‘Becoming kin’ explores how to heal from lingering effects of colonization

Author Patty Krawec, seen at her home in Niagara Falls, holds a copy of her new book, which will be published later this month.Author Patty Krawec, seen at her home in Niagara Falls, holds a copy of her new book, which will be published later this month.

She grew up in a happy home with her mother and maternal grandparents, but Patty Krawec always felt that something was missing in her life.

She knew she had relatives from Ojibwe, but had no connection to that heritage growing up in a Ukrainian-German home in Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines, living in a region where Indigenous people often visit were invisible.

“I was the little brown kid in a white family,” said the Niagara Falls resident, whose mother divorced her Anishinaabe father, Roy, when she was a baby.

Krawec did not know any other indigenous children in Niagara. What brought her into contact with indigenous culture was through films and television, where harmful stereotypes abounded.

“I knew nothing about Indigenous culture,” said Krawec, whose early Indigenous identity was shaped by the depictions she saw on television and in films.

“We all got the same message about what it means to be a local,” she said.

That all changed in her mid-twenties when, as a mother of three, she reconnected with her father, Roy, who lived in North Bay.

He took her to her first powwow and Krawec immersed herself in a culture she had never known.

“I didn’t feel any different…to the feeling of belonging somewhere,” she said.

“Finding him (her father), finding relatives, realizing that there were indigenous people all around me, shifted it away from what people defined for me in terms of expectations, to something I do for could define myself through relationships.”

Her journey to research her heritage opened her eyes to the reality of Indigenous peoples today in Canada, where they are vastly overrepresented in prisons, where large numbers of Indigenous children are in the care of child welfare services, and where Indigenous people have higher rates of chronic illness and shorter life expectancies—all lingering side effects of systemic damage inflicted on people who were victims of European settler colonization and the horrors of the hostel system.

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As Krawec sees it, these wrongs cannot be righted, and descendants of these colonizers and indigenous peoples cannot truly become good relatives until an often dark history is explored.

Understanding how settler-colonialism continues to impact the way organizations operate today and the impact it has on Indigenous people is the first step in bringing about change that matters, Krawec said.

She calls it “unforgotten” of our past.

In her first book, the author, speaker, and Medicine for the Resistance podcaster explores that story and what we can do together to help heal.

Becoming Kin: An Indigenous Call to Unforgetting the Past and Reimaging our Future will be published by Broadleaf Books later this month. Krawec sees three different target groups for the book: descendants of European colonizers, indigenous peoples, and people who are black and/or refugees.

The first part of the book looks at the history of colonization, then it explores how we can build good relationships with one another. Each chapter ends with a call to action.

Krawec said researching this disturbing story was not pleasant.

“It was very difficult to go through that part of the story with how things went so wrong,” she said. But Krawec said she hopes people find the book has an optimistic message behind it.

“It’s very hopeful,” she said.

A book launch will be held Tuesday, September 27 from 7-9pm at the Silver Spire United Church at 366 St. Paul St. in St. Catharines. Then there are book readings at the Lincoln Public Library Beamsville branch on September 29 from 6:30pm to 8pm (registration required), at the Niagara Falls Public Library Victoria Avenue branch on October 4 from 7pm to 9pm. and the main branch of St. Catharines Public Library from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on October 13.

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Becoming Kin is currently available for pre-order from Amazon, Chapter/Indigo and Someday Books in St. Catharines.

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