My reminders of lessons on prayer and gratitude (or the land acknowledgement I wish I had done)

A thank you to my sisters, those feminine spirits, regardless of their parts, who hold their fellow sisters high and remind us of our better natures. Nia:wen (nya. Wen). Miigwitch. tshinashkumitin (shin-ash-coo-mah-tin). Naqurmiik. (Nak-urm-eek). Wela’lin (well. Law. Lynn.)
If I could speak the languages of all your mother tongues, I would tell you that I thank you for the support you give in your communities. Noticing when another needs some love or care and offering that love through food. Through words. Through medicines, sharing, and personal wisdom. Through being the nutrients that nourishes the world around them. You harness the energy of light and carry within your extremities gifts you may not even fully appreciate until they are consumed. To those sisters who haven’t yet learned that success is only true if we are all succeeding, that a tree without a forest cannot stand, that our sisters are our roots who help ground us to our reality, and that roots communicate to share their plenty, sending water and nutrients to those around them, helping new life to grow so that we can all make it through, taller ones shading those who still burn in the sun, and listening to the beat that flows through the water in our veins and the music of our hearts. I know you sometimes feel jealousy and pain that your foliage is not as tall or straight or green, and that this manifests itself in ways that you can not always control. Remember that you are strong. You are beautiful. That flowers will bloom and leaves will bud and fall, even if the fruit is not ready to bear. You have made it through this far despite the storms that have passed, ripping you from your place, time and time again. Your roots will weather this disruption once more and re-balance each time so that what grows above in the coming years is more hearty and able to survive the future. More able to tolerate the fruits only pain, growth, and stability can provide. And the fruit may not be sweet this year, too bitter and withered for human eyes, but remember that the sweetest fruit can bloom full once again, with proper care and soil. I pray that you can join a network of roots who will support you when you’ve fallen. Who will nourish you in your growth, and share the song in your heart and the beat in the water that flows within you. That you remember that the crooked trees are the best to mark the way, and can still grow to full peak despite bends formed in all  directions. That they can still thrive through rocks or soil determined to keep them down.

A thank you to the grandmothers and grandfathers, aunties and uncles. The Elders who carry wisdom and ways of life that would otherwise be forgotten. And to those who bore the worst burden of our community’s pain. To those who made it through, despite the stack of time against them. And those who suffered some times violently from legacies of winds and shifts who sought to erase their very being, remoulded them to shapes barely recognizable in their new form. To those who faced the depth of those scars from their own family members or community, and have carved those lessons into the next generations through their fiery rage, I hear the shame you sometimes feel, and want you to know that it is not yours to bear alone. You cannot unmove the stone that has been turned, but you have the ability to hold up the land by your very being. The resilience to make it through. To be the strength of the world as many step upon your back. The blood memory of your ancestors that you have formed into your kin. Ages of pressure pushing against you to the point of volcanic explosion, the truth of the depths and violence sometimes spewing out from down below, but in the process, new continents will grow ideas that can flourish once the heat subsides. I thank you for the sacrifice you took so that we could make it through the landslides that nearly erased us off the map, so that we could still know our stories by the valleys carved into your backs. I pray that the wind and pressure does not break you but rather shapes more stable platforms where we can plant new seeds that have absorbed the wisdom of your soils through time, so that we may all survive the coming winds and that we recognize and respect its effect on you by the lines drawn in your surface.

To the brothers, those masculine spirits made up of many minerals in many different ways, rocks that are living and full of spirit, despite their tough exterior, who stand against the crashing waves, day after day, I see your goodness and minerals worn down to sand and spread across a million miles of polluted oceans. I know the shell you may have created to protect you from the emotions that feel as if they could break you if you let them in, a small crack that could soon lead to shatter. That everyone depends on you, needs you to stand strong when you are tired. And that expectations have been put on you to be of a certain composition. That boys don’t cry, or so some have been told, but know that tears are sometimes the medicine your body knows to take and that when it flows freely, it’s telling you that you have missed your last dosage. That sometimes the rocks may break, but that they can form the moon if given atmosphere to breathe. The burden can seem overwhelming, but know that I have seen the soft sides you give when we are all alone. The vulnerability you show when you have the trust of the waters that will not judge your jagged shape, but smooth your sides through hearing your cries. I see the value of the place where the water resides, inside you, waiting to find it’s way out. These are not flaws. You do not have to hide it in your core. Softer parts deep inside sometimes form the gems that shines the brightest when cracked under pressure. Know that you are good enough and that you don’t have to prove your worth to those who would crack you open in greed and value only the part of you that they feel worthy. That I see your strength and softness and love both equally when they appear. I pray that you are able to find peace, in peace. That the scattered pieces of you find their way across the ocean to one day form a new whole. That you can lean on the sands beside you, building strength in numbers formed together over time, each grain unique and capable of building beauty for larger purpose.
To those who have the spirits of the world combined in ways that don’t make sense to the turn of the regular seasons. Know that the spirits of all those before lay inside us all, but that some are too afraid to hear. Sometimes we live in times of ice or fire, move into new eras of greatness and wane, but that slight variation of normality can be the bridge that previously couldn’t be passed. You are never understood in your own time, often seen as something different, to be feared because a lack of understanding of your direction. Only seen in history as the push necessary for the evolution of our souls and not appreciated until the full results are revealed. I pray that you are seen not as a destruction of the norm, but a reminder that sometimes it takes others getting wet before one can walk across the water, and that we can’t all be blessed with your holy gifts. That you see that you are necessary to disrupt the lull and that you will be loved and valued in time as the force that ensures creativity is never stifled. That someone will see your value and your worth, even if it seems only eternity is on your side.
To the Ancestors, the wind that blows across us gently, and whispers to us when we think we are alone. To the animals that call to us or come when we most need them. I hear your words and try to make sense of their scrambled messages that reveals to us what’s coming before it is too late. Who guide us on our journey and takes pride in helping us move in new ways, even when we can’t always see your grand design. I pray we follow your speed and the direction you push us, even when it’s tough to steer our sails and trust the waves are there for us to follow, if only we can read the signs.
I thank the seeds of the next generations. The young ones who wait in the cold soil until the spring when a new day will dawn. They will tell our stories, as we whisper the winds into their dreams. I pray we have leveled the ground beneath their feet, and nurtured the soils that feed their souls. And that we have done enough to root them in our grandfathers so that they can grow tall and strong, that they can know the beat inside their heart and the water that pumps through every vessel in their bodies, cleansing their souls with each breathe.
I thank the pieces of this world, this land, and all of those who’ve shaped it. I thank the nutrients of the soil, the foods, and the waters that give us life.
I thank the new steps on each shore for the lessons they teach, for those who don’t know the seasons of this climate, but respect those who have stepped here first and keep their sacred commitment to hear the grandfathers’ ways, those who listen to the lessons of the many seasons that came before. I pray that they take the time to learn each quay or coast, each line that tells a history fossilized in time for their education. I pray they can remember that they were given two ears and only one mouth for a reason, and that they listen twice as hard. That they follow the contours of the land and path that lay before them, instead of blazing their way through. I pray that they see that these ways, are all our ways, separated in the far directions and some more lost to their way home. That they are Indigenous somewhere and must read the land to hear its truth. I pray that they can find their roots and share in the bounty that our mothers’ provide.
I thank this legacy that I may not fully understand and recognize, or always articulate in clear ways, that no matter how long I learn, there’s always a new teacher behind every mountain and to be humbled by the lessons that I may not see until I clear the peak.
Nia:wen. Miigwitch. Thank you… For this gratitude that keeps me whole. For the earth that keeps on spinning, for the sun and the moon in the sky, and the water that still pumps deep inside my veins. Today, I am still alive, and I am grateful for this day.
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The Signs

When I see those brightly coloured signs on the lawns and alongside the streets, I can’t help but see the bodies, lined in ditches beside those promotions that far outlasted the election period. They stayed in place for nearly a year, until the streets were safe to roam, and in the piles of rubbish that grew ever larger until “society” resumed once again.
The one visible from my window, brandying slogans of peace amongst the desolate killing field, smattered with blood and flesh from machete blows.
When I see the signs, my brain loses all reality, and blood begins to drip along their glossy sides, as opened bodies, their flesh a mix of red blood and the yellow fatty tissue from the layers deep below, spilling out as if demonstrating human anatomy, but devoid of any humanity, an abstract left by brutal predators, stalking the street for prey and leaving the remains as a warning to others who dare cross this path. The flies and vermin pecking at the savoury buffet left for them in the slaughter.
By the end of the war, the bodies were degraded beyond recognition so that no one could or was left to claim them. Static in their place months after ‘normalcy’ had returned. A cold shudder on the morning commute, remembered only by the tattered remains of their clothes and bones hung with dried meat.
When I see the signs, my bowels refuse to let me on the streets, telling me to hide from the brutality outside. An anxious reaction devoid of any rationality. My heart flutters and considers those who waited on line for a vote that left them as little more than roadkill.
When I see the signs, I hide and plan my escape. Because I know that one day, it’s coming again and this time, I will not be caught unaware. I will not let pieces of my flesh be sacrificed to the blade or degraded for another’s enjoyment. I will run this time and not submit to another’s joyful torture for the sake of my own survival.
When I see the signs, I die a little more inside. Knowing that I will submit again, because the hero I imagined in my mind’s eye is not reality when the militias come rolling, and despite the death wish of my brain reliving that experience over and over again, my instinct to survive outweighs my desire to end it all, and I’m left wishing I had the courage to just end it, but I know I’m not courageous. I know that one of those remnants of bodies at the end of my street was partly the result of my own fearfulness, hiding in shame and silencing the tears so that I could live another day. That my scars have faded as their flesh degraded, a memory embellished within my skin, unable to be excised.
When I see the signs, my life shuts down to basic needs and heightened security. Every noise is a threat on my very person, necessitating an immediate response.
When I see the signs, I wish it was me rotting away on the side of the road, a faded memory of a life that once was, because at least this hell would be over.

Capisocialommunism

I imagine a political system with no parties. No liberal or conservative. No red nor blue. No polarizing thoughts into a linear division of reality where there are only two sides so that competition, pretense, and power reigns over rationality.

Where we don’t group into parties based on ideological issues pretending an imaginery line of consisitency. Where representatives are truly that — representatives of their community and its needs. Where using the modern marvels of technology they can survey their constiuency, and base their votes among a general community consesus instead of their own ideals. Where they open their books and admit their faults and weaknesses and seek experts with humility to help them in the right direction. Government is a fledgling art that we may never master. But we can always try to improve our brush strokes.

I imagine a political system where corporations are made to consider the true cost of their operations from sourcing through disposal, and where we focus our energies and the creativity of the human spirit towards innovation and  collaboration in advancing us all, instead of greed and the accumulation of individual wealth. There is enough on this planet to sustain more than our numbers, our distribution and destruction of resources are widening our divide, let’s not repackage this horror as  some sort of eugenic over-population fantasy. No, it’s the way we set up our cities and towns, and how we use the spaces that we have. How our buildings our built, and what they are made of. How we get around and how we eat. The energy we expend in getting through our days. Everything we consume…

We were told we could have everything we ever wanted, and then made it happen, blind to the repercussions of this train of thought.  If this is true, than why can’t we have something more than what has been. Something that moves us all forward, and sees the value in every living thing. In kindness, and compassion.  Not scrambling to own every rock beneath this earth. No. This can’t be civilization if it’s far from civilized for us all. Cause…

Truth, after all, is relative. A family of ideas from different perspectives that follow a direction of order to come to a general consensus. And I’m pretty sure we can almost all agree, that this world, as it is right now, is fucked. That the current system is getting us down…

So I imagine a world where we don’t label our systems into -isms and realize that a smattering of each flavour can really delight the palate. That this ideological rigidity is keeping us static and ensuring we continue to value the very thing we say doesn’t matter. The very thing that will bankrupt us all and wipe our existence from this planet.

You can’t take the things with you when you go… so…

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater,… and imagine the path to change that brings the best of all worlds.

 

 

The poem I’m not going to do

I was going to do a poem about Tina, about Colton, about Cindy,… about the latest drop in a bucket that has long overflowed,  red drop after red drop, spilling over the sides, leaving a gooey mess across that floor, that we all feel stuck in.
I wrote the words, but couldn’t bring myself to say them.
This is family, despite our differences in direct lineages, formed together with our backs against the wall pushing against the slow moving genocide that hides itself with talks of budgeting deficits and “policitical correctness”. An ancient grievance that has more than been made up for in all the technology we gained that brought us poisoned waters, broken communities, a dying planet, and the 40 hour work week. We should be thankful for this blessing and swallow it down as the bitter pill necessary to cure us of our “savagery”.
Us backwards folks who were slaughtering our enemies with crude weapons over resources when they stepped upon this land, while, …you know,…  they were not creating war and genocide machines the likes the world have never seen and spreading them across the globe. Such a civilized bunch.
So I’m not going to do a poem about Tina, about Colton, about Cindy,… about all the other list of names you likely haven’t even heard of. About the trillions of dollars in trust for our community, that the government squandered and holds away from us while Our People are poisoned by their own taps. Or the billions more in subsidies to the companies that tainted them with impunity.  Because we speak, and we cry, and we yell, and no matter the method, it falls on deaf ears. We are just  tokens, here for decoration, an illusion of progress that gives a nice shiny screen to cover the continued oppressions. It’s not “diversity” they want, it’s submission. Follow the line, jump through the hoops, and make a palatable version that can be sold to the hierarchy, who will slash its core, and dangle any funds to those who can best express their suffering as trauma porn, but not give them enough to actually alleviate it. Cause clearly, this capitalist paradise is truly the most “civilized” of ideas.

Northstar

Grandfather
When I look up at the moon at night, I can’t help but see your face,
Before I could drive I could navigate the seven sea by the stars and tell the time by the phase of the moon or Sun’s position in the sky.
I know the call of the loon and how to navigate the rattlers so as to not get bit. Where to find food and water where none seems waiting. How to survive in any situation that came my way and even how to negotiate business deals.
You taught me the knots for each situation, how to break them free, and that a knife in my pocket was a tool for every situation, even buttering my bread at meals.
You taught me to swim by throwing me in and sharpened my waterskiing by ever tightening the circle of the towboat. You showed me that ice cream and coke was a decent option for breakfast.
You taught me that life was worth living to the fullest without regrets and that sometimes there is more to a person than they are willing to show you.
You outlived your wife, your siblings, your friends, and then outlived the next two sets. The drs thought you a demented old fool unaware of his senility as they treated your hip, broken you insisted, when you fell off a chairlift skiing in your 90s.
You were there when I needed you, and there you’ll always be, in the moonlight to guide my voyage, the northstar in my sky.
Grandfather, because of you, I will always know the direction home.
Tomorrow, I will have ice cream and coke for breakfast.

A poem for Tina

The number rises, a red tide swelling on the pristine sand, unseen from the upscale highrises, far above the shore. From their balconies they see an ocean of possibilities, an endless sea of support, while the bloodstains dilute in the vast waters far from their view, yet right in their own backyard.
The brochures advertise the white sand, swept clean for photo ops by tireless crews there to keep the view breathtaking and the beaches clear of the “savage” waste. They own the land, so can live in their blissful ignorance, high in their towers, unhindered by the efforts of the maintenance staff.
On August 17, 2014, her body was found, wrapped in a duvet and loaded down with rocks near the shores. She was 15 years old.
When she was 12, her father, already dying of cancer, was brutally beaten and left tied in the cold until death. She ended up in so-called protective care, who in the weeks preceeding her death, discarded her unsupervised in a hotel, a vulnerable youth left to her own devices. Unconscious, she was seen and released by hospital staff, a 15 year old alone in crisis.
A 56 year old man with 92 previous convictions, somehow still on the streets, regularly supplied the child with a variety of drugs in a basement, where witnesses say he fondled her, and asked her to “just do (him)”.
Two weeks before she died, Tina called the police on him for stealing a van, and told them that he had stolen her bicycle and sold it to buy drugs. The police, somehow failed to take the 15 year old’s name or notice that she was underage in this horrific situation and took the word of the man who convinced them a Led Zepplin-look-a-like was the real suspect. After all, it’s just another at-risk Native girl in Manitoba.
What hapened next is not fully known, the evidence washed away by the rushing waters, but the duvet that covered her tiny 72 lb body matched his. In recordings, he repeatedly alluded to his crimes, and yet the jury somehow declared him “not guilty” of her murder. No talk of negligence for the agencies who exist to protect her. It’s not their fault. They didn’t add the rocks to the duvet.
And so another body washes up on the shore overnight and is brushed away by the crews before the light of day so that the occupants don’t muddy their view or lower their property values. If they see the occasional drop of blood stained through the grains of sand, they complain that they now can’t walk barefoot along the shores, that the staff is inadequate but refuse to increase the wages to hire enough workers to do a proper job. And once in a while, they may sympathize with the maintenance staff on the difficulty of their job, or the horrors that cause the beaches to be stained in the first place, but more often than not, they remain oblivious, enjoying the view.

Hope

In light of recent events, I felt compelled to write this piece to express my thoughts to all the other white-breads out there and I’m hoping you’ll hear my words and at the very least, consider them.

I’ve always been a strong advocate of nonviolence, preaching tolerance and love in face of war and evil and spreading this message far and wide. Building is always superior to dismantling, I’ve said, because if you build a better world parallel to the old, there’s no need for force. I have educated myself in this direction and worked all my adult life in this vein, truly believing it to the core of my being.

The events of late have not changed my personal resolve, but rather have truly shifted my eyes to the harm this exclusive position can have on those its meant to support. There’s strength in numbers, specifically in the ideas we temper to structure our values, and rigidity has no place in an ever changing world.

I’ve realized there’s a time for hope and positivity, but suppressing emotion to serve those goals isn’t positive. Or helpful. Erasing those realities only adds to the harm and dimishes the entire aim of the exercise. To truly defeat evil, yes, you must love thy enemy, but also constrain them from doing greater harm. Sometimes defeat them, and be intolerant of their evil to stop the plague of paradoxes over the limits of tolerance itself. There is no compromise to evil.

The streets aren’t safe for those whose skin has already worn a lifetime of oppressions, faced a gaunlet of discriminations, and subtleties meant to weaken their spirit and resolve. They rightly fear the tide of hate that swells against them, but stack the sandbags in preparation for the next flood.

These differences may not be inherent, rather imagined in our collective consciousness as realities worthy of distinction, but that imagination has summoned a brutality more real than any the universe could ever have created. A force evil enough to divide the life within us all, and place hierarchy on ignorance, all subtly clamouring for the highest place in some master power scheme we created to feel more secure in our place in it.

We can’t change the past, but we also can’t erase the fact that we were raised with inherent biases that have taught us our place on that hierarchy and have positioned us so without regard to our awareness of it. Our privilege is not some magic path to success, a guarantee of the “good” life. Our skin just shades us from the true realities of those on supposed lower rungs. We keep our eye on the top, and don’t look back for fear of falling and wonder why others don’t succeed as we’re stepping on their fingers and blocking their path.

It pains me to speak these words, but it needs to be said. I’m a racist, and the rest of my life, no matter how hard I work to supress this pedagogy that has been rammed down my throat since birth, I will never fully overpower it. No matter how much I read, support, listen, and work to become a good “ally”, these biases rest within me, subconsciously steering my positions and erasing the realities I can’t comprehend.

And so I must consider, that my biases have blinded me in some ways, and clouded my values to the extent that the lines are now blurred. I must resist the urge to become defensive and face the evil knowing that I am truly part of it, no matter how hard I may work to supress it. Hate dies in understanding, so I must understand and truly hear the voices that tell my subconscious it is flawed. I am an imperfect being. But owning your flaws and striving to better them is never a lost cause.

Now is not the time to play defense. Now is the time to fight my own values, and suffer the pain of their loss, realizing that that fight pales against the violence I actively create with my own subconscious. It’s time we lessened the burden and came back down to the ground. It’s time we laid this ladder to rest, and whatever way it comes down, we must be ready to fall. After all, we have ignorantly placed ourselves on this precarious perch.