Why do we embark on journeys?
Are we moving to a new city for school, work, a new opportunity or just to find a better life? Are we restless in spirit or searching for ourselves?
As Indigenous people, it’s a big deal to leave a reserve for the first time and to move to a city. When we do this we become an off-reserve member, with little or no support. There are also many urban Indigenous people who have never lived on reserve and are, sometimes, completely unaware of their Indigenous identity.
Why isn’t there support for these people, and those trying to make a better life for themselves? They could be looking for so many things—maybe to simply get away from the lifestyle on reserve, or maybe to get off drugs or leave an abusive situation or perhaps to find unconditional love.
I once met a young man who was travelling across the country because he was looking for something. He was looking for himself. He was an addict who kept going in and out of jail because of his high-risk lifestyle, but that’s all he knew how to do. He was on a high and was travelling through my hometown Sault Ste. Marie, so exhausted from everything. He decided to check into detox for a good night’s rest and ended up sleeping for three days, sobering up and easing his fast-paced mind. He spoke to the supports at the facility and realized how damaging his decisions were. He ended up staying in the city for six months in a recovery home, staying sober and finishing his high school diploma.
I don’t know how everything worked out for that man but I know there are many reasons why we journey.
The severe conditions urban Indigenous people face are extreme. Dealing, gang affiliation, sex work and addictions all stem from looking for acceptance and wanting to feel worthy and able to contribute to something.
It’s important to value people’s journeys and stories regardless of the details or complexities of why they may be travelling. Indigenous people belong in society and play a big part in this country’s identity.
No matter where we travel or why, we are always home on Turtle island.