Out of Place – Jolene’s Story
2020 has been a year! I committed to writing this piece about “not fitting in” earlier in 2020 and it has been a challenge to put into words something that summarizes my experiences and shares how vulnerable I feel when sharing my story. Every time I sat down to write, my voice was quiet and in my heart I heard, “just wait”. So I waited. Then the world which had already seemed to be tilted on its side, seemed to implode on itself.
Shortly after Covid 19, riots broke out all over and the brutal police handling of George Floyd which ultimately resulted in his death sparked many more protests and public outcries against racism and the way police handle themselves in difficult situations. I found myself discussing with my children almost daily, the events that led to the death of another black person, racism in general and how police handle themselves. While I live in Canada and these events are nowhere near as bad as they seem to be in the US, racism and police brutality are experienced by many people who do not appear to be ‘white’.
I am by nature, an introvert. I prefer to sit back and watch people, and listen to learn who they really are. People always show their true nature in the little ways they act or speak when they think no one is listening. Some are really good at hiding in the public eye or in the once-a-week church services. They are often very different when they are in their office talking to someone about someone else, or after they hang up the phone from a particularly difficult phone call. These are the times where I learn about the people who are around me.
Culture and identity
I am a single mother who raised two kids with the help of my parents and brothers. I am an Indigenous woman who chose to work in a male-dominated industry. I love being outdoors, I love animals, I love nature. My culture has very close ties to the land and the resources that are provided there. When I was a teenager my Grandfather wanted me to learn more about how the land is managed in this day and age. He wanted me to go to school to get a degree in forestry so that I would understand how non-native people thought and managed the forests and everything in it. He also wanted me to go get that degree so that one day I would be able to share what I knew and what the Indigenous people in our area, thought was important. He wanted me to be able to share our ways with others to save what was important for future generations. He thought that if I got a degree in the white man’s world, that I could help our voices be heard.
In truth, as an indigenous woman, I didn’t fit into the world that I tried to belong to. I work in an industry that sees Indigenous people as a roadblock to “getting things done”. Many didn’t want to hear about other values because it made operations “too expensive to make harvesting worthwhile” when they had to accommodate “some Indian value”. These attitudes often contribute to the problems that are being brought to our attention in this time. If you were to ask if the people who made these comments thought of themselves as racist or someone who doesn’t view women as equal or inclusive in their workplace, they would say they are not racist and are inclusive of everyone, and that they see value in a diverse workforce. The truth is, this is not how it looks to those of us who hear these comments on a regular basis.
At least once a year my family gathers together. We pick medicines, we share stories of how things are going, and we hunt and fish and prepare for the winter. We share the legends of our People and our Nation. We teach our children what it means to be Indigenous. We talk about the events that are taking place, and about how similar they are to past events and how it seems that nothing really changes. When they were with us, my Grandparents would talk of things they had seen throughout the years and that not much has changed in over 60 years. At night when it was quiet, my Grandpa shared stories of the Residential schools, the stereotypes that were applied to all Indians no matter where they came from or the challenges they overcame in life. Despite this, he smiled when he talked and was proud of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that sat around him listening to his words.
In this time and place where we gather, as we listen to Nature, we remember what it is like to be at one with the land, and the Creator. We share with our children how to navigate the challenges of life and of a society that sees us as different. We teach our children to be respectful and accepting of all differences the Creator made in our World. We teach our children to learn about different cultures and to understand what makes others unique and the values that each Nation holds. It helps us to understand each other, to be truly inclusive.
Generations of mistrust and fighting have made this difficult but it is something many of us continue to work on in order to heal. It will take time. It starts with one person who is willing to understand and be different and who is willing to look past the stereotypes and see the person behind a different colored skin. It only takes someone who is willing to see the beauty in the differences that the Lord made. He has many names depending on who you ask but He is always the same in each representation. He is accepting, He is loving, and He is truly inclusive. He gave His life for all of us.
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!
Meet Jolene Fellhauer
Jolene Fellhauer is an Indigenous writer who is determined to share her culture with others around her in the form of poetry, short stories and other writing opportunities that present themselves. Jolene is working on writing her first novel based on the stories and legends of her People. After obtaining a Bachelor Degree in Natural Resource Sciences, Jolene spent a number of years working in forestry and has recently moved into the field of agriculture. Jolene enjoys the outdoors, hiking, writing, spending time with her family and numerous pets including 3 horses, 2 dogs,and a turtle, and collecting a large number of house plants. You can connect with her at her website or on Facebook.