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WALK WITH ME, IT'S GOING TO BE A FUCKING AMAZING ADVENTURE

What the fuck are you doing?

Well, since you asked, I’m going to Cuba for seven weeks; and I’m going to write!

I’m doing what Spirit has led me to do. I have finally followed my heart, intuition, and every fiber of my being. It has said, “you need to go, and you need to do this,” so I listened and let the universe fill in the unknowns, and here I am. My creator and ancestors have gotten me this far, so I’ll leave it to them to open the road ahead of me. So far, they haven’t strayed me wrong.

What place is that you ask?

Well, right now I’m seated in my She Shed, which is located in Unama’ki (a.k.a Cape Breton), but I’m about to undertake one of the most exciting journeys of my life. I’m going to travel to Cuba alone to finish writing a true fiction about murdered and missing Indigenous women, and I want you to accompany me on my journey, cool, eh!?!

First, let me tell you a little about me because I get asked that on the daily and it is one of the reasons I want to write in this space. Who are you? What’s your story? Where do you come from? I’ll try to answer the best way I can. My story is complicated, magical, full of trauma, and beautiful blessings and I have grown and learned from it all.

Let’s get this out of the way. If you don’t like people who swear or cuss then this is not the space for you. I occasionally feel the need to say words like fuck, jesas, asshat, and my personal fav, what the fuck did you just say. I like swearing, and those words are a part of how I express myself.

That said, it might be a good time for some of you to vamoose, otherwise grab a seat and buckle the fuck in! Oh yah, my language is straight up; so, if you’re offended to be called a white person (but you’re white!?!) this is not the space for you.

I actually hope the swearing park has encouraged you to plant your ass more comfortably and why you’ll continue to read on. Either way, you’re here now, so let’s get acquainted and let the relationship begin.



My name is Tanya and I’m a Mi’kmaq woman from the territory known to our ancestors and people as (Mi’gma’gi) Mi’kma’ki. To the average reader who knows little about Indigenous territories, the Mi’kma’ki territory is comprised of what you know to be Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, parts of Quebec, and Maine. We also lay claim to the Boston area because that’s where a lot of our people went to escape centralization and after they left the residential schools in Shubenacadie (‘Shuby’).

I’m writing a book about murdered and missing Indigenous women/people. We didn’t get to where we are today by accident. The policies, legislation, rules, laws, and the systemic assimilation created by the Federal Government of Canada such as the Residential School system got us here. They didn’t make the ride easy for us, but I will make this teaching opportunity a bit softer for you as we walk together. So, back to Centralization and then back to me.

What is centralization you ask? Well, the Centralization Policy of 1942 was an effort imposed upon my people by the federal government to remove us from our traditional lands and divided us into four different reserves in NS and NB. It was created to keep us poor (that part worked) and out of sight from the white people.

The policy didn’t go quite as well as planned and the government abandoned the policy years later, but not before displacing our people, again. In any event, centralization uprooted more than a hundred families from my community of Potlotek and scattered them mostly to Eskasoni and Shuby. I have cousins everywhere thanks to centralization and my father, lol.

Homes that were left abandoned were given away to many white neighbours in the surrounding community of St. Pielk by the Indian Agent of the day. You can still find these homes in those areas. They were moved or burned so that people couldn’t return. True story! There’s your lesson on centralization.

Anyway, back to me, a woman from Mi’kma’ki who was born and raised in a community called Chapel Island. It’s now called by its L’nu (Indian) name, Potlotek. I’m the oldest of 11 children, different dads and different moms and if you’re confused now, hang on baby, LOL!

So, my father had eight kids with three different women. He was an Indian Casanova, but I love him and it’s a running joke amongst us kids that we don’t know if someone else will pop up. (Sorry Dad.) My mother had three children besides me and their fathers are different from mine. So, there it is, 11 of us bound by blood either by our father or mother.

For most of my life, I have worked for my people, my Indigenous people. I started getting paid to work when I was sixteen, and I like to remember that my first job included shoveling shit (manure) as a landscaper. I can still smell the shit when I think about it.

I’ve had all kinds of jobs since then, receptionist; call centre representative; Sears parts and service gal; LTL sales rep; and other shit jobs until I started working for an organization called MLSN.

I say shit jobs, but they gave me my tough skin. Some of my best friends were found in these places, and to be quite honest the blue-collar workers were some of the hardest workers I ever met. The janitors and cleaners of the world are my people.

I then moved into the newly known “reconciliation business” and began my lifelong work for and with my people. First, as a Mi’kmaq Justice Worker. Those familiar with the Youth Criminal Justice Act System will understand the term justice circles. Yah, that talking circle stuff you thought you created, that came from the Indigenous people and was picked up and implemented into the Canadian justice mainstream. We had to come and fix that for you too.

The job consisted of helping our youth navigate the Canadian Criminal Justice system. (You know the easy stuff?) Then I started working with adults facilitating Justice and Sentencing circles across Nova Scotia. I taught many judiciary employees about our ways and learned some of the most important teachings of my life in this role, teachings that have shaped me into who I am now.

The Canadian criminal justice system and its rigid laws also gave me the ambition to start drinking, heavily. You’ve heard about how us Indians like to block out our personal trauma with alcohol and drugs? Yah, well, I wasn’t immune to that either. It’s a way to try to forget about the stories we’ve shared together and to find some peace in the chaos.

I personally had the opportunity to hear from hundreds of first, second and third-generational residential school survivors and their descendants. Remember, the last residential school didn’t close until 1996. What were you doing in 1996?

I began a journey to help our youth and others to find a way out of their criminal justice woes, but the work helped me become a functioning alcoholic, but I’ll get to that as we build our relationship.

I am clean and sober from alcohol for more than a year and have been clean from weed since June 2, 2023. I don’t crave it, long for it, or think of it actually; and I thank my Creator and ancestors for that blessing. I also thank my husband and son. You’ll hear more about them later too as you walk with me.

But I decided the day my son was born that he wouldn’t have to deal with the crap I grew up with. You know that generational trauma we talk about so much? My trauma consisted of being molested by three different people before I was nine years old, parental alcoholism, and violence in my home and community.

I worked in the justice world for almost 15 years, gained an Aboriginal Court worker diploma and paralegal certificate before I left that world when my son was born. I devoted the next two years to his early years, we grew together, and I taught him about love, kindness, and how to be a good human.

When he turned two, I returned to the work I loved. I started to work with another Indigenous organization where I fought to protect our culture, heritage, and archaeology.

In 2022 I started as an Indigenous advisor to the Mayor’s Office but left just before my first-year anniversary. Long story short, I became a token Indian and when I was hired, I was adamant that if I couldn’t do real reconciliation work, I wasn’t the right person for the job. I wasn’t a yes ma’am kind of gal, so I left in January and then my life changed!

I started to write again and a new love story with myself began. Through my writing, I was able to find my love for people again – not going to lie – I didn’t like ya’ll very much, lol. Five hundred years of colonized thinking sucked all the good out of me.

But I’m ready to teach again! But this time, I’m going to teach reconciliation on my own terms, no chains; no parameters; no limits, just straight-up personal experiences and thoughts about how you can become an ally to our Indigenous community, the caretakers of this land, and I hope you’ll join me.

In this space, I’ll be talking about everything – and I mean everything. Walk with me to different places, both physical and mentally, and when we get there, we can have some of the tough conversations together. You can listen to a different perspective, and you can me ask questions. I’ll ask some tough questions and get your brain to reflect on some of the misconceptions out there.

But, most importantly, we can weave through the discussions together to find true reconciliation. We can help each other grow and learn, because if we don’t, what’s the point? I promise you our journey will be filled with humour, laughter, tears, and most importantly, love.

So, here I am, just an Indian girl trying to find her way home, and I’ll be finding my way from Cuba. I’m leaving on a plane to finish my book and I want you to walk with me.



My Next column will shed light on looking like a white woman but having a red spirit and what that means to me.


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