Poem: Space

Decolonial space,
Sober space,
Land for the return to the Anishinaabe space,
Matriarchal space,
Jingle dress space,
Traditional hunting space,
Manoomin processing space,
Processing generational trauma space,
Because I am tired of the drama space,
We are not invisible space,
No reason to hide space,
Two-Spirit space,
Ojibwe constellation outer space,
Otter space,
Inner space,
Racism free space,

I know what you want,
A healing space,

Rezitorial lines,
It's my river,
I'm tired of all the space you take up,
Move aside patriarch!
It's my space!

Tribal Communities Need to Honor Two-Spirits

She leaned forward in her chair and said, “You know what I think of those people.  They are diseased like alcoholics.”  

I didn’t feel the need to educate this person because I was literally on cloud 9 the day this venomous hate was directed at me.  It was an unusual day for me as I had on some eyeliner and heels because normally I dress androgynous and without makeup.  Also I didn’t feel like mentioning that two of my cousins are lesbians (Two-Spirit) and I also identify as Two-Spirit.  Instead I just radiated love for myself and towards her hate.  After I left the colonial tribal government building where she worked I decided I would write her a letter.  I never sent the letter.  After talking to other LGBTQQ2S people and allies they asked me if it was really worth my time to counter that bigot?  No, I am not responsible to educate bigots.  Two-Spirits are never responsible to do this work.  Our daily existence is resistance and sometimes it’s enough to make it through the day.  A warrior must not waste an arrow.

Instead after this event I prayed for her to awaken to love within herself and her non-community.  I prayed that maybe one her grandchildren or relatives comes out of the closet.  I didn’t internalize the venom but instead I redirected the hate.  This particularly non-community is not my own.  I have lived within this non-community for 5 years.  I am no longer involved in this non-community.  I mention non-community because it is not a community.  If it was a community this kind of hate would not occur and the epidemic of rampant addictions on this reservation would be addressed.  As one non-community member said to me in passing in a grocery store, “this is a sick community.”  This place has proved itself. 

This wasn’t the only situation where I experienced Two-Spirit hate and there were a few others.  “Traditional healers,” lose their total credibility when they bully and discriminate.  When sobriety is laughed at to your face you know this is a sick person.  They are not in fact a “healer,” but a heteropatriarchal ring-wing redneck Christian.  They are the same illness that has colonized and abused our non-communities.  However with this situation I experienced personal reconciliation when the individual saw me dancing as an old time jingle dress dancer at a traditional powwow.  At the end of powwow’s we have a giveaway and shake everyone’s hand inside the circle.  He came around and shook my hand.  As I would do with any enemy I will look you in the eye.  If you can’t do this then it proves cowardice.  He looked me in the eye but there was a sense that he could see me.  I was not someone to be made fun of, bullied, ridiculed, and ostracized.  At that point he knew what my medicine was and that I am for real in how I walk on this Earth.  Case closed.

Western Michigan is a strange place.  It is full of right wing Christian conservatism in a weird way.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, and creepy White supremacy is buried under the “West Michigan nice,” façade but in reality the whole west side is seething with hate.  West Michigan prides itself on not being Detroit, or up until recently Flint, and they don’t like unions.  Anishinaabe who have directed Two-Spirit hate towards me seem to be worse than non-Natives.  I’ve had conversations with some non-Native conservatives who have sons or daughters who are LGBTQQIAA.  Really amazing conversations to take place.  My politics are such that I don’t necessarily identify with majority culture liberalism because it is dangerous to be existing on fluff, vacuousness, and hippie-dippie “one love” philosophy while ignoring actual oppression.  However I identify as a Two-Spirit Matriarch on the strong foundation of Indigenous survivance and resistance.  I’m not down with heteropatriarchal colonized mindsets and colonized lifeways that pervade our Anishinaabe people.  I’ve found that sometimes I have more in common with a conservative person than a liberal such as sobriety.  This doesn’t make me conservative.  I believe the political spectrum is being challenged and therefore you never know who you will strike up and conversation and what you will have in common. 

Western Michigan ends where Manistee County begins.  Manistee County is not as conservative as Ottawa County.  In fact, much of what is considered Western Michigan makes Manistee County look liberal.  Manistee is solidly union democratic with the city of Manistee having unions and factories.  Many Anishinaabe residing in these areas have been affected by Christianization but something is off.  I was raised liberal/social justice Catholic and Anishinaabe and we were always open to other beliefs, religions, traditions, and ways of being.  What takes place is Western Michigan feels like a poison to who people really are.  I am naming the toxicity.  I naming it because not many people name toxicity yet they exist in it and accept it as is.  I am naming it because it shows how deep colonization is rooted in Anishinaabe people in Western and Northwestern Michigan.  It fuels my life work but it is not mine nor is this energy me.  I am Kchiwiikwedong (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community), Bad River (LaPointe Band of Ojibway), Mooniingwanekaaning-minis (Madeline Island, Wisconsin), Ojibway/Métis, Indigenous Saami, and European My identity is not limited to the area in which I reside.  My identity is expansive like the night sky.  Therefore I use my knowledge and wisdom to decide which battles to take up.  My Two-Spirit identity is sacred to me and should be to every Two-Spirit. 

What does it mean to honor Two-Spirits? 

Two-Spirit is a pan-Indian definition that was adopted in 1990 at a national Two-Spirit gathering in the US.  In order to move forward you must research and find out the names and roles for Two-Spirits in your own language and tribal community or non-community.  Find out the ways in which Two-Spirits were honored and revered.  Create resources within your non-community or community such education and outreach activities.  Draft legislation that prevents Two-Spirit bullying, hate, or discrimination within the reservation boundaries.  Have a circle of elders and allies that will make supportive decisions if Two-Spirits are bullied or ostracized.  Do not assume that because someone is Two-Spirit that they are broken.  Two-Spirits have a vast array of gifts including: healing, mediation, orators, natural counselors (without degrees), medicine people, leaders, warriors, name givers, adoptive parents - "Aunties," storytellers, poets, and artists.  Often in our Anishinaabe non-communities the patriarchy controls who and what does healing out of the notion of “tradition."  We have made no space for Two-Spirits as healers.  We walk in both worlds, male, female, genderfluid, genderqueer, androgynous, non-binary, and more.  Two-Spirits have a vast array of gifts and have survived more trauma, oppression, alienation, and pain, than most people can comprehend.  Because of this we are able to help others recover, reclaim, and heal through the lens of anti-colonial and anti-oppression frameworks.

Two-Spirits were once honored and revered.  Let’s bring this back now.  We can’t delay as we are losing people every day through suicide, addictions, disease, cancer and other unfortunate health issues that plague our non-communities. 

“Two-spirit women must negotiate their triply oppressed status (Jacobs, Thomas, & Lang, 1997). Often, they confront stigma regarding their sexual orientation, not only from the wider society but also from other Natives, their families, and their tribal communities; racism from the wider society and from other sexual minorities; and sexism from both Native and LGBT communities. Facing multiple aspects of oppression, two-spirit individuals not surprisingly are at even greater risk for adverse health outcomes than other Natives (Balsam, Huang, Fieland, Simoni, & Walters, 2004; Walters, 1997; Walters, Simoni, & Horwath, 2001). Despite this increased risk, however, public health and psychological research largely has ignored two-spirit people. Thus, gathering data on two-spirits, including their experiences of abuse and violence and its effects, is an important area for research.” – Abuse, Mastery, and Health Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit American Indian and Alaska Native Women

The Colonial Structure

Tribal government will not bring healing to our communities.  Tribal government models White colonial government structures that have historically oppressed our people.  We don’t walk hand in hand with White government structures so therefore why would solutions be found in colonial imposed Tribal government structures.  When non-communities engage in disenrollment, freezing enrollment, and deny identity based on a few percentages of “Indian blood,” we shouldn’t trust the structure in place.  If you are inside and benefiting then take a look at what you can do change this.  For example, my Aunt Carole LaPointe, is our Health Director for the Donald LaPointe Health and Education Center in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.  Carole introduced legislation in 2014 and now we have a same-sex marriage law in our community.  I give extra props to Carole because she is on the inside and this is one way to make change within.  Follow her lead and bring about change even within the structure. 

Advice for Countering Hate

When venomous hate is directed at you please keep in mind that you have options.  Bullying, discrimination, or being ostracized is something that you don’t have to accept.  Additionally, it is not the responsibility of the Two-Spirit to educate the one who is discriminating you.  When you come face to face with bigotry like I did what usually lies underneath that persons façade is discomfort in themselves, unresolved hurt pain, trauma, and overall internalized oppression.  Then to keep in mind the grand scheme of things therefore you don’t have engage.  You can show how you feel by walking away.  I believe silence doesn’t necessarily mean complacency at this point but for the individual it means peace of mind and safety.  If you do make the decision to counter the hate be prepared for violence to be directed at you.  Have pepper spray on hand to counter physical violence if necessary.  If it does become physical then make sure to you know self-defense techniques.  If you feel the police will support you call them.  There is now more diversity and LGBTQ2S training in many communities around the US.  However given the elevated level of police brutality towards People of Color, Native people, and Two-Spirits you may want to have another plan in mind.  Keep yourself safe.  This safety may be a resource that you normally wouldn’t consider such as a local LGBTQ group or progressive Christian ally.  Keep the door open but protect yourself. 

Love Yourself

I’m not down with cliché feel good sayings because people don’t always feel good.  Especially oppressed people who have been alienated and ostracized.  The message I offer is to love yourself in a radical sense.  If you live in a non-community that is full of lateral violence and elevated levels of gossip then you must grow love within yourself.  You may be totally and completely alone without any support.  This is a vulnerable place to be in but tribal communities aren’t necessarily looking out for vulnerable community members.  Power and privilege (male privilege, Christian privilege, nepotism – same families “running the band”) can and do operate in tribal communities.  Patriarchy wreaks havoc on government structures, ceremonies, family structures, suppresses women’s and Two-Spirits voices.  This is not necessarily the fault of the non-community but the fault of colonization, Christianization, and patriarchy.  We don’t uplift and support the marginalized.  Many tribal non-communities are under the strict federal oversight of the colonial government structure.  Grant funds get approved by federally granting agencies like SAMSHA.  Therefore, tribal communities’ hands are tied.  Grassroots and actual community based initiatives fail and therefore Two-Spirits struggle.  You can’t change the whole structure and you are not responsible to do so.  You must grow love within yourself and nurture your own soul in a radical sense.  This may come off as cold or closed to others.  It is self-preservation in the era of extreme alienation in a sick and unhealthy world. 

Other ways to love yourself include: maintaining a strong connection with the ancestors, finding what spiritual or non-spiritual path works for you (give yourself voice and power), self-care rituals, purchasing flowers or a plant for yourself, talking with an elder you trust regularly, mentoring and supporting a Two-Spirit youth, spending time on the land, eating the healthiest possible foods (given poverty, low-income limitations), and create some support even if it is just one person. 

“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.”- Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit People: Our Work is Decolonization, by Chelsea Vowel


Abuse, Mastery, and Health Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Two-Spirit American Indian and Alaska Native Women

Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit People: Our Work is Decolonization

KBIC legalizes tribally sanctioned same-sex marriage

Two-Spirit People, Body Sovereignty and Gender Self Determination

Walking in Two Worlds: Understanding the Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Community

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,

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.

- - - - - - - - - -

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

The Manoomin Harvest as a Matriarchal Operation

Manoominike Giizis - The Good Berry/Wild Rice Making Moon

The proof is in the ancestors.  The proof is on the land.  The proof is on the water.  The proof is in the stories.  In Anishinaabe Aki we have a lot of work to do in terms of decolonization.  We have work to do in terms of decolonizing Christian and majority culture imposed gender roles.  Men, women, and Two-Spirits can internalize what is not traditional.  You can be patriarchal if you are man, woman, or even Two-Spirit.  In the Native American community we say that men can only do certain things and woman can do only certain thingssuch wear skirts at ceremonies.  Men also traditionally wore some kind of skirt so it is important to challenge these Christian and majority culture imposed notions of what is deemed traditional.  In our everyday lives we are always faced with a man/woman dichotomy and we never include Two-Spirited people who may be identifying as Two-Spirit based on their sexual orientation alone, gender identity alone, or sexual orientation and gender identity in combination.  There is a whole spectrum of identities that our communities had.  I can only speak for the Ojibway as this is my culture and heritage.  Two-Spirit identity varies from tribe to tribe across Turtle Island.

We need to check who is doing what and who is oppressing another in the process.  A patriarchal woman can oppress a matriarchal woman.  A patriarchal Two-Spirited person can oppress a matriarchal Two-Spirit.  A patriarchal man can think he is doing decolonization work and "doing good work," for "his" community when he leads the wild rice harvest.  There is nothing good about claiming and sharing knowledge to a process that has been matriarchal for a very long time.

I haven't come across many people who are willing do to the very difficult work of decolonizing gender roles.  I am probably one of the very very few that has made a commitment to this work.  Instead men benefit from male privilege when they follow and implement the majority culture imposed man/woman dichotomy.  Patriarchal women will benefit from this by "standing by their man."  These types of gender roles can play out in Two-Spirit relationships as well.  Then as we move from our personal lives to community (or non-community) lives and this plays out in everyday interactions from ceremonies, community meetings, talking circles, and our already patriarchal tribal government structures.

This time of year across Anishinaabe Aki many Anishinaabe will be gearing up for harvesting the good berry or what is known as wild rice.  The harvest will have a lot of patriarchy leading knowledge, teachings, and sharing stories that erase women and matriarchal traditions.  I know that my matriarchal ancestors whether male identified, female identified, or Two-Spirited of various identities held down the traditions of matriarchal leadership in an old time and traditional sense as they participated in the harvest. 

Photo: An amazing book by Brenda J. Child.  A must read!

"The wild rice harvest was the most visible expression of women's autonomy in Ojibwe society.  Binding rice was an important economic activity for female workers, who within their communities expressed prior claims to rice and a legal right to use wild rice beds in rivers and lakes through this practice.  Ojibwe ideas about property were not invested in patriarchy, as in European legal traditions.  Therefore, when early travelers and settlers observed Indigenous women working, it would have involved a paradigm shift for them to appreciate that for the Ojibwe, water was a gendered space where women's ceremonial responsibility for water derives from these related legal traditions and economic practices." - p. 25

 "Collectives of women controlled the entire social organization of the harvest, deciding on the rules and locations of campsites.  Harvesting wild rice was labor-intensive and involved many stages of cooperation." - p. 25-26

"One September in the ate nineteenth century, Joseph Gilfillan, an Episcopal missionary in Minnesota, observed an estimated six hundred Ojibwe women gathered for harvest at White Earth but no men." - p. 101

"Nearly all photographs and documents about Ojibwe wild-ricing before the publication of the WPA guide and the federal work camps of the same era represent a female harvest.  Some years before. the Minnesota ethnologist Frances Densmore had noted straightforwardly that "rice was harvested by women." - p. 102

Photo: Manoomin in August 2015.

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:


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)


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