I share this poem, How to Find Me There, as my blog post contribution for Activists and Activsms in honour of my late Kohkom, Diane Poirier. She was a Sixties Scoop Survivor and the daughter of an Indian Residential School Survivor, and she raised me alongside my mother in the urban city of Ottawa. She was my best friend, and I carry her spirit name, Shenoa, meaning Sparkling Snow in Anishinaabemowin. I feel intrinsically tied to her, and have always had so many questions left unanswered.
Kohkom opened and operated Canada’s first Indigenous owned advertising and communications agency, where she pioneered dialogue circles, a form of focus testing that reflected Indigenous cultural practices and protocols. She was the definition of a Matriarch, and trail blazed a path I so humbly walk along now. I often state that she lit a fire, my mother burnt the torch, and it is now my responsibility to carry that fire forward.
I share this with you all now because throughout this course I have been able to reflect upon and recognize that small acts of resistance and action are just as important as being in the front line or in the news. My Kohkom passed away nearly ten years ago now, and I have so many unanswered questions about how she became the activist she was known and loved for. She created spaces in a time where there was no social media, yet I come across so many people who knew her because of the work, passion and commitment she had to Indigenous Peoples health and wellbeing.
I discovered an archived interview she did in the early 2000’s, where she reflected on her journey to becoming the strong, gracious and determined woman I remember her as. She stated that although she did not know how she would open Poirier Communications, she knew she had a skill and wasn’t afraid to show up and use those gifts to uplift and honour all of her relations. I don’t think she knew it then, but she changed so many lives and gave precedence to the work we see in Canada today. Kohkom did what she loved with no plan, she just had a vision of how she could make the world a better place. I recognize it is through my eyes she gets to see the outcome of her work now. I wanted to share that gift with you all today, as a gentle reminder that changes occur through generations, and those connections live on even once we are gone.
Reflections on Matriarchs: How to find me there A poem by Shenoa
I remember you there, ashamed, and alone.
Remembering the mistakes, offering reflections from days now gone.
Slipping into a dream, wondering what could have been.
You were once my whole world, yet now you live on through me. You are in everything, the waters and trees.
Unmistakably rare yet felt throughout all our creation.
Fierce and brave, walking through a world that tried to dismantle your care.
I remember you there, shaking on the floor.
Then again, you remain the strongest force I'll ever meet.
I wonder what your dreams of a future were, we never got to that part.
Another leader with no map, a visionary you were at that. I miss you, but you are here.
Matriarchs in the making, I think that's what you'd call us. Fires started, underneath a sky full of tears. You were here. You are near.