What is home?
Wisdom from nêhiyawêwin
Cheyenne Greyeyes and Celina M. Vipond
Keywords: Home, family, indigenous, nêhiyawêwin, matriarchy
Policies mandated by the Canadian government in its ongoing assimilation project have interrupted the transmission of knowledge and traditional family systems by separating Indigenous peoples from our homes, lands, and languages. This work is concerned with decolonizing western concepts of home and family in Canada through an Indigenous lens, validating Indigenous ways of knowing when it comes to home and housing, and therefore challenging the way Indigenous issues are addressed. We will be utilizing the lexicons of nêhiyawêwin (Y-dialect Cree) as a primary source to explore the embedded knowledge within the language. Nêhiyawêwin positions women as integral to strong community and family relations, as positioned by traditional matriarchal systems. Indigenous ideas of family are more expansive and broadly defined compared to western worldviews, supporting the circular transmission of oral culture over several generations. To truly understand Indigenous ideas of home, the reader must consider the fluidity of kinship and adoption, as well as what and where home is. This includes a relationship to the land and a spiritual sense of being. With this in mind, we call for Indigenous authority over policy and programming to address Indigenous social issues in Canada. This would allow for Indigenous paradigms to effectively inform policy and housing initiatives that serve Indigenous populations.