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)

Article - No, You’re Not Imagining It: 3 Ways Racial Microaggressions Sneak into Our Lives

This is a good article however again and as per usual there is no mention of Native American/First Nations people.  A heads up on this because the term is called "statistical genocide."  We as Native American/First Nations people are left out of statistics, research projects, studies, articles, reports and on and on.  Raising awareness on this will continue indefinitely as long as the dominant/majority/mainstream culture continues to treat us the invisible minority.  Nonetheless this is a good article on racial microagressions.  From my point of view we deal with colonial racial microaggressions.  Racism can occur towards us as a people (insults, stereotypes, discrimination) or racism towards our lands and waters (environmental racism). 

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No, You’re Not Imagining It: 3 Ways Racial Microaggressions Sneak into Our Lives

Have you ever experienced someone insulting you in a way that felt a little bit racist, but you couldn’t quite figure out why?

Were you worried about “reading too much into it,” “being too sensitive,” or taking offense when none was intended?

When this happened, did you let the other person know you were hurt, only for them to become distressed or defensive? Have you been reluctant to say something when you felt this way because your opinions have been silenced or ignored in the past?

Like many other people of color (POC) living the US, I’ve felt all of these things. For some of us, feeling this way is the norm and, without realizing, we put up a wall to protect ourselves from the damage that comes with it.

These uneasy, uncertain feelings can be the result of what Chester M. Pierce, a psychiatrist and professor, coined racial microaggressions – originally defined as the racist insults directed at Black people from non-Black Americans.

Dr. Derald Wing Sue, who also writes about racial microaggressions, explains them as the “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

Microaggressions are “micro” because they often happen in small, private situations, yet their effects often impact us in massive and dangerous ways.

Over time, being on the receiving end of these everyday (yet often unrecognizable) attacks can lead to depression, social isolation, and lowered confidence. Because we’ve been conditioned to question ourselves and not the perpetrators or the situations, we begin to wonder if our own feelings and experiences are legitimate.

Sometimes, without understanding what we’re doing, we even internalize those aggressions and use them to police both our loved ones and ourselves.

As a kid, I often corrected my mother’s pronunciation of English words. Though she did have a Chinese accent, she didn’t need me to tell her how to speak English – she’d taught English as a second language for more than a decade.

I didn’t realize that by doing that, I was communicating that her foreign accent not only made her English different, it made it wrong. And like so many others, I had no idea I was regurgitating racist ideology (practicing internalized racism).

While small acts of internalized racism like mine go unnoticed all the time, there are too many occasions where the victim is just too shocked to say anything in the moment.

Whatever the reason, it amounts to letting racism off the hook. When we allow these small incidences to keep happening, we are allowing racism, in general, to remain a part of our culture.

As Dr. Sue goes on to state, the perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware of how they may be offending or hurting others.

It’s important for us to remember that just because a perpetrator of racism is clueless (or in denial) about the impact of their words doesn’t mean that their actions were any less violent or that the impact of that violence is changed.



When it comes down to it, intention is irrelevant.

If we only focus on intention, we continue to center and prioritize the perpetrator. And let’s face it: The perpetrator is always a more privileged person who is used to getting their opinions and feelings validated.

We are trained to believe people with social power.

But if ever we hope to truly put an end to racism (or any other injustice for that matter), we, as people who encounter so much marginalization, must also validate our own feelings and opinions. We re-center our attention to our needs and experiences by focusing on impact, not intent.

By not reacting to microaggressions, we can lose our sense of being true to ourselves. We risk bottling up the toxic feelings brought on by unending racism. But if we react angrily, we are often faced with defensiveness and criticism from our perpetrators.

But, alas, there is a middle ground, and that is to engage the perpetrator in a thoughtful manner. Vlogger Jay Smooth has a great video about it here. 

The Three Types of Microaggressions

Dr. Sue and others at Teachers College of Columbia University have identified three basic forms of microaggressions: 

1. Microassaults

Microassaults, the most conscious and intentional form of microaggressions,  best resemble what we are accustomed to thinking of as “old-fashioned” racism.

Some common examples are using racial epithets (or abusive, derogatory language or names), displaying confederate flags or swastikas, mocking another language, telling racist jokes, and serving White customers first.

What they all have in common is their explicitness. Whether verbal or nonverbal, microassaults are fairly direct forms of prejudice and discrimination.

The following two forms of microaggressions are less direct and intentional on the part of the perpetrator. 

2. Microinsults 

Microinsults communicate rudeness and insensitivity towards someone based on their racial identity or heritage. These acts take away a person’s dignity or sense of self-worth, but they do so indirectly.

Some microinsults can seem like compliments to the person saying them.

Growing up, I was repeatedly told by White boys that I was “cute for an Asian.” This always made me feel incredibly shameful even though I had done nothing wrong. It led me to believe that being Asian meant being undesirable. It also taught me that White boys would never see me as an individual but as a race.

Other examples of microinsults are being told that “You are a credit to your race” or “You are so articulate.”

These statements assume that intelligence or role model behavior is tied with Whiteness because they reveal surprise at the POC’s excellence in what they do.

And even more examples (because racism is so frustratingly relentless) are a White person crossing to the other side of the street at the approach of a Black or Latino man, or a storeowner carefully watching or following a customer of color.

This conveys the message that these people deserve to be feared and are likely to steal or hurt, but this fear is based on racist stereotypes hyped by the White media.

While some data makes it looks like Blacks and Latinas are more likely to steal or hurt others, it is based on a racist system (the prison industrial complex) that targets people from those communities

3. Microinvalidations

Microinvalidations exclude or negate the experiences, feelings, and experiential reality of a POC.

A common microinvalidation is the notion of “color blindness” or the assertion that we now live in “post-racial” times. It is also invalidating to downplay occurrences of racism, or to tell a POC, “Stop being so sensitive” or “Not everything’s about race!”

These phrases, perhaps meant to smooth over the perpetrators discomfort of the situation, completely dismiss the racialized experiences of POC.

What lies at the heart of most microinvalidations is the norm of Whiteness and White experiences.

Dismissing the racialized experiences of POC is oppressive and continues to give credence only to the White experience. Along with that, colorblind thinking dismisses the reality of white privilege and white supremacy, and allows them to keep doing what they do.

An example of this is asking a person of color, “Where are you from?” or “How do you say ____ in your language?”

This question is often directed at Asian and Latin Americans – whether immigrants skilled in other languages or not – out of simple curiosity. But the message is that even if they consider America their home, they will never truly belong.

Another example is “I’m not racist – I have a ____ friend!”

Racism is culturally pervasive, which means that it’s part of almost everyone in this society. Whether or not we believe ourselves to be racist, our words and actions often conform to what our racist culture has taught us – and having a Black friend does not change that fact.

Also: “If you work hard enough, you will succeed.”

This is called the “myth of meritocracy” – the idea that through determination and hard work, alone, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps (for a classic example, read the story of Horatio Alger).
This is what leads us to believe the racist, classist stereotype that we, POC (and people in general) who don’t succeed, are lazy, stupid, or incompetent – that they deserve what they have or don’t have.

But the experience for many, though not all, of us is more complicated.

Factors such as institutional racism, education level of family members, and access to fewer resources that help us succeed means that many of our paths to personal success is challenging in more ways than our White counterparts.

The truth is, privilege — due to race or class — is what helps you succeed in an unjust society. (POC benefit from class privilege, too.)

This is why Affirmative Action exists, though it cannot and will not ever make the playing field entirely even.

There is a last kind of microaggression that doesn’t take place between individuals. Instead, environmental microaggressions are felt in our everyday surroundings or through our social “climate.”

For example, a Latina woman waiting for a job interview sees pictures of the other employees, all of them white men. Even if the company is not racist, its office is telling her that she does not belong there and is less likely to be hired than a white man.

The way that abortion rights and Planned Parenthood funding is debated can be seen as a sexist environmental microaggression because it invalidates the healthcare needs and decision-making abilities of women, especially those with lower incomes.

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As POC, we are often silenced or stunned by microaggressions. But just as there are positive ways to deal with stress, there are empowering ways to address microaggressions.

How I deal with microaggressions depends on the situation. There is no one way to cope.

And just as the answer for me differs from case to case, what I find helpful may not apply to you. But the first step is always the same, and that is to acknowledge your sense of discomfort, hurt, or anger.
There is a lot we can do for ourselves to minimize the impact of such events. Journaling, meditation, or movement (zumba or yoga, anyone?) are all forms of self-love that can restore our well-being and give our emotions a safe outlet.

Reaching out to friends and other trusted confidantes can be a great way to validate our feelings. Sometimes when something happens that makes our skin crawl with anger or disappointment, all we need is someone to feel it with us.

While we don’t have to engage the aggressor, opening a dialogue with them is one way to come to terms with what happened.

Before starting that conversation, ask yourself what you want to gain from the conversation. How you approach them will differ depending on whether you’re trying to change their behavior or solely desiring to verbalize your feelings.

I am often reluctant to engage with the perpetrator myself, but it can be especially important to do so if the person who microaggressed you is someone you encounter frequently, much less someone you care about.

The last (and maybe most important) thing is to eventually let it go. By this, I don’t mean forgive or forget. I mean taking care not to give them, or the microaggressor themselves, more power over you in the process.

This might happen naturally once you’ve processed the event, but sometimes we need a little reminding that microaggressions should be addressed, but they are not worth dwelling upon and reliving.

Living in constant anticipation of mistreatment is not only draining and stressful, it can even prevent us from experiencing joy or letting wonderful people into our lives. This is the biggest challenge: to strengthen ourselves without becoming hardened against vulnerability.

True strength resides in the reed that bends with the wind but does not fall down. It is rooted. It turns towards the sun. However you choose to handle it when someone micoraggresses you, remember that you are not alone. Your opinion counts. Your feelings matter. And you deserve sunshine.

Anni Liu is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a writer, musician, and Chinese DREAMer. Anni is currently working with emotionally and behaviorally challenged kids at an alternative school. She lives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with her partner and his son and hopes to make the acquaintance of a moose. Read her articles here.

Original article posted on Everyday Feminism.

Poem: Reporting Live From the 1842 Treaty Territories

It's a little cold up here,
Should I reach for that beer?
Or hang my laundry on the door?

I can't see straight,
I can't feel my heart,
My hands are cold,

There is a truck parked out there on the lawn,
We haven't seen the sun for days,
Centuries,
What can you do about the factory of your mind?
Environmental injustice all around,

I can't fight no more,
I can't see straight,

There is nothing for miles in the void of my soul,
This land unheard,
These waters,
A thirst,
A hunger,

Cultural retrofits,
That make-shift dangle that sways in the wind,
Broken,
Broke,
There is a shame we don't want to feel,
So we hide away,

Mattress on the floor,
It's not comfortable here,
There wasn't a doily or lace,
Curtains were ripped,
Soiled with tears,
We exited through the door and left our heart on the front steps.

Poem: Ajijaak Dodem Anokii

It is so precious,
These tears on my hands,
Covering my face,
This grieving is beautiful,
You see we had felt those knives turned inward,
On ourselves,
On our family,
When we could not speak,
When we could not feel,

These tears are precious,
Incredibly triumphant,
Reciprocity of sadness,
Melancholy,
Feeling emotions,
Generational emotions felt,
Mean that we can heal historical trauma,
Herstorical trauma,
Two-Spirit-denial-I-am-hiding-trauma,
Two-Spirit-the-majority-culture-makes-me-feel-shame-trauma,
No more,
Silent No More,

Tears on pillows,
Blankets,
Walls,
Wiped,
To heal,
Cleanse,
Rebooting the old ancient ways,

If these spirits towered over us,
What could we feel was that fist in the cement,
And drifting,
Woozy,
Pacing,
Drifting,

Static through our heads,
The cold metal desk,
Work places,
Public spaces,
Sweaty palms,
Nervousness streaked across tables,
Desks,

If the Grandfather listened,
And honored us,
And did not judge us,
Even though we judged ourselves,
For loving you,
For trying to help you,

If the Grandmother said,
I support you,
And took your hand,
As a gift unimaginable,

This is in fact dodem anokii,
You see,
Not social work,
Dodem anokii,

Ajijaak dodem,

Do you know what all of this means?

- - - - - - - - - -

Translations

Ajijaak - Crane
Anokii - Work
Dodem - Clan

Domestic Violence Awareness Month - A Two-Spirit View

Bearing witness to a community that is closed, conservative, fragmented, and anti-Two-Spirit has propelled me on a journey to fully support our most marginalized community members - Two-Spirits.  This community is also very colonized and Christianized.  My own community is not this way but very accepting of Two-Spirits. There are Two-Spirits within my family.  We are all supported.  I personally identify as Androgynous, Genderqueer, Gender Non-conforming and Two-Spirit (Ogichidaakwe).  I was lucky to be raised in a very liberal community where I observed gay pride parades and festivals right outside my front door.  In 1990 I was 9 years and I was exposed to my first Pride Fest which took place just outside my front door.  Just a block from my house I clearly remember seeing the walkers from the PrideFest.  The impact for me as a 9 year old was important as this is something I would never forget. We were raised to be open minded and I was excited to see people in drag and others celebrating who they are as GLBTQ people.

There was a gay bookstore two blocks from my house.  One of my favorite movies as a kid was Hairspray and I was inspired by the drag queen Divine.  Friends in junior high talked about lesbian and gay issues.  When I was in high school I had several gay and lesbian class mates who I adored and supported.  In high school I still wasn't sure of my identity and my Mother supported my choice to decide who I like and even if going it alone was okay.  What an awesome Mother!

By my early twenties I knew I was no longer a boy.  Although I had felt this way my whole life.  I would rather hang out with guys and do guy stuff.  You know like be mischievous and build bonfires on the railroad tracks in my hometown.

For many Two-Spirited Native Americans be comfortable or safe is not an option.  Many don't have an awesome Mom like I have to allow me to decide who I am without any judgement.  For many Two-Spirits who grow up in ultra-conservative places where hate and oppression is directed at them from multiple angles.  It is not safe to be who you were born to be.  When Two-Spirits were honored and revered community members we are now shunned and ostracized by the majority culture and even our own communities.  Personally it is refreshing for me to be on my own rez and know that I am safe from attack. 

Domestic violence is a huge issue in the Native American community.  But for Two-Spirit Women the oppression is triple.  I am speaking from my space as a Two-Spirit mixed blood Kwe.  I am speaking from my space and body having been wounded, hurt, and marginalized.  I am speaking as a survivor of domestic violence.

"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

Violence against Two-Spirit women is not traditional.  This article speaks about the heavy burden Two-Spirits must bear in order to bring changes to our communities.  This work can be dangerous and is not necessarily safe.  This is why during domestic violence awareness needs to be more than a month, an event, or a "crisis line."  We have an epidemic of violence towards Two-Spirit women.  We have work to be done. But the work can't come from Two-Spirits towing the front lines alone.  It must come from everyone in the community.  This is where decolonization must occur in our communities.  This is where stories need to be shared and heard.  Our most vulnerable community members should never be ignored, silenced, abused, hurt, neglected, or ostracized.  We need to give Two-Spirit women more than just a voice or a space but look at what was traditional in our own individual tribes to honor and uphold Two-Spirits.  My tribe, the Ojibway, traditionally honored and upheld Two-Spirits. 

I feel my community is further ahead on honoring Two-Spirits and there is a feeling of safety and support when I am in Keweenaw Bay.  However this should be the case for all Two-Spirit women in Native communities across Turtle Island. We have work to do.

How Two-Spirits Can Be Supported

  • We need greater supports for Two-Spirits whether this be urban, suburban, rural, or in a reservation community. 
  • We need mental health and behavioral health services that support Two-Spirits.  Without judgement and Christianization.  Without hatred and violence.  
  • With an understanding of the fact that GLBTQQIA can be colonizing terms and the Two-Spirit term in the language for the specific tribe has the meaning and teachings.  These need to be honored. 
  • We need people to understand the teachings on Two-Spirit identity as per their own tribe and not a pan-Indian definition. 
  • Healing and decolonization means we will be able to be ourselves fully as Two-Spirits.
  • We need a voice in our own communities as healers, mediators, leaders, etc.  

What Can Be Done Right Now

  • Two-Spirit support groups.
  • Two-Spirit safe spaces - workplaces or a community space.
  • Give Two-Spirits crisis line information.
  • Listen to Two-Spirits stories.
  • Be supportive in our healing.

Articles & Information

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

Two-Spirit Leaders Call on Washington to Include Native Women in Re-Authorization of VAWA

Aboriginal Two-Spirit Women's Domestic Violence Fact Sheet