Article: Women rising, the drum sounding: the restorative power of Idle No More

Detroit organizer Charity Hicks on why a movement led by the "marginalized of the marginalized" can reset our relationship to each other and the Earth.


by Charity Hicks
           A procession into the anti-fracking and land defence encampment at Rexton, New Brunswick near Elsipogtog First Nation on October 7.
A procession into the anti-fracking and land defence encampment at 
Rexton, New Brunswick near Elsipogtog First Nation on October 7.
Charity Hicks
Charity Hicks

This is an exert from a longer interview conducted with Charity Hicks by Martin Lukacs in Detroit, Michigan, in the summer of 2013.
 
When Idle No More broke out in December, 2012, in Detroit we said "wow". Indigenous peoples are just blossoming.

We've been under all these flowerings, with social movements rising all over the world – from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Greece. But what's so special about Idle No More is women's leadership. Indigenous women’s leadership is leadership from the most marginalized element inside of a marginalized element.

When you have leadership coming from the marginalized of the marginalized, the interlocking pressure of race and class and ethnic and gender hierarchies are shattered. Such women in leadership, those who have been subjected to wounds and trauma, represent a caring and concern. It's a beautiful place to be in, because as Idle No More idles no more, they're waking up and repairing relationships.

The first relationship you repair is the self to the self. So women that see themselves as the leadership, memory keepers and healers.

The second relationship of self to other selves. And here they're representing not just a returning but also a kind of reclaiming of the authenticity and relevancy of women, in the public space, in popular dialogue.

And the third relationship is of self to the earth. What's our relationship with our lakes and our streams and our waters and our food system and our ways of knowing? Everything about human beings and our culture are ways of being, but they're also ways of knowing. How do we know a tree, how do we know a plant, how do we know the fish are running at any particular time? It's because of memory, and women represent memory, the ancient memory flowering in the moment, being transmitted to future generations.

So Idle No More is profoundly restorative. It's what Canada needs. It's what the world needs. It's re-Indigenization.

But it's not just a movement, it's also a lived experience. Normally, when you're marginalized and you've been traumatized, you have normalized that. It becomes a part of your cognitive process. So to step into the public space and to really affirm your narrative is a huge risk. It's a profound leap from the margins, moving out from below the radar, and affirming a lived experience that we'd never heard, that we'd never known. So sometimes the biggest pushback comes from you. Sometimes you doubt your own voice; you doubt your own agency; you doubt even your own lived experience. To hold that, and to push back on it, is an empowering thing.



It's like the nervousness you feel when you know your people have been victimized, genocide has been wrought against your people, and here you are, with your mouth open. And you're somewhere beating a drum, or you're in public space, and you're like, this is what it is.

Indigenous peoples have been, just like African people, under twenty-five generations of root-shock. We relegated Indigenous peoples to the margins, placed them on reservations, treated them like children. And in that root-shock is pain, is profound depression, is hurt. And how you normally live with it is you drink, you self-medicate it.

In Indigenous communities, just like in African communities, there's this spectrum of reaction. Some of it is highly resilient and quiet and forever like embers, constantly on the burn. Some of it is non-resilient and extremely destructive. And you see all of that, the full spectrum in communities, in urban America. And what is beautiful about women, and authentic, is that in their standing, in their agency, in their voice, is the memory of all of our mothers, nurturance, re-connection. They're not only healing themselves, they're healing the most depressed parts of their communities.

Indigenous peoples are the ancestral memory of this place, they're the relationship translators of every piece of ecology in North America and all over the world. That memory, that voice, that leadership is what we need right now. Where-ever in the world Indigenous peoples are, to affirm themselves from positions of the margins, to take leadership and be authentic, rooted, and relevant, is so important.

It's a repairing on multiple levels. We're going to affirm ourselves, we're going to affirm our relations, and we're going to bring our values, our principles, our wisdom, our myth, our healing to the public space.

So Istanbul blows up, Tunis blows up, Cairo blows up, all of these public movements where people are en masse, a multitude. But it's the Indigenous multitude that is the most potent. Worldwide, there's like a movement of Indigenous peoples to reaffirm our humanity. It's saying: everything is not a dollar bill or currency, everything is not a consumer transaction. Wherever you are, on a reservation or not, the land is valuable. There's no hierarchy on the earth. There are ecosystems, and these exchanges, and they're all beautiful.

For people who are trying to re-Indigenize, and trying to question the social, political, economic order, Idle No More is like a harbinger.

That's not an easy thing to carry. Normally, if you're already marginalized, you have double and triple the amount of weight on you. So I'm very moved by Idle No More. I'm touched. I see it as a wonderful space to be in. It's healthy for us in this moment of economic and environmental crisis. It's beautiful to witness it, to hear drumming, to see round-dances, to hear the voice of women speaking traditional knowledge and memory and living a culture that speaks another language, that speaks of another way of being. We've gotten so far away from our roots.

As the oldest cultures that are place-based and rooted in ecosystem-based knowledge and exchange and reciprocity, that wisdom is like a roadmap. I'm not saying everything is with Indigenous people, but when we're all immigrants and all transplants and all in rootstock, they represent a way of knowing and being in place that we've lost. We pave over the environment to create roads so we can drive, we live in houses instead of in temporary structures, we heat them, we pool them, we place-make them on a human scale, but we never fully, unless we're camping, live in an ecological environment that challenges us to adapt and to be resilient.

So a lot of the abuse on the earth, on the fisheries, on the animals, on crops, on air and water quality, is going to have to be rethought on the basis of the question: what is our relationship to place?
The answer will not come from the elites. The international financial institutions and the United Nations are talking about carbon markets. But everything cannot be commodified. We're pimping the earth, we're externalizing the abuse, we're establishing markets so we can game nature. And the question from Indigenous communities is: "is that right?"

Why should the ecology “service” us? The arrogance, the narcissistic personality complex of humans to even craft a term like "ecological services"! That is just shocking. And we think we get to be the arrogant earth stewards of it all? We engineer water-ways, we are cloud brightening and geo-engineering. Excuse you, jet stream, you're not enough, we're going to value-add on you. Excuse you, mountain range, we're just going to blow you up.

So there's this profound question of integrity and ethics and principles and values afoot. Imagine that. Do you get to make money and abuse ecosystems at the same time? Some are now offering us the "rights of mother earth," led by Bolivia, from the south of the south. That helps us understand that we are a part of creation. We are part of energy exchanges. We're all feasting from the sun's energy. We're all living and breathing and dying in ecology.

To me, the earth is going to win in the end, because nothing trumps nature. Not even us and our arrogance. We're going to find out real quick what passing 400 ppm in the upper atmosphere of methane and carbon means. We're going to discover, particularly in our agricultural systems, on every continent, what climate shift means.

We're going to be billions of people in eco-adaptation strategies. And I don't know if we're all going to make it to those islands of elite eco-resiliency and 1% hoarding. But we're all going to be in trouble.

Now is the time when the women have to rise up. Now is the time when the drum has to be sounded. Now is the time to ask what do your mothers and fathers of generations of old have to say, about us being human and our relationship to everything.

Charity Hicks is the policy fellow for Eat 4 Health Detroit and the policy coordinator of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. She is a writer, researcher, healer, artist, grower, organizer, cross-pollinator and sits on the board of several local and regional social and environmental justice organizations.

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

Online book - Honouring Indigenous Women: Heart of Nations Vol .2

My poems - The Healing of the Women of Our Nations and Shkakaamik Kwe are included in this awesome book.  My poem And If We Cry was included in volume 1.


Following the success of Honouring Indigenous Women: Hearts of Nations Vol.1, published earlier this year, the Indigenous Peoples’ Solidarity Movement Ottawa (IPSMO) has now launched the second volume!

Sixty-two women and men from various nations contributed to this book. Indigenous women shared their lived experiences with regards to their relationships with the land, their birth mothers, families, communities, and themselves. Their Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies shared their thoughts on responsibilities to (re)build relationships with Indigenous women.

We are very grateful for the authors and artists who courageously shared their stories with us, and are honoured to publish their work. A list of our contributors is provided below.

We also would like to express our gratitude to Under One Roof Properties who generously donated us the layout by Nancy Reid from NR Grafix.

Download the book here: Honouring Indigenous Women: Hearts of Nations Vol.2 (117-page PDF format, free of charge)

We are now looking for funds to print it in preparation for our book launch and to offer our contributors paper copies of the book in early 2013. We plan to have this book available for individual purchases, in local libraries and community resource centers, and for use as part of school curricula.

If you would like to help us with distribution, please us at ipsmo@riseup.net.

To make a donation to the campaign, please click this PayPal link or make a cheque to ‘Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa’ with ‘HIW-Vol.2′ in the memo line. Cheques can be mailed to: IPSMO, c/o OPIRG-Carleton, 326 Unicentre, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6.

The contributors featured in the book are:

Adelle Farrely, Angela Ashawawasegai, Angela Mashford-Pringle, Arlene Bowman, Belinda Daniels, Carrie Bourassa, Catherine M. Pulkinen, Catherine McCarty, Cecelia LaPointe, Cristina Afán Lai, Dawn Karima Pettigrew, Deanna StandingCloud, Donna Roberta Della-Picca, Dvorah Coughlin, Emilie Corbiere, Eva Apuk Jij, Faith Turner, Francine Burning, Greg Macdougall, Heather Shillinglaw, Helen Knott, Janet Marie Rogers, Janine Manning, Jodie-Lynn Waddilove, Lana Whiskeyjack, Leanne Simpson, Lesley Belleau, Linda Lucero, Lisa M. Machell, Lorri Neilsen GlennLouise Vien, Lynn Gehl, Marcie Riel, Margaret Kress-White, Mariel Belanger, Mikhelle Lynn Rossmulkey, Miranda Moore, Mona-Lisa Bourque-Bearskin, Nehi Katawasisiw, Nicole McGrath, PJ Prudat, R. Saya Bobick, Raven Sinclair, Robert A. Horton, Rosie Trakostanec, Samantha Elijah, Shauneen Pete, Simone Nichol, Susan Smith Fedorko, Tamara Pokrupa-Nahanni, Tamara Starblanket Neyihaw, Teresa Rose Beaulieu, Theresa Meuse, Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy, Yolanda Teresa Philgreen and Zainab Amadahy.

For more info: www.ipsmo.org

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,
Destitution,
Political games played in women's lives,
Shaming,
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,
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,
25,000,
Or more,
Born into poverty,
The ghetto home,
Where the knife is gouged into the Mother,
The brother,
The sister,
The Auntie,
Uncle,
Because the system divides and cuts,
Based on race and class,
And you pray as another child goes unwanted,
Unloved,
In the ghetto,

Even in picture perfect suburbia,
Because money steals from the soul,
Births hate,
Deviation,
Division,
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,
Genocidal,
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,

Abortion,
Choice,
Circumstance
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,
Brown,
Bi-racial,
Multi-racial,
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,
Metro-sexual,
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,
Ran,
Ran,
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: Women Take Over the Capitol to Rally and Lobby Legislators TOMORROW (7/18/2012)

"Who: Individual women from around Michigan gathering in Lansing to learn about current legislative proposals and engage with their legislators on a variety of policy issues that impact their own lives. 

Rally Speakers: Danielle Atkinson with Mothering Justice, Emily Dievendorf with Equality Now, Meghan Groen with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton, Millie Hall with Coalition of Labor Union Women, Andrea Hunter with United Steelworkers, Renee Chelian with Northland Family Planning, Vee Heymach with Moms Clean Air Force, Katie Oppenheim with Michigan Nurses Association, Afrykayn Moon with Breastfeeding Mothers Unite

When: Rally: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 11 a.m.- Noon
Lobbying: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 throughout day

Where: The Capitol Building Lawn, Downtown Lansing

What: Hundreds of women will meet at the Capitol to share their vision for a better Michigan for women and make their voices heard with Michigan legislators.
 
Why: Michigan women are growing increasingly concerned about policies impacting education, the economy, reproductive justice, the environment, violence against women and girls, and healthcare. There are currently only 4 women in the Michigan Senate, and 27 female representatives in the Michigan House – yet in this legislative session alone, over 140 bills have been introduced that directly affect women’s rights in Michigan. Thirty-six bills make it more difficult to access reproductive health care services and if signed into law, HB 5711 would virtually eliminate access to abortion services even in cases of rape, incest, or when the health of the woman is affected."

Read more here - Women Take Over the Capitol to Rally and Lobby Legislators TOMORROW (7/18/2012)