More than Resistance: Learning How to Thrive in a Colonial Settler State

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Indigenous woman heals from intergenerational trauma, recovers from personal trauma, conquers addiction, and reconnects with her identity and cultural practices. Indigenous woman lives happily ever after. The end. You want the story to end there because it sounds pretty and gives you warm feelings about the possibility of change. Perhaps that story lifts and eases colonial guilt with the knowledge that individuals can make it through on their own accord. All they have to do is “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. Survival of the fittest. Darwinism. Rise above your circumstances and you get a happy ending. Enough of all this privilege, power, oppression, and colonial legacy nonsense. Be a go getter.

For Indigenous peoples living in a colonial settler state (a state where the colonizers never have and never will leave), the story does not end there but continues on. After personal redemption and individual freedom then the fight for the collective begins.

Once an Indigenous woman (or man) awakes to who they are truly then a new battle ground opens up that perhaps only existed on their peripheral before becoming awake. If I speak from my own knowledge of my people through my matrilineal side then I would say, “before we learned how to dream again”, rather than becoming “woke” #staywoke. The dreamworld is where we connected to spirit and it is where we were given prayer songs, teachings, and prophecies. For me, learning how to see the big picture and to be able to stand in the truths of my ancestors means that I am connecting to that dream world and the ability to dream.

These teachings and the connection with land equals a personal/collective responsibility to fulfill and uphold your end of the relationship with all of our relations… which includes the land, water, and animal beings. We are a collective kind of people and that circle just doesn’t stop with our neighbours, it extends past that.

Our battle is twofold, or maybe it’s multi-fold, maybe it’s like an origami paper crane created without a pattern. There is no blueprint. All of our journey’s look and sound different. Maybe this isn’t your journey at all but all I can do is share from what I have experienced, witnessed, and come to know as my truth. Truth in itself is a tricky shapeshifting word because we all live our own truths and each is different but we will save that story for another time. Back to the battle! So the journey is like this:

  1. We become warriors through fighting for our own lives. We engage in physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental warfare to reclaim our spirits. We first find ourselves as individuals within a collective and heal from our own traumas and the traumas of our ancestors that was a part of the legacy given to us from generations of attempted genocide and oppression.
  2. We then become warriors for our people, or the children, for the land, for the water, for humanity, and for the earth. We, more often than not, begin to fight to protect what we have left and to change the circumstances for those that will come after us.

Now the way that we “fight” manifests in many ways. We fight with pens, with ink, with paint, with song, with our voice, with knowledge, and with our bodies. Our battleground is in court rooms, in city streets, counselling rooms, in community halls, on parliamentary steps, in our homes, on dirt roads, and on front lines in our own territories.

I have been using words like, “fight, war, and battle,” so far because sometimes that first phase really feels like an internal and external war. Some of our people are fighting to stay alive right. at. this. very. moment. Fighting to take another breath. Fighting to stay away from that bottle. Fighting their abusers. Fighting in foster homes. Fighting to find a warm meal. Fighting in prison systems… and sometimes Life bootfucks you until you are no longer recognizable to yourself. That fight is real, it is heavy to carry, and it is hard. This is not metaphor. This is real shit.

We carry that fighting spirit with us into the second part of the journey and our Indigenous upset is unleashed on front lines, in social media, and where ever else it we deem necessary. There are a few variations of this. One is where the fight comes from a place of hate, hurt, and anger. Another is where the fight comes from a place of love for our people, the land, and teachings. Sometimes these fights come from a blend of both of these.

I have fought from both places. I will tell you that it is so easy to slip into a state of fighting from hate, hurt, and anger and it is so hard to hold onto the love. It is necessary that we come from a place of love because baby… when it comes down to it, that hate, hurt, and anger will drag us back to the first stage.

We have a complicated journey set out before us. It is one where the external world is in a continual state of colonial action, setting out mazes of pipelines, threatening water sources, oppressing through every kind of system in place, violence is being perpetuated and even targeted at our men, women, and children, and there seems to be an ongoing reinforcement and recreation of circumstances that serve to keep our people (as well as many others) oppressed.

All of this paints a hell of a bleak picture right? I remember sketching out a circle that seemed to be the cycle of my life and it had three words on it: exist, resist, heal.

There was no space in that circle for laughter, living, loving, dreaming, creating, and lifting others up. I don’t want to merely “exist”, BABY I WANT TO THRIVE. There were days where I was riding a skidoo out to a frontline camp in the middle of nowhere to place my body between machinery and land where I couldn’t help but feel like…. this feels like a part of the script of the oppressed too.

I fully believe in the necessity of our warriors and the innovation that they bring to the resistance to land and water damaging projects and otherwise (my version of warriors also includes our allies and anyone who stands in their truth against greed and power). I know how hard it is to sacrifice self from that place of love. For some of us that is our sole purpose and is the main agreement we made before coming into this world. As Indigenous peoples it is a part of all of our agreements but we may also have different focuses and paths that manifest in very different ways. What I am getting at is if we are always busy resisting then where is the room for fully learning how to love, or for fully living and resuming control of our own lives and to create what we want to see within in it for ourselves and our people – not the lives dictated to us by colonial/oppressor circumstance.

We get stuck in cycles of trying to “fix” broken ass government and provincial models that are…. let’s be honest…. never going to be able to fix themselves and serve the people in the real way it needs to. You can’t be expecting new fruit if the dirt has never been changed out… and that governing political system is dirty AF.

So let’s live. Let’s find our way back to loving fully and wholly. Let’s connect with our purpose and passions and make that come to life. We rise as a people by following our paths and pulling others up as we move along. OUR VERY EXISTENCE is a witness to the power of change, healing, and love. Let’s break this god damned narrative by being wildly abundant in love, faith, hope, creation, and action. The system doesn’t work? Let’s heal, build ourselves up, and build a NEW one that actually WORKS FOR US.

When we heal ourselves, we heal our ancestors, we heal the generations that are coming up and those that have yet to come. When we give permission to ourselves to grow, to love and be loved, we show others that it is alright.

BUT HELEN?!?! SURELY YOU JEST. ONE CANNOT SIMPLY BE AN INDIGENOUS PERSON AND NOT HAVE TO RESIST. OUR MERE BREATHING AND LIVING IS AN ACT OF POLITICAL RESISTANCE.

Fucking rights our breath is an act of political resistance, but it is also a testimony of healing, of strength, of resilience, and ultimately a testimony of love. We are not here just because our ancestors were masters at the art of resistance but also because they knew how to pray, how to have soft moments, how to listen to what they were supposed to be doing, how to connect to everything around them, and how to hold on to that light. I truly believe we are in a stage where we need to learn how to cultivate that inner light, strengthen our prayers, and spread that around to everyone.

I did not come by this lesson through theory. I did not stumble upon these thoughts in a book. I learned this the hard way. I almost lost myself through fighting a multi-billion dollar construction of a hydro-electric dam. I have spoke at multiple platforms, I have camped in the middle of nowhere, and I have had lawsuits and court orders against me. I was overcome with grief and experienced trauma through these experiences. I could feel the heaviness of my sadness follow me around in my daily life. Prior to all of this I was an alcoholic addict with extensive trauma. Creator has never let me learn the easy way but it has allowed for these lessons and teachings to really really settle into my bones and spirit. I had to find my way through that to find out that…

resistance is still a part of this narrative, but it does not become the only narrative.

We were not brought here to merely be reactionary…. but to be visionary my loves.

So, let’s rewrite the fucking story.

 

P.S. that’s a inspirational use of the word “Fucking”. I.E. “Let’s fucking do this guys!”, cue a cheer crowd and smiling faces ready for whatever “fucking” comes their way. Sorry mom, I can’t break from my cussing nature.

 

In Spirit,

 

Helen K

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5 comments

  1. I am speechless, thank you so much is all I can think of. I have been sitting in counselling offices for the past year just feeling so heavy with all I was witnessing and could not figure out why, when I was finally doing alright for once in my life that I now felt so overwhelmed. I now realize it is because I was witnessing the traumas of all our people before facing part 1 of the battle.. allowing myself to battle my own beliefs about myself, my family and realize the strength it took my ancestors to get me here and embracing the teachings that were stolen from me many generations before me. I will now grieve the loss I feel for the past 25 years of not having the teachings and allow myself to be open and able to finally pass it directly to my 3 year old daughter. We practice Cree words and it just flows off her tongue, she does not question why I want her to say this word along with an English word a few times in a row but I know she will know the translation if we practice it many times over the next years. I will now delve even deeper into our language so I can one day hold a conversation with her, since she is absorbing it so easily ! I was told just yesterday that our language connects us even deeper to spirit, we are closer to the Creator when we use the language of our Ancestors. Again thank you, and I will be carrying this concept of our journey as I move on in my life and share with others before more of our brothers and sisters are lost in the first phase of the battle.

  2. Dear Sisters & Brothers there many people in and Out United States of America that feel the same way you feel but we do not had the words to express our Own pain thank you for finding the Words to share with Us believe that We are Ready to Work in this mission so sacred to all humans on This Our Mother Earth .. who are calling our Very Soul to wake Up is been so long that Our Elders had been Trowed fard away from Us we need it to Go back fast and save the Elders who are the Fire keepers to heard them and take care of them not live them abandoned as we did before showing No Gratitude to them…

  3. I have learned that structure generates predictable behavior and predictable behaviour generates predictable results. If our society doesn’t like the results they blame the behavior and try to change it. Rarely do they look at the structure that generated the predictable behaviour. No where is this more evident that structures that American Indians and Canadian First Nations Peoples were forced into. Helen phased it well ” We get stuck in cycles of trying to “fix” broken ass government and provincial models that are…. let’s be honest…. never going to be able to fix themselves and serve the people in the real way it needs to. You can’t be expecting new fruit if the dirt has never been changed out… and that governing political system is dirty AF.” I highly recommend reading the late Arthur Manuel’s book The Reconciliation Manifesto.

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