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!

A Call to End Lateral Violence In Our Anishinaabe Communities

Preface

I can’t wait until our own people start to protest lateral violence within our Anishinaabe communities.  I can’t wait until we start demanding action be taken and misogynistic tribal councilor’s are removed.  I can’t wait to see the mass of Anishinaabe people at Tribal government buildings demanding that corruption be stopped.  I can’t wait to see our people with protests signs that say – LOVE WATER NOT ALCOHOL.  I can’t wait until we stop running from our own communities and do the work within.

I am aware of “large actions” against Line 5 – “the straits sunken hazard.”  However I am even more aware of the apparent visible hazards of addiction, sexual abuse, and lateral violence within our Anishinaabe communities.  We need not run from these problems but to face them directly.  This is the greatest direct action!

The problem with anti-social media is no one can have 5,000 “friends” or “followers.”  That is a small town you’ve accumulated in a virtual un-reality.  Even in small towns not everyone gets along.  This is why small towns are often quiet and the curtains are drawn because it is better to keep to yourself.

Personally, I am at a breaking point with the lateral violence.  This is a call for help.  This is a decolonial treatise, if you will. 

Decolonization – For Real

I have been involved in community work (I don't use the word activism) since I was 12 years old when I fought against gentrification in my hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan.  Now Royal Oak is a place I wouldn’t want to live.  For 7 years I have resided in the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Territory – or colonially known as Manistee, Michigan.  I have a love and hate relationship with this place.  Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is a non-community meaning there is no community with this tribe.  The level of heteropatriarchy and misogyny is extreme here.  As an Ojibway/Métis Two-Spirit, I have experienced more lateral violence here than I can count from men and women.  On the flipside, there are also people who supported me in crisis, usually more conservative people.  Mostly what I love about Naaminitigong (Manistee) is the land and water.  The non-community troubles me but fuels my life work. 

Heal Yourself to Heal Your People

Fighting a pipeline is bullshit when you haven’t healed yourself.  If you are struggling with an addiction seek help right now.  Stop running from your pain.  Besides big oil will win and it is better to get to the root cause of trauma within our communities that continuously fight against one another.  Big oil doesn’t care about Treaty Rights or Native American rights, we all know this.  You aren’t going to change big oil’s mind with a protest and they actually think it’s funny you are out there “resisting.”  It is the same old song and nothing will change by screaming at cars driving by on the Mackinaw Bridge.  This is Michigan and I come from a Ford family.  My great-Grandfather was a Union Organizer who assisted in the building and the founding the UAW (United Auto Workers).  Without the ancestors hard and monotonous labor we wouldn’t have the world that we have today.  We need cars because we can get to protests.  Otherwise how do you get there?  So what solutions do you propose post oil and post auto industry?  The auto industry has a strong hold on Michigan and these actions won't change it any time soon.  I praise the auto industry for innovation and changing our world.  Do I love the auto industry?  No, I am not in love with it and changes can be made within it.

I’m Sick of Standing Rock

For those of us who resisted in our home territory we see that Standing Rock did nothing to heal you.  Are you really a warrior when you attack your own people?  You are not a warrior when you degrade, insult, and bully another person.  I am sick of hearing about people who went to Standing Rock.  So what?  I went to the racist work environment on numerous occasions.  I wake up in the colonial white supremacist land as a Two-Spirit every single day boldly walking a sober road.  The frontlines are our lives and not this show of power and ego when it comes to “resistance.” 

Authenticity

If you are authentic in your work you need not make a show of it.  This is ego as well as insecurity.  If you are a true warrior then live it and say nothing of your work.  I am not interested in a show of power or a show of ego (insecurity).  You prove you are more in alignment with Diocletian or King Henry VIII when you do this.  I believe in the old Anishinaabe ways.  I believe in what the ancestral and hereditary Chiefs in my lineage might say.  Blood memory means we may feel this or get insights via dreams, intuition, etc.  This leadership is often not even welcome in our own Anishinaabe communities.  Leadership is nurtured throughout one’s lifetime.  It is not something you attain and then know everything.  If you think like this then you are still in alignment with King Henry VIII and not Ogema Waub Aijaak (Chief White Crane).  Leading an authentic life means you don’t need validation of your work by anyone.

Zaagidewin – Love Is the Solution

My treatise doesn’t declare surrendering.  In fact, I am gaining strength.  I am tired of “water protectors,” who are violent towards their own people or smoke “medical marijuana” around their Anishinaabe children.  Anishinaabe are around other Anishinaabe at events and no one can talk to each other.  Then you bully me because I am strong, independent, fierce, educated, creative, intellectual, healed, and healing.  You say I am “intense” because I work very hard for our communities.  You lack intensity because you are normal and boring.   I challenge the patriarchy within men and women. I challenge those who who hog the stage and are not allowing anyone else to be up there.  This is not the work of our people or in our 7 Grandmother (ehem) and Grandfather Teachings.  There are elders who are not passing the torch to the next leaders so I will make my own place to lead without ya’ll supporting me.  This brokenness needs repair.

Gpa & Cece 83.jpg

There is no Anishinaabe “community.”  There is no “Michigan Native community.”  At this point the oppressor has won.  Colonization and genocide has never ended and we are now continuing this oppression in our own non-communities towards each other.  All the buzz words of “resistance,” “decolonization,” and “water protection,” fail because we need to empower our people by and for each other.  Forget the pipeline – get alcohol off of our tribal lands! 

I love my parents.  I love my family.  I love the LaPointe’s.  I love the Sanborn's.  I love the land.  I love the water.  I love Michigamig.  I even love my enemies.  These are my teachings.  The more hate, anger, jealousy, hostility, and lateral violence you send me the more I grow my love.  This garden I tend is beautiful – can you see it?  This work is lonely but I continue forward working from – zaagidewin – love.  Chi miigwech Mishomis LaPointe for supporting me from the so called “other side.”  You are always with us.

Zaagidewin,

Nigig-enz Baapi (Little Laughing Otter)

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!

An Ojibway/Métis Two-Spirit Statement on Standing Rock

Ojibway/Metis Introduction – Standing on the Soil at Home

This is my Ojibway/Métis Two-Spirit introduction and declaration.  I never felt called to go to Standing Rock.  I have had enough violations, violence, racism, discrimination, bullying, and hate in my life that I didn’t need to voluntarily subject myself to further torture.  I did not receive “likes” or hundreds of comments for enduring workplace discrimination on numerous occasions nor did I gain internet “followers” who saw my documentation of the horrors of racism and taking action against this injustice.  The reason I mention standing up for myself and taking action is because where is everyone in everyday life supporting Indigenous people right where you live?  Everyone felt the need to run off to Standing Rock.  It is bad everywhere – racism is right out your front door and on every inch of this land.  Taking action against a racially hostile work environment deserves equal treatment from so called “allies.”  Additionally, the violence of heteropatriarchal settler colonialism oppression is still here and this means we live in a racist world.  I have a right to my serenity and peace given the oppression I have faced and struggles I have overcome.  Do you see why I didn’t want to go out to Standing Rock?  

Please note that this piece doesn’t represent Red Circle Consulting, Waub Ajijaak Press, or any of the organizations that I’ve consulted with or currently work with.  This piece represents Ojibway/Metis Two-Spirit self-determination and sharing my voice based in reporting live from Anishinaabe Aki.  Additionally, I work with Honor the Earth and they had a main presence at Standing Rock.  I was indirectly but directly involved in the work there but mostly behind the scenes.  This is frontline work that should be validated and is just as equally important labor.

Environmental Racism Since 1492

There are currently at least 532 superfund sites in Indian Country.  A sacred site that my tribe – the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, which was battled for 11 years is being mined beneath.  This site is Migizi Wa Sin – Eagle Rock.  We have no access to this sacred site as it is gated with a barbed wire fence.  This didn’t garner international attention and probably never will.  Yet, people and some distant relatives from my tribe camped out, resisted, and were arrested.  Migizi Wa Sin is one battle of many that was fought and lost because or resource colonization, environmental violence, and environmental racism.  Therefore, environmental racism has existed since 1492.  Environmental racism is the reservation or reserve system.  Environmental violence is the availability of alcohol, drugs, and toxic foods on our lands and within reservation boundaries.  Environmental violence also includes: reproductive injustice, sterilization of our women, mining, pipelines, toxic buildings, and discrimination towards Two-Spirits.

Racism and Assault in Everyday Life

Most non-Native people were shocked at the level of militarized violence at Standing Rock.  I'm not minimizing the oppression, pain, trauma, collective trauma, or colonial state sanctioned militarized violence that happened there.  However I wasn’t shocked because every turn you make in the world as a Native person can mean you will face discrimination, racism, hate, and violence.  The majority culture didn’t absolve itself of its sins by showing up for a week, 3 weeks, or 3 months at Standing Rock.  Action needs to be taken every day and where you live.

Native people are still invisible.  Our issues are still ignored.  The root cause of the many issues we face are not addressed.  One can’t live traditionally and harvest wild rice when land has been divided up by the Dawes Act.  If we want to ice fish we can only do so in locations where we will not experience racism.  We are not allowed into certain areas, cities, or towns because we will never be allowed into a certain income bracket.  Sometimes we are heckled by just walking down the street or shopping in a grocery store.  The colonial creation of poverty is racism.  How much alcohol is piped into tribal communities?  How do we stop this form of environmental violence and racism?  There are many questions to be raised and discussions to be had.  Walls need to be broken and bridges need to be built.  This always needs to be Indigenous led by and for our people.

Plains Indians are Only the Real Indians

The world became obsessed with Standing Rock.  The world didn’t become obsessed with Eagle Rock – Migizi Wa Sin, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Neskantaga First Nation, systemic racism in Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, Ontario, etc.  It became obsessed with the Plains tribe.  As an Ojibway/Métis I see this obsession with other Native groups who are often viewed as the “real Indians.”  Here in the Great Lakes our ancestry has been mixing for a long time hence my Ojibway/Métis identity and heritage.  We are still real Indians despite the bogus blood quantum standard set up to prove being Indian, which the US government created for annihilation purposes.  I believe the reason Standing Rock gained so much attention is because the majority culture has lumped "Plains Indians," into a group and therefore this social construction of the "real Indian" exists.  Hence the obsession and widespread cultural appropriation with the "Plains Indians" headdress.  The majority culture has been fetishizing, romanticizing, and appropriating "Plains Indians" for a long time.  Would this movement in Standing Rock had been as large if the tribe was a less well known tribe?  Probably not!

Celebrities

My personal belief is that there is no reason to trust any celebrity who showed up at Standing Rock.  They are not amplifying our voices as Native people.  They are amplifying their voices.  They have never lived on a reservation, or lived the life of a Native person, nor can the ever speak for us.  Frankly, I will not give them any power or allow them to speak for me.  They aren’t doing anything radical then going home to their plush home and existence.  Posting on anti-social media with hashtags doesn’t make you radical.  Actions in everyday life make you radical.  I believe they need to stay far away from Indigenous led movements and let us lead!   

The Money Trail

Meanwhile there are many water issues and continuous states of emergencies in many First Nations and Native communities across Turtle Island.  I encourage everyone to read about Neskantaga First Nation.  Not minimizing oppression or the militarized violence that took place at Standing Rock but it is not the only place where all action is needed.  So where are all the donations going?  Can anyone answer this?  Millions of dollars were donated but we don’t know where it is going.  How can we trust that the money is being spent for what it has been raised for?  In searching on gofundme.com for “Standing Rock,” 6,069 results come up.  Some of these results include money raised for: compost toilets, wood stoves, yurts, solar trailers, tattoos, and general winter supplies.  Another fundraising website called YouCaring.com had 392 results for Standing Rock.  There were fundraisers for things such as: Support the Traditional Elders of Standing Rock or Water is Life: Two-Spirit Warriors & Water Protectors.  Specifically I commend fundraisers for elders and Two-Spirits.  However, where is all this money actually going for everything else? 

The Standing Rock Obsession

I had nearly a dozen people ask me, “are you going to Standing Rock?”  I am not a mainstream person and I believe this movement was hijacked by mainstream people, big green NGO’s, and celebrities.  Many “activists,” are pretty darn mainstream in how they live by ingesting alcohol, drugs, television, etc.  I don’t identify as an activist but a “community worker” in a world where we have “non-community.”  I am glad visibility was brought to Native people but I felt it was brought in a fetishized way, yet again.

No I didn’t want to live in a tipi.  I am Ojibway and my ancestors lived in a traditional birch bark house called the wiigwam.  This became all people focused on.  From the moment this movement took a more mainstream approach, which it did once the big green’s showed up, I knew that I didn’t want to be there.  Some other Native folks called the camp, “sacred stone colony.”  Yes being colonized by white people thinking that they are helping the Indians.  Not interested in your white liberalism and fetishization of me, my family, relatives, or ancestors.  This obsession took a colonial turn and I knew it wasn’t for me.  I decided to stay at home in Anishinaabe Aki and hold it down on the land and water here.  Praying and doing work in your home territory is just as important.  Warriors need to stay and pray!  This is everyday resistance!

Moving Beyond the Typical “Frontlines,” Definition

Many people have felt called to go to Standing Rock from many Indigenous nations across Turtle Island and the world.  Many warriors were called by the ancestors to go to Standing Rock.  This is a very respectable and resilient action.  However as a Two-Spirit I have questioned my safety even in a space that could be designated safe for me hence the Two-Spirit camp at Standing Rock.  I don’t mean safety as in violence but safety as in how I live my life.  That I would be required to wear a skirt when this is a colonial concept.  Men and men identifying people also wore skirts traditionally.  I would constantly have to demand space for myself and this gets exhausting.   Additionally, as an introvert how would I manage being at a camp with people who I couldn’t necessarily trust?  I don’t thrive on being around people because as an introvert they drain me.

There has been a direct and violent attacks towards warriors and I am not minimizing their efforts, heart, or soul because this is state sanctioned oppression that our Indigenous warriors seek to challenge.  There are frontlines at Standing Rock and there are frontlines in daily life.  We get caught up in what “frontlines,” work means and we need to expand our definition.  For some the frontlines are making it through a day, surviving colonial imposed economic poverty, surviving racism, healing themselves, addiction recovery, mentoring a youth to rise above oppression, or taking care of an abandoned elder.  Defining “warrior,” as someone always at the “frontlines,” is bogus and closed minded.  Warriors for our people are everywhere.  A warrior is a single mom living in poverty who loves their child with so much love.  A warrior is someone in recovery and taking it, yes, one day at a time.  A warrior is someone who stands up against racism in the workplace.  A warrior is someone who survives community ostracizing and being an outcast.  A warrior is someone who has no one to call when in a time of trouble but makes it through the day, week, month, years, or their life.  A warrior is someone who never knows true love or never has a partner but continues living in the world.  A warrior is someone who has no family, networks, resources, or a place to truly call home.  A warrior is the prisoner.  A warrior is the silenced never given a space to share their voice.  Remember us!

Healing Justice

Since the resistance camps at Standing Rock were supposed to be a sober space I’m wondering how many people there chose recovery from their addictions?  This is more than fighting the black snake.  It is about fighting the illness which has been internalized.  This illness could be addiction in any form: alcoholism, marijuana, pharmaceuticals, sexual, social media, etc.  This illness could be eating toxic foods.  This illness could be accepting a toxic masculine mindset to plague your life.  This illness could be violence towards the self or others.  This illness is the illness of patriarchy, rape culture, the sexualization of the female body, and sexual violence towards any gender or gender identity.  There is certainly a lot to heal in our world.  We all have a lot of work to do.  No one person carries this burden on their shoulders alone.

Healing justice is difficult work because it goes unnoticed in a very boisterous, narcissistic, and “selfie” world.  Does anyone talk on the phone anymore?  Since the dawn of 140 characters and accumulating “followers,” I have found that people rarely respond to emails or don’t like to talk on the phone.  Being that I am Generation X, I’m not down with this at all.  We can’t heal by just being on a screen of our “smartphone,” or “liking” radical Indigenous statuses.  Really folks, how does this make change but stroke egos?  We have to do this work out in the world.  But do it and don’t boast about it.  Humble yourself in the eyes of the Creator.  Seriously social media is not deprogramming either for those that think they are so “radical.”  It is a tool of mind and social control to keep you all hooked.  It is another addiction similar to TV and shortening your attention span and ability to think for long periods of time.  How many of you out there can sit down and read a book for hours on end?  Probably just a few of you.

Closed Reservations and White Liberal Saviors

Not all reservations have open doors and in fact the door is shut tight to outsiders.  Every white liberal in the world can now say that they have been to Standing Rock and on a “reservation.”  This is all Native land!  I have lived on a reservation for 6 years and traveled to my tribal community since I was a kid.  Going to a reservation better not become to latest “mission,” trip.  Oh wait those already happen.  Take your mission trips to cul-de-sacs of suburbia and do work in your own perfectly plotted community.

The action in Standing Rock doesn’t mean that all other communities will be open.  In fact, we are very closed and sometimes to our own people.  It is absolutely obnoxious that this has happened and stating “we are all one” is actually very violent and colonial.  We are not all one and we need to honor the deep pain of generation trauma, current invisibility, current injustices, and that we are survivors of genocide that has never been acknowledged in the colonial United States.  Some hippie-dippie walks into Standing Rock for the “experience,” and to feel good.  Uh-uh, no way, and go away.  I am not looking to feel good all the time but to be real and do the work that needs to be done in our Anishinaabe communities.  Our lives as Native people should never be an “experience” for non-Native people.  Unfortunately the level of exotification and festishization is deeply prevalent coming from the majority culture.

What You Can Do to Take Action and Actually Support Indigenous People Everyday!

  1. Stop using the term “ally.”  It is obnoxious and insulting.  Klee Benally (Diné) has a really great zine on “Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex.”  Read this!                        
  2. Listen to Indigenous voices: storytellers, writers, poets, public speakers, intellectuals, and academics.
  3. Deconstruct Native stereotypes in your local community such as in mascots in high schools, colleges, and other forms of discrimination and racism that are right outside your front door.
  4. Think of the many ways you can amplify Indigenous voices through supporting Indigenous made films, reading books by Indigenous authors, purchasing music, attending powwows, artists markets, and craft fairs.
  5. Know what treaty land you are on as well as the traditional name of the place you reside in.  For instance, Manistee, Michigan – Naaminitigong, which means “the land beneath the trees.”  Naaminitigong is in the 1836 Treaty Territory.
  6. Understand what Two-Spirit means based on the tribe in the area you reside.  This is not a pan-Indian definition.  Know what Two-Spirit means and how you can support amplifying Two-Spirit people, their voices, and their stories in your area.
  7. Form an Indigenous-settler support group in your high school, college, or community.  Truly do the work, show up, be challenged, and grow far beyond your comfort zone.
  8. Decolonize organizing.  Let Native people lead in movements and organizing.  Particularly give voice to women, LGBTQ-Two-Spirited people, youth, elders, and the disabled.  So often Native people are tokenized but never truly given leadership roles or space to speak.  We desperately need to change this.
  9. Don’t fetishize us and know that with our own communities nothing is perfect.  There is internalized patriarchy, internalized sexism, internalized homophobia, nepotism in tribal governments, and overall toxic lateral violence.  If you are to work with us and support us you need to know that lateral violence is an unfortunate social colonial illness that plagues most of our communities. 
  10. Celebrate daily personal victories for Indigenous people such as “one day at a time,” SOBRIETY!  HEALING!  RECOVERY! 

Returning & Amplifying Our Work in Our Home Territories

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked folks in January to pack up and go home from all camps as well as not build any new resistance camps without the consent of the tribe.  I feel this is a good move and believe we all need to do work in our home territories.  While this was the largest gathering of Indigenous people on Turtle Island since colonization, it is not the only gathering.  I know there will be other gatherings, actions, and forms of resistance.  Perhaps the next gathering or action will be larger and create an even deeper and meaningful impact for generations to come?  There are gatherings, actions, and forms of resistance daily.  We need to grow and amplify our work by and for our people.  I respect and love our various Indigenous prophecies across Turtle Island but we have to commit to this work in order for it to be a reality.  This is the union – blue collar worker raised, practical Midwestern, and Michigander in me speaking.  This war has always been taking place since the colonization and erasure of our people starting in 1492.  This has always been a disgrace from the naming and occupation of lands to states, counties, and cities.  For Native people our eyes have always been open and now the rest of the world is seeing through our lens.  Think about your every action and intention.  What can be done at home?  Take a look at other Indigenous led environmental struggles you can support right in your own backyard.  Remember environmental justice is not just about land defending and water protection.  It is about healing our people, sobriety, wellbriety, and recovery.  So let’s all get behind love water not alcohol too, eh?

What can you do to heal relationships in your life?  To heal yourself and your family.  To bring healing to your tribal community.  What can you do to give voice to those who need it the most?  What are some ways you can decolonize on a day to day basis?  Think of other ways to amplify this work, healing, and bring justice in your home territories. 

Resources

“Dear White People, Standing Rock Is Not Burning Man”

Reporter's notebook: Standing Rock is not the new Woodstock

Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits [Part 1], Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, & Part 6

Standing Rock to the World: 10 Indigenous and Environmental Struggles You Can Support in 2017

Video: Aamjiwnaang Water Project

Video: Migizi Wa Sin – Eagle Rock

Video: Sirens Over Aamjiwnaang

Weeding Out the Allies from the White Saviors at Standing Rock  

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

Resources

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