Poem: The Origins of Colonial Crisis

Part 1

It starts with King Henry VIII,
Do not press hard on my ribs,
Remove the chains around my lungs,
My heart,
The cloak,
It’s done,
Burn it in the fire,
To cleanse,

The chains,
They left scars,
My heart is in pain,
Unhinge slowly,
Start to breathe,
It is okay to breath,
Please breath, 

Part 2

It’s time to leave the Tower,
I am tired of gazing out into the sea,
The smell of mold from the chambers,
The darkness of the bedroom,
That one window that faces the sea,
I am tired of the royal show,
The royal garb,
The crown jewels,
The performance for the court,
My enemies in the court gossip and sneer,
Meek and timid,
Too afraid to face me directly,
I travel these cold halls in the Tower alone, 

Part 3

What is hidden we will shine light on,
The mold in the bedroom,
The torture of the soul,
525 years yet to face,
Sexual violence,
Assault,
Pain,
The mold will die when the light enters,
Housing,
Justice,
Free yourself from the self-made – colonially-made prison,

Part 4

You keep talking about,
London,
England,
Britain,
As if we are still Tudors,
The origin of colonial crisis is in the soul,

Part 5

Land acquisition,
The court and betrayal,
The melding of colonization and patriarchy,
Dominion and torture,
Working class peasantry,
Bread in the court on the royal banquet table,
Spilled on the floor,
We dust it clean,
But the trauma returns,
We shake hands and smile above the oubliette,

Part 6

The dresses are gone,
The exit is clear,
I found the stairs to leave,
Anne Boleyn is peacefully resting now,
The crown is no longer hers, 

I want Anishinaabe Aki,
I am gazing at our land before colonization,
Before the execution,
Persecution,
Patriarchy,
Accusations of adultery and witchcraft,
My body was not assaulted in the name of Christ,
Our bodies were healed,
We had great love in our communities,
Traditional governance meant traditional matriarchy,
We tend to these decolonial baskets, 

Mishomis is harvesting manoomin,
As healing as this is,
His hands point to where we need to heal in our bodies,
Zaagidewin mishomis,

Part 7

Patriarchy has done incredible global damage,
King Henry VIII’s dominion is the origin of colonial crisis,
Naming it,
Mishomis,
The healing,
Our neck,
We heal together,
Every single day,
I touch my neck,
My voice,
Our voice, 

Are our tears ever enough?
Is our love strong enough to decolonize colonial pride?
Arrogance,
Ego,
Narcissism, 

The King – he is losing power,
The jig is up,

Part 8

I hope to see our Anishinaabe prophecies fulfilled,
Ode – the heart,
It hurts still these days,
We can tend and heal,
Decolonization is painful,

Part 9

Ajijaak dodem,
Echo makers,
Speakers for the community,
We will speak for this healing,
For the voice,
For the ancestors,
For the ones to come,
For the ending of the colonial crisis,

Noojimo.

A Call to End Lateral Violence In Our Anishinaabe Communities

Preface

I can’t wait until our own people start to protest lateral violence within our Anishinaabe communities.  I can’t wait until we start demanding action be taken and misogynistic tribal councilor’s are removed.  I can’t wait to see the mass of Anishinaabe people at Tribal government buildings demanding that corruption be stopped.  I can’t wait to see our people with protests signs that say – LOVE WATER NOT ALCOHOL.  I can’t wait until we stop running from our own communities and do the work within.

I am aware of “large actions” against Line 5 – “the straits sunken hazard.”  However I am even more aware of the apparent visible hazards of addiction, sexual abuse, and lateral violence within our Anishinaabe communities.  We need not run from these problems but to face them directly.  This is the greatest direct action!

The problem with anti-social media is no one can have 5,000 “friends” or “followers.”  That is a small town you’ve accumulated in a virtual un-reality.  Even in small towns not everyone gets along.  This is why small towns are often quiet and the curtains are drawn because it is better to keep to yourself.

Personally, I am at a breaking point with the lateral violence.  This is a call for help.  This is a decolonial treatise, if you will. 

Decolonization – For Real

I have been involved in community work (I don't use the word activism) since I was 12 years old when I fought against gentrification in my hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan.  Now Royal Oak is a place I wouldn’t want to live.  For 7 years I have resided in the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Territory – or colonially known as Manistee, Michigan.  I have a love and hate relationship with this place.  Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is a non-community meaning there is no community with this tribe.  The level of heteropatriarchy and misogyny is extreme here.  As an Ojibway/Métis Two-Spirit, I have experienced more lateral violence here than I can count from men and women.  On the flipside, there are also people who supported me in crisis, usually more conservative people.  Mostly what I love about Naaminitigong (Manistee) is the land and water.  The non-community troubles me but fuels my life work. 

Heal Yourself to Heal Your People

Fighting a pipeline is bullshit when you haven’t healed yourself.  If you are struggling with an addiction seek help right now.  Stop running from your pain.  Besides big oil will win and it is better to get to the root cause of trauma within our communities that continuously fight against one another.  Big oil doesn’t care about Treaty Rights or Native American rights, we all know this.  You aren’t going to change big oil’s mind with a protest and they actually think it’s funny you are out there “resisting.”  It is the same old song and nothing will change by screaming at cars driving by on the Mackinaw Bridge.  This is Michigan and I come from a Ford family.  My great-Grandfather was a Union Organizer who assisted in the building and the founding the UAW (United Auto Workers).  Without the ancestors hard and monotonous labor we wouldn’t have the world that we have today.  We need cars because we can get to protests.  Otherwise how do you get there?  So what solutions do you propose post oil and post auto industry?  The auto industry has a strong hold on Michigan and these actions won't change it any time soon.  I praise the auto industry for innovation and changing our world.  Do I love the auto industry?  No, I am not in love with it and changes can be made within it.

I’m Sick of Standing Rock

For those of us who resisted in our home territory we see that Standing Rock did nothing to heal you.  Are you really a warrior when you attack your own people?  You are not a warrior when you degrade, insult, and bully another person.  I am sick of hearing about people who went to Standing Rock.  So what?  I went to the racist work environment on numerous occasions.  I wake up in the colonial white supremacist land as a Two-Spirit every single day boldly walking a sober road.  The frontlines are our lives and not this show of power and ego when it comes to “resistance.” 

Authenticity

If you are authentic in your work you need not make a show of it.  This is ego as well as insecurity.  If you are a true warrior then live it and say nothing of your work.  I am not interested in a show of power or a show of ego (insecurity).  You prove you are more in alignment with Diocletian or King Henry VIII when you do this.  I believe in the old Anishinaabe ways.  I believe in what the ancestral and hereditary Chiefs in my lineage might say.  Blood memory means we may feel this or get insights via dreams, intuition, etc.  This leadership is often not even welcome in our own Anishinaabe communities.  Leadership is nurtured throughout one’s lifetime.  It is not something you attain and then know everything.  If you think like this then you are still in alignment with King Henry VIII and not Ogema Waub Aijaak (Chief White Crane).  Leading an authentic life means you don’t need validation of your work by anyone.

Zaagidewin – Love Is the Solution

My treatise doesn’t declare surrendering.  In fact, I am gaining strength.  I am tired of “water protectors,” who are violent towards their own people or smoke “medical marijuana” around their Anishinaabe children.  Anishinaabe are around other Anishinaabe at events and no one can talk to each other.  Then you bully me because I am strong, independent, fierce, educated, creative, intellectual, healed, and healing.  You say I am “intense” because I work very hard for our communities.  You lack intensity because you are normal and boring.   I challenge the patriarchy within men and women. I challenge those who who hog the stage and are not allowing anyone else to be up there.  This is not the work of our people or in our 7 Grandmother (ehem) and Grandfather Teachings.  There are elders who are not passing the torch to the next leaders so I will make my own place to lead without ya’ll supporting me.  This brokenness needs repair.

Gpa & Cece 83.jpg

There is no Anishinaabe “community.”  There is no “Michigan Native community.”  At this point the oppressor has won.  Colonization and genocide has never ended and we are now continuing this oppression in our own non-communities towards each other.  All the buzz words of “resistance,” “decolonization,” and “water protection,” fail because we need to empower our people by and for each other.  Forget the pipeline – get alcohol off of our tribal lands! 

I love my parents.  I love my family.  I love the LaPointe’s.  I love the Sanborn's.  I love the land.  I love the water.  I love Michigamig.  I even love my enemies.  These are my teachings.  The more hate, anger, jealousy, hostility, and lateral violence you send me the more I grow my love.  This garden I tend is beautiful – can you see it?  This work is lonely but I continue forward working from – zaagidewin – love.  Chi miigwech Mishomis LaPointe for supporting me from the so called “other side.”  You are always with us.

Zaagidewin,

Nigig-enz Baapi (Little Laughing Otter)

Poem: 11 Mile Road

Indigenous identity,
Is much more than a white man,
Trying to be street, 

My Ojibway Father is street,
From the HP,
All the way up to KBIC,
Don’t know these abbreviations,
Too bad,
You’re not street or rez enough to know,

But 40 years for the phone company is keepin’ it real,
For the family,
For his pride,
NDN man not seen in 48067,

1993 brought railroad tracks and pain,
White teachers and class mates misunderstand,
The connection of the heart to Anishinaabe Aki, 

Racist classmates and racist teachers,
The liberal white town is not so kind to mixed race Indian kids,

 Racist Lewis Cass said,
“this is truly a Royal Oak,”
At the time not gentrified,
But becoming yuppified,
White-collar-ified,

We fought against gentrification,
Of the colonial pulse of my land,
My territory,
My street,
My parking lot,
My parking garage,
With the fat white man shouting from the Washington Square building.
My city,

The neighborhood,
Village,
Was like a small town,
In a spiraling Megalopolis,
There was a sense of safety,
In a small radius,

Oooo how I longed for trees!
Trees and trees!
Dirt roads,
Water,
Land of my ancestors,
Anishinaabe Aki,

Instead as a youth,
Making prank calls from payphones on Lafayette and uptown,
My shoes wore out by the end of summer time,
Embracing the Sagittarius fire of rebellion,
Making conservative Catholics nervous,
When I tore down posters in their school,
Because your on our land and in my hood,
I don’t like your chimes,
I don’t like that you were dismissive of my Mom’s heart, 

My energy to infinity,
With an olde school rotary phone in hand,
I make phone calls to friends so we can stand on the sewer caps,
Recite poetry or dance out some Motown on the steel,
My best friend grew up in Crane (AJIJAAK) Avenue,
I grew up near the once dead and dying downtown before,
It’s actual death when the colonization of gentrification occurred,

 With petitions in hand I held my Momma’s hand and fought against,
“this is truly a Royal Oak,” 

I attended my first city commission meeting at 12 years old,
Mayor Dennis Coward said,
“the girl in the orange shirt,”
I rose from my seat,
Spoke against the city,
I learned that day that the city gentry doesn’t care about the proletariat,

The building and closing of real shops,
Baa maa pii Hobby Attic,
Baa maa pii real cheap book store,
Baa maa pii vacuum cleaner store,
Baa maa pii alcohol free working class family diners, 

We no longer could walk downtown,
Because we were no longer welcome,
Mom said numerous times in her Kmart shoes,
“this town is going to hell in a hand basket…”

11 Mile Road,
Where I was more afraid of the White man,
Than the Black man,
As brainwashed by WXYZ Channel 7 Detroit,
They brainwashed White Metro Detroit,
To be afraid of the Black man,

The viaduct,
I wasn’t going to be afraid,
Nor let the Black and White racial binary be carved into my skin,
But the city did do damage,

I am not a white man rapper,
I am a Two-Spirit Ojibway/ Métis matriarch,
I am the little boy who thought bad thoughts,
On the railroad tracks in Maxwell Park,

Or I found places to hide,
Was naturally hidden by the racial binary in the Metro,
Which drew out pain,
Which drew out generational trauma,
To discover the Androgynous Man in Brown Pants,
Who’s ancestry spirals and rolls on the waves of Gitchee Gumee,
Following the migration story to our ancestral homeland,
With Ajijaak dodem migration storied leadership,
Ascending,
Descending,
To rise again and fly,
The silence of Ajijaak could erase the pain of streaky palms on a school desk,
When I was made invisible by colonial school books, 

We stayed south of 11 Mile road,
Although our south side was safer than most south sides,
But was it safe for mixed race Indian kids? 

What does safety mean when you have racist class mates?
Racist teachers,
That dress themselves as do gooder white liberals,
Cosmopolitan city folk who adopt Indigenous children from Peru,

11 mile road,
I run across it,
Running,
I run south,
I run north,
I’m free.

Poem: The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants, Part 5

Majority culture thought

Someone once asked the androgynous man in brown pants,
“Why aren’t you married?”
She replied, “why does the patriarchy exist?”
You would think that he would make a beautiful partner,
Of course the “house wife” would be the Two-Spirit man partner,
To cook for him,
Clean,
Tidy up,
Wash windows,
Fold the linens,
Sweep up sorrows and old traumas accordingly,
After all the Two-Spirit man partner owes him this,
The androgynous man in brown pants,
In his old soul ways,
Has taken the pile of keys and stacked them next to books,
They have prepared themselves for misunderstanding,
From the humans on Earth,

Checklist

I fooled you at female,
I fooled you at male,
The checklist is annoying,
You will not find me in small boxes,
Where I get nervous filling in the information,
To these colonial-white man-makes me sick white paperwork,

My checklist is on birch bark,
Touched with the blood memory seeping through my fingers,
This is the checklist I hold,
As the memories of the ancestors,
Make their way to my heart,
My spirit feels at home,

Continuous gardening

Nimaamaa handed them a poem at 15 years old,
From her left hand,
Sitting at her desk in the dining room,
The poem was about tending to your own garden,
Nurturing your own soul,
I read it and leaped up the stairs to my room,
Exclaiming, "I will get a Master's degree and not rely on a man!"
The same applies to this day,
So they tend,
Tend,
Tend,

The patriarchy has proven its laziness,
The diagnosis is stagnation,
As a Two-Spirit they do it all,
They work,
Maintain,
Tidy,
Grow,
Live,
Breath,
Love,
Decolonize,
Heal,
Repair,
Cleanse,

Man’s Work

All around are images on women,
Patriarchal women,
Cheap women,
Appeasing the man’s needs,
Human sexuality is odd,
For much of human’s existence on this Earth,
The whole act hasn’t been based on love,
Does anyone on this Earth know what true love is?

Can you hear me out there?
Jiibay Zibi,
Bugonagiizhig,
Madoo’asinik,
Gaagige Giizhig,
Anung Nibwakawin 

Don’t you know love?
True love?

Your body as healed,
Your heart as healed,

Zaagidwein!

Shoreline Entitlement: White Privilege and White Space in Northern Michigan

Before colonization the shoreline of the Great Lakes was 100% Anishinaabe, Algonquin, and Haudenosaunee operated and maintained.  Using the word “ownership,” has colonization and dominion attached to it so it is best to use English words that have a less colonizing tone.  Could you imagine how beautiful the shoreline was with no gigantic towering mansions or yacht clubs?  Could you imagine no hateful anti-Indian sentiment because we can do what we have been doing for thousands of years which is hunt, fish, and gather as our innate right as the original people of this land?  The beauty of Anishinaabe Aki before colonization was beyond words, cliché saying, but beyond English words more specifically, eh?  What would it be like if we could stand along the shore without getting the White gaze and racial macro-aggression from the penny millionaire tourists who think we shouldn’t be there?  The water was pure and there was no pipelines running underneath certain areas like the Straits of Mackinac near Mackinac Island, which was a ceremonial place for our Anishinaabe people for thousands of years. 

Then came the terra nullius (Latin for “nobody’s land”) believers and Christian inquisitionist to save us when we didn’t need saving at all.  Then came Father Marquette and Bishop Baraga.  Indians needed Christianity because we were sinners and not living according to the great patriarchal colonial and abusive father, who had long before broken down the tribes of Europe.  Then came land being divided up and sold.   “Manifest Destiny,” meant colonization, genocide, assimilation, and the creation of the biggest form of environmental racism, the reservation system.  Land allotments and land for sale for the hungry immigrant who ran from persecution only to persecute us.  Then came poverty created by White patriarchal settler colonialism.  Then our women were regulated to wear skirts and cook for men and no longer made the men cook for us.  As our traditional economies, harvesting, and gathering of foods prior to colonization had gender balance.  Then came abuse, silencing, denying depression, which led to greater oppression, because we were not allowed to speak about the abhorrent land, culture, and soul loss.  We had to “integrate” into patriarchal White settler colonialism only to be marginalized, oppressed further, discriminated against, denied access to our waterways, harvesting traditional foods, and denied existence in a consistent racially discriminating majority culture. 

What is Shoreline Entitlement?

“For those in power in the West… Whiteness is felt to be the human condition… it alone defines normality and fully inhabits it… White people have power and believe that they think, feel and act like and for all people; White people, unable to see their particularity, cannot take account of other people’s; White people create dominant images of the world and don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their own image; White people set the standards of humanity by which they are bound to succeed and others bound to fail. Most of this is not done deliberately and maliciously; there are enormous variations in power amongst White people to do with class, gender, and other factors; goodwill is not unheard of in White people’s engagement with others.  White power none the less reproduces itself regardless of intention, power differences and goodwill, and overwhelmingly because it is not seen as Whiteness, but as normal.” – Richard Dyer, White: Essays on Race and Culture

  1. White possession is a regime of power while infiltrates all larger systems.
  2. Whiteness is invisible to White people.
  3. White possession is hyper visible to Indigenous people.
  4. The beach and shoreline as a White masculine space.
  5. The Indigenous body and land as a White possession.
  6. The problematic racial Black/White binary as Indigenous erasure.
  7. Equal opportunity is defined under patriarchal White sovereignty.
  8. Treaty rights are limiting, partial, controlled, and monitored rights. 
  9. The denial of Métis identity in colonial and occupied United States.
  10. Denial of woman’s and Two-Spirit's space on the shoreline and waterways. 
USDA report (Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007)

USDA report (Major Uses of Land in the United States, 2007)

The Disease of Colonization

“Race matters in the lives of all peoples; for some people it confers unearned privileges, and for others it is the mark of inferiority.  Daily newspapers, radio, television, and social media usually portray Indigenous peoples as a deficit model of humanity.  We are overrepresented as always lacking, dysfunctional, alcoholic, violent, needy, and lazy whether we are living in Illinois, Auckland, Honolulu, Toronto, or Brisbane.  For Indigenous people, White possession is not unmarked, unnamed, or invisible; it is hypervisible.” – The White Possessive: Property, Power, and Indigenous Sovereignty, by Aileen Moreton-Robinson

White possession is very visible to Native people as in land, when we want to hunt, when we want to put our boat on the water and fish, when we want to enjoy a walk along the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes, or knowing that the dialogue on “natural resources” focuses on patriarchal “environmentalism” as a special White middle class interest.  Often non-Native people will say things, “why is so and so defensive?”  The majority of Native people can personally attest to discrimination and racism which leads us to be on the defense at all times or we have severe trauma not just from the majority culture but within our own non-communities because of blood quantum, tribal politics, and internalized oppression.  We are survivors of genocide who are told to “get over it,” while being simultaneously discriminated against, stereotyped via mascots, and our issues blatantly censored in the lamestream media.  Additionally, we have to exist within White possessions, space, and entitlement while explaining our identity when we don’t fit into the stereotypical perspective of what it means to be Indian.  Finally, the visibility of White possession outright ignores sovereignty, land, and Native lives through colonial legislation, injustice systems, police, military, family systems, and “property rights.” 

Where White possession is most visible is along the shoreline of the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan.  Think about the land before colonization.  I always am but my viewpoint is rare because it is not steeped in patriarchy but the strong foundation of my ancestors from a Two-Spirit matriarchal view.  In the summer I spend a lot of time on the shoreline.  Often engaging in prayer or running/walking.  This is one way to decolonize daily.  Decolonization is every single step.  When the White gaze comes my way from tourists who think Indians don't exist anymore I just stare right back at them.  I advocate for my serenity and peace.  With serenity I can counter racism and bigotry with love (zaagidewin).  Therefore, I stand on the shore while holding it down with decolonized love for the land, water, our relations, ancestors, family, community, and healing.  What is powerful is holding the space when as Native people we have very little space.

The Dawes Act of 1887 – Land for Sale, Private Property

The truth is that White space is backed by federal laws in the colonial United States.  Redlining occurred in the major metropolitan areas in the United States so there was concentrated poverty within communities of color and White space in the suburbs.  For Native American people White space took everything and blocked our beautiful way of life in terms of traditional economies.  Every molecule of our existence and livelihood was swallowed up and backed by federal laws.  The Dawes Act of 1887 has four important stipulations which occur in an order that describes colonization and land loss.  These stipulations include the following: imposed individual land ownership, heirship, surplus land was opened up to White settlement, and checker boarding. 

A poem I wrote in 1998.   I was 16 years old. 

A poem I wrote in 1998.   I was 16 years old. 

What Settlers Can Do

Settlers don’t think much about Native people.  The general theme is everything is fine, I’ve got mine, and I’ll feel good if I send $20 to the local soup kitchen.  Settler colonialism has purposefully erased us and established a colonial nation with States.  Within States there are Counties.  Within Counties there are Cities, Towns, Townships, Villages, and Unincorporated Villages.  The un-incorporation sounds like it business, eh?  It is a colonial business and it has gone on way too long.  Settlers play a part in this business as maintained by the federal government to local government.  It is all the same. 

Settlers seem to be in denial of the problem like an addiction.  This occupied land by the colonial business of the United States is an addiction.  Many countries around the world don’t like the United States.  You can see why.  Although these countries are not perfect in how they have treated Indigenous people yet Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have at least started working reconciliation issues.  Meanwhile in the colonial United States there has been no movement.  Resource colonization, environmental racism, and job discrimination is continued colonization.  If you think colonization is over you are colonization denial and need to check into a decolonization anonymous group!

Settlers don’t know where to start.  Usually they want to work more and disconnect from their children by working 80 hours a week.  They want to numb out in front of TV or eat toxic foods.  They believe the “history” books in high school and pledge allegiance to genocide.  This land is not your land as this land is Native land.  Actually admitting you have a problem doesn’t mean you are enlightened.  By acknowledging you see and want to listen to Native people you are on the first step to being a settler ally.  Most settlers in the United States have a problem.  

Efforts to Honor Us and Our Shoreline

I believe we are being honored more than my Grandfather’s time.  There are water ceremonies and awareness drawn to communities like Aamjiwnaang First Nation in occupied Sarnia, Ontario, to water walks in many of our tribal communities throughout the entire Great Lakes.  However we have a lot of work to do to fully bring healing and justice within our Anishinaabe communities.  The stereotype is that Indian’s have casinos so they are fine now.  This is not true at all.   Land loss is culture loss.  We need space for grieving and healing.  We need space to be honored and acknowledged.  We need more space to the shoreline without fear of dealing with racism whether enjoying the Great Lakes or fishing.  Honor us and work hard to do so because our existence is resistance in the persistence of this toxicity of settler colonization.  Some of us are working hard to survive in this great oppression and rise above.  Work harder for us and be aware of more than your privilege.  Like any addiction after you acknowledge you have a problem you work hard to heal the root cause.   

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Works Cited

  1. Freire, Paulo (1970).  Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  The Continuum Publishing Company.
  2. Moreton-Robinson, A. (2015). The White possessive: Property, power, and indigenous sovereignty. University of Minnesota Press