A Memoir from a Indigenous Muslimah Woman
I was born and raised in the lush, fertile crest of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. I identify as Indigenous and Lebanese. My name is Water Lily Ikwe (Water Lily Woman) and I am known as Lou Lou Al Takach.
Upon my arrival to Turtle Island on October 19, 2021, I began my journey to reconnect with my Indigenous side of the family. On November 11, 2021, I received my Certificate of Aboriginal Status from the Federally recognized Alliance Autochtone du Quebec.
My mother Nicole was raised primarily Greek-Canadian as her mother, my maternal grandmother Alane Speropoulos did not want the influences of her father’s maternal side to affect her as she thought it was in her best interest to be protected from intergenerational trauma including alcoholism, and various forms of abuse. Due to this, my mother spent her life in denial of her Indigenous ancestry. It was only after being in her mid-40’s my mother decided to begin her own healing journey and walk the path of the Red Road. My mother always tells me “Lou Lou you cannot truly know who you are if you do not know where you came from”. She began searching for the truth through her cousins from the Johnson side of the family; finding relatives living close by here in Alberta.
My mother was raised Roman Catholic, her father was given to the church by his mother Lucy May Johnson (my great grandmother) and trained for 3 years to become a priest. Although my maternal grandfather's own father was from the Peloponnese region of southern Greece and was Greek Orthodox; according to Mediterranean culture the offspring should follow their father’s religion. Lucy May enforced Catholicism on all her children; as we now know was due to the intergeneration traumas that the Johnson family endured and survived.
My mother had difficulty understanding and accepting the theory of the trinity and therefore, she began looking for her truth, leading her to Islam. She accepted Islam in 1991 and started wearing the hijab.
My mother has faced discrimination over the last 32 years. I myself have witnessed such discrimination to my mother as well as to myself.
My story begins as such; I identified myself as an Indigenous student on my college application. I then almost immediately faced a situation of profound discrimination based on my legal name. I remember that day, I awoke that morning reading an email from the college informing me that I was not Indigenous and further giving examples of who would have the right to identify as Indigenous. I was in a state of extreme distress as I handed my cell phone to my mother. My mother read the email and immediately requested an explanation of the email, as the college does not require proof of Indigenous status, only requests for a self-identification.
The employee at the college informed us the reason she sent the email to me was based on the fact that it had been flagged by another employee in the department. It was obvious at that point that I had been discriminated against based on my ethnic name. I then requested a written letter of apology and received it soon after.
Another incident that was an example of direct discrimination was when I was travelling by Calgary Transit. I was verbally assaulted by the transit driver when he shouted “lower the volume on your Facetime call you immigrant!” I was in complete disbelief that a city of Calgary employee would be shouting out discriminatory names to passengers on his bus. I did, however, follow up immediately with Calgary Transit reporting the incident.
I believe wholeheartedly that individuals should remember that a person does not have to look the stereotypical phenotype of the particular ethnic group that an individual identifies with. As we know from recent DNA research, a person may not inherit recessive or non-recessive genes but it doesn't negate the fact that they are from that blood line. This is an important lesson for us all to learn, and hopefully, accept.
I then began my journey of reconnecting to both my Algonquin Weskarini Deer Clan and Huron Wendat roots. I have learned much but I feel there is no limit to what one can learn and that as my maternal grandfather Loreigh Jerome Mitges would say “Life is learning and the lessons never end.”
To educate myself further, I started attending ceremonies and sharing circles learning about various Indigenous traditions and ways of knowing. I feel this is very close and comparable to the way I was raised as a Muslim. For instance, the relation between us and Mother Earth, as well as the strong bond and connection to community.
I have since learnt traditional beading techniques, how to sew ribbon skirts, and traditional First Nations recipes to name a few.
As I am the current the Indigenous Learner Representative on SABVC’s Students’ Council,
I am honoured that the Creator has given me this opportunity to learn and share my knowledge of our hundreds of Indigenous traditions and cultures across Turtle Island.
In conclusion, I humbly ask that we do not accept any form of racism towards any visible minority and that if we see such an instance we do not stay silent, rather we stand up for our TRUTH!
Thus al-Rum verse 22 asserts that in diversity and variations are the signs of God for those with vision and those who are wise. This implies that differences must not only be expected, but be tolerated.
My Maternal Grandfather Loreigh Jerome Mitges
Great Uncle Bev
My great grandmother Lucy May Johnson
Great Uncle Bev, Uncle Albert (John), My Maternal Grandfather Loreigh
Great Uncle Alex Johnson
My Maternal Uncle Dr. Glenn Mitges
Great Aunt Marguerite Johnson (Lucy May’s sister)