Trauma. I’ve learned how to explain trauma and intergenerational trauma to people because it has been, and is, a part of my life.
You know how you can say a word over and over again until it no long makes sense? Then you begin to question if it is even or word or wonder why someone said “Yes! That sound fits that meaning”.
Like let’s say the word “Pineapple”.
First saying it, it sounds crisp.
Pineapple. Pineapple. Piiineapple. Pynnaapple. Pyyynnappel. Pynapel?
The word softens and loosens in my mouth. It flops around like a fish on land and slowly loses its form. The word “Trauma” doesn’t do that when I repeat it over and over.
Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Trauma.
The sound comes out of my mouth like bullets launched with a purpose. I say it enough times and it sounds like it’s hitting something. It’s the sound of my fifteen year old head hitting the wall over and over again when I just wanted to stop feeling entirely.
Trauma. Trauma. Trauma. Thump. Thump. Thump.
I carry this word into communities and unpack it with people. We talk trauma. We talk trauma up and down and I feel like some beatnik revolutionary poet unpacking my heart. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the most important work I could be doing at this stage in my life. Sometimes I feel like a kid toting around an ancient chest that I found the key to, but I know there’s a dozen more chests inside of it with locks that all take different keys.
I’ve worked through some shit. I know that. If you know me, you know that. Even if you don’t know me, you might still know that. But lately I’ve had something creeping in on me during my still moments. I swat it back like I would a fruit fly.
Get the fuck outtaa hea’, I say to the metaphorical fruit fly.
Fruit flies multiply on things left out. Or in this case, on words left unsaid, on feelings left unacknowledged. Bastard fruit flies. They swarmed me the other day while I was having coffee with a writer from the south. I didn’t see it coming and the next thing you know I’m looking off into the corner trying to bat back my tears and swat back a fucking legion of fruit flies.
Even now I am dancing around with these words, biding my time with each syllable so I don’t have to dive in to it.
Splish Splash Motherfucker.
The Rocky Mountain Fort experience, the loss of land regardless of fight, of heart, of sacrifice… the trees that have been cut down, the medicines lost, the kilometers of valley that are still threatened… This… has fucked me up.
Trauma. Splash. Trauma. Gasp. Trauma. Choke.
I haven’t wanted to process it because I didn’t even know it was trauma until I almost salted my god damn coffee with my tears. I looked across at the lady I was sitting with, the corners of my eyes wet, and stated to myself and her, “this experience has been traumatic for me”.
The day that the injunction was granted I was called for an interview no more than fifteen minutes later. I had to ask for a few more minutes to process but they just kept coming. I knew that I had a “responsibility” to answer these calls and speak about the decision and I did so even though I felt like I couldn’t. It was like when I was overwhelmed with being a single mom, holding a job, and going to school full time and I told my auntie I felt like quitting. She just looked at me, solid from years of single mother bravado, and said “You’re going to do it. You know why? Because you have to”. This was like that time. I had to, because it was the land, animals, and medicines that couldn’t talk for themselves that I had to feebly attempt to speak for. I cried every interview. I cried all day. I cried for days after. I felt like I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with media, even if they were understanding it still ripped me open. Then… I shut down and shut off. I stopped feeling about it, stopped trying to talk about it. Stayed away from it.
I became aloof and mildly distracted with everything in my life. I’m there, but I’m not really there. I have stopped responding to emails and messages, even when they were really cool projects that I know my heart is in. I’ve been living in this shell, giving what I have to the people I work with but not taking anything for myself. I seen a tea leaf reader the other day, she is an amazing Indigenous woman who comes from a family of healers… and she asked me if I was suppressing emotion. Check. You’re exhausted and you can feel it your body. Check. You need to process whatever you are holding on to because it is draining you. Fuck.
A part of me is angry because I have already experienced so much trauma and have had to work so hard on my healing to even BE living today, never mind the work that it took to be a somewhat decolonized strong and proud Indigenous woman. I don’t want your additional trauma. I don’t want you to violate the waters and lands of my people. I don’t want this. I DO NOT CONSENT. I have fought so hard and you take what you want. You still take it. No doesn’t mean no to you. You do not have the right to ADD trauma to an already fucked up colonial legacy that people are still suffocating under. Who gave you that right? Who?
I can’t bring myself to think of the stretch of valley stripped naked and drowned. I can feel the heavy weight in my chest when my brain tries to venture there. I think about how I will have to move away because it will be too painful to be here and to see Site C continue. I think about how I will have to move back here and help fix the fucking messes that mega projects and industry will have left behind… I will always have to move back here.. BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE MY PEOPLE ARE FROM. THIS LAND IS A PART OF WHO I AM.
I don’t have a choice. I am bound by blood.
The land knows my name, knows my tears, and knows the bones of my ancestors.
I know the lands bones, I know its veins, I know its flesh.
The land and I are a part of each other.
I’m at this place where I don’t know if I need to grieve or to keep hope. I will admit that the systems have taken a baseball bat to my knees when it comes to Site C and I don’t know if I can wobble and still throw a right hook. I think that this is the hard part of trying to heal right now, there’s confusion of what will happen and where I need to go with my healing.
It is like trying to let go of your pain while you’re still being raped.
Every now and again someone wants to do some light table talk about Site C with me and I will keep my comments brief. Nod my head. Change the subject. Environmental violence that has fucked you up isn’t meant for brief chit chat so the other person, who clearly knows where you stand,… can fill up a few vacant spaces in the air between you. I don’t think people know the depth that environmental violence reaches.
I read a comment once that said, “why save the river? It’s already compromised.”
Well fuck, I am glad that they don’t think that way about women because with my history of being “compromised” by force, by patriarchal males, I would be discarded and deemed un-saveable. Oh wait… they did think about women like that before…
So how long before that same thought that applies to our rivers and land is found outdated?
I always try to write from a place of healing so that I can pass something on but with this, I had to write it for myself. I had to let myself bear witness to what has happened and say .. Look Helen, you don’t need to be all put together all the time. You can be down right fucking angry and sad about what has happened and what is happening. Process the fuck out of it. Just don’t set up a tent in the middle of colonial land and let your fight and heart for the people die there. Don’t let the sounds of the machines silence you. Don’t let their policies and laws build a cage for you. Remember Helen, you are a warrior. Remember Helen… who you come from.