status: still indian

cheerios on the floor

laundry piles 

stovetop burns 

grey sweatpants &

don’t forget garbage day

.
ok, fine, doin good

.
the door to my worth

it’s heavy

sometimes. I can’t. 

open it. 

.
the steps to smile:

.
lift sides of mouth 

swallow woes

never forget you’re 

an indigenous woman

always aflame 

scarred skin so thick

nothing gets in 

or out

.
blood boiling

slow cooking

when you can pierce

me gently with a fork

I’m done 

.
enjoy with a side

of my territory 

and music from 

rattles that shake

in glass boxes

playing old songs

i’ll never know

.
my back is sore

(i can’t carry you anymore)

from living in a box

.
they say:

6770123101

makes noise

we don’t understand

your savage ways

but here, we’ll just take this

*cuts out tongue*
we’ll send it 
to our lab and let

you know if 

you’re human

.

(ok)

.
(i’ll be ok, there are many languages

in this universe, i’ll be ok, time will heal

these burns i keep giving myself, i’ll be ok, 

my love cannot be contained, my love cannot

be contained, my love cannot be contained..)

whispers to myself

when you’ve been resisting

your entire life

know you were loved

 

five winters old

you were stolen from my grasp

i mourned a thousand lifetimes

to see you again

 

the pain that comes

when remembering

the freedom you had

before they came

the K’amsiiwaa

the men who were raised

to not love women

to hate the indian

you just happened

to be both

 

when you mourn

a thousand deaths

you gain

the stories

the strength

the love

of

a thousand births

 

seeds

shape shifters

seas of red

wild roses

waiting to spring

from winters

five hundred year

grip

 

the shadows lay

beneath you

in admiration

affirmation

ancestors

shine on you

as you rise

 

your spirit

feels the light

of every morning

sun/son

smiling down

at you with

warm hazel

eyes

 

creators reflection

glistens off

your dewey

brown skin

and for a moment

you are in love

with yourself

for the first time

 

cleansing cries

brings oceans waves

moon pulls you closer, cradling

the child

you lost

that dark robed

night

 

stand strong

hayatsgan

remember

you are water

not one man

holds power

over rivers

 

in this mirror

your cheekbones

speak with a sharp

Gitxsan tongue

they say

welcome home

i love you

 

The west is still wild



Nov. 2, 2016

I enter a coffee shop on Commercial Drive, aka the hipsterville that became of nitty gritty East Van, immediately the barista is friendly and acknowledging my presence which kind of throws me off a second because they’re usually not (why do I go there? I don’t know), but I quickly smile and say hello.  I notice an older white man sitting to my right, along with his younger counterpart. The only reason I notice him is because he’s burning holes into the side of my face, and with my peripheral I see the ‘up/down’.  I try to ignore him.  I order, find one of two spots left in the place, remove my jacket, drink my water, and wonder what to write about…I’ve got nothing on my mind but North Dakota Sioux and the battle occurring on their territories right now.  I think I’ll write about water.  The coffee shop is full, I guess I’m lucky to get a spot?  But these vibes are telling me otherwise.  I sit and wonder what everyone else is thinking of…

What is their biggest worry right now?

What are they fighting for? 

What is their personal battle? 

What do they do with their lives? 

Ok, I didn’t think that much into it, but still sitting here, curious.  Then almost as if to slap me in the face to remind me of my significance in this place – Two white men (one, the younger counterpart) and another stranger behind me engage in a conversation that would maybe happen between acquaintances. Small talk.

 

Dude 1(younger counterpart):  ”hey how’s it going?”

Dude 2: “good man, you?”

Dude 1: “good, good, what you working on?”

Dude 2: “just working on a script”

Me: *biggest eye roll*

Dude 1: “I’m working on a piece too”

Dude 2: “oh yah, what about?”

Dude 1: “it’s Native American focused”

Me: *actually mouth “what?” and scrunch my face*, thinking I’ve been here a total of four minutes and I’m over hearing a nonchalant conversation of cultural appropriation.

Dude 1 con’t: “yah with an old western type setting”

Me:  *chuckle while shaking head. (you’ve got to be kidding me), really badly played out cultural appropriation.  Who still writes this shit?! Then Adam Sandler pops into my head.  Ugh, screw you Sandler.   

Dude 3(older counterpart): *interveningly*(only because he sees my incredibly instinctive reaction) he stops the conversation between the two guys and tells him to stop bothering the man.  The younger man walks away, back to his seat, opposite me, then the older man starts whispering right away to the younger man, I feel his eyes burning into me. 

Me: wearing my copper and beads, proudly displaying my ReMatriate, DeneNahjo and Red Rising stickers on my laptop, my brown skin tingles as if to let off a warning, my blood remembers a thousand battles, I clench my teeth, my face is burning.

Me: (still kind of surprised that this is all going down) I start typing about this experience.  I’m trembling.  But the typing calms my hands instantly.  They type furiously as if to say “we got you” 

Dude 3 to younger counterpart: “Colour…(blah blah)…colour…(blah blah)….he seems quite agitated, *raises voice for entire coffee shop to hear while standing up*

“White Man’s Burden! I tell you [enter young man’s name here], White Man’s Burden!” *looks my way*..repeats himself one more time unnecessarily.  I don’t want this ghost peering into my soul, so I keep my focus on my laptop.

Me: I sit, breathe slowly…it’s always surreal.

Dude 3: walks out to have smoke with younger counterpart.

Me: ……*What. The. Hell.*……………..

In moments like these, as an indigenous woman, alone, surrounded by unfamiliar faces.  I have to assess my situation really quickly.  And my solo conversation goes a little something like this:

Me: Are you safe?

Me: I think so, but feeling extremely threatened at the moment.

Me:  If you were to confront this person on his obvious aggression towards you, will someone be there to back you up, keep you safe?

Me:  I don’t think so, these people didn’t even bat an eye, look up from their phones or laptops when this man was basically shouting to me that I’m the “White man’s burden”.

Me: I really need to say something though, right? I can’t just let this bigot do whatever he wants, say whatever he wants to whoever he wants to.

Me:  Well based on the entire situation, and the fact that this man sounds extremely closed minded, and impatient, which is a very dangerous combination, you should probably let this one slide, again.

Me:  *on the verge of tears* That. Sucks.

Dude 3: returns, sits alone for a minute

Me: looks at him, straight, like he was captain colonialism himself, I wait for him to look at me.

Dude 3: look’s back and forth, past me, through me, and finally looks at me.

We lock eyes for a second.  I see his disdain for me and my eyes simultaneously tell him he’s evil, he’s pathetic, he’s pitiful. I like to think it was my best ndn woman glare. I felt it was my only option at that point, given the quick assessment of my surroundings and the situation.  I take a moment to gather myself and continue typing.

Dude 3 and Dude 1 get their jackets and leave. I instantly feel a bit safer, but not by much.  I’m still boiling, very aware at what just transpired between me, this man, and everyone else in this coffee shop. I feel slightly better thinking about the space that I claimed, how I made an old privileged white man so uncomfortable with my existence that he felt compelled to leave so he didn’t have to be in the same room as me. 

Dude 3 is a regular at this coffee shop, he’s here every day, either he’s a loyal customer or the owner.  I don’t know and I don’t care.

I still have my brothers and sisters, the ones on the frontlines, on my mind.  More than ever. 

My experience here in this coffee shop on Commercial Drive is one of millions of experiences that happen every single day on Turtle Island, in various degrees of nastiness, that we as indigenous people are forced to tolerate. One of millions.  We tolerate it because we feel isolated, or unsafe, or we’re just too tired, or we’ve already fought another battle that day, or we feel it’s not worth our precious time and energy to try and explain to someone who’s clearly made up their mind about you, and it’s not about to be changed by a tense politically racially charged conversation, so you don’t. You bite your tongue, you vibrate in your seat, you drink your mocha and save writing about water for another day. Because if you don’t write and release this hate instantly, it comes with you, unwanted.

 As I continue to type, my brothers and sisters at Standing Rock are being struck with rubber bullets as they stand and pray in the water.  My brothers and sisters from hundreds and hundreds of nations are being sprayed with chemicals, attacked by dogs, ripped from prayer circles, beaten with batons of police officers & the national guard, arrested, tossed in small cages, numbers written on them.  Indignities carried out by the state of North Dakota while leaders of Canada, the United States stand idly by.  No, this experience here in the coffee shop, although a small part of the battle, is still a part of the war on colonialism, and it still stings. 

I’m ready to leave, go back to my beautiful loving family, my warm inviting home.  But I sit for a moment and thank my brothers and sisters for their sacrifices.  I thank my ancestors.  I put both feet on the ground, I’ll probably cry later in the safety of my loving partner’s supportive arms.  I’m proud of myself, for still being here, for claiming my space. I take the last sip of my water and give it my thanks as well.  I get up and leave one last time, my money is no good there anymore.

 

 

We are gatherers

I am a gatherer. I am a woman who was sent from the spirit world by my ancestors to do their work. I am meant to gather as much as I can. I am here to gather language. I am here to gather songs. I am here to gather stories. I am here to gather wisdom so I can pass it on to the next. I am here to walk our land and remember where we stepped before. Where our footprints gently laid a soft loving kiss. One that lingers on your heart. One that allows you to wander without fear, because it loves you too. It loves you so much it feeds you, feeds your belly, feeds your mind, your heart, your soul. Gives you sunrises and sunsets every day, gives you mountains and trees and water. Water to cleanse you, wash over you, hold you, carry you. It floods your memory like a million photographs that were taken when the first star reached your mother. She took you in, held you inside, kept you warm, fed you, made sure you were safe from harm and used her body as your shield. She transformed with the seasons, giving to you before herself, feeding off of your spirit, you both spoke without words. You breathed water, you are water, water is your mother, water is your life.

I am here to gather love. I am here to gather everything that was taken from us, our children, our sense of identity, our connection to our bodies, our sensuality. I am here to witness everything and take it with me back to the spirit world. I am here to witness the daunting work that needs to be done. I’m here to witness the immense systems that need to be undone. I’m here to witness the incredible abuse of power that has been used to force us into these tight spaces. I’m here to witness the pressure and heat put on us to share our knowledge of the land. I’m here to witness the extraction of our despair by the overwhelmingly powerful love of our Matriarch’s. Our Matriarch’s.

They are queens who don’t sit on jewels, don’t wear jewels, don’t steal jewels, don’t displace entire nations of children so they can have more and more.  The Matriarch’s diamonds flow down our rivers. The Matriarch’s emeralds grow out of the ground.  The Matriarch’s rubies flow in our blood, give warmth to our people.  All of the Matriarch’s precious stones belong to this earth. Right where the creator made them and kept them. They are precious, they are sacred.

When your people are fed, and at peace, you are rich. When you have treaty with your neighbouring nations, your people can wander their beautiful territories without the worry of war. When you have declarations and gatherings and celebrations, you share stories and wisdom of the land and songs and history, you make each other stronger. Laws were laws. Not meant to be broken. They were placed there to navigate our way through this beautiful Mother Earth. So we could maintain harmony, so there could always be order within our families and clan systems and nations. If you were outside of our laws, you were outside, but that didn’t mean you could disrespect it. Everyone respected everyone’s laws. Not one nation tried to overtake every nation they came across? That would be reckless and careless, and evil, and unnecessarily violent. This is where our Matriarch’s are held in the highest regard, her wisdom and pure love for her people is what saved our nations. She’s the reason, she’s the reason we’re all here.

Our Queens, our Matriarch’s don’t need a palace to look down on commoners and so she could pity the poor with her weak little wave. Our Matriarch’s don’t need parades to celebrate her rule and reign over countries that were ravaged by her soldiers and armies. Our Matriarch’s wouldn’t deny mercy on others, wouldn’t let people starve, go cold. She wouldn’t demand you worship her, bow to her, kiss her hand while you curtsy, role out a fucking carpet because her feet are too royal to ever touch the ground.

No.

Our Matriarch’s were here long before empires and kingdoms and Queens, and they’ll out live them all. We are gatherers, and we’re here to reclaim what is rightfully ours.

My Mother

image

-Nayyirah Waheed

 

 

My Mother. My Nox. My land.

My Mother taught me everything I needed to know to become a strong woman. She defied society and the idea that she came last when it came to colonialism. She said No to patriarchy in a time when women were still told they belonged in the kitchen, and in the home tending to their families. She bravely entered the workforce to make her own money so she could do the things she enjoyed and have her independence. All while still being an incredible mother, giving us love, supporting us, feeding us, being the backbone of our family. She used her voice, even if it was soft, quiet, maybe sometimes ignored or unheard. She still used it, formed an opinion and said what she needed to say. She taught us it was ok to be feisty and cheeky and playful and to not go with the flow just because everyone else is.  To step outside your comfort zone and just do whatever the Hell it is that you want to do! She was, she is a fighter. She led by her mothers example, working hard in the feast hall, and always showing what it meant to be a part of a strong matrilineal line; walking with purpose, keeping your blanket clean, and both feet planted when you speak so that you may feel the ground beneath you – supporting you, giving you the power to say what’s in your heart.

My Nox came from this land. This land is My Mother.

This land has taught us everything we’ve needed to know to be a strong people. She taught us respect. When you respect the land, where you step, where you sleep and eat and play, she will respect you. When you love the land, she’ll love and take care of you. When you nurture her, only take what you need and give thanks, she’ll grow and provide you with so much life. Discipline, she’ll teach you discipline. Don’t take too much, don’t be greedy, she needs space and time to heal, time to reflourish. She’ll let you know when you’re not respecting her, she’ll remind you of her power when you’re over stepping your boundaries. If you listen to Her she’ll teach you all of the ways to prosper, so that you may be fed, so that you may continue to survive to tell your stories, so that your children may someday learn the ways so they can enjoy the beautiful mystery and the origins of our existence. This journey, this life is the most incredible gift. Haamiya Noxiy’ for bringing me into this world. Your beauty and strength lives in me. You are the land. I love you.

Hayatsgan

image

from the shadow of death

i needed a pass
to leave hell
i only existed if
i held a number
cut off my tongue
my hair
and wore a cross
to show them
my existence was
a sin
i am to be thankful
for having the privilege
to walk with them
serve them
in all their civilized glory
they do not know
i come from
bush fire
wildfire
sacred fire
i come to spread
through all the lands
in beautiful sweet destruction
ashes ashes
dust to dust
rise my people
                           rise
                 rise
       rise