“Nomad is a person who moves from place to place as a way of obtaining food, or making a living. “
I was born, Patricia Lynn Bernard, born to Evelyn Bernard, a Mi’kmaq woman originally from Lennox Island, but at that time, member of the Abegweit First Nation. I was born a Mi’kmaq. I can tell you what that means to me now, but 42 years ago, I had no idea what this meant or will mean in my future.
when I was 2 years, I was adopted by a family living at that time in Montreal, Quebec. Mother, Father, Sister & Brother. My siblings were all adopted as my Mother was unable to have children of her own. My Father was from the Moncton region of New Brunswick, Mother was from Tignish, PEI.
A french Arcadian family, with many aunts, uncles and cousins. I have always felt blessed I ended up in one of the “good ones”, and many First Nation’s will know what I mean by that. My home was safe, comforting, welcoming, and most importantly freedom to be allowed to be who I was meant to be.
This is where my story always gets complicated. My personality color is green. I have learned this means I am inquisitive, I love to know why, how, when, where, who, well you get the idea. More times than not, me asking questions often got me into trouble, or looked down upon for questioning the flow. I like balance, I often sought out balance, perhaps not right away, but soon enough. Balance always brought peace to me. In searching for identity and purpose within my life, asking questions was a way of life, a necessity really.
It wasn’t long after parents adopted me, my Mother and I returned to PEI to live. Growing up in a single parent family wasn’t actually common in the 70’s, as normal and acceptable as it is now, at the time I’m sure it wasn’t easy for my Mom. But luckily she had a wonderful family here on PEI, where we were accepted, loved unconditionally and welcomed home with open arms. Those days were wonderful. Kids were free to play on the streets, we could stay out and play under the street lights, and never worry about making it home safe. Even then, I was a very carefree, independent kid growing up. I loved playing in the woods, felt comfortable around all animals wild or the ones on the farm. It was truly natural for me to have wild animals to come eat out of my hand, to talk to the horses, the birds. I always felt safe with them. I truly marched to the beat of my own drum.
People have asked me, did you know you were Native? I don’t remember any specific moment being told I was, it was just known. I knew I was Mic Mac. I remember when I was 16/17 years old, my fresh new license, Mom took me to Amherst to get my “status card”, I remember being more excited being allowed to drive! At that time in my life that was most important, that status card really had no meaning to me, and I say that with no disrespect, just a fact. That license was my ticket to freedom, the kind of freedom I had been looking for since I could remember. Took me to places that brought peace in my life, places I could go and just think. It was this time that I discovered my passion for photography, and PEI landscapes. My special beach walks began at this time. I found so much healing there. Until this time in my life, I was very sheltered, extremely sheltered, other than just immediate family and my cousins, that was my world. No computers, not even any cable, just family.
I was raised in a very traditional Catholic family, I was a good catholic girl, went to church, went to catechism, said my prayers, and feared God. Now I’m not saying the following to disrespect the Catholic Church, but when I reached my 17 to 20’s, like I said I questioned everything. I followed what came natural to me, and rather than going to church, I began doing my beach walks…and I felt more alive, natural and closer to any God/Creator I ever knew. It was this moment I began my spiritual quest in life, which tied into my identity. I simply followed my heart, and it led me to all the lessons and experiences I ever needed in life. I became the person that I am today. I’ve been told i’m too nice, I’ve been told I wear my heart on my sleeve, perhaps. But I believe that is my gift. My sensitive heart, my compassion, my empathy, my ability to feel what others are feeling. For better or worse, that is my gift. My eyes are so important to me, I am able to observe the world around me, see people’s emotions, help me connect with others.
I am an introvert, I grew up playing alone, living alone and learned how to be independent and self sufficient. I make no apologies for any of this. I love who I am, and that took a long time to be able to say that. I love all of me. I am grateful the Creator chose this journey for me, the path he sent me on has been an amazing one, filled with so many opportunities for growth and learning. So when they say our environment dictates who we become, well, I guess I can agree…I’ve had many many family and friends in my life. I’ve met people across Canada, and even a few in the States. I am grateful for each and everyone of them. How lucky am I? I’ve lived in Ontario, and British Columbia-twice. Worked and went to school there. Thought of returning some day. It’s a wonderful feeling to know the sky is the limit, opportunities to travel, work, school, they are there waiting for us.
For some this life seems probably, empty, I can’t imagine any other way of living. Perhaps one day I will own my very own home, who knows, maybe even get married. I remember a friend described me as a hummingbird, we don’t just stay at one flower, we go to many flowers, tasting each one along the way. Sampling and tasting different nectar. I really liked that description, and never forgotten it. I am a hummingbird.
I met my birth family approximately 19 years ago, my Mi’kmaq Family. It was a scary time in my life, filled with guilt, fear, uncertainty. Weird as I went to Vancouver on my own with no fear, went to school and lived my life with no fear. But this, this frightened me. My world as I knew it, changed, and changed drastically. Waking up one morning and everything changed. I grew up with a Mom, knew who my sister, brother, all my aunt’s and uncles were. I thought I knew who I was. Suddenly, it all changed. My adopted family was supportive, although I couldn’t help feel guilty, felt like I was abandoning them. But the more I met my birth family, the more I felt insecure, I had to figure out who I was all over again. I dealt with depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse, and even attempted suicide. I have overcome each and every thing that came my way.
The moment of my birth, when I was taken from my Mother, until this very moment, I have had to be independent, self sufficient. I am a survivor, do not need a plastic card to tell me who I am or what I am. I have my Mother’s blood running through my veins, as it runs through my daughter’s veins. It won’t matter what the government says, nor the Bands, I am who I am…a Mi’kmaq Woman, a Mother, a Daughter, a Sister, an Auntie…a Friend.