Poem: From Eagle Rock to Standing Rock

Every treaty broken,
Meanwhile genocidal amnesia plagues the land,

We have never left the land,
We have always spoken for the land,
We have never left the water,
We have always spoken for the water,

From Eagle Rock way up in the UP,
In the 1842 Treaty of LaPointe territories,
In Anishinaabe Aki,
To the Ring of Fire,
Attawapiskat First Nation,
Neskantaga First Nation,
Aamjiwnaang First Nation,
To Standing Rock,
We join hands across Turtle Island,
Our tears become the cleansing waters,

Hands on the land,
Hands on the water,
Standing for the land,
Standing for the water,

Ancestors draw near,
Touch our hearts and souls,
As a people we rise,
Together in prayer,

Across Turtle Island injustice is normalized,
Through militarized colonial violence,
Denial of Indigenous identity,
Voice or visibility,
Our sacred sites gated with barbed wire and barricades,
They tell us our lands are not as worthy as a church,
Dominion reigns,

Eagle Rock is mined below,
We have no access to it,
Contamination of the soul is welcome,
We seek to bring healing,

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community fought for 12 years,
The colonial white government ignores our voices,
Colonization has never ended,

The security guards laugh and take pictures,
I tell them this is our land,
My heart connected to Migizi Wa Sin,
Through the barbed wire fence,
Our heart is Migizi Wa Sin,
I love you my family,
I love you my relatives,
I love you my ancestors,
I love our land,
I love our water,
The ancestors still protect Migizi Wa Sin,
We still protect Migizi Wa Sin,

Missing and murdered Indigenous women,
Girls and Two-Spirits,
Sex trafficking,
The Bakken,
Duluth,
Thunder Bay,
The ports,
Broken hearts,
Broken lives,
Wounded souls,
We never wanted to live this way,

The water flows under the steel and iron,
The voice silenced,
She never wanted to live this way,
Maybe the water will lead her to safety?
To heal,
To be renewed,

We are all rising,
So no one else goes missing in the oil fields,
On a Great Lakes freighter,

We are all rising,
To prevent more pipelines,
Which bring the toxic and patriarchal violence of "man camps,"
To say no more to colonial sexual violence,
We are on the tributary of a healing to a decolonized future,
When we stand and speak,

Eagle Rock is our ancestral soul,
Standing Rock is our ancestral soul,
Resonation in healing justice,

Heart,
Spirit,
Land,
Water is life,

The ancestral soul is rising,
We are rising,
We are here,
We are here with our ancestors,
We are here with the ones to come,

We are singing,
We are dancing,
We are speaking,
We are healing,
We are love.

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.

- - - - - - - - - -

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

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

Poem: He Didn't Mean To

I could be like Victor,
And throw the empties at your abandoned house,
No one will say that "we ain't doing this no more,"
At least no one in your family,
They will turn a blind eye,
Even when the results and facts are as such,

Unlike Arlene,
No one could say to you that,
"We ain't doing this no more! No more! We're done with it,"
Instead you threw that suit case in your truck and ran,

I guess you "didn't mean to,"
Broken furnace,
Standing water in the basement for years,
Slowly draining,
Slowly filling,
Mold growing up the walls,
In the walls,
In the floor boards,
Furniture,
Clothes,
Soiled and wet carpet,
Mail piling up,
Foreclosure,

I guess you "didn't mean to,"
You could cry but never share why,
Instead moldy pictures of the past you held in your hand,
Alcohol destroying your spirit,
Drugs making it worse,
Shutting the door to everyone,
You are not there,
Hello I say,
Boozhoo I say,
No answer,
The torment of letting go slowly,
The suppressed feelings,
Emotions,
Abuse,
The family system broken,

Then Thomas asks Victor,
"Hey Victor, do you know why your dad really left?"
Victor responds, 
"Yeah. He didn't mean to Thomas,"

He's been running his whole life,
This Indian guy,
I used to be you,
I used to run away,
I remember sitting in a circle with "friends" in a house in Oshkosh Wisconsin,
Feeling ungrounded and wanting to run,
Feeling unsafe with these "friends" like they would take advantage of me,
Or rape,
Or sexual assault,
Then all the parties,
I don't want to remember throwing up,
Weighing 104 pounds,
Or almost renting a shoebox sized apartment with a moldy bathroom,
The halfway house and the Indian man luring me in,
And I ran out the door,
More unsafe places,
Yellow houses with yellow energy,
And running,
And wanting to always run away,

Recoil the spring,
Dismantle this,
He didn't mean to,
Those blinds growing mold,
Windowsills with slimy black mold,
Scrubbing to clean,
But will not come off,
The mold is inside the structure,
Inside you,

Will the illness be dismantled?
Demolished?
Destroyed?
Will this establishment be condemned?

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