I Lost My Mother And Daughter To Suicide, I Don’t Want To Lose My Indigenous Language Too

Aug 27, 2019

Language is fundamental in our connection to one another, and in Indigneous cultures, language is interwoven with a relationship to nature.

In the above video, Janie, a mother and Mohawk woman, reflects on the loss of her daughter and mother.

However, she finds strength through her son Warren’s powerful connection to their language and identity.

More Episodes: Check out the rest of The Art of Parenting here.

Full transcript:

"There's a very diverse history of language in my family, and despite the deliberate push to take that language from our people, and our, especially our children, they're deliberately targeted at residential schools.

My youngest son has been very, very blessed to be immersed in the Mohawk language. Language in every culture, I believe, is the cornerstone as far as your relationship with one another and more specifically in our culture, our relationship with nature.

Statistics say our children are most likely to die in car accidents. Our children are most likely to commit suicide. Our children are most likely to become addicts. Our children are most likely to have a family breakdown.

What I've said to my son, it's your choice what you want to do. You can be all they expect you to be.

Even after burying my own daughter, my only daughter, she was 12 years old when she committed suicide. And so him and I working through our grief together and doing everything I can within my power to make sure that he continues on and becomes a great-grandfather one day, becomes a very respectful, respectable, functioning part of our society.

Growing up, I was lost. My mother committed suicide when I was three. No memories of her. She lived long enough to give me — give birth to me. She's my mother. Her name was Lillian Joyce Jamison and she was abandoned by her mother as a baby, and she was raised in the residential school.

Both the generations before them were told they didn't deserve to be raised by their own parents. To have that language beaten out of them, literally beaten out of them at the age of three or four years old. Different cultures have worldviews, ours is universal.

When Warren did the opening in the language, I cannot tell you how much that struck my soul to have him standing on that very ground where his grandmother was beaten for speaking that language and for him to be comfortable enough and for him to love everything about who we are enough to get up and speak in that language. And I know in our ways, our ancestors they say the sky world is just a leaf width away from where we are.

And I know his sister was there and she heard him. So even though she isn't here physically, I know she's never very far away."

The Art of Parenting offers an intimate conversation with some of the most memorable families featured in the CBC Kids broadcast series The Art Show. The parents speak candidly and emotionally about how their own history, upbringing, belief system and circumstances that have influenced their parenting style and resulted in the raising of some truly phenomenal kids.

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