I’m from an area on Georgian Bay near Owen Sound, ON, which is near my reservation, Cape Croker. Despite having a fairly strong Native presence in the area, I didn’t go to school with a lot of Native kids. When I went to my first elementary school, I was one of about three. It wasn’t overly racist, but there were definitely some race-related incidents that happened during my childhood. Most notably, I got beat up by neo-nazis when I was in grade seven/eight in Owen Sound walking home one night with a couple of friends. Surprisingly, it’s actually come up in the news recently that there’s been a surge in race-related incidents in Owen Sound.
I was raised by a white family, and did not have a relationship with my biological mother who was Native. I was adopted out by her when I was very young. She had me when she was 15 years old. She had a much more close relationship with her family, but I did not have the pleasure of that, unfortunately. I wasn’t exposed a lot to my culture. I remember going to a pow wow once, maybe twice, at Cape Croker. My family didn’t really try to raise me in the traditional “Native” sense. I was made aware that I was a “status Indian” and that entitled me to education and certain tax benefits and what-not and that’s really about the extent of it. I learned more from my elementary school than I ever did from my parents.
So I’d say a lot of the negatives of my childhood involved growing up in a very sheltered community. Not a lot of Indigenous or mixed-race children went to my high school either, despite being so close to a reservation. I did have a best friend who was Native, but we kind of drifted apart around grade nine or ten. Indigenous youth in Ontario, depending on where they grow up, can have a lot of kids on their side or remarkably few. Some communities are welcoming, some are very much not. You’re definitely a by-product of where you grow up. That’s not to slam the Grey-Bruce Area where I come from. It’s just that’s been my experience.