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Can’t Spell Canned Without Can

June 15, 2010

Feet up in the Georgian Bay

Sometimes when you’re feeling down you gotta put on the music that gets you back up. Shit, getting back up might be the most important lesson we can all learn in life.

I have Masta Ace’s song Dear Diary bumpin while my eggs cook this morning. The song is a confessional about the low points of his emceeing career. He’s an underground artist that has stayed underground, but as far as I’m concerned with hip hop, his personable flow and rejection of bling rap make his joints hype.

You see, I got “canned” a few weeks back. The brass said I was “too creative”. My immediate boss shook her head sullenly as each word popped from the tight, pruned lips of the overlord of the office.

I’m not even bitter. I was reluctant to be fired from a job that required so little of me, and at the same time relieved to be let go from a job that required so little of me. As I sat meandering my days away just for a paycheck, as my ideas at meetings were whittled away, I felt like I was  becoming part of the Toronto Zombie Nation perched behind its computers. I guess it was that kind of creativity that got me canned.

As kismet would have it, after a week of wreckless debauchery, I got two ill hook-ups in the publishing industry and went on an Outreach program through South West Ontario’s First Nations communities.

 As a matter of principle, I never call them “Indian Reserves”. They are in fact communities with First Nations people living on them.

In the past, before publishing, I was the marketing coordinator for The Centre For Indigenous Theatre. In that job I held recruitment and outreach programs for First Nations young people interested in the performing arts. Coming back to the job for just a few weeks was amazing.

Over two weeks, I and a colleague held information sessions and theatre games, visiting  Chimnissing (AKA Cedar Point), Mnjikaning (AKA Rama), Wasauksing (AKA Parry Island), Kettle and Stony Point, Sarnia, Muncee, Chippewas of the Thames, and Walpole Island.

Somewhere out there I picked myself back up. Being First Nations in the city you can lose track of yourself. I work, eat, breathe, and sleep a different way of living in the city. And in this life I always feel like I’m trying to fit in. At work, I was trying to be something I wasn’t: a model employee content with waking up and doing what I was told.

I had ideas and information that I was not allowed to share with my coworkers. Ways of doing things that just didn’t fit in. Things that work for me culturally in one place that didn’t work for me in the office.

After an office meeting at my old job, I was taken aside by my boss and told that I don’t speak enough. What she percieved as reticent, I knew as listening.

In those communites where I ran the recruitment and theatre games,  the young people were attentive. The most fun classes were the Ojibway language classes.

Meeting the educators and hearing the young people speak a language that was forcibly reduced to nothing in my mother’s generation was uplifting. Being in those communities I met many great people and heard great stories.

After the first stop in Cedar Point, we took the ferry back to shore. The captain was a relative of my coworker. We were led to the upper deck where we sat with the captain; he had been ferrying those waters for 30 years.

He told us of how the ice roads were disappearing. He told us of boating every few years to New York to have the ship repaired. He told us of watching the deer swim across the channel. We left the first stop at sundown and drove to Orillia through the back and winding country roads at dusk. The rest of the two weeks were much the same. I collected more stories and came home feeling like I don’t need to fit in. Sometimes we all just need to listen.

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