âpihtawikosisân is the name the Cree have given to the Métis.  It literally means “half-son”.  I chose the name to reflect the fact that I am coming from a Métis perspective, and it is not actually my name, legal or otherwise.  It sounds like ah-pih-du-wi-GO-si-sahn.  In rapid speech it can sound more like ah-pih-duhh-GO-si-sahn which is what most people repeat back to me when asked how to say this word 🙂  I’d understand either pronunciation.

My name is Chelsea Vowel.  I am a 39 year old Métis mother of four girls, step-mother to two more. I was born and raised in manitow-sâkahikan territory, (Lac Ste. Anne) which is a Métis community in Alberta, about 70 km west of Edmonton. My mom is Métis and my dad is white. My family are the Loyers, Callihoos, Belcourts and Gladues.

I have a BEd and taught for some time in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.  I obtained my LLB from the University of Alberta and then promptly moved to the only civil law jurisdiction in the country…Quebec, making my common-law degree rather less useful. I lived in Montreal for seven years, teaching Inuit youth in care, and then Inuit youth sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I finally managed to get us moved back to home territory in 2016, in time to start an MA program in Native Studies.


Where else you’ll read/hear/find me:

The Winter We Danced (I have two pieces in this book)

The often-ignored facts about Elsipogtog: Toronto Star

Indigenous Nationhood Movement: Nationhood is a Verb

Supporting Indigenous Sovereignty and Self-Determination panel (about 16 minutes in)

Supporting Indigenous Sovereignty and Self-Determination panel (video, easier to navigate)

McGill Idle No More teach-in, January 25th, 23 min in

The Globe and Mail: Idle No More only sounds vague. Let’s talk specifics.

Montreal Teach-in, January 6th, 2013 (video)

Indian Country Today

rabble.ca (blogger)

Huffington Post Canada (blogger)

Indian Country Today Media Network

I’m not a huge fan of the comments section on Huff Post which I have no control over and I’ve made the conscious decision not to read or answer posts when I publish there.  I try to post my shorter works on HuffPost and keep the longer discussions here.


Open File Montreal

National Post: Assimilation is the not the answer to the Aboriginal ‘problem’

National Post: No, things are not getting better for natives

National Post: The Natives are Restless

National Post:Attawapiskat


Indigenous Waves: discussing the Tsilhqot’in decision

Red Man Laughing: The Chelsea Vowel Interview

FNCFNEA: An Interview With Chelsea Vowel

CBC: Voices of the Idle No More movement (video)

CBC As It Happens: Audit of Attawapiskat

Eighteen Bridges: Burden of Proof

Interview with Wayne K. Spear

CKLB 101.9 Denendeh Sunrise

CKNW AM980, interview about Nanaimo Daily article (at 11:50)

Al Jazeera English: The Stream, “Canada’s First Nation Education Reform Act”. (panel discussion)

CJAD 800 Montreal: Idle No More  Second part

CBC The Current: Idle No More

CBC Morning: No Doubt and Cultural Appropriation

Open File Montreal: National Post mix-up

Open File Montreal: Attawapiskat

CBC Superior Morning: Attawapiskat

CBC As It Happens: Attawapiskat (about 9 minutes in)


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116 Responses to About

  1. Jean says:

    Well, at least in Quebec civil law a married woman can keep her maiden name –at least this is what I’ve been told by other ex-Quebecois women.

    • You can keep your maiden name no matter where you are. The choice to change your name (or not) is your own. It is more common among francophones than anglophones in Canada for a married woman to keep her maiden name, but then again, this custom of taking your husband’s name is not one that latinos share either so…regional differences.

      I do find your comment rather random. What sparked it?

      • In fact I understand that in Quebec a woman canNOT change her name to that of her husband if she so desires.

        • Matt says:


        • The Quebec Civil Code has three justifications for a name change, and the only one that would apply to a married woman would be the ‘general’ clause in article 58. However you have to use the surname for a while before applying to have it legally changed and its up to the registrar of civil status. It’s a fair amount of trouble really, and what a strange conversation 😀

          • TK says:

            The fact is it is treated the way any other name change would be treated, no more or less. Which makes sense (over the automatic name change in some other countries and provinces, whether the woman wants it or not). It is a hassle, but the same hassle that would exist for any other change.

      • As far as I understand it, unless it has changed, you can “keep your maiden name,” except your maiden name is now considered your married name. Say I got married and changed my name to my husband’s (I did). When the marriage was over I wanted to go back to my maiden name but was told I was only changing my married name even though I was divorced. Hopefully things have changed, When I remarried and my husband wanted to adopt my daughter, I had to adopt her too (1990) I think that has changed as well. Silly laws.

      • Mike Keller says:

        When my sister married, in Manitoba, her husband took HER last name.

      • So much for legality. I was asked by the very Canadian government (in India) to take my husband’s last name, or they wouldn’t approve my visa. I was coming on a spouse application. They routinely do that – I have it on their letter head. I wanted to use my both last names – Sandhu and Bhamra, and went to the embassy in a diff city to reason with them but they said to me in person that I have to “drop” my maiden last name. I had to! But after being in BC for three months, I legally changed it to Sandhu Bhamra, paying fee and going through the trouble of putting my new legal name on each document. I did it because I wanted to. But how many can after your landing papers are in one name?

        • My mother-out-law ended up being forced to take her husband’s surname when she immigrated to Canada, even though in Chile, the woman keeps her own name and the children take both their father’s and mother’s surname. It smacks of the kind of lazy bureaucratic nonsense of colonisation and early immigration, where officials anglicized or mangled people’s names out of sheer whimsy. Frustrating!

    • Tara says:

      Your blog is wonderful. I’m wondering if you’re okay with me referring students to it on a regular basis and including it on my Facebook account.

  2. I was wondering if I could cross-post your piece “Harper said Attawapiskat got $90 million, where did it all go!?” on my website standupandunite.com which I have dedicated to the recent Attiwapiskat housing crisis and hopefully will evolve into a blog about the woefully insufficient funding to the First Nation communities, the fight for equitable education and the regular douchey things the government does to further marginalize the Native people of Canada. It seems all Canadian governments, Conservative (oopps, I mean the HARPER) and Liberal governments have treated our Native population as negligible, but the HARPER government also treats them with such disdain it is truly offensive. Your article clarifies much about the $90 million dollars in funding over five years and how far it doesn’t go. These meager crumbs of the King’s banquet table barely even addresses the housing crisis and that would be addressed only, and if only, all other services would be forgone. Sad state of affairs. I find it obscene for any representative of the Canadian people to use shock rhetoric in reference to this $90 million; knowing that most Canadians will not do the math, making it sound like the First Nation people of Attawapiskat won the lottery. Your article clearly speaks to the truth and explains how little $90 million does for a community faced with the extremely harsh climate challenges the Attawapiskat people face. You can email me at mmayermcknight@gmail.com if you allow me to cross post this, with attribution to you of course. Thanks.

  3. Laurie Allan says:

    I found your explanation about spending in Attawapiskat very helpful. Thank you.

    I am a producer with CBC Radio. Is there any chance we could have a chat?

  4. Peter McVey says:

    An excellent, well-reasoned & persuasive piece on Attawapiskat. Thanks for taking the time to make sense of what would otherwise be a two-minute sound bite on Newsworld.

  5. David says:

    Do you also have a Twitter feed we could follow? I am at http://twitter.com/DavidSpencer

    I am connecting students and staff with Aboriginal culture and history.

    David Spencer
    Aboriginal and Environmental Education Circle (AEE Circle)

  6. Sarah says:

    Would love to speak to you for a possible interview about this blog.

  7. Hi,

    I’ve just read your excellent analysis of the issues in Attawapiskat – I have some questions about Indigenous law and history – hoping you could be of some help with suggestions. Is there a way I can contact you? (Alternatively – since I’m logged in to this comment via facebook, could you send me a contact message via FB)?

    I’d of sent this more directly but haven’t seen a contact form on this blog.


    Aubrey Harris
    Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty
    Amnesty International – Canadian Section
    English-Speaking Branch

  8. Clayton Wawia says:

    Before anyone can really appriciate or comment what is happening in Attawapiskat, one should understand the history of the community and how it came to be. You have to physically see the community, look at where it is located on the James Bay coast and then you will get an understanding why the houses are delapitated and unliveable.

    You will also find out what role the Federal Government played in causing the hardships of these people. if one comes to know and see the area these people where moved from so that the Government could better service them, you will find the original settlement of the Attawapiskat people was where the DeBeers Diamond mine is located.

    As always with a pocket full of lies the Gov’t promised them a better life. They live on a built up piece of land about 16 square city blocks surrounded by swamp land that is prone to tidal flooding every afternoon so they become land locked this time everyday. They get thier water from a place called Dead Dog Lake (name speaks for itself), the garbage dump seeps into this lake and the surrounding water table, and the chemical waste is siutated about five hundred feet from the community and also seeps into the water table.

    A person has to walk the same ground these people walk everyday to begin to understand why things are the way they are. Throw the dog a bone and it will keep quite doesn’t work anymore and it sure as hell won’t work here.

    Like everything else there are two sides to every story, if a person digs deep enough one might even see the possibility of a plot between the Gov’t and the Catholic Church to christenise the people and make it easier to scoop them for the Residential Schools.

    Finally, why was INAC at the time of Debeers wanting to open thier Diamond Mine so anxious for the Chief and Council of Attawapiskat to sign an Impact Benefit Agreement that was poorly written and did note mention or address the Social Impact this was going to have the community.

  9. candi says:

    So proud of what you’re doing. Great post. Clear and relevant. Keep it up!!!

  10. I am very VERY appreciative of your hard work. Your post “Dealing with comments…” has been a very eye opening and educational one for me. Thank you very much. I realize you are very busy, so respond to this when you can, but are there any other websites or articles that you can point me to that can explain in plain English some of the bigger challenges facing our First Nations in regards to the law and treaties? I am not a law major (or minor) and so as I was looking through some of the documents I found (ie: the Far North Act of 2010, any of the treaties, etc…) I found myself getting lost and overwhelmed. Thank you.

    Take care and keep educating those of us who need it!

    • Plain English explanations are hard to come by, unfortunately. I started a “Learning Links” page on the blog with links to various sources, but these are not all easy reading either. I have been trying to keep up with comments and requests, many of which are for more information. I very much want to provide that information, and will do my best to get it out there when I can. Keep checking back:)

  11. i have incredible amounts of admiration and respect for the work you’ve been doing. you are a really strong, powerful person.

  12. My history use to have a tribe, but the British Crown remove them from there farm lands in Scotland and sent them here. Were all old and new victims of colonialism. I should be marries to a guy wearing a shirt and cooking bashed tatties and chopped neets and some crap in a sheep stomach and talking Gaelic with my wee lads and lass. So thanks for shining a light on your situation. by the by, my grand baby is Cree. So I will simulate into his cutler, mine is gone. Canada is a way better island to live on any how.

  13. Lorne Kenney says:

    Thank you for a very well-written explanation. When that big-looking $90 million number is correctly examined, as you have done, it turns out to prove the Harper government (and those before it) are providing far less to and for those citizens than comparable federal/provincial governments do for the rest of us. You have not only provided the shield (to protect the poor folks in Attawapiskat from the clear inference they get too much money and spend it badly) but the spear (to counterattack by illustrating the nature of their financial mistreatment and the insufficiency of what is provided).

    And now to my little piece of sarcasm.
    The solution to Attawapiskat’s crisis is simple.
    It only needs to be designated as the site for the next G8, G20 or other world leaders’ meeting when it’s Canada’s turn to play host.
    It is totally secure; the only way in or out is by air from Timmins, except during the six weeks or so in winter when the road from Moosonee is open. No protesters could get there. Everything else that might be needed is already there, correctly provided by the Government of Canada. I am sure world leaders would enjoy staying in tents or walking to and from the Healing Centre handily located 5 km outside of town or sleeping on the floor of the arena or the gymnasium in the community centre. It would give them an authentic Canadian experience. Money saved on security would cover everything else. The community would need a bandshell though. Could we ask that Tony Clement be put in charge? The village is already under exclusive federal government control and he’s the head of the Treasury Board. It’d be a small matter him to look after things and he has the experience. And Peter McKay could look after transportation arrangements.

  14. Siusaidh Caimbeul says:

    Hi young sister and thanks for your excellent explanation. If you have time and want to meet up with a retired woman prof for a talk over tea or coffee, please e-mail me. I used to teach Caribbean history (African-diaspora and Indigenous) with some knowledge of Aboriginal issues, eg. article in Canadian Journal of Native Studies against Tom Flanagan (!). All the best!

  15. Cindy says:

    Hello KD,
    I wanted to say, ‘chi migwetch! We need more of our people to stand up and dare to speak the truth and challenge misconceptions. I relate so much to your words and often experienced frustration at times to see and think (my own perception of course) that too many times our educated people are so easygoing or prefer to just find that job and be happy with life. I support that, but I’ve long believed that we need more agents of social change.

    You, in my opinion are one of the ones with the capacity to affect many. In my current work, and throughout my education, I’ve encouraged and promoted to as many FNMI as I could to get out there and get educated, but to go beyond a tech degree and go higher in education.

    You inspire me! Thank you for your website! I really appreciate the thoughtful posts you put up. Very powerful. I hope to one day cross paths with you.

  16. Doug Cuthand says:

    I do a weekly column for the Star Phoenix in Saskatoon. I am a trustee and committee member on my reserve and I am aware of teh information you outlined in your very helpful article. I based my column on what i know but it clearly coincides with your information. Keep up the good work, educating the public will dispell all the old myths and falsehoods

    Doug Cuthand

    Conservatives ignore First Nations responsibility

    By Doug Cuthand, Special to The StarPheonixDecember 2, 2011

    The actions of the federal government in regards to the situation at Attawapiskat are troubling.

    It appears that a kneejerk racist response and the spread of misinformation has become its mantra.

    Attawapiskat has become a miner’s canary for Canadian First Nations. We can expect the heavy hand of this government to form the basis of future policy making.

    Ottawa’s reaction – and that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in particular – has been appalling.

    Rather than face the issue and try to come to some kind of resolution, the prime minister complained that about $90 million has been spent by his government in the past six years and he sees little to show for it. Then the colonial office walks in and places the First Nations government under third-party management, which is a form of receivership.

    It’s easy to play blame the victim if people don’t examine the facts. The $90 million that has been spent over last six years constitutes the band’s federal transfer payments. These cover costs for education, community and social development, and are accounted for every year in the band audit that has been posted on its website since 2005.

    It amounts to $15 million on average for each of six years. This is comparable to other reserve communities of a similar size. The funds are closely regulated and can only be spent in certain ways.

    The budget for the fiscal year 2010-11 is the latest audited statement available on the Indian Affairs website.

    That year, the federal expenditures were $15,946,810 and included only $403,986 available from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation for housing.

    According to Statistics Canada, in 2001 the First Nation had a population of 1,290. The annual expenditures for the band were $15,861,724, and that year $159,748 was available for housing.

    In the past decade, the population has grown to about 1,800 from 1,290. This represents a 40 per cent increase in the size of the community, however when such paltry amounts are put toward housing, it is no wonder that houses have become overcrowded and run down. If the federal contribution had kept pace with the population growth, it should be in excess of $22 million this year.

    Attawapiskat is an isolated, fly-in community.

    The only way to transport building materials is by expensive airfreight or a few months by winter road. This makes everything, including food, gasoline, and basic transportation, more expensive. A standard twoor three-bedroom house will cost between $200,000 to $250,000 in such an isolated area.

    Three weeks ago the First Nation declared a state of emergency and the Red Cross responded with a plane load of emergency supplies. An emergency airlift to a northern community had all the urgency of a Third World disaster. The federal government doesn’t like to be embarrassed and rather than help out, it turned on the community.

    The government spin is to blame the victim. Its assertion that $90 million is unaccounted for is just plain wrong and the government has a responsibility to set the record straight.

    Attawapiskat is not the only desperate case in Canada.

    It now appears as if the government is trying to dump its responsibility for First Nations on the provinces. In the case of Attawapiskat, the province of Ontario has shown much more sensitivity and concern than the federal government, which holds the constitutional responsibility.

    The Conservatives have no long-term strategy when it comes to First Nations.

    Cries of accountability are getting old and the problems are not going away.

    The government must do something and it just can’t be a southern Canadian solution imposed by the bureaucrats that got us into this mess in the first place.

    Ottawa must sit down with First Nations leaders and have an adult conversation. The colonial office must not be included in these talks because it is a large part of the problem. The government and the colonial office have to get rid of their southern ideas, set aside plans for privatizing First Nations land, and forget about moving whole communities south.

    The government has to realize that simply uprooting people and sending them south or to a new artificial community is not the answer. It hasn’t worked in the past and it won’t work in the present. First Nations people have deep roots in the land and don’t transplant well. Still, the government and First Nation leaders must look at alternatives to the present situation and look at improved better education for our people and economic development plans.

    The Conservative government is spending billions on jails and military toys.

    Meanwhile, the Red Cross is delivering aid to our own people.

    This federal government has to get its priorities straight.

    © Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

  17. Bruce Weaver says:

    I am very pleased to see such clear writing on a difficult topic. Congratulations on your work and best of luck in your new location.I will follow your writing as i try to build awareness in my church community. I use stories from my time teaching in Whale Cove and Fort Providence. I have recently learned that a garnd parent was a Mohawk from Deseronto andn am now exploring my newfound roots. Most exciting!!

  18. Kate says:

    You are doing Canada (and the international community) a massive favour. I am so grateful to you for offering up such a powerful gift. You are making accessible an essential part of Canada’s story – past, present and future – that is not taught in our schools nor communicated in our mainstream media. This story must be told. As a non-Indigenous Canadian who works with First Nations communities here in BC, I feel that one of the ways I can be an ally to my Indigenous friends and colleagues is to educate myself on the real issues and help to spread the word about them. I know many non-Indigenous Canadians who also wish to be allies – and want to know the real story – but don’t know how to do this. The work you are doing is helping to guide our way. Please don’t stop. From my heart, thank you.

    • suezoo39 says:

      Gosh Kate, you read my mind and eloquently typed what I was thinking.

      Perhaps you can help me.

      I spent a lot of time in the viral comments yesterday and was overwhelmed. I am slow to process information and I just can’t keep up. As I begin my day online, [shift-worker sleep cycles] I have decided to start from the beginning and do a lot of reading before making anymore comments. But there are things I need to know as I go along and I’m shy to post questions that display my ignorance. Though, to give credit, after reading comments on main stream news sites, I’m far ahead of the curve from the average reader.

      So, to the beginning. I need a glossary. Native, Aboriginal, Indigenous, Indian, First Nations, Inuit, Inuviat, … you know better than I the terms I need to learn.

      I am non-Indigenous, 50 years old, female. I’ve lived in rural Manitoba most of my life, spent half my adult life North of 54. Lived and worked in many native communities, on and off reserve. Two of my best annual holidays were the ones I spent in Baker Lake and Island Lake. My family has been here for almost one hundred years, I am second-generation Canadian. I have no ties to “the old country” as all of my grandparents refused to speak of it. They were all “white” “Russian”, but identified as Polish, Ukrainian and peasant German, when they could be coaxed to speak of their background at all. My closest ties to First Nations communities are the peoples of Garden Hill and the displaced Inuit of Qausuittuq, Nunavut.

      For a long time I have been searching for historical background on the different Nations that are in Manitoba but it has been tough going.

      Oh yes, I have the attention span of a gnat and I babble. -eye roll-

      Glossary. Can you help? Or point me in the right direction? What does nitôtêmitik and âpihtawikosisân mean? What are “bad”/dis-respectful words to use? When do I use these terms and exactly what do they mean? Native, Aboriginal, Indigenous, Indian, First Nations, Inuit, Inuviat.

      • Well very briefly and without going into too much detail yet:
        nitôtêmitik is a form of address to people you are calling ‘my friends’ in Cree.
        âpihtawikosisân means “half son” in Cree, and refers to Métis people.

        There are a lot of different terms out there for native peoples. The terms have changed over the years and likely will continue to change. At some point I will post a longer explanation of the issues of Status versus non-Status and so on, but I’ll start with this:

        Aboriginal is a legal term that came into use when it was included in the Constitution Act of 1982. It refers to three groups. First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

        So when you want to be general, and refer to all of us, you can use the term ‘aboriginal’. Another term often used is ‘indigenous’. I’m pretty comfortable with ‘native’.

        When you want to specify (in general) one of the three groups, you can.

        The term “Indian” is still in use legally because of the Indian Act and various other pieces of legislation using that term. It’s one you’ll hear people using for themselves, but it’s not a popular term because of how it’s been used pejoratively.

        A lot of native people refer to themselves by the name of their nation. Cree, Anishinabe, Mohawk, Innu, Mi’gmaq, etc.

        To avoid being disrespectful…just try to be respectful. To some, the labels are very important. To others, it’s what you’re saying that matters. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to ask questions. I think a willingness to remain ignorant is much more shameful.

  19. james says:

    I would like to have your permission to share your piece on following the money in Attawapiskat on http://www.netnewsledger.com

  20. Dale says:

    Dear âpihtawikosisân,
    Thank you for the excellent article about Attawapiskat. I read it first online in the National Post and found it very enlightening. It certainly shifted my perspective on the issue. I wish you all the best in obtaining your Quebec professional qualification, and look forward to following your blog in the future.

  21. Did you know that the National Post makes it look like one of their staff wrote your article?


    At any rate, your blog now has a national audience.

    • Brett says:

      I forwarded your excellent blog to the National Post and they accidently credited it to me. It has since been corrected


      • Tan’si Brett!

        Thanks for the clarification! I had assumed this is what happened and I’m really happy to hear from you. I am very sorry that your name ended up dragged through the mud over this, and I’m glad an apology has been issued so that the mistake was made clear. I appreciate the fact that you forwarded the article on!

  22. Gail Taylor says:

    I noticed this as well and am pleased to see the record has been set straight.

  23. Lisa says:

    Hi, I’ve retweeted and been talking about your blog post on Attawapiskat with many people. I’m writing a piece about the issue and would love to talk to you about it. I’m a student in the Reporting in Indigenous Communities course (RIIC) at UBC. Best, Lisa

  24. Thanks for the excellent piece on Attawapiskat, and more generally for the other great pieces that you have here. Add you to my feed reader, and look forward to what you write in the future!

  25. daveM says:

    Thank you for the article and for this blog, most enlightening.

  26. Jessica says:

    I’ve been following the news about Attawapiskat’s housing shortage. I came across your blog post about how the money at Attawapiskat is spent and thought I would share an idea.

    In your post you stated that transportation costs eat up a huge portion of the funds allotted for the building & upkeep of homes. I’ve been reading about Earthships – these are buildings made from a combination of your typical construction materials, local materials & recycled materials – including pop cans and old tires. However, despite that they are safe and beautiful. See this google image search for pictures:


    You can read more about them on Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship

    Because of their mixed sourcing, these constructions will stretch how far the imported construction materials will go. Due to their thick insulated walls and mass, they will keep heating bills down – so less fuel will need to be shipped to heat the houses build in this manner. Also, from what I’ve read, much of their construction can be completed by laypersons. Their construction could literally be a community building event.

    I just thought I would pass the idea along. 🙂


  27. Anna says:

    Excellent piece on Attawapiskat. Viral fame comes at a price. Thank you for paying it so we all may be better informed.

  28. jill torrie on iggy la rusic,s playbook says:

    hi we think your piece on attiwapiakat is the first sane comment on the situation. thank you. working on the east side of james bay we couldn,t figure out what was going on but we hadn,t searched the financial reports yet either although our friend christine roy whose husband comes from attiwapiakat had send word we should just check out the audited financial statements. so thank you for your article and wonderful prose style. (iggy read it outloud and it sounds written to be read which is a rare enough quality).

  29. I am a web designer and often I use a thing called Clustrmaps that you can put in a text widget on the side. It is a colourful map and will show you and your visitors how many we are and where we come from. http://www.clustrmaps.com/ I think it would be interesting to see

    You can see it at work here: http://www.richardhughes.ca down on the right hand column.

  30. James Henry says:

    Thank you for the great article “Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat.”
    I found a link to you column through the CBC website where I was reading through the 99% of negative and ignorant comments. I was glad to find this link and have a better understanding now. Thank you. You are doing this community a great service by putting this out to the public. Now if only more people would read it. I’ve shared your column through Facebook and emails to some friends and family. Sorry for commenting here, but I couldn’t find your email address anywhere.
    Best wishes for the Holiday Season and New Year to you and yours.

  31. Norman PIlon says:

    Like James Henry, I,too, would like to thank you for your incredibly lucid, enlightening, and scholarly reply to the appallingly ignorant and careless comments that have been and that are being made by far too many who are either uninformed or simply bigoted. To everyone on my mailing list, I have sent a link to “Dealing with comments about Attawapiskat.” Hopefully, each will take the time to go and begin his or her education on the issue(s).

    Merely one additional point that may be worth considering: the OECD estimates that in Canada in 2006, general government expenditures as a percentage of GDP were 39.3%.[1] Since the population of Canada in 2006 was roughly 32.7 million [2] and the nation’s GDP was roughly 1.16 trillion dollars [3], per capita expenditure was roughly $13,412.00. Now compare that to a 2011 per capita consolidated government expenditure of $11,520.00 in Attawapiskat (I’m extrapolating, here, and may be overstating this figure), and it is difficult to deny the second or even third class status of every man, woman, and child living there. Things are even worse when the real differences in the costs of living are factored in, and then what would be the real discrepancy if all the numbers being used were concurrent rather than separated by a span of 5 years?

    Indeed, you do have the power to educate, as you deftly demonstrated by your analysis and as you must. For most speak their ignorance, an ignorance seemingly and unfortunately propagated by the media establishment, but it is an ignorance that surprisingly can and often does take notice of the “facts.” You must therefore not abandon the fight. Reason might yet prevail.

    Once again, thank you for your splendid effort,


  32. Gail Taylor says:

    It is such a relief to read some positive words that are insightful and not hateful.

  33. mop says:

    Great blog. Your commentary on First Nation’s issues is the most well researched I’ve ever seen.

    Do you have any blog posts with proposed solutions to the social issues facing reserves? Lots of Canadians seem to feel that the Indian Act has been a disaster, and that the reserve system in general is kind of a bad idea. What are your thoughts?

    • It’s not really my place to propose solutions to the social issues facing reserves. That’s the point, really. Many solutions have and are being proposed by the communities themselves, and it’s about time we listen to them. I may put together some of the things communities have done, or are trying to do…but I will not engage in the practice of (however well-intentioned) pretending I know what is best for others. The people in our communities are capable of making positive changes, and in fact have been fighting to do so against really incredibly odds.

  34. Gail Taylor says:

    Thanks! I will post on my facebook. This is a much better version.

  35. Lesley Sneddon says:

    I apologise for posting here seemingly randomly but couldn’t find a “contact” link (judging by your popularity and the issues you discuss, that’s probably a good idea).

    I have great respect for the sensitivity, thoughtfulness and depth of your postings, and I’m wondering if you would be willing, for at least these two reasons (wonderfulness and resultant popularity), to post about the recent gruesome findings from the Brantford, Ontario, area (interested parties look up “Children’s Bones Identified at Canada’s Oldest Indian Residential School).

    I believe thousands of people would be very appreciative. I was born and raised in Brantford, and I didn’t know about this until today. And I need to stop crying about it and think instead that I’ve done something constructive, and that’s why I thought of asking you.

    Thank you.

    • I’m always a bit taken aback that Canadians in general don’t know much about Residential Schools (including the death toll). I realise that’s a bit unfair, as hidden as it has been from the official Canadian histories, but I have heard these stories all my life, so I forget that others haven’t. I will probably do a post about Residential Schools at some point, yes.

      • It’s heartbreaking, to say the least, what happened at the Residential Schools, I find it very horrific… If I could wave a magique wand, and I sincerely wish I could, I’d try to heal the past… sadly I can’t… I am not first nations but I grew up not far from the reserve in Merritt, BC for half of my childhood…. I wish I knew of some way to help things be resolved in the present, but I don’t; I do however, when and as appropriate, share knowledge/information. I feel very passionately that the real history of Canada, as well as local traditional languages should be taught to all children in the public schools regardless of their race, I think also the traditional teachings of the elders should also be taught at the schools; if anything it would just be the honourable thing to do. But when I say these things to non-native Canadians they seem utterly clueless about why this should be done or why it is important, they don’t get it and I find it so frustrating, and ignorant that they don’t get it. But it’s not constructive to force my ideas on others so it’s usually at about that point that I just change the subject.

  36. Lesley Sneddon says:

    Thank you so much. We need to know. We absolutely need to know. Thank you for shining your bright and powerful light into the shadows.

  37. This site is very cool! Great to see all these amazing artists and entrepeneurs representing our beautiful culture. Please check out my stuff on Etsy or my Facebook Candace Halcro – Knight Thank you.

  38. Mark says:

    That image at the top of your blog is really beautiful. Thank you for giving credit to the artist and telling us where to find out more information.

  39. Gail Taylor says:

    For your information just in case you do not have it yet
    Hope this link works.
    Gail Taylor

  40. Susan Munro says:

    Greetings, âpihtawikosisân. I’ve written a blog post on Slaw about your blog and your writing; you might like to see it: http://www.slaw.ca/2012/01/12/attawapiskat-and-social-media/
    All the best to you!

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  42. Danielle F, QNSA President says:

    I am a law student at Queen’s University and I would love to speak with you about coming to Queen’s to speak at our Aboriginal Awareness Week. Please e-mail me.

    Look forward to speaking with you!

  43. Uuumm… Can I just say, COOLEST DERBY NAME EVER.
    Also, strange how I happened upon here, I was simply looking for a map that showed what parts of AB and SK Treaty 6 covered and chose the most solid coloured/easy to read one, which just happened to be yours. Thought the blog looked familiar then realised who you are and what of yours I have read before.

    • Finally someone who likes the name! Most people out here don’t really get it, because to them Louis Riel was a French guy, and the name isn’t as saucy as most derby names. Interesting how you found your way back here 😀

  44. Andy Thomson says:

    I wanted to say hello, introduce myself. I am an architect, also newly moved to QC (Aylmer, near Ottawa), learning French and opening an Eco-campground in Fort Coulonge: http://www.ddlo.ca

    I am currently enroute to Attawapiskat, to learn, observe, teach, and see what I can offer. I have a suitcase full of experimental building structure kits that I hope to use to teach some of the school kids how buildings function, why they fail, and how to build their own, simple, strong cozy and green shelters, using low cost materials and really clever geometry.

    I write to commend you on your detailed analysis and passionate espousal of fact on your blog, and to thank you for the information. I also have a long email chain from chief Spence to get through…

    Any special requests or people you know up there that I could connect with? Also, as I am in my startup year and am trying to grow my business by word of mouth, I would invite you to visit my campground as our guests, if you and your daughters can find a week to get away this summer. I know how hard it is to occupy kids when they are out if school, and the expense of getting away together can be killer, so I just wanted to offer. (I have 3 kids, 12, 7, 3). I plan to build a number of buildings on my own property that I think would be a better fit for Northern communities, and so that I am eating my own dog food, so to speak 🙂

    Best Regards,


  45. Beth Bruder says:

    I am interested in discussing your ideas. Is there a book in here?

  46. Matt Hiltermann says:

    “NEW! (December 8, 2011) Do you want a (corrected) print version of this article, with footnotes rather than hyperlinks? Send me a request via the comment section with your email, and I will send you a Word document. I will edit out your email address before your request is posted publicly. ”
    As I couldn’t find anywhere to leave a comment on the article page, I thought I’d try to contact you this way. I am currently working on a critical analysis of colonial relations at Attawapiskat during the crisis and I was wondering if I could get the aforementioned print version with footnotes, as it would be easier to print, refer to, etc.
    Also, if you have any other recommendations as far as sources are concerned, I would really appreciate as much as I can get. Thanks for your time and I hope to hear back from you soon.


  47. I have recieved inspiration from your posts.I have started visiting your website everyday to get something for new.Thank you

  48. Pete says:

    Hi there. First of all I love your posts, both here and on your other platforms. I’m an undergrad linguistics student in Melbourne, Australia, & though I’m not indigenous I have a great interest in indigenous languages. Through one subject (that I’m not in fact doing) I came across this awful article and I was wondering if you’d seen it: http://is.gd/6E7C1h. I just don’t know where to begin! It’s both racist AND linguistically inept! I’m so astonished that ANY linguist could spew this crap, especially one who purports to know some Indigenous American languages. Maybe if you get the time you could help me disentangle the layers of bullshit in this.

  49. Diane says:

    Hi Chelsea, just wanted to say thanks for all the time and effort you put into this blog – it’s been so amazing reading your words and getting insight into your perspectives. There are a lot of questions about how Canada must change to be a healthier country and you surely have some excellent ideas on how to make that happen. Education is certainly the first step, and I assure you it is working… I feel like reading your work is increasing my knowledge and understanding more than years of formal schooling. Thanks again – a fellow Albertan

  50. Andrew Fehr says:

    Very interesting blog Chelsea – this is the kind of information about Indigenous peoples that is sorely lacking in mainstream media. I look forward to reading more and being connected to more insightful sources.

    I grew up in Inuvik and graduated from SHSS in 2008 – our time in Inuvik must have overlapped for at least a few years! Always nice to come across a fellow Mackenzie Delta dweller 🙂

  51. Susan Inyanskawin says:


    Much gratitude for your thoughtful postings, Apihtawikosisan.

    How recent was the event you relate in your blog, regarding Ruby and her experience when she wanted to do her report on the Residential School system?

    Thank you <3

  52. Susan Hughes says:

    Hello Chelsea,

    Please note that apihtawikosisan is one of my recommended weblinks in my writer-in-residence blog on Open Book Toronto!



  53. I’m pretty sure I aspire to BE you.

    Amazing ♥

  54. Chantal says:

    Hi âpihtawikosisân, what means or what the letters stand for in: BEd, LLB and BCL?

  55. Lisa O says:

    Thanks for your writing. I’ve been following your stuff for a while, but didn’t know you were in Montreal. I’m Métis from Saskatchewan, also in Montreal. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on the communities in Quebec that identify as Métis, but aren’t recognized by the MNC – something I’d rather do by email than here, because it’s a touchy thing for some people, and I have no interest in sparking an internet comment feud. But I couldn’t find an email address (understandably), so…

  56. Ryan Paul says:

    I think you’re making a mistake to not engage the comments section on HuffPost.

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  58. Dear âpihtawikosisân,

    Bienvenue à Montréal!

    I’m so happy to have happened upon your blog, via a blogroll at Dammit Janet! (After reading about the two intrepid young First Nations men who outed Flanagan’s offensive views on child pornograpy (aka child sexual abuse) being a trifling matter).

    I wonder if we’ve run into each other at any of the Idle No More events here. Are you familiar with Terres en vues/Land Insights who produce Présence autochtone/First Peoples’ Festival and many other initiatives promoting Indigenous cultures? http://www.nativelynx.qc.ca

    I was also one of the people on the neighbourhood committee waging the (unsuccesful) battle to combat the bigotry + real-estate speculation against the conversion of the former Chinese Hospital in Villeray (just north of Jean-Talon Market) into a temporary residence for Inuit patients receiving specialised care at Montréal hospitals.

    An Algonquin lady who lives in the neighbourhood was horrified to find a racist leaflet in her mailbox, saying the centre was for itinerant addicts and would bring street drug and alcohol abuse and all manner of other evils. (The centre was for people with cancer and other serious diseases, and expectant mothers with complications of pregnancy). There are many active community groups in Villeray, and contact was made with the Inuit centre here, and many meetings, pickets and presentations to the borough council were organised. Turns out one of the people behind the leaflet was the owner of a trendy local bar. So it is fine to drink too much and sniff coke in the toilets if it makes him money, I guess…

    Finally the Inuit group gave up and said they would seek another location, but alas prejudice against Indigenous peoples can be found in all quarters…

    Keep up the good work!

    • It is possible we’ve met, definitely, though I am incapable it seems of remembering people’s names 😀 I have spoken at a few INM events and have done gigs in Cree around town before that.

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  62. p says:

    First Nation people had a fund established for them back in the 1800’s. I read this in a piece written by and FN person trying to straighten out someone complaining that tax $$ were used to fund the bands. I can’t find the darn thing any more have you any info?

  63. ficklerobot says:

    Have you ever considered how grouping the Metis people under the ‘native peoples’ category impacts the rights of the indigenous people of Canada?

  64. Stefan says:

    Hi there. I really enjoy your blog and found it especially informative re. Attawapiskat. I am now wanting to learn more about what’s going on in Elsipogtog (news and bigger picture analysis) and would appreciate any recommendations (blogs and/or other online sources). ‘currently following Media Coop posts and those of a friend who is a prof at St.Mary’s and supporting on-the-ground solidarity efforts. I have some basic knowledge, through my work, of ‘duty to consult’ requirements, especially around natural resource development.

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  66. Emma says:

    Louise Riel is my all time favourite derby name.

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  70. Masika says:

    So I was wondering…Do the Native American Tribes give anglicised names to their children or do they give names from Native American languages? And are there inter-tribe marriages or marriages between a member of a Native American Tribe and a white person? And if there are , do some people look at it with prejudice, given the history between them(The white person and the Native American person)? And are Native American superheroes based on the Eagle all right,would anyone be offended by that, considering how sacred the Eagle is for Native American Tribes?

    And I was looking for some Navajo female names as well as surnames. I did find some but I’m not sure how correct they are, so can you please help me?

  71. anon says:

    National Post, Sept. 6, 2013, by Mark Medley:

    The day after he won the Giller Prize, I received an email from a Canadian writer wondering why I — and I’m paraphrasing from memory — had not yet written a takedown of Boyden’s work. In short, the writer claimed, Boyden was a fraud, a white man from Willowdale who’d successfully reinvented himself as a First Nations novelist.

    “There’s always that ‘voice appropriation’ conversation,” sighs Winstanley. “I don’t think we, or he, have pretended that he isn’t. But these are the stories he feels really compelled to tell.” In any case, “he’s been very embraced by that community. So I feel that’s where the Joseph Boyden ‘takedown’ would come from if they felt like he was an outsider, or exploiting them in any way.”

    It’s a charge Boyden, currently developing a series for CBC about a young boy growing up on a reserve near James Bay, takes seriously.

    “I don’t want to be the wannabe Indian,” says Boyden. “I’m always very careful. I’m a mixed-blood person. I have Anishinaabe blood. I have Scottish blood. And I have Irish blood. All of them are equally important to me.

    “I don’t like when somebody tries to play the Indian card too hard with me,” he continues. “No, I wasn’t raised on a reserve. I’m about 1/8 Indian, but it’s a very powerful part of where I come from and how I see the world. It always seems to me it’s the white world that wants to measure and quantify who you are and how much you are of something. With my very dear native friends across North America it’s never a matter of that. It’s a matter of how you see the world, and how you walk through the world.”

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  74. Meaghan Sheahan says:

    Hello Chelsea,
    I just finished reading your text ‘Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Metis & Inuit Issues in Canada’ and felt compelled to reach out to you and simply say, thank you. I found your text immensely informative, and thoroughly enjoyed your conversational style and often sarcastic tone. I am a high school English teacher from Ontario, and this fall my school is launching a ‘Native Studies’ course for our grade 11 college students. I found your text particularly helpful in clarifying both past and present issues facing Indigenous peoples in this country, and I only hope to do them (and my students) justice.
    Thank you.

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