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When I was pregnant with my son in 2005, I was living in Toronto and specifically sought the care of Indigenous midwives and traditional knowledge to inform my pregnancy. At that time there had been next to no culturally grounded research or services offered to Indigenous women in the city. I began to seek out traditional teachings about the life-changing journey I intuitively knew I was on and I looked to my midwives for knowledge. However, it soon became apparent that the midwives were on the same journey as myself. All of us were urban Indigenous women, dislocated from our traditional territories seeking out traditional stories, birth and parenting knowledge that has been silenced by processes of colonization.

Along my journey to unearth the roots of my Indigenous ancestry my biggest discovery was the power of stories. Stories both withhold and let in an assortment of truths that paint the world we see, including how we view ourselves. The stories that dominated my youth were told through the mainstream media and the public school system within a narrow Eurocentric lens, which valued western belief systems and history over all others. Imagine – a Canadian history class without including a word about the residential school system or the nation-to-nation treaty relationship upon which this country was founded? The omission of truth about the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island* has resulted in the perpetuation of racism and negative stereotyping that has worked to separate Indigenous peoples from non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and maintain the current status quo power (im)balances. For me – the result was growing up feeling ashamed of being Indigenous.

With a desire to unearth Indigenous stories silenced by colonization, I became a documentary film and media producer hell-bent on creating space for traditional knowledge and smashing static, mythical representations of Indigenous Peoples for the benefit of everyone. This is why we publish MUSKRAT Magazine, an on-line Indigenous arts and culture magazine that tells Indigenous stories from our perspectives in an effort to share knowledge and culture. As a mom, I feel a vested interest in ensuring that our traditional knowledge be preserved and available to future generations. It is my hope to be able to share these teachings with my son, family, and community contributing to a positive sense of identity and community that I missed when I was growing up.

This issue of MUSKRAT responds to the calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the groundswell of arts engagement activities that promote and nurture positive Indigenous cultural identity. In the coming months we will unroll features that delve into the art of Indigenous parenting. We will also release a MUSKRAT co-produced short documentary called Spirit of Birth that follows young Anishinaabe mother—Allysha Wassegijig—as she prepares for the birth of her first child and seeks knowledge and care from Indigenous midwives and Elders. The short doc explores a vision of self-determination to build the new Indigenous led and designed Toronto Birth Centre and regain control of over our birth experiences while we nurture and maintain the most vital story of all.

*Turtle Island refers to the land that makes North America. It is referred to in parts of the Creation stories of both the Iroquois and the Anishinabek nations. After a great flood various animals tried to swim to the bottom of the ocean to bring back dirt to create land for Skywoman to rest on. Turtle had offered Skywoman his back, however Skywoman was pregnant and needed land to care for her family. After all of the strongest swimmers such as beaver, the loon, and the hellraiser had attempted and failed, the humble Muskrat offered to try. Everyone laughed assuming he was too small and weak for the mammoth task. After days of waiting for MUSKRAT his tiny lifeless body floated to the water’s surface. Saddened by the death and failed attempt of MUSKRAT, Skywoman and the animals noticed his tiny paw was clenched in a fist. She opened it up and found in it a small grain of dirt. MUSKRAT had succeeded in gathering dirt, which she placed on Turtle’s back and while she danced, it grew into the land known today as North America.

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About The Author

Rebeka Tabobondung

Media and story creator Rebeka Tabobondung is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of a leading on-line Indigenous arts and culture magazine. Rebeka is also a filmmaker, writer, poet, and Indigenous knowledge researcher. In 2015, Rebeka co-founded the Gchi Dewin Indigenous Storytellers Festival in Wasauksing First Nation, along the beautiful shores of Georgian Bay where she is also a community member.

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