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

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.

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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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. When it leads to an unjust death.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy shit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial systems continues the pattern of colonial cycles. 

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

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

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

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

And most importantly:

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

To tell the truth to your ancestors and future grandchildren.

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

 Art by: Melanie Cervantes