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Colonial Humour about Indigenous Peoples is not “Indian” Humour

We all do it.

Us as Indigenous peoples.

We crack jokes about our trauma. We share stories that make us laugh about our impoverished childhoods.

“Remember when mom used to get rank mad and would throw dishes if we weren’t listening?”

“Remember that time our friends came over and looked in the cupboards and asked “why do all your boxes say fb?” and we were too embarrassed to say “oh, that’s cause we get our food from the foodbank,” so we acted like we never heard them.”

Yeah, that’s a personal one. Haha!

If you’ve ever been a funeral or wake for an Indian person you’ll hear it. Amidst the tears and sadness is laughter filling up band halls.

And it’s great! It provides connection between people who have similar experiences.

It heals.

Humour heals.

Humour heals so much that we share stories of our childhood trauma and we laugh at it because guess what, we survived that shit! We survived our parent’s residential school trauma. We survived generations of genocide. We are survivors.

However…

We are now seeing this other side of humour.

It’s the side that directly involves the kinship systems of our nations in a highly toxic, colonial, and paternalistic manner.

It’s the side that jokes about indigenous families and people the same way that the colonizer does about us, but instead, it’s our own people doing it.

They are the narratives that may seem harmless. They are the jokes we say to our friends when they get a new partner. They are the jokes that may have held some truth in a relationship where partners haven’t had a chance to heal their colonial pain but rather than supporting, it further minimizes and exploits them.

They are the jokes that make struggling Indigenous families the punchline.

“Give him some hickeys to show others he’s yours.”

“Indian woman are so jealous they’ll kick their man out for talking to a cousin.”

“He only comes around on child tax day, then he’s gone the rest of the month.”

“He’s/she’s got lots of kids with lots of women/men.”

“Every indian relationship has abuse or trauma cause of our baggage.”

These jokes/banter that our people buy into are so toxic for our kinship systems. They downplay the current attempted destruction of our kinship system that is happening today, and that has been happening for generations by the hands of colonialism.

And this kind of humour?

ITS NOT INDIAN HUMOR.

This kind of humour is colonialism’s “humour” about Indigenous peoples (ie: racism, discrimination, dehumanization) that Indigenous peoples have adopted and made our own so we can continue to self-colonize in a variety of ways.

Colonizing our humour. That’s what is happening here.

Yes, humour heals. But colonial humour about our people?

That’s the kind of humour that destroys.

Humour about violent/possessive partners, deadbeat dads, or ideas of the dysfunctional “Indian” relationship, are not conducive to who we are and where we come from as Indigenous peoples.

It is not conducive because it does not focus on healing in any way, shape, or form.

It feeds colonialism’s ideas of us.

It’s time we stop making these kinds of jokes.

For our children’s sake.

Colonial humour about Indigenous peoples does not heal our people.

And you know how you can tell it’s a joke created by colonial ideas of us, and a joke created by Indigenous humour?

If it’s the kind of joke the old ones would joke about in band halls and on the land, then you know it’s Indian humour.

Otherwise. It’s destructive. It’s colonial. It is not our own.

Colonial humour about Indigenous peoples is further normalizing toxic behaviours in our families that colonialism, and the pain that colonialism caused, brought on.

Because if we really want to heal, as families and nations, we must focus on that REAL Indigenous humor.

The humor that heals.

We must use the humour that fills our band halls at wakes and funerals.

We must use the humour that our moshums and kokums use.

Because THAT kind of Indigenous humour is everything.

And those welfare jokes and getting damn old. Don’t you agree?

Image by: Barbara Lavallee

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Decolonization and Indigenization is the New Reconciliation

Decolonization and indigenization is the new reconciliation.

And many of our people are blindly holding, and even kissing, colonialism’s hand in the process.

So many of our people are willingly playing the lead role in the now colonial-skewed process of “decolonization” and “indigenization.”

They are becoming the pets to the university deans, the star-pupils to the healthcare executive directors, the celebrities to the city’s mayor, and the champion students to the prime minister – ultimately, they are allowing themselves to become, and are complying to, roles of tokenism so heavily steeped in colonialism that they are becoming the tokenized version of the Indian that colonialism is so deeply infatuated with.

The Indian that allows themselves to be a child to the toxic, authoritative parent that is colonialism.

The Indian that needs to be rescued from their savage ways.

Because the only good indian, is a colonized indian.

And today that looks like an Indian who thinks they are decolonizing and indigenizing colonial systems, when really they are colonizing themselves in the process.

Colonialism’s version of decolonization and indigenization is an Indian operating and agreeing to colonialism but wearing buckskin and eagle feathers to show their indigeneity.

As our people commit to “decolonizing” and “indigenizing” within colonial confines, what is underneath all of this is a process of “decolonization,” and “indigenization” that is so surface deep that colonialism is seeping and pouring through the land acknowledgements and name changes from Indian to indigenous in these institutions.

The reigns of “decolonization” and “indigenization” are being guided by colonialism. It has been co-opted so heavily that it is no longer an indigenous movement- but a colonial one.

And we are acting like we have all forgotten how to lead, as we sit in the back-seat, nodding our heads and shaking hands with whichever white leader will send a smile in our direction.

All in the name of decolonization and indigenization.

Because now the university deans can say they “respect” indigenous peoples because they acknowledged the land and treaty territory that the institution stands on, yet yesterday, they committed intellectual violence against an indigenous student in their office as they told them their Master’s thesis on racism within the university leadership is too risky.

The healthcare executive directors can say they “appreciate” indigenous peoples because they have a smudging room at their hospitals one day, but continue to ignore the complaints of racism and discrimination against their nurses and doctors each and every day made by the very same indigenous peoples they “appreciate.”

The city’s mayor can say they hold indigenous peoples in “high regard” as they speak at the National Aboriginal Day event one day, but can claim ownership and control over stolen indigenous lands in “their” cities and towns every. single. day.

The prime minister can say he has a “deep appreciation” for indigenous peoples for his whole campaign, he can even visit numerous indigenous communities and take photos shaking their hands and kissing their babies, but can force pipelines through their territories the next that will ultimately kill future generations of those same families he shook hands with.

And they can all say “we are moving forward in the process of decolonization and efforts in indigenization” as they take photos with young indigenous peoples that they have severely tokenized.

And those young people? They feel it deep down that something is off, something does not make sense, yet they’re constantly told “you have a great future ahead of you,” and “you are so resilient,” and “you are going to make a change for your people.”

The future they’re talking about? A colonial one.

If we, as indigenous peoples, really wanted to regain self-determination over our own processes of decolonization and indigenization, we would not be allowing colonial institutions to “lead” the efforts.

We would not allow colonial leaders to control the direction it is going in.

We would not allow ourselves to be subjugated to the extent where one indigenous person who agrees to pipelines, represents all indigenous peoples.

We would not allow colonial systems to complete the process of pairing efforts of decolonization and indigenization in the same box as reconciliation.

If we, as indigenous peoples, really wanted to regain self-determination over our own processes of decolonization and indigenization, we would not even allow colonialism to lay a finger on, or have a say on, what indigenization and decolonization looks like.

Indigenization and decolonization would be such a deeply motivated indigenous effort that we would only begin to see if weaving its way through ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Efforts of Indigenization and decolonization would not be arrogantly sliding out of the mouths of white, patriarchal males at institutions that are still killing our young people through suicide daily.

Indigenization and decolonization needs to become what it was intended to for indigenous peoples.

A process and space where indigenous peoples can individually reclaim their mother tongues and learn how to forgive mothers and fathers to restore families. Where indigenous families can revitalize kinship systems so heavily infused with familial reciprocity, cooperation, and shared responsibility of care-taking of children that generations of familial cut-offs are easily restored, and where indigenous communities can remember indigenous leadership to the point where Indian Act chief and councils completely, and miraculously, dissolve, because colonial leadership values will never work for our people.

Indigenization and decolonization was formerly meant for our children. It was a movement intended to remind ourselves, as indigenous kokums, moshums, mothers and fathers, aunties, uncles, sisters, brother, and cousins how to raise our nations with practices ingrained in intergenerational knowledge, intergenerational truth, and intergenerational love. Free of colonial dictatorship, patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy.

It was intended for indigenous, by indigenous peoples.

It came from a place of “change needs to happens, and here’s how it will happen,” by our people.

Decolonization and indigenization is the new reconciliation.

And I, for one, will not allow colonialism to, yet again, continue to steal something that is rightfully ours as Indigenous peoples.

And how do we change it?

By no longer recognizing it as decolonization and indigenization.

By recognizing it as another branch of colonization when colonial systems are skewing it to fit their toxic, and racially motivated, agendas.

By doing us. Ourselves. Without decolonization and indigenization.

By ultimately, becoming living examples of indigenous resurgence, revitalization through the recovery of our mother-tongues, kinship systems, healthy lifestyles, land-based practices, forgiveness processes, and traditional diets.

Because indigenization and decolonization is the new reconciliation.

And practicing indigenous systems, is the new resurgence.

And we need this. For our own survival.

Artwork by: Aura.

Inspired by: Mackenzie Anderson

Ig: @auralast

The Intergenerational Resistance of Unapologetic Indigenous Parents

To be an indigenous parent in the generations before ours meant ensuring that indigenous children were raised with the weapons of safety and camouflage in order to stay in the family homefires, on the traditional homelands, and most importantly, to be kept alive.

To be an indigenous parent in today’s day and age means ensuring that your children are raised with the weapons of resistance and revitalization in order to defy colonial reconciliation and colonial assimilation.

To be an indigenous parent in the future means to ensure that indigenous children are raised with the weapons of survival and land-based knowledge in order to endure the evident collapse of the colonial systems we are reliant on today.

Each generation of being an indigenous parent came with, and continues to come with, a distinct set of virtues, values, and ways of living that ultimately continues to maintain our existence as indigenous peoples.

The ability to resist. It’s everything. As an indigenous parent in times where colonialism began to perform its acts of genocide, resistance was everything. As an indigenous parent in times where colonialism began to specifically target the children and steal them from their home fires, resistance was everything. An an indigenous parent in times where colonialism is covertly performing acts of genocide and disguising them as reconciliation, resistance is everything.

And this is what we are not highlighting enough. The strength, willpower, and sacrifice indigenous parents make each and every day, each and every generation, and each and every lifetime, in order for us to keep breathing, and resisting, today.

How we raise our children as indigenous parents will ultimately create the future for our nations. The decisions we make in regards to diet, language, traditions, integration of land-based practices, kinship, and even whether or not our children are recognized under the Indian act, are all instrumental in designing the future for our nations.

Yet, there is this narrative about indigenous parents and indigenous childhood that is seeping into our lives through stereotypes, colonial discourse, indigenous fiction, indigenous film, and even how we speak about our childhoods at events and conferences.

The narrative sounds something like this:

“My dad/mother was a drunk.”

“I grew up with no father.”

“My mother/father was violent/abusive.”

“My mother used to whip me with a willow.”

“My mother cried lots.”

“My mother had lots of boyfriends.”

“My parents partied a lot.”

“My mother/father never allowed me to cry.”

“My childhood was dysfunctional.”

“My parents were dysfunctional.”

Yes, this narrative is true in many of our families. Yes, many of our childhoods were like this. And yes, we have every right to feel how we need to feel about it all.

But our intergenerational trauma, our parent’s intergenerational trauma, and our moshum’s/kokum’s intergenerational trauma does not have to be our only truth shared and repeated today.

Oftentimes when we talk about trauma, intergenerational or not, we commend ourselves for overcoming what we had to in order for us to be where we are today as indigenous parents. We highlight what we are doing differently or how we learned from our parent’s mistakes. This is important and deserves recognition.

However, another important piece is missing from these conversations and dialogues. The need to commend our parents, our moshums and kokums, and our relatives generations prior for overcoming their atrocious and barbaric traumas is imperative. It is imperative because without their ability to resist, or simply survive with the best way they knew how during that time of indigenous perseverance, we would not be alive today.

We need to commend those generations before ours for raising us the best way they knew how with the tools that they had at the time because the trauma of witnessing one’s whole tribe and village being murdered by the colonizer would be enough for many to want to give up. But, many didn’t. And many continued to raise children, and families, despite the most atrocious traumas becoming eternally embedded and intertwined into their existence.

And amongst all the trauma within Indigenous parents and families is this ultimate truth: the love far outweighs the trauma. Even if the trauma showed up more than the love- the love existed, buried beneath the layers of the trauma.

Because truthfully, no indigenous parent has been left unscathed by colonialism. Which also translates into the reality that no indigenous child has been left unscathed by colonialism.

And the scary part is that many of us are now doing the colonizer’s work today by unintentionally parenting our children from a place where colonialism is automatically interfering with their lives.

So here we are, fighting against colonialism, attempting to hold colonialism accountable for generations of trauma against our people, yet we are choosing to raise our children from a place that is inauthentically indigenous- from a place of colonialism.

It shows up as authoritative parenting, as thinking we know better than, smarter than, and superior to our children. It shows up as sending our children to public schools, or even schools in our communities that are littered with nepotism, lateral violence, and gossip in the adults who run the schools. It shows up as allowing our children to be taught that Columbus discovered these lands, that Sir John A Macdonald was a forefather of this “country,” thanksgiving was a sharing of a meal between pilgrims and Indians, and that reconciliation will fix everything. It shows up as teaching our children virtues and values that the colonizer would be proud of, like capitalism and consumerism. It shows up as not taking the time to remind our children how to love the land. It shows up as not correcting our children when they repeat what they are taught in the outside realm of their families, “I am Canadian.”

To be an Indigenous parent today is about reversing the toxic narrative found in novels, speeches, magazines, and movies. Its about teaching our children indigenous truths rather than colonial lies. It’s about restoring the truth of our kinship models.

“I am sober.”

“My children will grow up with healthy family members around, even the adopted family members.”

“I have done my best to heal my own traumas, and am devoted to continue to heal my own traumas, so as not to inflict harm on my own children.”

“I teach my children that all emotions are good emotions.”

“I respect myself enough to be in healthy relationships, especially for my children.”

“My children can cry whenever they feel they need to.”

“Indigenous families are healing.”

These are the messages we need to hear. We need to flip the script in order for indigenous children to live in an indigenous truth so authentic, so real, that anything less than will not suffice in their lives.

To be an Indigenous parent today means recognizing generations of Indigenous parents before us who were living, breathing examples of the word ahkameyimok (to persevere, or try hard) before we even knew what resistance was.

It means carrying a very real fear of your child pulling up to a farm when they need help in the rural areas of their people’s traditional homelands and being murdered, point blank, with no repercussions for the murderer.

It means teaching your daughter to not walk alone, no matter where she is, because you do not want to have to bring her photograph and name to parliament hill to fight for an inquiry for her death.

Being an Indigenous parent means reminding your sons over, and over, and over again, why having a braid is important when they come home in tears after a tough day of teasing.

Being an Indigenous parent means teaching your children what racism is at the age of three when they’re made fun of for their brown skin.

It means having a deeply ceded fear that a bruise from a fall, or your child looking a little unkempt, will lead to their apprehension, simply because you are Indigenous.

Being an Indigenous parent means constantly equipping your children with the tools to battle the comments about tax dollars, free education, free housing, welfare, living on reserve, why every white guy was wrong for murdering the Indian, and any other racist encounter they may come across in their lives.

Being an indigenous parent is a fear-inducing, yet liberating experience as we strive to overcome the challenges that colonialism orchestrates against us daily.

Ultimately, to be an Indigenous parent today means to acknowledge the lessons of resistance that have been ceremoniously sewn into our existence from generations ago, it means collectively overthrowing the narrative that is being replayed that focuses on our intergenerational trauma rather than our intergenerational kinship practices. It was these intergenerational kinship practices that maintained our livelihoods and the land-based practices and teachings that came with them which lead to our ancestors prayers, suffering, and revolutionizing in order for us to do our best as parents today.

To be an indigenous parent today, one must continue the exercises and practices of healing one’s own trauma. One must remember that they are not responsible in putting an end to all racism, oppression, and white-privilege- but one can do their best in starting revitalization, resistance, and revolution. One must remember that forgiveness and reconciliation for one’s own mistakes, and one’s own family, MUST go before reconciliation with colonialism.

And lastly, to be an indigenous parent today means honouring, and continuously revitalizing, the essence of those who walked before us through meticulously and tirelessly practicing all that they taught us generationally. It means healing oneself constantly so that “intergenerational trauma” becomes extinct from our vernacular.

Because intergenerational teachings and intergenerational healing will always, always, always supersede intergenerational trauma.

And this, is how we need to raise our children.

Traumaless.

And lastly, unapologetically Indigenous.

Artwork by: Chief Ladybird

IG: @chiefladybird

Twitter: @chiefladybird

Decolonization And Indigenization Will Not Create The Change We Need

We cannot decolonize or indigenize canada or colonial systems.

And it is a lie to believe that we can decolonize and indigenize ourselves as indigenous peoples and our ways of living.

Yet, this belief is so instilled within society and indigenous nations that we have made it our mission to decolonize and indigenize everything possible. It’s like that Oprah Winfrey meme. You know the one. But instead of telling people that they get a car she is saying “you get decolonized!” “you get decolonized!” And “you get decolonized!”

And the people go wild.

Yes, decolonization and indigenization were words coined by indigenous peoples as a form of resistance and reclamation. However, the colonizer has heavily co-opted these terms and made it their own. And the more that I think about these terms, the more I realize that these terms should not even exist in our vernaculars, for they are false words that feed false ideas which in turn creates false hope.

———————————————

It is called a victory when a university implements mandatory indigenous studies classes for all students.

It is celebrated when all staff at a public school are required to receive “cultural competency training.”

It is proclaimed as a momentous shift when public spaces allow for smudging and prayer.

It is described as a “good first step,” and even glorified, when the federal government creates an “inquiry” meant to bring justice to the thousands of slain Indigenous women on these lands.

It is seen as progress when the federal government gives a community a chunk of money to aid it during the peak of a suicide crisis.

However, none of these things are worth celebrating, nor are they victorious, momentous, a good first step, or even progressive in nature.

The reason? They are all events that claim to play a major role in the processes of decolonization and indigenization within colonial systems. Events that may look like advancements for indigenous peoples within colonial systems but are ultimately inherently for show.

Here is where the lies come into play.

Decolonization and indigenization are both a lie. They are a lie because the process of decolonizing and indigenizing colonial systems does not, and cannot, work. And they do not, and cannot, work because any process that has to do with decolonization and indigenization within colonial systems must ultimately follow colonial rules and behave fundamentally colonial. Meaning all outcomes will still be primarily, colonial. The truth is due to how colonial systems were created, and how they still operate today means that colonial systems cannot and will not change.

Now the other paradigm where we believe decolonization and indigenization can occur is within ourselves as indigenous peoples and within our ways of living. Yet, the grand lie is that indigenous peoples and our ways of living have been colonized enough to have to be decolonized in the first place. If we were colonized, and our ways of living were colonized, then our languages would be fully gone, our prayer life would be dissolved, our kinship practices would be completely extinct.

Indigenous peoples and our ways of life were never colonized, they were simply disrupted.

So to say we need to decolonize and indigenize is simply falling into the colonizer’s constructed belief that we as indigenous peoples, and our ways of life, have been colonized.

I call bullshit.

All it was, and all it ever will be, is a disruption.

When we celebrate, claim victory, call something momentous, a good first step, or a much needed change, we are falling into the colonizer’s traps and unhealthy false idealizations around indigenization and decolonization.

And here’s why:

A mandatory indigenous studies class for all university students at any university automatically places indigenous students in an unnecessary and forced position of advisory within those classrooms. Many non-indigenous professors will utilize, and even abuse, the knowledge of indigenous students in their “Indigenous Studies” classrooms. An unspoken expectation is set whereas those indigenous students MUST add to in-class discussions as they are the automatic experts on all things Indigenous.

Yet, imagine this. You’re an Indigenous student in a class of approximately 150 non-indigenous students. The topic of colonization and genocide comes up. A student quips back “it wasn’t genocide. They didn’t kill THAT many Indians.” The professor looks over at you and nonchalantly asks you “do you know the number?”

You feel your cheeks burn, the rage coursing through your veins and bones, the frustration of having to answer another racist question, without being able to tell the student, and the professor, that the question in itself is very racist. Being young you may not have found the self-power within yourself to say “no, I do not have to answer that, because I am not your token Indian. Where is my pay-cheque if I am going to be a professor and educate the class, just like you Mr. Cunningham?” Instead, you may slide down your chair a bit, all eyes on you, and simply respond with “I don’t know.” Or if you’re feeling braver “I do not know the number, but I do know it was genocide.” And that is just the beginning. Now come the barrage of spiteful and colonial remarks like “how can you not know the number and claim it is genocide?” “What about our tax dollars?” “Who is paying for your education anyways?” “You guys can’t even take care of your homes, dogs, or families, what do you know?” And “fucken dumb Indian.”

And the professor? Most likely he/she will sit in their chair, clear their throat awkwardly, and move on to the next topic, where again you will be asked to clarify or provide evidence on what is being taught.

And we call the shaming, the allowance of racial discrimination in the classroom, and the automatic appointment of volunteer professor decolonization? Indigenization? The academy uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the fake process of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those professors and students within those classrooms.

Another example:

Staff at a public school are receiving required “cultural competency” training. The training is most likely taught by non-indigenous peoples or indigenous peoples who have become so engrained within colonial systems that they have lost complete sight of who they are and where they come from.

The setting, in the classroom of a mostly white school. A teacher handed out colour-by-number assignment to a grade three class where the children had to colour in a generally racist photo of an “Indian.” The skin colour of the indian had to be red. The only boy in the class with a braid brings the assignment home to show his mother, who then calls the school, who then gets forwarded to to the principal where the racist assignment is then made known. The teacher’s response when questioned? “I didn’t know a picture of a cartoon Indian wearing buckskin was racist.” A standard issued apology is made and all is swept under the rug.

Now the teachers all sit in the library attending their mandatory “cultural competency” training. A training none of them would ever take if they didn’t have to. A training that a quarter of them attempted to opt-out of. And throughout the session? All kinds of snide remarks. “Our hard-earned tax dollars go to them.” “Why don’t we get free education?” “Did you see the lice they bring into our schools?” “All of them are part of the child welfare system anyways.” And the facilitator? Sits in their chair, clears their throat awkwardly, and moves on to the next topic.

And we call the racism, the allowance of words like “squaw” and “savage” in the classroom, and the very surface “cultural competency” training in the public school decolonization? Indigenization? The colonial school system also uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the fake process of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those teachers and white students within those classrooms.

The third example:

The false decolonization and indigenization efforts are seen when the allowance to smudge and pray in colonial spaces is given by the colonizer. Permission to do so is given to the Indigenous person by a settler who sits in the biggest office in the building. However, every rule made by that settler must be followed in order to have the right to pray in those spaces.

An Indigenous woman is organizing an event in a conference room. It is a healing event for Indigenous peoples who have been impacted by residential schools. She decides to open up and close off with a smudge each day. After setting up she goes to the office of the event coordinator and asks if she can smudge. The event coordinator makes a call to the events manager who then makes a call to the conference centre manager. The answer, “she can, but lots of our staff are allergic to it so she can only do it for a short time period and must open all doors and windows after to air the room out.” The message is relayed to the woman. “We just want to make sure you’re not smoking drugs in there,” the event coordinator jokes.

That Indigenous woman does not laugh. Instead she calls the event coordinator out on their racist comment. “I am going to report you to your supervisor.” “Go ahead,” the event coordinator responds. “He’s the one who says that all the time though.” The woman does so anyways. And nothing is done. She is left ignored.

So she smudges the shit out of that room every morning, and every evening, even if the conference centre staff over exaggerate their coughs as they walk by. The event manager calls her a few weeks later, stating that what she did was very disrespectful and she would never be allowed to host an event on their premises again. She laughs and hangs up.

And we call the snide racist remarks, the allowance of ignoring a filed complaint, and the banning of indigenous peoples from colonial spaces decolonization? Indigenization? This colonial system also uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the process of fake decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those conference coordinators and managers within those buildings.

Another example:

The federal government’s creation of the missing and murdered Indigenous women’s inquiry is one of the biggest examples of false efforts of decolonization and indigenization. This one more so falls under false strategies of reconciliation. The inquiry is done by leaders in colonial thinking and indigenous peoples who cater to colonialism in order to achieve life successes.

The inquiry is underway, yet women in our families are being murdered all across these lands. And still, nothing is being done. The inquiry is underway and rather than saving lives and seeking much needed justice for grieving families, the leaders of the inquiry are busy fighting over how to lead and how to communicate to the masses. The inquiry is underway and families are told their scheduled sessions are cancelled, with no real explanation as to why. The inquiry is underway and all that has come out of it is privileged women receiving privileged positions to roll out the inquiry. And no outcomes.

Families are left on the back burner, the budget is dwindling day by day, month by month. Justice for the murder of an indigenous woman can apparently go on summer vacation, as shown by this inquiry process. The people are still left voiceless. And colonialism still receives their paycheques.

And we call the continued murder of indigenous women, and the sweeping of families under the rug decolonization? Indigenization? Reconciliation? The justice system, and Trudeau himself, uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the process of fake decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of the Prime Minister and the leaders of the inquiry process.

And lastly:

The federal government giving a community a chunk of money to aid it during the peak of a suicide crisis is one of the most shameful examples of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation efforts. Colonial systems often believe that money is the answer to everything. And there is also the strange belief that indigenous peoples know how to stretch a dollar out, and we do. But you know why? Because we more often than not, have no other choice.

More lives of indigenous young people could be saved if enough dollars and people came into communities with the appropriate fine-tuned skills in the areas of grief and recovery, and emotional intelligence. Instead, colonialism sends in individuals who charge an obscene amount of money for a week long program with the mentality that they have the power to “save the people.”

Indigenous young people are forced into a band hall, 8 hours a day, with a non-indigenous person who charges anywhere from $5000-$10,000 a day for work originating around the white version of “medicine wheel teachings,” and activities on self esteem. If a young person leaves the program or takes off, they are criticized and even punished rather than allowing for the space to explore why they may have left the program.

And still that non-indigenous person thinks they are “saving” the kids. Their mentality is strewn throughout the program they are running, treating the kids as though they are less important, not as smart as, and inferior to them. And when they leave? Everything remains the same.

And we call the continued suicide of indigenous young people, and the superior mentality of people going into communities “helping” these kids decolonization? Indigenization? Reconciliation? The mental health system uses the phraseology as a tool to seem like they’re playing an imperative role in the fake process of decolonization, indigenization, and reconciliation, processes that are ultimately for the benefit of those white mental health workers.

None of these things are worth celebrating, nor are they victorious, momentous, a good first step, or progress. But you know what is?

When an indigenous student in a mandatory indigenous studies class stands up against the other students and professor, regardless of what impact it will have on their final grade and their reputation, because to that student, self-revolution in indigeneity means honouring the generations before them and after. When the mother and her grade three aged son stand up against the teacher, and the principal of the school, regardless of what impact it will have on that student’s final grade and reputation, because to that mother and child, land-based learning and boycotting racist settings leads to the ultimate form of autonomy and the thousands of years of indigenous self-love. When the indigenous women stands up against the conference centre managers and employees due to their racist rhetoric in regards to smudging and praying in forced colonial spaces regardless of her being able to host her session there now or ever again. Because to her, this session would do much better on the land anyways. And when the indigenous families of women who have been taken from them to soon collectively decide that they must in charge of the process of justice, with or without colonial systems, regardless of how much money the federal government will, or will not, provide them. Because practicing self-healing and models of traditional justice will provide more relief than colonial justice ever could.

As stated previously, the efforts of decolonization and indigenization do not even fit within our own intricately intertwined systems; whether it be on the land, within our kinship practices, or amongst our ways of being. These efforts do not fit in our systems because, as stated previously, indigenous systems were never colonized to begin with. All that colonialism did to indigenous systems, remember, was disrupt them.

Decolonization and indigenization are words used to benefit the colonizer and settler culture in order for them to look good in the eyes of those who are trying to create positive change in communities.

But truthfully, colonial systems can never be decolonized or indigenized. And indigenous systems do not need to be decolonized or indigenized.

So let us stop clamouring, applauding, and putting colonial systems and colonial leaders on pedestals for doing false and imaginary work that is ultimately dangerous and places our young people in more high-risk situations.

The only thing that needs to happen is the resurgence of indigenous systems within indigenous peoples.

Because even an Indigenous prime minister will not create change in colonial systems. But it would look damn good in the colonizer’s game of decolonization and indigenization.

We must lead ourselves.

Ressurect the indigenous love that our ancestors had for the land.

For our children.

And for our grandchildren.

So, An Indigenous Artist Stole From You. Now What?

Last summer I purchased a gift for my daughter from an indigenous artist. It was a beautiful hand-carved comb, from the west coast. “Her first treasure” I thought.

I love supporting the beautiful works and art forms that our people’s hands and spirits are gifted in doing. The authenticity and originality in the beadwork, carvings, jewelry, regalia, moccasins, paintings, and the hundreds of other avenues that indigenous artists transform items into is indescribable. Many times we can see the sheer magnitude of energy, prayers, and love that goes into these pieces when we receive them, we can even feel it. The pieces we receive when we purchase items from indigenous artists are more than just their works of art, these pieces are physical examples of their manifested prayers and hours of concentration and love.

Yet, sometimes, we never see those items we purchase.

I can assume that the same amount of prayers, hours of concentration, and even love may have gone into those pieces that we pay for and never physically see. However, somewhere along the way, that artist makes the decision to participate in corruptive behaviours. And sometimes, those behaviours are repeated even after those artists have been publicly called out on social media and in other avenues.

I never did see that piece that I purchased from that said artist for my daughter’s one year birthday, even after countless messages and attempts to reach out for an explanation months later.

And this happens all too often.

Now to clarify, one experience with an indigenous artist who exemplifies corruptive behaviours does not mean that all experiences with indigenous artists are going to exemplify behaviours that are corrupt (I know how colonizers often skew things to benefit their ideologies and beliefs.)

In fact, many Indigenous artists are honest, beautiful, tear-inducing creators of generations of love and truth in our people’s. Many Indigenous artists are the reason why social stigmas are changing. Many Indigenous artists are a part of our livelihoods.

However, there are instances, as stated above, where payment is made for works from artists and the works are never seen.

We learn as we do work on ourselves that we are not our behaviours.

But that doesn’t mean we should not be held accountable to our behaviours.

So the bigger question in all of this is:

Why don’t we call out our own “leaders” who commit bigger acts of corruption and thievery against our own people?

Some communities have chief and council members who have criminal records and who are charged with theft “leading” the people. Some communities have people working in our band offices with lists of crimes of all kinds and they are the ones responsible for ensuring our people are surviving in our communities. Some communities have teachers in schools with drug charges against them teaching our children. Shit, we even have men with charges of sexual assault against minors working in our gas bars, selling minors their chips and pop all summer. And we don’t say a word.

But what’s worse than that?

Why don’t we call out the colonial “leaders” in colonial systems who commit the biggest acts of corruption and thievery against our people every single day?

We have mayors in towns agreeing to building golf courses on our sacred sites. Yet the only ones concerned with what is happening are the ones on the front lines. We have provincial NDP party members approving the theft and rape of the lands all in the name of oil and money. And the only ones protesting that are the ones whose lands it is impacting.

And the biggest one yet? We have the prime minister of “Canada” commanding others to rape and steal more land, telling others to continue the capitalization of indigenous children in the child welfare system, whispering to others that the mmiw inquiry is just to keep indigenous peoples quiet, and saying to others that money comes before indigenous peoples.

And you know what our people are doing instead of calling him out?

They’re taking selfies with him.

So why must we call out and tell others not to buy from indigenous artists who stole from us and wronged us, but then take selfies with the man who proudly continues the legacy of genocide and colonialism. The man who is in charge of notorious crimes of theft and treason.

It makes no sense.

Sure, we write all kinds of articles and make all kinds of tweets on how wrong and atrocious the colonizer’s behaviours are. Hell, we even hold rallies and round-dances in shopping malls and city streets to make our point. But guess what?

We quit.

We have to begin to ask ourselves, why is it when an indigenous artist who is of our own kin commits an act of thievery and betrayal, do we hold onto it for our lifetimes, vowing never again to purchase pieces from that artist ever again? We even tell our sisters, aunties, kokums, and our moshums who are looking to romance their partners, to never buy from that artist.

Yet, we will gladly put a check in the box beside the chief’s name who was convicted of stealing from our people. Or beside the councillor’s name who co-signed on the oil agreement with Husky which will lead the demise of our people and our lands.

Shit, we even brag about going to the colonial polls to vote for “NDP” or the “Liberals,” hoping that their nice haircuts and white skin will mean that they will be different this time around.

You know who taught us these behaviours to begin with? When our good old friend Christopher Columbus sailed across the sea and “discovered” us Indians. He committed every act of barbaric treason, corruption, thievery, rape, murder, and crime against our peoples and our lands.

I stole once. I was a thief. 7th grade. I stole an Oh Henry chocolate bar from my teacher’s, Mrs. Aylward, desk. It tasted damn good.

My mom called me every name in the book when I got caught. She beat me with her words. Colonialism taught her how to raise children.

But you know what? I learned my lesson. The shame was deep, sure. I still remember having to write lines in the “in-school suspension room” my eyes all puffy from crying all night and not sleeping and my teacher coming to check on me every half an hour asking me “are you all right?”

I never stole again after that.

We have chiefs and councillors who do jail time and come out, and they still steal. They still lie. And they still cheat their way into power. And our cousins and uncles tell us, with a smile on their face, that they voted for them.

We have leaders of colonial political parties who shut down inquiries on the murder of our women and justify the rape of our land bases. And our cousins and uncles tell us, with a smile on their face, that they voted for them.

We are even at the point of constantly trying to make space for ourselves to be seen as successful in these colonial systems that breed leaders of lying, stealing, cheating, and manipulation. We applaud indigenous peoples who become ministers, or members of parliament. We strive for that unhealthy and toxic recognition from colonialism. We have become so focused on colonial success that we are driving those messages into our children unknowingly.

“You are going to be the next prime minister.”

Saying that to our young people is like saying:

“You could be the next leader of pipelines, violence against indigenous lands and women, justice system, residential schools and the child welfare system.”

Or

“You know what? You are such a good leader that you could lead the ongoing colonization of our people, you could aid in making your people landless! You have the potential to lead the genocide and assimilation of your own people today! I see it in you.”

This needs to stop.

And it needs to stop if we want our people to continue surviving.

Otherwise we are instantly setting up our young ones for a future of suffering.

So again, why do we allow ourselves to keep on operating this way? If anything we need to recognize where these behaviours stem from. The lying, the cheating, the stealing, the manipulation.

When an indigenous artist steals from you after you purchase a piece of their works, do what you need to do in order for yourself to move ahead.

But also remember to treat the system that created those behaviours in our people the same way.

Just because the colonizer commits the same crime as one of your own against you but they give your community a giant payout for it doesn’t mean that they deserve better treatment.

If anything, they deserve a BCR from every community to be kicked off our reservations.

Call out Trudeau for manipulating the conversation of reconciliation from one of truth into a one sided conversation of photo-ops and selfies. Call out those ministers for lying about creating positive change for indigenous peoples when they ran in the elections that you gladly participated it. And call out those mayors for destroying those sacred sites rather than observing from afar and remaining silent.

Some indigenous artists may steal from our people, but it’s time that we stop applauding the colonizer who commits the same behaviours after they give their speech of “change,” “decolonization,” and “reconciliation.”

Because we can no longer cater to colonialism if we want to see change in our nations, communities, and within our families.

And ultimately, we need to call out the colonizer more often than we call out our own.

Because they’re behaviours are killing our young people every single day.

Smash the colonial patriarchy. Restore the Indigenous Matriarchy.

Want to smash the patriarchy, destroy misogyny, and demolish sexism?

Smash, destroy, and demolish colonial systems from our lives.

Because ultimately colonial systems are created with the task to uphold, preserve, and maintain the longevity of patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism.

And truthfully, Indigenous systems are the weapons to use to completely smash the patriarchy, destroy misogyny, and demolish sexism from our livelihoods.

The challenge in dislocating ourselves completely from colonial systems and immersing ourselves fully in indigenous is people’s self-made limitations around what that means.

Colonial systems have become a lifeboat for some of our people. There is such a heavy reliance on them for everyday living that it has become almost habitual to live with them. Academia, legal aid, social services, human resource sectors, medical supports, and governmental systems exclusively cater to colonialism, and our people are consistently choosing these systems as their only options for daily life. There is a deeply seeded fear in abandoning these interlocking avenues that aid in upholding patriarchal behaviours, misogynistic beliefs, and sexist ideologies. A fear that our people have associated with survival. A lot of our people are thinking that without these colonial systems, how will they survive.

Yet, the real question should not be how will we survive without these colonial systems but rather how long will we survive living within these colonial systems?

Realistically, it would have to be a gradual process to divert completely from colonial systems and reintegrate into indigenous systems and there has to be a starting point. Where we could begin is in taking small steps in addressing, admitting, and responding to patriarchal behaviours, misogynistic thinking, and sexist ideologies.

In order to reaffirm our existence as indigenous nations we must revive our relationship with the all-encompassing matriarchy. In order to liberate ourselves in times of spineless patriarchy, we as indigenous peoples must aid in the full restoration of the backbones of our nations – and ultimately, that is through going to war against the beliefs and ideologies around patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism. So how do we smash the patriarchy as indigenous peoples and nations?

Firstly, to smash the patriarchy, we have to smash the idea that we hold enough power over women to decide what is, and isn’t, beneficial for their well-being. We have to crush the concept that one has power over women to the point that one has the right to judge them based on how they behave. To smash the patriarchy we must also smash colonial feminism and any other form of thinking that revolves around having a superiority over the mind of women and and the logic of “I know what is best for women.” Because truthfully, every woman knows exactly what is best for themselves.

To smash the patriarchy we must destroy the continued oppression of children and the dysfunctional adult vs child dynamic we see unfolding. Colonialism has taught indigenous families that an authoritarian presence over children is acceptable and mandatory for the sustainability of our families. This is what is also maintaining patriarchal and colonial behaviours. We see it heavily woven through the education system where teachers have an automatic hierarchical presence over our children. It is absolutely crucial that we reignite indigenous family systems to the point where the parent/child dynamic is one of equality, because that is exactly what indigenous kinship is about. Once our children receive the deserved treatment of equality from us as adults, they will uphold the dynamic of equality in all areas of their lives as they grow.

To smash the patriarchy we must raise young girls with the ability to veer away from roles of victimhood and martyrdom and rather divert full force towards self-power and self-love. It is also unquestionably critical that we raise young boys with the ability to steer away from authoritarian and persecutor roles and rather ascend towards self-responsibility, compassion, vulnerability, and deepened levels of empathy. It is also critical that we model these healthy behaviours and have open, honest dialogue about what to do when unhealthy behaviours show up. With these intact, young people will fall naturally into healthy behavioural roles void of shame, guilt, and unworthiness.

Smashing the patriarchy also requires raising young boys to have a deeper understanding of themselves as indigenous men that surpasses teachings on their relationship with their braids. It is paramount young indigenous boys are given space to be proud of their hair, however it is also critical that young boys are given the space to be proud of their fears, tears, shame, and insecurities. Once young indigenous boys have to tools necessary to be truthful in the face of their own fear, sadness, shame, or insecurity, they can ultimately be truthful in all areas of their life. And that in itself is a revolutionary act that can build healthy nations for generations.

Smashing the patriarchy requires indigenous men and women who state that they follow indigenous systems, “decolonization,” “land-based practices,” “Indigenous masculinities,” or “indigenous feminism” to openly admit where in there lives they have, or still have, participated in patriarchy, misogyny, and/or colonial feminism and to subsequently make amends for the wrongs and pain they may have caused in doing so.

And for those who state that they have never participated in the colonial dynamics of patriarchy and misogyny, the invitation stands for them to dig deeper. Abiding to the patriarchy could look like indigenous women, agreeing to, and living out Canada’s solutions to the issues involving indigenous women. It could look like indigenous men and women, both, agreeing to projects involving environmental violence due to the fact that they “create jobs” for our people. It could look like someone believing that academia is the answer to ending patriarchy and using it as their ultimate weapon in fighting against it, when really, the backbone of academia is a white privileged male “kindly allowing” women of colour into the institutions and touching her behind closed doors to “pass the class.” It could look like someone holding the belief that colonialism, colonial systems, and those in power of those systems, will save us. It could look like unhealthy elders demanding people to do things for their ceremonies that they may be uncomfortable with. It could look like indigenous women operating like colonial women leading settler-created boards, committees, and even political positions of “power.” It is these arenas that are deeply engrained with undertones of misogyny, patriarchy, and even sexual violence, and it is these arenas that continue to legislate laws that are slowly killing our women.

To smash the patriarchy we have to remember that being male, or even masculine does not equal patriarchy. Nor does being male, or being masculine equal misogyny, sexual violence, abuse, or rage. The association of that must stop. Boys and men are not dangerous simply because they are male. The boys who become men who are dangerous are the ones who are raised in authoritative homes with no space for vulnerability, sensitivity, or deep levels of empathy. The boys who become men who are dangerous are raised by colonialism. Indigenous families provided space for children to experience all parts of themselves, wildly and unapologetically, without room for oppression.

Smashing the patriarchy requires more than us blaming the porn industry, or even individual men who have committed acts against women. By all means, hold these men accountable and get the justice deserved. However, take the opportunity to look at the imbalance in colonial systems and even how allowable it has been for men to treat women this way since John Smith laid eyes on Pocahontas. Most likely before that too. Hold both men and systems accountable. If one decides to call out a man then also call out the systems that may have influenced him, and allowed him, to act that way. Because we do not need to create Indian country’s version of tabloid magazines.

Smashing the patriarchy also requires more than men using social media to admit times when they committed acts of patriarchy and here is why:

We have to ask ourselves who are these social media admittances from men for? Who are they serving? If my rapist posted an admittance on social media as some sort of display of “smashing the patriarchy” it would not create any kind of healing for me nor would he be seen, in my eyes, as less of a misogynist than he was. He may even skew the story in a way that would attempt to make my experience with him raping me not as serious as it was. Now, that’s not to say that people cannot change or cannot be forgiven. If anything, it would highlight a cowardice around him for neglecting to admit and apologize to my face.

However, there is also an opportunity and space where the man can do his own inner work to the point of healing that part of himself that commits this behaviour. In doing so, from my personal experience, that would grant him peace, happiness, and liberation from guilt, shame, fear, grief, and any possible emotional block within him.

And realistically, who is in charge of my healing journey, as a former victim of rape? Because truthfully, are these social media admittances for “smashing the patriarchy”? Or are they an example of that part of those men on their healing journeys? Because also, the only one who is in charge of our healing journeys is ourselves. No one can make us feel anything and no one is responsible for our peace, freedom and happiness.

To smash the patriarchy we have to remember that patriarchy is insidiously manipulating. Meaning that these admittances can be nothing more than blanket apologies. The danger with these “blanket apologies” is that they create this parallel sameness for individual women and their experiences when in fact their experiences are immensely different. They are so immensely different that no one can truly know what it’s like to be on either side. Which leaves us in what can be called a wellness paradox, which can potentially keep us stuck in an insane, inter-looped, cycled battle between insecurity and trust. Due to not truly knowing if these admittances are sincere or are men striving to be an “exception” to the system of patriarchy.

To smash the patriarchy we have to highlight the men who are doing this work on their own, without putting it out there for their ego. But really, what work they choose to do is none of my business. The healing journey of another person is none of my business, whether their admittances are sincere or if they are blanket admittances is none of my business. The only thing I can do is trust. And I choose trust because of my own work I have done. I choose trust because I have chosen happiness, joy, and love over the unhealthy loop on insecurity and trust. I choose trust because, ultimately I want that to be a part of the lives of our children, rather than unhealthy dynamics and games.

To smash the patriarchy we need to do more than say “believe her.” There is a critical need to tell girls to believe in themselves rather than just asking patriarchal systems to believe them. Girls must believe in themselves enough to speak up as soon as patriarchal behaviours attempt to objectify, touch, or own their bodies. No matter the circumstance.

Smashing the patriarchy means that girls must also believe in themselves enough to know that even if the patriarchal system doesn’t believe them, their truth is still valid and alternate means of justice and healing is necessary. They may search for justice within non-colonial systems, within themselves, and within the Indigenous systems which place women on the highest level. Indigenous systems ultimately, will believe in her.

Smashing the patriarchy entails practicing indigenous womanhood rather than colonial feminism. It requires raising our children with the systems involving indigenous motherhood rather than allowing colonialism to raise our children.

Smashing the patriarchy requires us to fall back on the systems that were given to us generations ago – systems which we have turned our backs on for colonialism. We must dissolve the narrative that the colonizer can give, and take, our power. Only we are in charge of our self-power as indigenous peoples.

Smashing the patriarchy requires this generation of strong indigenous women and girls to aid in the restoration of the indigenous kinship system. It requires this generation, and the next, of healing from assimilative policies and trauma to normalize the respect of indigenous women. It requires taking this generation, and the next, to reclaim, rehabilitate, revolutionize, and revitalize to change the woman from being seen as disposable to sacred. It requires many medicinal generations, the generation of our grandmothers, of our mothers, and of ourselves, to create experiences filled with restoration and devotion for women seven generations down the line.

Smashing the patriarchy requires the full immersion of indigenous systems in all areas of our lives. It requires no longer using colonialism as a life-boat. It requires restoring the indigenous matriarchy. And it requires remembering that our ancestors did not fight for our lives in order for us to rely on colonialism to raise our children, raise our families, and raise our nations.

Smash the colonial patriarchy, restore the indigenous matriarchy.

Artwork by: Monique Aura

Instagram: @auralast

Words of Advice for the Indigenous Young Revolutionary Attending University

As an indigenous young person, to purposely and unapologetically disobey colonialism is an act of revolution. It is an undertaking that is wrapped in resurgence and it carries a deep love for those who prayed for your existence generations ago.

So here is a reminder to the indigenous young people who are first year students in colonial academia or to those who are returning to colonial academia – it is imperative for you to unapologetically disobey colonialism. It is necessary to fearlessly confront and resist any and all forms of oppression of your peoples in colonial systems. And it absolutely vital that you defend who you are and where you come from, for eternity.

Also, here is some advice. Take what you need, leave what you don’t. You are your own expert. But also remember, colonialism and colonial systems are leading to our demise. Resist. Reject. Revolutionize. So that our future generations will have a chance to know what it’s feels like to fall in love with indigenous ways of living.

– Use your voice as often, and as loudly, as necessary. 

– But don’t feel obligated to be the “volunteer professor” in the classroom whenever a topic involving indigenous peoples come up.

– Know that your success does not derive solely from colonial systems. You can still call yourself successful if you fail a class but can go home and hunt a moose. 

– Also, going home does NOT make you a failure. Sometimes colonial systems just don’t fit us. And that’s ok.

– There will be instances where you will battle racism, cultural appropriation, prejudice, and discrimination from classmates, professors, and even the Human Rights boards at the universities you attend. And in some instances you will “lose” your case. Remember this: you may have “lost” your case in the colonial academic system, but in the context of indigenous systems- you are a defender and advocate to all of the indigenous students who are silent in the face of racism, cultural appropriation, prejudice, and discrimination.

– There will also be instances where being an indigenous woman in the city will be a reason for you always have your guard up in order to stay alive. Go somewhere where you can let your guard down and simply be “you” every once in a while. Let your body rest. It will be necessary.

– Alcohol and parties may seem like the thing to do and place to be. But do your best to remind yourself of how many generations of your people have become poisoned by it, how many children suffer because of it, and how many times you may have suffered in your life because of it. It is not worth it. 

– Misogyny and patriarchy (ie: men thinking they’re better than women, women being seen as “nothing,) are very real ways of thinking, specifically in colonial academia. When experiencing it, do not succumb to victimhood. Instead, do your best to safely call-out this way of thinking (keyword: SAFELY,) and know that you cannot overthrow a way of thinking, but you can flourish in systems of indigeneity and personal self-power. An example of this would be dropping a class because the professor consistently puts down women, filing a human rights complaint, and while waiting, join a self-defence course or a course in your mother-tongue. And watching that professor get fired. (That never happens but an indigenous girl can dream.)

– Call your mother, kokum, father, or moshum. Often. Their voices will bring you home when you need it the most.

– Do the homework. Only if it feels right. If the topic of that paper goes against your values and morales as an indigenous person- say something. Fight it. And do not allow anyone to justify something that goes against your beliefs. Trust your gut. Always.

– Drink water, get your sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. It helps.

– Find wild meat when you can. Learn how to cook your favourite recipe with it from back home. It’ll mean so much to you when you are homesick.

– You, as a young indigenous person, can make a stand against being indoctrinated to the colonial systems. You can put an end to our people accepting abusive behaviours in colonial systems as “natural” (ie: being followed in stores, getting harassed by police, and young indigenous women feeling unsafe on city streets). And you can do so by intelligently misbehaving against colonialism.

– If you hear the phrase “education is the new buffalo,” do not believe it. Saying education is the new buffalo is like saying oil companies are the new buffalo. In reality, colonial systems and something colonialism created to further colonize our peoples (ie: academia) will never be the “new buffalo.” Why? Because colonialism massacred and attempted genocide against the buffalo. And colonialism is attempting to do the same to he indigenous mind in colonial classrooms. Truthfully, it will be indigenous systems that will create the “new” buffalo. In fact, let’s repopulate the buffalo and have the buffalo be the “new buffalo.” Education is not the new buffalo because colonialism is not the route to our livelihood as indigenous peoples.

– Do not give into academia’s and the colonial system’s definition of who you are as an indigenous person. Only you have the right to define who you are and where you come from. No one else.

– If that settler “friend,” or “ally” is over-stepping boundaries, thinks that they can be a “rescuer” to all the indigenous peoples, or are outright trying to be Indian, you don’t need to be their friend. Call them out. Tell them how it is. Cut them off even. They are on these lands because of your people. They exist because of your people. Plain and simple.

– You don’t have to allow that white boy or white girl to touch your hair just because you think they’re cute. 

– You don’t have to allow them to hug you because you think they’re cute. Or kiss you. Or have sex with you. Say no. Or say yes if you want it. But be safe. Practice your sovereignty in all kinds of ways. 

– Anxiety is real. And it can happen while becoming a part of colonial systems. Seek help and know that home can help. And also know that colonial-based counselling sometimes does not help. Neither does their medicine. Find indigenous based solutions. Emotional based solutions. Love based solutions.

– Most professors see themselves as superior to, better than, and smarter than their students. Primarily because of the child-adult dynamic infused in colonialism. Do not fall for this dynamic. Again remember, they exist here because your people allowed them to live on your lands, they exist here because your people fed them on your lands when they were on the brink of starvation. They are not more superior, better than, or smarter than you. You are everything.

– Colonialism in classrooms may attempt to shame you. For having children, for being brown, for being indigenous. You may even notice that white professor forks out “C” grades to all the indigenous students in their “indigenous studies” class. Fight it. And again remember- this does not mean you are unsuccessful. All it means is colonialism is attempting to make you see yourself as unsuccessful. Don’t allow it to. Because when you are home, or simply existing as an indigenous person, that is an extraordinary act of resistance.

– Your teachings are not something to be embarrassed about. And you are not obligated to share them with anyone who asks. Keep them as sacred as the ceremonies you learned them in.

– Make friends who are also nehiyaw, anishinaabe etc. One is bound to have a kokum who will invite you for supper on the days when you only have one dollar in your bank account- they won’t shame you out for it AND you’ll most likely leave with containers of food.

– You can still reach your goals, even if you fail that English class three times. But you won’t need that information from that class in the long run, as much as they would like you to believe.

– Frybread is not traditional food. Neither is spam. Or poutine at the powwow. Enjoy it, but do your best to find a balance.

– Remember that following indigenous systems for a successful future is not an “alternative” option, nor is it an unlikely means to a positive outcome. It is revolutionary, and necessary, in order for our people to survive. Do your best to prioritize this success over colonial success.

– You do not need to obey colonialism, colonial systems, or the colonizer in order to advance in life. Colonially misbehave and defy the colonizer daily. But also keep in mind of outcomes. Weigh out which outcomes you are willing to meet when you disobey the fundamentals of colonialism. 

– Colonialism and academia are not always correct. You have every right to disagree and argue against both, whenever you want.

– When being followed in stores, if and when you can, film the person following you. Do not allow them to “make” you feel threatened, no one has the power to make you feel anything. Call them out and have a safety plan if things escalate. You have a right to shop in stores without being stereotyped and followed.

– Remember that a certificate, diploma, degree, or doctorate does not make you who you are. It is something to be proud of, something to celebrate, a victory even. However, also remember that colonialism has trained us to believe that their way is the only way to reach success. It’s not the only way. Living with Indigenous systems is a route to success. Living with the land, nourishing your family, and healing the community is a route to success. 

– Ultimately being proud of who you are and where you come from as an Indigenous person, is an example of life-long success. 

And lastly, to the indigenous young people attending colonial academia: you are the most feared weapon against colonialism. When you disobey colonial systems, you disobey assimilation and generations of attempts of genocide. When you disobey and do not accept colonialism, you disobey and do not accept forced relocation, violence against indigenous women and the lands, indigenous communities without safe drinking water, shelter, and/or the ability to practice food sovereignty, corruption, patriarchy, misogyny, lateral violence, nepotism, and every other symptom of colonization within our people.

To the indigenous young people attending colonial academia: do not give up in the face of colonialism and remember, colonialism will never have the power to define who you are and where you come from, and that in itself makes you the most powerful, and successful, peoples on these lands.

Be revolutionary. Stand liberated. And never apologize in the face of colonialism.

Why I don’t celebrate National Aboriginal Day

First of all, as stated in the title, this is all personal opinion and is no way putting down or dictating how others should spend this day. How people choose to spend this day is perfect for them and their beliefs. All these are, are my personal thoughts on this day.

There are many reasons why some choose to pride in such a day. It provides space and time for our people to celebrate who they are as a collective across the lands. It gives others the opportunity to experience admiration for oneself and the obstacles we have overcome to get us to where we are today. It allows for the unification of all nations to gather and join in honouring one another through music, dance, culture, and food. 

And these are all important, beautiful ways for our people to celebrate who we are as Indigenous peoples.

However, I choose not to celebrate or be a part of national aboriginal day, and these are the reasons why:

This day was created by the very same colonial government who has been, and continues to, commit forms of genocide and cultural warfare against our peoples and lands, all in the name of oil extraction and money.

This day was discussed and considered from the beginning by the falsely-indigenous, and colonial governance structure, the AFN.  

This day, although idealized by one of our own, carries the same qualities as trudeau’s agenda of reconciliation, and harper’s residential school apology. It comes with a sense of dictation and authority from the colonizer whereas they feel they should benefit, and even be given thanks for “allowing” us and “giving us” this day to celebrate our indigeneity.

This day possesses a term by which the colonizer has labelled us and will continue to label us, carrying the same connotations as the word “savage,” just phrased in a more politically correct way. And again, they’re changing it to “Indigenous” to make it seem as though they are our new best friends, to follow through with their “new nation to nation relationship,” which shouldn’t exist in the first place due to the fact that our treaties are between us as nations and the crown, not Canada, nor should this new relationship be seen as any means a new form of our treaty relationship with the Crown.

This is the colonial government’s way to state that they are following through with the recommendations made in the TRC report, even though it is the only recommendation they followed through with of the 94 made in total.

This day is celebrated with pow-wow dancing, music, and food. Which is beautiful and I so love seeing our people in this form. However, the opportunity exists for our people to focus on our liberation and collectivity to overcome oppression. Spending time and energy on these items would benefit the cause at a deeper level.

Canadians are only seeing our culture, on this day, as stated above. Powwow dancing, drumming, singing, and eating. The conversations that need to happen are being lost. And these settlers who are attending a National Aboriginal Day event are automatically seeing themselves as an ally. Yet if the time came to fight on the front lines by our side, with the real work, I am sure most of those allies would be on the side of their own.

June is National Aboriginal History Month, as put forward by NDP member Jean Crowder in 2009. Again, this agenda is lost in the greater colonial spectrum. And again, it comes from a place of the colonizer “granting” Indigenous people’s this gift. When I’m reality, the whole year is based on Indigenous peoples of these lands due to the fact that those colonizers are still settlers on our territories.

It is a day to celebrate, for settlers to learn from us, yet at the same time, as I always say, we would never see Trudeau or an every day settler set foot on a reserve in the dead of winter during our day to day life and struggles. If so, it is rare. These people only show up during times of celebration, when we do our best to show them who we are.

The only other times we see white faces in our communities and on our territories is when they are extracting resources from our homelands, when they are making a monetary deal with the chief, when they are operating like present day Indian agents, and perhaps when one or two of them shack up with someone on the Rez. 

Equality for indigenous peoples in “Canada” to the colonizer is our people identifying themselves and living their lives as Canadians. Therefore directly boycotting their lineages, accepting, defending, and giving in to colonization directly.

Because this day is created by colonial systems it can very well be “taken away” by those colonial systems. But the question is, will that make us stop celebrating who we are and where we come from? No.

Right now we are living in very critical times where many of our peoples are applauding the government’s (ie: Trudeau’s) efforts in this “new nation to nation relationship.” Yet the more our people applaud him, the more we are accepting our demise handed down by him with his nice hair and white smile. His words today of renaming “National Aboriginal Day” to “National Indigenous People’s Day” shows just how much false power he has over defining and dictating identities for our people. This renaming of this day is not something that should be celebrated, because as he does that, he is lining his pockets with resources that could solve many crises in our communities. 

To me, National Aboriginal day is the day for Aboriginal-Canadians.

Not for nehiyaw, anishinaabe peoples.

National Aboriginal Day is a day where Indigenous peoples are again attempting to reclaim space (the space being this colonially created day) in a colonially created system rather than attempting to rebuild space in indigenous systems.

What we need is to recognize that we can celebrate ourselves authentically, openly, and unapologetically every year, every season, every day, focusing on our liberation, pride, truth, healing, and nationhood, especially in the middle of the -40 degree Celsius winters so our young people know that suicide is no longer an option.  

We need to tell those settlers who claim that they are allies to know that just because they come to a powwow and have an Indian taco and buy a pair of moccasins from a vendor does not make them “in” with us. 

And we need to know that if the colonial government did not create this day, following the voices of the AFN, our pride would be just as strong, just as loud, and just as truthful.

Because we do not need a day designated and dictated by the colonizer to know who we are and where we come from. 

All we need is to do is break colonial minds, colonial spaces, and colonial fragility with indigenous disobedience. 

And most importantly: A revolution can only happen once our people no longer defend & maintain colonial systems & when we no longer strive for colonial approval. 

When we only need ourselves for our continued existence rather than this colonial dictation and dependence. That will be the day we will truly rise.

Happy Summer solstice- may we celebrate all this season will bring us in regards to food, health, and our own liberation.

This Reconciliation is for the Colonizer

This reconciliation is for the colonizer. 

This settler-colonial reconciliation branded by the government is artificially sweetened with handshake photo-ops and small pockets of money buying out silence on real issues.

The fad and conversation of reconciliation that our people are playing a role in is immobilizing “leadership” and converting indigenous peoples into colonially operated marionettes.

This type of reconciliation is a distraction. 

Instead of being idle no more, we are “reconciling some more” with present day Indian act agents whose hands are choking out our voices for land, water, and our children’s minds. 

This type of reconciliation is for the ones who want to be “friends” with the Indians for land commodification reasoning, for the ones who whisper the words “im sorry” as they watched the priests and nuns rape our children, for the ones who shut their eyes and turned away when genocide was bleeding into their forts, for the ones who defy Treaty daily- without remorse, and it’s for the ones who beat you, apologize, and beat your daughter and their daughters in the coming years.

This type of reconciliation is for the professors at universities who are pro-Trudeau and believe “decolonizing” universities looks like mandatory Indigenous studies classes yet those very same professors still belittle, marginalize, and see themselves better than, smarter than, and superior to every indigenous student in their classes, shaming them for their brown skin and indigenous minds.

This type of reconciliation is for the professionals in work-spaces who want to aid in repairing the settler-Indigenous relationship in their work places but when an Indigenous women brings her children into that space because her sitter didn’t show up that morning, the mother will be told that her children need to leave because they’re laughter doesn’t line up with colonial workplace standards.

This type of reconciliation helps elderly white woman carry their groceries to their vehicle, but later follows a single indigenous woman with 3 children in the store, aisle after aisle, under the suspicion that she will shoplift.

This type of reconciliation will have dollars for moccasin making and small “cultural” events, but those accounts will be “out of money” the moment those events begin to engage in conversations and action around indigenous liberation, sovereignty, and nationhood.

This type of reconciliation sponsors powwows through companies like Potash and Shell, hoping the 1000 first place special will buy out a few hundred acres of indigenous land more easily.

This type of reconciliation claims residential schools are over but maintains a superior and oppressive power dynamic between settler adults and indigenous children at its own convenience.

This type of reconciliation declares “no foul play” to the bodies of young indigenous youth found in the riverbanks in this country’s most racist cities but later claims they celebrate the lives of indigenous peoples.

This type of reconciliation organizes a national inquiry for missing and murdered indigenous women but neglects to do any actual work by configuring the timeframe to benefit the colonizer and showing that bringing justice to murdered indigenous women is something that can go on summer vacation.

This type of reconciliation invents a “new nation to nation relationship” and teaches our people that the only way we can access our treaty rights is if we have a status card, completely negating from the truth that we, as indigenous peoples, do not need a new “nation to nation relationship,” as ours is with the crown “as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and water flows,” and those status cards have nothing to do with our treaty rights.

This type of reconciliation was born by the colonizer’s TRC and will die on the very same shelves as those documents in the halls and walls of colonial buildings. For their benefit.

This type of reconciliation claims they are not racist but makes degrading comments about the braids on your sons and the skin of your daughters in public spaces.

This type of reconciliation will say it wants to bring justice to our women but is raping the very land our mothers were birthed on for generations. 

This type of reconciliation will say there are no funds for following through with Jordan’s principle, none for the lack of clean drinking water in communities, zero for decreasing the price of food in northern communities, and nothing for the mouldy housing and schools that indigenous children must learn in everyday, but will spend half a billion dollars on Canada 150 – a birthday party founded and based upon genocide.

This type of reconciliation claims to “love” indigenous peoples but expects your indigenous child to sing “oh Canada” in their classroom every morning, standing up.

This type of reconciliation is “making space” for indigenous peoples in writing and editorials but later compiles money together to create an appropriation prize.

This type of reconciliation is “putting an end” to indigenous young people killing themselves but only provides enough money for communities to bring in guest speakers and concerts rather than full time therapists equipped with all the tools needed to aid young people in full-blown crisis. 

This type of reconciliation “seeks” to decrease the numbers of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system but will place a young indigenous male in solitary confinement for 4 years for no real reason other than being an Indian in “Canada.” 

This type of reconciliation wants to build better relationships with indigenous peoples but is building better ways to commit treason, genocide, colonization, and prejudice with nice hair and a smile of lies.

This reconciliation is for the colonizers. 

This is a time of pseudo-reconciliation for continued colonization.

This reconciliation is colonization, disguised with dollar signs and white-skinned handshakes. 

This reconciliation is not our reconciliation. 

Because.

The only reconciliation that exists for us, as Indigenous nations, is the reconciliation we need to find within ourselves and our communities, for agreeing and complying to this madness for so long. 

The only reconciliation that exists for us, is the reconciliation needed to forgive our families, our loved ones, for acting like the colonizer.

The only reconciliation we need. Is a reconciliation that doesn’t involve white skinned handshakes and five dollar handouts for our lands.

The only reconciliation we need is indigenous reconciliation. Free of money. Handshakes. Photo-ops. Inquiries with summer vacations. The continued rape of our women, our girls, our lands, and our babies. Highway of tears and roadways of fears. The continued murder of our women, our girls, our lands, and our babies. Free of shaming our boys out for being indigenous boys with indigenous hair. Free of shaming our girls for being indigenous girls with indigenous skin. Free of support for the colonizer’s version of indigenous “culture,” yet no support money for liberation. Free of supremacy. Trickery. Fake it til you make it syndrome. Indian agents. Sir John A Macdonald governments disguised as Trudeau. Colonial chiefs. Free of the continued manipulation, colonization, degradation, and humiliation of Indigenous people. Free of colonially written documents claiming to “save” us, viewing us always, as victims. Free of the lyrics of Oh Canada for breakfast for our children. 

Instead of us living in times of reconciliation, we are living in times of recolonization. 

And it will only happen if we allow it.

This reconciliation is for the colonizer. And we need to leave this conversation. 

We need to reconcile with ourselves. With our families. With our nations.

For our babies. 

Because I want our children to to learn about our own liberation, rather than the colonizer’s reconciliation. 

And I want our children to know that 
Indigenous liberation will always overthrow colonial reconciliation. 

Because having our homelands is more important to me than a photo-op and handshake with government officials named Trudeau. 

Artwork by: Votan Henriquez 

Wasted Energy on the Battles Against Appropriation and Racism: Indigenous Systems are Resistance

“Let’s raise our children to fall in love with indigenous systems rather than attempting to destroy colonial systems from within.”

I say this because our babies need to know what is important. They need to know what will truthfully keep us alive in the long run. I say this because everything we are fighting in colonial systems rather than building up in our own systems is an example of us wasting our own resources. I say this because I do not want my grandchildren to think that a “dream job” at the UN is worth more than knowing how to fend for themselves on their homelands.

We spend more time & energy fighting appropriation, oppression, and racism in the colonial structures that they are built and thrive upon than we do re-learning and rebuilding Indigenous systems.

Imagine if we put the energy that we use in trying to convince, change, challenge, and confront colonial systems and instead used that very same energy on reestablishing, restoring, revitalizing, and regenerating indigenous systems. 

The battle against things like appropriation, racism, what the government is, or is not, doing in regards to mmiw, residential school documents/stories, and notions of having indigenous pre-requisites in universities, what a government official said about indigenous peoples, and girls wearing headdresses at music festivals are all things that can be deemed as injustices, offensive in nature, forms of inequality, and downright discrimination. 

However, we fight and battle these things with all of our energy, some of us even becoming emotionally exhausted because of it. We even allow it to impact our mental health to the point of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. We fully drain ourselves all in the name of justice and equality.

The truth is: this energy that we are utilizing for these injustices could be used for so much more for our people. 

Yes, it is important to stand up against something wrong, to make ourselves heard, to be present to the realities of what colonialism is attempting to do around us. But we must spend more energy on our own systems. 

Because truthfully, we cannot and will not change colonialism. Colonialism will always act like, operate as, thrive upon, and respond as exactly that. Colonialism. So why do we expect any different or act surprised, infuriated, or dismayed when colonizers act like Sir John A Macdonald and Christopher Columbus? Anything that originates or was created by colonizers, will carry all the same characteristics as said colonizer. Colonialism will always be colonialism

There should only be two exceptions as to why one fights this hard against any of these aforementioned injustices. 

1. When it defies or undermines treaty in any way, shape or form, or 

2. When it leads to an unjust death.

Otherwise, we must begin to think about conserving and preserving and utilizing our energy and resources into indigenous systems. Whether that be indigenous education, natural law, land based learning and loving, traditional kinship and parenting, language revitalization, and medicinal health. 

If we cared as much about any one of these areas as we do when a settler commits a social and political injustice on our people, oh my how we would flourish.

If a Twitterstorm that lasted days on end based on “practices healthy indigenous families follow” or “what a land based school can do for our children,” rather than “how the colonizer fucked up again, and I am so shocked, and here’s what I have to say about it,” our systems would make a comeback so prominent, that our grandchildren would never have known the colonized lives we are living today. 

If indigenous activists practiced land-based relationship building and deconstructing nepotism in communities rather than placing all their energy in a rally against a new and improved “founding father” and their legislation, then our babies would grow up knowing that the best way to grow up is with mud on their boots from the knowledge of how to grow their own food and valuing the sanctity of kinship.

The peculiar thing about indigenous peoples fighting with all their life force in order to gain some form of respect or a place in colonial systems such as with a case of appropriation, or even mandatory indigenous studies classes in academia. The very things we are battling are also what we are fighting so hard to be a fair and equal part of.

It’s like we are saying “hey! we hate colonialism…..but we want equal and fair participation with colonialism and all the systems colonialism has created. And we also want to be recognized by the colonizer as an Indigenous person in their spaces. Because that means that I am respected. And therefore makes me feel worthy.”

Holy shit!

Let’s change this rhetoric to “hey! colonialism is destroying our lives. Let’s no longer be a part of it. We need to rebuild our relationship with our lands and families and all the systems our people and lands created. And we only need to be recognized by our own. Because that means I’m part of a sovereign nation.”

Now, when an action of the colonizer completely disrespects treaty or takes the life of our own, that is when knowing how and when our systems as indigenous peoples operates would be the most effective response.

For example, if they attempt to take away our right to education (in Treaty it is described as the “power of the pen”) which, let us clarify here, is not academia. It is simply, education. Academia is the colonizers watered down, ego-induced version of education. Education is what our right is. 

So the colonizer attempts to control how we choose to educate our people and says “you can’t do that. That’s not academics. It’s against our academic system. You will not graduate from the education system. You also owe us 1500 dollars for attending our classes. Because you can’t afford it, you are kicked out.” If we knew our systems thoroughly, and practiced them as such, we could reply with “we are our own people. Your laws are irrelevant to us. And we will educate our own as stated in treaty, as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and water flows. Without what the colonizers created: academia. We will learn based on the land and based on the knowledge of the ones from long ago. Indigenous Education is free. Colonial academia is not.” Our children and young people would then begin relearning, reestablishing, restoring, revitalizing, and regenerating indigenous systems rather than losing self-esteem and self-worth due to being on the front lines of colonial academia.

The reality is there has been thousands of little white girls dressing up as Indian “chiefs” for over a hundred years.
There has been an insurmountable amount of teachers and professors stating that these lands were “found,” and the cowboys never murdered the Indians and their babies.
There has been a multitude of cases of indigenous appropriation from Victoria’s Secret, to Boyden, to boutique moccasins made in China.
And because of this…
There has been hundreds of rallies and protests and runs across these lands to fight colonial legislation.

There have been countless petitions and speeches in parliament and meetings with prime ministers all in the name of equality for indigenous peoples on their own lands.
And there have been an array of articles on how and why we can become equal and gain justice in these colonial systems.

 
Yes. These things are great for awareness. But that’s where it ends. There is no real change when one befriends/battles colonial systems in order to attempt to achieve indigenous equality and greatness. An indigenous person battling in a colonial system simply becomes an indigenous person serving in a colonial system. 

Rather than servants to the cause they become servants to colonialism.

There was a moment in my life where I knew I no longer wanted to fight for equality and justice in colonial systems. It was when I knew I was lying to my ancestors and my grandchildren concurrently, and I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I was lying to them by thinking I could create change in colonial systems, I was lying to them by shaking hands with Stephen Harper and envisioning a better future. I was lying to them when I sat in a national office as a program officer, streamlining federal dollars to hundreds of organizations who desperately needed it for their young people, and concluded that this, right here, was what positive change looked and felt like. I was lying to them when I drilled and questioned government officials at the UN, with tears in my eyes and fear in my throat, imagining that my pleas and words would be strong enough to get these officials to deliver the equality thousands of indigenous young women needed in their communities. 

My body told me. I was lying to my ancestors and my future grandchildren. By believing. Believing that I could kill colonialism inside a colonial system.

Colonial systems continues the pattern of colonial cycles. 

Colonialism will always act like, operate as, thrive upon, and respond as exactly that. Colonialism. Colonialism will always be colonialism.

It’s time to tell truths to our ancestors and future grandbabies.

Tell them the truth. The truth being that rather than placing all of our energy in appropriation scandals, academic racism and university elitism, what MLAs and MPs said and what they did and did not do, a headdress being worn by a blond head and made in China moccasins, we must put our energy into our own systems.

Grow a garden, plant some wildflowers, and put your body on the land to maintain indigenous land based education and to begin to understand the basics of natural law. 
Learn a word or phrase a day. To rekindle your relationship with your language. To remember what it’s like to live mino bimaadiziwin. 
Spend time with an aunty, a kokum, or in another community, and learn one ailment that one plant can cure. It may be useful down the line. 

And most importantly:

Forgive your mother. Or your father. Even if they’re dead. Even if it’s during the moments of their last breath. To revitalize that kinship model. To honour your ancestors and future grandchildren. 

To tell the truth to your ancestors and future grandchildren.

“Let’s raise our children to fall in love with indigenous systems rather than attempting to destroy colonial systems from within.”

 Art by: Melanie Cervantes