Poem: A Statement of Apology from the Colonial Government

Dear First Nations,
We apologize for the inconvenience the delay in our response has caused,
Please be informed that we are working tirelessly to maintain settler colonialism,
The delay in our response is due to our swift response in maintaining violent occupation of your homelands,
Please be advised that if you don’t hear from us in a timely manner you are welcome to leave us a message,
On one of our many of our hotlines,
We will respond to your message at our earliest convenience,
Which means we won’t really be responding,
But routing your call to a different department,
In which the call may be dropped,
Or you may have a wait time of 600 years,
Again we apologize for any inconvenience that we have caused,
You are welcome to reach out to us as we work to improve our colonial system on your lands.

Article - Clearing the Path for the Turtle

By Lynn Gehl − Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe

 Recently I stated that unless “we” stand behind the person who is most oppressed, “we” will not gain the genuine solidarity needed.  This is because the more oppressed person needs to know that when the more privileged person gets what s/he needs, that s/he will continue to stand behind their needs rather than drop them.  The person who is most oppressed needs to understand that their needs will not be abandoned.  While I think this is true, there is another aspect of genuine solidarity that requires fleshing out.

Canada is a socially stratified country.  I think we can all agree on this.  In my mind I visualize this stratification as a vertical continuum where people are located at different positions based on their ability to access services, and thus their ability to live the good life.  While some people are more privileged, others are less so, and this privilege is reflected in terms of their location on the continuum.

For the most part, White able-bodied heterosexual women are situated closer to the top of this continuum of social stratification.  This stands to reason, as most of the structures, institutions, laws, and policies in this country have been invented, constructed, and managed by White able-bodied heterosexual men.  Black women, Hispanic women, Asian women, Queer women, Indigenous women, Transgendered women, and Women with Disabilities are then situated at different locations along this vertical continuum.  In my thinking process − which I am not claiming is the ultimate truth − I always place Black women, Indigenous women, and Women with Disabilities close to the bottom.  Of course I know there are limitations and thus exceptions to this general thinking in understanding this placement in that there are poor White women, and for that matter, financially well-off Indigenous women in Canada.  Regardless, to some degree this general understanding is a useful cognitive structure to think through issues such as how do women begin to engage in allyship across our differences and in a way that we are more effective in our need for structural change.

In illustrating what I mean by privilege, I define it as occurring when all things are equal between a poor Indigenous woman and a poor White woman yet the structures, institutions, laws, and policies one needs to navigate to survive are White.  Today this is commonly referred to as “White privilege” and people such as Peggy McIntosh, whose interest is inclusive curriculum, Tim Wise, an anti-racist educator, and comedian Louis C. K., whose script addresses White privilege all talk about this issue.  I too have offered a satirical diatribe on the topic after I encountered its denial.  My goal here in mentioning “White privilege” is not to offend people, but rather establish a launching pad to then begin to think and talk about conceptually complex issues.  In offering this discussion of privilege it is important that I point out that when a woman is both Indigenous and has a disability, for example, her experience of structural oppression also includes interactional effects where, as a result, the effects of her lived experience with structural oppressions are greater than the sum of its parts.

I rely on this understanding of social stratification, and define privilege in this way to illustrate my point about the need for women who are more privileged in terms of the continuum of social stratification to engage in concrete, on-the-ground equity practices, equity practices that serve women who are more oppressed.  Equity practices require us to first understand equity, and second to engage in remedial equity practices that will lead to a better life for people more oppressed.

Thinking through this model of social stratification as I do, and as an Indigenous woman with a disability, I am always struck by how it is that oftentimes some women, of course not all, are unable to really understand the meaning of equity versus equality.  As a matter of fact, sometimes I actually encounter denial by some people who argue that women who are more oppressed require help.  Some go as far as offer the excuse that Indigenous women are not getting involved enough, and that Indigenous women are not stepping up and sitting on planning committees.  Yet, these same people claim to be social justice advocates interested in real change.  At times I am inclined to think that this denial is a form of lateral violence.

Let’s face it, in order for real change to occur, women need to form alliances across our differences.  Needed is a genuine theory of solidarity.  The solidarity theory I propose is simple: If equality is desired, equity measures are required; we need to follow the turtle.  We need to follow the most oppressed in the movement forward.

Moving from this more genuine theory of solidarity, rather than false solidarity models and theories, in situations where the women who are more oppressed are not present in physical body, it is the responsibility of more privileged women to reach out and accommodate them in whatever way they can.  More privileged women need to understand that more oppressed women may not be represented in their planning committee for very real concrete reasons such as their need to focus on finding food for their family, issues of personal safety, or in the case of a person with a disability, a lack of funds to take a taxi.  Understanding this and accommodating the needs of these women represents equity in practice.

The bottom line is White women who do gain inroads in a White patriarchal society will do so at the expense of the women who are most oppressed.  This is hardly an advance.  Freedom must not come off the backs of those more oppressed.  By relying on a genuine theory of solidarity with its inherent equity practices and placing the needs of those more oppressed − the metaphoric turtle − at the forefront of your efforts where you stand behind the women who are more oppressed, such as the One Billion Rising campaign, community Persons Day Breakfasts, International Women’s Day events, and inviting women speakers of colour and of different dis/abilities into your institutions to talk about women’s oppression, we engage in a process of genuine solidarity.

It is only through concrete equity practices that all people will gain emancipation.  To offer the argument “we are all equal,” and the excuse “to stand behind is offensive,” is a sure indication that you do not understand equity in practice.  Succinctly, if equality is desired, equity measures are required.  Be selfish and stand behind me, my sisters, and their babies as it will assure your own emancipation.  The turtle must be the leader for social justice to prevail.

Gehl - AUTHOR PICLynn Gehl−Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe, Ph.D., is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, she is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process, and she recently published a book titled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts. Lynn also blogs and has over 70 community based and academic journal publications.  In her spare time, she carves nickel-sized turtles.  You can reach her at lynngehl@gmail.com and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.

Feminist Wire - Clearing the Path for the Turtle

Poem: Idle No More, Youth

Idle No More,
Youth voice,
Youth power,
Youth visibility,
Youth speaking,
Youth listened to,
Youth honored,
Youth uplifted,


Dynamic processes,
The hands,


Be proud of your culture,
Native pride,
Show up,
Howeva you wanna be,

Retrofit the ill formatted system,

The parts of the system,
That don't fit with decolonizing youth,

As you build,





Idle No More,

Idle No More,
Seventh generation,

Idle No More,

Native Appropriations - We live in a culture of violence, and it needs to stop.


(Photo courtesy of SaveWiyabi Project, who are doing truly amazing work) 
I sat in my apartment in a daze today, thinking about the poor babies in Connecticut, and how many families' lives were irreversibly changed. I kept thinking about my mom, a second grade teacher in California, and how her only responsibility as a teacher for 23 beautiful 7 year olds should be to help her students create, learn, and grow, not to protect them from an armed shooter, or even have to think about such a thing. When you look at the statistics, and see that eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States--it points to a deeper problem. We live in a culture of violence, and it needs to stop.

Watching the incredible collective action occurring in Canada through the Idle No More movement over the last few days, I've become increasingly angry. I'm angry that Indigenous peoples in the US and Canada are in a position that we've been forced to march en mass, go on hunger strikes, and blockade roads just to get our voices heard--and that the national and international media is all but ignoring it. Our Native brothers and sisters to the north are fighting against a history of maltreatment and ongoing attacks against Native rights and sovereignty through acts of congress, and have turned to collective action as a means to give voice to the movement.

And I'm angry that here in the US, the Violence Against Women Act is about to expire any minute now, and GOP hold outs like John Boehner and Eric Cantor are keeping the bill from moving forward solely due to the tribal provisions that would protect Native women on reservations.

These are forms of violence. Systemic, real, deep and hateful violence. Violence against our land, our people, and our cultures. The United States and Canada were both founded on violence against and genocide of Native peoples. These nations would not exist were it not for the systematic and government sanctioned attempts of eradication of the Indigenous peoples of these lands. Though we espouse founding values of freedom and liberty, that freedom and liberty came at the cost of millions of Indigenous lives. Is it any wonder that even now, hundreds of years later, we still live in a culture of violence?

The Violence Against Women Act provisions that are holding up the bill are provisions that allow for the prosecution of Non-Indian perpetrators on Indian land within tribal court systems. The current laws state that crimes involving non-Indians are treated as federal cases. But in 2011, the federal government declined to pursue charges in 65% of domestic violence cases on reservations. Clearly this. is. unacceptable. 1 in 3 Native women have been raped or sexually assaulted, a rate 2.5 times higher than the national average, and of those crimes, 80% of them involve a non-Native assailant. This excellent Salon article discusses how these loopholes protect rapists on reservations, because they "know they can get away with it."

What are Boehner and Cantor saying by not passing VAWA because of tribal provisions? That Native women don't matter. That they are second-class citizens, who deserve less protection and less justice than their non-Native counterparts. 

I fight against negative representations of Native people everyday on this blog, and these issues are tied up in this fight. Victoria Secret sending a headdressed bikini clad model down the runway, pocahotties on halloween, Blair Waldorf on gossip girl dressing up like an Indian stripper--these images paint Native women as sex objects, as sexual fantasies, as something to be conquered and owned. Yes, other women are highly sexualized by the media, but the problem is that there are no other representations of Native women to counteract these. The overwhelming majority of images of Native women we see are the sexualized "Indian Princess." 

So I'm tired, I'm upset, and I'm angry. I'm tired of being invisible, of Native rights being ignored, of ongoing and systemic violence going unchecked. I know my thoughts aren't well formed, and my arguments might not be completely airtight, but we need to stand up. The connections are clear to me, though I know I haven't found the exact and proper words to lay it out--yet. 

27 people lost their lives today in a needless and horrible act, and for me it became the catalyst for me to start forming thoughts about something bigger. Violence isn't just individual violent acts, it is much more. Violence is defined by the world health organization as the: 
"Intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation." 
That, by definition, is how the US and Canada have acted towards Indigenous Peoples. We live in an ongoing colonial state that has been defined by violence against Native peoples. And it needs to stop. 

You can start by calling Boehner and Cantor and urging them to pass VAWA:
  • Speaker Boehner's 202-225-0600 or 202-225-6205 and
  • House Majority Leader Cantor's office 202-225-2815 or 202-225-4000
This is just the beginning. I feel that this is an important and real time for Native rights, and we will need to stand together in this fight. I've often worried that in my fight against negative representations I haven't given readers images to replace the stereotyped and negative images. So let's hope that we can replace those images with powerful and strong Native women and men who aren't afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

Am I totally missing the mark? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Other ways to stay involved:
Follow the #idlenomore tag on twitter for up to date info on the movement
Read more about the VAWA act
Post and share more information in the comments

Original post on Native Appropriations

Sacred Jingle Dress Dance for Chief Theresa Spence

Facebook event page 


Saturday, December 15, 12:00pm

Ottawa – Victoria Island

By Saturday, December 15, Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat will be on her fifth day of a hunger strike she undertook as a protest to ask that the rights of First Nations peoples and the Treaties be respected. Her hunger strike is for all of us.

Jingle Dress Dancer Rhonda White, family member of the late Maggie White from the community of Naotkamegwanning (Whitefish Bay) will be travelling to Ottawa on Friday to dance the sacred Jingle Dress dance gifted to them. She will be accompanied by Joyce White and Kathleen Skead.

The Sacred Jingle Dress Dance at Victoria Island will be an expression of the true meaning of the jingle dress, by dancing for healing for Ogimaa-kaan Spence and the healing of all Indigenous people at this time.

Concerned community members Tanya Kappo and Christi Belcourt are asking for your support to help bring the White family members to Ottawa for this sacred dance.


As you know, time is of the essence for Chief Spence and her efforts. We will work to raise $10,000.00 to pay for travel and costs associated with this event. If there are any leftover funds, they will be given to Chief Spence for whatever her needs are during her time at Victoria Island.

No amount is too small. Please donate by :

The lead drum: Lynx Clan of Whitefish Bay

ALL JINGLE DRESS DANCERS are invited to participate in this sacred jingle dress dance for Chief Spence in Ottawa this Saturday. However, as this is a sacred ceremonial jingle dress dance, protocols must be strictly followed and adhered to.

This is NOT a powwow demonstration.

Please see the wall of this event for information on protocol.

This effort is endorsed by Chief Joyce White of Naotkamegwanning (Whitefish Bay) and Treaty 3 Ogitchitaa, Warren White.