I am Patty. The daughter of Roy who is the son of Joe and Lula who are Ojibwe Anishinaabe from Lac Seul, Ontario. Roy is the brother of Ron, Frank, Angus and George. My father is fond of saying we are descended from Noah and Moses, and indeed Moses begat Noah and Noah begat Joe who married Lula. Lula’s mother is Sophie who apparently saved the life of an Irishman who, like many Scots and Irish, worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company trading goods for furs. Saving Isaiah’s life apparently resulted in their marriage. Sophie is from Cat Lake Ontario and Isaiah’s parents, Francis and Sarah, were born in Ireland. It is through Roy that my roots sink deeply into this place that is called Canada or North America or Turtle Island, twisting through Anishinaabe and possibly Cree ancestors back to the beginning. It is through Roy that my roots entwine with those of the Hudson’s Bay Company, that trading company that employed Isaiah along with so many other Scots and Irish who found their way into Anishinaabe and Cree lineage.  We are Ojibwe-Anishinaabe, caribou clan, with social responsibilities to the larger community.

I am Patty. The daughter of Vicki who is the daughter of Ann and George. Vicki is the sister of Nancy and Peter. Ann is the daughter of Jacob and Margareta, the granddaughter of Dietrich and Anna, Heinrich and Katharina, the great granddaughter of Benjamin and Helena, of Heinrich and Maria. My grandmother’s family tree goes back to 1772, Germans moved by Catherine the Great into Russia to displace Ukrainians, creating colonies that remained self-contained, and well documented, for two hundred years. In Germany the Schultz’ brewed beer. In the Ukraine they farmed and then manufactured farm implements. Nothing is known of George’s parents except that they were, probably, Ukrainian. And the man we knew as George was actually my grandmother’s second husband, but that’s a story for later. It is through Vicki that my roots travel just below the surface to reach across oceans, searching for a home that is both here and there. It is through Vicki that my roots become interwoven with those of migrants and refugees, rooting us here in shallow but sturdy mats of connection.

I am Patty. The daughter of Jack. Jack is the son of Marie and John, the brother of Lois and Pat and Tom and Marietta. Jack’s grandparents were William and Mary, William came to the United States from England in the late 19th century, stowing away on a ship. John worked on trains and made his way to Northwestern Ontario where he cooked in a lumber camp before coming back home. His friends would go further west, chasing and finding gold in the Yukon. It is through Jack that my roots find their way to adoptees, those who were scooped by child welfare and placed with white families for although I was raised by my mother and her second husband, adopted by him and always loved, in a very real sense I was also alone. It is also through Jack that my roots learned how to weave into other histories, learned how to create relationships and family.

This is my inheritance. Differing relationships with church and religion, differing connections to and experiences of power and imbalance.

I’ve been reading Aurora Levin’s Morales book, Medicine Stories and in one of her essays she writes about history as medicine and one of the things that she suggests is radical genealogy. Thinking through who my ancestors are, all of them, and how they are positioned socially, what my social and material inheritances are from all these people who came before me. Because, to draw Mariam Kaba into the conversation, there are no perfect victims.

I am Ojibwe Anishnaabe and through my father carry the legacy of residential schools and all the other tools of colonization. But I am also German/Ukranian and through my mother I carry the legacy of refugees and migrants who, in fleeing one oppression became part of enacting another. My maternal grandparents came too late for the free farmland that was distributed in the 19th century, but they did own a farm and the land that they farmed had once known the Michi-saagig Anishnaabe and the Haudenosaunne and the Neutrals who were displaced pushed aside.  My mother remarried and her second husband adopted me, which oddly meant that my mother had to release me for adoption and then adopt me herself. Bureaucracy is strange. So through him I have connection with young men who stowed away on ships and rode the trains west to seek their fortune. I understand, somewhat, the grief of those who were scooped and raised in white families and although my mother shielded me in this way from some harms, she could not shield me from all of them.

I live in the Niagara Region which is wine country and there is a winery that has two kinds of soil on it’s land. Some is that deep black earth so prized by farmers and another area is mineral rich clay, red and hard. They planted the same variety of grapes in these two fields and the resulting wines are noticeably different. The roots wind down and through the soil, wrapping around rock and stone, drawing up minerals and the taste of granite and other things deep in the earth.

We are like this. Our roots wrap around our ancestors, straining towards water and traveling through the land. What they bring to us is relationship. And relationships are responsibilities. So when I read this in Morales’ book I had to go back and add the above portion to my introduction because this book is a retelling of history. It is my history but it is also Canada’s history and the church’s history and US history. It is Ojibwe history and it is my history. And in order to situate it honest I need to begin with my own history.

The Bible does the same thing with the begats, those long strings of this one begat that one began another. They seem boring, until you start to unravel them and you see who those people are. History is not just broad events, not things that took place. History is people. And those people are our relatives.  

I barely scratched the surface of my ancestors, didn’t even mention cousins or children. Said nothing about communities and neighbours. But they’re all there too. So I added the begats, and I think that was the right choice.

The begats

I am Patty. The daanis of Roy, and Vicki, and Jack.