Diversity and Inclusion – Wachiya

By Katrina Stachurski, Canine Handler

Wachiya; Greetings, I hope you all are doing well. Canada recently celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st. In relation to that, I write you all to share a bit about me and my connection to my native ancestry as I have been so fortunate to do so with the support of our ASP Family in effort of continuing to open our doors of Inclusion & Diversity. From as young as I can remember, I have had a strong connection to my ancestors and to the land. Throughout my childhood, and at times now, I can recall sharing visits with the spirit world through dreams and animal bonds, having been called to ‘walk the land softly’ and to ‘learn the way’. Often when sharing these calls and visits with my loved ones, I was faced with demands of silence and had been shunned for my attempts to learn out of fear for what could come from being misunderstood by outsiders.

Fast-forwarding to my adult-life and looking back to my younger years I can see how clearly the silence I took had broken my spirit. At the age of 16, I began my journey again. Having made many visits to various tribal nations all around the land most know as ‘North America’ but as I have learned to call ‘Turtle Island’. In these journeys, I have been blessed with various teachings to which now have become the foundations of my ‘commitment to life’. I would like to share with you all one way I continue to embrace ‘the way’; through my hair, or as I should say now, lack-there-of. When visiting a Cree family-friend in Manitoba in the summer of 2014, I was taught that our hair, more specifically ‘the braid’ symbolizes our connection to our Ancestors, the Creator, and the Earth. At this time in my life, I had hair that danced just above my hips, and it was then my friend braided my hair telling me that they were preparing me for the possible war I would be facing as this was traditionally something our warriors would braid for too. From there on, I have continued to use my hair as a symbol of my commitment to life and the land. In 2016 at the age of 20, I lost one of closest loved ones, my father. My father was a Polish man, having been born in Poland in the year 1962, making me what people call ‘mixed’; my beautiful mother is where my indigenous nativity comes from as her father is Cree and mother Mi’kmaw. In the loss of my father, as most can understand, I experienced an immense sadness and fear as I realized in this loss how much his name and place in law enforcement sheltered me from a lot the cruelty many of our people have and continue to face today.

Struggling with these feelings, I once again reached out to the elders who have guided me in my journey of learning and asked for a way to break-free from this pain and it was then that I began cutting my hair. I was taught that many of our people cut their hair when there is a death in the immediate family as an outward symbol of the deep sadness and a physical reminder of the loss. The cut hair represents the time with our loved one, which is over and gone, and the new growth is the life after. Throughout the years I have kept the top-portion of my hair, which I have been taught to believe is a symbol of resilience. I embody this symbolism as time-and-time again I have been reminded that the spirit of my warrior ancestors seems to live-on through me and as such, not all that I have or ever will lose will be able to take that spirit away from me.

And so, I say, Hay-hay; thank-you for taking time to share in this teaching and understanding. I hope that all of you may to lead forward in ‘walking the land as softly as you can’, ‘finding your way’ to honouring the Earth and to being resilient to all fear you may face in this lifetime.

  • Category: Diversity and Inclusion