Poem: Ode to the Conservative Woman Who Helped to Heal Me

The dim lights behind the curtain near the factories,
You are closer to the low hum and rumbles,
Closer to working class struggle of sounds that snuff out your dreams,
Sounds that silence your screams,
Sounds that perpetuate division,
Across the small town – rez town,

The door opened,
I greeted her and sat down,
She said she should couldn’t stop crying,
She showed me the book that she was reading,
The Verbally Abusive Relationship,
Expanded Third Edition,
How to recognize it and how to respond,

The dim light,
Curtains drawn,
Low hum working class sounds,
Mold and mildew smells,
How to respond? 

I too was frozen

She cried in her bedroom,
She said she couldn’t stop crying,
The love she felt,
It never went away,

I too was frozen

How to respond?
But to close the door,
To listen to the low hum,
Watch the steam rise from the factories at night,
The food bank corn,
The Kmart shoes,
The tears soiling sheets, 

She too was frozen

The conservative woman in Manistee, Michigan,
Aninshinaabe Aki,
Was this woman,
Was me,

The book I emphasized as resources to others,
I sat gazing out the window,
Crunched up in a ball,
Sipping tea,
Laying my asema on the snow,
Dim lights flickering,
Bad wiring for the working poor,
The factory smoke,
The low hum on the land, 

The door I shut numerous times,
The pinnacle of this moment,
I couldn’t stop crying,
She couldn’t stop crying,                                                

I was frozen,
She was frozen,
We were frozen,
But we were healing together.

Domestic Violence Awareness Resources

A plethora of domestic violence awareness resources specifically for the Native American community.  Please share this post within your networks.  Add any other resources that you may know of in the comment section. 

From - Don't Need Saving: Aboriginal Women and Access to Justice

Violence Against Women in American Indian/Native American & Alaska Native Communities - Information and links to organizations, services, tribal justice, cultural resources and more.  

Order this booklet - Violence Against Native Women Is NOT Traditional - One of Sacred Circle’s most popular public education publications, this booklet provides an analysis of why Native women are the most victimized group of women in the United States. This booklet can be used in a wide variety of settings and is an excellent resource for individuals and families seeking a working understanding of the causes and dynamics of violence against Native women. 44 pages. Price: $4.00

Creator Wheel by Mending the Sacred Hoop

Native Appropriations - We live in a culture of violence, and it needs to stop.


(Photo courtesy of SaveWiyabi Project, who are doing truly amazing work) 
I sat in my apartment in a daze today, thinking about the poor babies in Connecticut, and how many families' lives were irreversibly changed. I kept thinking about my mom, a second grade teacher in California, and how her only responsibility as a teacher for 23 beautiful 7 year olds should be to help her students create, learn, and grow, not to protect them from an armed shooter, or even have to think about such a thing. When you look at the statistics, and see that eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States--it points to a deeper problem. We live in a culture of violence, and it needs to stop.

Watching the incredible collective action occurring in Canada through the Idle No More movement over the last few days, I've become increasingly angry. I'm angry that Indigenous peoples in the US and Canada are in a position that we've been forced to march en mass, go on hunger strikes, and blockade roads just to get our voices heard--and that the national and international media is all but ignoring it. Our Native brothers and sisters to the north are fighting against a history of maltreatment and ongoing attacks against Native rights and sovereignty through acts of congress, and have turned to collective action as a means to give voice to the movement.

And I'm angry that here in the US, the Violence Against Women Act is about to expire any minute now, and GOP hold outs like John Boehner and Eric Cantor are keeping the bill from moving forward solely due to the tribal provisions that would protect Native women on reservations.

These are forms of violence. Systemic, real, deep and hateful violence. Violence against our land, our people, and our cultures. The United States and Canada were both founded on violence against and genocide of Native peoples. These nations would not exist were it not for the systematic and government sanctioned attempts of eradication of the Indigenous peoples of these lands. Though we espouse founding values of freedom and liberty, that freedom and liberty came at the cost of millions of Indigenous lives. Is it any wonder that even now, hundreds of years later, we still live in a culture of violence?

The Violence Against Women Act provisions that are holding up the bill are provisions that allow for the prosecution of Non-Indian perpetrators on Indian land within tribal court systems. The current laws state that crimes involving non-Indians are treated as federal cases. But in 2011, the federal government declined to pursue charges in 65% of domestic violence cases on reservations. Clearly this. is. unacceptable. 1 in 3 Native women have been raped or sexually assaulted, a rate 2.5 times higher than the national average, and of those crimes, 80% of them involve a non-Native assailant. This excellent Salon article discusses how these loopholes protect rapists on reservations, because they "know they can get away with it."

What are Boehner and Cantor saying by not passing VAWA because of tribal provisions? That Native women don't matter. That they are second-class citizens, who deserve less protection and less justice than their non-Native counterparts. 

I fight against negative representations of Native people everyday on this blog, and these issues are tied up in this fight. Victoria Secret sending a headdressed bikini clad model down the runway, pocahotties on halloween, Blair Waldorf on gossip girl dressing up like an Indian stripper--these images paint Native women as sex objects, as sexual fantasies, as something to be conquered and owned. Yes, other women are highly sexualized by the media, but the problem is that there are no other representations of Native women to counteract these. The overwhelming majority of images of Native women we see are the sexualized "Indian Princess." 

So I'm tired, I'm upset, and I'm angry. I'm tired of being invisible, of Native rights being ignored, of ongoing and systemic violence going unchecked. I know my thoughts aren't well formed, and my arguments might not be completely airtight, but we need to stand up. The connections are clear to me, though I know I haven't found the exact and proper words to lay it out--yet. 

27 people lost their lives today in a needless and horrible act, and for me it became the catalyst for me to start forming thoughts about something bigger. Violence isn't just individual violent acts, it is much more. Violence is defined by the world health organization as the: 
"Intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation." 
That, by definition, is how the US and Canada have acted towards Indigenous Peoples. We live in an ongoing colonial state that has been defined by violence against Native peoples. And it needs to stop. 

You can start by calling Boehner and Cantor and urging them to pass VAWA:
  • Speaker Boehner's 202-225-0600 or 202-225-6205 and
  • House Majority Leader Cantor's office 202-225-2815 or 202-225-4000
This is just the beginning. I feel that this is an important and real time for Native rights, and we will need to stand together in this fight. I've often worried that in my fight against negative representations I haven't given readers images to replace the stereotyped and negative images. So let's hope that we can replace those images with powerful and strong Native women and men who aren't afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

Am I totally missing the mark? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Other ways to stay involved:
Follow the #idlenomore tag on twitter for up to date info on the movement
Read more about the VAWA act
Post and share more information in the comments

Original post on Native Appropriations

Poem: Justice for Our Bodies

Stop shaming my body,
Stop shaming my choices,
Stop hurting me,

This runaway Native girl who was never found,
Never found,
Never listened to,
Never honored,

Remember the screen door that slammed,
In poverty,
Political games played in women's lives,
Directing guilt,

Instead of,
"praying to end abortion,"
How about we pray to end,
Colonial hetero-patriarchal policies,
That tear at the wombs of our women,
How about we pray to end racism,
Pray to end sexism
Pray to end torture,
Pray to end rape,
Pray to end domestic violence,
Pray to end sex trafficking,
Pray to end sex slavery,
Pray to end hunger,
Hunger of the soul,
Hunger of the heart,
Pray to end gender deviation from being labeled as a "sin,"
Pray to end hate directed at same sex partnerships,
Love is real,
Pray to end the torment of a culture that hates different ideas,
Pray to end the hate directed at creative people,
Do this work,
Say these prayers,
Before you ever pray over a woman,
Who is making a choice for her life,
Her family,
Her relatives,
Her ancestors,
Her community,

Because that billboard on I-94 coming out of Wayne County said,
There are many unwanted children,
Or more,
Born into poverty,
The ghetto home,
Where the knife is gouged into the Mother,
The brother,
The sister,
The Auntie,
Because the system divides and cuts,
Based on race and class,
And you pray as another child goes unwanted,
In the ghetto,

Even in picture perfect suburbia,
Because money steals from the soul,
Births hate,
And a woman was thrown down the stairs on my street,

On the rez,
No one gives a fuck about the babies born,
Into homes where the wind blows cold,
Through the windows,
And in anger a beer can,
Is crushed,
Because of over 500 years of backwards,
Government policies,
Destroyed nations,
Hearts of nations,
Our women,
Have been wounded,
On the bottom of the mother fucking barrel,
Tell me,
This is "pro-life,"
Tell me these policies are about life,
Genocide is about death of a people,

Listen to her story,
Her life,
What about her right to life?
The culture directs shame,
At her,
At the woman,
What if a Black,
At-risk child is born,
Will you love this child in his addiction?
When he is near death?
Is this "God's will?"
That he is gender non-conforming,
Sensitive male,
In a culture that wants someone like him dead,
Will you love him?
Accept him?
Will you love her when she is selling her body for sex?
Because no one gave her a job?
Because she is a First Nations woman,
Adopted out of her family off the reservation,
Into a family that didn't know her culture,

So she ran,
Fell into the John's hands,
Who raped and abused her as she sold her body,
For fucking money,
Tell me you will love her then?
When she is crying because her soul has been broken,
She has been failed by the system in so many ways,

This is a choice,
Because the gun has been directed towards us,
This is a choice,
Because poverty is real for us,
This is a choice,
Because my spirit has been broken when no one listened to me,
This is a choice,
Because I believe this is the best choice for me,
This is a choice,
Because we don't need to explain any further.

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