Hiding In Plain Sight – Reclaiming My Roots And Unlearning What I Was Taught About Being Indigenous

By Fallon Melander (see bio below)

Being Indigenous* was a badge of shame I wore but made sure to tuck it away for no one to see. 

Hiding in plain sight

For as long as I can remember I grew up just wanting to be like everyone else around me. I longed for blonde hair and blue eyes, I longed for lighter skin and a less “exotic” look. I wished that people wouldn’t look at me in a funny way, trying to place what culture or race bucket I belonged to.

I grew up far away from my home community and not very close to any reserves. I knew that I was Native growing up but the only person who looked anything like me was my mom, with beautiful dark hair, skin and shining brown eyes. Everywhere else I looked I saw whiteness.

hiding in plain sight

My dad is white, with blonde hair and blue eyes, his four siblings and their kids all looked like porcelain dolls. I didn’t get any of those traits other than the signature small Spencer family nose. My mom also grew up in a white family. At age four she was forcibly removed from her birth mother by the CAS (during what is now known as the “Sixties Scoop” era) and eventually adopted into a loving family, but who looked nothing like her and knew nothing about her culture.

My grandmother, my mom’s birth mother, is a Residential School survivor herself and my mother being taken away was just another systemic bullet to “kill the Indian in the child”. I cannot imagine what my grandmother and mom have gone through and the struggle to find themselves along the way. I am thankful that I had my mom to look up to and see her reflection back to myself.

However, she was a second generation child who had been torn away from her home, family and culture. She was clawing her way out to keep any semblance of her native identity with no supports and surrounded by what we know now is white privilege. 

I have various memories of outright and covert racism. The kids on the playground who would pretend to carry tomahawks and do “native cries”, family members who would call my mom derogatory names while they thought she was sleeping, being told that my people were drunks, lazy and worthless.

I was taught to be ashamed of who I was. And I wore that badge of shame every day, I just made sure to tuck it away for no one to see. As I grew up I realized that if I wanted to fit in I had to pretend that I was like everyone else. I also realized that the way I looked meant I couldn’t be like everyone else and was constantly asked by people “where are you from?” So I decided to reinvent myself as a more exotic and palatable version for the people of the suburbs.

I never outright denied my ancestry, instead I tried augment it. I wasn’t going to just be Ojibway, but I was going to add in a dash of Hawaiian too. That only lasted so long until my mom outed me. 

I was hiding in plain sight but there were so many others too.

About 10 years ago I found out that a schoolmate of mine is Indigenous. He had been adopted into a white family, in the same town my mother had been, which was the town that we grew up in. I never knew. I don’t know if my head was too far up my ass to notice, or if he hid his identity during those years, but I was shocked to find out that throughout my childhood I believed I was the only Indigenous kid at school, when really a classmate of mine was too.

It hurts my heart to realize that I was so disconnected from my culture that I really didn’t know what it meant, other than the negative stereotypes, which as a child I thought were true. The history that I was taught told me that I was a savage, the fact that my mom grew up in a white family told me that her birth family was unable to raise children, and what I saw on TV and in the media were negative portrayals.

Imagine waking up every single day and thinking that you are inherently bad. That you came from inferior people who couldn’t even raise their own children. I lived in fear that I was one day going to be taken away from my family because of it. And I didn’t know any different, there was no one to tell me otherwise, to show me that the destruction of my culture, family and even my own self-worth was because of racist and systemic policies that were in place to do just that.

hidden in plain sight

My heart breaks for my younger self who lived that way every day, thinking that something was wrong with her, but knowing in her heart that what she was told could not possibly be true.

The harm that was done and that I am still trying to undue is difficult.

I continue to hear outright racist remarks and often have to make the decision to speak up or walk away, because it may not be safe. And even now as a grown woman with a law degree I am constantly mistaken as the administrator or junior level associate and am often told “good for you for making it through law school” or “I would have gone to law school too if I got to go for free”.

Micro aggressions are like my daily vitamin some days. 

It has not been easy to write this all as it has taken me down a path of reflection and pain. I have been on a journey for many decades to embrace, learn and connect with my culture as an Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibway woman). I also am now a mother to three beautiful children and have a responsibility to show them the strength, beauty and resiliency in our culture and identity.

I went to law school because I wanted to make a difference in ensuring Indigenous voices and communities were heard. I wanted and still want to disrupt the systems that have caused so much pain and destruction and I hope that by sharing a piece of my story you will too. 

*Throughout this piece I refer to several names for what describes myself as Anishinaabe (Ojibway in English) There terms include Indigenous, Native and Anishinaabe

Fallon Melander is Anishinaabe, a mother, a wife, a lawyer, and a member of Wikwemikoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. She lives with her husband, young daughter and twin sons in Burlington Ontario. 

Further Reading and Resources:

Further reading and resources

Sixties Scoop: 

Indigenous Foundations – UBC: Sixties Scoop

Residential Schools:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Ruby Slipperjack, Dear Canada: These Are My Words: The Residential School Diary of Violet Pesheens 

Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse

Sylvia Olsen, No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School

Christy Jordan-Fenton, Fatty Legs: A True Story

Joseph Auguste Meratsy, The Education of Augie Meratsy: A Residential School Memoir

Basil Johnston, Indian School Days

Shelagh Rogers, Speaking My Truth: Reflections on Reconciliation and Residential School

Kids books: 

Jenny Kay Dupuis, I am Not a Number

David Alexander Robertson, When We Were Alone

David Alexander Robertson, Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story

Indigenous books:

Shop Strong Nations

Raven Reads – Canadian History Books by Indigenous Authors


Indigenous history courses – free and online:

Indigenous Canada Course – University of Alberta

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Healthy Fish Tacos – Fast, Simple And Delicious

Healthy Fish Tacos

Personally I think that fish tacos are the perfect summer meal. Don’t get me wrong, they are delicious year round, but even better in the summer on a patio… which by the way, where I live (just outside of Toronto) outdoor dining is open and you better believe I’ve been making the rounds safely with friends.

Recently, on a whim, I decided to purchase a big bag of frozen tilapia from Walmart for $10. Later that week I started to brainstorm what to do with my little stash of frozen fish, and then it hit me… fish tacos.

As I started to scour Pinterest I realized that a lot of fish taco recipes are really unhealthy, often fried and loaded with heavy sauces. So I decided to start pulling from different healthy recipes to see what I could come up with. Thus… my healthy tacos were born.

These fish tacos are so simple, quick and easy to make, plus they are super healthy and because they are baked, you can easily make larger quantities for guests. Ready to give them a whirl?

Makes 2 tacos | Prep time 10 minutes | Cook time 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tilapia fillet (fresh or defrosted)
  • 1 cup of washed fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 sliced avocado (optional)
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • coconut oil cooking spray
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 lime
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204C)
  2. Cut tilapia in half down the centre
  3. prepare spice mixture by adding paprika, onion powder, oregano, dried thyme, garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and cayenne pepper into a bowl and stir until mixed.
  4. spray pan with coconut oil cooking spray.
  5. spray both sides of each piece of tilapia.
  6. spoon spice mixture onto both sides of each piece of tilapia, rubbing in with your hands until well coated.
  7. Place tilapia onto pan and bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Do not turn tilapia, this will make it crispier.
  8. While tilapia is baking, prepare sauce and toppings. Scoop 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt into a bowl and grate the skin of 1 lime into the yogurt. Then quarter the lime and squeeze the juice of half of the lime into the yogurt mixture. Place the other two lime wedges aside to top the fish taco with. Mix the yogurt and lime sauce well. Set aside.
  9. To prepare the iceberg lettuce so that the leaves can be used as the taco shells, make a shallow cut at the base of the leaf, then carefully pull the intact, entire leaf away from the head of lettuce. Wash gently and set aside to dry. Repeat 2 to four times (I like to double up my iceberg lettuce leaves to create stronger shells).
  10. Once the tilapia is finished baking, place the fillet into the lettuce shell, top with yogurt lime sauce, cilantro (and avocado – optional and not pictured) and enjoy guilt-free!
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos
Healthy Fish Tacos

Master Bedroom Final Reveal – One Room Challenge Week 8

This room… it symbolizes so much to me.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

It symbolizes change, a new beginning and that while the world is upside-down, I don’t have to go anywhere to find my peace, myself and my own happiness.

It’s my sanctuary.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

Although a ton of work, especially while having my four kids home during a global pandemic, I was determined to do this for myself. Inspired by places I’ve previously travelled to and the fact that we can’t just get up and travel right now, this beachy bedroom is everything.

Participating in the One Room Challenge for the first time was a great experience. There are so many incredibly talented people who participated and I strongly urge that you go and explore their spaces for endless home inspiration.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

I have dreamed about this accent wall forever. The shiplap, which is from Metrie was leftover from my basement project and I knew that it would find a home in my bedroom.

Shop the Metrie Modern Farmhouse shiplap here.

Let’s talk bedding. I began with the quilt and the accent pillow, finding both at HomeSense. The shams, duvet cover and throw are all from Urban Barn. Each has this rustic, somewhat bohemian feel that is exactly what I wanted. Also, climbing into a bed with fresh, white sheets after a hot bath is life-changing. I highly recommend it.

Shop the Darcy duvet set by Urban Barn here.

Shop the Zendaya Cotton Throw in Natural/Black by Urban Barn here.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

I decided to move my existing bedside table (which I had bought, plus my dresser, from the now closed Wicker Emporium years ago) to the other side of my bed. I needed a new piece for the side that is seen most but I didn’t want to get anything predictable.

I searched HomeSense initially finding a tall leggy, light blue side table. But when I brought it into the space I realized it was too small. My bed is very high and so is my existing bedside table, so I knew I needed to find something big, but open so that it wasn’t hiding so much of the beautiful accent wall.

I went back to HomeSense, circled many times and was starting to wonder if I would find anything, and then this bookshelf caught my eye. Could it? Would it? I decided to bring it home and WOW! It is probably one of my favourite pieces in my room.

I’ve always had a thing for bedroom wall sconces. There is something very boutique hotel feeling about them. When I found these simple black ones on Wayfair, I knew they were perfect. The back adds great contrast against the calming wall and shiplap colours from Behr.

Shop the Wayfair Trent Austin Design LeClair 1 Light Plug-in Swing Arm Sconces here.

Shop the wall colour – Behr Rhino 710E-3 in eggshell here.

Shop the shiplap colour – Behr Shoelace OR-W13 here.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

Shop the Wayfair Andover Mills Cy Upholstered Panelled Headboard in stone here.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

When thinking about adding an art piece above my bed, I knew I wanted texture. Initially I had my eye on the shallow basket wall art trend I had seen in so many places, but I was really trying to stay within a budget and everything I saw online was fairly pricey. I knew that would be something that I could probably find scouring thrift stores, but unfortunately at the time all stores were closed in my area.

This forced me to think outside the box, and I am so glad I did! I found this set of eight Cynthia Rowley placemats at HomeSense for only $14.99! I am obsessed. They not only add to the beachy feel, but the open weave lets the calming wall colour pop through.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

The sitting area near my T.V. had already existed. I am finding this is my quarantine FaceTime sweet-spot. I bought the chair and ottoman years ago from HomeSense and the curtains years ago from BouClair.

I had wanted a low bowl or tray for my electric fireplace for so long and when I saw this one at HomeSense I knew it was just right… plus it brought some natural wood into an area that needed some warmth.

Want to know a little secret? The wooden tray is a bit rounded, so I decided to use sticky tack to secure and level the candles.

Let’s talk plants for a second. All four plants are real. I am not a plant expert. I believe I have a fern and a majesty palm in there, but don’t ask me the other two’s names. Do I mist them? Do I water them? Say a prayer for this budding plant lady.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

What I can tell you is that the basket and stand are from HomeSense.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

The black and white photography was probably one of the first things that I found for this space and it really set the tone for the room.

Shop set of 3 black and white photography palm tree art by Dolom Art Prints on Etsy here.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

Shop black and white photography surfer art by Dolom Art Prints on Etsy here.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

I had initially hung a couple of the black and white photography pieces above the dresser that I already had, and something just seemed… off. I realized that what I needed in this hallway that leads to my master bathroom and workout room was a big punch of colour.

I was over the moon when I found this piece of art at HomeSense. It reminded me so much of one of the places that has served as a huge inspiration for this bedroom… Sanibel Island. I almost feel like I am walking out to the ocean, listening to the waves break and feeling the tall bits of grass brush against my ankles when I look at this.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

I wanted to keep bringing in a variety of textures in my bedroom and couldn’t believe how perfect this lamp and glass vase were, both from… you guessed it, HomeSense. Each pulling in a new texture and creating warmth had such a beechy, worn look to them. The faux wood diffuser from Rexall was a perfect addition to the accessories on my dresser and then height of each works so well.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

This hallway can tend to get a little dark, so having some extra light in this tucked away part of the space makes it feel cozy.

Beachy Master Bedroom Nesting Story

I think I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I am OBSESSED with my bedroom. I am so excited that I not only was able to bring my idea to life, but I even surpassed my expectations.

Beach House Master Bedroom Moodboard
Beach House Master Bedroom Moodboard

Watch as I share my master bedroom makeover reveal, and share more about my next chapter…

Summer Aerie Clothing Haul – Casual Outfits Perfect For A Summer Spent At Home

Summer is days away and I really wanted to refresh my wardrobe while staying within my set budget and getting items that would actually make sense when there’s barely anywhere to go.

So I turned to Aerie. One of my favourite places to shop lately. Nope, this isn’t sponsored, I just love their stuff. I hope you enjoy this haul and it gives you some ideas on how to shop during this unique summer.

HomeSense Finds – One Room Challenge Week 6

This post is not sponsored by HomeSense… I just really like it. Enjoy!

Raise your hand if you ran to HomeSense as soon as they opened… *raises hand. After giving it a week for the crowds to die down a bit I went… twice!

I am so excited that I was able to find so many amazing pieces for my new beachy bedroom. I was thankfully able to get int and snag some amazing finds before the shelves were picked bare. Canadians love their HomeSense.

Work is definitely progressing in my bedroom and although I can’t travel somewhere warm right now, I feel like I am bringing the vacation to my home.

There is something very soothing about painting away the deep blues. It feels airy and light. There was always a heaviness that came with having a navy and denim bedroom.

Head over to the One Room Challenge to check out all of the designs and projects everyone is working on.

So let’s talk about my HomeSense finds, shall we?

For the longest time I have wanted a long tray or bowl to sit on top of my electric fireplace. I knew I wanted to introduce a new texture and went on the hunt for something made of metal or unfinished wood. I found this wooden tray in the kitchen area and immediately fell in love. I grabbed a bunch of white candles and it’s perfect.

Tip: Because the tray wasn’t completely flat inside, I used sticky tack to secure and level the candles.

I only wanted to give you a sneak peek of this new side table. I moved my existing side table to the other side and needed a new one that would fit the space well. I initially found a light blue table and brought it into the space quickly realizing it was way too narrow and short. My bed is very high and I wanted it to be as tall as the table on the opposite side.

So I went back to HomeSense and returned the light blue table continuing on my hunt. I finally came across this open bookshelf and thought, “could it be perfect?” I knew I needed to see it in my room to know for sure so I brought it home and was amazed at how this shelf fit and looked like it was made for this very spot. I also found this small vase that was a a perfect beachy accent. The circular line-work reminded me of waves.

Tip: You don’t have to match your bedside tables, the key is to keep them the same height. Get creative and think our of the box. Small bookshelves and trollies also make great side-tables.

I had already found some amazing prints on Etsy but knew I needed a bigger art piece with some colour to hang over my dresser. I couldn’t believe when I found this beach print. I reminded me so much of my real-life inspiration Sanibel Island. I cannot wait to hang it properly. This pop of colour was exactly what my room needed.

I wanted a lamp to sit on my dresser and found a distressed, metal lamp that not only added the seaside feel I wanted but also brought a new texture and material into the space which is something I’m always drawn to.

To finalize the decor on my dresser this sea-green odd shaped glass vase again brought a new texture into the room and looks great sitting beside my faux wood Rexall diffuser.

Tip: When bunching decor items together, remember to keep them different shapes, materials and height to create a cozier and more dynamic space.

Follow my bedroom redesign over on my Instastories in real time.