“Hello! I’m Shyla Froshaug and I’m from a Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.”
This is the scripted line I have nervously recited to introduce myself. The line I have nervously rehearsed in my head preparing for my turn on that dreaded first day of class introductions. I have even learned how to recite this line in Cree to introduce myself in my Cree language classes.
Tansi! Shyla Froshaug e-isiyihkasoyan. Big Beaver niya ohchi.
This is the line I have used to name myself. The hardest part is waiting for my turn to introduce myself and hoping I will not jumble my words and mess it up. The most complex part is the fact I technically live equal distance from two small towns and therefore have to decide whether I am from Minton or Big Beaver.
Except maybe it isn’t that easy.
I have started to understand that a side effect of my privilege is that I am afforded the flexibility to not recognize parts of my identity. Huge segments that make me who I am have gone unnamed. In the book Indigenous Write, Vowel (2016) points out “ there really are no . . . terms with which to refer to the “non-indigenous peoples living in Canada who are from the European-descended socio-political majority” (14). This, of course, represents me, and before being exposed to different minority groups and discussions of equality, I had not realized that I needed a term to define my identity in this way.
So let me try that again
“Hello! My name is Shyla Froshaug. I am a cisgender, female, heterosexual, treaty 4 resident, white, settler descendant from Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.
There are a few issues with this version of my introduction. First of all, I don’t like saying the ten words from my original introduction! There is no way I would confidently say all of that without eating my tongue!
Second, these words that are meant to identify me, make me feel guilty. I feel guilty that I did not know what cisgender meant until very recently. I feel guilty that as a capable woman I have chosen a career that is dominated by females instead of branching out into one of the many occupations I would have been a minority in. I feel guilt over the dark history that was dominated by my white and settler ancestors. I feel guilty that as a treaty 4 person occupying treaty 4 land I am getting so many benefits from the treaties while making no sacrifices.
Third, every time I list these terms I wonder what I am forgetting. What part of my identity am I continuing to leave unnamed?
“finding one’s sense of origin and belonging, finding one’s sense or finding one’s centre”
My initial reaction to this concept is I already know who I am and where I come from.
I am Shyla Froshaug from Big Beaver, Saskatchewan. I am a 6th generation Canadian, a multi-generation rancher, and a 5th generation school teacher. I grew up on my great-grandfather’s ranch, and then my parents’ ranch in the Big Muddy in Southern Saskatchewan. My parents, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents all grew up in the community surrounding Glentworth, Saskatchewan.
My great-great-grandparents were immigrants. They all moved to Southern Saskatchewan during the 1910s to homestead as per the Dominion Land’s Act. They were coming to “fill empty land” and for the opportunities to own land and better their lives and the lives of their descendants.
The majority of my great-grandparents moved from the United States. However, I did have some grandparents come right from Norway and Germany.
My great-grandfather, Boyd Anderson, wrote an autobiography the year before I was born. From his oral stories and from his novel, he has left us plenty of information about our family history. I also have had the privilege of getting to know all of my great-grandparents and therefore have been able to learn a lot about where I have come from.
However, what has never been discussed is the treaty relations that allowed my family to own land and settle in Canada.
So that is where I would like my Miskasowin to lead me. I feel like I need to learn more about the treaty relations that have shaped me and how being a treaty person impacts me and my identity.
My commitments for this semester are as follows
- I am prepared to be vulnerable
- I am prepared to look at the stories that define me through different lenses.
- I will work towards embracing all parts of my identity without guilt.
Something Vowel (2016) said on page 8 of Indigenous Writes that spoke to me was “ Names are linked to identity and notions of identity are fluid.” Already in my 21 years of life, my identity has changed multiple times as I have grown, developed and learned more about who I am. I am prepared for this class and for life in general to continue to help shift my identity.
My name is Shyla Froshaug and while I am from Big Beaver, Saskatchewan, I don’t really know what that means historically. I am ready to learn more about who I am and where I am from.