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

Poem: Standing on the Frontlines in Anishinaabe Aki

What does the first memory of racism mean?
If the Grandfathers and Grandmothers are with us,
If the ancestors are with us,
What does the first memory mean?
If blood memory means feeling,
If blood memory means healing,
Does it mean I can final feel and release what Grandpa LaPointe endured?
My Great-Grandparents?
Madeline Cadotte?
Waub Ajijaak?

I recall friends in my hometown saying,
“Me sled downhill on bones,”
In a derogatory tone,
Mocking stereotyped and broken Native American speech,
I said to them,
“If you don’t stop I will walk home,”
They didn’t stop and I walked home alone,
In the cold white suburbs on that end of summer day,
Along the railroad tracks,
Looking south at the Detroit haze,
My mind through the train yard to the rivers,
Looking north at the unknown from 12 Mile Road and up,
Angry and hurt, 

Or was it the white girl in high school joking about,
“Wanting her land back,”

The white man got the job before me,
The white woman got the job before me,
I wasn’t hired as the “token minority” in Detroit,
Because of the harm of the Black and White racial binary,
Discredits and ignores Native lives from the start of Grand River,
To 36 Mile Road,
I was allocated to unemployment,
Underemployment,

Making movement out of poverty,
Now here is your chance,
But the racist white liberal in lily white Traverse City says,
Maybe we need to treat you with more harm,
Maybe we need to treat you harsh,
Maybe you don’t deserve any job, 

And on my own I have cried in the shower,
My tears blended with the water,
Why is this happening to me?
When will it end?

The racist words,
I jot them down,
My ancestors I confide in,
The land I touch,
I am reconnecting,
I am reclaiming,

The words are continuing to come,
These racist words are all around me,
I jot them down,
I am taking more notes,
They say they will do cultural diversity training,
They aren’t taking action fast enough,

The hostility increases,
It is hard for me to be here,
I am barely functioning,
More racial microaggresions,
More covert racism,
I am yelled at when I ask them to take this seriously,

I couldn’t take it anymore,
So I “filed the paperwork,”
I couldn’t breathe anymore,
I feel like I didn’t want to be here anymore,
I’m filing the paperwork,
Shaking with deep soul wounds,
As I write down my addendum to the “Charge of Discrimination,”
On my kitchen table in Manistee,

The last moment,
She appeared in the bathroom mirror,
Cecelia Shalifoe was with me,
She is behind me,
I see her old clothes,
I feel her spirit,
I’m not alone,
I’m fighting for the ancestors when they had no platform to speak,
Cecelia was there in spirit,
To have her life and pain validated through this action,

I won this case as far as colonial justice can go,
But it is never over,
Racism is on every inch of this land if you are Anishinaabe,

Standing on the frontlines in Anishinaabe Aki,
I hold an anti-racist sign daily,
Because I can’t afford a billboard campaign,
Do you see my sign?
I’ve never gained “likes” and an online “following,”
No one started a gofundme for all the racism I’ve experienced,
My issues aren’t made popular on whitestream and lamestream media,
I didn’t have aid sent to me in mass,
Surprisingly it was conservative allies who stood with me and encouraged me to speak,
Actually white liberals left when it became too uncomfortable to face racism in their own backyard,
Except they run off to Standing Rock,
Not Eagle Rock,
Not Benzie County,
Or Manistee,
Not Ispheming,
Thunder Bay,
Winnipeg,
Or da Soo,
My story didn’t happen in isolation,
So this is why I share it, 

It never stopped,
2 EEOC cases later,
I’m sorting through files,
I keep adding to folders,
Sometimes it is racial microaggression or bigotry in a grocery store,
Other times its people thinking I have too much money for a minority,

Standing on the frontlines means everyday life for Native people,
My existence is resistance,
Our existence is resistance!

An Ojibway/Métis Two-Spirit Statement on Standing Rock

Ojibway/Metis Introduction – Standing on the Soil at Home

This is my Ojibway/Métis Two-Spirit introduction and declaration.  I never felt called to go to Standing Rock.  I have had enough violations, violence, racism, discrimination, bullying, and hate in my life that I didn’t need to voluntarily subject myself to further torture.  I did not receive “likes” or hundreds of comments for enduring workplace discrimination on numerous occasions nor did I gain internet “followers” who saw my documentation of the horrors of racism and taking action against this injustice.  The reason I mention standing up for myself and taking action is because where is everyone in everyday life supporting Indigenous people right where you live?  Everyone felt the need to run off to Standing Rock.  It is bad everywhere – racism is right out your front door and on every inch of this land.  Taking action against a racially hostile work environment deserves equal treatment from so called “allies.”  Additionally, the violence of heteropatriarchal settler colonialism oppression is still here and this means we live in a racist world.  I have a right to my serenity and peace given the oppression I have faced and struggles I have overcome.  Do you see why I didn’t want to go out to Standing Rock?  

Please note that this piece doesn’t represent Red Circle Consulting, Waub Ajijaak Press, or any of the organizations that I’ve consulted with or currently work with.  This piece represents Ojibway/Metis Two-Spirit self-determination and sharing my voice based in reporting live from Anishinaabe Aki.  Additionally, I work with Honor the Earth and they had a main presence at Standing Rock.  I was indirectly but directly involved in the work there but mostly behind the scenes.  This is frontline work that should be validated and is just as equally important labor.

Environmental Racism Since 1492

There are currently at least 532 superfund sites in Indian Country.  A sacred site that my tribe – the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, which was battled for 11 years is being mined beneath.  This site is Migizi Wa Sin – Eagle Rock.  We have no access to this sacred site as it is gated with a barbed wire fence.  This didn’t garner international attention and probably never will.  Yet, people and some distant relatives from my tribe camped out, resisted, and were arrested.  Migizi Wa Sin is one battle of many that was fought and lost because or resource colonization, environmental violence, and environmental racism.  Therefore, environmental racism has existed since 1492.  Environmental racism is the reservation or reserve system.  Environmental violence is the availability of alcohol, drugs, and toxic foods on our lands and within reservation boundaries.  Environmental violence also includes: reproductive injustice, sterilization of our women, mining, pipelines, toxic buildings, and discrimination towards Two-Spirits.

Racism and Assault in Everyday Life

Most non-Native people were shocked at the level of militarized violence at Standing Rock.  I'm not minimizing the oppression, pain, trauma, collective trauma, or colonial state sanctioned militarized violence that happened there.  However I wasn’t shocked because every turn you make in the world as a Native person can mean you will face discrimination, racism, hate, and violence.  The majority culture didn’t absolve itself of its sins by showing up for a week, 3 weeks, or 3 months at Standing Rock.  Action needs to be taken every day and where you live.

Native people are still invisible.  Our issues are still ignored.  The root cause of the many issues we face are not addressed.  One can’t live traditionally and harvest wild rice when land has been divided up by the Dawes Act.  If we want to ice fish we can only do so in locations where we will not experience racism.  We are not allowed into certain areas, cities, or towns because we will never be allowed into a certain income bracket.  Sometimes we are heckled by just walking down the street or shopping in a grocery store.  The colonial creation of poverty is racism.  How much alcohol is piped into tribal communities?  How do we stop this form of environmental violence and racism?  There are many questions to be raised and discussions to be had.  Walls need to be broken and bridges need to be built.  This always needs to be Indigenous led by and for our people.

Plains Indians are Only the Real Indians

The world became obsessed with Standing Rock.  The world didn’t become obsessed with Eagle Rock – Migizi Wa Sin, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Neskantaga First Nation, systemic racism in Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, Ontario, etc.  It became obsessed with the Plains tribe.  As an Ojibway/Métis I see this obsession with other Native groups who are often viewed as the “real Indians.”  Here in the Great Lakes our ancestry has been mixing for a long time hence my Ojibway/Métis identity and heritage.  We are still real Indians despite the bogus blood quantum standard set up to prove being Indian, which the US government created for annihilation purposes.  I believe the reason Standing Rock gained so much attention is because the majority culture has lumped "Plains Indians," into a group and therefore this social construction of the "real Indian" exists.  Hence the obsession and widespread cultural appropriation with the "Plains Indians" headdress.  The majority culture has been fetishizing, romanticizing, and appropriating "Plains Indians" for a long time.  Would this movement in Standing Rock had been as large if the tribe was a less well known tribe?  Probably not!

Celebrities

My personal belief is that there is no reason to trust any celebrity who showed up at Standing Rock.  They are not amplifying our voices as Native people.  They are amplifying their voices.  They have never lived on a reservation, or lived the life of a Native person, nor can the ever speak for us.  Frankly, I will not give them any power or allow them to speak for me.  They aren’t doing anything radical then going home to their plush home and existence.  Posting on anti-social media with hashtags doesn’t make you radical.  Actions in everyday life make you radical.  I believe they need to stay far away from Indigenous led movements and let us lead!   

The Money Trail

Meanwhile there are many water issues and continuous states of emergencies in many First Nations and Native communities across Turtle Island.  I encourage everyone to read about Neskantaga First Nation.  Not minimizing oppression or the militarized violence that took place at Standing Rock but it is not the only place where all action is needed.  So where are all the donations going?  Can anyone answer this?  Millions of dollars were donated but we don’t know where it is going.  How can we trust that the money is being spent for what it has been raised for?  In searching on gofundme.com for “Standing Rock,” 6,069 results come up.  Some of these results include money raised for: compost toilets, wood stoves, yurts, solar trailers, tattoos, and general winter supplies.  Another fundraising website called YouCaring.com had 392 results for Standing Rock.  There were fundraisers for things such as: Support the Traditional Elders of Standing Rock or Water is Life: Two-Spirit Warriors & Water Protectors.  Specifically I commend fundraisers for elders and Two-Spirits.  However, where is all this money actually going for everything else? 

The Standing Rock Obsession

I had nearly a dozen people ask me, “are you going to Standing Rock?”  I am not a mainstream person and I believe this movement was hijacked by mainstream people, big green NGO’s, and celebrities.  Many “activists,” are pretty darn mainstream in how they live by ingesting alcohol, drugs, television, etc.  I don’t identify as an activist but a “community worker” in a world where we have “non-community.”  I am glad visibility was brought to Native people but I felt it was brought in a fetishized way, yet again.

No I didn’t want to live in a tipi.  I am Ojibway and my ancestors lived in a traditional birch bark house called the wiigwam.  This became all people focused on.  From the moment this movement took a more mainstream approach, which it did once the big green’s showed up, I knew that I didn’t want to be there.  Some other Native folks called the camp, “sacred stone colony.”  Yes being colonized by white people thinking that they are helping the Indians.  Not interested in your white liberalism and fetishization of me, my family, relatives, or ancestors.  This obsession took a colonial turn and I knew it wasn’t for me.  I decided to stay at home in Anishinaabe Aki and hold it down on the land and water here.  Praying and doing work in your home territory is just as important.  Warriors need to stay and pray!  This is everyday resistance!

Moving Beyond the Typical “Frontlines,” Definition

Many people have felt called to go to Standing Rock from many Indigenous nations across Turtle Island and the world.  Many warriors were called by the ancestors to go to Standing Rock.  This is a very respectable and resilient action.  However as a Two-Spirit I have questioned my safety even in a space that could be designated safe for me hence the Two-Spirit camp at Standing Rock.  I don’t mean safety as in violence but safety as in how I live my life.  That I would be required to wear a skirt when this is a colonial concept.  Men and men identifying people also wore skirts traditionally.  I would constantly have to demand space for myself and this gets exhausting.   Additionally, as an introvert how would I manage being at a camp with people who I couldn’t necessarily trust?  I don’t thrive on being around people because as an introvert they drain me.

There has been a direct and violent attacks towards warriors and I am not minimizing their efforts, heart, or soul because this is state sanctioned oppression that our Indigenous warriors seek to challenge.  There are frontlines at Standing Rock and there are frontlines in daily life.  We get caught up in what “frontlines,” work means and we need to expand our definition.  For some the frontlines are making it through a day, surviving colonial imposed economic poverty, surviving racism, healing themselves, addiction recovery, mentoring a youth to rise above oppression, or taking care of an abandoned elder.  Defining “warrior,” as someone always at the “frontlines,” is bogus and closed minded.  Warriors for our people are everywhere.  A warrior is a single mom living in poverty who loves their child with so much love.  A warrior is someone in recovery and taking it, yes, one day at a time.  A warrior is someone who stands up against racism in the workplace.  A warrior is someone who survives community ostracizing and being an outcast.  A warrior is someone who has no one to call when in a time of trouble but makes it through the day, week, month, years, or their life.  A warrior is someone who never knows true love or never has a partner but continues living in the world.  A warrior is someone who has no family, networks, resources, or a place to truly call home.  A warrior is the prisoner.  A warrior is the silenced never given a space to share their voice.  Remember us!

Healing Justice

Since the resistance camps at Standing Rock were supposed to be a sober space I’m wondering how many people there chose recovery from their addictions?  This is more than fighting the black snake.  It is about fighting the illness which has been internalized.  This illness could be addiction in any form: alcoholism, marijuana, pharmaceuticals, sexual, social media, etc.  This illness could be eating toxic foods.  This illness could be accepting a toxic masculine mindset to plague your life.  This illness could be violence towards the self or others.  This illness is the illness of patriarchy, rape culture, the sexualization of the female body, and sexual violence towards any gender or gender identity.  There is certainly a lot to heal in our world.  We all have a lot of work to do.  No one person carries this burden on their shoulders alone.

Healing justice is difficult work because it goes unnoticed in a very boisterous, narcissistic, and “selfie” world.  Does anyone talk on the phone anymore?  Since the dawn of 140 characters and accumulating “followers,” I have found that people rarely respond to emails or don’t like to talk on the phone.  Being that I am Generation X, I’m not down with this at all.  We can’t heal by just being on a screen of our “smartphone,” or “liking” radical Indigenous statuses.  Really folks, how does this make change but stroke egos?  We have to do this work out in the world.  But do it and don’t boast about it.  Humble yourself in the eyes of the Creator.  Seriously social media is not deprogramming either for those that think they are so “radical.”  It is a tool of mind and social control to keep you all hooked.  It is another addiction similar to TV and shortening your attention span and ability to think for long periods of time.  How many of you out there can sit down and read a book for hours on end?  Probably just a few of you.

Closed Reservations and White Liberal Saviors

Not all reservations have open doors and in fact the door is shut tight to outsiders.  Every white liberal in the world can now say that they have been to Standing Rock and on a “reservation.”  This is all Native land!  I have lived on a reservation for 6 years and traveled to my tribal community since I was a kid.  Going to a reservation better not become to latest “mission,” trip.  Oh wait those already happen.  Take your mission trips to cul-de-sacs of suburbia and do work in your own perfectly plotted community.

The action in Standing Rock doesn’t mean that all other communities will be open.  In fact, we are very closed and sometimes to our own people.  It is absolutely obnoxious that this has happened and stating “we are all one” is actually very violent and colonial.  We are not all one and we need to honor the deep pain of generation trauma, current invisibility, current injustices, and that we are survivors of genocide that has never been acknowledged in the colonial United States.  Some hippie-dippie walks into Standing Rock for the “experience,” and to feel good.  Uh-uh, no way, and go away.  I am not looking to feel good all the time but to be real and do the work that needs to be done in our Anishinaabe communities.  Our lives as Native people should never be an “experience” for non-Native people.  Unfortunately the level of exotification and festishization is deeply prevalent coming from the majority culture.

What You Can Do to Take Action and Actually Support Indigenous People Everyday!

  1. Stop using the term “ally.”  It is obnoxious and insulting.  Klee Benally (Diné) has a really great zine on “Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex.”  Read this!                        
  2. Listen to Indigenous voices: storytellers, writers, poets, public speakers, intellectuals, and academics.
  3. Deconstruct Native stereotypes in your local community such as in mascots in high schools, colleges, and other forms of discrimination and racism that are right outside your front door.
  4. Think of the many ways you can amplify Indigenous voices through supporting Indigenous made films, reading books by Indigenous authors, purchasing music, attending powwows, artists markets, and craft fairs.
  5. Know what treaty land you are on as well as the traditional name of the place you reside in.  For instance, Manistee, Michigan – Naaminitigong, which means “the land beneath the trees.”  Naaminitigong is in the 1836 Treaty Territory.
  6. Understand what Two-Spirit means based on the tribe in the area you reside.  This is not a pan-Indian definition.  Know what Two-Spirit means and how you can support amplifying Two-Spirit people, their voices, and their stories in your area.
  7. Form an Indigenous-settler support group in your high school, college, or community.  Truly do the work, show up, be challenged, and grow far beyond your comfort zone.
  8. Decolonize organizing.  Let Native people lead in movements and organizing.  Particularly give voice to women, LGBTQ-Two-Spirited people, youth, elders, and the disabled.  So often Native people are tokenized but never truly given leadership roles or space to speak.  We desperately need to change this.
  9. Don’t fetishize us and know that with our own communities nothing is perfect.  There is internalized patriarchy, internalized sexism, internalized homophobia, nepotism in tribal governments, and overall toxic lateral violence.  If you are to work with us and support us you need to know that lateral violence is an unfortunate social colonial illness that plagues most of our communities. 
  10. Celebrate daily personal victories for Indigenous people such as “one day at a time,” SOBRIETY!  HEALING!  RECOVERY! 

Returning & Amplifying Our Work in Our Home Territories

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked folks in January to pack up and go home from all camps as well as not build any new resistance camps without the consent of the tribe.  I feel this is a good move and believe we all need to do work in our home territories.  While this was the largest gathering of Indigenous people on Turtle Island since colonization, it is not the only gathering.  I know there will be other gatherings, actions, and forms of resistance.  Perhaps the next gathering or action will be larger and create an even deeper and meaningful impact for generations to come?  There are gatherings, actions, and forms of resistance daily.  We need to grow and amplify our work by and for our people.  I respect and love our various Indigenous prophecies across Turtle Island but we have to commit to this work in order for it to be a reality.  This is the union – blue collar worker raised, practical Midwestern, and Michigander in me speaking.  This war has always been taking place since the colonization and erasure of our people starting in 1492.  This has always been a disgrace from the naming and occupation of lands to states, counties, and cities.  For Native people our eyes have always been open and now the rest of the world is seeing through our lens.  Think about your every action and intention.  What can be done at home?  Take a look at other Indigenous led environmental struggles you can support right in your own backyard.  Remember environmental justice is not just about land defending and water protection.  It is about healing our people, sobriety, wellbriety, and recovery.  So let’s all get behind love water not alcohol too, eh?

What can you do to heal relationships in your life?  To heal yourself and your family.  To bring healing to your tribal community.  What can you do to give voice to those who need it the most?  What are some ways you can decolonize on a day to day basis?  Think of other ways to amplify this work, healing, and bring justice in your home territories. 

Resources

“Dear White People, Standing Rock Is Not Burning Man”

Reporter's notebook: Standing Rock is not the new Woodstock

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 1], Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, & Part 6

Standing Rock to the World: 10 Indigenous and Environmental Struggles You Can Support in 2017

Video: Aamjiwnaang Water Project

Video: Migizi Wa Sin – Eagle Rock

Video: Sirens Over Aamjiwnaang

Weeding Out the Allies from the White Saviors at Standing Rock