Fathers who are Aboriginal have a lot of negative stereotypes that they must overcome. The deadbeat dad is a popular subject when discussing modern families in every culture. Humankind tends to focus on the negative rather than the positive. As a First Nations student, I was approached to write this article about Aboriginal Dads. My method could have been different; I could have researched and shown graphs of Aboriginal fathers that were alcoholic, unemployed, nonexistent, or worse. Instead I decided to ask Aboriginal fathers firsthand on what their fatherhood philosophy is.
My first stop was a meeting with Andrew Wesley, he is an Omushkego Cree and a resident elder at U of T’s First Nations House. Having raised three children, he is an experienced father and offered this wisdom to share:
I learned many things about being a father from my own father and my grandfather and also other elders that I grew up with. I think being a father is very important. I think you’ve got to have love for your kids and you’ve got to have love for your wife and you have to be a good teacher. To be able to discipline them [children] in a good way and also to help them out with life and what life is all about; and to enjoy creation at the same time, because we are part of creation. Many of our teachings come from creation, from animals, birds. Like for us back home…we respect the Canada goose more than the eagle, because many of our teachings from discipline comes from the Canada goose. How he survives nature and we learn from nature and from that bird we learn encouragement, we learn strength, we learn wisdom, and we learn to respect life.
Roy Strebel is an Aboriginal father from Thessalon First Nation. He is married to his wife, Michelle, and they have a five year old daughter, Shay Lee. As a full time Aboriginal Studies student at U of T, he also makes time to volunteer at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto:
I try to bring Shay-Lee to the Native Centre when I can. I want her to know more about her culture. She enjoys dancing at the centre and I even teach her words in Ojibway. I am not fluent but I’d like to teach her what I do know. We attend Pow Wows and other Native activities. I think it’s important to know her culture and know where she came from. I want her to know how important family is and how important it is that we stick together through good and bad. I want her to know that an education is important and I sometimes take her with me if I have things to do at First Nations House or anywhere at the university. Bringing her to our community to see all of her family is always such a treat for her. They all give her so much attention when we are up there. It’s good to see her having such a good time up there, playing with her cousins by the lake. The one thing that I always let her know every day is that I love her always. I think that she likes to hear that too. She is a huggy type of girl and she always seems happy, even more so since we got a Golden Retriever pup. I find that as long as I have that connection with her, we will always have a great father/daughter relationship.
My father was an important part of my life. He never attended university but had a thirst for knowledge that was passed on to me. Through his acceptance and teachings, it helped me become the parent I am today. Without his love and encouragement I don’t know where I would be today. Unfortunately he passed away almost seven years ago and is not here to witness me passing on the love that I felt as a child onto my children. There are good and bad parents in every culture around the world. I think it’s about time our society starting praising the good ones, so they can become role models for people everywhere. Parents everywhere strive for the same thing, to pass on their culture through love for their children. As an Ojibway mother, I’m teaching my children what I’ve learned and hope the cycle of love continues through them.
To hear more stories about Aboriginal dads and for parenting resources…visit New Dad Manual