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Voices of the Street: My Mother’s Comfort — with Nicolas Leech-Crier and Eva Takakanew

Speakers: Nicolas Leech-Crier, Yvonne Mark, Jules Chapman, Eva Takakanew

[soft guitar music]

Nicolas Leech-Crier  0:15 
You’re listening to Voices of the Street, a podcast series brought to you by Megaphone Magazine, featuring original writing from the 2021 Voices of the Street literary anthology. This podcast is recorded on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

Yvonne Mark  0:39 
Megaphone is changing the story on poverty by promoting social equity, amplifying marginalized voices, and creating meaningful work. You can purchase a copy of the anthology from your local Megaphone vendor and for more information visit megaphonemagazine.com.

Jules Chapman  1:06 
These stories may deal with difficult topics. Please see the show notes for more information about the topics in this podcast; there are places to reach out for support.

[music fades]

[Section of “O Canada” plays followed by flute music]

Eva Takakanew  2:09 
I feel so small as I try and figure out where I have fallen off track.
I sold my soul to the devil and then I stole it back.

In the end a dope fiend’s got no friends,
and a junkie is a junkie till the bitter end.

I tie myself off and shoot it in my veins.
I have just hidden another day's pain.

I find my mother's comfort here — in a needle and a spoon.
Christmas is no fun, always waiting for good times that never seem to come.

Tired of the detox, the weird spaces in my mind.
Tired of the misery, tired of doing time.

There is no need to figure it out, I know where I have fallen off track.
I sold my soul to the devil and then I stole it back.

[Flute music fades]

[Drums play]

Eva Takakanew  3:19 
The day I wrote this, I was high, alone in a room shooting crystal meth into my arms. I felt alone and isolated... I was in the incredible depths of my addiction and I had given up all hope that life was even worth living anymore. I was on an extreme path to self-destruction.

I wrote this in a journal I had. It was the only place I could get out what was going on in my head. I had been downtown for six years and I had lost everything. I had given up my children and felt hopeless, even though that decision was because I wanted to give them a life I just couldn't give them.

Eva Takakanew  3:52
I wanted my girls to be raised with a mother and a father.

Most of you would say that the choice I made was selfless, however I did not see it like that, and I blamed myself for a very long time — for not being able to be a mom well enough to care for them; a mom who chooses the life of addiction rather than her children.

In 1988, my biological mother was pushed to her death from a fourth-storey window at the Balmoral Hotel. My mom died when she was 38 years old. This past year I turned 38. It's hard to imagine I outlived her.

This past year was also the first year I felt I could honour my biological mother and be able to forgive her — as well as myself for blaming her — for giving me away. I thought all my life that she didn’t love me. I know now that being a mother and wanting what's best for your child is the most important thing.

On the anniversary of her death, I went and put flowers at the Balmoral. Although I might not ever be able to tell her I love her in person, I know she hears me.

Eva Takakanew  5:11 
My adoptive mom is the only mother I have ever known and loved. At the time of my journal writing, we weren't talking. I took it as though she didn’t love me anymore and I began to question if she ever loved me.

What I didn't realize was it was so hard for her to be so powerless over my addiction that she had to let me do whatever I was doing and just pray that I was okay.

Today I know those thoughts weren’t true and my mom has always loved me. She loved me before she ever got to meet me. She explained to me she just couldn't watch her daughter self-destruct and kill herself.

She also once told me she would sometimes rather have me in an urn on her mantle... at least that way she would know what had happened to me and she would know exactly where I was.

I can't imagine all the pain I caused her, all the nights she stayed awake worrying about me. I missed her so much, but it was hard for me to admit that I couldn't stop doing drugs and my life was pretty shitty. So I just did what I was doing. I just got high day after day, and those days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and months into years.

Eva Takakanew  6:20
Before I knew it, six years of constant shooting meth into my arms had come and gone.

I have always had this feeling that resonates in my soul that I do not belong anywhere. I felt like I didn't belong in my adoptive family. They didn't ask to have a child with the problems that I came with. I had a hard time fitting in at school. I didn't feel like I had a purpose anymore, and I was probably better off just not being here anymore.

Eva Takakanew  6:50 
Kids can be so mean growing up, and going to school was not fun. I was teased a lot about the fact that I was adopted, or that my parents were white and I was Indigenous. Never did my mom know about this until this one time.

When I was in grade school, I cut off my eyelashes because some kids made fun of me for having long lashes. They said, “You have Indian eyes.” I took that comment as having Indian eyes was a bad thing and I hated being made fun of, so I went into the bathroom and cut my lashes off.

It wasn’t till later that afternoon when mom and I were sitting in the food court at the mall that she noticed and asked, “Eva, what have you done to your eyelashes?”

I began to cry. I told her what was said to me at school and that I was sorry. I did not want her to be mad. She just hugged me and said, “Oh Eva, you have beautiful eyelashes.”

[Drum music fades]

Nicolas Leech-Crier  7:52 
That was Eva Takakanew reading from My Mother's Comfort. Welcome my friends to a very special Indigenous honor healing and empowerment episode of Voices of the Street, the podcast. I'm your host, Mr. Essential and before I begin, I'd first like to express my deepest sympathies and prayers to the many families of the children being discovered in our darkest shadows whose immensely important lesson will now be learned through tragedy yet again. Canada must do the right thing to honour their spirits and raise up their family survivors as the stolen remains scatter across my broken heart and restless dreams. Know that we are here tonight to support that process with the strength of story. Now I'd like to introduce you to an exceptionally talented friend of mine, Miss Eva Takakanew. How are you doing tonight there, old friend? Oops, I mean, brave new colleague.

Eva Takakanew  8:48
Oh, I'm good.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  8:50 
Good to hear. So, I guess I'll just jump right in. The first question, which will be thinking back to the journal you speak about in your contribution to this year's Voices of the Street Anthology, a kind of memoir to your mother, of your mother. Sorry. What is the experience been like for you to become a published writer over these years?

Eva Takakanew  9:07 
The experience to become a published writer, well, honestly, when I first wrote the story that has been published, I didn't like it. So, I was like, kind of taken aback that it was being published. So, I don't know. It's been good.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  9:22 
Yeah. Awesome. 

Eva Takakanew  9:24 
Yeah. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  9:24
What do you mean by you, didn't you didn't like it? What was it you didn't like?

Eva Takakanew  9:27 
I don't know. I just was like, I didn't think it was a very good story. I was like, well, do I, should I add more to it?  And then the editor’s like, "No, it's good. Just like that." Like, okay. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  9:37 
Was it longer at first? 

Eva Takakanew  9:38 
No, it wasn't. It was. It was kind of short. It was just exactly the way it was. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  9:43 
It's a very touching piece. 

Eva Takakanew  9:45
Oh, thank you. Yeah, the response I’ve gotten from that story has been pretty amazing.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  9:49 
Yeah. What was it that sort of brought you to honor your mother, as well as forgive her, I guess is how you explain it in the story?

Eva Takakanew  9:57
Well, because all my life I've always wondered whether my mom actually cared about me or not. Right. I mean, if for any adoptee. I think that's something that we all think about, like why were we given away? Or why were we not loved enough that they didn't want us? You know what I mean? So, in the last three years, I've learned about my whole family and where I've come from, and being adopted, and really, it wasn't her fault, right? I was taken from her because of a drug, alcohol addiction, and where we lived. And, yeah, I just think that it's really not her fault. And that I needed to tell her that. And that was it. I didn't know where she was or what happened to her.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  10:37 
A bit of backstory here, Eva and I have known each other almost 18 years, like I said, and we're both adoptees in the Sixties Scoop, they call it. This era of adoption of Native kids into non-Indigenous families. And then we both sort of ended up here in Vancouver, both of us in the street scene, years ago, homeless and whatnot. And now here we are, decade and a half later, we're both writing for Megaphone and doing podcasts. So, she's an amazing success story, and it's an honor to interview you today. And as I was wondering if you'd like to talk about maybe your school experience. 

Eva Takakanew  11:11 
Sure.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  11:12 
What was that like for you going back to school?

Eva Takakanew  11:15 
Well, I've always been a person that needs to do something, starting September for some reason. So, the whole slanging downtown, doing what I was doing. It just got old really quickly this past time. And, um, September was coming up, and I was like, I want to go back to school. So, I just did it, but I gonna do, I just went back to school. But it's been pretty amazing. Actually, I went to native ed in Vancouver, and I've learned a lot about my family after I found out who I was and where I came from and my family and yeah, it's been quite the experience.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  11:44 
Yeah, I bet, like you and I have so much in common. That's why I kind of wanted to interview you, is that I went to the same school, NEC too, and did a semester there. And I finished really well, because of the environment. How do you find that, being around native people in the school environment?

Eva Takakanew  11:58 
Yeah. Well, education is power, right. I believe, anyways, well, I've been learning that more and more, because like, we have a lot of stigma attached to just being Native, right. There's a lot of stigma attached to that. So, I mean, education if you can get educated. I think that it's a good thing. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  12:15 
Yeah. 

Eva Takakanew  12:16
Yeah. And we're actually pretty smart. If you think about it.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  12:18 
Yeah. I know. That school’s amazing. 

Eva Takakanew  12:20 
I'm not as stupid as I thought I was. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  12:21 
Yeah. The teachers are amazing there. Do you finish the whole program? 

Eva Takakanew  12:26 
Yeah. I just graduated a couple weeks ago. Family counseling, diploma.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  12:27 
Oh, good for you. That's amazing.

Eva Takakanew  12:31
Yeah, I'm planning to take the Indigenous Justice program next.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  12:34 
Yeah, very proud of you for that. I'm sure your mother would be too. Anyway, I was wondering about your thoughts on, what's going on with the uncovering of these mass graves across Canada? How you feel about that? 

Eva Takakanew  12:45
Well, I mean, something that I think that we've always known that it's happening. And it's always been said by our people that it happened. And I mean, now that it's unfolding, I think that the Catholic churches are pretty much gonna have to pay for what they did, I think, you know what I mean? And, yeah, and it's, I mean, it's very, very sad. We're coming into the seventh generation, which is you and I, and we're able to change that, I believe.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  13:13 
Yeah, what she's talking about is there's a prophecy in native culture that talks about seven generations after Columbus landed 500 years ago, that there would be a resurgence in our culture, kind of led by young people who will reclaim our place in society as the original stewards of the land and sort of lead, you know, lead as example for the next generation. And that's happening all across the land. And Eva is an excellent example for that. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  13:36
Yeah, but we all still lost our culture.

Eva Takakanew  13:38 
Yeah, we lost our culture. We lost exactly what really makes us. What's, what goes through our blood, right? We're native, we're Indigenous people. So how is that even fair?

Nicolas Leech-Crier  13:49 
I know, the way money works. It doesn't jive right. 

Eva Takakanew  13:52 
Yeah, exactly, like we were fine. Before you guys came here. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  13:55 
Yeah. Yeah. For 10,000 years, we were fine without money.

Eva Takakanew  13:59 
We dealt with things just fine. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier 14:01 
Yeah. 

Eva Takakanew  14:02
You know, no such thing as jail and institutions and death, really. I mean, there was, but you know what I mean.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  14:08 
And the compensation doesn't bring back my mother either, right. 

Eva Takakanew  14:11 
Exactly.

Nicolas Leech-Crier 14:12
We have our spirit, right, as a people. And I think that's being honoured by Canada now. September 30th has been recognized now as Reconciliation Day. It'll be a stat holiday.

Eva Takakanew  14:24 
What is reconciliation, right? Can they really reconcile with us?

Nicolas Leech-Crier 14:27
Exactly. Do you want the truth part of it in the reconciliation process? They weren't even mentioned — anything about the mass graves yet. They're like, now it's getting uncovered. And they're like, oh, yeah, that, right.

Eva Takakanew  14:37 
Truth and nothing but the truth needs to be told. 

Nicolas Leech-Crier  14:39 
Yeah. 

Eva Takakanew  14:39 
That's the first step to reconciliation. Will they ever tell the truth?

Nicolas Leech-Crier 14:43
They're paying to keep it quiet and deny the genocide that's going on, right? Canada was just rated last in a list of 11 countries, in their health care systems, Canada rated last. And that's because, in part because of the racism against natives and people, but it's up to us. I can't wait to see what you write in the future. And it's been great working with you and watching you grow over the years. 

Eva Takakanew  15:05 
Thanks.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  15:06 
Super proud of you.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  15:08
And this is Voices of the Street, Mr. Essential, signing off. And we'd like to thank Megaphone, and all the other good people involved in this project. Have a good night.

[music]

Yvonne Mark  15:28
This series was produced with support from the City of Vancouver, BC Arts Council, SFU’s Community Engagement Initiative and SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement.

Jules Chapman  15:42
This podcast was developed through a mentorship program led by Helena Krobath. Special thanks to the Storytellers and Voices of the Street writers, the supporting mentors, and the audio production team. 

Please see the show notes for more information about the topics in this podcast; there are places to reach out for support.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  16:00
Our theme song was created by John Brennan, with extra music and sound effects by John Brennan and Helena Krobath. 

Paige Smith  16:07
This episode also features flute music by Paul Cheoketen Wagner. You can find more information about his music in the show notes.

Nicolas Leech-Crier  16:15
Sound engineering, editing, mixing, and mastering by Paige Smith, Fiorella Pinillos and Kathy Feng. On behalf of the participants of the Megaphone Podcasting Pilot Project, I would like to give thanks to our Executive Director, Julia Aoki, both the board of directors, and all the hardworking vendors out there keeping our organization alive. Thank you. 

[music fades]

Transcript auto-generated by Otter.ai and edited by the Below the Radar team.
March 08, 2022
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