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.

Poem: The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants, Part 5

Majority culture thought

Someone once asked the androgynous man in brown pants,
“Why aren’t you married?”
She replied, “why does the patriarchy exist?”
You would think that he would make a beautiful partner,
Of course the “house wife” would be the Two-Spirit man partner,
To cook for him,
Clean,
Tidy up,
Wash windows,
Fold the linens,
Sweep up sorrows and old traumas accordingly,
After all the Two-Spirit man partner owes him this,
The androgynous man in brown pants,
In his old soul ways,
Has taken the pile of keys and stacked them next to books,
They have prepared themselves for misunderstanding,
From the humans on Earth,

Checklist

I fooled you at female,
I fooled you at male,
The checklist is annoying,
You will not find me in small boxes,
Where I get nervous filling in the information,
To these colonial-white man-makes me sick white paperwork,

My checklist is on birch bark,
Touched with the blood memory seeping through my fingers,
This is the checklist I hold,
As the memories of the ancestors,
Make their way to my heart,
My spirit feels at home,

Continuous gardening

Nimaamaa handed them a poem at 15 years old,
From her left hand,
Sitting at her desk in the dining room,
The poem was about tending to your own garden,
Nurturing your own soul,
I read it and leaped up the stairs to my room,
Exclaiming, "I will get a Master's degree and not rely on a man!"
The same applies to this day,
So they tend,
Tend,
Tend,

The patriarchy has proven its laziness,
The diagnosis is stagnation,
As a Two-Spirit they do it all,
They work,
Maintain,
Tidy,
Grow,
Live,
Breath,
Love,
Decolonize,
Heal,
Repair,
Cleanse,

Man’s Work

All around are images on women,
Patriarchal women,
Cheap women,
Appeasing the man’s needs,
Human sexuality is odd,
For much of human’s existence on this Earth,
The whole act hasn’t been based on love,
Does anyone on this Earth know what true love is?

Can you hear me out there?
Jiibay Zibi,
Bugonagiizhig,
Madoo’asinik,
Gaagige Giizhig,
Anung Nibwakawin 

Don’t you know love?
True love?

Your body as healed,
Your heart as healed,

Zaagidwein!

Poem: The Copper Mine to the Copper Mind

The Origins of Suburban Crisis

If you didn’t feel comfortable in your body,
When your sweaty palms made streaks on the desk at school,
When homogenization tactics left you alone,
Your voice is vibrating between this powerline and the one 500 miles away,

You had become a fierce warrior at twelve,
When the junior high principal ostracized you,
Injustice was nothing new,
Instead of your concerns being taken seriously,
You cut your arms all alone,

Chi Miigwech Mother Love Bone/Green River/Andy Wood/original non-corporate grunge,

While grunge understood you there was no way to process this energy,
They give you the “at-risk,” label,
Toss out nets of prevention but never deal with the root cause,

Rocks on the railroad tracks,
There were no cultural teachings,
Just a plastic Indian doll from China picked up at a tourist destination in Saint Ignace,
A gift and small gesture,
The culture was still far away as the ancestors sorrow yet to be healed,

I do love these plastic feathers,
They are all I have in suburbia,
The spiraling of building and construction,
Destruction and land loss,
My culture became this liberal utopia prior to gentrification,
The Dandelion Antique Shop,
Vintage Noir,
Going Once Going Twice,
Art and telephone wires,
They spiral into my heart to fill the soul sadness unexplainable in 1992,

Telephone

The telephone was plastic,
I push these buttons hard,
The sound spirals down the wires,
I hope sound vibrates through the wires in the sky and way up north to the ancestors,

They looked at you as the other,
The police came twice,
The table was flipped,
Generational trauma was swept out the front door,

Youth Indian Catholic Worker

Your heart aligned with the speeding train,
There was the “guy with the green hat,”
And I knew that I knew him,
Or maybe I was him?

I loved the speeding train,
The wind through my soul,
My hair strands catch a breeze,
To the train south,

The ancestors on da Soo line,
Riding out this copper mine,
To the copper mind,
Of decolonization,
In a cedar lodge of healing in Kchiwiikwedong,

Constellation Hearts Desire

An oak leaf was peace,
Most of those in suburban crisis could not see this peace,
Colorful telephone wires in a corner of a basement,
Connect to Ojibwe constellations,
The night sky without sounds,
To the sound of my heart,
The fingernails on my neck,
I will touch my neck in a loving way,
We are healing now.

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: The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants, Part 3

Urban living/freeways/repulse/recluse

She has combed the streets with her hands,
Found absolutely nothing,
Strangers peered into her heart from alleyways and buildings,
She ran away,
Flight,

The criteria was distraction,
A solution and potion made for delusion,
Diluting the prospects of the soul for elevation,

The majority culture consciousness was retrospective,
But numbing at the same time,

Decolonization for real/very lonely chapter as she awaits the sunrise of the soul of her people,

The churches need not exist on the land,
Symbols of power and might,
Symbols of abuse and silence,

Destroying infallibility of patriarchal structures,
Even the traditional teachings have been distorted,

A man who is female/a male who is a woman,

He became lonely as the world was not deep and meaningful,
Many had ignored his loneliness because he appeared in a female body,
He had tossed the checklist of commitments based on gender roles into the fire,

Eating disorder recovered/recovery/still yet burdened with mixed messages,

The body is a deception to the truth,
The love of the soul is found in the depths,

Healing lungs/we have a right to breath/to fully heal,

Breathing now,
We free up these old constraints,
More flight but not fighting now,

The androgynous man in brown pants has merged with he/she and she/he,
The androgynous man in brown pants is now complete.

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Please see the original - The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants
Please see the next one too -- The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants, Part 2