Poem: New Age Sacred Sage

I’ve got this feeling,
I’m feigning for sage,
This sacred sage,
It is so sacred,
That is was my destiny to arrive at this new age shop,
To buy $50 worth of sacred sage,

I walk out of the store and nearly bump into a real Native American,
But I am not sure,
Their skin was light,
Their skin was dark,
Their hair was golden,
Their hair was red,
Their nose was small,
Their nose was pointed,

They didn’t fit the stereotype in my colonial suburban mind,
I believe I just had a divine experience,
I ask,
Are you Native American?
They say a tribe I have never heard,
They yell back at me and say I should know the tribes in the area,
They light up that Pall Mall cigarette and storm away,
Down the sidewalk with an old rolling suitcase,
Torn and stained,

I’m hurt,
I need to smudge this bad energy from the Native American,

I climb into my suburban Volvo,
Drive to my cul-de-sac named “Indian Springs,”
It’s my right,
I’ve achieved every bit of what I have,
Angry Indians,
I’m enlightened,


Poem: Pasta

I’ve been trying to ease the pain of generational trauma,
Through prevention,
As I stand on my track in 48067 in 1997,
I gaze at the clouds,
The trains in the distance fill my soul with a fire,
To run and fly,

I am destined to be great,
But generational trauma takes a toll at age 20,

I’ve towed the line with some of the best,
My bourgeoisie White track friends let me not shave my legs,
They honor my heritage,

But what they don’t see is the pain or sorrow,
Yet to percolate to the surface,
In the suburbs everything appears to be alright,
With do gooder white liberalism,
Supporting my dreams,

But down in the dorm in Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
I am feeling the sorrow of Chief Oshkosh,
The looming darkness envelopes me,
I am in my darkest days,

Once the picture perfect role model,
I am now surveying the darkness of my soul,
Haunts of old,
Demons surround,
I don’t know what self-care means,

I am towing the line of self-mutilation,
Internalized grief eats away at my body,
Which gets funneled into running when I was supposed to be done,
With those competitive days of glory chasing my Timex dreams,

I am running on the land of a sorrowful place,
A sign of suicide awareness in the community,
Beauty has left my face,
I am physically gray,

From 2002-2006 I struggle to maintain my equilibrium,
I wanted to run away but where?

Pasta and perfection,
Measuring cups of Allure magazine direction,
Plastic beauty that I never wanted,

As a Two-Spirit my soul is torn,
Paint your nails,
Go out on the town,
Breathe the fumes of environmental racism of the sorrow of smoke,
Numb the pain in a bar off Cass Avenue before gentrification,

The Androgynous Man in Brown Pants,
Yes he is me,

I am the worker from my past lifetimes,
Holding onto that bread that is stifling my soul,
I’ve released that bread to the sea,
From the top of the Tower Bridge in my dreams,

This time in 2018 I finally heal and I can eat pasta again,
No longer do plastic measuring cups define my existence,
No longer does the dorm room eating disorder smell haunt my existence,
No longer does the current of unknown generational grief haunt me with every turn I make,
No longer does the perfection of athleticism and “stars of track and field” win,

My soul is more free and so are we,
The relations,

It may take 12 years to crumple up that trauma and toss into the fire,
The smoke cleanses out and out and out,

They were listening to our prayers.

Indian, Non-Indian Conversation

The Indian and Non-Indian are having a conversation about their lives. 

Non-Indian: "I've got a shiny fancy car and I WORKED for it!"

Indian: "People assume I am poor.  I got this Indian truck.  Its rusty and the door is creaky."

Non-Indian: "I really worked HARD for what I've got.  I know it must be "God's will."

Indian: "I work really hard but nothing ever seems to come of my efforts.  I just remain poor, invisible and undervalued."

Non-Indian: "I've been able to keep and hold down jobs.  I don't like people using the system."

Indian: "I've had my share of part time jobs often with no benefits and I've dealt with racism in many of my jobs.  I can never seem to get an interview for a full time job."

Non-Indian: "My parents both graduated from college."

Indian: "My home life was really hard and there was a lot of abuse.  I also got bullied in school so I dropped out in 11th grade."

Non-Indian: "I demand good customer service and I expect it."

Indian: "Usually I get treated like shit."

Non-Indian: "I don't understand why people just can't pull themselves up by their bootstraps?"

Indian: "I found boots at Goodwill but there were no straps."

Non-Indian: "I spent $300 this week at the grocery store and dropped off a bag of groceries at our church's food pantry.  I feel it is good to help the "poor."

Indian: "My food stamp allotment was $170 for the month and I picked up a box of food at this local church because my food stamps couldn't cover everything."

Non-Indian:  "I decided to go to this super progressive chocolate shop and treat myself.  I had an extra $40 bucks so I got three chocolate bars and 3 truffles.  I was waited on right away and the customer service was phenomenal." 

Indian:  "I decided to go treat myself and get a single $2 truffle from this fancy bourgeoisie "fair trade, progressive and liberal," chocolate shop.  However I waited 15 minutes in line and was ignored while other well dressed customers with credit cards were served before me.  When I spoke out against the apparent injustice and discrimination I experienced the workers denied it."

Non-Indian: "I once went to a reservation for a "mission" trip with my church."

Indian: "I got angry at the people trying to "help" us.  They brought a bible with them and were imposing their religious views on us."

Non-Indian:  "In my past life I know I was Native American.  I really love the culture."  

Indian:  "If you were Native American in your past life I wonder if you lived on a rez, worked at the tribal gas station for minimum wage, dealt with constant racism and discrimination like I have my whole entire life.  Please stop romanticizing who we are."

Article: The One (Dreadful) Thing They Don't Call Themselves

Just in time for the Super Bowl, the National Congress of American Indians has released Proud To Be, a powerful new ad that seeks to explain why the Washington Redskins name - which never gets mentioned - is a racist horror that needs to be changed. With a fascinating history of the word, from its reportedly "benign" origins to its use in 1860s bounty notices - "$200 for every red-skin sent to purgatory" - to the decades-long fight to change a name that ignorant rich people like owner Dan Snyder, all of whom should know better but somehow don't, continue to insist is "a badge of honor." Tell them it's not. It's time they join this century.

Article: The One (Dreadful) Thing They Don't Call Themselves

Article: The two solitudes of two-spirit

Many queer aboriginal Canadians juggle different aspects of their identity in order to fit in

Gina Metallic doesn’t think anyone should have to choose between different aspects of their identity in order to fit into the mold of the conventional and socially acceptable.

And, she’s not going to anymore.

“I’m queer,” says Metallic, who is a Mi’gmaq woman originally from Listagouche, Quebec. She is speaking to packed room at Montreal’s Native Friendship Centre. “But, I’m also aboriginal, and these two things are really important to me.”

While Metallic once felt the need to forfeit her aboriginal culture in favour of her sexuality, she has come to realize that there is space for her to embrace both. When addressing both native and non-native people, Metallic identifies as two-spirit.

Depending who you ask, the term can be defined and interpreted in a variety of ways. Generally, two-spirit people have long been considered integral to indigenous society — and often held healing and teaching roles within their communities. These roles differ greatly between aboriginal nations, and have been diversely affected by colonization over time.

Metallic says the term two-spirit expresses that she is part of a sexual minority, being lesbian, while also implying that she belongs to an indigenous community.

“The western world uses the word ‘queer’ as an umbrella term to encompass all of the little labels that people either choose to take or not, which is what I think two-spirited is — it’s like our umbrella term,” she says, adding that the term ought to be used exclusively by aboriginal people, and does not belong to anyone else.

Metallic only recently began embracing a two-spirit identity, and hadn’t even heard of the term until she moved to Montreal in 2005.

Since then, she’s received an MA in social work from McGill University, with her thesis focusing on two-spirit identity development — an experience that has been enlightening, both personally and professionally.

“Growing up in a normal community I wasn’t exposed to too much,” Metallic says. “We didn’t really talk about gay people or gay things.” She says her move to the city opened her eyes to a new, diverse array of people, and offered her a potential to explore options no longer limited to heterosexuality.

But, the move didn’t come without cost.

“When I started to go to the gay village in Montreal, I actually lost my culture,” she says. “I felt like there was so much racism in the gay community, so there was a need to reject my culture.”

Metallic says that through her own extensive research, she’s realized that her experience of feeling the need to choose one or the other —“full lesbian or aboriginal” — was not uncommon amongst two-spirit people.While she felt like she couldn’t completely be herself in the city, she also experienced a similar phenomenon when returning to the reserve.

“I think there is more homophobia in communities that are located in more rural areas,” she says. “They aren’t as exposed to as many different types of people.”

Metallic says that while her maternal family embraced her “two-spiritedness,” her paternal side hasn’t really spoken to her since she came out.

Akwiratékha Martin is a language teacher from the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, located just south of Montreal.  He also identifies as two-spirit, but his family and community are extremely accepting of his identity. “I got very lucky with my surroundings and my people,” he says. For Martin, though, his experience in the city wasn’t as easy.

“I didn’t fit in, it was really hard, because they didn’t understand different aspects of my culture, I felt I had to explain myself all the time.”

Martin believes that it is extremely important to participate in one’s community, whether it happens to be located on a reserve or in the city.

“That’s what two-spirited is about, it’s about giving back to the community, and contributing to it,” he says. “Not to just be gay or be lesbian, but to do your own thing — for me, my role was learning and teaching my language.”

He says that as a two-spirit person it is important to be open to dialogue, and be responsive to people’s curiosity, even when it may come off as ignorant.

Metallic agrees, and she is adamant that improving education will certainly ease the current struggles faced by two-spirit people. “In the schools this is still very taboo,” she says, pointing to a lack of literature and resources available on the subject of two-spiritedness, a void that she believes is perpetuating the silence around it. “We need more resources, to build a community, to hold events — we need to have a spot in the pride parades, and we need an organization.”

Metallic thinks Montreal is lagging behind cities like Toronto in terms of available material and community groups. “Until those things are really set in place, I think people will continue to experience that duality of choosing between the queer lifestyle and the aboriginal lifestyle, without realizing that you can actually have both.”

The difficulty of juggling and potentially dropping different aspects of one’s identity isn’t a struggle faced exclusively by two-spirit people, but it is a challenge that stands to affect anyone belonging to a minority.

“Each one of us has many identities that we try to manage in our lives,” says Amal Elsana Alh’jooj, a scholar and activist. “’I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’m Palestinian, I’m Bedouin, I’m Israeli and I’m a feminist.”

Those don’t all work harmoniously together, she says, noting that in order to be accepted in society, something — or in her case, multiple things — had to give.

“People who are oppressed, for the sake of the oppressor, need to be one thing, when we become more than one thing it becomes a challenge for them,” Alh’jooj says.

She came to Montreal’s Native Friendship to see how the aboriginal population had dealt with this issue, as it was one that has similarly affected her and many others in her home community. “So many people that I know have given up,” she says. “I wanted to see how these people have dealt with facing a national challenge, being aboriginal, but also personal challenge in terms of their sexual orientation.”

The answer, vocalized repeatedly at the centre, is a need for open-minded dialogue and more education.

Metallic is doing her part in paving the way, be being vocal about her identity, both on and off reserve. She was named 2013 role model in her community, and her two-spirit identity was proudly plastered around on posters in town. “If people are uncomfortable with it, that’s their issue,” she says.  “I’m not going to continue to hide myself, there is nothing to be ashamed about.”

Article: The two solitudes of two-spirit