2013 has just begun and I can’t wait to see what it brings. A lot happened for me personally in the year of 2012, there were plenty of lows but also a lot of highs.
In fact, Facebook even has a new “trend” where each user can view their “20 biggest moments of the year.”
I viewed mine and was happy with most of what I saw – except for the 19th moment which was “Stephanie Wesley became friends with Classic Roots on Nov. 5, 2012.” Classic Roots is a First Nations electronic dance music disc jockey from Thunder Bay.
How was becoming friends with a DJ the 19th biggest moment of my year when so much else happened?
As I mentioned before in a previous column, I won a writing challenge in June. Upon winning, I was informed that I and the other winners would also be given a Governor General’s Student Award for History in December.
At the time, I had no idea how “big” this moment really would be and how conflicted I would feel about it in the end. After the writing challenge, I was tracked down by a University professor from Winnipeg by the name of Renate Eigenbrod.
She invited me to be the “emergent writer” for a Readings of Truth and Reconciliation panel. The panel was just one of many excellent events for the first ever Manitoba Indigenous Writers Festival that took place in Winnipeg in October.
I was told by Ian Ross, who was also on the panel, that I was “meant to be there.” Everything happens for a reason.
I tried not to let everything go to my head, but then I received an e-mail about the upcoming awards ceremony in Ottawa. I researched more about the award itself and who the Governor General actually was and I immediately felt proud.
It was a cold morning in Ottawa on Dec. 10, 2012 when I left a very historic and expensive hotel to go to the home of David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, with several other winners to receive a medal. In a very formal ceremony, I shook hands with the Governor General and smiled for an awkward photo after he placed the very heavy medal around my neck. The strap kept breaking throughout the morning so I couldn’t wear it.
My fellow challenge winner, Melanie Jewell, pointed out a familiar face down below.
“Hey, there’s Harper!” she said. Sure enough, there he was Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the flesh several feet below us. Seeing him in person made me laugh, but I actually felt bored as I fidgeted with my medal and its broken strap.
It was a tiring day and I retreated back to my historic hotel room that afternoon. I logged into Facebook and started to notice a new trend amongst the statuses of my friends.
Names and phrases like “Theresa Spence,” “Hunger strike,” “Bill C-45,” “Requesting a meeting with the Governor General of Canada and the Prime Minister,” and above all “Idle No More,” flooded the newsfeed. It was the first I’d heard of #IdleNoMore.
I was a little confused – I was admittedly too wrapped up with everyday life. I was busy with school, with writing, with parenting, with a failed relationship, with a new friendship, with wondering where I would put my big heavy medal when I got home to realize what was happening.
I was unaware of the movement, of the bill, of Theresa Spence and her goal - and it was my own fault. I started to feel guilty and still do to this day just over three weeks later.
I wish I would have known about it all before I went into both of those houses. I wish I could have said something when I had the chance.
I wish I would have paid more attention to other things but there’s really not much I can do about it now except keep myself more alert of what is going on.
Apathy when it comes to politics is nothing new, and it is so easy to just carry on with your life and let someone else worry about it. But what the whole Idle No More movement has shown me is that it’s important to work together and to stay aware.
All First Nations in Canada have come together and it’s showing the youth why it is important to “give a damn” about who is governing their country.
The movement has made the whole world pay attention – you can see it online through photos posted by people worldwide who are showing their support and solidarity for #IdleNoMore and Theresa Spence.
No amount of negative commentary or attacks on the movement can take away that camaraderie.
Today, I keep the medal I won in the black velvet box it came with and it’s safely tucked away in a drawer.
I was told that all things happen for a reason, and I am still happy about the award itself. In the end, seeing that it came with a faulty strap to begin with, maybe I was never supposed to wear the medal anyway.
Or maybe it was supposed to fall from around my neck when I was receiving recognition in the house and accidentally hit Harper in the head down below. I don’t know. I should have worn it anyway that day.
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