a child I recall vividly my dear Nana, Lucy Marie Charles, sharing
stories of our Mi'kmaq heritage. Some stories stood above others.
One in particular had to do with the origins of our Mi'kmaq people.
The creation story, as Lucy shared it, was complicated and detailed.
There was Glooscap and Martin involved; rocks, islands, fish and
little people too. The one thing that really stuck was our physical
manifestation. I can still hear her strong voice moving back and
forward between her native language and English, "We came from the
earth." As a young impressible child that made a significant impact
on me, "from the Earth." All I could relate it to was the dying
process, we all go back to the earth but coming from the earth was
a new, if not disturbing, concept. She recognized my hesitation
and reinforced her proclamation whenever the subject came up, "We
came from the Earth". The earth she referred to was Nova Scotia,
Canada. As I grew older and she felt I was ready to learn and understand
more she added that the Mi'kmaq people actually rose up from the
earth, made up of rock, dirt and minerals of all kinds. From the
sweetness of that earthly mixture arose the first Mi'kmaq. One of
our first gifts from the Creator was the ability to recognize and
honor that which created us. We were also given the gift of intelligence
and wisdom. The previously "disturbing" concept left me early as
a teenager and into adulthood. Coming from the Earth was and is
a good thing. It roots us to our homeland, it gives us our identity.
Nana would smile with pride and note that, "We are still in the
same place from where we came from, the same good earth." She would
add, "None of the other tribes can say that. They have been pushed
up and out of their homelands but us Mi'kmaq's are still here at
our birth place!"
Her pride, like her blood, soaked through me. In time it was
a comfortable and honorable thing to know that my roots were as
deep and as real as the soil I walked on and the rivers I swam in.
Things were just cool as they could be, that was until the day the
college guy came to my Nana's house. He was there to interview her.
I am thinking he was an anthropologist or a history student working
on dissertation. He wanted to talk about the Mi'kmaq histories and
legends. She obliged the young man with a cup of tea and all his
questions. I sat, as a protector, at the kitchen table with them.
At one point he asks about the Mi'kmaq creation story and Nana shared
the story I had heard all my life, "We came from the Earth". After
she had finished the young man leaned back in his chair, shaking
his head in disbelief, rolled his eyes and stated, "Mrs. Charles
that is only a children's story and fable of your people". He tossed
his pencil on to his notepad and went on to testify about the true
creation story, as he understood it. The Adam and Eve concept and,
more importantly, the land bridge theory. I shuffled in my seat
as I prepared for the worst, a tea cup being slung across the kitchen,
a broom coming out of the closet or a slap up side his intellectual
head. Nana never hesitated to reinforce her unyielding belief system
on anyone. The story of "We came from the Earth" has been handed
down from generation to generation, as long as our family has been
here. I have never heard anyone, with such conviction, challenge
her. This young man unknowingly was doing just that. He went on
to explain the scientific realities of the facts. The African and
Asian connection, the extended land bridge; as well as the 20,000
years of travels and evidence of the coming of the Mi'kmaq to this
place, he called the "new world." My beloved Nana just sat there.
I was stunned. Occasionally she would smile back at the long winded
young man and nod her head in apparent understanding. After his
overextended dissertation of the land bridge theory he came to rest
and began to gather up his materials. He seemed a little uppity
about his stance and evidence. It bordered on disrespect but still
Nana smiled in an almost complacent posture. He thank my grandmother
for her time and noted that he was glad that he could get her "squared
away" about the creation and the origins of the Mi'kmaq people.
He said his goodbyes and as I was escorting him to the front door,
he turned one more time to the aged elder and ask, "Do you understand
and accept the land bridge theory now Mrs. Charles?" In her special
way she replied, "Yes I do young man, it all makes sense to me now.
The 20,000 years of evidence and proof they found along the bridge
makes it real."
My mind was stunned; my life long belief system was shattered.
My heritage and my culture were in question, my spirit hurt! I reached
the front door of my Nana's house and as I open to free my life
of this man who had brought such an, unchallenged, revelation into
it I heard my dear Nana's strong voice once again, "Yes, I believe
in the land bridge theory, except for one thing
" The young
man stood outside the front door and turned to hear her "exception".
"Write this down on your paper". She pointed with her finger, "There
was a land bridge but, we went that way!" I looked for a moment
and then began to smile with understanding. I then turned toward
the open mouthed young man just outside the door and then simply
closed the door in his shocked face. When I turned around my Nana
was heading back toward the kitchen. "That was helpful," she noted,
"I'm glad he stopped by." I was almost laughing out loud. The truth
Addendum: After reading Alex Ewen's extensive work regarding
Strait Theory, Pt. 1 Part 6" I could not help but recall
a well versed teacher in my life, my Nana, Lucy Marie Charles Pinn,
who had a similar story. I should first point out that while the
deepest roots of our being will never be known by us it does not
allow us to ignore or deny that the roots are there. As a Mi'kmaq
being we are taught that just because we don't know the earthly
name of our ancestors does not mean they were not here and, in fact,
thrived and survived in order for us to enjoy our own existence.
With that known fact, we honor and remember the ancestors in our
daily ways. That could be sitting on a pew at the favorite church,
standing by a mountain top, fishing for ell or shopping at the local
store. Every day in every way, we honor those who came before us,
by those actions. Just because we don't know their given names should
not stop us from smiling and nodding in appreciation of their unknown
time and sacred work. While on the surface, my Nana's story will
not have the scholarly authenticity of that deep archaeological
and scientific perspective it is as true as the sand on the beach
or sun in the sky to me and my family. When you read her story of
the land bridge, you will clearly see why her truth is as deep as
it goes. 7/30/14, Lionel
Lionel Kitpu'se Pinn is a MiKmaq from Nova Scotia and author
of the critically acclaimed book, Greengrass Pipe Dancers (Naturegraph
Publishers). He currently lives with his wife Hilda in Washington