Indigenous Feminism-My Own Journey

How do we change our world for a better place if all the critiques, information, data, perspective come from a narrow, white, heteronormative, able bodied, patriarchal  view?  How am I, or anyone else for that matter, supposed to address social, climactic, and reproductive in/justices when the colonial system we are subjugated to and have imposed upon us is a broken system from the start? Why are Indigenous Peoples somehow expected to come up with solutions to problems they did not create?

All this bounces through and around my head while I continue to fill my educated mind with Deloria and Cajete science, Baker and Yee Indigenous Feminism, Inwood and Bonds, and Smith white supremacy, among many other things. While submerged within the thinly gilded ivory walls of a false tower of contradiction I feel betrayed, lied to and led astray about the world around me. I started this journey with this bullshit idea that people in high academic places and positions of power and influence were in these positions to tell me/us what we needed to know about the world

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The Violence of Silence: Climate, Social, Reproductive, and Environmental justice from Here to Standing Rock

 

Over the past 500 plus years Indigenous Peoples have been suffering the continued violence and genocide at the hands of the settler society. While there have been waves of civil rights movements, feminism, and social justice we Native Americans are still suffering causalities of the systemic institutional and environmental racism. The violence’s imposed on Native Peoples and apathy of the larger populations is indicative of lack of accountability and recognition of the largest crime against humanity, the genocide of the First Nations Peoples of Turtle Island.

Barker (2016) points out the multiple times Native Peoples have been excluded from justice by whites and POC in “history” while standing on our bones for their own legitimization and justice at the expense of ours. This has led to thousands of laws and policies that oppress and violate us using science to validate their fuzzy logic. This perpetuation of injustice has allowed for POC and other marginalized groups to look away as we suffer in their own attempt to either self-preserve or to disguise their own guilt. Then Standing Rock rose up.

In April of 2016 Lakota woman set up camp outside the Standing Rock Lakota Reservation north of Cannonball North Dakota against the Goliath oil and gas industries and no one noticed, well no non-Indigenous people noticed. She was not alone in her stance as in the rice lakes of Minnesota more women were making stands against the rape of their lands by energy companies. In Oklahoma 3 Absentee Shawnee women started their fight against the hundreds of oil pipelines in the places they live, work, and have ceremonies. Interestingly earlier in 2012 it was women that took on the extractive industry in Canada and started a worldwide movement called Idle No More. Indigenous women are taking the lead against the violence’s against their lands, air, water as well as their bodies.

Ironically the move to support us by other POC and women has been slow. Partly because of our conditioned mindset of fear, assimilations, neocolonial self-loathing, neoliberal induced and perpetuated poverty, institutional exclusion and media blackout of out issues. These issues have squeaked out to the larger world through the technologies of cell phones, Internet and social media. Along with our issues the militarized police force and the historical and current racist violence’s and killings have also been shared with the larger world, only in small bits and pieces. I have noticed white friends in their white fragility defend the killing of POC by white officers and dismissal of my own empirical statistical evidence against their stance.

It is this created fear of losing power and control that feeds the chaos of our current binaries of “us’ and “them” while really not acknowledging the subtle class wars that allow those with to fear and hate those without. This brings be back to the initial component of my argument that Standing Rock and all it stands for threatens more that the oil and gas corporate industries. It forces society (civilization if you could validate calling it such) to look at itself and its role in the atrocities against Indigenous Peoples as well as our Mother Earth. It is forced to recognize the United States is an illegal government based on theft, lies, greed, and genocide. Standing Rock has so much symbolism beyond the protection of water, the leadership of Indigenous women, and the fight for justice. It is about reclaiming our power, our sovereignty and our inherent responsibility to Mother Earth and all our relations in all seven directions. It is about honoring our ancestors and our descendants yet to be. It is all about the community we Indigenous People have and the lessons from hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and survival and the lessons that comes with these methods of knowledge and acts of wisdoms. It is about climate, social, reproductive and environmental justice. It is about standing strong on the ancient grandpas and grandmas that are the original beings before humans, the rocks, the water, the stars, the blood of our peoples in the soils that shelters and nourishes us. Standing Rock.

We are beyond the tipping point. As an Alaskan elder told a group of us in March we are beyond adaptation, it is about surviving climate changes. “Climate Changed” was the theme of the ten year anniversary of the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group because as we know the climates around the world, physically, culturally, and politically changed. It was through this meeting I realized how much has changed, and yet how much needs to change as we will never survive or move forward if we continue to depend on an outdated and infantile science. Science based on white male supremacy and power control.

I experienced an Indigenous woman attempt to educate a man of color, not from Turtle Island, on needs and ways for men in science to communicate more effectively with human beings, more-than-human beings, women and other marginalized and oppressed beings. In his wounded brown-ness he attacked her and her offer of knowledge. No one stood with her in that moment; shamefully this included myself, while she stood up to his patriarchy, colonization, and dismissive rebuttals to her. That strong beautiful Indigenous woman walked out of that room with her moccasins still on and her integrity and identity intact. She was Standing Rock.

After a moment I followed after her and once I wrapped my mind and heart around my own personal violence’s I went back into that room and I confronted the room of people on our collaborative silence, which was her immediate violence and all our collective historical and generational violence. Silence is violence and I spoke out, I am Standing Rock, I am Idle No More. In that moment the room full of mixed peoples from around the world and across Turtle Island ripped open the infected wound of our oppression, apathy, and violence. We were all uncomfortable.

It is in the moments of discomfort we find ourselves and the ancient strength embedded in our DNA passed down from our ancestors and our backs straighten, our fears faced down and our weaknesses become a little stronger. We were all Standing Rocks. We owned our compliancy and promised to change. We honor our women and men equally. We are active agents of transition and all have a part. I realized mine in the moments that followed, as I owned my silences and violated the institutional structures that must hold me down as to stand on me, and the bones of my ancestors.

I refused to be silent and I will continue to stand with all of the Standing Rocks out there to fight to the death for the survival of all my relations against the many headed black snakes around the world as I expose the hubris and fallacy of western science and the power the colonial settler society struggles to claim and cling to. We are all Standing Rock and if we are not, we best get Idle No More because our silence is their violence. Stand like Standing Rock, for our ancestors are our entourage. Our Mother has been raped, her bones broken, her blood and tears poisoned, and forcefully violently penetrated then injected with the poisoned seeds of fracking, gas and oil extractions. They are murdering our Mother and we have been silent too long. STOP, STAND, FIGHT.

I am willing to die to protect my Mother and all my relatives. So what are you willing to die for because if you do not stand up against the rape and violations against our Mother we are already dead. I do not know a lot or speak for anyone but I do know…

I am the descendant of an Indian they could not kill.

Identity Policing

Why is the “American” identity so effen messed up?

First let’s just throw out there I am a light skinned Native woman in a Phd program. I have easily passed as white most my life. (Dying my hair blonde for years helped) I have always known I was Native but never understood what that meant. My mom was half Native and half white and we went back and forth between California and Oklahoma. My Native great grandparents moved to Los Angeles in 1929 and my grandpa and mom were both born in the LA area. So when we moved between LA and Shawnee Oklahoma there was defiant culture shock, but I never grasped the binary of my two worlds because I never felt like fit into either completely, and I still don’t.

The issues that grind at my heart and soul is related to identity. I have always been NDN. I am Absentee Shawnee with Kickapoo relatives. I am recognized by my SiWiNwi community in Oklahoma. I have a Shawnee community, clan, and name. I identify as Shawnee. Because I am light skinned, green eyes, and medium brown hair I am constantly questioned on my belonging. I know who I am, where I come from and can and do answer to constant inquiry. It is insulting, belittling and humiliating that I must prove who I am to  friend and foe alike. I admit I am sometimes bitter. The worst part is I forget not everyone else is challenged like I am.

For example; if you claim to be indian and you are black as well people are more likely to ridicule a persons’ claim and decide for them that they are black instead of Native because that is what they see and judge by. But if someone is white and has black/brown hair, brown eyes and claim indigenousness no one disputes it. Then comes the Cherokee grandma princess story or the “my family hid” or “my family refused to be recognized” and the “he courthouse burned and so did my families records” stories. There are groups that pop up out of no where and are all of a sudden missing tribes that survived by pretending to be white and now they are coming out and practicing “their” ceremonies, songs, dances, and languages, most often by appropriating a legitimate tribes identity.

There are also the pretensions that use their new/old identity to access money, jobs, resources allocated for the peoples that were and still are robbed of so many things and getting ripped off again by another white person in need of a spirit animal and magic, performing rituals for other white people in need os spirituality. If it is spirituality you need then find your own. We all come from somewhere, ground yourself in your own heritage. But no, it does not seem to go that way.

I had someone I trusted, cared for, loved as old souls that uses his identity to leverage his career. That is great, if that is who he is. Accidentally another version of his history came out during a discussion of Andrea Smith and Rachel Dolezal when he was vehemently defending these women and their identity claims. He blurted out that he can’t prove his heritage either. (*crickets chirped)  I was dumbfounded, what do you mean you can’t prove it? Here I sat being told by my mentor that he could not tell his family tree to me. WTF?

How can that be? Even if you are not an enrolled member, card carrying, federally recognized Native, you do know your family right??? How the fuck can that even make sense?

It doesn’t that’s why.

I get that identity goes beyond colonial structures of ‘identity’ and that the current systems is designed to assimilate and erase Indigenous Peoples everywhere but what has kept that from happening is that we are families. We are communities that held onto each other because it is all we had left. How in the hell can you stare me in the eyes and say you are NDN and can’t tell me who your family goes back to in the community recently or several generations back? How can you tell me you are NDN and you do not participate in the culture, reciprocity, community, philosophy, or anything else that makes us a people?  I see you speaking but your actions are otherwise.

Then there are those that whisper their descendancy and work their asses off to help indian country and other Natives selflessly and without jumping up and down screaming for attention. One of my current mentors speaks softly of his NDN grandmother who married a Jew and they both being marginalized because of who they were found support, acceptance and love in each other. His grandmother gave up her extended tribal community to be with a non native. Funny, her name appears on an earlier indian agency roll almost 30 years before the Dawes, but because she didn’t put herself and her children on the Dawes, she escaped being forcefully removed to Indian territory. So my mentor silently holds his family to his heart even to the ridicule and rejection from the identity police looking to expose frauds. This person has helped more Natives than I even know.

So where does this leave me? I have a nation and people but still not “Indian” enough. I am questioned regularly like so many other mixed NDNZ whose phenotype is lighter, darker or just not what “society” or “science” says it is supposed to be. All while another Colonial European Settler marches in and takes a little more of us away. Even with the brightest Native scholars banding together in solidarity to recognize that this actions are common and regularly overlooked, continue to be overlooked. These violences are leveraged more often against women, at least in the media, than on men. So is it gender violence too?

All I know is when I think others experience the same discrimination as I do, I am rudely reminded how far we have yet to go for justice. There is patriarchal, heteronormative, colonial, white supremacy acts, policies, laws and violences happening at all times in all institutions and it is so systemic that it is no wonder many of us commit suicide, self medicate to death, and just fall continuously through widening gaps of society. The system is set for us to fail and if we don’t, well there is a white male there to take up the place supposedly created for a person of color. If they take the last bits from us, we cease to exist except in their stories of us, not ours but theirs.

So I guess for today I give up, self medicate and tomorrow I will stay strong and warrior on.

Peace

 

My Silence is Your Violence

As a Native student we are often faced with circumstances that other white students or even students of color deal with. These issues get compounded if you are Two-Spirited. In general the system in power today is based on Christian, White hegemony, patriarchal, settler, colonial, capitalist.  That is a pretty narrow acceptance space, especially since anything that deviates from this power is attacked with xenophobic, misogynistic, intolerance and violence. One only has to look at the current politics of Donald Trump to see how far this systems has fallen in its death throws.

I myself as a white passing mixed Native Two-Spirited woman have been subjugated to this horror, but never so violently as I have in college. Not college in general but at a university where petroleum research has 10 floors of a building, geography and environmental sustainability share two floors and two floors are classes. A University that still glorifies the assimilation, land grabs, gun jumpers, and dismissed its part in the theft of land, culture and human rights of others (including our non-humans). It begs to make me wonder if this system is capable of change?

Will I ever be safe to discuss the violence I experience? Will the challenges others face ever ease into equality and justice?

My silence is your violence.

If I continue to keep quiet they win. If I hold my tongue my experience erased. My inability to have space to share my own experience is forfeiture of that space? Can feminism even be just and equal?

My silence is your violence.

Must I concede my power, my perspective and my voice to someone else? Must my experience be erased for the comfort of someone else? At what point does my back and spirit break? Do I really want to know or has it already happened?

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My silence is your violence.

I have been attacked again by someone in a power position for sharing my experience of violence, at the hands of my oppressor. If I concede they win. If I fight I lose. Wait where is the equality or justice in that?

I guess I will just have to speak my truth, even if my voice shakes. I will have to amplify the voice of others at every chance I get. I must fight to create space for as many “others” as I can. I have to stand up.

My silence is her violence, she needs to shut me up. I threaten her comfort, power and privilege. Ain’t that a bitch?

 

Why is it alway women taken to task for cultural fraud?

I have been doing a lot of reading and research lately ( I am a doctoral student) and because of my area of study (Indigenous Geographies) I am influenced by amazing Indigenous scholars. I am also Shawnee. From this position and education I feel responsible to address something that has been bugging me a long time…well since Andrea Smith was outed.

Now I know she and Rachel Dollar have been called out by the respective communities as well as the rest of the world as frauds, or confused, or “identifying as” and even crying out about lateral oppression, identity policing, getting picked on for believing the fairytale told by a “relative” about having a “Cherokee Indian Princess Grandma” or just wanting to be someone they are not.  My point being that there are thousands if not more people crying out foul because they can’t prove their ancestry that connects them to a recognized tribe or marginalized population. It appears like it is some weird white guilt or possibly just privilege. It also appears that women are the ones called out and taking the brunt of the controversies. But where are the men?

It makes me wonder if this because the most visible people that claim to be non white and are have been women, or if it happened that these women colonized the spaces available and flaunted it to the world in ways that made them highly visible. It also makes me wonder if it just happens to also fall into the systemic white patriarchal heteronormative christian method of control. Because I have to tell you, this issue of calling out women but not men is kinda pissing me off.

One of the many people I follow and appreciate the work of is Ben Barns. He and many others have fought hard to identify fraudulent claims of people claiming Indian identity and appropriating cultures, ceremonies, and histories that are not theirs. These frauds have even gone so far as to collect the bones of Shawnee Indian ancestors (and other tribes) from poorly educated federal and state institutions. These NAGPRA violations have gone often unnoticed. There are 40 groups claiming to be Shawnee. There are 3 federally recognized divisions of Shawnee all of which are in Oklahoma. My point in all this is that Smith and Dolezar were publicly outed but there is so much more going on and no one seems to care.

For instance, Thomas M. Norton-Smith claims to be Piqua Shawnee form Ohio according to his book “the Dance of Person and Place” in which he speaks of his naming ceremony, his name and other aspect of “his” culture that myself and other members of the Eastern Shawnee, Absentee Shawnee and the Loyal Shawnee (Now just Shawnee) normally do not talk about openly let alone in print publicly. Even his “Shawnee name” is wrong in ways only a Shawnee person would know better. He “speaks Shawnee” but does he use it correctly and implement inflections of pitch appropriately? I would venture to think not as his greeting he uses (in print) is not like any of the Shawnee I know. The direction of this conversation is that if you are a white man claiming to be Indian and cling to a small, private group, such as the 3 federally recognized Shawnee are, who will challenge you?  Throw a few letters behind your straight white male name, PhD, and you are now not held accountable because who will challenge you?

There are a great many other frauds out there; Joshua Piqua Shawnee, Mike Fitzpatrick, David Three Feathers Jones, David Cremeans, and so on. There are no real headlines about these fraudulent men. (Notice I found more men committing fraud openly than women) On the well followed blog Ancestor Stealing there are case after case of public record verifying fraud researched by qualified people. There are a few women, but there are an awful lot of men. Settler colonial white men posing as medicine men, spirit leaders, Chiefs, and whatever positionality of misogynistic, patriarchal power to colonize yet another space.

I am bothered by this, not that they want to be Indigenous, but that they step on the fingers, heads, and toes of truly hardworking, oppressed and intelligent Indigenous/American Indian/Native/First Nation/Aboriginal Peoples that deserve the respect and attention of the world. Those that honor their ancestors and those yet to come. Those Peoples that know their stories, ancestors, language, songs, relatives, traditions, contribute to their community and are recognized by their community as belonging.

There are good and bad people wanting to elevate their own guilt, feelings of spiritual bankruptcy, desire to be important, desire to achieve power, need to acquire money, hope to get notoriety and/or respect. There is an awful lot of greed and self fulfillment involved and it isn’t all white women, it is mostly white men. It is just women that seem to be singled out.

 

 

Restoring Native Justice in the Reproductive Justice Community

The challenge related to changing or influencing shifts in discourse will require reconnecting the disconnect between the diverse disciplines, cultures, and worldviews

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Native Peoples have historically been subjugated by patriarchal, misogynous, colonial violence to both humans and to the lands around the world. It is beyond time to heal wounds by tearing them open. We must continue to acknowledge the genocide that the colonial settler society used to subjugate women and “others” in their claim to Turtle Island. We must identify where we can do better for each other as humans and to Mother Earth. We are not entitled to anything.

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There exists a disconnect between the environment and our bodies in Western worldviews. There is a connection between our Native bodies that as classified as other or less than human that colonial settlers justify their positionality, control and exploitive violence of land, women and “others”

After the justification on their values that erase our histories, sacred places, food and Peoples, the rape of the earth is very much linked to the perspective of the taking of everything. Religion was the foundations of this taking. When taking of our lands they also entitled themselves to our women, our children…and today we see these remnants with cultural appropriations of our cultures, stereotyping our images, and continued policies that continue to make Native women vulnerable to rape, abuse and death at rates no other population can claim or wants to. Everyone wants to be an Indian until you actually have to be one with Suicide rates, cancers, diabetes, Missing and Murdered Women in all of the Americas and so on…

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These actions by settler colonial systems have had drastic impacts on Native Peoples, especially women. (MMIW, Rape, Human Trafficking…)These repercussions is felt not only on our bodies it is felt in our lands. Not only have we been physically violated but the dumping of toxic wastes and “resource extraction” but the BIA through forestry practices, mining of uranium, and other examples of “ecocide”. This violence is felt on our culture, foods, medicines, political spaces, economics, and our environment. All theses issues impact our health and wholeness.

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Moving forward takes decolonizing and indigenizing, our selves and our places we call home. The western patriarchal colonial system has not only failed, it has abused and exploited us for 500 years. We MUST create hybrid governing methods that blend tradition and culture into modern political and governing methods or we are just repeating past mistakes with a system forced upon us that is not ours and really doesn’t work anyhow. Look at this panel, Each one of these Shawnee women are leaders. I am honored and humbled to be among them. They each have used their stories of their KoKoChe (gogooch) to pass to their children as I have. We also have each decided to no longer sit passively by.

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It is time for togetherness.

We honor our differences and embrace our own uniquenesses. We must reflect on where we have been to know where to go. It is in these quiet moments in sacred places as well as in the places in our hearts we grow.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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I leave you with a quote from Audre Lorde,

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”― Audre Lorde

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