Poem: Warrior Within

There is a warrior within that can rise above,
There is a warrior within that can rise above in the face of oppression,
There is a warrior within that can rise above in the face of addiction,
There is a warrior within that can rise above in the face of sadness,
There is a warrior within that can rise above in the face of anger,
Intense rage,
Intense depression,
Intense helplessness,
The warrior knows the heart and soul can rise above,
The feelings of powerlessness,
The feelings of defeat,
The soul can rise,
The heart in pain,
Can heal,
There is a warrior within that can rise above with bravery,
The warrior has always been there,
The warrior can remove layers of shame,
Guilt,
Darkness surrounds the warrior,
The warrior within can sweep aside the darkness,
The warrior is powerful,
The warrior has a voice,
See yourself as the warrior that is present,
Peaceful,
Content,
Healed,
And healing,
Valuable,
Loved,
By your family,
Parents,
Sisters,
Friends,
Relatives,
Cousins,
Aunts,
Uncles,
Grandparents,
Ancestors from all directions and sides,
The warrior can find strength within,
Remember there is a warrior within that can rise above.

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

Article: 9 Ways Native Men Can Heal From Historical Trauma

Historical trauma has taken its toll on Native people, and Clayton Small, Northern Cheyenne, founder of Native Prevention, Research, Intervention, Development, and Education, or Native P.R.I.D.E., spent years developing ways to help Native men overcome the effects.

“Colonization has diminished the roles of being a father, a man, a warrior. Over generations, men have resorted to unhealthy addictions to food, sex, alcohol, gambling, as a way to cope,” Small said. “We need to admit that historical trauma is a part of our history, but that doesn’t have to stop us from growing today and becoming a good, responsible man.”

In a webinar entitled “Fatherhood and Wellness” Small offered many solutions for men to heal from past traumas. Here are nine of them:

Spirituality

Regardless of the way you practice it, Small said, “Spirituality is our greatest source of strength and an important part of our healing journey. Ceremonies renew us, our families, the universe, and the earth. When we participate in the sacred we realize that there is a power greater than us, and that it’s okay to ask for help.”

Recognize Feelings

Small said there are four feelings: mad, sad, glad, and afraid. “Men are champions at expressing anger but other feelings are difficult for us. We talk about those things in ceremony, so we just need to transfer that sense of safety and belonging outside of ceremony into everyday life.”

Embrace Your Culture

Small said going to pow wows and other gatherings is important but, “We have to hang out with healthy men. If we hang out with knuckleheads we are going to become a knucklehead. So the lesson here is that it’s okay to be a recovering knucklehead.”

Learn to Forgive

Small said that sometimes children are hurt, betrayed, abandoned, disciplined harshly, abused, and neglected. Other times, young “knuckleheads” must learn to forgive themselves. Small recommends, “You can open the door to forgiveness by saying, ‘I hope and pray that at some point you can forgive me and we can have a good relationship.’ Sometimes the son has to initiate reconciliation with his parents, especially when his father is still angry and bitter or into unhealthy addictions.” In his own healing journey, the son can encourage the father to seek a wellness path.

Clayton Small said that when we live within the circle, we are in balance. The boxes outside the circle represent challenges to becoming a responsible husband, father, and grandfather. (Courtesy Clayton Small)
Clayton Small said that when we live within the circle, we are in balance. The boxes outside the circle represent challenges to becoming a responsible husband, father, and grandfather. (Courtesy Clayton Small)


Communication

Knowing your parent’s history helps to forgive them, Small said. “Find out about their childhood; did they go to boarding schools? Was there alcohol and violence in the family?” Often, parents don't want to talk about these issues, however Small said it is important. “It’s not about making them feel bad, it’s about healing and reaching a level where we can let some of those strong feelings go. Forgiving our parents is one of the challenges in our healing journey. If it was easy we would have done it yesterday,” Small said. “With a warm handshake, we need to say we are here for each other, let’s do this together. We feel safe talking about these things with women, but we also need to have that same conversation with other men. Our men need to learn to talk to each other about more than sports, weather and dirty jokes.”

Shame and Embarrassment

These things happen when men can’t get a job or provide food or shelter for their families or “when they were young and foolish, you hurt or betrayed someone else,” Small said. Instead of a lifetime of regret, Small encouraged men to say, “I did the best I could and that’s good enough. Today, I am going to choose to let those feelings go. That’s called healing. Older and wiser men can become responsible fathers and husbands.” He also said, “Let it go and give it to the creator, to the spirits. I went through therapy and ceremonies. We have to be honest and open and listen to feedback from other people.”

Avoiding Violence

“It takes a lot of courage to be humble, to express tears. We have so many losses that go unresolved in Indian country. There are funerals every week. When we don't know how to deal with that grief, we may turn to drugs and alcohol and violence. It’s okay to get emotional. It’s okay for men to cry,” Small said. “Our men have not been conditioned to express their feelings in a healthy way. We know how to express anger and violence, but we have a difficult time saying, ‘I am afraid, I am hurt.’ Our men need to take time to do the grief work, to ask for help.”
 
In this drawing a warrior rides among the bloodied victims of war and chooses to count coup rather than resort to violence against the man in his path. (Courtesy Clayton Small)
In this drawing a warrior rides among the bloodied victims of war and chooses to count coup rather than resort to violence against the man in his path. (Courtesy Clayton Small)


 Overcome Conditioning

Small said that experiences in our youth conditions our behavior for the rest of our life, “but that doesn't mean we can’t change and grow. If we have a crisis or stressful situation, we might resort to drinking again. The key is to get back up. Use our spirituality and resources of strength, ask for help, but it’s not up to someone else to save me. I have to do my part.”

Honor Our Women

Our women need to stand side by side with us, equal in the relationship as wife, mother, partner, and with an assertiveness in the relationship that only happens when we have broken those unhealthy cycles, Small said.

“Fatherhood and Wellness,” can be heard in its entirety on the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center website. The webinar offers many additional ways to heal relationships and avoid destructive behaviors and situations. Native P.R.I.D.E offers workshops throughout the country.

The National Indigenous Women's Network provides a wide variety of wellness webinars.

“We are all a work in progress and healing takes place over time. What really helps men is to spend time with other men who are on a wellness path. That really helps the light bulb click on,” Small said. “I don't have to spend time feeling hurt or angry or betrayed. Other men are going through the same things I am and we can work on things together. I don't have to stay stuck.”

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/08/26/9-ways-native-men-can-heal-historical-trauma-161419#main-content

Article - Indigenous Women and Two-Spirited People: Our Work is Decolonization!

“Be a Good Girl” by Tania Willard
“Be a Good Girl” by Tania Willard

by Chelsea Vowel

Indigenous women and two-spirited people are leading a resurgence movement in iyiniwi-ministik, the People’s Island.  They draw on their traditional roles as protectors of the land and water to inform their work in our communities, and root themselves in their specific socio-political orders to counter colonialism and to revitalize language and culture. Rather than being defined as a struggle against patriarchal gender roles and the division of labour, Indigenous women and two-spirited people’s work combats the imposition of colonial barriers. The goal is not to attain gender equality, but rather to restore Indigenous nationhood, which includes gender equality and respect for gender fluidity.

As I write this I can hear Khelsilem Rivers (Skwxwú7mesh-Kwakwaka‘wakw), a community organizer from Vancouver, pointing out that not all Indigenous peoples have the same traditions, and that to avoid perpetuating Pan-Indian stereotypes, we need to have honest discussions about the diversity of our traditions. This is an important point indeed, as not all Indigenous nations have the same traditions with respect to the fluidity of gender roles. Romanticizing ourselves as a collective unfortunately plays into “noble savage” stereotypes and does damage in the long run. With so many Indigenous people disconnected from their specific traditions, even so-called positive stereotypes are a form of continuing erasure.

Even among nations with traditional binary gender roles or hierarchical socio-political orders, there is nothing that can accurately compare to the system of patriarchy imposed by colonialism which mainstream Settler feminism aligns itself against. Our internal struggles with traditional roles are not analogous to the issues that Settler peoples have with their traditions, and so using western liberal theory to deconstruct them is inherently incongruous.

Indigenous traditions are not frozen in time any more than other people’s traditions are. Our peoples have been trading more than goods for thousands of years, passing along ceremonies, medicines, and ideas just as easily as copper and fish. We are capable of change and have no reason not to embrace it, as long as that change respects our reciprocal obligations to one another and to the territories in which we live. We do not need to look to western liberal notions of individual equality, which so often ignore our communal existence and insist that land and resources must be thought of as property. Instead, we can look to the laws of our Indigenous neighbours if we need to review our traditions. It is precisely this approach that is being taken up by many women and two-spirited individuals in Indigenous communities as they pursue sexual health, revitalization of language and culture, and renewal of relationships with the land.

In a recent piece titled “Beyond Eve Ensler: What Should Organizing Against Gender Violence Look Like,” Cherokee scholar Andrea Smith points out that, “the very category of ‘woman’ has served as a tool of violence… Colonialism has operated by imposing a gender binary system in indigenous communities in order to facilitate the imposition of colonial heteropatriarchy.” She goes on to suggest that organizing around violence against trans and two-spirited peoples is central to any struggle against gender violence. It is important to understand that this struggle against gender violence is central to Indigenous decolonization efforts, and cannot be separated from that context.

The focus on trans and two-spirited people as central to decolonization is incredibly important. The groundbreaking work of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) epitomizes this approach. NYSHN works with “Indigenous peoples across the United States and Canada to advocate for and build strong, comprehensive, and culturally safe sexuality and reproductive health, rights, and justice initiatives in their own communities.” NYSHN provides pragmatic, honest, and clear information on sexual health, and also engages in the renewal and revitalization of Indigenous traditions related to all aspects of Indigenous health.

The barriers currently facing Indigenous women and two-spirited people are severe and informed by the history of colonialism. These barriers include the refusal of the Canadian government to institute an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, as well as the ongoing removal of Indigenous children from their families in numbers that exceed those taken by the residential school system and the sixties scoop combined.  This cataclysmic interference has taken a devastating toll on the health of all of our people, but colonially imposed gender imbalances ensure that Indigenous women and two-spirited people bear the brunt of the consequences. The added marginalization experienced by two-spirited people can sometimes be overlooked because the social outcomes for Indigenous peoples are already, in general, very grim. To look at any of this solely through the lens of Western feminism is to miss the larger picture.

The imposition of colonial patriarchy has marginalized Indigenous women and two-spirited people through Indian Act governance systems, and the Indian Act itself. Until 1985, when amendments were made to the Indian Act, an Indigenous woman who married a non-Indigenous man lost her legal status as an Indian, and was unable to pass on status to her children. In this way, generations of women and their children were denied their identities, and even their homes. The impact of the loss of legal identity is still being felt among Indigenous people through the struggle to reconnect with their families and communities.

Until very recently, two-spirited people were not recognized at all by Canadian law or society. In the eyes of Canadians they do not exist—they are concealed by the gender-essentialized structures of colonialism, which have abolished their traditional places in Indigenous societies. So effective were Church- and government-led erasures of our two-spirited peoples, that reconstructing traditional two-spirited roles and ceremonies is too often seen as peripheral to wider movements of resurgence. Andrea Smith’s call to recenter our resurgence around two-spirited people, and the work of groups like the NYSHN, reminds us that we must decolonize even our priorities as Indigenous peoples.

Structural erasures of Indigenous women and two-spirited people have had a role in shaping their work as agents of resurgence. In a way, the overwhelming masculinization of Indian Act governance systems has ensured that Indigenous women and two-spirited people are less likely to be co-opted by colonial powers, and less invested in maintaining those colonial structures. Indigenous women have continued to exercise power through traditional (and often unpaid) ways, maintaining traditional governance structures in many communities. Two-spirited people have not necessarily experienced the same retention of traditional roles, however, and much work is needed to reconstruct and recenter our two-spirited relations within our communities. Acknowledging and honouring two-spirited peoples is vital to resisting resurgence based on gender essentialisms that purport to “honour women” while simply recreating colonial patriarchal gender roles with a bit of “Indian flair.”

The deliberate exclusion of Indigenous women and two-spirited people from colonial structures of power has meant that almost by default, the work of these people is highly politicized, as it must happen outside those colonial structures. This is not to say that Indigenous women and two-spirited people have absolutely no access to colonial structures of power. In recent years, there has been more inclusion of women, though not necessarily of two-spirited people, in Indian Act governance systems. Yet one has only to do a head count of male to female Indian Act Chiefs to notice this recent inclusion shamefully mirrors the “inclusion” of women in Canadian politics, which is tokenism at best.

Indigenous women and two-spirited people experience all of the barriers faced by Settler women and LGBT people, as well as the barriers experienced by Indigenous people in a state defined by Settler colonialism. These barriers cannot be sifted out and separated from one another. If you understand this, it is much easier to comprehend the work being done by Indigenous people like Leanne Simpson, Cindy Blackstock, Andrea Smith, Christi Belcourt, Lee Maracle, Maria Campbell, Bridget Tolley, Jessica Danforth, and so many others. All of these people root their work in their Indigenous traditions, bringing forth traditional understandings in acts of resurgence so potent, and so compelling, that I urge every single person living in the People’s Island to become familiar with them.

Indigenous women and two-spirited people must bear a heavy burden, working to re-establish and revitalize Indigenous socio-political orders, exercise sovereignty, and live resurgence: indeed it can be very dangerous and draining work. It should not be required at all. We should not have to work so hard to overcome barriers imposed by people who were supposed to share these lands with us, as guests and eventually as kin. Nonetheless, to exist as an Indigenous woman or two-spirited person is an inherently political act. Simply resisting our erasure is part of our work.

êkosi ♦

ARTIST STATEMENT: “BE A GOOD GIRL”

“Be a Good Girl” (2006 woodcut print, courtesy of the Collection of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada) is a reflection on the gendered work expectations and training of women in the 1950s. I have explored this topic by looking at Indian residential schools, and the ways in which young Native women were trained in an effort to transform them into good working-class wives and workers. The Indian residential school system had a half-day labour program for girls, which was abolished in 1952 out of concern that children were not receiving an education, but were only serving the financial needs of the school. Residential schools forbade Native children from speaking their languages or practicing their culture in an attempt to mold them, for their “salvation,” into productive members of white, capitalist society. The residential schools were part of a dark history of racism and genocide in Canada and continue to have negative effects. This sort of gendered work training, however, was not reserved for the assimilation of Natives; training schools like the Ontario Training School for Girls rehabilitated young women with “loose” morals and other traits that were not tolerated in the ’50s. Both white working class and Native girls attended these training schools. This piece is about the conflicts, spiritual paradoxes, and societal expectations of young women in the ’50s.

Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation, is an artist and designer based in Vancouver. Through her art and design she hopes to communicate the stories and voices we are unable to hear—the voices that are missing and erased from our histories and realities.

“Indigenous Women and Two-Spirited People: Our Work is Decolonization” is from our spring 2014 issue, Women’s Work

Article: An open letter of apology to my First Nation and Indigenous sisters

Luanna Harper, Plains Cree. (Photo: Ingrid Foster) This is a sincere and long-overdue apology to the Anishinaabekwe and to all indigenous and First Nation women.  From the bottom of my heart, it is with truth, a humility, a love, and an unwavering respect that I write these words to each of you today -- my Sisters.

I apologize for every time we, as men, do not make you feel beautiful, valued, appreciated, cherished, and worthy of nothing less than respect, reverence, and honour -- not only with our words, but with our actions and how the very lives we live align with the words we speak.

I apologize for each time we, as men, do not congratulate you on each of your successes, when we fail to take the time to listen (and hear) your dreams and aspirations, and when we do not commit ourselves to supporting and encouraging you every single step along the way as you support and encourage us -- and just as committed and just as frequently.

For each time we forget that the small things matter and sincere sentiments truly count. For each time we forget to cook you soup and keep warm blankets (and your favourite movies) in-reach when you're feeling under the weather. For each time we think of taking a moment to leave you that note to wish you a good day before we leave for work, but choose not to again and again. For each time we have the opportunity to call you at the office or at home to tell you that you're on our minds, but decide we're "too busy." And for each time we stay silent instead of telling you "Miigwech for being who you are. I'm very thankful you're in my life."

For every time we disregard our traditional teachings which instruct us to treat each of you with respect, kindness and as equals -- in ways that we would want our own Mothers and Sisters to be treated. But also, for each time we sidestep our responsibilities of understanding, kindness and compassion to challenge other men when they disrespect you or treat you as anything less than sacred.

I apologize for every elected or entrusted leader who preaches-hollow about "protecting our Nations" and "valuing Seven Generations Forward" at a community gathering, at election time, or from a faraway podium while, at the same time, not respecting or valuing their own wife, partner or daughters in the very home they share. Ironically, wives, partners and daughters are all the very centre of our Nations and those who make Seven Generations Forward possible.


Read more -- An open letter of apology to my First Nation and Indigenous sisters | rabble.ca