Community. Compassion. Change.
Everything is Everything:
I grew up knowing I was part of everything, and everything was part of me. My first mentors were my mother and a circle of powerful, Wise Women, and Two Spirits who are spiritual teachers, land defenders, healers, counsellors, and sacred life givers. They instilled in me a deep respect and gratitude for nature and everything in existence. This included a sense of interdependence, connectedness, and responsibility to humans and the ecosystems we all belong to.
As a child, I understood that I came from a long line of Indigenous Freedom Fighters, and that my two grandmothers were Métis, but it wasn’t until later in my life, and with much searching, traditional education, and personal and spiritual healing, that I understood what that meant for my own identity. Today, I am deeply, proudly, and gratefully rooted in my Indigenous heritage and it informs my practice both personally and professionally in a powerful way.
NOT WHITE. NOT POC. BOTH. NEITHER:
Sometimes I notice that some people want me to identify as either white, OR a Person of Colour. Thing is I'm not really either. I come from people who are both. I walk through the world with pale skin. People tend to read me as white at first until they get to know me. This affords me certain unearned access because we live in a culture of white supremacy.
Métis people were erased from canadian documentation and denied any rights for over a hundred years because mixed identities challenge the construction of race that the colonial state was working so hard to build. It is a political act to identify as Métis. I am Métis. I walk through the world with the weight and suffering of hundreds of years of colonization on my bones and in my stories. My skin is white because the colonizers wanted it that way.
(Sometimes people say "part Métis" which is impossible. Métis literally means mixed. We are not "part mixed". We are whole)
Where I'm From:
I come from working/creative class roots. I was born on Kootenay land with settler names: Porcupine Creek, Wild Horse, Ymir, Nelson, and Salmo, and spent my formative years on mountains or in valleys; in log cabins with variations of wood-burning stoves; kerosene lamps; no running water; outhouses; an unlimited number of dogs and other critters: bees, geese, workhorses, chickens, goats. Our only neighbours were wildlife, a smattering of families, and school bus-dwelling, francophone vegan humans with dreadlocks, and even a one-horse open sleigh. Yep.
the backseat of a pink-poodle-painted pinto
My mother planted trees, and tended to the earth. We lived in her patched up Pinto station wagon for a while. Later she painted it pink with four little black poodles on the side. She is an artist and healer of plants. She taught me how to eat well, and make beauty, and to find fun and laughter no matter our financial situation or life circumstances. She instilled in me a hunger for learning. We were always surrounded by interesting people.
The men around me were selective loggers, farmers, carpenters, musicians, artists, postal workers, mechanics. Some of them were profoundly safe. Mostly they were absent, drunk, or worse. They always seemed to be leaving or being left.
Later we moved to Semiahmoo and Tsawassen land known to settlers as White Rock and Crescent Beach. Salt water, sand and cedar became my deepest home.
TWO-SPIRIT, QUEER FEMME + cisgender(ish):
I am currently (small) fat by which I mean that I can find some clothes in shops for fatties (where some superfat folks cannot), and some thrift stores, but mainstream markets don't carry my size; I can get on a plane and likely not worry about getting kicked off; I have had "you're fat" yelled at me as I crossed the street; I have had to risk relationships with close family members in order to set up boundaries around their sense of entitlement to comment on the state of my body and/or food intake; I have been dumped and told that one reason was because they were "worried I might keep gaining weight".
Chronic Pain. Still EN-Abled:
I am currently mostly en-abled: While I live with recurring chronic pain, chronic fatigue, migraine, and a multitude of sometimes debilitating sensitivities, my body mostly does what I tell it to, and what society is unfairly set up for, and arbitrarily expects it to do.
I am Métis:
of the Cree, Ojibwe, and Lakota First Nations, and French, Celtic, Gaelic, Welsh, and German settler ancestry.
I am from the Sepia Tones of my grandmothers' skin
shame-gradiant to the translucent hue
of “breeding up” to blonde hair
and eyes that are green and blue
Bead work by Métis artisan Lisa Shepherd
"Beware of artists. They mix with all
classes of society and are therefore most dangerous." - A colonial queen named Victoria
What I Do
I grew up knowing I was part of everything, and everything was part of me. My first mentors were my mother and a circle of powerful Wise Women and Two Spirits who are spiritual teachers, land defenders, witches, healers, counselors, and sacred life givers. They instilled in me a deep respect and gratitude for nature and everything in existence. This included a sense of interdependence, connectedness, and responsibility to humans and the ecosystems we all belong to.
As a child, I understood that I came from a long line of Indigenous Freedom Fighters and witchy folk, and that my two grandmothers were Métis, but it wasn’t until later in my life, and with much searching, traditional education, and personal and spiritual healing, that I understood what that meant for my own identity. Today, I am deeply, proudly, and gratefully rooted in my Indigenous heritage and it informs my practice both personally and professionally in a powerful way.
Not white. Not PoC. Both. Neither:
I often notice that some people want me to identify as either white, OR as a Person of Colour. But like gender, racialization isn’t binary. I'm not really either. I come from people who are both, and neither. I walk through the world with pale skin. People tend to read me as white at first until they get to know me. This affords me some access to white privilege because we live in a culture of white supremacy, and I aim to hold myself, and white supremacy, accountable to that.
This is where some contextualizing needs to happen: there is a difference between having some access, and having privilege. Both give one power and agency over people who have no access to white privilege at all, but one gives ultimate power and agency in all circumstances, and another gives temporary, shaky, or limited power and agency, in particular circumstances only. For example: I have been hired as an Indigenous representative at two separate non-Indigenous workplaces because I was the most palatable (read: white appearing) candidate. That is an example of access to privilege – I am the one who got the job, not my brown cousin who was raised on the Rez. Here is why it’s not the same as directly having privilege: as soon as I opened my Indigenous mouth, or behaved as my Indigenous self, I was either forced out of the position, or forced to endure endless systemic racism within the organization. This is just one small example. (Maybe the semantics of “having access to” and “having” need some parsing and unpacking, but I hope you catch my drift.)
I walk through the world with the weight and suffering of hundreds of years of colonization and genocide on my bones and in my stories. My skin is white because the colonizers wanted it that way and my ancestors, both living and passed, did what they had to do in order to survive. Métis people were erased from canadian documentation and denied any rights for over a hundred years because mixed Indigenous identities so inherently challenge the construction of race that the colonial state was, and still is, working so hard to build. Colonizers aimed to erase Métis people from existence.
Because they sought to literally “kill the Indian in the child”; and because they expected us mixies to choose our genocide-white heritage as superior; and because our grandmothers who married white men lost their so-called Indian Status; and because they invented the concept of “blood quantum” in order to disappear us, while at the same time inventing the “one drop rule” for black folk whom they wished to enslave and control, it is not only a political act, but an act of survival to openly and unapologetically identify as Métis.
I am Métis.
“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground”
Tsistsistas, Cheyenne proverb.
I come from multiple generations rooted in settler colonial and male violence against (Indigenous) women and Two-Spirits. That violence is calculated. Colonialism, enslavement, and exploitation have always had roots in the oppressor’s relationship to their own women and Two-Spirits (or gender variant and queer folk). That is where oppression is learned, and perfected, and then spread outward to colonize and enslave external communities. It always starts with the bodies and spirits of women and Two Spirits. Colonial violence is rooted in violence against the power of life giving, whether it is in bodies that represent sacred acts of sexuality and creation, pleasure, spirit, wisdom, receptivity, abundance, or nurturing, or who are difficult to box up and categorize because those qualities represent an opposition to the human overconsumption, violence, genocide and imposed borders that are ravaging the earth, natural life and human lives, en masse. As Katsi Cook tells us: Woman (or a human with a womb – as not only, and not all, women have wombs – English is so limiting) is the first environment:
“Women are the first environment. We are privileged to be the doorway to life. At the breast of women, the generations are nourished and sustained. From the bodies of women flow the relationship of those generations both to society and to the natural world. In this way is the earth our mother, the old people said. In this way, we as women are earth.”
“In the Mohawk language, one word for midwife is iewirokwas. This word describes that "she's pulling the baby out of the Earth," out of the water, or a dark wet place. It is full of ecological context. We know from our traditional teachings that the waters of the earth and the waters of our bodies are the same water. The follicular fluid which bathes the ripening ovum on the ovary; the dew of the morning grass; the waters of the streams and rivers and the currents of the oceans - all these waters respond to the pull of our Grandmother Moon. She calls them to rise and fall in her rhythm. Mother's milk forms from the bloodstream of the woman. The waters of our bloodstream and the waters of the earth are all the same water.”
It is in my own reclamation and the process of understanding my roots as an Indigenous Iskwew* and Two-Spirit that I was able to start my own healing journey for myself and for the seven generations before me and the seven generations to come. Through this personal journey my work has centered itself around the links between gender based violence and the current white supremacist-cisheteropatriarchal-capitalist-colonialist assault upon our greatest life giver, and perfect, interdependent organism to which we are a part of, the one Earth. It is Iskwew and Two-Spirits who need to be lifted up as leaders on this path toward healing violence and oppression, because it is our bodies that are the link, and because the knowledge is already there. It has always been there in the hearts and minds of our grandmothers and Two-Spirits and elders.
*Cree word for woman/sacred life giver – Iskwew literally translates as “through the fire”
In my next life I am going to be a witch, a neurologist and an astrophysicist specializing in quantum mechanics with an operatic voice and perfect pitch, who bridges the gap between astrology and modern astronomy.