Poem: Sobriety Creates Beauty

Floral designs extend from my fingers,
To circle around mitig,
To mitigong,
Up to migizi,
And back to nigig,

Floral designs from my feet,
Rooted like mitig into the Earth,
Pause,
Breath,
Zaagidewin,
Zaagidewin,
Zaagidewin,

Otter carries floral designs,
With the medicines,
Across the water,
To Anishinaabe,

The message,
In the teaching,
In the prophecy,
In the healing of our people,

The floral designs,
Travel between worlds,
To the ancestors,
To the ones to come,
Debwewin,
Debwewin,
Debwewin,

Anung,
Our spirits as big as the night sky,
With all that wisdom,
In your body,
My body,
The Anishinaabe body,

Empathy,
As the nibish that nigig feels,
Delicate,
Cleansing,
Fresh,
Sometimes,
You cry for others who can't feel,

Floral designs,
On baskets,
On clothes,
In dreams,

Recovery has created,
This beauty.

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Translations

Anung = Star
Debwewin = Truth
Migizi - Eagle
Mitig = Tree
Mitigong = Trees/Forest
Nibish = Water
Nigig = Otter
Zaagidewin = Love

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.

Article: Two-Spirit People, Body Sovereignty, and Gender Self-Determination

As Cree people we understand that the nature of the cosmos is to be in balance and that when balance is disturbed, it must and will return. 

Restoring balance

Two-spirit identity is one way in which balance is being restored to our communities. Throughout the colonial history of the Americas, aggressive assimilation policies have attempted to displace our own understandings, practices and teachings around sexuality, gender and positive relationships and replace them with those of Judeo Christianity. To recognize ourselves as two-spirit is to declare our connection to the traditions of our own people.  

As a self-identifier, two-spirit acknowledges and affirms our identity as Indigenous peoples, our connection to the land, and values in our ancient cultures that recognize and accept gender and sexual diversity. 

The recognition and acceptance of gender and sexual diversity is reflected in our languages, spirituality and cultures. Our Cree dialect does not include gender-distinct pronouns. Rather, our language is ‘gendered’ on the basis of whether or not something is animate (that is, whether or not it has a spiritual purpose and energy). 

Cultural disruption and “Skirt Shaming”

Today some of our Elders and spiritual teachers have adopted and introduced understandings and practices and understandings that were not necessarily part of their own cultures prior to colonization and the imposition of Christianity. For example, a recent celebration in a community included a sweat lodge ceremony. When two-spirit and other participants arrived to take part in the ceremony, the person leading the ceremony demanded that some in the group change their clothing to conform with what he perceived their gender to be and added the warning that if he suspected that they had dressed inappropriate to their perceived gender, they would be required to prove their gender identity to him. In the face of this direct assault on their body sovereignty and gender self-determination, some people left the ceremony..  The role of Elders in our communities includes the sharing traditional teachings with youth that will help them understand their own experiences, including their expressions of gender identity and sexuality. However, in most of our Indigenous cultures where gender and sexual diversity were once accepted and valued, our traditional teachings, ways of being, spirituality, and languages were disrupted and displaced through the processes of colonization, Christianization and assimilation. The result (as the incident described above demonstrates) is that some of our own present-day cultural teachings and practices extend the continuum of violence that two-spirit people have been subject to since colonization began. “Skirt-shaming”, excluding, policing or shaming trans, two-spirit people and women because they are not wearing long dresses in ceremonial settings, is increasingly common and is a continuation of the continuum of violence.  

Two-spirit people are frequently subject to interconnected homophobia, transphobia and misogyny, and in the larger society they are additionally subject to structural and individual racism and classism. This has had devastating impacts on the two-spirit community. The suicide rate for LGBTQ Indigenous youth is ten times higher than that of any other group. Thirty-nine percent of two-spirit women and 21% of two-spirit men have attempted suicide. In a recent study of transgendered and gender non-conforming Indigenous people, nearly one-quarter lived in extreme poverty, elevated rates of HIV were found, and more than half of respondents (56%) had attempted suicide .   It is imperative that Elders and others consult with or rely on Two-Spirit leaders for teachings and direction regarding gender and sexual diversity. 

Coming in

There is much work to be done, then, to undo the work that has been done upon us. When we call ourselves two-spirit people, we are proclaiming sovereignty over our bodies, gender expressions and sexualities. “Coming in” does not centre on the declaration of independence that characterizes ‘coming out’ in mainstream depictions of the lives of LGBTQI people. Rather, coming in is an act of returning, fully present in our selves, to resume our place as a valued part of our families, cultures, communities, and lands, in connection with all our relations. 

Indigenous sovereignty over our lands is inseparable from sovereignty over our bodies, sexuality and gender self-expression.

Dr. Alex Wilson (Opaskwayak Cree Nation) is an Associate Professor and the Academic Director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan www.twospiritmanitoba.ca

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Original post - Red Rising Magazine

Poem: Accents in the Seventh Generation

What is frightening is the dehumanizing effect of judgement,
What is scary is the assumption that an accent means one thing,

This is an ode to busting stereotypes and being proud of roots/identity/culture,

Phase 1

Land claims,
Re-routing lines to connect/communicate,

Phase 2

Loud voices,
Uncomfortable in my shoes,
Running,

Phase 3

My friends laugh at my Dad's accent,
It was how I was raised,

Phase 4

He couldn't read,
And didn't know until he was 40 years old how to do so,

Phase 5

I am crying my eyes out,
Because my Dad can hardly read his 40th birthday card,

Phase 6

Years later he walks a sober road,
He loves reading the Bible,
He loves reading the dictionary,
This is better than reading a 40,

Phase 7

Seven generations later,
We walk a sober road,

Surmounting challenges,
Hurdles tripped over,
We cry as we rise,
Recovering, 

This is the seventh generation,
Educated,
Powerful,
Beautiful,
Healed,

This is the seventh generation,
"I grewed up in Highland Park,"
Makes me smile,

I love the Highland Park/Detroit/Inner City Blues Make Me Wanna Holler Accent,
I love the urban/street survived accent,
I love the rising above addiction but still maintain my street smarts accent,

We keep it real,
We know who we is,
We are so much in this together,

Accents in the seventh generation show resilience and pride!

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