Defund the Police? Let’s Defund and Recreate the Current Education System While We’re at It.

Defund and disband the police?

Yes. I’m here for that.

And while we’re at it, let’s talk about the education/public school system. Let’s talk about the importance of raising our children outside of these existing colonial education systems in order to disconnect the maintained cycles of oppression that begin in, and are upheld in, those schools.

While we defund and disband the police, we need to critically and seriously look at eroding the public education system that is currently being the funnel to cause all kinds of harms against black and children of colour and recreating a system that works for us.

For it is the police force and the education/public school systems that are the key pillars in maintaining racism, white supremacy, white superiority, and discrimination.

Being an indigenous women, my experience is different than the struggles of a black person today given the current political landscape. However, the solutions that need to take place to eternally cancel the societally accepted oppression and continued murder/genocide of our peoples, are very much the same.

And where does this societal acceptance of our oppression start (other than obviously when someone is raised with racist parents)?

The public education system.

The merging of this societally accepted oppression into the minds and bodies of children is happening in a place where we willingly send them daily.

The public education system.

Public schools and the education system are currently training school aged children and younger on how to maintain systems of white supremacy, racism, discrimination and more in the most subtle, and often not so subtle, ways.

The training of children to accommodate, comply and become obedient to these colonial, and oppressive, behaviours and systems starts there.

It’s the education system that trains children, as young as 3, to believe in, buy into, and feed into ideas of white supremacy, white superiority, racism, discrimination, and colonialism before parents of color have a chance to protect and defend their children.

Sure, many parents are already raising their children to follow ideas of white supremacy, white superiority, racism, discrimination, and colonialism.

And many incredible teachers are doing amazing work in the trenches, undoing what years of children being in this system had taught them. I applaud those teachers. I love those teachers.

However, it is in these “educational” spaces where these toxic ideas are often reinforced, restated, and often even rewarded in deceptive ways, rather than being taught that they are wrong.

Step inside any basic public pre-school or classroom. Pick a grade. Any grade.

The promotion of racism, prejudice, colonialism, and exclusion of “minorities” and people of color is very much the norm in public education. Whether it shows up in the way that adults are relating to children in these spaces (consistent with notions of adult supremacist mentalities), in the topics that are being discussed in classes (whitewashed versions of history which completely dissolve the truth of colonization and slavery), and ultimately, in the paradigm and worldview that children are being educated in daily.

The biggest propellor and offender towards these racist, toxic, and damaging beliefs is the one and only adult supremacy.

Adult supremacy shows up in most child and adult relationships the moment an adult isn’t aware of adult supremacy. It is insidious. It shows up in forms of children being perceived as “good” only if they are obedient to the adult, no matter what the adult is asking or expecting from the child. It shows up in having the expectation that children will comply, no matter what, even if it is oppressive, minimizing, or downright racist.

Adult supremacy trains students to agree to oppression, most importantly, the oppression of themselves, in order to train them to be okay with, and remain silent in the face of, oppression, injustice, and dehumanization.

It also shows up in parenting dynamics, as much as it shows up in teacher-student dynamics.

Adult supremacy normalizes the idea and belief that adults are always correct and children are perceived as “bad kids” if they say “no,” resist, or stand up against anything the adult may be saying or doing. Once the resistance occurs, the belief is that the adult then has the rationale to punish and discipline the child, simply for not complying.

It is a normalized dynamic seen in classrooms.

Sound familiar?

Again, this excludes the teachers who are doing the ground-breaking work in the system. It excludes the teachers doing all that they can to support children based on where they’re at and support their disobedience.

Ultimately, adult supremacy then trains the child to either become obedient and compliant to every adult and system in their life, even if it means they become tokenized, minimized, and oppressed along the way. They behave in such a compliant way in order to avoid punishment or discipline. Or the child grows up resentful and constantly resists every adult and system in their life, even if it means engaging in toxic, irrational behaviours along the way.

These behaviours then ultimately trickle into adulthood, with both serving colonial systems exactly how they need to be served. One will become an obedient, compliant worker of the system, the other will become a statistic continuing to fuel the system.

And both are avenues in which children, who then become adults, are not being their authentic selves. Specifically, children of color.

They are now people (adults) who are doing exactly what the system trained them to do their wholes lives. To be a servant to the system. Or to be a statistic in the system.

Adult supremacy (especially in classrooms) ultimately leads to the desired outcomes that colonialism and its systems so desperately need in order to keep them operating.

Adult supremacy in classrooms leads to the normalization and acceptance of obedient cops obeying the system and making the conscious choices to murder black and brown people based on all that they know and were raised with in their lives.

The reality is, if children are not being trained to be complicit to colonialism and it’s racist, oppressive systems at home, then they are being trained in classroom settings,

I applause those mindful teachers who are utilizing tools of anti-oppression and anti-racist approaches to engage with, and relate to, children.

Because if a teacher is not aware of every insidious form of adult supremacy, and is not aware of how to put an end to it, they are automatically feeding children to colonial, racist, capitalistic systems.

Growing up, I went to public schools. Being an indigenous student in these systems showed me what racism was before the age of 5. I was often placed on the “learning assistance” classrooms which were filled with other indigenous students and students of colour.

There were times where both my mother and I would advocate for me, battling with principals and teachers alike, to put me in regular classroom settings. However, it was always declined.

“She needs extra help.”

“She needs extra support.”

“She won’t succeed without it.

I would look around the class, with the only other few indigenous students in the school, and realize that being indigenous in colonial systems will always lead to our continued oppression.

The idea or belief that brown children and students of colour are “not as smart,” and will not “excel,” are the ideas fed children of colour as they make their way through the school system.

The white students even witness the brown and black children being funnelled into the remedial classes, further engraining the idea that brown and black children are inferior and are not as bright as them.

When in reality, that is not the case.

The paradigm and worldview that children are being educated in is highly problematic in that it is, simply put, a colonial one. It is a white paradigm. It is a settler worldview.

And this worldview is toxic as fuck. Yet, it is so normalized and societally accepted.

The worldview and paradigm is so toxic that it deletes, denies, and obliterates genocidal histories in textbooks and storybooks, masking murder with thanksgiving lies and Disney versions of Pocahontas.

Rather than learning about the true murders and conductors of genocide like Sir John A. Macdonald, children are learning about settlers and the “great leader” Sir John A. Macdonald.

If Sir John A. Macdonald was such a “great leader” I am sure my great grandfather would have never punched him in the face and ended up in jail because of it.

The colonial paradigm and worldview shames and punishes children of colour when they speak up against the lies.

I once received an “F” on a paper because I wrote about the murder and genocide of our peoples rather than regurgitating the white-washed history lessons that was being taught in class.

And the number of teachers of colour I had in my whole educational career (all the way up to my Masters?)

Zero.

Every single teacher I had from pre-k to university to Masters classes.

All white.

And sure, some attempted to meet the “multi-cultural” quota by mentioning Native Americans, but most of the time it was colonial, racist, highly problematic versions of my people that always made my stomach twist in knots.

The paradigm and worldview that is pouring out of the public education system is based on adult supremacy, contains many racist notions and ideas, and works towards filtering children into racist and colonial systems as they grow into adults.

And if this paradigms and worldview isn’t showing up in the homes that children are being raised in, and if they aren’t being funnelled into these systems by their parents, it is definitely beginning to be practiced in preschool:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” The teacher will ask a classroom full of 4-5 year olds.

And the expected and accepted answers?

It is often answers fuelled by notions of capitalism and the economy.

A doctor? A vet? A police officer even.

It is answers that comply and follow colonial pathways to success.

The answers that are steeped in the maintainence of indigenous and communal/kinship based systems such as a defender of the Land and the people, a Land based knowledge keeper, a language speaker, or a medicinal knowledge keeper, are the answers that are never promoted, encouraged, or supported in these colonial education systems.

And the reason they aren’t brought up in these classroom settings?

Because these answers, if lived by every student as they grew up every day, would be the answer to demolishing colonialism and colonial systems simply by existing and being practiced abundantly.

Children today, indigenous, black, and every other race and nationality, are even being educated in a colonial system which completely attempts to destroy notions and ideas of communal and kinship based living.

Public education focuses on non-communal learning methods which are use an isolated process where children are siloed. This further prepares children to “thrive” in colonial systems. Working alone, feeding the capitalistic systems, and neglecting indigenous kinship systems practices is the target and goal.

The way in which children are educated in general, with no communal learning, being graded on intellect versus survival and Land-based connectivity, further saturates the idea that capitalistic and colonial avenues are the only way to success.

And amongst this all, black and brown children are being told their histories are irrelevant. They are being told that the Land was never stolen, that their ancestors willingly gave the Land to the white people. They are being told that there was no genocide, that residential schools were not as bad as their kokums and moshums told them, that police officers are doing a great job protecting their communities, and that treaty rights are a lie.

The education system is what continues to feed white supremacist, racist, and discriminatory ideas to children as they go through the system for the duration of their whole childhoods and lives.

The education system is what trains children to obey or completely go against colonialism and its oppressive systems, both which are avenues that lead to fuelling the system.

And here’s the thing. Many teachers are doing their best to “decolonize,” “indigenize,” and disrupt colonialism. And it’s deadlee. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful to see.

And they’re doing it with the tools that would overthrow what exists.

If it was all done with the same effort with all of our kids.

We can’t change how white supremacists/racists raise their children, but we can change how our children are being educated and raised at public schools by creating and supporting our own education systems fully.

It is not just the police who are causing harm to black people and people of color.

It is the school system that is teaching those police officers that it’s okay to cause harm to black people and people of color.

It is adult supremacy.

It is the white-washing and attempted erosion of our histories.

Because if we had our own schools on the land or in the urban setting supported by our own teachers who were conscious and aware of adult supremacy and only spoke the truth, we could easily override and abolish the systems that colonialism and capitalism are separating us into as we grow up.

This, in turn, would create space for our families, communities, and nations to develop and revitalize systems of education and justice that worked for us generations before white people set foot on these lands.

It would set up the space for all of us to deem the colonial police system and the colonial education system as void and irrelevant to our existence.

We would see schools that are based on our worldviews, our paradigms, and schools that will train children to resist, stand against, and deem irrelevant the colonial and capitalistic systems that are murdering our families every single day.

Once we create and re-establish these schools, these justice systems, these health care systems that are our own, we can develop all the tools necessary to overthrow and create safety around these murderous systems like the police force, and colonial legal system.

This is the answer.

Because the answer isn’t in just defunding the police and putting more money into education.

It’s in revitalizing what worked for our people historically for generations.

It’s in our own Land- based, kinship based, family based education systems.

And honoring our children and their disobedience. Always.

Traditional Indigenous Kinship Practices at Home: Being Child-Centered During the Pandemic

In our traditional kinship systems, children were the at the center of the family system.

Everything we did was with, and for, the children.

Women had babies on their back, breasts, and hips while they were skinning and tanning hides, gathering water and wood, cooking, harvesting berries and medicine, and everything in between.

Older children often stayed with the kokums and moshums to provide that much needed extra support for them.

Children learned from our kinship systems. They learned from their mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, kokums, moshums, and older relatives. They learned from the Land by being fully integrated and immersed into most processes and practices.

And the idea of children being seen as a disruption to daily living was non-existent.

During this pandemic, the invitation that exists is be mindful of that, and to make these concepts a way of life.

Be mindful of any thoughts or feelings that may come up that are oriented around seeing children as a disruption, an annoyance, or an inconvenience, when they’re home with you.

Because this style of thinking derived from residential schools and the forcefully implemented colonial education systems.

Due to this, our mindset from how we relate to children has also shifted dramatically.

Those systems have re-wired our brains to the point where it is seen as “abnormal” and as a “disruption” to have our children home with us, by our sides, watching, learning, living, and growing with us.

Collectively.

It is seen as an “interruption” to today’s colonially-washed down version of our kinship system, to have children in our homes, and on the land, with us, all day.

It is seen as an “annoyance” to hear the voices and laughter (or tears) of children as we do our best to balance working from home in the presence of children.

I get it, it’s tough. It’s challenging when you have a timeline to meet, deadlines to get to, and the needs of your child(ren) are overriding those deadlines and timelines. It is something that I struggle with every day with working from home and starting to home-school our daughter.

If you are a solo parent with limited support and multiple children, it must be challenging to get that needed 10 mins of “me time,” now more than ever with the pandemic and shut down of colonial education institutions. The invitation that exists is this: get creative.

If you are a disabled parent and the colonial education institutions was your respite or your much needed way to focus on what you have to do, the invitation is to build a support network, even if it’s online to start.

The important thing to remember is that we must begin to find new ways to help raise our children that don’t require a reliance on colonial systems.

“It’s tough.” “It’s tiring.” “It’s exhausting.”

Yes, it can be. Your points are valid.

And, in times of struggle, I often remind myself:

“Capitalism and colonial thinking will never super-cede the needs, wants, and interests of my child. Emotional, mentally, spiritually, and physically.”

And

“My child is not a disruption.”

Because the real disruption occurred when we began to think that sending our children to school was the better choice in the first place, rather than having them us with us, in the presence of our kinship systems, at all times.

The real disruption, that began this shift, happened when those priests and nuns stole our children away, attempting to annihilate the foundational systems we had in regards to our kinship systems.

The real disruption began when we started to see our children as “inconveniences” versus the sacred, future bearers and carriers of indigenous knowledge that had kept us alive for many generations.

And this shift, this disruption, this change, from child-centred child rearing, to adult supremacist/colonial child rearing, is what is continuing to maintain colonialism as the driving force within our kinship systems.

Capitalism and it’s systems are now leading how we live with, and relate to, the children in our lives. And it’s wreaking havoc on the very foundation of how we parent, how we discipline, and how we speak to, our children.

The reality is, adult supremacy and superiority believes that children in the home during work hours is an inconvenience or an annoyance.

One of the biggest misconceptions that adult supremacy and colonial parenting believes is that keeping children home from colonial, and often problematic, education systems will lead to poor socialization and isolation for the child(ren).

Yet, if you look at our traditional kinship systems, socialization was everywhere.

We had such intricately intertwined systems. These systems included kinship, socialization, love and belonging, and survival methods which encompassed, and was engrained in, our daily living.

A child involved fully with the routines of family would achieve socialization through being mentored by the adults on what their roles were, and how to fulfil them. The child would learn from older children about social games and activities which were often tied to their own growth and development, along with survival skills. The child would gain skills of self-discipline and survival, simply by being present to the many layers of work that had to be done in our communities.

The child would learn to stay focused and follow the traditional teachings instilled within them since being in the womb, through means of commitment and dedication to their cultural practices, sacred traditions, and elaborate mother tongues.

Yet, the shift and disruption attempted to erode all of that.

Because of the disruption, we are seeing something different.

We are now seeing the elation and excitement parents have during the end of summer holidays. The photos of parents celebrating that their children are gone for a larger part of the day, in a colonial system that maintains colonialism, oppression, racism, and child inferiority, the education system.

And we are seeing the humor at the expense of the feelings of children arise again during the quarantines from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Oh no! I’m stuck at home with my kids for two weeks! Send help!”

First of all, it will probably be more than two weeks based on what we do know about this virus. And second of all, our traditional kinship systems operated from the space that it was a blessing to be in the presence of our children continuously. That was the gift. And we honoured it as such.

Our kinship systems have shifted and changed so dramatically that we have long forgotten the importance of having children present for a majority of the day in our daily lives. We have forgotten the importance of play with the children. We have forgotten the important of always including children in the skills that we practice daily for survival.

So how do we dissolve this narrative that has become to normalized in our family systems?

How do we dissolve the idea and belief that children are not supposed to be home while we work?

How do we dissolve the normalization of the idea that children are a distraction to the more important adult perceived environment?

We engage.

We communicate.

We love.

We take a moment in times of feeling out of control and frustration, and we accept. We accept that we cannot control the emotions, behaviours, ideas, and outcomes of children’s behaviours. Just like they can’t control ours. To think that we can instantly places us in a place of supremacy and superiority over children. And our kinship systems are not about that.

To disrupt everything that the nuns and priests taught our relatives in those schools about adult-child relationships, and to disrupt what colonialism has taught us about what “successful” indigenous kinship looks like, we must:

1. Talk about the virus. Talk about what is happening in the world to your child(ren) in age appropriate languages. Use pictures if you have to. Create space for them to ask questions. Create safe spaces for them to feel their fear. If you’ve felt fear during it all- chances are, so have they. Tell them “I’ve been afraid too, and that’s ok.” Empathize. Remind them that even when you’re afraid, you can still be brave. And sometimes that you don’t have to be brave at all.

2. Ask yourself why you feel your child(ren) is a distraction to your work. Who taught you this belief? Where did it come from? Did it come from your parents? How does it feel to think of that? Where in your body do you feel it? Create safe spaces for yourself to move through these limiting and toxic beliefs in healthy ways, and do so in front of your children if you can. Because healthy healing means doing it openly, and authentically in front or family. To show them that there are healthy ways to heal.

3. Remind yourself, and your child(ren), of sanitation and cleanliness routines if you aren’t already doing that. In communities with limited access to clean drinking water, find ways to gather water from alternate methods. From the Land. Have conversations on why clean drinking water is important. Boil snow down if need be. Converse and preserve. And teach your child(ren) about protecting and honoring water.

4. Include the child(ren) in everything that you do in your daily lives, at age-appropriate levels. (ie: let your child help with dishes, even if they’re two-years old and take 5 minutes to dry one spoon or take your 1.5 year old to check rabbit snares with you.

5. Let the children lead. Provide moments in the day where the child(ren) decide what to do as a collective for a period of time. Show them that their ideas are important and honour them fully.

6. Put your phone away. For an hour. Two hours. And really PLAY with your child(ren). Kids and teens love to engage in play with you. Play dolls, build the LEGO castles, and make stories up. Even if it means asking your teen “hey, can you show me how to play your video game?” It makes such a difference.

7. Come up with creative, educational activities. Science with food colouring. Music lessons. Art. Pinterest has tons of ideas.

8. Land-based learning is essential. If you live on the Rez or in wide open spaces that are safe to have a relationship with the land during the pandemic, do that. Play on the Land in a way that reminds children how to love the Land. Explore. Ask questions. Create spaces for your child(ren) to ask questions. Sit and be still with your child(ren) to observe the Land.

9. Teach your child(ren) survival skills that you know. How to make a fire. How to cook outdoors. Skin and tan a hide. Situational awareness. How to cook in general. How to build a shelter. How to plant seeds (if you have any and can start planting indoors.)

10. Show your child(ren) how to be giving during this time. Drop food off for elders or single parent families at their doorsteps (as long as you have zero risk of having the virus.) Offer home cooked meals to those who may have not had the time or money to stock up on supplies. Let your children help you make the meal or pack the bag you’re donating. Or simply show your child(ren) the importance of checking in on family members through phone calls, facetimes, and text messages,

11. Ask your child(ren) daily which relatives THEY want to FaceTime or call to check in. Show them that kinship, during times of crisis, is fundamental to our survival.

12. If conflict arises in your home while you’re stuck at home, show the child(ren) in your life how to deal with conflict in healthy ways. Deal with your shit if you have to in order to avoid toxic and destructive behaviours being projected onto your child(ren).

13. Remind your child(ren) how much you love having them home. Show them through acts of affection, and love. Remind them that their presence is important, that they are not an annoyance. That their frustrations and any emotion they may be experiencing during this time is valid. That they are just as important as the adults in the house. That they matter.

14. Do not project any of your pain, out of control feelings, or frustrations onto your child. Do not blame the child(ren) for anything. If you do, do everything you can to make amends and apologize. And fix your behaviour. Children do not deserve to be the outlet for our fears and feelings of being out of control.

15. If your child(ren) begins to project their fears and emotions onto others, create safe spaces for children to feel. Children are not “acting up” and we don’t need to “find ways to deal with/manage our kid’s feelings.” We need to create safe spaces for children to feel. Vulnerability accepted spaces. Talk about emotions and options on what it would look like to feel those emotions in safe and healthy ways. Let the child lead the conversation and solve their own problems.

16. Teach your child(ren) life skills from healthy conflict to problem solving to healthy communication. By leading by example. Walk your talk.

17. Speak to your child(ren) as our ancestor’s spoke to their child(ren). Be mindful. Pray for your children. Pause and breathe if you’re frustrated. Mindfully respond to your child(ren) versus responding in reactionary mode. It will make all the difference.

18. If you need to, tell your child(ren) “I need space for a bit.” Give yourself that 5 minute moment to cry, breathe, and feel instead of projecting onto your child(ren). And most importantly

19. Be the parent colonialism never wanted you to be.

We must dissolve these concepts and ideas that minimize the presence and well-being of child(ren) in our lives.

Let’s undo what colonialism and residential schools have taught us about children and kinship.

Let’s revitalize what worked for generations in regards to our relationships with our children and our kinship systems.

Because that’s what indigenous kinship is really about.

By the children, for the children, and ultimately, with the children.

It’s valuable and important.

It worked for generations. So why wouldn’t it work today?

Artwork by: Chief Lady Bird

Ig: @chiefladybird

I never want to be seen as an equal to settler society.

I never want to be seen as an equal to settler society.

Nor do I ever want to be seen as an equal in the eyes of the colonizer.

And I never want to be seen as “successful” within colonial systems.

It started when I was young.

It was lurking in the beginning stages of public speaking, of meeting with ministers, of being groomed in this space of false indigeniety to achieve colonial success.

It was intertwined in the statements of “you are going to be the next Prime Minister of Canada!” And the “you are so resilient. This is your line of work!”

I would sit there and melt into this feeling of success. These feelings of “I’m gonna do something big with my life.”

The feelings of “I am destined for greatness.”

But the greatness I thought I was destined for was only colonial greatness.

These colonial systems hand-select indigenous young people and “mentor” them in a way where they perceive success as meaning being front and centre in colonial systems. “Achievement and success in colonial systems as an indigenous person is a strong step in the realm of equality.”

What a crazy belief!

Because to be equal to the colonizer means to also accept the continued acts of genocide against indigenous peoples.

To be equal to the colonizer means to laugh at racism, and to allow and to comply to behaviours that are outright harmful to indigenous peoples and their homelands everyday.

It meant laughing uncomfortably at the jokes colonialism makes against your people in meeting rooms.

“Oh but not you, you’re different than them.” They will often state that after making a racist joke.

To be equal to the colonizer, in the eyes of the colonizer, as an Indigenous person, is an act of submission. It is submitting generations of resilience and battles completed by the ones who walked before us, all in the name of “fairness” and “acceptance.”

It means the only way to be seen as an equal to them is agreeing with statements like “we didn’t commit genocide, most of you are still here.”

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer as an Indigenous women means not reporting the rapists to the police because you would rather not cause more trouble and do not want to be seen as the problem in colonial justice systems.

It means hanging up the phone after you report domestic violence, and the officer responds to you with “does he have a weapon?” You reply “his fists.” They state “call us back when he has a weapon.”

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer means not reporting the sexual harassment from the boss in colonial workplaces for fear of being reprimanded and furthermore losing one’s place on the corporate ladder. Because “equality” beats self-worth at the time.

And that job is your “dream job.” So stay quiet.

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer means staying silent in the face of racism, or even laughing to the jokes just so you can maintain the peace at your job and not be seen as a “troublemaker,” because “hey, you’re not like the other Indians we’ve met.”

Being seen as an “equal” to the colonizer means dating the white men, even if their existence makes you cringe, because you believe that all Indian men are bad news, and the only way to gain more success in life is to be with a partner who is “good news.”

It comes with the belief that Indigenous people can’t work on their traumas so ultimately, white people are the ones who will give you the life you crave.

It is these beliefs, values, and norms that are fuelling the colonial fire of success, where indigenous truth and authenticity burns and dissolves into nothing, all in the name of being seen as as “equal” to the colonial dictators that make up one’s ego.

Colonial systems attempt to rob the ideas around indigenous livelihoods being fundamental in a person’s life and rather reformulates them into ideas of colonial success being the only route in early childhood.

When Indigenous young people are in school, they rarely hear “learn to love the land, to be successful.” Rather it’s “leave the Rez, get a colonial education, and get a colonial job, to be successful!”

Colonial systems also leave out the truth of what it takes for an Indigenous person to be “successful” in colonial systems.

They leave out the fact that one must accommodate and advocate for colonialism, even if it means building a pipeline through one’s homelands without consent from one’s nation, if they want to be successful in colonial systems.

They leave out the fact that if you are an indigenous women, you will be tokenized and violently sexualized on the daily in your colonially successful job, and you cannot say a word of it or else you will be let go.

They leave out the fact that you must turn a blind eye to every suicide crisis, housing crisis, drinking water crisis, and health cruces related to indigenous peoples, caused by that same colonial system.

Because if you want to climb the ladders of colonial success, the very same ladders of colonial success that are built from the bones of our ancestors, then silence is your best friend.

But hey, at least you’re successful! You will have a great job, with great pay, pension, and benefits. You will be having fancy dinners in fancy hotels. And every day, you will be reminded just how racist colonial systems, and the people who run them, are.

And this is where it comes down to making a decision, that life changing decision.

This decision-making process can be taught to our children at young ages. The younger we teach children not to comply and cater to colonial versions of success and equality, the younger our children will untangle themselves from the traps of colonial success and equality.

They won’t be undoing knots at the age of

25, like I was doing.

Because, as soon as a child enters the doors of a school, it is there they are taught that the only way they will be successful in life is if they get an education and get a career.

It is the only way they will make a living and support themselves.

“Colonial success is your only route to making a living.” “If you get an education and move off the reserve, you will be set!”

Colonial educations systems strive to feed and maintain this narrative.

The belief that living on the land and on the Rez won’t get you anywhere exists so deeply in these systems that Land-based practices are seen as “field trips” and once a year activities.

A week long culture camp for students is great, however, it teaches children that there has to be a special time slot put aside for Land-based practices and that learning how to be successful within Indigenous systems is a “special” activity, rather than an every-day norm.

So how do we dissolve these ideas? How do we teach children, and ourselves as adults, to strive to be successful within indigenous systems?

How do we teach children, and ourselves as adults, that the only equality we need to strive for is an equality amongst our own people, so we can realign with a non-hierarchical form of indigenous kinship systems?

Practice.

It’s a practice. It means relearning, and untangling, ideas and practices that our people have done for generations.

It means remembering our roles as indigenous peoples amongst the land.

It means that rather than being “successful” in the city, we need to strive to remember how to be successful amongst the land.

It means raising our children to understand the colonial processes that can take place in their lives that are often disguised as opportunities of “success” and “equality.”

It means always, always, always being inclusive of the voices and minds of the child, no matter how young.

It means that our relationship with our children, and the children around us, shouldn’t be one based on superiority and inferiority, but one of equality and kinship.

It means knowing that change can’t happen within colonial systems, but rather within Indigenous families, within Indigenous kinship systems.

It means knowing that Indigenous success and equality within ourselves and our systems strives for truth, authenticity, and an existence of resistance and love.

It means never once uttering the words “we need an Indigenous Prime Minister.”

Because once we have an Indigenous Prime Minister, then we will have an Indigenous person in charge of the continued colonization and assimilation processes of our people.

It means whoever is in that position is one who is striving for that equality with colonialism, and ultimately working towards the continued domestication process of our nations as Indigenous peoples.

An Indigenous Prime Minister is someone who is compliant in our struggle. It is a position, I for one, would never celebrate.

I, for one, never want to be seen as an equal in the eyes of the colonizer.

Instead, I strive to hold the same values, morals, and beliefs, of those who have existed before me, and those who will exist after me.

Standing strong in my Indigenous self-power.

Because Indigenous, land-based success is exactly what we need in our communities.

And this is exactly what we need to restore what we had as Indigenous families, communities, and nations.

And it will never be found in an Indigenous Prime Minister.

Artwork by: Chief Ladybird

Ig: @chiefladybird

Losing My Mother while Becoming a Mother: Grief and Motherhood

This is the most personal blog post I have ever written.

It shares my experiences of losing my mother while becoming a mother. It shares my experiences of grief, postpartum depression, the mixture of both, the insanities I felt, and most importantly, the love I held onto despite it all.

It was during two transformative stages in a person’s life where kinship roles were expressed as complete devotion and a  source of unrelenting love, support, and service.

The first one being during the critical times of postnatal and postpartum (I include both postnatal and postpartum to ensure an inclusivity of the needs of both the infant and the mother, as within indigenous kinship systems, the infants experience upon arrival is just as important as the woman’s experience of becoming a new mother) and the second one being when a loved one passed on and during the time of grief.

Historically, indigenous midwives and medicine women created a safe haven for baby and mama, each nation having different practices, which all consisted of the same outcomes. Feelings of safety, love, and protection for both infant and mother, as well as ensuring that rest and nutrition were primary in postnatal and postpartum care. This type of care included motherhood teachings before pregnancy occurred, and throughout the duration. It included warm medicinal teas and drinks. Medicines for the womb and the woman’s sacred area, in order for them to heal after childbirth. It included an extensive plan with tikinagan teachings and umbilical cord teachings. All of which led to a happy, rested, and prepared mother and infant.

I heard through my mother in law that there used to be women called “wailers” long ago. They were women who would attend funerals long ago, who weren’t related to the family, who would sob and cry during the funeral so that family would be open to that painful sobbing and also release as well. They would also take care of the family afterwards with meals and other things. They were the ones who provided a safe space of vulnerability and security during times of grief and heavy sorrow within families. They were the ones who aided families on their journeys of navigating through days of insurmountable grief.

Today, things have significantly shifted.

Primarily due to the attempted annihilation of kinship systems. But there are other reasons that people do not help, nor carry these very integral teachings, during these times as well.

It could be because the knowledge is hidden, and no one cares to ask the old ones anymore, rather depending on a medical system that forces indigenous women to birth indigenous babies in unnatural ways through unnatural means leading to unnatural births filled with trauma. It could be because people are carrying heavy loads of their own traumas, unable to do something as simple as cleaning a home for a new mother and new baby. It’s perhaps due to the consumerism/capitalistic life of having to have a job to pay bills and not being able to leave work to offer support, mind you it’s the support that new mothers and new infants so gravely need.

It’s also due to the fact that people often avoid difficult situations, like times of grief, in fear of their own traumas and grief being triggered. It’s the fact that many people do not want to do their own work around grief so being around someone who is grieving brings up all kinds of shit for them- so instead, they avoid, avoid, avoid. This leaves people who need so much support, alone to their own devices, navigating their way through grief with a limited, to no, support system.

These all in turn, leave new mamas, and those who are grieving, without a nation, a  village, a family, or even a basic support system, to find their way through it all.

But, the answer most people will get when asking for help during postnatal and postpartum (and unraveling all parts of motherhood that comes with it,) and/or after losing a loved one is:

“Sorry I am busy.”

It’s such a simple phrase. But reading it or hearing it as a new mama, and even as a new infant (because yes, new infants begin to experience attachment right from the get go, and can pick up on which people will aid in their survival and development) can make things feel even more exhausting.

Reading, or hearing it, after losing someone you love, can be heartbreaking.

And reading, or hearing it, while experiencing both, on some days, can be completely life shattering.

Until you decide not to take it personal and pray to get through whatever it is you are going through, and let go of all expectations of others. But some days, that can feel too difficult.

My mother died from a brain aneurysm. It exploded and killed her within a few short hours in a small hospital with limited resources (because really, which hospitals near reserves can actually save lives in situations like that?) The last thing she said to me on the phone that evening, shortly after it burst, was “I’m throwing up, I’ll call you back.”

She never called back. I must have called her 100 times. And then the neurosurgeon called. He told me she was brain dead.

“I am not supposed to say my patients have 0% chance of survival, but I am going to say it now, your mother has a

0% chance of survival.

Just like that. She was gone. We held a celebration of life for her (no funeral, no burial, she never wanted any of that.) I guess that part worked out for me.

And I was heartbroken. I was 5 months pregnant. With her first grandbaby. When I told her I was pregnant three months previous she cried on the phone for 30 minutes straight. When she heard baby’s heartbeat when I was four months along during a Christmas visit, my doctor looked at me and said “your mother is the happiest I have ever seen anyone over a baby heartbeat!” I cried.

5 months pregnant, ready and excited to becoming a new mama, and all of sudden I had to grieve the loss my own mama. My best friend. My life maker. The love of my life.

During the birth, a very traumatic one filled with pain, turmoil, emergencies, and more, I yelled over and over again, in tears “I just want my mom!” I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. My heart broke again, as reality set in.

I would never witness my mama being a nokamis.

I never wanted my mother so badly in my life until that moment. And she couldn’t be there.

Then, she came. Our daughter was born. Not breathing. But then she let out her cry a few moments later. And my heart healed for a while. Nothing else mattered but her. I had never felt so much love in my whole entire life. I sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed.

We came home after four days. It was so challenging taking care of my own healing process and a new born, mind you my partner helped out lots.

But then came the weeks where he would leave for work.

And the grief and reality of not receiving the postnatal and postpartum, along with the grief support, we needed hit us hard.

The days on end of caring for a new infant, with a house that was a mess due to the fact that every waking second went to caring for the new baby, and the other seconds going to rest, and the inability to have the energy to cook nutritious meals that will help sustain myself and, in turn, the baby, really took a toll on me as a new mama.

One day I was standing in the kitchen getting a drink of water before taking a nap while my daughter napped, and a wave of nausea hit. Everything went black and I passed out. Luckily I caught myself, and luckily, my daughter was safe and wrapped, in our bed. I came to and forgot when I had last had a real meal. Being a new mama meant having no time to cook nutritious meals. And my body needed it. I laid on the kitchen floor and cried, wondering who I could ask for help. I felt so alone.

There were the days of no visitors, or the only 20 minute visitors. The days of no one coming to listen to you while you struggle with moments of new motherhood or grief, or both. No one to take the baby for 20 minutes so I could process the grief that was bubbling in my belly. I cried in front of my infant, but I feared my grief sobs would frighten her (or wake her, or even carry residue in my milk haha!) so I held those heavy sobs in until I had some time on my own. Which was rare as a breastfeeding mother. No one really told me “it must be really hard to be a new mom while you’re grieving. I love you. You are amazing.” And I sank into my grief.

There were the days of feeling like I to “hold it all together” because I was a strong, indigenous woman, rather than allowing myself to be vulnerable. It lead  to to feelings of depression and all the terrible thoughts that come with it.

There were the days of having thoughts of leaving baby to cry in the other room, or even in the porch or car, while I just laid down and got a few moments of rest, just a few extra moments. The moments of ignoring everything else. Of sleeping for days on end. Even the thoughts of not waking up.

Then the guilt that came with that. It ate me up for even having those damn thoughts, for having the kind of thoughts you know women have during postpartum depression. But also feeling ok with it, knowing that these thoughts happen for a lot of new mamas. But then the whole process of knowing that new mamas rarely have the support or space to open up and communicate to one another about their experiences of post partum depression- the shame about it all is so thick and heavy.

Then came the sadness, because there was no support system to help me through it. No kinship systems to stabilize me, to reground and regroup me. There were no other mothers I could talk to who had lost a mother who would tell me “you will get through this, and in a year, everything will feel completely different.”

There were days of extreme exhaustion. Days of sick baby, sick mama, no sleep all night, but having to make sure I did my best to support sick baby and myself as a sick mama. The days where I wanted to scream “can I just nap for three hours straight please?!” But no one is around to listen. The solitude. One day I sent out some texts, seeing if anyone could give me support. My friends disappeared by then. I had my sisters but they were busy with work. “Hey.” I sent out. A few replied. But I didn’t have the courage to write “I think I need help.” Instead I kept conversations minimal. And once my baby slept. I sobbed.

There were days of having 20 mins to cry in the tub as baby napped on the bed. The days of making a post of “I miss my mama,” but really meaning “I need my mama here more that anything else in the world right now because I am having a damn hard time and she is the only one who will listen the way I want to be listened to.” Then baby wakes up crying to nurse. So you climb out of the tub, wrap yourself in a towel, tears still flowing as your milk flows, and promising your baby you will protect her from her grief as your heart cracks open again.

I often looked at the idea of what new motherhood is supposed to look like. The joy, the laughter, the fun. And yes! It existed, it was present throughout the day. But even during those days, the unshowered for three days, sad, lonesome, grieving, version of me, saw myself in the mirror, and thought “I need a shower, a hot meal, and a support system before I go crazy.”

Because sometimes when the baby would wake up every hour at night for two months straight I would cry in bed, rocking and nursing her back to sleep for the 1000th time craving a full nights rest.

And it seems the less sleep I got, the harder it was to deal with the grief. It became this ugly cycle of falling into this hole of grief and also trying my best to get sleep but I couldn’t, so I just remained in this hole of grief and sadness. Sometimes my brain would think “if I just stay sleeping and never wake up then I will finally feel rested.” It can happen when you’re not even a new mama. It can happen when you’re simply grieving. Because when you’re grieving- you need your sleep.

The idea of how a support system was to look during grief and/or new motherhood was filled with people coming to the door with home cooked meals, visits when you needed/wanted, someone taking care of all the things you want taken care of but can’t because you’re so damn exhausted, people to say to you “you’re doing a really good job right now.”

But it rarely happened.

I remember my partner would tell me “you’re doing great babe.” My loving, incredible, hardworking partner would tell me that every chance he could, and it would make me cry. Hearing that would wash away my feelings of insanity. He was, and continues to be, my strongest support system. Because even while away at work, he did his absolute best. And he did a damn good job.

It wasn’t up to him to “cure me” or “fix me” or “make me feel better.” That was all 100% my own responsibility. His support was the stepping stone that lead to me realizing that I am in charge of my own emotions, feelings, grief work, and working through what appeared to be post-partum depression. It could have just been the grief too though. Or both.

There were some days, I just wanted my mama to tell me she loved me. To hear her voice say that to me would have changed everything, so I thought. My body physically craved her touch.

Isn’t it crazy how grief does that? How strongly the body craves a person’s touch when they pass on. It’s like this physical feeling in the skin.

The hardest part though? Was reliving my mother’s death in my head over and over again. From hearing her last words, to all the what if’s, the “if only I had lived with her then I would have been able to help to,” to the “I should have told her I loved her more.” Those words in my head often made me feel like I was going to go over the edge.

But the truth always existed.

And the funny thing about truth is that the truth will always keep you going, even during the most difficult times of your life. The truth kept me going when my mama used to abuse us as kids. The truth kept me going when I was raped. The truth kept me going when I decided to get sober and get healthy.

The truth kept me going when I lost my mama when I was becoming a new mama.

It was the small moments with the truth of love. The collection of all the small moments with every ounce of love that I had within me, that pushed me through the awful feelings of depression and sadness and craziness during the times of postnatal, postpartum, grief.

In moments of caring for a new infant, with a house that is a mess due to the fact that every waking second goes to caring for the new baby was when the isolation would shift. It was the moments of cuddling this tiny human who relied on me for survival with every ounce of her being. It was the moments of falling into, and becoming, the deep, unfathomable love I had for her. It was in the moments of witnessing that love fill up our home as I held her in my arms.

It was in the days of no visitors, or the only 20 minute visitors, the days of heartbreaking grief and trying to keep it together so I can take care of a baby, that I gained this superhuman strength to keep on going, to follow the love, to give it my all. It was in that new baby smell, the cuddles. Even the cries.

In the days of having thoughts of leaving baby to cry in the other room, or even in the porch or car, it was the moments of crying through the pain, of feeling my grief until it felt like my insides were going to collapse, where the stamina to keep going was once again uncovered, and with eyes sore from tears, I would continue on, caring for my girl.

The guilt that came with the bad thoughts? The guilt that ate me up for even having those damn thoughts? They would dissolve as soon as I remembered the tools I could use to work through the traumas holding me back from doing the best that I could. And the gratitude for having these tools worked it’s way into my tired body, giving me the strength to let go of the guilt instead focus on all that I did do for my mother, all that I did for myself, and all that I continue to do for my daughter.

The sadness because there was no support system to help me through it? It made me focus on the power of choice. I had a choice to be a victim in my circumstance, a victim to grief, a victim to motherhood even, or I had a choice to be more than that. I had a choice to be the love of all the matriarchs and medicine women and mothers who struggled before me, and those who struggled after me. I chose the love. And I chose to see that sometimes a support system can be small, and sometimes all we can do is work with what we have. And with that I chose gratitude for what I was receiving.

The days of extreme exhaustion were the days I breathed through, focusing on literally a breath at a time. They were the days that I didn’t think I would make it through. Including the nights, because we all know mamas don’t get to rest at night. And each time I awoke to nurse my baby, I would breathe. Again, and again, and again. And talk to my mama in whispers “please help me.”

The  days of having 20 mins to cry in the tub as baby napped on the bed made all the difference in the hours that I felt like I would give up. Because I know that releasing that grief is everything. It is what kept me, and continues to keep me, sane. It is what protected me from falling into a bottomless pit that has no way out. Instead it gave me the ladders I needed in those days to climb out, with my baby latched on, and to sing the songs my mama taught me.

The days and weeks and months that really tested my resiliency and strength, allowed me to prove to myself that although I did get stuck in victimhood some days, although I felt like I was going crazy some weeks, and although I did feel like I was falling deeper and deeper into a bottomless pit for months, it was the truth, love, and letting go that ultimately got me through it all. It was accepting that I was struggling. It was saying it out loud “I am struggling and I am scared,” even if it meant saying it out loud to my mama who wasn’t even there.

And it was also focusing on the balance of all of the beauty in motherhood, of the love embedded and intertwined within the extreme heartbreak in grief. The days on end of baby giggles and breastfeeding, the cuddles, the small clothes, the soft snores beside me, the smell, that baby smell. It was in remembering my mama’s laughter, her smile, her sense of humor. It was in remembering her and imagining how she would have been as a nokamis. It was in smelling her clothes I kept in a bag in my drawer.

It was in the love, the joy, the forgiveness, the bliss, the courage, the strength, the resiliency.

It was with a knowing that if millions of mothers all over the world could do, then I could do it too.

And ultimately, it was with the knowing that I could do anything in life, no matter how damn hard it was.

Because that is exactly how my mama raised me.

And that is how I will raise my daughter.

The Realities of Indigenous Motherhood

My mother’s resistance, is my resistance.

My nokamis’ resistance, is my resistance.

My daughter’s resistance, is my resistance.

And that is what will keep me going, every single day that I live, as an Indigenous mother.

Because if my mother survived in the struggle, and my mother’s mothers survived in the struggle, why would I give up?


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It‘s that feeling we get when we are nursing our more than one year old in public spaces and colonialism frowns at us. 

It’s that over accommodation we subconsciously do when we bring our children into public spaces, ensuring hair is done and clothes are not dirty (yet we all know children play in the mud and run around until their braids become scraggly and free.) We make sure they’re clean because colonialism will call CFS on us for something as small as a dirty face and a rip in our toddler’s pants. 

It‘s that loneliness we feel as we spend day in and day out with our small children, craving conversations and laughter from a support system that doesn’t seem to exist.

Those are the things that make up indigenous motherhood, the struggles, the challenges. They are the small moments that, some days, feel never ending.

But there is also greatness amongst it all. There is the greatness and power that exists within us as indigenous mothers, and within the children we birth, care for, and love, no matter how challenging the day has been.

And it starts here.

——————————————-

It‘s the knowledge we carry as we wrap our babies in mossbags and cradleboards, carrying generations of maternal indigenous knowledge and teachings that are whispered to us in the beginning stages of motherhood by those who have mothered before us. 

It‘s our little ones learning our kinship terms in our mother-tongues.

It feels like deep contentment and calmness while nursing your toddler, because you carry the knowledge that mothers generations ago practiced, nourishing and comforting babies and children with breastfeeding for as long as they needed, and it was accepted, supported, and respected. It’s the knowing that you are resisting colonial ideas of how we, as indigenous mothers should feed and comfort our toddlers, and babies. It’s that feeling of fully reclaiming and following natural body wisdom, as the badass indigenous mother that you are. 

It also feels like a deep contentment and calmness while feeding your baby with what will allow them to thrive, and doing it with love, singing songs in your mother-tongue, and whispering kisâkihitin as you do so. It‘s that safety you feel while feeding your toddler and older children wild game and harvest from your garden. Again, its the knowing that you are resisting colonial ideas of how we, as indigenous mothers, should feed our toddlers, and babies. It’s allowing your prayer and the land to nourish your children, so that it will eventually nourish your children’s children, because if we take care of the land the land will take care of us. 

It‘s no longer accommodating colonial systems that steal children from the hands, and wombs, of our indigenous mothers. It’s leaving to town after a day of bush trails and scraping hides without washing faces, fearlessly staring at that white woman in the face when she turns her nose up to you and your children. It’s having the fire in you to quip back to her with “your colonialism is showing.” 

It looks like indigenous mothers, aunties, cousins, sisters, and grandmothers supporting new indigenous mothers. It’s the recognizing of how the collective support system for new indigenous mothers, and their experience into indigenous motherhood has transformed from an abundant, connected system into a solitary, isolating experience void of traditional kinship practices. It’s seeing that nations are no longer aiding in the raising of our babies.  It’s noticing that we often say “it takes a village,” but most mothers don’t even have a neighbour. It looks like reigniting the original support systems for new indigenous mothers so that our babies receive the love, care, teachings, and lessons that come with child-rearing from our communities and nations. It’s aunties, cousins, sisters, and grandmothers supporting new indigenous mothers as they should, because it takes a nation to raise our children.

It’s that feeling of laying your eyes for the first time on your babies you birthed, adopted, or who have came into your life, and feeling that love, that bliss, that joy, even for fleeting moments as you watch your children play, dance, and love daily.

Indigenous motherhood is doing some of the hardest emotional labour we will ever have to do in our lives, the work of forgiving our own mothers, fathers, and siblings if it is safe to do so, as mothers, so that our children can build a relationship with their kokums, moshums, nikâwîs and kikâwîs. It is knowing that these are imperative relationships that garner intergenerational love, the kind of love indigenous kinship is really made of.

It means being conscious and aware of the reality that Indigenous children, and Indigenous children fully experiencing their childhood, is constantly under threat from colonialism and colonial systems. It means being mindful of sending our children to public schools for it could mean that we are aiding in the continued colonial influence and pressure that maintains the cycle of oppression and assimilation in the lives of our children. It means home-schooling, unschooling, Kokum schooling, kinship schooling, and land based schooling. It means keeping indigenous education systems as the priority in our children’s education.

Indigenous motherhood can look like ensuring that the terms “matriarchand “chief” are only used in the realest terms for the nokamis, kokums, moshums, and câpâns who have earned the title from a lifetime of fighting colonialism, oppression, and genocide with every breath they take and every baby they birthed. It means not throwing terms around to those who follow colonialism purposely.

It is the feeling Indigenous mothers feel when completing core issue work, no matter how difficult it is, because mamas know that the “colonialism caused intergenerational trauma in my childhood” narrative needs to end here. It means really letting go of the egocentric and demoralizing colonial behaviours that have become the driving force within our family systems. It means distinguishing and erasing the alcoholic, abusive, toxic indigenous family narrative from the lives of our children to ensure that they will grow up away from the traumas that made up our so many of our childhoods.

It‘s Indigenous mothers following their pregnancy teachings, and their teachings for their children, no matter how difficult it may be in today’s day and age. It is not making excuses for not following teachings. It’s not putting your unborn at risk because of your behaviours and how your treat others. It is constantly being mindful of natural law, and knowing that how you treat others will eventually fall back on your children, or your children’s children.

It’s indigenous mothers, and indigenous families, holding the belief, and standing firm in the reality that rez life is a beautiful life. It’s families knowing that rez life is kinship being woven into our children’s and grandchildren’s lives for generations. It’s beadwork and smoked fish and brown summer skin splashing in lakes and rivers. It’s sitting with moshums and kokums, listening to our mother tongues. It’s knowing that to leave the rez for a “better life” only means situating oneself deeply within colonial systems. Which can ultimately lead to our extinction.

It can be that awful feeling of digging through the sludge that colonialism has tried to feed us, but it can also be that feeling of growing through the toxic ooze that colonialism has attempted to make us believe who we are, and realizing that the roots of who we are as indigenous women, mothers, aunties, and sisters, will eternally remain.

It looks like tending to the land, and harvesting medicines, with our babies by our side, showing them how to grow food to survive and how to live in a way where the land falls in love with them.

It looks like being constantly mindful of, and ensuring that, the behaviours of love and forgiveness that stemmed from our parent’s indigenous love, practiced in their child-rearing practices greatly shows up in our child-rearing practices.

Being an indigenous mother today, allows us to practice daily acts of homage to our bloodlines and generations of matriarchs and medicine women who existed before us, through the delicate, and deliberate acts in indigenous motherhood.

It is acts of authentic indigenous kinship which will discredit and ultimately dissolve many colonially created behaviours like lateral violence, families not talking for generations because of something someone’s aunty did two generations ago, gossip, toxic ways of being, and intergenerational family trauma. It’s healing. It’s letting go. It’s love. It’s proof that indigenous motherhood, indigenous kinship, and indigenous love, will always surpass colonially influenced, and trauma ridden kinship. 

Lastly, Indigenous motherhood is anything you feel it needs to be, or you need to support, as the badass indigenous mother, father,sister, brother, auntie, uncle, Kokum, moshum, Chapan, and cousins you are.

Indigenous motherhood is fierce. Powerful. Strong. It is mothers and children who are living, breathing fighters against oppression, privilege, colonialism, reconciliation, racism, prejudice, and injustice. 

Indigenous motherhood is the aunties we are scared of, but it is also the aunties that colonialism is scared of more.

Indigenous motherhood is our mother’s resistance.

Indigenous motherhood is our mother’s mother’s resistance.

Indigenous motherhood is our daughter’s resistance.

Indigenous motherhood, is our resistance.

And Indigenous motherhood is our merciless fight, with generations of matriarchs and medicine women before us, for indigenous truth. For indigenous kinship. And for a better future free of colonial trauma for our babies. Because when we look in the eyes of our babies, we know that is what they need.

Artwork: Aura @monique.aura of Claudine Bull and daughter Alba

“Walking in Two Worlds” Can Be Seen as a Colonial Idea

I used to say I lived in two worlds as an Indigenous person.

The indigenous world and the white world.

Until my partner challenged that notion. And I began to think differently.

To say that that we live in “two worlds” is to downplay the reality that we are simply putting more energy into living in colonial systems vs living in indigenous systems.

To say we live in “two worlds” is similar to how the colonizer perceived (and still often perceives) indigenous peoples, and indigenous systems.

A whole new world.

A new world to colonize, take over, assimilate, commit genocide on, and massacre.

To say that we live in two worlds shows an “othering” of indigenous systems.

It was like saying that indigenous systems existed on another foreign, distant, planet that we only visit when it is convenient .

When in reality, indigenous systems, what I used to call one of the “two worlds,” exists as their own sovereign system within a world that formerly thrived off of indigenous systems, wherein now it is a world dying off of colonial systems.

If I were to say I was living in “two worlds” today, I would want the colonial world far, far away, in some distant universe.

And a life fully immersed in indigenous systems. In a world free of global warming, stolen lands, genocide, assimilation, raped and murdered indigenous children, women, and mothers.

And a world that knew how to heal.

The only “other” worlds that exist within indigenous systems are “worlds” that the star people come from, the little people and Sasquatch live in, the worlds where our ancestors live, and the countless others where the ones who watch over us, protect us, warn us, and can even scare us, live. But they’re not considered other “worlds.” Because in Indigenous systems, all of these places remain together, only showing themselves when necessary. There is no “othering” in indigenous systems.

I don’t have one moccasin in the “indigenous” world and one in the “white world.” For both of my feet stand firm in my Indigenous identity, who I am and where I come from, and both feet allow me to practice my sovereignty and practice daily acts of homage to my bloodlines and generations of matriarchs and medicine women who existed before me.

As an Indigenous person attending university classes, working in a colonial job, or living in a city does not mean one is “walking in two worlds.”

While sitting in the classrooms, sitting in the offices, or sitting in the house on the city street, we are one hundred percent indigenous through and through. There is no need to dissolve or sacrifice our values, morals, or beliefs as an indigenous person just because we are going to university, working a colonial job, or living in a city.

We do not change who we are or where we come from as an Indigenous person just because we are living and operating within these colonial systems.

And the land? The world? It remains as one in the same no matter where we walk as indigenous peoples. The lands where many of these cities and universities stands were the very same lands that buffalo were hunted, nomadic lifestyles were lived, kinship systems were built, and Indian wars took place. They are lands that indigenous systems were practiced on, and the land fell in love with those practices.

It was never split into a “colonial world,” these lands. Colonial systems are just attempting to “steal” and overtake land that lovingly supports indigenous systems.

The challenging part that we see unfolding? Its when indigenous peoples begin operating and believing that colonial systems are superior over indigenous peoples, with the belief that cities and urban settings are no longer places for the land to fall in love with indigenous systems. Therefore they begin to prioritize colonial success over the practice of indigenous ways of being.

This is often the outcome of having the belief that there are “two worlds,” and that we have to “choose” one within our lives. In these situations, colonial systems are chosen versus the practice of indigenous systems.

If the two world idea dissolved, indigenous peoples could easily operate as indigenous peoples, with their beliefs, values, morals, and ideas completely intact within colonial systems, and still manage to commit to practicing their ways of life within indigenous systems.

Or even better, indigenous peoples could easily recognize that colonial systems (not the colonial world, because it’s their systems, not a world) are full of toxic beliefs, stereotypical idealizations, and assimilation tactics that are poison to our children and our nations, and focus fully on gaining the knowledge needed for practicing indigenous systems.

We see it in how indigenous families are raising their children, sending them off to colonial schools to focus on a future within colonial systems. We see it in the trap that indigenous young people often fall into when they strive to thrive in colonial systems. We see it in indigenous adults as they attempt to find their “indigenous self” while living in colonial systems (when realistically their “indigenous self” already exists and thrives within them, colonial systems have just trained their brains to keep it hidden.)

However there is a magic. The magic is in the babies and the old ones. Indigenous babies and our old ones idealizations of “two worlds,” or of making a life in colonial systems is non-existent. An infant knows who they are and where they come from, being as they have just made the journey straight from source, straight from their ancestors. And the old ones? They have lived and thrived within indigenous systems, even though residential schools, the 60’s scoop, the child welfare system, and every other act and policy of assimilation and genocide occurred in their lives. Even though colonialism continues to attempt to force the old ones to live in colonial systems, they remain fully committed, and invested in, indigenous systems,

To indigenous babies, and the old ones, “two worlds,” and the concept of living in “colonial systems” is mostly an idea that is not even a choice.

There may be a few that believe otherwise, however, many of our old ones have generations of knowledge based on indigenous systems that it has become interwoven in their DNA, bloodlines, and etched in their skin.

The reality is, the only one feeding the “two world” concept is colonialism. The idea is fed in day care and preschool classrooms to our tiny children, in public school systems to our children and young people, and in university, city settings, and all non-land related settings. It is almost as if these settings reiterate the importance of getting a “good colonial education” and a “good colonial job” in the “colonial world” in order to survive.

While indigenous systems wait quietly, and patiently, for these children, young people, and adults to come home and rebuild their connection with the knowledge in the ground and in the waters.

The scare tactics often seen in colonial systems for indigenous peoples to make a “choice” and commit to colonialism continues the toxic facade of this “choose the colonial world” logic that many indigenous peoples are complying with.

It’s not only in stolen indigenous lands where colonial systems are built on now that we see this “choose the colonial world” logic occurring. It’s even within indigenous communities, where individuals strive for chief and council positions that are fully regulated, and based on, colonial principals and ideas. It’s apparent when colonial chiefs tell their communities to comply to pipelines rather than complying to natural law. It’s evident when community members are telling others to vote “yes” on colonial projects that will wreck havoc on the land and destroy indigenous territories.

If we followed the truth, that there are no “two worlds” and instead saw colonial systems for what they truly are- our energy, time, and commitment would flow abundantly into indigenous systems- which in itself is a direct act of love to our children and future generations.

I used to think I lived in “two worlds” as an indigenous person. The Indian “world” and the white “world.”

Now, I know that indigenous systems are my priority. Therefore dissolving the notion that indigenous systems live on some foreign, distant planet, and instead exist naturally within me, around me, and makes up all of the universe.

Artwork by: Melanie Cervantes

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

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.

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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.