Story Submitted by Ziigwen Mixemong
My dad, Negonquote, is my superhero. My dad’s story is very different than mine. While his parents loved him and each of his siblings, their trauma was too deep and too ugly to leave behind in one generation. Dad was put in an Indian Day School where he learned nothing but violence and self-loathing. What makes my dad so amazing is not that he came away from that unscathed, it’s that he didn’t. Negonquote’s story is still too painful to tell in full but it left him turning to alcoholism and drug abuse for relief. My dad’s story should have ended here, but, somehow, it didn’t. Negonquote picked himself up and went to AA. The program saved his life by teaching him how to live drug and alcohol-free. To heal, he had to go back and reclaim his identity and ceremony. My dad, who was taught to beat and abuse those around him, has never raised a hand at me. My dad, who was completely reliant on alcohol for any relief, has been clean and sober for 36 years. My dad, who should be dead right now, still tucks me in every night. As remarkable as my father is, the Creator knew it was going to take two to raise an agent of chaos, such as myself. Enter my mother, Wabanoongakikwe. My mother’s spirit name loosely translates to the woman who comes from that far off land that is first touched by the Sun. And like her spirit name, she is powerful and beautiful. My mom didn’t receive the gift of her spirit name until much later in life. But, my mom grew up not knowing who she was. Wabanoongakikwe was raised in a completely colonized household. There was no talk of her Indigenous ancestry and she was left with a giant hole in the centre of her sense of identity. I am so privileged that one day, my mom became strong enough to start learning and asking questions. She knew that she was native, but what did that mean. Who did that make her? While driving by every day for months, she saw a sign at a local friendship centre calling out for volunteers for a powwow. My mom stewed. Was she Indian enough to help? Would they even want her if she knew nothing about who she was? It literally took her months to find the courage to call and see if she was allowed to go to that place. I can’t begin to imagine what that felt like. I am glad to say that one of the faces that welcomed her through that friendship centre door was my father. Of course, they fell in love and soon enough, I came into the world. I am the product of a perfect Urban Indigenous love story. I mean, my parents met at a Friendship Centre, how much more Nish can you get?