“Windigo” by Norval Morrisseau, 1964.
MUSKRAT Reflections for a New Year
Yes, this is another reflection piece for 2020. No, it will not be a list of events you can easily find with a Google search. Still, no year in review can skip over the impact of the COVID-19 virus that has, at minimum, required every human being on the planet to make at least some adjustments to their daily routine. Here on Turtle Island it’s further useful to acknowledge the intersections of the pandemic with the Black Lives Matter movement and continued acts of Indigenous resurgence such, as those at Wet’suwet’en, the Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in Nova Scotia and many others that did not make it into headlines. While activists have long sought to dismantle settler colonialism in favour of justice and equity, COVID has aligned itself with our movements in serving to unmask the lethal impact of the dominant political, economic and social system. The Wétiko in the title is not a metaphor for COVID. The monster of this 2020 story set foot on Turtle Island 500+ years ago.
While most of us are well aware of the horror movie we have been living and dying in for centuries, it can only be willful ignorance, born of fear or privilege, that anyone remains oblivious in this pandemic to the racial inequality, environmental destruction, police unaccountability, endless militarism, political corruption, infinite greed, and empty materialism that characterize this dystopia. COVID could be imagined as an ally of decolonization for laying bare so much systemic dysfunction to those who have not yet been able to see it and requiring us to grapple with much needed personal and collective healing.
For those benefitting from capitalism or unable to imagine potential alternatives, the fear is of system crash and the death of privilege. For those who have been fed to the Wétiko, our fear is about returning to “normalcy”.
The persistent threat of Wétiko has challenged us to find inspiration and purpose in starving the beast. This is evidenced by the proliferation of mutual aid efforts, activism, and modified ceremony. We have rejected the stories of separation in favor of connection. COVID-19 has allied itself with social justice warriorism, decolonization and re-Indigenization to put this system on the verge of what many economists say is inevitable collapse. Such is the good and bad news of 2020.
To note that many First Nations teachings prophesied this moment, and that you don’t have to be a seer to have predicted it anyway, as many scientists and futurists did, does not tell us how to survive when the ice under our feet cracks. Especially when conspiracy theorists of all stripes would rather you believe that libtards, antifa, godless scientists, corporate fiends, terrorists, commies, the secret space program, alien lizards, the cabal or the Illuminati (take your pick) engineered COVID in an evil plot to subjugate the human species, than recognize how endless resource extraction to feed a consumerist lifestyle in the name of profiteering is inherently toxic to all life on the planet.
But what if the Wétiko, too bloated to take another step, lashing in all directions, finding nothing to consume and no one to serve its voracious appetite, falls under its own weight? If this is the moment we are in what can we do to ensure that another beast doesn’t arise to take the place of the former? How do we conjure 21C versions of onkwehonwe neha / mino-bimaadiziwin (GoodLife)?
When drawing on our various teachings, it seems that the making of Good Life in any moment involves radical dreaming, healing, prioritizing healthy relationships and respecting the sacredness of Our Relations.
Dreams are the first step in transforming reality. Many cultures and wisdom traditions encourage dreaming with the understanding that nothing in the realm of matter can exist unless the spiritual framework is constructed first. That is done through such methods as dreaming, prayer, and ceremony. The building of the framework is sped up with intensity of feeling. Every aspiration you have achieved so far started as an idea, a dream. Even if you didn’t intentionally place your focus and excitement on the dream, you still gave it the attention and emotional fuel it needed to arrive into your reality. The more you focus on what inspires you, the more your brain is entrained to think, say and do whatever makes that dream materialize. You can’t create what you can’t dream. What does the healed, decolonized, Indigenized world look, taste, sound, feel and smell like?
Is you dream radical enough? If not maybe it’s time for healing. The whole planet is transforming. The stress level on individuals and communities is enormous. Stress makes you contract. It diminishes your dreams while triggering the traumas of childhood, previous generations and previous lives. If 2020 has a purpose, it is to trigger your personal, cultural, historical, physical, mental and spiritual traumas. A White supremacist settler colonial society in the midst of a global pandemic is going to inflict pain on you and your loved ones. If you want to enjoy resiliency, some level of wellness, and personal sovereignty you have to take responsibility for your healing and wellness.
In understanding how colonization has impacted us we like to emphasize how society shapes our thoughts and actions. But society is also a reflection of the people that comprise it. The level of consciousness, the level of awareness, the beliefs and values of people in a society shape that society. Our collective constructs mirror our individual mindsets.
Consequently, self-transformation is integral to transforming society. It’s been long recognized in our communities that at least half the work of Indigenization involves decolonizing the mind. You can’t create (or co-create) a peaceful world, while your heart isn’t peaceful. You can’t create justice from the mindset of blame, shame and guilt. You can’t create prosperity and abundance when your thoughts are contracted and focused on scarcity. You can’t feel or wield your power if you identify as a victim. This is the meaning of the meme often shared on social media that “you can’t solve a problem with the mindset that created it.” Wisdom is not guaranteed with age. It emerges from healing. It’s a myth that we can decolonize without the inner work that enables us to become open-hearted and healed enough to not only create the world of our dreams but sustain it.
The tendency to externalize decolonization is a symptom of the illusion of separation, a feature of White supremacy, settler colonialism and capitalist ideologies. It’s a mindset that operates under the false belief that social and individual healing are separate unconnected processes. But our ancestors knew better, which is why we have a variety of vision quest and healing ceremonies.
Furthermore, healing will always involve respecting the sacredness of Our Relations. Orenda, Yowa and Spirit are words used across our languages to reference the energy/power/consciousness that comprises all things. Everything is Spirit. There is nothing but Spirit. We are all aspects of Spirit. To disrespect another or yourself is to disrespect Spirit. The simplest of our teachings are the deepest. Good Life is its own reward for Spirit Consciousness.
There is no escaping evolution. Earth and humanity are evolving. There will not be many places left where one can feel comfortable being out of sync with the rhythms of an expanding cosmic consciousness. Let your excitement about the future we are co-creating inspire you as we welcome 2021.
 When Indigenous communities came into contact with the first European pilgrims, the Native Americans said they were infected by Wetiko/Windigo: a virus of selfishness. https://exploringyourmind.com/wetiko-virus-selfishness-native-americans/