Motherhood- the most difficult yet rewarding experience of a woman’s life. From the moment of giving birth (whether it goes as one desires, or the complete opposite) to the sleepless nights and napless days, the truth is- motherhood is what one chooses to make of it. Yet, that is just the surface. Underneath that comes layers of responsibilities and actions which hold decisions as to what the future will look like for Indigenous peoples, based on how a mother chooses to raise, and love, her child(ren).
The truth is, Indigenous motherhood can be the restoration of nationhood, it can be the key to melting the colonial mould of what motherhood should be and restoring it with the truth of what Indigenous motherhood is. Indigenous motherhood is void of all the behaviours that have trickled down from residential school trauma, genocide, missing and murdered indigenous women, the sixties scoop, and racism. It is void of these things not because of ignorance, but because Indigenous motherhood is choosing to raise our child(ren) from a place of Indigenous love. With this comes transformative healing within ourselves to recognize that in order to be a mother- we must heal. We must destroy the systemic cycles that have been forced upon us as a peoples and re-create a resurgence of our own systems- in order for our children to determine their true identities as they grow. This would look like implementing land-based practices into a child’s everyday life, or ensuring that a child grows up knowing where their feet first touched the ground and where home truly is. By continuously practicing Indigenous norms over colonial norms, children will be deeply rooted in their existence as an Indigenous person and the colonial system will, hopefully, fall away.
Over the last few generations, Indigenous mothers have raised and prepared their children on how to survive in a colonial way of living rather than how to thrive in Indigenous way of being. With that can come fear-based parenting, and pain-based parenting. Fear-based parenting in this instance would look like Indigenous mothers telling their daughters, no matter the age, to always be on the lookout for predators as they, being an Indigenous girl or young woman, will always be a target for violence and possibly murder. Pain-based parenting would look like Indigenous mothers projecting years of their own violent lives, deriving from colonialism, onto their children through emotional and physical abuse as well as shame and humiliation tactics that these mothers learned through colonial systems. Fear-based and pain-based parenting in this context can be an inter-generational passing down of deconstructive, colonially created ways in which parents discipline, reward, and view their relationship with their children.
Indigenous mothers now have to make a very diligent, and critical choice to raise their children to thrive in an Indigenous paradigm. It is still paramount that young Indigenous girls, and women, are taught self-defence and safety, yet it is more imperative that these children learn why and how colonial systems operate in order to continue to attempt to subordinate their peoples, how and why colonialism unfolded and attempted to destroy their peoples, and how their peoples resisted and survived in order for them to be alive today. It is imperative that rather than mothers teaching daughters to be on the look out for predators, which is a preventative measure based on an outcome of colonialism which brands them to be victims prior to anything happening, mothers teach daughters to be on the lookout of any form of self-victimization in all areas of their lives, which is an empowerment tool, teaching daughters to stand in their own power prior to anything happening. Now, that’s not to say that our daughters will no longer become victims if they choose to personally void victimhood in their lives, yet if I grew up knowing what I deserved and my worthiness, rather than in an upbringing steeped heavily in parenting operating in a place of abusive colonial outcomes, I would not have stayed in an abusive relationship as long as I did, therefore I would not have been raped at the end of that relationship. When we remind our daughters of the strength, and the generations of resiliency and self-love before them, is when we will see real change. The truth is, when we teach our children about the deception that colonialism is, we are giving them the tools to disentangle and destroy roots that they will constantly be falsely told are their own in mainstream society. These children will then be the seeds which will be planted free of colonial residue and pain with the promise to grow in the awareness of true sovereignty, nationhood, and self-empowerment steeped in indigenous truth which will ultimately trickle down in their own parenting and within the future generations of our peoples.
Indigenous based child-rearing is the key to destroying suicide in our young people, to ending the numbers of crimes our children are committing in our communities, to deconstructing the normalized cycles of drug and alcohol abuse in our pre-teens, and to altering everything we think we know about parenting in present day colonialism. Indigenous based child-rearing in today’s generation resides in watching the restoration of unfaltering kinship in our Indigenous family systems unfold and allowing that to reside in the raising of our children with the knowing of who they are, and where they come from, wildly and unapologetically. It is found in recognizing the power in being a mother as an Indigenous woman- as children were the route the colonizer chose for termination- we now have a responsibility to raise our children as the route for restoring nationhood and revolutionizing communities. We are protectors and defenders of who we are and where we come from- undoing hundreds of years of colonization through the very practice of child-rearing. Indigenous based child-rearing in today’s generation resides in following the lead of your child. It resides in the wildness of love, and providing your child, no matter the age, the space for unapologetic emotion. Which means being continuously aware of the words you choose to use with your child. Acknowledge that your child, even your newborn, has the capacity to understand their own bodies. Appraise their cries to show them that yes, even at a few weeks old, it is truly okay to feel and express emotions. Through this we can begin to guide our children to consistently and confidently self-liberate, which will subsequently and ultimately lead to the liberation of our peoples as a whole. Indigenous based child-rearing is found in raising our children to understand the crisis at hand and to teach them how to move through it in revolutionary ways. It is found in teaching our children, from the youngest of ages, the sanctity of treaty, and the sacrifices made from generations before in order to keep those promises in place today. It is found in decrying the privilege that is now seen in young activists as they lay claim to creating change for our people, and instead teaching them about the real revolutionaries. It is found in teaching our children that it isn’t our job to restore, or even rebuild, our nationhood, it is our job to strengthen our nationhood- as it eternally exists alongside treaty.
Motherhood, in itself, can be the most difficult yet rewarding experience of a woman’s life. From the moment of giving birth (whether it goes as one desires, or the complete opposite) to the sleepless nights and napless days, the truth is- motherhood is what one chooses to make of it. Yet Indigenous motherhood is the ultimate weapon in destroying colonialism, through the tenderness, and wildness, of Indigenous truth and love