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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collectively.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it can be. Your points are valid.

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

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

And

“My child is not a disruption.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because of the disruption, we are seeing something different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We engage.

We communicate.

We love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because that’s what indigenous kinship is really about.

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

It’s valuable and important.

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

Artwork by: Chief Lady Bird

Ig: @chiefladybird

To the “Old Boys Club:” F*** your Patriarchy

It’s at every political “Indian” meeting.

It’s at the round tables, the dialogues, and the discussions.

Their behaviours are steeped in it. It’s in the way they speak, how they carry themselves, the way they look or stare.

Fundamentally, it’s the idea that because one is an indigenous male in colonial politics, camouflaged as “Indian politics,” then one has the right to treat women, specifically young indigenous women, as objects in toxic spaces.

It’s the idea that because an indigenous male is in a position of false colonially created power, they can speak to women how they want and when they want, even if women are uncomfortable, frightened, or feel threatened by their behaviour.

It’s even seen and heard at powwows – the emcee constantly cracking jokes that sexualize, objectify, and undermine women. And our children are hearing it, the normalization exists here.

The only time I went to the AFN Xmas gala it happened.

I was leaving to go back to my room for the night. I didn’t drink at the time (still don’t), and was leaving the lobby when I felt someone grab my wrist.

I turned to the side and saw this old Indian man holding onto my wrist.

He was probably in his late 60’s. He looked at me and said “come to my room with me,” with a lecherous look in his eyes.

I quickly pulled my wrist away from his grasp and said “no,” loudly. I looked around to see who was close by, and the people that were walking by were minding their own business.

“At least give me your number.” This old chief replied and laughed, he was obviously intoxicated.

By this time I was feeling scared and began walking away faster as he kept his eyes on my body, looking up and down.

I walked out quickly and texted some friends to let them know what happened.

I wish I got the name of that chief.

I also wish that these kinds of behaviours and mentality of the colonizer, the patriarchal one at that, weren’t normalized and accepted within these spaces.

Not one person stood up or said anything when the interaction, fuelled by patriarchy and sexual harassment, took place. Not the other chiefs walking through the hall and not even the other women who were walking by, blatantly ignoring the situation at hand.

However, it’s not surprising.

It’s not surprising because this particular group of Indigenous men have a name.

The “Old Boys Club.”

It should be the “Wannabe White Men Club.”

Or the “Turn Our Backs Against Our Nations to Comply to Colonialism Club.”

It’s within this “club,” more so this paradigm, where the “Indian” politics taking place are really just colonial politics disguised as “Indian” politics.

Go to any colonial, white, male-led political arena- the House of Commons for example, or any board for big companies, and the same behaviours will saturate the environment.

Patriarchy. Sexism. Dehumanization. Undermining women. Misogyny. And even white privilege.

Because even in this “old boys club,” white men are always bowed down to and praised, even after they have committed acts of genocide against our lands and our bodies.

Shit, it’s the “old boys club” who adorn these genocidal white politicians with head-dresses and appraises, smiling and cracking jokes like they are their bros.

Because that’s where these members of the club get their sense of belonging- by falsely belonging to colonial systems rather than to their own indigenous kinship systems and traditions.

The thing is though, the “old boys club” is made up of indigenous men who are doing everything they can to avoid feeling disempowered in any area of their lives. These men will do anything they can, and behave in any kind of way, to appease and abide by the colonizer and colonial norms. Even if it means threatening, undermining, and sexualizing our women.

Because if they don’t, they will no longer have their “bros,” or get their sense of belonging fulfilled by “the old boys club.”

Now, that’s not to take away the accountability that needs to take place for these men’s toxic colonial behaviours.

But, it does further normalize their behaviours.

Their behaviours have become so normalized that young indigenous women involved in these pseudo-political spaces will share stories of which “creepy” chiefs hit on them where, some behaviours of these chiefs more threatening than others. Young indigenous women will tell one another which ones to stay away from, in order to keep one another safe.

What is happening, and what has happened for generations since the process of attempted colonization began, is colonial patriarchy has worked to assimilate indigenous masculinities. This process has created this normalization within groups of indigenous men to dehumanize, undermine, objectify, and degrade indigenous women the same way that most white males do.

The outcomes of these behaviours are showing up not only in “Indian” politics either.

They are also showing up in our kinship systems where emotionally shut down fathers do everything they can to avoid their traditional roles and responsibilities as indigenous men within their family system. Instead of fulfilling their roles and responsibilities, they become busy complying and abiding to colonial narratives and norms of how “men” are to operate in the world, specifically in relation to their partners, their children, and to women around them. This leads to emotional shutdowns and the idea and belief that men and boys shouldn’t “feel,” and if they do, they are weak. Thus, comes the family breakdowns.

The outcomes of these behaviours are showing up in the false colonial structures of power and control between parents and children, where the belief is that parents are the only decision makers, and the voice of the child is non-existent, ridiculed, and never taken seriously. This can then lead to the dissolving of self-power, confidence, and self-esteem in children, furthermore maintaining a cycle.

Now, the “old boys club” aren’t the only ones to blame, though they are 100% responsible for the harm, trauma, and problems they are causing within the traditionally sacred relationship between men and women. Most of these men committing these behaviours are carbon copies of their colonial “masters” that surround their daily lives. Many of these men have layers of unresolved trauma and grief, and have never had anyone tell them “it’s ok to cry.” Many of these men have never taken one step in the direction of their “healing journeys,” and instead take 10 in the direction of colonialism.

The damage that is happening to our women by patriarchy, colonialism, and misogyny has gotten to the point where our women are saying “enough is enough.”

Rather than staying quiet in fear of being patronized and ridiculed, women are reclaiming their matriarchal roles and stating their truths for all the generations of women and girls before them who never had a chance to.

Our role as Indigenous women today is not just to speak the truth, but our roles are to also raise young boys in homes where it’s safe to feel all feelings, to carry the knowledge that being a boy means having important responsibilities such as honouring the girls and women in their lives, and protecting those girls and women if they ask, or need to be, protected.

Our role as Indigenous women is to practice vulnerability as ruthlessly as we can, to teach our young sons and daughters to be ruthlessly vulnerable themselves, no matter when and where.

Our role is to teach our sons what it really means to respect girls and women, and not just use it as a catch-phrase strewn throughout childhood.

Our role is to remind ourselves of our kinship practices that raised young indigenous men to fulfil who they were and where they come from 100%. To teach these boys to love the lands, and relate to women, the same way they do to Creator.

The weapons we have against the “Old Boys Club” come in the form of truth-speaking, authenticity, of raising young boys in spaces of vulnerability and love, and of rebirthing the systems of matriarchy that existed prior to colonization within our families, communities, and nations.

The things that we have, that the “Old Boys Club” don’t, is what will keep our nations strong.

Freedom from the cycles of colonially created trauma and behaviours will ultimately lead to the rebirth of generations of matriarchs and revolution in our kinship systems.

And that is something the behaviours is the “Old Boys Club” will never defeat, even with all the headdresses they give to colonialism.

Restore the Indigenous Matriarchy, dissolve the colonial patriarchy.

Artwork by: @chiefladybird & @auralast

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

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

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

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

It started when I was young.

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

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

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

The feelings of “I am destined for greatness.”

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

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

What a crazy belief!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They won’t be undoing knots at the age of

25, like I was doing.

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

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

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

Colonial educations systems strive to feed and maintain this narrative.

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

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

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

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

Practice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standing strong in my Indigenous self-power.

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

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

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

Artwork by: Chief Ladybird

Ig: @chiefladybird

Losing My Mother while Becoming a Mother: Grief and Motherhood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today, things have significantly shifted.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sorry I am busy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0% chance of survival.

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

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

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

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

I would never witness my mama being a nokamis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it rarely happened.

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

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

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

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

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

But the truth always existed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because that is exactly how my mama raised me.

And that is how I will raise my daughter.

The Realities of Indigenous Motherhood

My mother’s resistance, is my resistance.

My nokamis’ resistance, is my resistance.

My daughter’s resistance, is my resistance.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

And it starts here.

——————————————-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indigenous motherhood is our mother’s resistance.

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

Indigenous motherhood is our daughter’s resistance.

Indigenous motherhood, is our resistance.

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

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

Decolonization and Indigenization is the New Reconciliation

Decolonization and indigenization is the new reconciliation.

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

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

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

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

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

Because the only good indian, is a colonized indian.

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

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

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

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

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

All in the name of decolonization and indigenization.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was intended for indigenous, by indigenous peoples.

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

Decolonization and indigenization is the new reconciliation.

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

And how do we change it?

By no longer recognizing it as decolonization and indigenization.

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

By doing us. Ourselves. Without decolonization and indigenization.

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

Because indigenization and decolonization is the new reconciliation.

And practicing indigenous systems, is the new resurgence.

And we need this. For our own survival.

Artwork by: Aura.

Inspired by: Mackenzie Anderson

Ig: @auralast

The Intergenerational Resistance of Unapologetic Indigenous Parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The narrative sounds something like this:

“My dad/mother was a drunk.”

“I grew up with no father.”

“My mother/father was violent/abusive.”

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

“My mother cried lots.”

“My mother had lots of boyfriends.”

“My parents partied a lot.”

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

“My childhood was dysfunctional.”

“My parents were dysfunctional.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am sober.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Indigenous families are healing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traumaless.

And lastly, unapologetically Indigenous.

Artwork by: Chief Ladybird

IG: @chiefladybird

Twitter: @chiefladybird

The Revolution of Indigenous Motherhood

Motherhood- the most difficult yet rewarding experience of a woman’s life. From the moment of giving birth (whether it goes as one desires, or the complete opposite) to the sleepless nights and napless days, the truth is- motherhood is what one chooses to make of it. Yet, that is just the surface. Underneath that comes layers of responsibilities and actions which hold decisions as to what the future will look like for Indigenous peoples, based on how a mother chooses to raise, and love, her child(ren).

The truth is, Indigenous motherhood can be the restoration of nationhood, it can be the key to melting the colonial mould of what motherhood should be and restoring it with the truth of what Indigenous motherhood is. Indigenous motherhood is void of all the behaviours that have trickled down from residential school trauma, genocide, missing and murdered indigenous women, the sixties scoop, and racism. It is void of these things not because of ignorance, but because Indigenous motherhood is choosing to raise our child(ren) from a place of Indigenous love. With this comes transformative healing within ourselves to recognize that in order to be a mother- we must heal. We must destroy the systemic cycles that have been forced upon us as a peoples and re-create a resurgence of our own systems- in order for our children to determine their true identities as they grow. This would look like implementing land-based practices into a child’s everyday life, or ensuring that a child grows up knowing where their feet first touched the ground and where home truly is. By continuously practicing Indigenous norms over colonial norms, children will be deeply rooted in their existence as an Indigenous person and the colonial system will, hopefully, fall away.

Over the last few generations, Indigenous mothers have raised and prepared their children on how to survive in a colonial way of living rather than how to thrive in Indigenous way of being. With that can come fear-based parenting, and pain-based parenting. Fear-based parenting in this instance would look like Indigenous mothers telling their daughters, no matter the age, to always be on the lookout for predators as they, being an Indigenous girl or young woman, will always be a target for violence and possibly murder. Pain-based parenting would look like Indigenous mothers projecting years of their own violent lives, deriving from colonialism, onto their children through emotional and physical abuse as well as shame and humiliation tactics that these mothers learned through colonial systems. Fear-based and pain-based parenting in this context can be an inter-generational passing down of deconstructive, colonially created ways in which parents discipline, reward, and view their relationship with their children.

Indigenous mothers now have to make a very diligent, and critical choice to raise their children to thrive in an Indigenous paradigm. It is still paramount that young Indigenous girls, and women, are taught self-defence and safety, yet it is more imperative that these children learn why and how colonial systems operate in order to continue to attempt to subordinate their peoples, how and why colonialism unfolded and attempted to destroy their peoples, and how their peoples resisted and survived in order for them to be alive today. It is imperative that rather than mothers teaching daughters to be on the look out for predators, which is a preventative measure based on an outcome of colonialism which brands them to be victims prior to anything happening, mothers teach daughters to be on the lookout of any form of self-victimization in all areas of their lives, which is an empowerment tool, teaching daughters to stand in their own power prior to anything happening. Now, that’s not to say that our daughters will no longer become victims if they choose to personally void victimhood in their lives, yet if I grew up knowing what I deserved and my worthiness, rather than in an upbringing steeped heavily in parenting operating in a place of abusive colonial outcomes, I would not have stayed in an abusive relationship as long as I did, therefore I would not have been raped at the end of that relationship. When we remind our daughters of the strength, and the generations of resiliency and self-love before them, is when we will see real change. The truth is, when we teach our children about the deception that colonialism is, we are giving them the tools to disentangle and destroy roots that they will constantly be falsely told are their own in mainstream society. These children will then be the seeds which will be planted free of colonial residue and pain with the promise to grow in the awareness of true sovereignty, nationhood, and self-empowerment steeped in indigenous truth which will ultimately trickle down in their own parenting and within the future generations of our peoples.

Indigenous based child-rearing is the key to destroying suicide in our young people, to ending the numbers of crimes our children are committing in our communities, to deconstructing the normalized cycles of drug and alcohol abuse in our pre-teens, and to altering everything we think we know about parenting in present day colonialism. Indigenous based child-rearing in today’s generation resides in watching the restoration of unfaltering kinship in our Indigenous family systems unfold and allowing that to reside in the raising of our children with the knowing of who they are, and where they come from, wildly and unapologetically. It is found in recognizing the power in being a mother as an Indigenous woman- as children were the route the colonizer chose for termination- we now have a responsibility to raise our children as the route for restoring nationhood and revolutionizing communities. We are protectors and defenders of who we are and where we come from- undoing hundreds of years of colonization through the very practice of child-rearing. Indigenous based child-rearing in today’s generation resides in following the lead of your child. It resides in the wildness of love, and providing your child, no matter the age, the space for unapologetic emotion. Which means being continuously aware of the words you choose to use with your child. Acknowledge that your child, even your newborn, has the capacity to understand their own bodies. Appraise their cries to show them that yes, even at a few weeks old, it is truly okay to feel and express emotions. Through this we can begin to guide our children to consistently and confidently self-liberate, which will subsequently and ultimately lead to the liberation of our peoples as a whole. Indigenous based child-rearing is found in raising our children to understand the crisis at hand and to teach them how to move through it in revolutionary ways. It is found in teaching our children, from the youngest of ages, the sanctity of treaty, and the sacrifices made from generations before in order to keep those promises in place today. It is found in decrying the privilege that is now seen in young activists as they lay claim to creating change for our people, and instead teaching them about the real revolutionaries. It is found in teaching our children that it isn’t our job to restore, or even rebuild, our nationhood, it is our job to strengthen our nationhood- as it eternally exists alongside treaty.

Motherhood, in itself, can be the most difficult yet rewarding experience of a woman’s life. From the moment of giving birth (whether it goes as one desires, or the complete opposite) to the sleepless nights and napless days, the truth is- motherhood is what one chooses to make of it. Yet Indigenous motherhood is the ultimate weapon in destroying colonialism, through the tenderness, and wildness, of Indigenous truth and love