Life and creation follows circular motions and cycles. The seasons perpetuate in a circle. We are born, become youth, adults, elders, and then return to the spirit world. The medicine wheel is circular. Tipis form a circle. We all belong to a collective, something larger. To quote Lion King, it really is the “circle of life”.
To live whole is to live with knowledge of the circles that be belong to and our own circles.
Somewhere the circle was broken. We are each living with our own circles and we encounter oppression that penetrates these circles, pieces of them go missing, get stolen, or we give them away.
I’ve been missing pieces of me. . . and I want them back.
So how does this happen?
- Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.
- The state of being subject to such treatment or control
The oppression that our Grandmothers and Grandfathers endured has had major generational defects. The stereotypes and racism that we have encountered has sometimes become internalized. It becomes a part of us.
I struggled with this term “oppression” for a while. Scratching my head and thinking, “well isn’t that a thing of the past?” No.
We continue to be oppressed. If you have had physical abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, or mental abuse happen to you. This is oppression. If someone tells you that your way of praying is not right, that is oppression. If you are told to keep your mouth shut when you tell someone that another has abused you, or everyone else keeps their mouth shut till you become silent. That is oppression.
We take this oppression and a lot of the time we push it OUTWARDS, to those we love or those in our lives.
This post kind of falls into the “Indian Crabs” saga (earlier post).
I was 14 years old and went to a party that was notorious for spit chewing, belt buckle wearing honkey tonks. It was a place of high tensions, rock and roll, and clanking beer bottles.
The boy I was with was visiting from a nearby reserve and he drove a handful of us to the party.
Within a few minutes of arriving my friends had already been absorbed into the main crowd.
I found myself encircled, alongside the boy, by several cowboys with a gleam in their eye and testosterone to spare.
“Is this here yer squaw?” the tall cowboy asked the boy.
The boy said nothing. He shifted his feet and kept his gaze on the earth.
“I don’t think he heard you,” said another cowboy who was short with a stocky build, “he asked if this here is yer squaw?”
“Well boys,” said the third cowboy, “if she looks like a squaw, and dresses like a squaw then she must be a squaw.”
One of them reached out and grabbed at me. I hit his hand away from me.
They continued to call me squaw until they tired. My face burned with shame and my body shook with rage.
The boy stood silently beside me. He did not call me any names, did not grab at my body like it was an object. He did nothing, and I hated him for it. In retrospect, given the size of the cowboys and the chance of starting a larger brawl amongst the party, I understand his hesitance but then, I did not see this.
The boy lifted his arm to take a drink from his beer and I knocked it from his hand.
I walked away from that boy, and away from all Indian men for a very long, long time after that. I dismissed them as unimportant and weak.
It wasn’t until a decade after when I heard an elder talk about how we as women leaders, have taken the mens place and we need to invite them to walk beside us. They are lost, and we need them to come with us on the journey.
I was livid. I filled boots and pants and empty spaces that Indian men had left behind and I was forced too step up. Remember, this is my old hurt speaking. I stood in the mirror teary eyed.
“What the f*ck does she know?” I murmured.
A lot. She was right. Correction, she is right. It was my own oppression as an Indigenous female that caused me to oppress and reflect that hate back on my own men.
This is just one example of the cycle of oppression.
An important part of escaping the bucket, is to understand how you have been oppressed throughout your life and how YOU yourself oppresses other people.
It’s not easy but freedom is worth it. We need to call those pieces of us back so we can be whole again as an individual and THEN we can contribute to be whole again as a community, a Nation, a people.