Treaty 2 Territory – Matthew Shorting is Anishinaabe living on Treaty 1 Territory and is a member of the Little Saskatchewan First Nation Treaty 2. He was placed in the Manitoba Child Welfare system at 5 months old, becoming a permanent ward at 6 until the age of 18. He now shares how he heals from intergenerational trauma to holistic well-being.
Matthew works in restorative justice and is a father to a 10-year-old daughter. He’s participated in various speaking engagements since 2012, assists with Meet me at the the Belltower and volunteers for Bear Clan in Winnipeg. In June of 2017, Matthew was 1 of 4 Indigenous torch carriers that helped light the Canada Summer Games flame.
On November 7, 2018, Matthew was a voice in The Amendment made to the Child and Family Services Act. BILL 223, where Children can no longer be apprehended due to Poverty and in February of 2019, he received the Royal Canadian Humane Association Bravery Bronze Medal award.
Matthew has become an advocate for the better treatment of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and families. Matthew brings to light the deficiencies of many systems such as justice, education and child welfare so that appropriate solutions can be achieved on an individual basis and through the self-determination of our people.
INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA AND HEALING
I see you there, you survived the shame and despair. Foster Care. I see you there, layers of grief that you wear. Nowhere to share, seems like no one really cares. Push them away, life doesn’t feel fair. Our stories won’t completely compare, each story is so unique and rare. Screaming for comfort, gasping for air. Lump in the throat, so many tears. Family isn’t there.
Memories too much to bear. They took you away, and they called it care.
When you pass by a mirror, I want you to affirm your existence here is needed and what you survived and continue to survive you succeeded, exceeded. I want you to say to yourself, I am needed. Many see your gifts, I pray that you see them. Breathe in the love as you meet it, let it shower your spirit, feed it. You’re the stars in the skies, I know it, I see it and read it. Believe me. Let go of the old hurts. Time to weave new beliefs about the unresolved griefs. Open up and make a new family of peeps. We’re not all the same. I’ll cheer you on as you make leaps, listen so closely as you speak, never let you think you’re weak. Times are changing, new leaf. Walk with purpose, pull your feet. That hope you seek is no longer dreams in your sleep. Suffering to joy, slowly every week. Heal and feel that you are love and that is reality.
Boozhoo. Aniin. I am Anishinaabe and my Spirit Name is Bimeshi Anung Inini Endizkaz – my Clan is Wa wa kayxhi – Hoof Clan. My other name is Matthew Brian Shorting and I experienced being separated from my family for 4988 days. The Anishinaabe knowledge keepers say that our spirits choose the life and family that we belong to. My spirit chose the life and family here in what is now known as Winnipeg, MB Canada.
My life giver carried me lovingly and protectively in her womb for 9 months. There in her pure space, I was formed where her sacred waters engulfed me. I was safe, loved, comforted, nurtured and soothed by her heartbeat, and these feelings continued with her thereafter into life.
Though my mother worked, we lived in poverty. While she worked evenings and I stayed with family they called it neglect. My mother was labeled transient when there was lack of access to housing. Lack of support exists for a mother after children are taken.
In total I was placed in the Child Welfare System for thirteen years, six months and six days. Away from my family, I felt not seen, not heard, not understood.
As a child in care over medicating children happens as quick fix instead of addressing the heart of the problem- trauma.
Often I couldn’t sit still because pain was inside and I was put on pills rather then given coping skills.
Apprehended children are shown that their family is bad and that they are to trust total strangers.
With the protective factor of my family was removed I was left vulnerable and open.
Personal boundaries become blurred.
Personal boundaries are unlearned.
Personal boundaries became non-existent.
When you deprive a child of love, affection and attention, they will seek it in their environment.
With blurred boundaries, I was sexually abused and exploited multiple times.
In MB alone, Indigenous children make up 26% of the child population of Manitoba. In 2018, they made up 87% of the 10,328 children living under the care of the child welfare system. A Humanitarian crisis.
Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people is one of human rights violations, injustices, inequalities, and inequities and in recent news, Genocide has created the conditions of life and these statistics are proof.
I encourage every person to learn what education has failed to do and learn from Indigenous people their version of history.
Every time a child is taken away, torn from the family, the haunting, longing pain affects not only that child and family, but many future generations. We need to do better.
Here are 3 things to focus our intergenerational healing:
Focus Area # 1 HEALING
The pain, grief, and trauma that we experience in life can be healed.
Healing happens when skills are more accessible for families who experience trauma.
It is in everyone’s best interest for spaces to be available for people to heal whether they have money or not.
When we build relationships with families or youth who have experienced trauma it is important to have already begun on your own healing journey.
Why ? Because we need you present when difficult life experiences are shared and it takes emotional labor for people to be led to emotional health. Your healing is my healing.
Other insightful ideas when helping families is that all pain is valid and never needs to be compared. Also, emotions dont need to be shut down or feared.
Focus Area # 2 RELATIONSHIPS
I believe that the most protective and powerful experience for children, is to be with and see their family treated with equality and equity. Multigenerational healing happens in the strength of the family. Support struggling families, the way you do foster families!
When families and systems fail the best thing for a young person is longstanding emotional connection. RELATIONSHIPS ARE emotional Connection . Let connections be the correction to breaking cycles.
Focus Area # 3 ENVIRONMENTAL SHIFTS
If a flower doesn’t grow, we change the environment it grows in.
Can we acknowledge that environments are what set families up to fail and to stop pointing fingers at each other. Change the environments and patterns of behaviors change.
When changing environments via policy and laws, we need to include the voice and agreements of families, children and community. “Nothing About Us Without Us”.
Last modified: July 8, 2019