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An original essay: ‘What if everything about this life disappears?’

Shandelle Friedman
We are part of The Trust Project.

Boozhoo Makade Miigwan indizhinikaaz miinawaa gaye Shandelle indigo Zhaganaashiimowin. Makwa indoodem, Nagajiwanong indoonjibaa. Onigamiinsing indaa.

My name is Shandelle Friedman. I am of the bear clan. I am from the Fond du Lac reservation. Today I live in Duluth. I am a woman in long-term recovery, and what that means for me is that I have not used drugs or alcohol for close to 4 years. I was not raised in a traditional household. Throughout my recovery I have found my identity through learning about my culture. My spirituality has grown to become an everyday part of my life. I would consider this to be a relatively new part of my life. And because of COVID, a very strong part of my life.

Life before the pandemic for me was going to work, attending support groups in the evenings and spending weekends with friends. I had a very active and busy lifestyle. When the lockdown began, I panicked; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pay my bills or provide for myself. It was scary. But later I reached for my medicines and leaned on spirituality. At one point I had thought to myself, “what if everything about this life disappears, what will remain?” The answer became clear that it would be the traditional ways. The ones that I am learning how to incorporate into my life in this modern world.


For the months of March, April and part of May, I only left the house to get supplies from the store and go to work. I work in my neighborhood so I didn’t even leave my neighborhood outside of the grocery store for more than 60 days. I felt very isolated and lonely. I did feel, however, very fortunate to be healthy and able to work throughout the pandemic and I do not have any children I need to protect. However, because I work with a sensitive demographic of people, I felt a dire need to stay safe. Learning how to function in the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed my perspective on what truly is important. Staying away from my elders and family hasn’t been easy, but I have to look at the bigger picture.

When things began to lift, I wanted to get away, so I planned a trip with relatives. What was a good time turned into even more fear when I came back from Michigan in mid-July. I was so afraid that I may unknowingly be carrying COVID. Even though I was very cautious on my trip part of my fear was because I felt by taking that trip I had been selfish.

In the last few months I have grown comfortable wearing my mask, and do it most of the time. I did get tested, and was relieved to hear it was negative, and I still practice precautions because when I think about the young children and the ones that came before me and I want to slow the spread of this illness.

I chose to participate in this project because I have always enjoyed photography as hobby. While I was in college, I had a work-study job doing the school news. I think that this project is important for Anishinaabe people to share our philosophy during this time with others and with the future generations that will learn about this time. After completing my interviews, I see that we all think about our elders and the future generations. That we all take care of one another. It is our ways.

Miigwech Bizindawii’eg Mii’iw

Indigenous Voices

This video is part of the "Voices" portion of the "Indiginous Impacts" project. "Voices" features Native American community members as they discuss and write about personal and social effects of the coronavirus pandemic.


Shandelle Friedman

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