Our Land, Our Clan, Our Freedom

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In September of this year, my husband and I travelled to Scotland with our eldest son to deliver him safe and sound to Bible School. Before we got him settled into his dorm, we spent a few days exploring the Highlands of Scotland together. It was a bucket list trip, for sure. We made a list of all the places and things we wanted to see on our Epic Scotland Road Trip. I had a map, a GPS and box of Krispy Kremes donuts—we were ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

What we weren’t ready for was a profound knowing—a deep connection to the land under our feet and the people who bled and died here.

As a Metis person, residing in my traditional homeland, I feel a powerful connection to the land. I feel the heartbeat of my people here. I know their story in my head and in my heart. I hear their tears call to me from the rivers that flow through this land. I live with this awareness every day. It is heavy and threatens to overwhelm at times, but it also keeps me grounded and connected.

Outside of my homeland, I have only felt this powerful pull to the land in one other place. Batoche, in northern Saskatchewan, was to be the Promised Land of my Metis ancestors. Driven from the banks of the Red River by the ever-progressing force of Canadian surveyors, the Metis journeyed to Batoche to establish a safe haven, a community of their own. This dream was short-lived. Surveyors arrived in Batoche and following a brief resistance the Metis leader, Louis Riel, was executed and his people were assimilated into the Dominion of Canada, forever carrying the dream of freedom in their blood, though silenced.

I was never able to fully explain this connection to the land to my husband. He is second generation Canadian, hailing from some unknown place in Scotland. His tie has never been to these prairie lands. His heart has also been drawn to mountaintops and wild, untamed wilderness spaces. On our trip to Scotland, I thought it was a quirk of personality but I realized it may be the cry that resides in his blood that calls him to these high land places.

It took us mere hours on our Epic Scotland Road Trip to discover that the Forbes were no small or minor clan. Those Forbes were elbow deep in the intrigue and struggle that is Scotland’s history. Our stop at Forbes Castle revealed family connections that could be traced back to Robert the Bruce (think Braveheart era). The Forbes Clan has been tied to more than a dozen castles and fortresses across the highlands and their name is known on battlefields throughout the land. It was all very fascinating to us.

But fascination turned to sacred remembrance once we stepped on to the lands once owned by my husband’s ancestor, Duncan Forbes. This land was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Scotland’s history. It marked the end of the fight for Scotland’s freedom and the beginning of brutality from the British occupiers. This land is better known as Culloden Moor and it was the place where the Highland way of life, the life of the Forbes Clan and their kin, was forever changed.

Without going into further history lessons, the Lords of Scotland who were left standing after this battle, including Duncan Forbes, decided to exchange their freedom for peace. They made agreements with the British that would save lives while killing the hope of Scottish independence. And we felt it. We felt the call of the blood that once fueled the fight for freedom, once violently poured out on this field, and now is part of the grass under our feet. The call was for freedom. The call is still for freedom.

My husband, son and I were profoundly affected by our days in the Highlands. We all felt connected to the history and the humanity of the Scottish people. The plight of the Highlanders reminded me of the struggles of the Indigenous people of my homeland. I felt tied to this land too, the land of my settler relations for they were Scottish, as well.

There is a place deep within each one of us that craves the freedom to be who God created us to be. If we pay attention to that craving, it will grow within us. It will make us restless and unsettled in the ordinary. It will make us courageous as it calls us towards action. This is the God-created hunger for freedom that I felt there on the moor, on the banks of the river and in my very soul. This cry for freedom is ever present within me. It is the dream that propels me and the promise that sustains me. It is the idea that there will be a time, a place, and a space within me and around me that will hold my freedom and yours, like the divine gift it is.

I cannot define this freedom as anything more than the intent of God’s heart for each of his creation. That is what I feel in my every heartbeat and it is the hope I carry within me. It is the truth that flows though my blood.

Freedom.

Freedom.

Freedom.

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Nichole Forbes
Nichole is just a regular gal loved by an extraordinary God. She believes in community, justice, freedom, reconciliation and the sacredness of storytelling. Her journey to connect with her Metis culture and history has been her own liberation song. She tries to live bravely every day and say the kind words that need to be heard. She raises her three Not-So-Wee-Ones in the middle of the Canadian prairies with her favorite person ever—her husband, Brad. Nichole blogs, writes and speaks on the things that fill her heart and frame her world. 
Nichole Forbes
Nichole Forbes

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