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

Smash the colonial patriarchy. Restore the Indigenous Matriarchy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smash the colonial patriarchy, restore the indigenous matriarchy.

Artwork by: Monique Aura

Instagram: @auralast