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Essay On My Role Model My Grandfathers

by Cara Mumford

I am Métis. In my family, we call ourselves Chippewa Cree because of the group that we travelled with after the North West Resistance. My grandfather’s family originally signed Treaty 4 but was later discharged from Treaty because of their participation in the Resistance. The Canadian government wasn’t particularly fond of Indigenous people standing up for their rights. Some things are slow to change.

When I first heard the court decision recognizing the rights of Métis and Non-Status as “Indians” under the constitution, I went through a rapid succession of thoughts and emotions in mere seconds. First was pure heart-swelling pride: I wish my Grandpa Lou was here to see this! A Métis elder in Medicine Hat who instilled in me a love of the land and a deep connection to horses, he was a fierce defender of the rights of the underdog. In the factory where he worked, he was the man that women turned to when they were being sexually harassed because he was the only man they knew who would do something about it. And when he was arrested as a union organizer at a strike, it was those women who marched down to the police station to free him. He was so proud when he won his hunting and fishing rights, and he would have been even more proud to be recognized as Indian.

Even though we are from diverse nations and the government has repeatedly tried to disconnect us from our ancestry, we are all connected. As Black Elk said, “In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken the people flourished.” But the nation’s hoop has been broken and scattered.

Every child taken from their family, every woman stolen from her community affects us all. Did you know that there are more Native children in state care now than during the time of residential schools? Did you know that while the “official” number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women is 600, the unofficial number is closer to 2000? Our communities know when our women are missing. We need our women and children for our communities to survive, to mend the sacred hoop.

All too recently, a First Nations woman was attacked in Thunder Bay, left for dead by two men who told her that she “deserved to lose her treaty rights.” When I read about that, I couldn’t breathe. I have to do something, I thought. But what?

You see, my grandfather didn’t just instil in me his love of horses and the land; I also inherited his passion for justice. My Grandpa Lou. Louis. Named for Riel.

And so I am reminded of Riel’s words: “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” Reminded of who I am. Métis. A Métis artist.

I began studying film in 2006 and I knew early on that I needed to make a film to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, a day that made a deep impact on me. Through that event my eyes were opened to the real danger that women in Canada face on a daily basis. Just because I had been safe, didn’t mean other women were. It hit home in a way it hadn’t before… I was a second year science student when those women studying engineering were killed… it could easily have been me.

I worked on that film with spoken word artist Evalyn Parry, who taught me an invaluable lesson on empowerment. I had become depressed after doing the research for the film. I knew things hadn’t improved for women as much as mainstream media would like us to believe; it seemed like things were actually getting bleaker every year. But Evalyn wouldn’t let me wallow there and ended her spoken word piece with an empowering list of 14 reasons why you should be proud you are a woman. One of these reasons was: “You are enough.” That really resonated with me.

Another line that Evalyn wrote which haunted with me was, “Women’s bodies farmed out, used up, disappeared.” It was a specific reference to the Pickton farm and the missing and murdered women from Vancouver’s East End. Métis dancer Charity Anne Doucette represented those women in that film. That was when I started to think about creating a film to focus on the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the Sisters in Spirit. That was the genesis of “When It Rains.”

Thoughts of Charity inevitably lead me to thoughts of our mutual friend—Charity’s soul sister—Marsha Ellen Meidow, who worked on the front lines with at risk girls in Calgary. Marsha and I were planning a series of writing workshops for girls at risk, encouraging them to tell their stories. The majority of the girls were Aboriginal and we had visions of creating a grassroots Aboriginal version of the Vagina Monologues, connecting with like-minded writing groups in cities across Canada. Marsha died suddenly from a brain aneurysm shortly after that inspiration, which devastated me, so that project never happened, but maybe there’s a way to make it happen after all.

The films I create are intended to draw attention to issues of violence against women, partly in an attempt to shift perspectives and create dialogue, but my primary goal is to empower the women themselves. I believe that Idle No More is an excellent example of how to do both. On the one hand, it is educating people, all people, about the issues. On the other hand, the Round Dance Revolution reminds us the power of our drums. As much as they are a reminder to others that we’re still here, they are also a reminder to ourselves.

I believe the political goals of Idle No More are of primary importance to the health of this country and this planet, but I believe the long-term success of Idle No More will be seen in a resurgence of Indigenous knowledges, cultures, languages and pride. And I believe that women will continue to lead the way.

Our women are vital to healthy communities. Our nation is strong only when our women are strong. And between Chief Theresa Spence and the four women who started Idle No More—Sheelah McLean, Nina Wilson, Sylvia McAdam & Jessica Gordon—our nation is strong indeed. And do not mistake diversity with divisiveness. Regardless of our different approaches, our goal is the same: to mend the sacred hoop.

There is a Chinese proverb: “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.” I don’t know about you, but I can hear the Rocky Mountains rumbling.

Cara Mumford is a Metis filmmaker and screenwriter from Alberta, currently living in Peterborough, whose short films have screened regularly at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, and toured throughout Australia and internationally with the World of Women Film Festival. Her short screenplay, “Ask Alice,” won Best Short Script at the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival and her poetry dance film, “December 6,” continues to be screened every year at Montreal Massacre memorials across Canada. In 2012, Cara was commissioned by imagineNATIVE to create “When It Rains,” a one-minute film for their Stolen Sisters Digital Initiative.

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Creative grandparents play several roles throughout the lives of their grandchildren. They are historians, mentors and role models, among other things. All of these roles are significant and important as grandparents seek to love and nurture a new generation.

Role model

Grandparents can also be role models for their grandchildren. Grandchildren often look beyond their parents to their grandparents for how life is to be lived — what to include and what to exclude, what to hold tightly and what to hold loosely. Sometimes children look up to grandparents because parents are not worthy role models. Some parents live their lives selfishly without regard for God and others. Others are not present in their children’s lives because of work obligations, sickness or incarceration. When these situations occur, children look to others for guidance and a path to follow. They need someone who will not only tell them the way to live and love, but also model that message with a godly life. Creative grandparents need to be able to say with the apostle Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Creative grandparents model morals, gender and values. Grandparents teach young people social morality and give them a sense of right and wrong, a set of absolutes upon which they can build their lives. In this day of relative truth, grandchildren need models of truth and biblical morality, models that don’t change with the times. They need to see integrity consistently displayed. Creative, involved grandparents provide grandchildren a model of morality to emulate.

Creative grandparents also model gender. This is why it is so important for grandfathers as well as grandmothers to be creatively involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Often grandmothers love and nurture grandchildren, but grandfathers need to be equally involved. Our grandsons must see a “man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners” (Psalm 1:1). They need to see a man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2) — a man of integrity. Our grandsons must see men who respect their wives (1 Peter 3:7) and love them sacrificially “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Now, more than ever before, our grandsons need a male role model who will be the man God intended him to be, a man after God’s own heart. That is God’s mandate for us as grandfathers.

Our granddaughters must see a woman of excellent character (Proverbs 31), a woman who “opens her hand to the poor” (v. 20), a woman who “fears the Lord”(v. 30), a woman whose “children rise up and call her blessed” (v. 28). They must see a woman who is secure, a woman who is comfortable in her own skin. They must see a woman who treats her husband with respect (Ephesians 5:33), a woman with the “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4). This is God’s mandate for grandmothers who love God and desire to be creatively involved in the lives of their granddaughters.

Creative grandparents also model values, showing their grandchildren by their lives what is important and what is not important. Our verbalized values are meaningless to others, but lived-out values confirm our beliefs. James says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). When grandparents freely give to their church or favorite charity and are unselfish with others, they model generosity for their grandchildren. When they are stingy and drop a dollar in the offering plate, little eyes see that, too. Grandparents’ actions present a strong message to thoughtful grandchildren who are always watching. When grandparents willingly give of themselves to serve God and others and reach out to those in need, grandchildren see altruistic, unselfish people who “look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). When we invite our grandchildren into our lives, they may listen to our words, but be assured, they will observe our works.

Jerry and Judy Schreur are the authors of Creative Grandparenting.

Adapted from Creative Grandparenting, © 2011 by Jerry and Judy Schreur. Used by permission of Discovery House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 4950l. All rights reserved. www.dhp.org

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