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

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

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

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

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

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

And this happens all too often.

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

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

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

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

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

So the bigger question in all of this is:

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

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

But what’s worse than that?

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

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

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

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

They’re taking selfies with him.

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

It makes no sense.

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

We quit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never stole again after that.

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

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

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

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

Saying that to our young people is like saying:

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

Or

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

This needs to stop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smash the colonial patriarchy. Restore the Indigenous Matriarchy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smash the colonial patriarchy, restore the indigenous matriarchy.

Artwork by: Monique Aura

Instagram: @auralast

Words of Advice for the Indigenous Young Revolutionary Attending University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the Iskwesis/Young Ones with Brown Skin:

A reminder to all the kwezens/iskwesis and young ones with brown skin,

You no longer need to be on the brink of critical mental health crisis due to the struggle and battle against colonial systems and oppression.

You no longer need to be in deep pits of anxiety attacks, exhaustion and depression due to the constant battle against misogynistic morales and indigenous men and women fighting them like the colonizer themselves.

You no longer need to get exhausted, angry, and even physically sick for attempting to fight and dismantle patriarchy, colonialism, misogyny, oppression, and injustice.

You no longer need to walk through hallways with clenched fists and gritted teeth, preparing yourselves to battle colonialism as you weave your way through school, medical systems, and your non-indigenous job sites.

You no longer need to drive yourselves to points of anxiety, depression, and sometimes even suicide as you attempt to be social-justice warriors and freedom from oppression fighters in systems that breed everything you are fighting against.

You are medicine for your families, communities, and nations for you are our future mothers, aunties, kokums, matriarchs, and you are medicine as whoever you define yourself to be, in a time where practicing the expression of your self-identity is critical in the resistance against colonialism and misogyny.

Never forget iskwesis/kwezens:

You carry identical self and inner power as those did generations before you.
You possess similar DNA to the ones who resisted and defended your homelands to ensure your feet could still first touch the ground on those same lands.
Your existence is the living manifestation of hundreds of thousands of prayers from matriarchs and kokums.

You are a conduit of your ascendant’s devotion, rage, and commitment to the cause – carry yourself as such.

You have the potential to grow nations and embed liberation to those who will exist hundreds of years from now.

You have a fierce strength that can provide you all the tools necessary to commit to a healthy lifestyle as long as you look for the right guidance.
You have the force to disassemble and obliterate white male dominance with the fierceness in your smile and fearlessness in your words.

You are not a victim.

You are not a survivor.

You are the truth.
You are the truth of resurgence, self-liberation, and an undeniable, wildly unapologetic, deep self-love as you aid in the restoration of ourselves from colonial systems into the true nehiyaw, anishinaabe peoples we are in the systems that continuously provides sustenance to ourselves and our livelihoods

You are a defender of the land, a protector of the waters, and a combatant against colonialism. 

You are love.

You are sacrifice.
You are beautiful brown skin.
You are our resurgence.

You are our resistance.
You are the most feared weapon against a white privileged male, and all you have to do is breathe.

You are our heroes.

I love you.

We love you.

The land. Loves you.

To the young brown skinned indigenistas, warrioristas, rebels, truthseekers/truthleaders, and rule breakers,

If you find yourself battling in colonial systems, becoming sick, filled with anxiety, and on the brink of mental collapse, remember- no one can take on a system, change a system, or dismantle systemic values steeped in oppression, misogyny and colonialism if that is what that system was founded on, and if that is how that system is maintained.

Instead, 

Breathe. Rest. Eat. Take care of yourself first. You are important. You are deserving. 

And most importantly, re-energize yourself by practicing sovereignty over your colonially-resistant body by saying “no” and teaching that same word to your children, nieces, or nephews- for it is a word of decolonial resistance, a word to be known as a renegade against colonialism, a word that your skin and tongue will become best friends with- all in the name of loving yourself and loving your people.

To all the brown skinned revolutionaries with red lipstick or fire cracker eyes-

You are the human manifesto of the old ones prayers. 

To the cinnamon-skinned compañeras of the cause,
Nourish, strengthen and love your beautiful, strong indigenous body and nourish, strengthen and love beautiful and strong indigenous systems. 

Your life is as important as the livelihood of the land and as the lives of the old ones before you.

Stay strong. 

Stay beautiful.

 Stay proud

of your brown skin. 
Photo by: Melanie Cervantes