My Indigenous Complex

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Last year I came across a passage in an article while doing research for a paper on identity disruption in Indigenous populations. The passage has stuck with me because it resonated with one of my own thought patterns.

An Indigenous man was describing a conversation where they shared that they took their children to multiple countries to have enriching experiences. The other person seemed shocked to hear how much his children have done and have been privileged with. The man laughed, “just because my children are Indian, doesn’t mean they have to live hard lives”.

I have held a long standing belief that has pigeon holed me and I can see this reflected in my younger brother who told me that he feels uncomfortable in nice White people’s homes. My belief was “We don’t have nice things”, the “We” being me/Indigenous people.

When I was growing up it was as if there was this white world full of nice things, large homes, clean carpets, and white walls, where parents paid mortgages not rent. There always seemed to be a china cabinet in these homes, filled with pretty glasses that were rarely used. I never understood why you would have dishes on display, and it still baffles me to some extent today. I felt like an interloper in this world, temporary, like I didn’t belong and would soon be found out. It always made me feel uneasy.

Houses with stained linoleum and an unfinished basement with more people than there were bedrooms is where I felt comfortable… but why? Even today I sometimes feel like an 8 year old trying to tiptoe around and to not wreak havoc when I am in “nice White homes”.

This doesn’t just extend to materials, no no no. I remember being floored at the age of 14 when I met an Indigenous girl who was NOT sexually abused. I had assumed that sexual abuse, alcoholism, and some level of violence was a shared mutual experience. Even today I sometimes catch myself with that assumption, and sadly a lot of the time I am not far off. But this thought pattern has a lot to do with an instilled inferiority complex. It is a testament to the legacy of colonization and assimilation that many people are dealing with today.

It is not enough that stereotypes and false beliefs are pushed upon you. You must come to believe and accept them as well.

Once upon a time we were told that we were dirty, unclean, lazy..etc. this assumption continues today in subtle ways. If you ever been a little Indian kid around masses of white people, you may have picked up on some of these vibes that people throw out. I just have to watch my Asu who still, at the age of 73, shy’s away from blue eyes and keeps her head down in supermarkets to see how it affected her. If this incorrect belief is still deep within her, then surely this was learned in different ways by my mother who also grew up in poverty, and surely this has been passed down to me. If I do not heal this, then it will continue down the line.

But this is it, a turning point, I have the power to change this belief. I have the ability to tell a new story where good things happen to Indian people and they live in nice homes (or my dream- a super self sufficient ranch home).  I will pass on a new story to my children, to my grandchildren, where they know that we were not meant to live hard lives just because we are Indian, but we can live in harmony, in balance and free from physical harm.


Reclaiming the warrior,


Helen K


    1. Word. Internalized oppression is whack. Lol. It is true though, the strategies of achieving this may be different but the results are so damningly similar.

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