Not that kind of Grandma

Sarah Howes

Posted on January 06 2020

My Grandma was not one of those fun grandmas.  At her house we did not make messes or have sleepovers.  She was a boarding school survivor, strict catholic, and quite frankly as a kid she scared me.

As my grandma grew into her last years though I was a budding geneologist, cultural artist, and loved photos.  I loved to ask her about her life, about pictures, and about our shared childhood home on Reservation road.

She was not a maker. I never saw her create art of any kind.  So why name the moccasin book Nookomis Obagijigan?  

Kadina was sent to Red Lake Boarding School in 1923. She grew up the child of the nuns who beat her.  I don't know that she ever had a pair of moccasins except the ones I made her to send her off when she passed in 2014.  

But as many of our grandmother's do, she did her best.  She came home and tried to love her own children. She survived much.  She laughed alot.  

As an old woman she shared many sad and horrible stories with me.  I think this was a blessing of being Not close to her.  She entrusted me with her sadness.  And sometimes we have to accept the love people can give in what form they can give it, you know?

Our family has decided we will rebuild ourselves as Anishinaabeg.  One brother an Ojibwe linguist, another brother a wild rice boss, we work hard every day to capture what she lost.  

As I wrap up this residency with the Minnesota Historical Society I was asked to make a pair of moccasins for their permanent collection.  I made her these. These are the moccasins she deserved, her whole life.  I believe our cultural art gives us this opportunity to relive and relove and rebuild these broken bridges. 

A pair for Grandma and granddaughter.  Together living a life we couldnt have dreamed possible.  Miigwech for all your gifts Grandma.

 

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1 comment

  • Lisa: April 02, 2020

    That was an amazing, thank you for sharing

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