The Revolution of Indigenous Motherhood

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

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6 thoughts on “The Revolution of Indigenous Motherhood

  1. Thank you for sharing this! The Children are our Future! The Basic of their whole Life is the Love & Inspiration from their whole Families! First they get Roots for to be sure! Later they get Wings to fly free.

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  2. Yes, I am Indigenous and an expecting Mother…. although, women of all nations and creeds can tap into this revolutionary connectedness, one love, one peoples, one race. We are all innately spiritual beings of mother earth and the universe. As humans we are often clouded by the matrix of a money driven soulless society. People can tap into their roots and heal through the power of love and divine truth. Love and truth is available to ALL if one seeks it.

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  3. Such powerful truth you are sharing and I honour you in your journey as an Indigenous mother and thank you for your writing. I am a white settler Canadian and have recently become a mother myself. I have been thinking about (and attempting to enact) the need to unsettle/transform/decolonize white settler parenting practices, which may be part of the roots of renewed generation after generation white settler adults who are steeped in superiority complex that feeds racism, and hierarchical structures of oppression, as well as ignorance of colonial history and present reality, and a disconnected relationship with land, and with emotions/body. While at some point in our histories I feel we probably had more nurturing and land-connected forms of parenting and caring for children, we are so far removed from these to know where to turn to look for guidance. I’m wondering what you think of settlers learning from Indigenous people how to relate to our children in more healthy ways that can help grow the kind of people who take responsibility for addressing contemporary colonialism and making reparation for past wrongs. I’m concerned looking to Indigenous practices of parenting may be another form of appropriation, but also feel it could be the kind of respectful centering of Indigenous ways, that we need to be practicing, if done in relationships of accountability and with honour and respect for where the knowledge is coming from. I am curious about your thoughts on this and also respect that your work is about supporting Indigenous mothers and families so understand and fully accept if you choose not to reply. thank you and again much respect for your work.

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