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: Reporting Live From the 1842 Treaty Territories

It's a little cold up here,
Should I reach for that beer?
Or hang my laundry on the door?

I can't see straight,
I can't feel my heart,
My hands are cold,

There is a truck parked out there on the lawn,
We haven't seen the sun for days,
Centuries,
What can you do about the factory of your mind?
Environmental injustice all around,

I can't fight no more,
I can't see straight,

There is nothing for miles in the void of my soul,
This land unheard,
These waters,
A thirst,
A hunger,

Cultural retrofits,
That make-shift dangle that sways in the wind,
Broken,
Broke,
There is a shame we don't want to feel,
So we hide away,

Mattress on the floor,
It's not comfortable here,
There wasn't a doily or lace,
Curtains were ripped,
Soiled with tears,
We exited through the door and left our heart on the front steps.

Poem: Ajijaak Dodem Anokii

It is so precious,
These tears on my hands,
Covering my face,
This grieving is beautiful,
You see we had felt those knives turned inward,
On ourselves,
On our family,
When we could not speak,
When we could not feel,

These tears are precious,
Incredibly triumphant,
Reciprocity of sadness,
Melancholy,
Feeling emotions,
Generational emotions felt,
Mean that we can heal historical trauma,
Herstorical trauma,
Two-Spirit-denial-I-am-hiding-trauma,
Two-Spirit-the-majority-culture-makes-me-feel-shame-trauma,
No more,
Silent No More,

Tears on pillows,
Blankets,
Walls,
Wiped,
To heal,
Cleanse,
Rebooting the old ancient ways,

If these spirits towered over us,
What could we feel was that fist in the cement,
And drifting,
Woozy,
Pacing,
Drifting,

Static through our heads,
The cold metal desk,
Work places,
Public spaces,
Sweaty palms,
Nervousness streaked across tables,
Desks,

If the Grandfather listened,
And honored us,
And did not judge us,
Even though we judged ourselves,
For loving you,
For trying to help you,

If the Grandmother said,
I support you,
And took your hand,
As a gift unimaginable,

This is in fact dodem anokii,
You see,
Not social work,
Dodem anokii,

Ajijaak dodem,

Do you know what all of this means?

- - - - - - - - - -

Translations

Ajijaak - Crane
Anokii - Work
Dodem - Clan

Domestic Violence Awareness Month - A Two-Spirit View

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-Spirits. There 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 people.

There 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

Poem: He Didn't Mean To

I could be like Victor,
And throw the empties at your abandoned house,
No one will say that "we ain't doing this no more,"
At least no one in your family,
They will turn a blind eye,
Even when the results and facts are as such,

Unlike Arlene,
No one could say to you that,
"We ain't doing this no more! No more! We're done with it,"
Instead you threw that suit case in your truck and ran,

I guess you "didn't mean to,"
Broken furnace,
Standing water in the basement for years,
Slowly draining,
Slowly filling,
Mold growing up the walls,
In the walls,
In the floor boards,
Furniture,
Clothes,
Soiled and wet carpet,
Mail piling up,
Foreclosure,

I guess you "didn't mean to,"
You could cry but never share why,
Instead moldy pictures of the past you held in your hand,
Alcohol destroying your spirit,
Drugs making it worse,
Shutting the door to everyone,
You are not there,
Hello I say,
Boozhoo I say,
No answer,
The torment of letting go slowly,
The suppressed feelings,
Emotions,
Abuse,
The family system broken,

Then Thomas asks Victor,
"Hey Victor, do you know why your dad really left?"
Victor responds, 
"Yeah. He didn't mean to Thomas,"

He's been running his whole life,
This Indian guy,
I used to be you,
I used to run away,
I remember sitting in a circle with "friends" in a house in Oshkosh Wisconsin,
Feeling ungrounded and wanting to run,
Feeling unsafe with these "friends" like they would take advantage of me,
Or rape,
Or sexual assault,
Then all the parties,
I don't want to remember throwing up,
Weighing 104 pounds,
Or almost renting a shoebox sized apartment with a moldy bathroom,
The halfway house and the Indian man luring me in,
And I ran out the door,
More unsafe places,
Yellow houses with yellow energy,
And running,
And wanting to always run away,

Recoil the spring,
Dismantle this,
He didn't mean to,
Those blinds growing mold,
Windowsills with slimy black mold,
Scrubbing to clean,
But will not come off,
The mold is inside the structure,
Inside you,

Will the illness be dismantled?
Demolished?
Destroyed?
Will this establishment be condemned?