When I first met Kanahus Manuel, she was holding down an Indigenous resistance camp on a mining road in the geographical middle of British Columbia. A copper and gold mine had spilled millions of tonnes of mining waste into rivers and lakes on her traditional Secwepemc territory, and she was leading a charge to stop the mine from reopening.
Over the few days I spent at the camp, Kanahus almost always had one of her four kids perched on her hip, whether she was prepping meals for long-distance visitors or standing in the path of mining trucks. I remember noticing how badass her kids were—at ease in the bush among a pretty strange crew of elders, protesters, police, mine workers and at least one reporter. Friends and family affectionately called them "freedom babies"—a term I spent quite some time over the next few months trying to fully understand.
Technically speaking, it means her kids were born outside a hospital and never got a Canadian birth certificate. Easy enough to grasp. It also means her family (for the most part) doesn't take money from the Canadian government, doesn't rely on universal Canadian medical coverage, doesn't enrol in Canadian schools. Whoa, right? On top of that Kanahus is on a personal mission to bring back lost culture and knowledge, starting with the way Indigenous nations bring babies into the world.
I recently called her up to ask about her quest to untangle her family from Canadian society, and to "catch babies" the way her ancestors did.
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