In thinking about what #IdleNoMore means to me, I think of my family, my home fire. First I am a mother and my family life is a responsibility I take seriously. As I have come to believe, women birth nations.
For far too long western colonial thought has brainwashed Indigenous people to believe that our People are inferior and that only men can make decisions pertaining to our livelihood, dismissing the role and significance of our women. Historically, Euro-white males observed how our women were consulted when making decisions and observed what I believe was viewed as a discrepancy and introduced what became a legacy of colonialist thought that has left a gap that widened with each generation. Unfortunately, as a result, we have remnant cultural and social organization that does not reflect nations, but fractionated Indigenous communities. When colonizers saw how divisive alcohol made our communities beginning with early colonial settler times, followed by the Fur Trade Era, the opportunity to “divide and conquer” infused an onslaught of settlers into Indigenous territories for profit, not only in lands, but fur. As a result of the introduction of alcohol in early times which has divided our Indigenous communities for over 200 years, it has brought a sickness into our communities.The many forms of violence, whether domestic, sexual, lateral, emotional, or physical, our people were negatively affected. After years of this warfare, our people became weary, tired of fighting, ultimately succumbing, but worst, accepting that this was just our reality. Fast forward to the 21st Century, and with recent 12.21.12 Indigenous Resistance, I’m blogging my thoughts out loud to state, “No, it is not!”
Presently we have a significant population of missing men AND women who lack the life skills to be Idle No More. Granted we have Indigenous men out in the trenches, not to negate or dismiss their work, whether through activism or whatever that may be, their dedication to help keep our communities strong, does NOT go unnoticed. However, there is a missing part. In fact, I believe if anything, their work is twice as hard because they too are asking where are the rest of our people? Where are the warriors? Where have our men disappeared to? And in that same light, we also have women who are missing. Substance abuse, violence in the many forms, and dysfunction related to unresolved issues and grief has a hold on many. To battle substances we will have to stand together and fight this war in the classrooms, homes, communities, using our knowledge, but also our word.
With a large extended family on both sides of my family tree, when thinking about Idle No More, I look in my backyard, my home fire. Yesterday, I watched the January 30, 2013 #IdleNoMore Live Stream hosted by Brother Wab Kinew who shared with us his 10 principles of dedication to begin working on being Idle No More. I thought it was a fantastic idea and necessary for us to begin dismantling the brainwashing we’ve been fed. I do believe it is possible for Indigenous people to stand up and rise against the trolls of colonialism and western thinking and their methods of warfare that includes substance, ignorance, hate, and oppression. We have been idle way too long and it’s time to rise.
As I look back in what I consider a romanticized version of American history, a dear friend recently posted about what revolution really meant. When the then Revolutionaries of early American history observed the Six Nations confederacy, they founded their idea of a republic based on an ideal. In typical Euro-male fashion, they took what they liked, what they wanted, what they believed would advance their revolutionary cause and made it their own. In that creation, what they lacked was a culture of values and belief systems that were connected to Mother earth, family, social organization, responsibility, ceremony, and life. What they lacked was knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of the essential foundations within the social organization of Indigenous peoples. For Indigenous people, our livelihood is built upon a foundation of values and a system that created a existence that was inclusive of all people in universal law that is also based on pillars of ancestral ways of knowing.
We are taught to not take more than what we need, using the principles of reciprocity, the values of giving/sharing, family, and social organization that is woven into our existence. From an assimilation viewpoint, ancestral ways of knowing may be idealistic and not founded on successful models of governance, organization, and capitalist views. In fact, it does not have the same value system, but one that is unique and exists because of the spiritual foundation that was rooted in a society that had it’s own “checks and balances”. The prophecy of the Seventh Generation comes from the Six Nations and foretold of a time when the 7th Gen would rise. We are rising today because it was a prophesy. We are an answer to our ancestor’s prayers.
As I look at my home fire, how can I be of help or use to anyone if I’m lacking and not taking care of my home fire? Having dealt with alcoholism, diabetes, dysfunction, lateral violence, etc… I know this story all too well. I have learned, abusing any substance that keeps money from a family has resulted in further abuse, cyclical dysfunctions, negligent and absent parents, etc. I have a large extended family, and like a multifaceted gem, each one of my relatives has had a hand in helping me become who I am. Whether in a negative or positive light, they helped me grow into who I am today. I love each one despite any differences we may have, in fact, I may even disagree with more than one, yet this walk is also their journey. How often do we begin to see ourselves in others when we stop to take a moment?
With a loving home front I am able to grow into who I was created to be and discovered, being estranged from certain relatives, due to substance abuse or cyclical dysfunctions, as heartbreaking as it has been, has actually helped me develop the compassion that is needed when I hear or see of others enduring a hardship that is similar. Quite frankly, estranged relationships due to drugs, alcohol, and dysfunction is more prevalent than I thought. Having felt shame about it, I have issues of pride in thinking about what is it to be Idle No More.
I have asked myself, how can I be Idle No More if my home life is not in order? I have no right if I’ve got unresolved issues, however, I have come to learn, I can speak on this. I live a life with family who are addicts. It is a painful life to see loved ones addicted to a substance that sedates their emotions that they believe helps them cope with their unresolved historical grief, whether related to a boarding school or Catholic experience, family abuse, lateral violence, domestic violence, sexual abuse, incest, unemployment, esteem, I have seen and heard it all. Nothing surprises me, if anything, it makes me love my family even more and with a fierce compassion to protect and fight for what I love. I ask myself, how can we rise when we have home fires that lack the necessary foundation to rise? When we have people who do not trust, pervasive abuse of substances, abuse, lateral violence, dysfunction, corruption, etc. these issues must first be addressed
Today, I see a broken families as a result of colonial influences and westerns ways of thinking that were NOT helpful, nor did they serve any Indigenous community. I look around and see how some of my relatives, both immediate and extended, are in an unconscious state. My battle is to be an example of change and yet sharing the positivity can be difficult because my ego tends to rears its ugly head. As an individual, Idle No More is about breaking the cycle of those interferences and disruptions to an Indigenous life way and for the People. I then ask myself, how can I reach those I care for if they are sedated? How can I possibly make a difference if they refuse to hear me? How can I share with them the meaning of Idle No More when they too were hurt by a system they won’t acknowledge? The questions help me to see where I could best help and make a change and it first begins with me.
To me, Idle No More is about changing what we have accepted as they are for far too long and it is revolutionary. To me, Idle No More is about changing what’s been “normal” and being “unconventional” as Che Guevara once stated. Yes people, the revolution to change from within will not be televised. Recently I saw this photo which is an interesting spin on the AA Serenity prayer. Written by a white settler created as a form of prayer which made a significant impact on many lives, granted the institution of AA is great considering the 12 step program is helpful to some people. However, for Indigenous people, I hope this photo speaks volumes.
As I have made peace with who I am as an Indigenous woman, I have looked in my backyard and looking to clear out the weeds. As the daughter of a Dine woman who endured abuse in the forms of alcoholism, dysfunction, and other cyclical abuse, I know she is a survivor, but so am I. I have fought to live a way of life so that my children would not have to endure any of the hardship I endured. But most important, I choose to be Idle No More because my mother needs me to be strong for her, but so do my children, and future generation.