Saturday, November 15, 2014

Poem: Nokomis dash Mishomis

Grandpa (Mishomis) LaPointe and me - December 1983.

You see we have been striving for generations to feel ode,
Scoop down,
Kneel down,
Pick up,
And gather,
The teachings,

But this means in feeling ode we feel the hurt,
Magnified sorrow by oppressive forces,
Hands on the curb,
Pieces of the cement glued to our hands as we rise,
We must brush this off,
The train speeds by,
The street light flickers,
The curb is a metaphor for being sidelined,
We must continue on,
Only to end up laying on the floor for 14 hours,
Unable to move,
Our tears too much,
To breathe,
Yet to rise,

Can you feel the heart of everything?
Do you remember the carpet?
The white walls?
The smell?

There were times we couldn't breath,
The dominant culture decided our identity for us,
To withstand a lifetime of racism,
To stand up and rise,
To speak out against racism,
To speak for others who can't speak,
To speak for others who are afraid,
To speak for the ancestors who were silenced,
To speak for the ones who are on their way,

Opening ode,

With ourselves,

To feel ode,

For ourselves,

In the circle,

Speak it from ode,

Always in the circle,

Gently feet dance on the Earth,
Prayers for recovery,
Tears for recovery,
Hot summer sun,
This joy is ours,
We are strong,
We are strengthening who we are,

The bead work,
The laughter,

We feel your smiles,
We feel your gentleness,

Chi miigwech nokomis!
Chi miigwech mishomis!

- - - - - 


- Aakidehewin - Courage
- Chi miigwech - Many thanks
- Dash - And
- Dbaadendiziwin - Humility
- Debwewin - Truth
- Gwekwaadeziwin - Honesty
- Mishomis - Grandfather
- Mnaadendmowin - Respect
- Nbwaakaawin - Wisdom
- Nokomis - Grandmother
- Ode - Heart
- Zaagidewin - Love

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Poem: My Culture is Queer

My culture is not just a bead,
A feather,
Or a braid,

My culture is queer,
Mr. and Mrs. all dressed up in one,
Queerifying Indigenous beauty,
Queerification of decolonization,
Is just sweet purification,
Of a disgusting rhetoric of genderization,
By the dying man on the cross,
Who probably wouldn't judge me,
Sin me up,
But love me as is,
As I show up,
As the Creator made me up,

Squeegee the toxicity from the spirit-body-mind,
Sgueegee the picture perfect gender role that is diabolically lost in the transmitter,
We've learned to defer and detract the self and potential,
Which is inherently and intrinsically incorrect,
Wrong answer,

My culture is queer,
And this means the elder who knows the culture smiles at me,
Honors me,
Not wanting to hide me or better yet,
Tell me to hide myself,
Instead she walks past me and says,
"Come sing with me,"
And we sing,
So sweetly,

My culture is queer,
And I am not shamed,
This body flowing completely and beautifully,
This voice not suppressed,
The community healing,
Because we see each other,
Not old roles,
Not colonized roles,

My culture is queer,
And truthfully this might include a bead,
A feather found in the woods while praying for Two-Spirits to be who they are,
While hiking,
While singing,

My culture is queer,
And this might be the braid,
Or braids,
Or unbraided,
Decolonizing fine strands,

My culture is queer,
Brought to you by support from the ancestors,
Near a tree,
Listening attentively,
As you pray with tobacco,
As you offer your heart.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Domestic Violence Awareness Month - A Two-Spirit View

The Creator Wheel by Mending the Sacred Hoop.

Bearing witness to a community that is closed, conservative, fragmented, and anti-Two-Spirit has propelled me on a journey to fully support our most marginalized community members - Two-Spirits.  This community is also very colonized and Christianized.  My own community is not this way but very accepting of Two-SpiritsThere are Two-Spirits within my family.  We are all supported.  I personally identify as Androgynous, Genderqueer, Gender Non-conforming and Two-Spirit (Ogichidaakwe).

I was lucky to be raised in a very liberal community where I observed gay pride parades and festivals right outside my front door.  In 1990 I was 9 years and I was exposed to my first Pride Fest which took place just outside my front door.  Just a block from my house I clearly remember seeing the walkers from the PrideFest.  The impact for me as a 9 year old was important as this is something I would never forget. We were raised to be open minded and I was excited to see people in drag and others celebrating who they are as GLBTQ peopleThere was a gay bookstore two blocks from my house.  One of my favorite movies as a kid was Hairspray and I was inspired by the drag queen Divine.  Friends in junior high talked about lesbian and gay issues.  When I was in high school I had several gay and lesbian class mates who I adored and supported.  In high school I still wasn't sure of my identity and my Mother supported my choice to decide who I like and even if going it alone was okay.  What an awesome Mother!

By my early twenties I knew I was no longer a boy.  Although I had felt this way my whole life.  I would rather hang out with guys and do guy stuff.  You know like be mischievous and build bonfires on the railroad tracks in my hometown.

For many Two-Spirited Native Americans be comfortable or safe is not an option.  Many don't have an awesome Mom like I have to allow me to decide who I am without any judgement.  For many Two-Spirits who grow up in ultra-conservative places where hate and oppression is directed at them from multiple angles.  It is not safe to be who you were born to be.  When Two-Spirits were honored and revered community members we are now shunned and ostracized by the majority culture and even our own communities.  Personally it is refreshing for me to be on my own rez and know that I am safe from attack. 

Domestic violence is a huge issue in the Native American community.  But for Two-Spirit Women the oppression is triple.  I am speaking from my space as a Two-Spirit mixed blood Kwe.  I am speaking from my space and body having been wounded, hurt, and marginalized.  I am speaking as a survivor of domestic violence.
"Two-spirit women must negotiate their triply oppressed status (Jacobs, Thomas, & Lang, 1997). Often, they confront stigma regarding their sexual orientation, not only from the wider society but also from other Natives, their families, and their tribal communities; racism from the wider society and from other sexual minorities; and sexism from both Native and LGBT communities. Facing multiple aspects of oppression, two-spirit individuals not surprisingly are at even greater risk for adverse health outcomes than other Natives (Balsam, Huang, Fieland, Simoni, & Walters, 2004; Walters, 1997; Walters, Simoni, & Horwath, 2001). Despite this increased risk, however, public health and psychological research largely has ignored two-spirit people. Thus, gathering data on two-spirits, including their experiences of abuse and violence and its effects, is an important area for research." - Abuse, Mastery, and Health Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit American Indian and Alaska Native Women
Violence against Two-Spirit women is not traditional.  This article speaks about the heavy burden Two-Spirits must bear in order to bring changes to our communities.  This work can be dangerous and is not necessarily safe.  This is why during domestic violence awareness needs to be more than a month, an event, or a "crisis line."  We have an epidemic of violence towards Two-Spirit women.  We have work to be done. But the work can't come from Two-Spirits towing the front lines alone.  It must come from everyone in the community.  This is where decolonization must occur in our communities.  This is where stories need to be shared and heard.  Our most vulnerable community members should never be ignored, silenced, abused, hurt, neglected, or ostracized.  We need to give Two-Spirit women more than just a voice or a space but look at what was traditional in our own individual tribes to honor and uphold Two-Spirits.  My tribe, the Ojibway, traditionally honored and upheld Two-Spirits.  I feel my community is further ahead on honoring Two-Spirits and there is a feeling of safety and support when I am in Keweenaw Bay.  However this should be the case for all Two-Spirit women in Native communities across Turtle Island.  We have work to do.

 How Two-Spirits Can Be Supported
  • We need greater supports for Two-Spirits whether this be urban, suburban, rural, or in a reservation community. 
  • We need mental health and behavioral health services that support Two-Spirits.  Without judgement and Christianization.  Without hatred and violence.  
  • With an understanding of the fact that GLBTQQIA can be colonizing terms and the Two-Spirit term in the language for the specific tribe has the meaning and teachings.  These need to be honored. 
  • We need people to understand the teachings on Two-Spirit identity as per their own tribe and not a pan-Indian definition. 
  • Healing and decolonization means we will be able to be ourselves fully as Two-Spirits.
  • We need a voice in our own communities as healers, mediators, leaders, etc.  
What Can Be Done Right Now
  • Two-Spirit support groups.
  • Two-Spirit safe spaces - workplaces or a community space.
  • Give Two-Spirits crisis line information.
  • Listen to Two-Spirits stories.
  • Be supportive in our healing.
Articles & Information

Abuse, Mastery, and Health Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit American Indian and Alaska Native Women

Two-Spirit Leaders Call on Washington to Include Native Women in Re-Authorization of VAWA

Aboriginal Two-Spirit Women's Domestic Violence Fact Sheet

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Video - Our Voices: Racism in our Community

Our Voices: Racism in our Community from bfreshproductions on Vimeo.

This film was written, acted, directed, filmed and edited by the youth of The Division of Indian Work's Youth Leadership Development Program - Minneapolis, MN.