“During the construction period of the Endako mine, six rapes in the nearby community and camp went unreported (P13). One workshop participant told a story of how she was the driver for a group of industrial camp workers, who boasted amongst themselves about how they had collectively raped a young Indigenous woman. The Indigenous driver was so invisible to these young men, that they did not even consider the impact on her as they re-told their stories. The young men raped this young Indigenous woman, who was later found by her family on the side of the road, naked and alone. No reporting was made of the incident, and no charges were pressed. (p.22)” – Firelight Group Report 2017
When I read the above statement I was lying in bed and placed my phone down beside me. I know these stories happen, I have heard them and lived them, but it doesn’t not reduce the horror one feels when exposed to them. I have not become desensitized to the pain of others because of the content that I speak about, have experienced, or even because I know that these realities exists on dark backroads and in daylight on the very lands our ancestors once traversed. They continue to happen and although they do not happen to me, they happen to women like me.
I cried. A more correct description would be: I howled from the place deep within my belly, twisting in my bed as I tried to make sense of the continued brutalization of Indigenous women and in part, what the focus of my efforts have come to be.
I told myself, just let it all out. Cry woman. Cry. Empty out all your question marks onto the pillow so you can continue forward.
What is it that makes women of a different skin colour and background so god damned disposable by these men and society at large?
They can just leave them… in the middle of nowhere. Like nothing…. Like nothing…
How ludicrous is it that I have to be a small part in advocating to be seen as human so this shit doesn’t keep happening?
What in the fuck is wrong with this society?
Why? Why does pigment play a part in all of this?
I just want our daughters to be free.
Freedom for our daughters. That is the dream, and it is a dream worth fighting for. I don’t even have any daughters but I see pieces of me, the women I love, the ancestors, and beauty in all of these beautiful mixed blood and brown girls getting raised up. In my silent moments, in between giggles and nods, I pray, “Yes. May we raise them all the way up”. These girls and young women belong to a collective that faces a collective struggle against racism, sexism, and dehumanization…. But they also belong to a collective strength. They belong to a collective of women whom love fiercely, whom stand for what they believe in, and whom will ride into this modern battlefield with a death song in their heart so that our daughters will have their freedom. That is what I know. May we continue to see the faces of ourselves in these young ones for they are the collective’s daughters.
One of my younger cousins took part in this poetry video almost five years ago, she appears at the very end. She was so small then, and now I watch as she is shifting into a new stage of living. The age of teenagerdom and I wonder just how much has really changed in this time.
Every time I want to give up and place myself in a bubble where I am less affected by these things and no longer have to speak about them routinely. I think of her. I think of how I have tried to be an example for her and how I want nothing more but for her to thrive in an environment that is safe for her to be herself and stand in the truth of who she is. She slept over twice this week and one night I showed her the rough-cut version of a short doc that features me talking about what I do and why I do it. A part of it goes over some of my story and holds a glazed over version of the sexual violence I have experienced. I have never spoken about these things with her because these are realities she does not need to know but I understand she needs to also be aware of.
Afterwards I held my growing cousin in my arms and told her that this is why cousin does the work that she does. So this doesn’t happen. Won’t happen. So she can have a better life. This is everything.
We ended our much too serious conversation with a tickle fight followed by her trying to pick out a hipster inspired outfit for a date I was to go on.
No baby girl. I am not wearing an oversized plaid zip up on a first date.
There are soft moments weaved into all of this doing and coming undone and they are simplistic and beautiful.
Love is the basis of revolution. Love is the driving force.
I have no words to end this unplanned-yet-need-to-be-written blog post but I offer up my words of encouragement and thankfulness for those that are doing the work to change these things. To the women warriors who continue to fight, to the mothers and aunties and grandmas (and uncles and fathers and grandpas) whom protect and love our young women and let them know that they are worthy of the best in life. To the healers and light workers whom undo the traumas in communities and carry the energies of others I offer you prayers. To those whom refuse to stay silent anymore and stir the shit out of the pot… I give you my thanks. Wuujo Asonalah.
Report link: http://www.thefirelightgroup.com/thoushallnotpass/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Firelight-work-camps-Feb-8-2017_FINAL.pdf