Nature and resin jewelry maker Michelle Beauséjour has been focused on discovering as much as she can about her ancestry (Métis, Mi’kmaq, Irish, and French), and learning to celebrate her identity as a Mixed Indigenous woman. Cannabis is a part of her story as an important supporting cast member: a soft landing place, a moment of quiet with her partner at home, a source of relief in anxious moments.
The first time I tried cannabis I was in my early twenties, and it was in the wrong context with the wrong people, so I held a negative impression for a long time. It wasn’t until I was older and tried it with a knowledgeable person who was using it as part of their wellness journey that I realized it wasn’t the plant I had an issue with. I needed to learn to choose to be around people that helped me feel like I belonged, and be in places I could be myself without judgement.
In recent years I have really had to focus in on my own self-care. Feeling confident in my own skin, knowing who I am, and finding healthy communities — that’s what it means to be well. It also means putting myself first.
Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of prejudice, even from within my family. I’d hear things like, “You’re not pretty if your hair is too dark. You’re not pretty if you’re too tanned.” I’ve always felt like I’m neither here nor there. I’m Mixed Indigenous, but I’m fair-skinned and therefore “white passing.” So I’ve always been made to feel like I’m not enough of something to belong in this group or that group.
My self-care has been focused in de-colonizing. ”
When I finally came into my identity as an Indigenous woman, I started to wear culturally identifying objects. This really changed how I was treated in public, even when it came to professional or medical services. A couple of years ago I was dealing with a lot of pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome, to the point I couldn’t even carry groceries. When I went to doctors I felt like I was brushed off. Another time I was unexpectedly ill and shaking so hard that I had to call an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived I was treated really poorly and stereotyped as “looking for drugs.” Those experiences were eye-opening.
My self-care has been focused in de-colonizing. Even plants have been colonized, you know. Tobacco, for instance, has been taken and vilified throughout the history of colonization. We’ve added so many chemicals to what was once (and still is) a very sacred medicine to various nations. Now, looking at my relationship with cannabis, I have to look at it with a de-colonized view. It’s not just a plant to get high and have fun with, but something that’s can feed me, and make me feel better, and serve a bigger purpose in my life.
I think it’s important for me to keep learning about my identity and my roots. There was a time where I felt a lot of shame around it, because it can be complicated to come from mixed ancestry. My family is pretty much estranged from each other so I’ve had to do a lot of ground work on my own. I’ve found a lot of community in Montreal and in the online maker community, too, and connecting with new friends has helped me realize I’m not alone in my story. The true turning point was becoming comfortable with myself.
Photography by Rebekah Reiko
41 Days is a limited edition, one of a kind line by The Birch Trail to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Only 41 necklaces have been made in this line over the course of a 41 day spiritual pilgrimage which has been documented along the way. 41% of the total profits from this line will be donated towards the Iskweu Project run by the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. The Iskweu project is aimed at reducing the amount of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Quebec by providing support and resources to families. Click here to visit her Etsy store.