Saskatoon, Treaty 6: Melody Wood

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(Intro by Priscila Ferreira Da Silva, Photo by Jennifer Sparrowhawk)

Love is her circumference.

 Melody is one of the most wonderful and genuine human beings I have ever had the honor to share my life with. You do not need to interact with her for very long to get that heartwarming feeling of being home. You know the safe and comforting spaces we talk about making and fostering in our communities? That is how her presence feels. Melody embodies all the values and qualities we need to make this world a bearable place again.

  The best way I can describe Melody’s character is through the concept of fluidity. She goes from setting up camp sites and chopping wood, to making delicious vegan sriracha mayo, to designing shirts, to putting together videos and books - in the smoothest way possible -. This does not just require talent, but also passion and dedication to always strive for the best. As she often says: “I can’t do anything half-ass.”

  Among her many virtues, Melody has the ability to ground people. She unknowingly teaches me about patience, forgiveness, and persistence every day. In the midst of this colonial bullshit, we’ve discovered that we can heal through holding space for love to flourish and circulate within our circles.

  Between being a kickass mauntie (mom+aunty) to the little ones in her life, this nehiyawak is a badass community organizer who puts her heart and soul into finding creative ways to put her politics into practice. Melody is also a cook, an artist, a language lover and revitaliser, a knowledge seeker, and the author of the coolest and dorkiest social media captions.

KC: What kinds of projects are you involved in right now?

 I have many work projects on the go including a Pow Wow Initiation Project that we plan and coordinate. People come to these classes to learn about the traditional knowledge associated with Pow Wows. As well, we have our language conference coming up which is aimed at sharing the latest and greatest work and strategies on what we all can do in terms of First Nations language revitalization to inspire further work. I am involved in every aspect of the planning. It’s intense, but also rewarding.

 In the community, I am involved with an Indigenous professionals organization and we work to advance Indigenous leadership in Saskatoon. I am also part of an Indigenous child welfare project working to change policy which is emotional and important work. I just finished a book project with Priscila Silva and OUTSaskatoon. It is a set of four children’s books talking about rainbow families. This project has helped fill a huge gap in children’s books. I hope it’s just the start of something even more beautiful.

 KC: What’s your day job? What do you like about it? What’s challenging?

 I am in charge of overseeing the culture and language departments and ensuring that we move forward in what we are tasked with. What I love about it is that I am in my dream job. I am working while still learning about not only my language group of Plains Cree but all eight language groups in Saskatchewan and how we can revitalize First Nations culture and language. I have found my work life purpose. Our mandate is massive and we have approximately 15 staff to do that. On top of that, we have new leadership and a new vision. Therefore, our workloads have increased, but rightfully so. Navigating the new pace, our schedules and people is challenging as well as a delicate balancing act. But I am up for the challenge, I am excited for this.

 KC: What’s important to you?

 The little people in my life are the most important. Children do not ask to be here and it is a big job to help mold their little minds. But, I want them to grow up to be honest, curious, loyal, courageous and free thinking individuals. I talk to them about many different things, no topic is taboo and they can ask anything they want. I absolutely love that they feel like they can come talk to me about anything. But, we also spend a lot of time being goofy. I really dig hanging out with them because we get to just be. It helps that I am basically a full grown child. Tickle fights man, I love ‘em.

 But beyond that, it is important to me that I continue to learn more about my language, my culture and the land. It is central to my nēhiyaw identity and flows into every other aspect of my life. My family is important even though I don’t see them often, because I am so involved in the community. My inner circle is hugely important because we work to change the world together. I also need an outlet to create and I dabble in anything that piques my interest. Group art nights are delightful. Oh and Scrabble, I amaze even myself at just how much I think about and play Scrabble.

 KC: What do you like most/least about Saskatoon?

 I love Saskatoon because my little niece and little nephew are here, we all need each other. I have found more of my chosen family, people who accept and love me as I am. We learn from each other, we have fun with each other and we work with each other. I am thankful every day for all of them. There is so much to do in Saskatoon; I could be busy every day of my life if I wanted. I love eating cruelty free meals, so I spend lots of time dining on delicious meals. I also love the theatre and art world here.

 Saskatoon is not without its flaws. Racism is rampant here which I mainly combat by aspiring to be and working towards being the most kick ass human I can be. But also with raising awareness, building bridges, speaking out, and taking action. It is important to me that people understand that racism and anti-racism education is the responsibility of every human alive. The key lies in understanding the history of these lands.

 KC: What is your impression of Regina?

 Well, I lived there for 20 years, it is my home city and I still drive by my old house every time I go there. I left much of my family and friends I have had for years to follow my little niece. But, we all still have immense love for each other. In some ways, I miss Regina so much, but I know that I need to be in Saskatoon. At this time in my life, this is where I belong. I have many fond memories when I think about Regina. It is where I discovered myself. Sometimes, I think back and realize just how much I have evolved. I used to be quite shy and naïve. When I come back to my home city, it seems so small to me now, I think that just happens as time goes on.

 KC: How do you survive the winters?

 Every time winter approaches, I always think, how am I gonna survive another winter? But, we just do. This is home and we must appreciate it for what it is. But I survive with the heat cranked, winter tires and warming up the car. I also rely on thick winter socks, taking a weekend to watch franchise movies, binge watching TV shows, long baths, music, art, new recipes, board games and my baby niece for cuddling. But sometimes, I love to put on layers and get out there for sledding parties, skating dates and snow forts. The crunch of snow and hoarfrost are draws. I really want to winter camp.

 From the Proust Questionnaire: What do you most value in your friends?

 In my groups of friends both at home and here, it is the gift of laughter. We can neither control our laughter nor do we want to. Our collective decibel levels are unmatched. No matter where we are, we are #alwaystheloudesttable. If we are with just ourselves, we have all noticed that the longer we laugh, the closer we move together until we are basically on top of each other, heads are flung back, tongues are out, we are clutching and slapping each other, holding hands, crying and generally gasping and wheezing for air cause it never ends. Our laughs are even starting to sound more similar. We are just completely ridiculous and I love each and every second.

Links:

Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre: http://www.sicc.sk.ca/

Saskatoon Aboriginal Professionals Association: http://www.sapayxe.com/

Pē-Kīwēwin Project: https://www.facebook.com/pe.kiwewin?fref=ts

OUTSaskatoon Rainbow Families Series: http://www.outsaskatoon.ca/outsaskatoon_swag