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Felling blessed to spend some time on the land of my people fell the love and strength of the old people in the air, my hart is filled with the words of the loved ones. I need to remember to come here more.

Confessions of an illiterate 1.2 

Theorizing

Having said I do not want to be psychoanalyzed, I am going to give my own personal theories about why I am “illiterate”. Now I have one or two so, whether or not you perceive them to be realistic or truthful, that does not matter to me because they are realistic for me and there are my truth, I am not saying this to be condescending or egotistical I am just sharing my perception about who I am. 

My first theory is that my illiteracy is from a different genetic brain make up. Okay so you may be asking yourself what does that mean don’t all humans have the same brain make up. I do not believe this to be the case rather I believe that being someone of first Nations ancestry my brain has been hardwired to be more comprehensive of an oral tradition. 

It is truly my belief that as first Nations people we are still trying to rapidly adapt to an education system that is still foreign to us. For traditionally are “education” would have started from the time that we were in our mothers womb, and would continue on until the time of our crossing to the Spirit world. The elders of our family and communities would watch the children to see what they were naturally adept to, and then the community would refine the skills over time until the child became an adult and they would be a master at their skills which will ultimately progress the Village and family and provide for the people. How it was explained to me is that we as a people traditionally understood the need for diversity, I often equate this to something along the lines as a village could be all master carvers, but what would the people eat. So therefore as people we would become hunters, carvers, fishermen, weavers, we would enrich ourselves not only for the betterment of ourselves personally but also for the betterment of our family and communities. We knew that our gifts were in integral part of how our society kept moving forward, but also recognize that we were not going to be masters at everything and so therefore we appreciated what our gifts we where always thankful for the gifts of our family members and our neighbors and our neighboring villages and our neighboring nations. We would crave this diversity so much so that there are cases where there would be marriages between families between nations between villages to gain the skills of that other families ways to gain the skills that that person would bring into our community.

So having this be my people’s historical way of living being degraded and looked down upon by people who came in who had their own opinions about what was the “right” way of being, into at the time chose to “save” my people, has had a deeply negative impact on who I am today. I found myself in the academic world not capable to perform in this way that was expected of me by what the school systems in the teachers and the principles thought I should be, and when I could not meet the standards, I was treated as less then I was treated as a burden to the school system. What the school system did not recognizes that my style of learning would never allow me to excel or even be any form of successful in the academic world. To top all of these barriers I have a very high verbal comprehension level, consequently there were some teachers who would think of me as possibly being lazy and not willing to do the required reading. Words can never truly convey how negatively this experiences had on my life, there are still times today where I believe that I am not worthy to be in society because I cannot pick up a book and read it. I still am boggled at the fact that at one point in my attempt in academia I had a teacher look at me and flat out tell me “well you were never going to be an English major anyways” I just do not understand how someone can make me feel so small and so worthless. 

I have been very fortunate to have amazing advocates whether they be my parents or some form of support staff in schools who have been able to challenge and hold accountable certain shall we say narrow minded people in the education system. The support systems I have and have had, will and have often encouraged me not to internalize peoples negative perceptions of what my capabilities are and are not. Realistically I have internalized quite a bit of negativity however it is not to the extent I would have if I did not have positive influences in my life. My mother would constantly tell me let’s just get through high school, and then we’ll see where to go from there. I feel grateful that I was raised still in my traditional teachings as a first nations person and raised to appreciate living in the western colonize world that I do, I grew up attending school but also grew up attending ceremony and was surrounded in that communal way of being which I crave. 

One of the other ways I feel that being first Nations is a hindrance in my failing in academia is that traditionally we would be taught either be one-on-one elder/teacher or it would be that same person but at the most half a dozen other students with that same teacher. Having this way of teaching clearly not being realistically achievable in today’s public school system, I could never truly form the same type of relationship with the academic teacher as I would be able to for a relationship that I would be able to form with the elder/teacher. As a post to becoming a treasured knowledge keeper of my people I became student number 159263, so I ask how can becoming a number create an environment which will foster the passion to educate myself. I would find myself in the halls of my school with literally thousands of other students who did not want to go to class who would rather be in the smoke pit instead of finding out what social justice meant and in hindsight I wonder how is a society we can still value our school system that was initially created for the wealthy elite to be our main source of education for a population that only a small fraction will fully benefit from. 

My biggest upset with my public school experience is upon “graduating” I was presented with a BC leaving certificate is a post to a high school diploma. A leaving certificate is to me one of the biggest slaps in the face from the whole experience because essentially it is a hollow gesture from the public school system saying you showed up but we didn’t give you any credit so take this piece of paper which will not let you progress into higher education it is pretty much do not pass go do not collect $200 stay in jail. I often wonder if the old people had not had horrific experiences with the Indian residential school what they would think of this pass or fail system of education, wood they see it as Luda Chris is I do? I mean to say you might think that receiving a fail grade on a paper or a test is quite degrading, well let me tell you, I have had spelling test given to me that were “dumbed down” so I could “participate” which is mortifying they were pretty much putting a big target on my four head saying look at the difference. Now this did not promote out right bullying, instead it invoked something which in my experience was much worse in encouraged exclusion division and segregation. I have a vivid memory of crying on the playground and not returning from recess because I had spent a month of not playing with anyone during recess or lunch time and still to this day I don’t fully understand why that was and is being mortified at loneliness and not being able to express that is someone who was in elementary school. 

I would like to somehow tie in a recognition that not all first Nations people will in fact fail in academia, that there are many first nations people who have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, politicians and so much more in that this is my own experience with academia into emphasize I do not want to project a pan aboriginal of you to whoever this is going out to I think that will somehow tie into our traditional views on diversity in recognizing how many different ways there are thinking in knowing our own personal truths and honoring other people’s personal truths “this is only one person’s experience being illiterate and first Nations”

This leads me to my second theory, at a very young age I was labeled to have a “learning disability” which I believe discouraged teachers from truly making an effort in my education (I right now would like to also recognize that I am generalizing and I have had some pretty freaking amazing teachers who challenged me and put forth a valiant effort in my education). After being cited with a learning disability I would be segregated into the “special needs” room for portions of the day throughout the week. I believe this form of separation on paper looks like a legitimate idea, let’s give this student and individual learning plan for their most successful outcome. This separation however fostered in me a feeling of resentment not only to the school system but to myself for not being capable to fit into what academia sees as a “successful student”.  Essentially my drive for knowledge was stunted because it was my impression that it was unattainable, I would never be a “Normal student” and many times I felt like just giving up. Ultimately there are times in my education where I would show up to class but never engage because I felt the teachers thought that I was beneath them so I did not feel comfortable to even verbally articulate any form a presence or dialogue with teachers. 

I was able to articulate all of these thoughts yet I was never able to produce an end product because I would end up not being able to write the words such as articulate I would have to find a word that was easier to spell with less of an impact which would make me up here less intelligent is I felt with that same thought in my head. It was truly frustrating a having vocabulary yet not having the capability to put that down on paper. Consequently I felt useless, because at the end of the day I did want to excel in academia I wanted to believe that I could obtain the paper that would say I am a valuable member of society but that was not realistic for me. This is the root of most of my insecurities, this is what prevented my believing in my self-worth. 

I do not know how my life would be different if I was never cited with a learning disability, I know that I probably would still not be at a higher reading level or have amazing mathematical skills. I try not to spend too much time in the “what if” way of thinking yet I still wonder what if and would I feel more confident in who I am or what I feel less confident. Furthermore I wonder how much of this definition of a literacy or having a learning disability should I let it be my reality, I’ve spent a lot of time internalizing all of these feelings and I feel as if it was not necessary but a waste of time but my time possibly may have been better spent in something creative or constructive as opposed to focusing on something negative. The reality of the matter is I have spent time thinking about this and I have felt shame about this so how has that made me who I am and these are all really philosophical questions that I don’t have the answers to the are just food for thought.   

 Ultimately at the end of the day looking at all of these theories has its advantages in illuminating potential resources for myself, but I try not to spend too much time thinking about why I am “illiterate” as focusing on that tends to bring up my insecurities and leaves me feeling a bit depressed so rather I tried to use the tools that I have so I can be successful in whatever endeavors I choose to pursue. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with what it means to be illiterate and I’m not fully there yet, but I’m getting there and I don’t feel as limited as I did when I was a teenager because of the amazing support system that I have to catch me if I should revert back to my insecurities and not feeling is if I do belong. I feel quite confident that I do have a place in society and to quote To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar “Your approval is not needed. [Approval neither desired nor required.] But I will take your acceptance.”

Confessions of an illiterate

In complete honesty I do not really know what my intentions are sitting down and beginning to write whatever this is going to involve into. All I know is I have a wish to express my experiences as someone who is “illiterate” living in the world that has so much emphasis on literacy and how much power is given to people who have the capability to articulate their thoughts and feelings on paper and in reports et cetera et cetera. I guess realistically though being a man who was illiterate isn’t my only defining feature there is so much more to me being someone who is indigenous who is gay who is relatively young you know those are all aspects of who I am too so I guess that’s a part of what this could potentially turn out to be. 

My illiteracy is a pretty difficult topic for me to discuss based on some historical negative treatment from the school system which I was raised in. The school system treated me as if I was going to be someone who was never going to amount to anything, who was probably going to end up on welfare. Despite having many positive influences in my life discouraging these prejudices, this message has still found a way to sink in really deep to the deepest parts of my mind and memory which is always nagging at me. 

I still continuously live in constant fear that at some point in my day someone is going to ask me to read aloud to the group, or have me fill out a really long complicated form which I will not be able to fully comprehend or understand because of the choice of words of the people who put these questionnaires together. With the advent of technology I am now dependent on my cell phone, and still I fear that someone is going to send an obnoxiously long text that I won’t be able to read, and may pertain some vital information that I will not be able to access. It gets frustrating because people will send me “funny texts” and I will have to pretend to laugh at them when in reality for the most part I may not understand them because I will not be able to read a word or two especially the punchline and such and that it’s really embarrassing to have to pretend to find something funny when I don’t really necessarily understand.

Now having said all of this, I have still found tools to be able to work around these challenges. As you may tell I am attempting to write something really long and intense. With such advances in technology with for example the MacBook Pros dictation features I am able to still articulate what I’m feeling verbally and have it transferred onto paper is exciting! On the same computer also has a function that is read to me which is really helpful all I have to do is highlight a portion of whatever I want read aloud and hit the command buttons to make that happen and all of a sudden my computer is reading to me which is also extremely exciting! Plus with the price of audiobooks going down I am better able to access stories through that medium is well which has been able to help me feel connected with the literary world in a way that I was not able to in the past. The only negative aspect about audiobooks is that only a small portion of books are made into audiobooks therefore if I wanted to read something really obscure and unknown it is not likely to happen because the demand for that audiobook is not there. 

I guess I should also confess that I am not literally illiterate, I just have an extremely low reading level it is I would venture to guess at a elementary reading level, it is the same with math. My issue really is incomprehension rather it is sequencing. I mean I can count 1,2,3, but when it gets to be more complicated for example I could tell you the months but they might not be in order and I would most likely leave one out, so when sequencing becomes complicated my brain just will not be able to fully do that. 

I would like to make it quite clear, it is not my wish to be fixed, it is not my wish to be psychoanalyzed, it is not my wish to find out why my brain does not function in this way, rather it is my intention to share with whoever may find this interesting my experience. Ultimately I would love to create a better empathy for people who have “invisible disabilities” my ideal would be able to disclose this information without feeling like I am becoming some type of martyr or having people treat me as I have, excuse the expression, just stepped off of the short bus. I guess ultimately this isn’t about someone who is illiterate this is about someone who is a human being. 

So whoever decides to come along with me on my journey, sit back, relax, keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times and enjoy your ride. 

In all seriousness I really do thank you for taking the time to even consider sharing my experience. Have done that takes a great person to consider someone else’s feelings and emotions it shows to me that you are probably an extremely epically cool amazing type of person! I also recognize that you may not fully agree with everything I say and that’s okay, I recognize that the world has many types of people with many types of values that aren’t mine and that’s what makes this world amazing that we can have that diversity in that capability to have these type of discussions and sharing these type of experiences, this is what’s going to keep our society our nation our world community moving forward, this is what’s going to prevent us as a people becoming stagnant and what have you. I mean to say that whatever this turns out to be may not necessarily change the world, rather it is people like you being willing to empathize with your fellow human beings in recognizing their experiences as valid is your experiences that is what’s going to rock this world to its core and make amazingness and send out good vibrations.

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