Saturday, May 6, 2017


I completely forgot to post in April. April came up way too fast and I was balancing the deadline of two books and what I thought were never ending allergies that turned out to be my third bout of bronchitis in less than a year.

Once I remembered, I emailed the lovely Kacey and apologized.


April, besides being slammed with deadlines was a weird month for me. Emotionally. I was turning 39 and I was in the midst of genomes, halpogroups and discovering a piece of myself I always knew was there, but was told to forget about it.

If you know me or follow me on Facebook you know that my mother is now in a long term care facility. I almost lost her this summer and unfortunately being in long term care means, I will lose her sooner rather than later. She has cancer and a rare paraneoplastic syndrome that is attacking her nervous system. Cancer runs virulent on my maternal side. My Nanny had it and died from it, her twin had it, died from it. My grandfather has it now and is fighting it. My Mom has it.

The cancer prompted me to get a DNA test. Now, 23 and Me only tests the maternal side. I would have to get my brother or father to spit into tube to get my paternal line. However, services like GedMatch can find the trace amounts of DNA from your paternal line in your DNA, because I am made up of both my Mom and Dad.

The results came in and there, on my chromosomes were matches to Cree and Algonquin.

Now, this is something I always suspected. My father would always tell me that his father was adamant that they were Canadian, when in grade school I was trying to find out about our heritage for a project.

Mom's family came from Britain and Ireland.

Dad said "We're Canadian. That's all you need to know."

Well, the name Ruttan was French in origin but Dad would say we weren't French. We were Canadian. He told me his father was adamant they weren't French. I also knew we were United Empire Loyalists, but Dad didn't talk about his mother's side of the family. That was lost. His maternal line was spotty. Everything about his extended family was a bit spotty.

I wasn't allowed to do my grade school project on Britain or Ireland cause, according to the teacher, "we all were". I got assigned another country.

We started watching Spirit Bay when I was about 10 years old. Spirit Bay had Canadian talent such as Tantoo Cardinal and Tom Jackson. It was filmed in Northwestern Ontario where my father was from. Watching that show just reminded me of my father's family. Or pictures I had seen of them.

I never knew my father's family well. I know a few members, like my Dad's sister. I never knew my grandparents. My Dad's father was 62 when he was born and my Dad's mother was very ill. She did know me and there are pictures of us, but she died when I was 4.

The rest of the uncles and cousins, I didn't know very well. Just a few. I was growing up outside of Toronto and they were still in the north. Also, because of age gaps, they were all my Mom's age. They were adults.

There were soapstone carvings and pictures that my father's brother sent to him from up north. I think my longing to see my father's family is why I became obsessed with the north.

And my Dad, after reiterating over and over we were Canadian (or Empire Loyalists from his paternal side), he would tell me stories. Native stories about the Thunderbird. There were others, but the Thunderbird stuck with me because I got in an argument in public school during a thunderstorm and the teacher said God was bowling and I said "No, that's the thunderbird."

I think my parents got a call then because I was pretty adamant and couldn't except it was "God bowling". A bird protecting us from serpents rising from the water made more sense in my little brain back then.

My brother moved up to the NWT while my mother was in the hospital in November. I was so envious of him, because I was totally obsessed with the north. He texted me one day that he was welcomed with open arms by the Metis band up there and I started to cry.

And that's when Dad opened up about living in the bush when he was young. His sister, who is 11 years older, wrote me a letter to tell me that she and the older siblings were taught Cree by an elder who would come off the reserve to specifically teach them. She knew fluent Cree both speaking and writing. When my Dad was two, they packed up and moved out of the bush to a larger town and my aunt lost her ability to speak and write Cree.

She is in her 80's and she misses it, but it wasn't encouraged where they went. So she spoke English.

I told my mother I was jealous my brother was up there. I felt I belong up there and she sighed a sad sigh and said "I know, but we thought it was best to keep it from you."

So, April was a bit ...emotional for me. And when I told a couple of people about what I had found out about my heritage I got, "You don't look native."

I didn't know how to answer that. I am part my mother and father. My father is the same, being made up of both Cree, Algonquin and European. My mother, whose family came from England and Ireland actually has a lot of Russian and Fennoscandian in her. Way more than the British Isles. It explains the height. Her family and me, are 5'10" and over. I'm taller than my Dad.

Genetics being what they are, different traits come out. Always.

BUT that's not what I said. I was stunned and walked away.

Someone said I was going to get stuff for free now. Umm, no. That's when I directed them to Wab Kinew's amazing video about misconceptions.

I was worried about talking about this, because I didn't grow up knowing that part of my heritage. I don't have a voice about this, other I'm proud of what made me. I actually told Zoe York about all this at dinner one night in March.

I told her my fear, but she encouraged me.

I'm proud of my European connections. I'm proud to be part of United Empire Loyalists.

I'm proud of my connections to Cree from Northwestern Ontario.

I'm glad my brother was accepted up north and is finding his path.

He said to me he's never felt so accepted. He never felt like he belonged before and I didn't know that he was feeling the same way as I had all these years.

Dad's been opening up to me too about things that happened when he was young.

It's almost like he feels his mortality with Mom being so ill.

I am proud of who I am and walking a very hard road to learn more about it all.

So much makes up who I am and I'm still trying to learn it all, but I am glad after 39 years I know what makes up me.

And in this crazy, mixed up world I am still proud to be Canadian.

Born and raised just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Amy fled the big city to settle down with the country boy of her dreams.

After the birth of her second child, Amy was lucky enough to realize her life long dream of becoming a romance author. When she's not furiously typing away at her computer, she's a mom to three wonderful children who use her as a personal taxi and chef.

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