Worldviews – Urban Indigenous frontlines, experience, and survival

Sadie Morris stands with Jenn Allen (Tlingit) outside the Anti-Imperial squat in Metrotown, June 2016.

I am Sadie Morris, I am Nuu Chah Nulth and Irish and my daughter is Destiny Morris who is Nuu Chah Nulth, Gitsan, and Irish. My mother moved me and my three sisters to Vancouver in 1977. We have grown to love the unceded Coast Salish territory for all of our memories good, bad, and the ugly. We have had our children here and raised our children here who are second generation First Nations and who don’t live in the territory in which actually descend from. I feel we are a unique community, or as some sociologists define as a subculture within a dominant society. We live in the heart of Vancouver or in the adjacent cities of Burnaby or North Vancouver.

An elder at SFU struck a huge chord in me when he described our Indigenous worldview as three attachments that we experience: to each other (community), the land (in my case, my neighborhood), and the spirit world (our identity). Colonization assumes that we have been brutally detached from our worldview. But we haven’t. Not only are we still here, despite not fitting into any construct of what an Indian is, we are not leaving. This construct of the Indian as an archaic monolithic is not who I am.

Who I am as a seemingly disenfranchised Indian has everything to do with how I experience dialogue. I have coexisted with dominant society in Vancouver and I know when a person has a colonial lens. The colonial lens often frames a First Nations person or people either as a romantic warrior, hunter Native in their territory, or as a paternalistic big brother to people who need to be protected. Why is this important? What we bring to the table: beliefs, attitudes, and practices (known or not known) can become a barrier to any dialogue.

To me, our First Nations connection to each other has survived despite residential school and even time and distance from loved ones in our territory. Our connection to the land may be a neighborhood and not the direct ancestral land from where we originate, and our connection to the spirit world may have been strained but our spirits are still here and it is STILL First Nations.

The frontline work by First Nations territories is not only dignified but also honored in our hearts. Please know that we are also fighting frontline wars: the war on homelessness, the war on fentanyl, the war to keep our children, the war of curriculums in schools. Really, the list of wars goes on. I would even go as far as saying we are frontline protectors of First Nations people in the urban setting.

Our successes are just as fruitful as our wars. We have bonded to our neighbourhoods. I personally have a diverse mosaic of Native and non-Native comrades who I call brother and sister. We treat each other with dignity, worth, and often playfulness. This coexistence gives me and my daughter hope for working together, and fighting together.



in the eye of the storm
My name is Sadie Morris

I am Nuu Chah Nulth and Irish

When i moved here in 77

I was called a half breed

I was 7 and I had no idea what that meant


I have bonded with the city of Vancouver (more recently Burnaby)

My daughter was born in BC’s Womens Hospital

We have been called city indians …

And not a REAL indian from people i love


My ma took me and my sisters here

All our babies were born here

I have had my bouts with alcoholism

And witness first hand the effects of Colonialism

And lateral violence

I am, right this second, breaking one of the generational rules

Of colonialism: don’t speak


The playground, of many playgrounds taught me another rule:

Be ashamed … that you are brown,

be ashamed that you breath

Wrapped around my throat like a lying snake

that hisses quietly:

… dare challenge me…


This playground rule hissed its venom in me

Even more so in my teen years


I see far too many of my people drink

I see far too many of my people OD

I see far too many of my people

… get shot by a cop

… get shot by a gang member

… get shot by a needle

… put on the street


I’ve been to so many hospitals and funerals

i ve been to so many celebration of lifes


Yes, i still say my people despite me being a city indian … a non indian

Colonialism and lateral violence and systematic racism

will NEVER take my FIRST NATIONS heritage,

I was born to my First Nations mom and i will always be First Nations


When the venomous lie tries to whisper,

Forget who you are

… you have no voice

… you have no community

… you have no connection


… and then,

Occupying another political space

They no longer whisper colonial words and try to make me choke on shame

Yet again

They tell the media

You do not deserve your space …

Even the rcmp officer states we have the right to enjoy our space

… (just not the people)

Yet again

They say you do not even have a voice!


I have news for you … I DESERVE MY SPACE


My body is my space

My home is my space

My body is political

And so is my voice

And yes even my place


Stand up for the vulnerable or the ones too confused and scared to use their voice

Despite the celebration of life we attend… calling the hospital for someone i love

I am in the eye of the storm

I may rest and grieve and sometimes play

But in the eye of the storm I stand

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