July 28, 2017

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Justice Comes From Us

Justice Comes From Us

‘Neechi Superhero’ illustration by Meky Ottawa

Reflections on the damage we do by relying on the same oppressor who beats us down.

Globally, we witness Indigenous peoples putting their bodies and lives on the line as defenders of the land. Globally, we hear Indigenous peoples stating the obvious, deeply intimate kinship between women and the land on which we thrive. What we don’t see, however, are Indigenous peoples devoting the same amount of energy towards defending our women and their safety.

With this, a new crisis is unfolding. As we continue to encounter our women’s bodies being battered daily, and as it becomes a media normalization – something we share on Facebook with opinionated commentary – the crisis within the crisis is trickling in: we are relying heavily on the hands and bodies that rape us to also save us. This is seen in situations where we are begging the federal government to begin an inquiry on a dehumanizing tactic that began in the 1600’s – perhaps even earlier – with a Powhatan woman named Pocahontas. The kidnapping and rape of our women was undertaken by the settlers once contact occurred. As these behaviours continued and grew over time, Indigenous women were increasingly viewed as “lesser thans”. Through a vast array of dehumanization processes (settlers could be quite creative), this pattern became acceptable; celebrated even. Today, these patterns, phrases, and behaviours are ingrained in our own people. The paradigm we are seeing is one where we are relying on those who continue to conduct these monstrous acts to also handle an inquiry which is intended to bring justice to our women.

Our Bodies are not Terra Nullius by Erin Konsmo
Our Bodies are not Terra Nullius by Erin Konsmo

By agreeing and complying to solutions created by the colonizer, who has undermined our destinies through generations of genocide, we are throwing away our freedoms and sovereignty over our own bodies. Our peoples (particularly our women) are becoming wards to our rapists, wards to our abusers, and wards to these injustices simply by agreeing to solutions from the inherited minds of our ancestors’ murderers. The proof lies in our people requesting justice from police officers who have been known to dehumanize and even rape our women. Starlight tours are a notorious conversation piece being seen in mainstream media today. Stories from women in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec are being unveiled where police officers tell Indigenous women they can get them home safely, and instead drive them out to the bush, forcing them to give them fellatio, and then throwing them out of their vehicles to freeze to death. Yet our women continue to go to these very police officers for help, not even knowing just how dangerous they might be. Our women remain victims in a system designed to normalize and allow these very things to occur.

There must come a point in time when we fully acknowledge and resist the dictators, the abusers, the violators, and the corruptly colonized. Rather than being devoted servants to the colonizer’s solutions, we must become devoted servants to the liberation of our lands, our women, and our peoples. For too long, Indigenous women’s bodies have been consistently used as an election platform which further destroys the true gifts of our bodies: to give life and grow communities grounded in prayer and liberation.

Now, however, the colonial government – Trudeau being the front man – is attempting to convince us that real change is coming about for Indigenous people. He’s succeeded at inspiring a certain “our prayers have been answered” mentality, but the only real purpose is to disguise hidden agendas. Shortly after the new government came in, and with the release of the TRC Report, was this acknowledgement from the RCMP recognizing the violence they have committed against Indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples across our nations were applauding their honesty. Yet the truth is that the RCMP were attempting to preserve their honor because they knew that a large number of offences against our women come directly from them. These officers have known this violence to be going on for generations, and they knew it would come up repeatedly throughout the inquiry. So they chose to apologize at the last possible moment to ensure they were in the clear before the horror stories came out.

 The inquiry, which is being led by Indigenous-ally Carolyn Bennett, was received with uncritical applause. Historically, the paper trail of government led inquiries has been just that; a dead-end paper trail. The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal People presented a 4000 page report that had 444 recommendations, with only one being implemented: the healing fund for those who attended residential schools. An inquiry, once again, holds no true solutions for our communities. It takes the stories and truths of our people who have gone missing or been murdered, places them in documents, and keeps them in federal department shelves for decades.

Trudeau is pushing forward with the Keystone Pipeline, making it one of his goals during his time in parliament. This will create more opportunities for our women and our land to be raped and murdered in the towns which this pipeline will go through. Indigenous media repeatedly stresses that oil towns and communities have astronomically higher rates of rape, murder, and domestic violence towards Indigenous women due to the constant filtration of men coming and leaving their work camps. Trudeau is pushing for an inquiry to end this violence, while simultaneously pushing for a pipeline that is guaranteed to sustain it.

8th Generation by Erin Konsmo
8th Generation by Erin Konsmo

All of this said, with the ugliness of a crisis within a crisis can come solutions within solutions. These critical solutions exist in defining our own desired outcomes and putting them into action on our own terms. For example:

  • Forgoing the support of leaders who are colonially manufactured, ego types who accommodate our destruction, not only outside, but more importantly within, our own communities. No more sitting on the sidelines and waiting for answers to come to us.
  • Utilizing and ensuring that the passion of grassroots movements such as Idle No More come with action plans well suited to the cause.
  • Developing creative, effective, and culturally-based community safety plans and home-based women and children shelters.
  • Engaging men – young and old – in self-revolution programming. This means programming committed to grief and trauma work, emotional processing, solutions to youth suicide, self-empowerment, and Indigenous resurgence through land-based practices.
  • Demolishing lateral violence and family divisions. *By maintaining the abusive behaviours created by the oppressor, we are simply becoming the oppressors of our own people.
  • Honouring the land with places of safety and security.
  • And lastly, recognizing that Indigenous women are not only carriers of stories of rape and violence, but more importantly, carriers of rage, love, and our children.

This article was originally written by Andrea Landry and published In WIOT Magazine. This article has been republished with permission. 

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About The Author

MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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