When the plan to 'date Indigenous' gets complicated
For Sarain Fox, dating another Indigenous person was important to her.
"I grew up in an extremely politically active family. I was raised by a single mom who really worked hard to reclaim our traditional knowledge so that I would grow up in my own culture, which is actually a really big deal as an Anishinaabe Ojibway woman," says Sarain.
"She always told me that it was really important that I date Native. And, I don't think she meant it in an exclusive way but it definitely felt that way in my childhood."
It became important to Sarain too to maintain her culture, traditions and her status. Because of the Indian Act in Canada, who Sarain has children with determines the future status of her grandchildren and whether they can receive certain rights, like owning land on their reserve.
And, it happened. It was all going according to plan for Sarain. She met a full status Indigenous man, who she loved.
But, then, things started to unravel.
"The unintended consequence of me being so obsessed with this vision, this dream I had, was that I was blinded by it and it made it so that I didn't ask all the right questions," says Sarain.
Sarain's partner was religious - he practices Mormonism - and that didn't sit well with her. It was also something she discovered after falling in love with him.
"And, so, all of a sudden, my perfect...relationship, which on the outside looked so Indigenous, on the inside was riddled with a very deep, conflicting conversation of spirituality versus religion."
The deeper she got into the relationship and into her love for him, Sarain says she felt lost. She also found herself questioning and policing her own behaviour, her wardrobe, against Mormon standards.
"I realized that maybe this part of my partner was something I was never going to get over...Missionising is the reason why I have these beliefs about continuing my culture because we were told that we couldn't be who we are."
So, the relationship ended and Sarain dived into work.
"And wasn't it great that there was someone I worked with, who was beautiful and right in front of my eyes and had been for many years. But there was this pivotal moment where I looked up and I saw this person and I realized, 'Wow. You're a really beautiful spirit...'"
Except, the person Sarain fell for is not even close to her best laid plans. She's a non-Indigenous woman.
But Sarain isn't giving up on passing on her traditions and her status.
"We've talked about adoption...[W]e've talked about all different kinds of ways that we can make babies and she's on board for me still having an Indigenous donor…so that I would still be able to carry 'a full status baby', which sounds so strange to me now.
"But, also, we've talked about that I have a little bit of Irish blood in me too. So, maybe finding a donor who has some Irish blood could be a part of that so she's included in the conversation too. Surprisingly, that's something that feels really right and true and good to me now," says Sarain.
"The idea that I've been obsessed with a government system that makes me just a number and makes my blood what makes me 'authentic,' and my blood be what I have to pass down to my children for them to be 'authentic,' is a really alarming concept.
"And as I've gotten older and maybe wiser, it's been something that I've become more and more uncomfortable with."