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: Ode to Community Workers Oppressed by the Oppressed

We lost our sister in the fight,
She was silenced when she spoke out against injustice,
Pushed aside and denied traditional leadership roles,
A heart without a home,

We lost our brother in the fight,
No one knew he was in the dark corner of generational trauma,
Name badge for work torn and shirt on the floor,
It is heavy and that stench,

We lost our Two-Spirit brother/sister or sister/brother in the fight,
Cast aside,
Gifts ignored,
These assumptions alienate,
Instead of gifts being acknowledged these individuals are misunderstood,

Community workers walking up and down Woodward Avenue asking for coins,
This is all the majority culture will give them is a few coins,

Community workers listening to those in recovery,
Helping to choose another way,
Who just do the work without little recognition,
Because we keep meeting those who need us at the table,
Because "environmental justice" includes recovery of the soul,

Community work is not accumulating "followers,"
Feeding your ego because so called "fame" is more important than the gripping statistics that we can't seem to break,
To look at the underbelly of "community" or lack thereof requires looking inside your own soul,
When right now a Native youth in Nunavut is on the verge of suicide because they are caught between worlds where there are no resources for them,
Community work is honoring the work of of those who broke down the walls to help that youth live,
Self promotion and narcissism didn't help that youth but maybe one who lived to tell,

Community workers walk miles to reach a community member,
In the way up north parts of Anishinaabe Aki,
They are carrying prayers and dreams,
They are carrying messages and medicines,

Community workers have scars from this work,
Community workers have called crisis lines dozens of times,
Community workers have sat on street corners with brown paper bags folded and torn,
Community workers made decisions to survive and so they rise,
Community workers lived to tell these stories in poetry,
Community workers survival is resistance in the persistence of a racist culture,

Reworking is decolonization not in an industrialized sense,
Reworking is remembering and allowing blood memory to percolate,
Reworking is honoring the cast-away and ostracized,
In order to do the work while understanding the multitude of layers of generational trauma,
The trauma still continues from the oppressed to the oppressed,
We can no longer just name it but work on it,

If you say you are giving voice to the voiceless,
Then why ignore the injustice committed by our own people to our own people?
There comes a time when labeling things as "lateral violence" must come to an end,
It is fear that the voice of those oppressed by the oppressed will break down patriarchal control,
Will break down the disgusting and intoxicating infusion of Christianization,
We don't believe it for a minute that these harsh gender roles are traditional,
Or that "leadership" represents the "community,"

When are we going to choose to return to the circle?

An Essay on the Modern Dynamics of Tribal Disenrollment

Disenrollment is predominately about race, and money, and an “individualistic, materialistic attitude” that is not indigenous to tribal communities.

Because many tribes have maintained the IRA’s paternalistic and antiquated definition of “Indian” vis-a-vis blood quantum (as discussed in “An Essay on the Federal Origins of Disenrollment“), tribal membership has largely become “an explicitly racial conception of Indian identity.” Suzianne D. Painter-Thorne, If You Build It, They Will Come: Preserving Tribal Sovereignty in the Face of Indian Casinos and the New Premium on Tribal Membership, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 311 (2010).

The racial construct has worked well for disenrollment as “American Indians have one of the highest rates of interracial marriage in the U.S.” Gosia Wozniacka, Disenrollment leaves Native feeling ‘culturally homeless’, Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2014. Indeed, Indians of any quantum (defined as “portion”) of Indian blood are by federal design, multi-racial. In addition, “many Native Americans don’t live on reservations, speak Native languages or ‘look’ Indian, making others question their bloodline claims.” Id. In those illustrative ways, Indian conceptions of both race and class converge, with tribal classism also catalyzing disenrollment.

In turn, tribal officials who wish to target political foes or large swaths of politically weak or unpopular members, can “voluntarily invoke race-based definitions of ‘Indian’ [to] narrow the pool of tribal members, perhaps in an effort to limit gaming revenue and federal dollars to [those targeted] tribal members.”Painter-Thorne, supra. These disenrollment stories bear this out. See e.g. Liz Jones, ‘We’ll Always Be Nooksack':Tribe Questions Ancestry of Part-Filipino Members, NPR/KUOW, Dec. 16, 2013; Joanne Barker, The True Meaning of Sovereignty, New York Times, Sept. 16, 2011.

The “forced transition to a cash economy” has likely played a large part in the dramatic spike in disenrollment as well. Jana Berger & Paula Fisher, Navigating Tribal Membership Issues, Emerging Issues in Tribal-State Relations 61, 66 (2013). Prior to the recent disenrollment epidemic, which is estimated to have already vanquished over 11,000 Indians, tribal governments were very inclusive, frequently wanting to have large “membership” numbers. Aside from a greater amount of funding from federal agencies relative to increased tribal membership, from a practical standpoint tribal governments recognized that “there is strength in numbers.” Id.

 But over the last couple decades, as tribes became more dependent on the U.S. economic free-market system, primarily through gaming entrepreneurship, disenrollment began to rear its ugly head. According to Charles Wilkinson.
Just as federal education practices reverberated throughout tribes, so too did the forced transition to a cash economy. The concept of sharing, integral to Indian societies, did not jibe well with the individualistic, materialistic attitude that drove the nation’s economic system. As one Navajo stated, “When a relative needed help, you helped them out. When you needed something else, you could rely on a relative to help out, it all worked out in the long run. With money it doesn’t work anymore, now the relative with the money is expected to help out, what is needed for most everything is money and the poor relatives never have any.” 
Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations 54 (2006).

As Professor David Wilkins observes, tribal communities historically used ceremony and prayer to resolve intra-tribal tension or conflict; because traditionally speaking, “you don’t cast out your relatives.” Wozniacka, supra. But today, when the political going gets rough in tribal communities, the individualistic, materialistic Indian attitude that Professor Wilkinson describes, increasingly leads to disenrollment of one’s own relatives–instead of towards any holistic or indigenous values-based solution.

Galanda Broadman is an American Indian owned firm dedicated to advancing tribal legal rights and Indian business interests. The firm represents tribal governments, businesses and members in critical litigation, business and regulatory matters, especially in the areas of Indian Treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, taxation, commerce, personal injury, and human/civil rights.

An Essay on the Modern Dynamics of Tribal Disenrollment

Article: Native-r Than You by Dana Her Many Horses

Growing up on the Rez versus out here, in this un-Indian landscape; it’s more than a paradigm shift, it’s not even close. There’s an undercurrent of competition like some kind of school yard push and shove that goes on in our social media circles that we all talk about but not as openly as we should.

If we are going to go forward in positive ways for our Nations we can’t do it fighting with each other in the backseat of the bus. It’s almost something you can’t pin down or address directly because the ground shifts so easily when you’re talking about rumors and salacious gossip. Slippery and without accountability, we see keyboard warriors accusing each other instead of lifting each other. If my Kunsi was still here I could sit and talk with her about all these things that go on and she would laugh about a lot of it. She loved to laugh and gossip too, but she would also talk about where the line is drawn or where it should be. She used to tell me the big stories were who got in trouble at the Indian School, who got pregnant on the side, who was leaving the Rez forever because they got their heart broken. She left Coeur d’Alene Rez forever with a heartbreak like that, her man was dead and she had a baby on the way to raise alone. Some hearts don’t recover, some people don’t just bounce back after that type of loss. The talk then wasn’t what it is now. Then it was Pow Wow gossip, harmless talk over coffee at the kitchen table at night because she and my Aunts always seemed to have a fresh pot going. She called it camp talk since so much of their time to catch up was at deer or fish camp. Especially among the women within our families that’s a hard-wired part of our culture; laughing sideways and Oh is it? until the Sun comes up. But what a leap we have made from that tiny kitchen packed with my Grandmother’s sisters, to the cyber bullying we see now on Twitter, Face Book, Instagram and others. It’s not about hurt feelings at this level; it’s about the black eye it gives what we are trying to do here. There is finally a momentum that I have been excited to watch building up over the last five years among our Nations; for pride in who we are and what it means to be Native at a time when the World needs a strong voice for the environment, for what is right, and for voicing what is wrong and what has to change. We have a chance to do good and to help ourselves and yet for each accomplishment there is a sustained and stinging loss of leadership in our communities because in real talk, people get tired of the constant negativity, the back-biting. When you’re dealing with social media you’re in a whole other country. We tend to take on the organizations we see as defamatory to Indian Country, and from the other side of our faces we smirk and spread gossip about those of us who are doing positive things for our People as a whole.

One of the most common attacks in social media of Natives on other Skins is the one I call “Native-r Than You”. We all know what this is, we see it played out continually on Twitter. The one-up on everything from if you grew up Rez or not, if not why not, if you speak your language or languages fluently, and how many first cousins you have, to the ultimate throw down; how much blood you have. I’ve been through this more times than I can count at this point. I have joked about printing up a genealogy flier to keep in my war pony glovebox. Makes it easier; just hand over the list of relatives, adjust the aviator shades and keep driving. No other group has a more defensive posture as a whole than we do when it comes to our past. It’s a cultural stimulus response reaction stemming from several hundred years of racial profiling, assimilation to survive, and de-assimilation to reconnect us to our roots.

Of course blood is important. There’s no doubt that who we come from gives us strength for where we find ourselves today. Our past is carried forward in our blood. But Crazy Horse isn’t on Twitter. White Buffalo Calf Woman isn’t on Face Book. Our blood and our prophets, our blood and our ceremonies, our blood and our land, our blood and our children; our blood and our unborn. Yes it matters where we came from but it should never be the thing that stakes us to the ground. It should be what gives us the fire inside to move forward as Red Nation People; not in competition with each other, but hand in hand walking forward into a future that our ancestors would be proud to see.

Original article posted to Last Real Indians.

Poem: Colonization

Right now colonization has battered a woman,
Colonization has forced relocation of the Indigenous mind to bottle,
Casino only employer around this place,

Right now colonization has neglected a child,
Cold-shaking-fear but smiling in front of a heater,
Dim light flickering,

Right now colonization has made you feel like a patriot or a brave,
And she is sitting in a closet with cut arms,
Hungry and ignored,
Because Native women can't have eating disorders,

Right now colonization is dividing my being,
My legs are Anishinaabe,
My hands are French,
Compartmentalization makes me run away,
Hiding identity in shame,

Right now colonization has discriminated a Two-Spirit,
A "traditional healer," laughs in this Two-Spirit's face,
This Two-Spirit has no community resources,
The Two-Spirit was a revered community resource,

Right now colonization has headed up your tribal government structure,
The epidemics all around have you ignore domestic violence,
Sex trafficking,
Addiction,
And your colonized Christ is judging the actions of many,

Right now colonization is not breaking news on the news,
There is no Native news on the news,

Right now colonization has ran out of tissues,
Tears,
Surviving everyday discrimination,
Heartbreak syndrome,
Ghost sickness is enough for 500 plus years,

Right now 97.7% of the land is occupied,
We get 0.3 % of the land,

How do you map "de-colonization," when there is very little room for us?