A 16th Century Algonquin Ancestor
People who have 1 Algonquin ancestor from the 1600s are 4 centuries or 400 years away from this ancestor. Considering that in each 100 years there are 4 generations of lineage, a person of today is approximately a 16th generation descendant of the said Algonquin ancestor. Furthermore there were 400 years of intermarriage with other socio-cultural-ethnic-linguist peoples. This points to the reality that although you claim to be Algonquin, you are not. This is reasonable.
The Deep Love of the Brown Brothers
Thomas Brown and Robert Brown were brothers and best friends. They did everything together such as play, sing, dance, feast, and hunt. They were so close as brothers that they were married on the same day on July 1, 1779. Thomas Brown married a lovely Irish woman named Beth who became Beth Brown, and Robert Brown married a lovely Algonquin woman named Akik who became Akik Brown. Both marriages resulted in many children both boys and girls. These two families lived in the same town where every subsequent generation also had their own families who carried the Brown surname and many of them continued to live in the same town. The larger family network of cousins remained close and intact where through family folklore and stories the descendants of Thomas and Beth and the descendants of Robert and Akik all claimed that they had an Algonquin ancestor. This conflation is un-reasonable in that only the descendants of Akik Brown were genuine descendants of an Algonquin woman named Brown.
The Creation of Identity Gaps and Traps
All cultures contain a dense tapestry of rituals, dance, language, and foods that sustain them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sadly, with the emergence of state nationalism, where nation states destroy the cultural features and inherent deep meaning people need as they move through the world, a gap is created. In its place, state nationalism offers a thin veneer of culture such as a song and a flag. It is precisely because of this gap in deep cultural meaning and identity that too many settler peoples fall into the trap of usurping Algonquin identity.
Performance as an Indigenous Way of Knowing
Performance is a traditional Anishinaabeg way of coming to know and embodying knowledge. Performance is not solely defined as an explicit and consciously constructed story for a stage play. Not at all. Everything we do daily is a performance where the inherent activities and practices of the performance shape who we are and how we think. It is through the repetitive process of performing activities and practices that moves knowledge into our bodies which thus becomes embodied. This embodied knowledge then seeps into our subconscious, seeps into our hearts, and seeps into our dreams where through this embodiment we further become who we think we are. Today there are many settler people who, due to an identity gap created through state nationalism, have mistakenly stepped into administrative and leadership activities and practices of being Algonquin, where consequently they now think and feel and dream that they are genuinely Algonquin when they are not. The power of performance and embodied knowledge in these situations has become the trap many settler people are entangled in so much so that reason fails them.
© Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-Ikwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She is a member of Pikwàkanàgan First Nation She is a published author of Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit and The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process. Her most recent book is titled Gehl v Canada: Challenging Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act. You can reach her and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.
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