By C. Elizabeth Best
This post is part of a monthly series of reflections from the Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute coordinated by the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation and Carolyn Podruchny in the Department of History at York University.
Over the past five years, I have been grappling with identity. As a young Indigenous woman, I have been trying to find my place in the world and come to terms with the life experience I have accumulated. I was raised in foster care from shortly after my birth until I was adopted by a non-Indigenous family when I was seven. I grew up spending my summers on Manitoulin Island and I went off to University when I was 18. When people ask “where are you from” I have a hard time answering.
Where am I from? For the past few years I have been saying I am from Manitoulin Island because my summers there are the most connected to place that I have ever felt. In addition, I recently married a Haweater and his family accepted me as one of their own.
Family has been an elusive concept to me for most of my life. Until I was 12 years old, I expected my family to send me back. I wasn’t sure where ‘back’ was but my understanding of family was that it was constantly traumatic and unstable for everyone. I lived in fear that I would be sent back. It is safe to say that my adoption was not successful. However, my marriage has afforded me a real taste of unconditional support, something that I had not expected from falling in love with my partner.
I now consider myself from Manitoulin Island, even though my roots there are tenuous at best. I think this conundrum that I have been living aligns nicely with this year’s theme for the Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute. Does wisdom sit in places? Yes. Yes wisdom sits in place. Continue reading