high. And we did and it was horrible. Because I fell asleep in the foyer, and one of our teachers had to come and wake me up and be like, Jenny, that's not a good look like you know, so needless to say, my, you know, my days of smoking didn't last, and so I drifted a long time. Worked, was on welfare worked. And then, it was the early 90s. When someone and this was a suggestion, someone had just said, Why don't you try going to art school? Because you like art. So I applied for OCAD I guess at the time it was called OCAD, and I am a status Indian under the Indian Act. And I want to obviously, for listeners who do not know, my Indian status it's different it may be different from other people because there's different there's like different tiers. So some people may be like a 6-1, and I'm a 6-2. So I don't get the same benefits as a 6-1, which by the way listeners, we don't get money hand over fist, we don't get cars and we don't get you know, things. We get maybe four or $5 a year depending on what treaty you're with. Um, so for me to apply to school, I applied to school, I called my band at Kikuyu and Cree Nation. Hi, am I eligible for funding for school? At that time, they said no. So, from what I understand is that there's this pool of money. So depending on how many people apply, that's how many people will get it. So I probably called at the wrong time, or I'm not eligible for that funding. I don't know why. So at the time, I was like, oh, okay, I'll just, you know, do whatever. And my mom had some money and said, okay, I'll pay for your first year. So I hope that will clear up that myth that Indigenous people get free schooling money, no, it is not free schooling money. And if you actually do get band funding, from what I understand, you actually have to get, you have to get top grades. And if you slip, and you fail, they cut your funding off. So you have to be on your, your straight A's you have to be, and that's hard when you're living anywhere in Canada as an Indigenous person, because you may have to deal with jobs, housing, security, food security, what you know, taking care of family, any number, right, any number of things that anyone else has to deal with, but they may not have the same supports. Because, Because. And if you're living off reserve, like if you, if you're coming from a reserve and you're moving to a city to go to university, you may not have your family right there. So you're dealing with not being at home. So there's so many different and like I said at the beginning, it's different for every every indigenous person. So I didn't get band funding.
Jenny Blackbird 1:07:13
I went through the interview, and I brought my sketches, I brought some paintings, and a lot of the things I do is kind of like just random sketching, drawing, sketching exercises, and I had a self portrait. So at the time, I had bright pink hair, like you can care and I used to wear you know, lots of fun, bright colored makeup. So I thought this is you know, Frida Kahlo did a lot of self portraits. You know, people do self portrait, Van Gogh. First thing off the bat old white man asks me, why did you paint this portrait of yourself? Why? It wasn't, oh, this is interesting. Or oh, the lighting or oh, the shadowing? Oh, it's flat. It's good. It's bad. Why did you choose these colors? Right off the bat. Everything I presented, why did you do this? And I said, because I wanted to try it. And there was another another piece of medieval art that I actually, I copied it by, um, by eye -- I didn't use a grid. I just copied it by eye. Why did you do this, Jenny? Because I wanted to see if I could do it. So right once again, questioning me. And then at the very, very, very end of the interview, just before he was putting away his little file folder notebook: I used to be like you, I was rebellious once. You will change. So right there, he's telling me you will conform and I went, oh, okay, interesting. So I got in. I did my first term. It was very reflective, self reflective. It was good. The class was actually, I really enjoyed it. And then the second term I dropped out, because that was the term where I met with most of the very privileged students. Very, very privileged. They all came from money, they were all very rude. And the teacher, the teacher played a Buffy Sainte Marie song on her CD player, or tape player, I guess I don't know. And one of the other students started laughing it said what kind of what kind of sound is that? What's that? That's not music. And I was like, Oh, no. Oh, no, you don't make fun of Buffy. Right? Right off the bat. I was like, you can't, like her and Dolly Parton. You can't touch. So I dropped out, and then went back to working and then 1997 once again, a friend of mine said, hey, you know, because I worked in clothing for a long time, vintage clothing. I also worked at Queen Street, we made clothing. My friend said, why don't you go back to school. And I did. And I applied. And it was that easy. It was hilarious because, all she did was say, you could go back to school, you're good at this. So I applied for my OSAP, I didn't get any band funding once again. And I graduated with my diploma in fashion design, which I was very proud of as a mature student, and worked in the industry for a very short time, it's very hard, you can't make money at it, you're on your feet all day, you don't get paid very well. So, I went into copyright and publishing. But you sat on your backside all day and typed and typed and typed. And then going forward to my master's. So I'm taking my Urban, Masters of Urban Indigenous Education, and it's a cohort through York University with Dr. Susan Dion. So, I am doing my, we just started our, our second year, our winter term. And that is one of the most enriching courses because Dr. Dion really wants to help more Indigenous educators and also non Indigenous teachers who want to learn about Indigenous worldview, and learn from Indigenous people. So I'm enjoying the colloquial, I'm enjoying most of the reading. The super academic stuff, I've actually found the cure for insomnia because I just fall asleep, and 10 dollar words, I'm out. And that, and that brings me to thinking about how some education systems are not accessible. And they're very, things are too wordy, things are too formal. So it's way better when when you have people who are open to different forms of education and learning, styles of learning.
And I think that, you know, we've taken we've taken a storytime kind of format today, which I have personally very much enjoyed, which I very much enjoyed. But I think something in the power of stories is the opportunity for you to truly listen and to see, and to think about, you know, the spaces for opportunity there. What if this has happened? What if this had happened, you know, and all the all the things that were possible and could have been possible if something's had maybe been different, you know, where you talk about, you know, dropping out and coming back in the points where you came back in, it was encouragement, you know, and the point where you dropped out, there was a lack of safety there. And so really the importance of safe environments and safe people, right. And I don't want it to get missed that just because there's some safety that the environment is there for perfectly safe. But it's the safety nets necessary for us to proceed bravely, right, because that's what people sometimes talk about brave spaces as opposed to safe spaces. Right. And, you know, the education system is supposed to be this space of nurturing and growth, and yet it can be such a space of violence. Right? And we don't always have to be think about violence in terms of hitting or blood or, but the violence that's there, is so intimate to us. Right? So intimate to our lives, just that discouraging word, you know, that that sentence of truancy? I'm gonna laugh about that for a while, but you know, that these things that we push against people to say that you can't, you are less than you don't belong? Right. And, and the power of opportunities that combat that you do belong, you can do this, this would be great for you because you're interested in it. Right? Joy belongs here, too. So those moments that offer us a way in, so I think that's, for me some something that's so important that I'm getting from your story, right? We've seen in an hour we've moved from, you know, elementary school all the way to the Masters but, but that's what it is really, right. That that journey for us can be so tumultuous and yet allow us to continue and to find space, you know, with with the necessary people the necessary encouragement.
So,Jenny and her masters, enjoying it, you know, seeing that, you know, there is a place for Indigenous people right in in spaces of learning, whatever those spaces are. So for you, I've heard you know, some of the things that have definitely unweld you if you will, but as the crux of this show is to understand what do we need, therefore, to live and be well? What what do you what do you think that means? And what and what can you tell us of your story that has shown that for you?
Jenny Blackbird 1:15:24
For me, there has to be a purpose behind everything. You can ask me to, to host an event, but I need a purpose, I need a purpose. What is it for? Is it teaching something? Is it nurturing someone or a bunch of people? Is it learning, because a lot, a lot of our Indigenous circles that are held, there is opportunity for reciprocal learning. So they the elder is not always the only one that's going to drop knowledge, the, the youth is not the only one that's going to drop knowledge. No, it's going to be it's going to be a bit of both, it's going to be adults who have never been heard or never been listened to, like my generation. It's kind of like this, you know, we're stuck in this weird space where we had, we had all these different kinds of distractions and privileges, but in some ways we weren't listened to. And then there's children, you know, and I hosted the Indigenous Acts Canada Twitter account in June, where Indigenous Acts, I think it started in Australia, but Canada has one. And every week, a different Indigenous person will host that account. So you'll often share stories or experiences, or you share articles. So that was actually quite stressful, because I was like, oh, what do I share? Or, or what do i overshare because Twitter's always, like overshare time, and like, I've noticed this balance, actually, for Indigenous academics that will share like this incredible theory or this Indigenous knowledge, but then, you know, two weeks later, they're like, Oh, my anxiety is high. And it's like, so you're showing this vulnerability, which is actually quite sweet. Because who else is going to do that? So I was thinking about it, you know, and I and I, and I said, in one of my tweets, I said, you know, can you do me a favor and not hire the same five Indigenous people to talk on panels? Seriously, the same five people, you're going to get the same five answers. So I said, talk to the marginalized, the most marginalized talk to Black Indigenous people talk to the queer to spirit trans folks. And I and I joked and I said it, invite a baby onto your panel. *chuckles* And I put lol. But then I said, no, really, I want to see a panel with a baby on it. Because yeah, babies will ground you, right? So it's like a, for me, it's important to have a mix of humor, and a mix of reminding myself and others to look around you and listen to everybody because it's, you're going to get stuck with a panel of same five people. And that's not holistic. And you're not going to be well, if you're listening to the same five voices, you're going to be well, if you're expanding your mind and you're in, you're reading a new book or a book that, okay, I've never thought about that perspective, or listen to a podcast about something that you're just, okay, I'm not, it's not really my thing, but now at least I've heard something so that I'm better informed. So like just exercising your mind and, and that word, those magical words of, you know, decolonizing education, we have a lot of work to do. I'm not gonna see it my lifetime. Like, I'm gonna be honest. I'm 50. I am 50 years old. I am not, I'm sad. I am not going to see that in my lifetime. It's going to take a longer time because we have a lot of really great academics who have been working for years, who've been working for years on this like, forever, like Pauline Shirt and the late Vern Harper started Wandering Spirit Survival school in Toronto for Indigenous kids. So now that has, you know, that has sparked that seed and I'm sure there's other survival schools that have happened to decolonize education for Indigenous children. And now it's in the Kapapamahchakwew, I probably butchered that, but that's Wandering Spirit School with the First Nations school.
Jenny Blackbird 1:19:55
It's been happening for a long time. It just takes a long time for the system to catch up for Toronto District School Board to say, Oh, yeah, you can do this. We'll give you a building. So, I think if we keep supporting Indigenous students, and Indigenous teachers, like, I don't plan to be a "teacher", I'm using air quotes here with my fingers. I don't plan to be a "teacher" in a school district or anything. What I like to do is in my job, pick up those pieces and help others, either by informing, or by listening and passing that on the things that I'm actually the things that I am given permission to, because sometimes there's things that we learn, and it's not ours to share. So you have to really think fast and go, is this something that I'm allowed to share? Do, I dropped this knowledge here? I also need to cite where I heard it from. So oftentimes, I'm citing elders and people that I've listened to. And then I say, but don't take it for me, go listen to them talk. Because I don't want anybody misquoting and be like, well, Jenny said...
Jenny has shared with me knows and to know more visit... *chuckles*
Jenny Blackbird 1:21:23
But it's only fair, right? It's, I will never be the number one authority, I'm the only the number one authority on Jenny. And that's, that's cool. I don't want to, when I take my education, I'll be proud of that. I'll be proud of that diploma, that piece of paper, even though I'm kicking and screaming the whole way. I actually, the first class, I said, I resent the fact that I have to pay to get a piece of paper to keep my job. And I said, I'm being honest, I will work, I will listen, and I will do this, and I'm going to try and try my best. That's all I can do.
And that's what you've done, it's what you've done, it's something to be proud of. It's something to be to be proud of. And I say that obviously knowing that, you know, having whatever degree doesn't make you a better person, or a more valued person. But it is a feat. You know, it is a feat in a system that never wanted us to make it anyway. Right, so that's, that's certainly something to be acknowledged. And you're an example, you know, for those who want it, you can have it. So and, you know, I hear you saying, you know, what does it mean to even be well? It means that you need to create space for the many, right for the many voices in the many experiences and to be open to that, so that you can live richer. so that you won't be a bully, hey! So that you can make it, and you too can be thriving. So that's such a lesson and a wonderful way to be. I want to congratulate you in advance. You know, for the degree that you will get, but also for, for the grace of your journey, for sure.
Jenny Blackbird 1:23:25
Well, thank you, thank you. And I and I always, when I worked at the ROM and oftentimes when I do speaking engagements, I often ask people, can you name five Indigenous doctors? And I said, I could name five of them right now. And then I remind people, I say, find out who they are. And they're not necessarily medical doctors. I'm just like, I want to remind people about that, that these these people have achieved so much already. And then I say I can name you five female, Indigenous doctors, and then they're like, what? Really? Some people have a long way to go in terms of having people on the same page, or at least understand that, yeah, Indigenous people have always been educated, just not in your formal way. And in one of my classes, I said, I really despise, if that's too strong a word I really dislike. There's a saying called education is the new Buffalo. And I don't like it because Buffalo is education. Buffalo was always education for my family. It still is you can learn from the animal you could learn from how you dissect that animal, for the meat and for the sinew and for the bone. And for the fur and the horns. So people are forgetting that Indigenous people have always been educated. Just not with this paper. And that's probably the world, the world around, where anywhere the colonizers went and said, oh, you guys are just, you know, you're not educated. No! These people live for millennia in climates that you need to know how to work with. So that's my last thing. Like, I want people to understand that.
There are multiple ways of knowing
Jenny Blackbird 1:25:27
Absolutely. So Jenny, I want to give you your, as we do on the show, the "mic drop moment", what is your one last big takeaway that you want to share? As we move off towards the end of our show?
Jenny Blackbird 1:25:45
Keep a sense of humor, and do silly things that don't hurt other people. I bought a hot dog costume, and I rode my bike, wearing it. Do things like that. Be ridiculous. As long as it doesn't make fun of someone else or hurt anyone or yourself just because we need that, especially now we need that.
I love it.
You know, make sure to pick up your own hot dog costume and learn how to bike.
But in all truth make room for joy. Make room for others.
Jenny Blackbird 1:26:31
Just have a good time, man. Like just just try and find. Yeah, try and find that happiness. Try and find that way of making yourself and other people laugh.
Yeah. And in that there's learning too. So as we talked about education, you know, there's education enjoy, their education in others.
Jenny Blackbird 1:26:51
I thank you, Jenny, for your story today, and for making me laugh and fully enjoy, and be in this conversation with you. So thank you for sharing space with me. Thank you for sharing with others. And I look forward to all the greatness that you are and that will come.
Jenny Blackbird 1:27:07
Hiy Hiy! Thank you.
Thank you for tuning in to Episode Three. If you want to learn more about Jenny and about her work, check out the show notes. In the meantime, take good care. Bye for now.