Watch “five14 Talks 2017 – Eddy Robinson” by @CAFDN on #Vimeo https://vimeo.com/220023173
Watch “five14 Talks 2017 – Eddy Robinson” by @CAFDN on #Vimeo https://vimeo.com/220023173
LINK: St. Mary’s Tedx Talk
I want to first begin by saying it was truly an honour to be invited to speak at the St. Mary’s Tedx Talk on May 17th, 2017
by Mr. Craig Zimmer. I have learned so much through this process and I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my story.
I also want to say Chimeegwetch and send my sincerest heartfelt thanks to Bob Joseph, Mark Bowden, Wab, Kinew, Andrea Sampson, Ryan McMahon, Thomas King for generously giving me their time and mentorship. I know in my heart I will continue to grow as I reflect on the wisdom from these amazing people I have had the opportunity to cross paths with.
The Anishinaabe Ways of Knowing, Traditional Teachers, Elders and ceremonies have also been extremely instrumental with my personal an spiritual growth. The teachings I have encountered on this journey have touched my heart and will continue to forever stoke the sacred fire within.
Eddy Robinson – March 20th, 2017
On answering the question “Where are you from?” as an Anishnaabe born in Toronto.
“Where are you from?” It’s a question a lot of us have encountered from time to time over a noisy coffee, awkward lunch, in the workplace, or my favourite place: cultural awareness workshops. I have faced the interrogation and negotiating of my identity from Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks, as I am sure many people have.
What reserve are you from? What’s your tribe? How come you don’t live on the reserve? Wow, you don’t look Native. Ah, you’re a city Indian!
As an Indigenous speaker and educator I have travelled throughout North America over the past 20 years, and I’ve heard this a lot. There seems to be an undertone that you’re not culturally qualified as an Indigenous person if you’re from the city. For some reason there’s this misconception that you are more culturally qualified if you’re from the reserve.
Honestly, I truly understand why people would feel that way. I mean, how would it sound if I said I am going to tell you a traditional Indigenous story about how bear met raccoon at Yonge and Dundas? Immediately the story sounds modern just based on the location. When I relocate the story of bear meeting raccoon on the shores of Old Women’s Bay (Lake Superior), for some reason it seems more Indigenous. The stories and teachings are from the land.
I was born and raised in marginalized impoverished Toronto. As an Anishinaabe (Ojibway) boy growing up in the city during the 70s and 80s, I had no clue who the hell I was. All I knew was that I was an Indian. Since then, I have done a lot of Indigenous land-based learning and spent a lot of time attending Anishinaabe (Ojibway) ceremonies and cultural events in and out of the city. I’ve learned traditional Anishinaabe stories come from Creation. Even though there is a blanket of asphalt over the land, Indigenous stories were here way before Toronto was. So as an Indigenous person how can I connect with the spirit of the land in the big city, is that even possible?
I have been taught by traditional Anishinaabe elders that when we ask where you are from in the language you are essentially asking if you are related, if you are from the same territory, if you are safe to date. Sometimes that part doesn’t translate well. Another important part of the interaction that I have come to know as an Anishinaabe is the opportunity for a person to announce their name, cultural titles and/or role the occupy in their community. The gesture is specifically to inform Creation and the spirits who you are.
For the past several decades urban Indigenous identity has existed in cities like Toronto hidden within the constructs of urban planning tucked away in the nooks of concrete, damp basements, dark laneways, and poor neighbourhoods. There are Indigenous health organizations and student associations serving our specific needs. And urban Indigenous organizations like the Friendship Centre Movement have emerged out of cities and now can be found in over 119 locations across Canada.
I remember being seven years old walking up the steps of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (formerly known as The North American Indian Club) and looking up in the sky at this magical totem pole standing proudly in front of the building. Written on the walkway in brass just before the big wooden doors you’ll see the word AHNEEN, which means hello. Back then “The Centre” was the hub for us urban Indigenous folk and, to some degree, still is. It was a safe place, and it was awesome. If you wanted to you could visit with traditional elders and ask them anything about the culture. Walking up from the Spadina subway you could hear the sound of the drum emanating from the auditorium vibrating down the sidewalk.
The Canadian government and Indigenous organizations have very different lens and understanding when they refer to urban Indigenous populations. The government’s Urban Aboriginal Strategy defines “urban Indigenous” as First Nations, Metis, and Inuit residing in urban areas, but the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website mostly refers to us as “off-reserve.” In 2011 the Government of Canada reported that the Aboriginal population reached over 1.4 million and 56 percent of that population lived in urban areas. There has been a seven percent increase on the Indigenous population moving to the urban areas from 1996 to 2011. Cities with the largest populations in 2011 were Winnipeg (78,420), Edmonton (61,765), and Toronto (36,995). The migration to the cities for a better life unfortunately has been met most times with poverty, loss of identity, placelessness, invisibility, discrimination, systemic racism, and homelessness.
Indigenous people moving and being pushed from their home territories into the cities has been a common narrative unknown to many Canadians. Canada has some secrets and hidden history they don’t want you to know. In 1857, during the gradual civilization act which was followed up by the Indian Act in 1876, everyone who was identified as being an Indian were put on the Indian registry confined to the reserves and given numbers. These assigned numbers are now reflected on the current Indian status card and the holders who still carry them around. Counting Indians is not new—there are even racist children’s songs written about it.
The author’s son walks at Crawford Lake Conservation Area. Photo via the author
Up until the 1940s, First Nations people needed an official Indian pass from the Indian agent to leave the reserve if they wanted to go into the city—otherwise they were incarcerated or transported directly back to the reserve. These Indian agents, usually white alpha males (just google images of these guys), served as judge and jury over the community entirely.
On the one hand you are an Indian seen in a patronizing way governed by oppressive policy needing permission for everything. On the other hand, you may have become an Indian enfranchised by racist policy to extinguish all of your treaty rights in various ways. If you went to university or volunteered for the military, you lost your identity. Either way, Indigenous people may feel this loss, overtly and subtly.
That loss and inequality continues today, as 50 percent of First Nations children currently live in poverty. First Nations adults are more likely to die from avoidable causes before 75, there are over 1,500 missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), and now a national inquiry is underway to take testimony from the families of the MMIW this spring 2017. There are over 130 Indigenous communities on boil water advisories across Canada. Places like Kashechewan, where Indigenous people are frequently displaced and evacuated constantly to urban areas due to constant flooding and severely contaminated water, are left wondering if the living conditions will ever improve.
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada has stated that there are more Indigenous children in care now then there has been at the height of residential schools. Truth and Reconciliation 94 calls to action is at the forefront for many Indigenous people, communities and organizations. The calls to action signify a process, a relationship of inequity, resistance, resilience, and resurgence of Indigenous people.
Growing up in Toronto I noticed settler communities establishing themselves in areas like Greektown, Little Italy, and Chinatown through businesses. I always thought: Where’s Native Town? Where are Indigenous people locating themselves in Toronto? Why are we disappearing from the consciousness of Torontonians and Canadians?
After working in the Toronto’s Indigenous community I found that the population was spread out all over the Greater Toronto Area mostly according to affordable housing clusters. We therefore never really establishing a significant presence in the city. Which brings forth the notion that a majority of the urban Indigenous population was and is living in poverty.
Think about Toronto and the Indigenous presence for a moment. Other than the Inukshuk on the Lakeshore, which is actually from the far north, there is practically no visual presence of the ancestors that once occupied the shores of Lake Ontario reflected within Toronto. This is how we end up in a negotiation about our lineage with coworkers. There is majority of Canada that still sees Indigenous people as an Indians—with or without their status cards—and assume that all Indians live on the reserve. But Indigenous people have become much more than the collective nouns and assumptions placed upon them.
So, with that in mind, I have to consciously think of the ancestors and create an Indigenous presence each day. When I leave my house in Mississauga I put sema (prayer tobacco) down outside on my freshly cut lawn or by the single sapling on my property. I smudge with sweetgrass in my vehicle before a speaking engagement in order to get in the zone. I teach my children traditional Anishinaabe songs in the basement of my house. I have DJ Shub, Tribe Called Red, and my favourite pow wow groups downloaded to the system of my minivan. Learning Anishinaabe words from Wab Kinew’s language app Neechee. I try to have a little embellishment to signify my Indigeneity; like my favourite T-shirt bringing about awareness for Truth and Reconciliation, a small square piece hide (moose hide campaign) safety pinned to my jacket for Indigenous women, oh, and I can’t forget my decorated rearview mirror.
No matter where I am in the world my clan, my spirit name, my spirit colours, my Anishinaabe identity are always with me. Traditionally the Anishinaabe give their children spirit names at birth. My traditional teachers taught me that you couldn’t get anymore traditional than having your mishomis (grandfather) and nokomis (grandmother) bestow a spirit name upon you.
Our traditional knowledge systems have been severely damaged by the oppressive methods carried out by the Canadian government through residential schools. Residential schools have directly impacted many generations of Indigenous people on and off reserve. People like myself and so many others have had to visit with elders to receive a spirit name at a local urban Indigenous organization. I received my spirit name at Anishnawbe Health Toronto near Sherbourne and Queen streets when I was 18 from a medicine man visiting from Red Lake Minnesota. As honoured as I was to receive my spirit name from him, I would have loved to receive my name from my mishomis.
We are in an amazing time of accessibility; as Indigenous people we can access our Indigenous ways of knowing through laptops, smartphones, and digital space. I have to be honest: Even though we can view almost anything online, there is nothing like being in person smelling the sweetgrass burning and hearing the comforting vibrations of the heartbeat drum and voice of an elder speaking in the language.
Indigenous people continue to be resilient and resistant to the attempted acts of genocide by the government of Canada. Indigenous ways of knowing are not primarily based on culture, it is so much more than a song and dance; it is a state of mind, a state of spirit. Indigenous people have the inherent right to connect with this land and access their ways of knowing no matter where they are. The spirit and voices of the ancestors, our grandfathers and grandmothers live within this earth, underneath these sidewalks and will continue to stoke the internal fires of resurgence.
Cardinal’s High School Café on Rogers TV – PEEL.
Scheduled air dates:
I was seven years old the first time I experienced First Nations culture. My family went to the Guelph penitentiary, where two of my relatives were in jail. That day, the prison was holding a gathering for Indigenous inmates. It was the first time I heard a drum circle, and the sound was deep and powerful. But when I started to dance, my cousins made fun of me. I went back to pretending I wasn’t interested.
I didn’t have a happy childhood. My Cree father, a residential-school survivor, and my Ojibwa-Anishinabe mother split when I was three and sent me to live with my grandparents. I slept on a cot in their living room, and my little brother’s crib was in the hallway. When I was 10, I moved back in with my mom in a subsidized housing complex at Pape and Danforth. We argued all the time. A few months later, I reconnected with my dad, who was living in Sault Ste. Marie. When I was 14, after a particularly nasty fight with my mom, I hopped on a Greyhound bus and went to stay with my dad and his girlfriend. That didn’t work out, so they put me up in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and bought me groceries once a week. Soon I was drinking and smoking weed. I was arrested several times—for stealing, for fighting, for selling drugs—and spent four months in juvie. Eventually, I was remanded back into my mother’s custody. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I knew she’d let me do what I wanted.
When I moved back to Toronto at age 15, my grandparents insisted that I prepare for my confirmation at St. Ann’s Catholic Church near Gerrard and Broadview, where they were parishioners. The church has a Native People’s Parish, which combines Catholicism with elements of Indigenous spirituality. The church leaders incorporate sage-burning ceremonies into Mass, for instance, and translate hymns into Indigenous languages. As part of my confirmation, the priest insisted that I go on a vision quest—a ritual that lasts anywhere from 24 hours to a week. You’re left alone in the wilderness without food or supplies, and you pray to the Creator for guidance and wisdom.
On the night of my vision quest, I set up my tent at Dreamer’s Rock, a sacred place on Manitoulin Island. I was skeptical. I just thought I’d be abandoned outside, bored, hungry and alone. To my shock, I had a vision that night. It was an old man, standing beyond my tent. He looked like he was beckoning me. I didn’t recognize him, but I believe he was a manifestation of First Nations culture—my culture—which was waiting for me to embrace it.
Over the next few years, I dove into my Indigenous heritage. I read about Crazy Horse, Tecumseh and Sitting Bull. I joined a drum circle that met regularly at the Native Canadian Centre. I learned about oppression and how these rituals provided camaraderie and kinship.
By the time I was 18, I was entirely estranged from my family.
I was living in a studio apartment at Broadview and Danforth, and working as a dishwasher at the Native Canadian Centre.
I was poor, isolated and depressed. Around that time, I went on my second vision quest, this one in Red Lake, Minnesota. It was a powerful experience. I was left out in the bush alone, 10 miles away from the camp, for three days. I had no food or water.
I just had to sit up in a tree on some scaffolding and pray. It wasn’t the fasting, bears or wolves I was afraid of; it was being alone with my demons that terrified me.
That first night, I yelled, I screamed, I cried and I sang. I prayed to the Creator and asked what my purpose was. I reflected on my mistakes and realized my childhood had wired me to believe that I was worthless, that I could never accomplish anything. Even though I was only there for three days, it felt like forever. The day after, I went to the sweat lodge. There was a conductor there to make sure I was safe, but, otherwise, it was just me and the fire. I stood in front of the flames and told the spirits my story. I prayed and I suffered. It was an intense, cathartic experience.
That vision quest saved my life. When I returned from it, I found a new sense of belonging in the Indigenous culture I had discovered. I became an active member of the community, serving as the vice-president of the National Aboriginal Youth Council until I was 25. I also started singing and performing at powwows and Native ceremonies in Ontario and across Canada. And I continued to do vision quests every spring and fall.
My life is richer than I ever imagined. Ten years ago, I met my wife, Erika. Today, we have three children: our son is five and our twins are one and a half. Last year, I was the head dancer at a powwow up in Sudbury, and the dance group and I officially invited my son to join us during the ceremonies. It’s one of the greatest joys of my life that my children will have unfettered access to something I spent years searching for.
Eddy Robinson is a musician, artist and educator.
Episode 12: TMT012 – Interview with Eddy Robinson, Indigenous Artist, Activist & Educator Part 2
If you listened to last week’s episode, you know that I had indigenous artist, activist, and educator, Eddy Robinson on the show. This is part 2 of that episode. Today, as a continuation of our discussion, Eddy and I are going to talk about leadership, some of Toronto’s odd choices for public indigenous statues, Truth and Reconciliation, and what the future holds for the exceptional work that he does. We’re also going to discuss his thoughts on multiculturalism and the impact it has on the indigenous community. If you are a music fan, I think you’re going to love this episode. Eddy deconstructs and demystifies indigenous music for me, and if you’ve always wondered what Pow Wow music is all about, today you’re going to find out.
Episode 11: TMT011 – Interview with Eddy Robinson, Indigenous Artist, Activist, & Educator Part 1
My guest today is indigenous artist, activist, and educator, Eddy Robinson. Eddy is an Anishinaabe/Muskegowuk Cree of the Missanabie Cree First Nation, raised in the city of Toronto. In our talk over the coming two episodes we’ll discuss what it was like growing up indigenous in Toronto (or Canada), what challenges he faced, and whether those challenges are common for others. We’ll also talk about indigenous music, multiculturalism, current issues like Truth and Reconciliation, and his career as as an “artist, activist & educator” as well as his company, Morningstar River.
This September 2016 I was given the amazing opportunity to teach two sessions of EU493: First Nations, Métis, Inuit Issues in Education. The first for the faculty of education at WLU and the first time for me teaching within an academy.
This course is designed to help Teacher Education Candidates learn the ongoing impact of colonization in the areas of educational policies, funding and societal concerns. Teacher Education candidates will engage in a dialogue on what it means to walk together in one land with responsibility, reciprocity, relevance, and respect (The 4R’s Verna Kirkness) Specific topics to be addressed within this course include topics related to sovereignty, identity, land treaty, language, environment, sustainability, decolonizing education as well as historical and current concerns impacting First Nations, Métis, Inuit vitality on the sociocultural, socio-economic and political Canadian landscape.
This experience has definitely been a tremendous learning for me and I have gained an exponential amount of hands on life experience as a teacher during this process. Each time I walk into the classroom at WLU I approach the teacher candidates as if I am transferring a direct message to each individual student within their respective classrooms. I think about what would I want students to learn about Indigenous people today? How can building capacity and creating change within the Canadian consciousness further support Indigenous children in the classroom? I also think about Chief Dan George’s address to Empire stadium for Canada’s 100th birthday.
“How long have I known you, Oh Canada? A hundred years? Yes, a hundred years. And many, many seelanum more. And today, when you celebrate your hundred years, Oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.
For I have known you when your forests were mine; when they gave me my meat and my clothing. I have known you in your streams and rivers where your fish flashed and danced in the sun, where the waters said ‘come, come and eat of my abundance.’ I have known you in the freedom of the winds. And my spirit, like the winds, once roamed your good lands.
But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs, which I could not understand, pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.
When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority.
My nation was ignored in your history textbooks – they were little more important in the history of Canada than the buffalo that ranged the plains. I was ridiculed in your plays and motion pictures, and when I drank your fire-water, I got drunk – very, very drunk. And I forgot.
Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this Centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what’s past and gone.
Oh God in heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.
Oh God! Like the thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success-his education, his skills- and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society.
Before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, Oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass. I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedoms of our great land.
So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and nations.”
Chief Dan George – July 1st, 1967
I am definitely looking forward to this upcoming five week session October 24th, 2016. Also Canada’s 150th birthday is coming up and I am wondering who from the Indigenous Nations across Canada will they invite to speak. Will each of these leaders speak to Truth and Reconciliation, Residential School Survivors, boil water advisories, First Nations child poverty statistics (purposely omitted by the government), Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women?
Will the designated speakers share Canada’s true Indigenous narrative and acknowledge what has happened here on this soil honestly? Will they speak to the nations upon nations needing to heal from the oppression suffered here at the hands of the Canadian government?
This opportunity will be an international platform to bring forth the truth just as Chief Dan George did in 1967.
“I met Eddy Robinson at the York Region District School Board’s Quest Conference this fall. Following his keynote, Eddy agreed to have an interview so that we can share his teachings throughout our board and I was honoured to be the one interviewing him. Eddy spoke to us about the storytelling as an ancient Annishnabek tradition that is “rooted in memory work”. His stories reminded me that as educators, we have the power to represent others and his lens has caused me to pause and consider our roles in a different way to better honour the stories of those we serve in our communities. He speaks to the importance of creating a space for stories to be told and invites us into the stories he tells. We need to occupy less space to create more space for all stories. He challenges us to think deeply about our assumptions and to see the world through a different lens. In one of the stories he shared he talked about how a storm was coming and he said that “it was almost like someone sucked the sound out of the room—everything was completely still”. That is exactly how I felt when he was telling his stories to us. He is a storm that is brewing. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.” ~Dr Debbie Donsky, Principal in Curriculum and Instructional Services, York Region District School Board
“Eddy Robinson is a powerful and provocative speaker. His winning combination of historical and cultural knowledge, along with a leader’s vision of the future can help all Canadians gain new insights and ideas on how to reconcile and build together.” – Mark Bowden, TRUTHPLANE Inc.
“I have had the great pleasure of working with Eddy on many occasions over the past few years. A skilled and effective speaker, his message is delivered with both purpose and humour, incorporating personal experiences, historical elements and global perspectives. A natural educator, he is able to create a comfortable space for discussion and a heightened level of audience engagement. I would highly recommend Eddy for your next event.” – Sherri Gray Senior Manager, Corporate Diversity, Aboriginal Peoples and Serving Diverse Communities – TD Bank Group
“I had the privilege of meeting Eddy Robinson at an Indigenous Awareness presentation to TD employees and Senior Managers. Since then I have heard him speak on a number of occasions. Eddy is an energetic speaker. He is passionate about bridging the gap between Indigenous and Non Indigenous people. He possesses the rare ability to stimulate audience participation in a nonthreatening environment. As a facilitator and relationship builder, he can navigate through complex discussions with positive and successful outcomes, even when the topics evoke passionate responses from his audience. Eddy speaks from the heart and draws from his knowledge and real life experiences. He shares his knowledge through stories, song and visual symbolism. Thank You Eddy, for inspiring positive change and bridging the gap between Indigenous and Non Indigenous People.” – Angelo Torchia I Regional Sales Manager, Aboriginal Banking, Prairies & Territories TD Commercial Banking
“Eddy¹s discussion about Indigenous Ways of Knowing through an Urban Lens was the perfect connection to our N¹Wiwiijnookimin- Early Years Collaborative Inquiry. Educators were provided the opportunity to ask questions and have interactive discussions regarding the topic. Eddy also had lunch with the participants afterwards which allowed for candid conversations in smaller groups. Eddy is committed to his work and sharing his story in way that supports Educators in their work. He will also work adjust his presentation to meet the needs of your work. Eddy- a sincere thanks for spending your day with York Region District School Board! We look forward to seeing you at Quest 2016.” – Pamala Agawa Curriculum Coordinator, First Nation, Métis and Inuit Education
“Eddy Robinson brings his experience into the room when he presents. He speaks from the heart. His is a voice to move us all toward respectful relations with one another.” – Celia Haig-Brown, Ph.D. Associate Vice-President Research Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, York University
“Eddy Robinson is one of our country’s rising Indigenous stars for a reason. An extraordinary storyteller, an engaging and charismatic speaker, a beautiful and powerful singer and drummer, Robinson weaves the different strands of a contemporary Indigenous man, father, teacher and artist to present some of the most engaging talks and workshops I’ve encountered. Eddy Robinson’s own story is the stuff of novels, and for such a young man, he’s already lived a very big life. His words have the ability to teach, to create dialogue, to beg questions, to incite discussion, and certainly to help begin healing as we join together as Canadians on our walk to reconciliation. I can’t sing Eddy Robinson’s praises highly enough.” – Joseph Boyden, Award Winning – Canadian Novelist