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)

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

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?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (on the rez)

This billboard is in Manistee, Michigan on US-31 South, after River Street.  In fact, there are two domestic violence awareness billboards sponsored by the tribe (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians) on US-31.  This is the best billboard in Manistee yet.  I was overjoyed and moved beyond words when I saw this billboard!


Helpful Links on Domestic Violence in the Native Community

"According to Amnesty International “violence against women is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses. It is also one of the most hidden. It takes place in intimate relationships, within the family and at the hands of strangers and it affects women in every country in the world…Indigenous peoples in the USA face deeply entrenched marginalization – the result of a long history of systemic and pervasive abuse and persecution. Sexual violence against Indigenous women today is informed and conditioned by this legacy of widespread and egregious human rights abuses.” - USDOJ: Office Against Violence Against Women: Tribal Communities

"Urban Indian women may experience even higher rates of trauma. A study of Native American women living in New York City found that over 65 percent had experienced some form of interpersonal violence. Of that group, 28 percent reported childhood physical abuse, 48 percent reported rape and 40 percent reported a history of domestic violence." - Historic Trauma May Be Causing Today's Health Crisis

Introductory Manual: Addressing Domestic Violence in Indian Country


Other Helpful Links on Domestic Violence


Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships


Emotional Abuse

Share Your Story - How You See Domestic Violence

Take Action - Sign the petition: Don't shut down shelters and rape crisis centers - "Starting now, some rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters may be forced to close their doors, pushing survivors out onto the streets.

Especially in rural, poor communities, these services rely heavily on federal grants to keep running. But with the federal government shut down, funding provided for these services under the Violence Against Women Act ran out last Friday. Services won’t be restored until Congress passes a government funding bill. For a woman who needs help after she’s been raped or a safe place to protect herself or her children from an abusive partner, the impact of this shutdown could be life or death."

Poem: I Guess I'm Not Indian Now


Existing in a mixed blood identity conundrum, 
My own community wants to tell me who I am, 
Outsiders want to tell me who I am, 
Internalized oppression,

Deep rooted,

Do not tell me that I haven’t experienced racism,
Do not tell me that I don’t know what it is to be Indian,
Do not tell me that in fighting for a part of my identity that,
Is forced assimilation,
Annihilation in my own skin,
When the community dissects me,
Rejects me,
Tells me I am not Indian,

Do not tell me that I have not seen what I have seen,
Domestic violence,
Abuse,
Internalized rage,
Internalized aggression,
Dominant culture forces to deny the screams of the spirit,
To heal the wounds of the generations,
To heal generational sorrow,
To heal generational grief,

I guess I am not Indian now,
In revitalizing my own culture,
In speaking up when there is racism,

I guess I am not Indian now,
When internalized patriarchy tears at me,
Prevents me from succeeding,

I guess I am not Indian now,
When my Grandfather is near,
And I can hear him crying for healing,
For love,

I guess I am not Indian now,
The amount of time I spend on the land,
In solitude,
Listening,

I guess I am not Indian now,
When the community turns its back on me,
Walks away,
Even in crisis,

I guess I am not Indian now,
When in healing,
We are a sober family,
Walking the red road to Wellbriety,
This doesn’t make us Indian,

Being Indian is not quantifiable,
Being Indian is not demeaning others or hurting them,
Being Indian is not sayin’ this or that,
It is what is in the heart,
I know the Grandfathers,
I know the Grandmothers would be sad to see our community this way.