all the elements that make up anishinaabe life through ojibway makwa ikawe embodiment + anishinaabe feminist lens

deep like winter, stirring like spring

makwa is turning around in her den this month, giving birth to her babies. Mindimoyen is ceremony-ing her and teaching Anishinaabeg to do the same. That beautiful inini with twinkling eyes who loves Anishinaabe life, trapping, his wife, and his grandkids also honours this month. The old Irish ways celebrate the stirrings of spring and new life deep in the ground like us too. They call it Brigid day. Since I’ve been learning about this moon cycle and what it means for us, and since I was able to practice this meaning over several years when I was home in my territory, I’ve come to feel makwa giizis in my belly. I feel her deeply like I feel for that Ojibwe man who won’t seem to leave my body. I have never tried to get rid of those feelings, I just closed a door so they wouldn’t be fanned. I still don’t want them fanned. I just figured they would go away.

He’s a man who only seems to know himself when he’s bound up tight with a woman, making babies. And, like Anishinaabeg men who’ve been taught by settlers, when I knew him, he was a man who learned he can just step out when he gets bored, honouring nothing and no one but his own needs. I am not that step. I am not that toy. It hurts to even remember that he saw me as such. I hope he got the message. From me. And other women.

Even if he is a colonized man, he is a good man. I know his Ojibwe goodness. His goodness makes me feel alive.

And still, despite long-close doors and messy human ways, makwa is stirring in her den and spring is here in my belly for him.

I’ve come to accept that life has just put those feeling there, made embers in my body for him. I didn’t ask for them; I don’t feed them. I want to feed them though. I want to feel alive. Also, the settlers and their valentine’s day, the freshly fallen snow, the need to retreat into something beautiful has me wanting to write this fire out into the world.

There is something else: he, or his pawaaman, is working dreamtime with me. Has been for years, even when we were actively in relationship. Even after I closed the door. Fasting dreamtime and every day dreamtime. The first time, it was his clan and every time after, it was him. I won’t get into how he was in those dreams but I will say this: when he came to me that last time, it was clear, purposeful and beautiful. I lay in bed all morning wanting to keep the dream close. It gave me life. I told a girlfriend who understood instantly. We laughed so much and shared stories. It was so good to have a girlfriend who knows the whole lying-in-bed-as-long-as-you-can-to-keep-the-dreamtime-from-slipping-away way of being.

I don’t understand him though: he comes to me in beautiful ways and then he retreats. On the occasion I do go see about him, he’s put up a big sign: taken.

Well then, if you’re so taken quit coming to me in dreamtime loving on me and in my daytime putting hearts in my world.

Maybe he’s a scaredy cat.

Maybe he’s fishing

            to have his ego stroked,


I will not be fodder for his ego or the banality of his life—again.

And, something new: what he doesn’t know is that now, I have a bear with lures in her belly who keeps the men who toy with my heart in her den.

Beyond the games, he feels there is something here.

I want to believe that.

What else can this be but Ojibwe love?

He knows he is in me and maybe he’s not toying. Maybe he just wants a sign from me to assure him that he is still in my heart. Maybe he wants to know this. And maybe he wants me to know I’m still in his. And maybe he wants all this without the pressure of having to perform or give up something. Maybe he wants to be a good man and he wants to love more than one at a time.

Maybe he should read Kim Tallbear.

Maybe he should do something to demonstrate a pondering of me and all my wants.

I am a makwa ikawe feminist. I don’t turn my life over for men. I have learned not to play tricks on myself when it comes to them. And yet, this situation, whatever it is, can’t be denied. I won’t deny it. I don’t want to. I want to be moved. I want to be fired up. I want to be in love and lust. I want to feel the feelings. I want to be in the feeling of caring. I want to believe that Ojibwe love is a thing and I want to believe that it’s more powerful than settler everything including settler gender games. I want to believe this.

I recall the heat between us. I could easily walk in(to a) life with him. An original, righteous and beautiful life of Ojibwe relationship—with care, mutual respect, supporting each other in our different paths. A real good kind of way of being with each other, one with lots of breathing room. A non-traditional way of being because I am a travelling-ikawe. He knows this.

I don’t know what it is between us but it is a gift to my spirit. It inspires me to imagine legacies of Ojibwe love. It fuels me to want to ignite these legacies and keep something of it going for the future. Maybe he is not a physical love for this place and time. Maybe he is my muse and maybe together we can create something beautiful and hot and life-giving for our people without ever touching each other.

Maybe what is between us is an ancient bundle. An old, old bundle of embers. Glowing. Flickering. Set down by the trail of our intersecting lives in another time, buried deep like winter and stirring like spring.

This is Our Creation Story. It’s For All Time.

For those of us who are familiar with it, how often do we, as Anishinaabeg, recall and reflect on our creation story? How often to we remember that creation began with ikawe who made land and continued life with the help of many more-than-human ones and her nokomis?

Remember the significance of Anishinaabe ikawe in Anishinaabe life-making, world-making, land-making. Remember how necessary it is to ensure she is supported with the materials and subsistence she needs to do this life-making, world-making, and land-making. Remember the umbilical cord of our life is the maternal line.

Anishinaabe ikawewag–despite the denigration, the forgetting, the erasure, the suffering, the burdens–the path requires a walk that is always walked with dignity and surety about this legacy and this future.

Odoodis. Odoodosh. Odoodem.

Belly button. Breast. Clan.


Anishinaabeg recognize that we each are born into this world with inherent gifts from gizhe manidoo. In times when we were living off the land, how we organized and valued each other was based on different kinds of markers and categories such as clan, region, clothing, likely material property or the power of our stories, how well we did our work and was it with spiritual accordance (i.e. did we feast our dreams, names, do our seasonal ceremonies, etc.). I imagine we were awed by our ability to create and sustain human life within and with the larger systems of the natural world. Spirit, mystery, sperm, egg; chemistry, magic, pragmatism. Directions, creation, water, food.

We are living in a time where global and settler structures force us to be separate from everything and categorize everything according to value or worthiness: class, sexuality, gender, marital status, race, ability, status-non-status, rez-off-rez-rural-urban, cultural knowledges, education, job, etc.

Calling for a remembrance to center ikawe is not calling for a decentering of anyone else. Calling for a remembrance to center ikawe is not predicated on heirarchizing us into more than or better than. Calling for a remembrance of centering ikawe arises from the way, today, global, settler, and even fellow Anishinaabeg (including some ikawewag themselves) allow her to go without, deny her support and care or neglect her, devalue her for being on her own or alternatively use her because they think she is sexually available or exploitable, and erase her contributions to world-making, life-making, and land-making. Anishinaabeg life started with giizhigo ikawe, her more-than-human helpers, and her grandmother.

This is our creation story. It’s for all time. Do what you can to contribute to keeping our first story alive and strong. This does not mean we can’t keep feasting other stories or making news ones that recognize and honour. It just means this is our creation story and it’s for all time.

Orange Shirt

today, the white lady is wearing orange.

when the white lady is racist to me, i have to escape.

today, i escape to my daaban which i used to get to where i needed to go this morning instead of walking and am glad for it. daaban equals quick escape.

in daaban i escape to P’KALS to get away from it as in above it, higher than it. to get distance from it by putting myself right in the heart of another peoples sacredness. their mountain. i don’t remember driving here.

i reach out to a friend. she responds. she rages for me because right now my goal is to get back in my body sitting here in sacred. raging will only fragment me further. she uses the worst names she can. this is “bloody cow”. it works like medicine. my body starts to come back. i start to come back into my body. she is sick at home in her bed and i am sick on this mountain in my chariot. although she is over there and i am here, it’s like she holds my hands as we lower ourselves to the ground, her eyes never leaving mine: you are ok. you are ok. you are ok. we are kneeling on the ground and we are looking at each other and it seems like i’m returning closer to reality hearing her say: you are ok, you are ok, you are ok. incantation-ing me “back to here”.

i am ok enough to let go. she is sick and needs to rest her throat. an then, a text just in from a another. “i’m here talking to _______ and she is telling me about her experience with ________.” surreal. how can these women from worlds away be having the same kind of conversation i am having with another woman about the same woman in an orange shirt. the same treatment. the same impact. how can all four of us brown women be connected in this moment to this one white woman in an orange shirt this way? surreal. “funny. i left there to come here to recover from her racism.”

i’m almost back.

i’m back enough to drive home and when here, another layer of escape: strip the clothes off that carry the racism of the white lady in an orange shirt against me. naked. pace. pace. pace. now what? i can’t escape my insides out.



cool white sheets. cool white curtains. cool white duvet. it is early afternoon and the lighting is easy. you are ok. you are ok. you are ok.

medicine bundle jumps up and purrs his vibrations into my space. medicine bundle curls up in the crook of my arm and stares at me waiting for me to make eye contact. i do. so begins the ceremony: purring. gazing. breathing.

purring. gazing. breathing.

you are ok. you are ok. you are ok.

my body is back together again.

i’ve missed the Orange Shirt Day event. i’ve missed the book launch on Ubuntu relations. i’ve lost 4 plus hours of the afternoon. i am back enough together to write.

i do.

i sleep.

Summer Solstice

Remember, Anishinaabeg, to offer a little something to the spirits—the ones that belong to the place where you live and our own. We like to do it up and it feels so good to do it up with others but it doesn’t have to be real “dead-leh”. Many of us don’t have much, or maybe we can’t get outside; maybe we don’t have access to traditional things like medicines or food. Still, we can offer a little something, anything. It’s the power of our thoughts, intentions and action and it’s the power of all of us offering something collectively as Anishinaabeg that is doing the work for our future and honouring our ancestors.

It feels good to make a little something for an offering. It’s feel like self care and community care. It feels just right to feast the spirits on solstice. It feels good for the spirit.

Me? I was able to get a bit of manoomin last summer in Leech Lake so I had that on hand. The nuts and seeds and odeminaan I used are no doubt bound up in unethical labour and land dispossession. I offer thoughts for all that. I bought some wild coho salmon in recognition of the local Lekwungen and WSANEC peoples and all their relations. Cooked it up with good thoughts and gratitude. Was thinking about all the supernatural ones that look out for this place that I know next to nothing about but know enough that folx here care about such things just as do we. Was thinking about all the folx who have helped me and my kid along the way. Gratitude for our Beebs. Was thinking about niibin manidooyag and being in ceremony this time last years at the petroglyphs in michi saagiig territory. Was thinking of my Dad who I had just dropped in to visit in the hospital in Bawating after having a stroke. Friends. Went up PKOLS behind my apartment, faced home (waabanong) and made a few acknowledgements, found a Garry Oak and laid the spirit food at its base. Then, I got the heck out of there. I didn’t want to rush or look too conspicuous because there’s lots of people around on the trails who would might ask questions or police me about putting food out—wild animals and all you know. Anyhow, that’s what I did on this Father’s Day, this Indigenous Peoples Day (in Canada) and this solstice.

It feels good to be Anishinaabe. nahaaw, mii sa iw.

The Ways IBPOC People & Allies are Challenging Racism and Colonialism

This is a collated list of resources created by my friend Rita Kaur Dhamoon which she shared with a group of people who are engaged in decolonial anti-racism work. With Rita’s permission, I am sharing here. (At the very end there are additional links I have added or will add to as an addendum).


I sit here thinking of the family and friends of Floyd George and all the people standing up to protest his violent murder by the police. Another Black death by police. For those interested in reading more and/or who are able to take action re: George Floyd, you might see following: I started documenting some of the ways in which Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, East Asians, and other people of colour, sometimes with some allies, are currently challenging ongoing racism and colonialism across Canada. Here is some of that:


o    Regis Korchinski Paquet, a 29 year old Black woman, died from a fall from the balcony. The police were the only ones in the apartment with her. Her mother had originally called 911 after a family conflict that left the 29-year-old in a state of “distress”, but now fears that her daughter was pushed. Relatives of Korchinski-Paquet have said she was in the midst of a mental health crisis.

o    D’Andre Campbell, a 26 year old Afrikan man, was fatally shot by Peel Police in his home while he was experiencing a mental health crisis, on May 7th 2020. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which has taken over the probe, said preliminary information indicates that two officers discharged conducted energy weapons before one of the officers fired his gun multiple times. Campbell’s eldest sister, Michelle Campbell, said she is traumatized after witnessing the incident.

o    Eisha Hudson, an Indigenous teenager, was shot by police on April 8 2020, following a police chase in response to a liquor store robbing. She was pronounced dead in hospital. The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth announced that they will do their own investigation. The Indigenous Bar Association has called for an inquiry.

o    Jason Collins, an 36 year old Indigenous man, was shot and killed by an unnamed police officer following a call regarding a domestic incident just hours after the death of Eisha Hudson also by Winnipeg police. Police claim they left the house after arriving to help de-escalate the situation. Police shot Collins 40 minutes after they arrived at his home, after saying he walked out the front door and threatened them. Eishia’s father William Hudson was a close friend of Jason Collins.

o    Stewart Kevin Andrews, a 22 years old Indigenous man, died near the Maples after police shot him while responding to a reported robbery. He was shot on April 18th 2020. The police injured a 16 year old boy who was with Andrews. He was the third Indigenous person to be killed by Winnipeg police in 10 days, and the fourth police shooting victim in the city in 2020.

  • An online resource created by Desmond Cole on “Remembering 27 Black, Indigenous and racialized people killed by Canadian police”
  • Ziyian Kwan and others stage a peaceful anti-racism performance in the courtyard near the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday, May 11, 2020. They helped to raise further awareness about anti-Chinese and other Asian racism, including:
  • Of the 15 hate crimes reported to Vancouver Police in April, 11 were anti-Asian.
  • On April 2nd, Vancouver’s Chinese Cultural Centre was defaced with racist hate and death threats..
  • On April 12, an Asian woman was punched in the face.
  • On April 14, a woman from the northern community of Kuujjuaq, Nunavik harassed and a stranger spat towards her and told her to leave the country after mistaking her as Chinese.
  • On April 15, a white man told two Asian women to “go back to your own country” while on a bus. A non-Asian woman intervened to tell the man to leave the women alone, but he grabbed, kicked and punched her before leaving bus.
  • On April 22, a 51 year old Asian man was attacked outside his home in Vancouver.
  • In late April a woman was attacked by a stranger after screaming “You are the reason my daughter is sick”. He then punched her in the face several times before throwing her head against the seats.
  • In March, a 92 year old Asian man with dementia was attacked by a white male after the white male made racist remarks about covid-19.
  • On May 28, the lion statues in Vancouver’s Chinatown were hit with racist graffiti again.
  • Statues outside a Buddhist temple were pulverized with a sledgehammer.
  • Since the semi-shut due to the pandemic, an article in the Toronto Sun by Tarek Fatah expounded at how Muslims were engaging in “virus jihad.” In Calgary, a video went viral showing a neighbour screaming at her Muslim neighbours (who were sitting in their own property) with racist invective. In Thunder Bay, a Muslim physician was screamed at with racist language at a store when buying groceries. In Hindu nationalist ilk, a non-Muslim South Asian councillor for Brampton City, Ravi Hooda, wrote Islamphobic tweets after the Mayors decision to allow mosques to broadcast azaanover loudspeakers during Ramadan.
  • #HealthNotHatecampaign
  • Report a racist incident to online Elimin8hate The Elimin8hate reporting centre will collect data on incidents of racism, hate and violence experienced by the Asian diaspora in Canada. In the aggregate, data will be used to develop strategies, design interventions, raise awareness, advocate for policies and improve outcomes for our communities. All personal information will be kept confidential and will not be shared without your consent. All data will be used anonymously. This project is in collaboration with Project 1907.
  • On Friday March 13, 2020, project 1907 hosted Vancouver’s first #IWillEatWithYoudinner, in support of Chinatown businesses impacted by racism and xenophobia resulting from COVID-19. 50% of the funds accumulated from #IWillEatWithYou went toward paying much-needed wages for staff at Floata. With 25% of the funds accumulated, we purchased 100 meal vouchers to Kent’s Kitchen, another local Chinatown business. The vouchers were distributed to the residents of the May Wah Hotel (single-room occupancy in Chinatown). The remainder of the funds went towards fulfilling essential needs of low-income seniors isolated as a result of COVID-19.
  • Take a Bystander Intervention Training
  • On Black Grief”– Black Lives Matter Toronto (May 15th 2020)
  • Regis Korchinski Paquet – “Justice for Regis”fund:
  • Eisha Hudson – ‘Justice For Eisha’campaign:
  • Prison-Justice Action:
  • On April 4 2020: physically distanced sign hangings at the Surrey Immigration Holding Centre.
  • On April 26, noise demonstrations were held at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, both in Maple Ridge.
  • On April 17 and April 19, physically-distance demos at Mission and at the Surrey holding centre.
  • On May 3, noise demonstration (in cars or safe physical distance from others) at Mission Institution in B.C.  Mission Institution is experiencing the largest prison outbreak in Canada. The B.C. government said in early May that 133 inmates and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Across Canada, as of early May 2020, 290 federal inmates have been infected and 155 have recovered, according to federal figures.

The Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee is calling for the urgent care of all prisoners across Canada and the immediate release of detainees to ensure adequate physical distancing and quarantine measures. The group is also calling for broader testing of all prisoners, and daily updates with details of the situation for their family members. Prisoners inside the medium-security building could hear the noise being made outside and responded immediately with noise of the their own. There were cheers, shouts, banging, and drumming. One prisoner hung a “Thank you” banner out a window. Another thank-you sign appeared, then one saying, poignantly, “Help us.” People inside started drumming in rhythm with the noise being made by the activists outside. There were waves and claps. This interaction kept up for most of an hour.

Please correct any of my errors. And please add to this list if you are able.

My heart with all those who stand up, fight back, and build alternate relations and communities.



Additional Links:

Shenequa Golding, “Maintaining Professionalism in the Age of Black Death Is…. A Lot”, May 28, 2020

Colinda Clyne et. al., “Annotated Bibliography: A Resource for Ontario Educators Learning about Racism”, 2020

Justin Scott Campbell, “Trauma Makes Weapons of Us All: an interview with adrienne maree brown”, May 10, 2018

Danielle Cadet, “You’re Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Ok—Chance are They’re Not” Refinery29, May 28. 2020


Indigenous Entertainment to Nurture Indigenous Relations of Care in Pandemic Times

It was recently reported that the Navajo Nation has the highest per capita rate of COVID-19 infections in the US. As a way to raise funds to support, Navajo filmmaker Blackhorse Lowe’s Fukry (2019) is streaming free until midnight May 21 (not sure of time zone) on VIMEO. Donation to any of a number of organizations that Lowe supports and who are accepting donations can be obtained here.

Also, Good Medicine Comedy Fundraiser is happening May 22 at 8pm PDT. This is meant to support tribal communities in dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. Indigenous and allied comedians are putting this on. Ever. 🙂

I know what I’m watching tonight and tomorrow!

Maria Hupfield’s playful, poetic approach to Decolonizing the Museum

Beautiful April on a Lekwungen Mountain in Victoria, B.C.

There is a mountain in Victoria, B.C. popularly known as Mt. Doug but originally known and named by WSÁNEĆ peoples as PKOLS. The Lekwungen peoples, whose lands and waters Victoria made itself upon, have a mountain they also call PKOLS (Cheryl Bryce, personal communication). It’s popularly known by it’s settler name, Mt. Tolmie. I live on the slopes of Lekwungen PKOLS. It’s beautiful. In summer, it’s grasses are yellow and throughout the fall, winter, and spring, it’s green. It’s home to ĆENÁŁĆ (“Garry oak” in the SENĆOTEN language of the WÁSANEĆ)* , kwetlal, and deer. It offers a 360 degree view of mountain ranges, ocean, straits, and islands. The celestial action too, is incredible. On a windy day, I enjoy witnessing the various birds–seagulls, sparrows, osprey, and eagles–play around on the currents. There is a thicket of invasive blackberries that the baby bunnies love to run around in until well past twilight. This week, my girl and I have been walking PKOLS and enjoying the beauty of this place.


mid-way up. 28 namebin giizis (Sucker Moon/April)



theres a little patch of kwetlal in the above photo. this is close up. also known as camas.



in a little meadow at the “entrance” to Mt. Tolmie. there were about 7 deer. they let us get really close. this one’s new antlers are growing. this Ojibway man told me that the velvet on deer antlers is used as love medicine. 28 namebin giizis.



Olympic Mountains, south of Victoria, over the water and in Washington state. Photos taken with my phone so are not the best. On the waterfront over there, to the right of that tall apartment building, is Port Angeles (you can’t see the lights twinkling here). This is the ‘big town’ that the teenagers in the film series Twilight would go to for entertainment.



midway up. 25 namebin giizis. This is the crescent moon for May (waawaaskone giizis/Flower Moon). The bright star is actually the planet Venus (I forget the anishinaabe name for this.) This sky, its clarity and the blues,  the colours of the sunset, reminds me of spearing back home with my friend. The only thing missing is the sound of frogs. 

Right now, when I step outside, the air is so fragrant. I don’t know what the flower is but it is powerful. It reminds me of lilacs along the Otonabee river in Mississauga country. The power of the natural world to bring joy and health is incredible. I miss spring back home–the maple sap, the spearing for pickerel and occassional muskey, the leeks, the asparagus (not indigenous, but wilding from farmers fields), the fiddleheads, the mushroom hunting–but I love being in this place and getting to know it. There is so much to be grateful for in the memories and the living.




* Nancy J. Turner and Richard J. Hebda, Saanich Ethnobotany: Culturally Important Plants of the WSÁNEĆ People (Victoria: Royal BC Museum, 2012),78. Note: “Saanich” is an anglicization of WSÁNEĆ and is a popular name used throughout Victoria.



A Quick Anishinaabe Read of a Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19

My COVID-19-social-isolation mornings are usually spent reading online news from a number of sources. Ugh. The rabbit holes! This morning however, I landed on an interesting article by France Nguyen writing for The Lily, the first newspaper by and for women in the U.S.

This state says it has a ‘feminist economic recovery plan.’ Here’s what that looks like.” gave me all the feels. It gave me all the feels for a number of reasons.

One, I know the limitations and problems with feminism and yet as an anishinaabe feminist I know that a feminist proposal for economic recovery is going to be better for more people who are marginalized than what the billionaires, war-mongers, and windigos who live and die at the alter of the GDP without even knowing what the GDP is will have in store for us. (I don’t even know what the GDP is other than to know it’s a post-WWII economic formula that rules most of the world.) The Plan will undoubtedly prioritize the restoration of their losses and in fact, allow the rich and powerful to make more money by further eroding what is left trickling down the hierarchy. These priorities will be legitimated under the auspice of ‘economic recovery’ (read “global capitalist neoliberal” economic recovery which always and already rests on Indigenous lands and marginalized bodies and peoples). I mean aside from economic losses, where is all the stimulus and emergency money coming from? Who do we think is going to pay it back?  The fact that in the US (and in some circles in Canada?) there is debate about the economy vs. human life is telling about the kinds of economic recovery plans that will be initiated and instituted vis-à-vis the powers that be. A feminist economic recovery model, as titled, at least gestures towards doing better for humans and humans in balance.

Two, this article introduces the idea of a proposal for feminist economic recovery into popular cultural. Here, the idea can circulate and gain traction. I appreciate when alternatives to the norm are presented. It disrupts dominant and omnipresent understandings of what is true, real, or possible. The whole world is a f*cking construction so let’s construct a new one. A proposal for a feminist economic recovery does this.

Three, if you are like me, as soon as you see the word “feminist” barriers to engagement come up. Right or wrong, there are a lot of them and they vary from person to person. For me, when I see or hear the word I think of settler liberal middle-class-to-upper class women who are white and/or perpetuate whiteness and who, in a contemporary world of reconciliation, diversity, and race politics (in the US) traffic in a performative politics of identity and relational alliance or critical-ness across difference that exists between womxn. Yet, I have come to know that the possibilities and need for feminism and feminisms is more than the problem of privileged women of any identity or structural location who do not want to undo themselves. And, for me, this feminist proposal for economic recovery seems to overcome these problems with a turn to intersectional considerations of gender where intersectionality operates as Kimberlé Crenshaw intended it to—that being from a structural analysis as opposed to an analysis of individual identity difference. There is a recognition of gender, power, and difference embedded in the underlying logics of this proposal and aspirational visions for social justice and a new world.

And four, the report that this article is derived from is accessible online and is a short, 23 page read. Called, “Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery for COVID-19” it was prepared by the Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women (April 14, 2020). I don’t recognize any Kanaka Maoli women and/or feminists who write with a consideration of gender as authors in this report. I wonder what they would say about it.

Moving onward with the dream of an economic recovery that works towards making a new world: the IMF and World Bank need to make such a proposal. Of course, they won’t. Billionaires, war-mongers, windigoes, and the GDP–oh my! It would be great though–and feasible–for New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern to initiate a feminist economic recovery plan. She seems to be a Prime Minister who would be most likely to. And, she would have access to well known feminist economist, Marilyn Waring, to lend a hand. It would work for the self-identified feminist (as brand), PM Justin Trudeau, to have the Deputy Minister of Women and Gender Equality for the Status of Women in Canada, Guylaine F. Roy develop a proposal. The time is perfect for such performances–at least Canadians would get an idea circulated and a kind of document out of it. The eco-feminists in both countries could ensure issues regarding climate change and the environment are included.

I wonder how the idea of a “feminist” economic recovery plan would land with national Indigenous leadership organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiritt Kanatami, Métis Nation of Canada, or Congress of National Peoples (which doesn’t seem to have a working website). It might have good traction with the National Women’s Assembly of Canada. Ideally, for us, we would come up with indigenous feminist economic recovery plans for our communities–informal and formal–and for submission to the settler state. The former would be for us, our homefires, our circles and relations; a submission to the settler state (however that would happen) would be to document our position and to hold Canada to account that it has a relationship with Indigenous nations it is responsible to. We know Canada is not going to release it’s economically exploitive clenches from our lands and waters anytime soon but we can continue to document, voice, and hold Canada to account to us. Ideally, the UN–the Indigenous section of the UN–might develop an indigenous feminist (queer- material- trans- indigenous feminist) economic recovery proposal as well. Wouldn’t that be something?

I haven’t done a close read to the proposal itself but I like it for all the reasons stated. I do want to make two quick points though for why, as generative as this proposal may be, it must be engaged critically from an indigenous position:

  • It’s a proposal coming from a settler state. The indigenous-settler state politics in Hawai’i, U.S. are different than in Canada but are fundamentally the same: the settler state exists on the removal of Indigenous peoples and dispossession of lands and waters. Until the settler state, like settler liberal middle-class-to-upper-class feminists, are willing to undo itself, it’s always going to be limited. I think this proposal though, is a step in the right direction; and,
  • I have critiqued intersectionality and social justice elsewhere. Again, while a step in a generative direction for humanity (not sure if the proposal mentions the environment or not), it includes Indigenous peoples along with other groups of people. “Inclusion” is a conundrum: on one hand we want better living which means advocating to not be excluded from or to be included in the processes and sites where and through which better living may be obtained however unless those process and sites are oriented towards decolonization, they are inclusion-cum-assimilation into global, settler colonial structures. Intersectionality and it’s embedded social justice proclivities do not acknowledge indigenous sovereignty or grapple with or account for the settler colonial realities we live in.

So, there you have it. A plan, a vision, a getting ahead of the curve with a document outlining steps for economic recovery that disrupts the sense that economic recovery itself is a natural, hegemonic thing that will just happen and we don’t have a say as to how it will happen. The idea that there are possible approaches to economic recovery is a powerful one. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be something that disrupts the idea that the economy is an entity that is natural. It is not. It’s human-made (by people with certain kinds of power). And, it can be human-changed (by people with certain kinds of power, as well). This proposal seeks an economic recovery that centres gender and feminism and serves those upon whom the billionaires, war-mongers, and windigos thrive.

Anishinaabe Words for “Virus”, and Other (Big/Little) Things

Anishinaabe Word(s) for “Virus”

The anishinaabe word for bugs is manidoosheNhsag and this translates as “little spirits”.

The “Nh” indicates a nasal sound and “eNhs” makes the noun diminutive (i.e. little, small).

These things I learned from Doug Williams (Mississauga) and Howard Webkamigad (Odawa), respectively.

I was chatting with another adult language learner the other day, Carmen Craig, and shared with her my musings about what the word for virus might be. I recall from somewhere reading or hearing that we considered viruses to be little bugs but of course compared to bugs, like ants and worms, viruses would be very, very, very little bugs. Humorously, I wondered if the word for virus would be chi chi manidoosheNhs, where the prefix refers to “big” or a kind of emphasis as in chi miigwech (many thanks, much thanks, big thanks, etc.) thereby making this big, big little spirit or very little spirit. Reflecting on the emphasis made through “very, very” I now wonder if maybe the word could be geget manidoosheNhs. Carmen wondered if a word for virus might be mashkimanidoosheNhs, where the prefix mashki, meaning “strong”, turns the meaning of the noun into strong little spirits. We shared this with our language learning community out here in Lekwungen territory which has moved from in-person to online and one idea that came up (or maybe I dreamed it) was the idea of a bad virus which would be majimanidoosheNhs, where the prefix “maji” translates into “bad”. We haven’t come up with anything firm on a word for virus yet. If you know what other words might be created to refer to virus or pandemic or, if you know of any ancestral and old time Anishinaabe words for either, please share.

Other (Big/Little) Things

Speaking of pandemic and viruses, I was thinking about Elder, Lewis Debassige-ban from Manitoulin Island who, in another context, shared a story, an oral history about a kind of virus or sickness that was very powerful but which Anishinaabe had strong medicine for. I have to obtain permission from one of Lewis’ relations to share that story but the point is, we had, and have, medicines for these kinds of things. While there is much grief around the intentional erosion/destruction of our knowledges (i.e. epistemicide), its fragmentation, or its isolation to pockets of people or individuals here and there, these knowledges and stories are still out there and that can give us courage and inspiration; it can motivate us to seek each other out so we can keep us going and growing, and the knowledges—old and new—that continue to work for us.

On the subject of how our people have “been here done this”, I recalled a part of the story in Lee Maracle’s Ravensong that reflects this. An arc in this indigenous Pacific Northwest Coast story portrays how we have a history of, and practices for, dealing with viruses and epidemics within a colonial context. And because our modern history includes what remains of our own healthcare systems and knowledges and a settler healthcare system and knowledges which are reaches of a colonial state, this story, told from the perspective of 17-year-old Stacy, weaves both old time ways, practical ways, and new, necessary ways to deal with an influenza epidemic:

Stacey looked out after her mom, pondering the reticence of the village; like a living organism, it seemed to be gripped in a major sulk. No children hung about in little groups or scampered about.  The whole village was quarantined. No one visited. No one went outside. They hid from each other in isolation. A handful of fearless women about to tend the sick. Momma fashioned masks for those who worked with the fallen. Young women spent hours washing out the homes. Old Dominic kept conducting ceremonies in secrecy each night, hoping to cast out the disease. He regularly sent cougars and bears back to the hilltop homes they people, but he couldn’t speak the language of this virus. It was too small for him to see, he said. Nevertheless, he kept trying. (67)

… For the next ten days, Stacey would not be at school. The sickness drove through the community like a miserable tornado. … Each night the owl, plaintive and sad, called a new name.… Nora’s daughter Martha recovered and leapt into the fracas. Even Judy and Rena rolled their sleeves up… and joined the other women who felt it was their duty to try to save the community.

Stacy too felt this duty. … (68)

[She] dared to suggest they try intravenous—makeshift intravenous of their own. Her mom agreed to go to the hospital to look at the patients who had the flu. Two of the women said their boys would steal the plasma and the equipment needed to save their villagers. …They hooked up the sickest to the three intravenous apparatuses. Like a miracle it worked. …

The boys went after more…. Within days those treated with intravenous recovered. It made the women furious that they should be left in total ignorance about how easily the disease could be treated. (69)

I’m biased for the detail of womxn’s and teenage girls’ labouring care work and the presence of enduring indigenous epistemological processes as portrayed by Old Dominic. I was floored by the truth of extremes we have to go to in order to survive and the withholding of live-saving knowledge and material items from us. There are additional important elements to this story but I don’t want to give it away. The wisdom portrayed within the characters and the relationships throughout the whole story elicits my admiration for Maracle’s writing skill and her own wisdom because she wrote this novel herself as a young woman. As Maracle states in the Preface in Ravensong’s newly reprinted life,

Although I had it in my head to write a comedy, this tale of the last epidemic in which we were not permitted to go to any hospital of our choice was born… Ravensong takes place on a fictitious reserve. … The community it was set in used to exist though. It is one of those many west coast communities where everyone died. The Canadian government was continuously amalgamating reserves or villages from early settlement until around 1916. Our shrinking population led to many rounds of such amalgamations. All of the consolidations were due to epidemic loss.” (xii-xiii).

If you have the resources, Ravensong can be ordered here. First published in 1993 by a press that no longer exists, it was republished in 2012 and 2017. Cecilia’s Song, published in 2014, carries on with the story of Celia, who first appeared in Ravensong. It can be purchased here.


Here is a resource on immune and respiratory herbs meant for these times: “Immune & Respiratory Herbs: A Resource for Tribal Communities During COVID-19”. Prepared by Elise Krohn, Valerie Segrest, Reneee Davis, Rhonda Grantham, and Sofie Geist, they say, “The knowledge and information included in this resource is not protected, and is intended to be shared. Please share with your community. This information is not intended to diagnose or prescribe.”. I’m not able to find a link to this resource online but if you are interested in this resource please send me your email and I will pass it along.


I, like others in Canada and abroad have been thinking about the risk for increased domestic, family, and/or intimate partner violence during this time. Increased stress and social contact as well as decreased options for diffusing or escaping any situation are just some of the risks. Also, police or child welfare workers who arrive to such situations in the present context, may also be employing particular measures that exacerbate tensions or limit being able to respond and interact “effectively” with anyone involved. (I place effectively in scare quotes because I question whether and/or how settler police and child welfare are even already “effective” with our people.) NWAC, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, has posted a webpage on resources about COVID-19. Unfortunately, at the time of posting they haven’t addressed the topic of increased risk of violence for women, non-binary people and Two-Spirit people, transgendered people, children, or youth and ways to protect oneself or strengthen a support network. They do provide phone access to three different Elders however the numbers do not seem to be toll-free. Further, Mi’kmaw lawyer and educator, Pam Palmater, recently wrote extensively and broadly about how governments need to be paying attention to this matter right now, calling for an Indigenous gendered pandemic plan. It seems to me that women, Two-spirit, non-binary, and transgendered people as well as youth and children will continue to do for themselves in times of need. However, if networks of trusted, caring, and safe people who have extra room could be established to support people in need of safety or ideally are able to provide a place for those who are causing the violence so they can depart the home—a subject that requires much more attention and blog space) this may be one way to anyways-and-already respond to this need. Again, if anyone knows of any specific resources or strategies in this area, please share.


The Indigenous Action Climate community has gathered and recently updated this expansive list of resources entitled, “Responding to COVID19: Building Communities of Care”. The sources they include are varied but if you want to see and hear fellow Indigenous folx speak about COVID19 in relation to our communities, check out the link to a webinar, “COVID19 and Indigenous Communities” which aired in partnership with Idle No More and NDN Collective fellows. It’s approximately 1hr30min long so provides some good “social time”. I mean honestly, seeing and hearing other Indigenous folx, even if only in a one-way online “relationship” can be a powerful medicine during these times.


My sugar bush chum, Damien Lee, prompts us to think about youth during COVID-19. A few weeks ago, he gathered and blogged a short and sweet list of resources in this vein called, “Youth-Focused COVID-19 Resources”. While there, check out some of his other posts.


Indigenous Physicians (who are also TV-and-Film famous), have some wise words for us as well. Read what Dr. James Makokis (who specializes in medical care for Two-Spirited and transgendered people and who won Amazing Race Canada in 2019) and Dr. Evan Adams (who played Thomas Build-the-Fire in Smoke Signals) have to say about us and COVID-19.


For some academic thought and writing, which is not necessarily (or even) Indigenous (I don’t know for sure as I don’t recognize any authors as being Indigenous and haven’t read anything from it yet) see a recent publication of COVID-19 essays by TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. Also, see Verso Books for free access to 5 e-books and significant discounts for other books for “reading in these times of social isolation”. To access the free books, you will need to click on the e-book tab, sign up/register, and select how you want the source delivered (to a reader, IPhone/IPad, or your email. The deadline to obtain the free books or discounts is April 2. Finally, Films for Action has many (many, many) free documentaries. It also includes a section on Indigenous Knowledges. miigwech to my friend Rita Dhamoon for sharing all these resources. Note: I’m not sure if these resources are accessible from anywhere or if they are limited to access within Canada.


 I was thinking about how social isolation is new and difficult for many. I was also thinking about how social isolation, with all its’ problems, is also very much the daily and chronic norm for many. The thing of it and the affect. The fact is there are already many socially isolated people out there and this is just a new, and temporary, reality for many. I was thinking about the emerging ritual of clanging pots and pans outside every evening at 7 pm for the healthcare workers. This is really important. I was also thinking what if we banged our pots and pans at 8 pm every night to show support to the people who suffer daily in this world—stuck in a relentless, merciless structural position of poverty, exploitation, forced migration, violence, detention, neglect? After all, whatever comforts any of us before, during or after this epidemic is because of a construction of hierarchies that are structured into a complex relationship of privileges and disadvantages. I was thinking about how this Cree woman who was in the same MA program as I many years ago (and whose name evades me) shared how her grandmother told her that when the Depression hit, the only thing different was that her people were no longer the only people suffering. Maybe it is the same for the context we are in. Regardless, the structures we live in, and how we are located in them, or how we work to be located in them, are a big problem and while many hope that things will not go back to normal when this is done, I’m fairly sure that the big structural issues are not going to change. They are going to morph to feed even more powerfully to recuperate themselves because you know without a doubt all that crisis money being necessarily disseminated to people, businesses, and yes, corporations are going to have to be recuperated somehow. I’m not sure how we change the structures, the war-mongers, the international monetary fund, the world bank, the focus on the GDP and growth and wealth and progress but I am sure we, like Old Dominic, have to just keep on keeping on as we look out for each other and commit to a refusal to be passive, apathetic, and easily seduced into complacency. For now, let’s put our tobacco down or up or into the fire or onto the water for our people who are burdened either due to the pandemic or were and will continue to be burdened when it’s all over.


 And, I was thinking about the Italians and how early on in their isolation their cultural proclivities for socializing manifested as collective singing from neighbourhood balconies. I really admired this. I wondered what songs would “we” collectively sing from our balconies, and doorsteps, and windows. I felt sad that the only song I could think that might be collectively sung “together” would be “Oh Canada” or some hockey jam. My friend Chris Wright cheered me up with his suggestion that it might be a Drake Song. That said, I can’t imagine myself or my girl participating in such performances of social cohesion in the urban setting where we live. I certainly don’t feel as a part of a “we” when it comes to Canada. Now, if folx pulled out hand drums I would be more than happy to be a part of it. I also read articles portraying how families or individual family members were going to nursing homes and singing to their beloveds or playing instruments outside the nursing home. If I could be back home, I would blast some music from Bell Island radio for my Dad. I would stand outside any number of my beloved Elder friends’ homes and drum a song or two for them. And what about this: wouldn’t it be just good if a group of people got their drums and shakers out—and whatever other kind of instrument—and, walking 6 feet apart, went door to door singing songs for their fellow neechies? Geez. That would also be just ever.


My girl and I made a list of no-cost things that we have done or that we will/may do during these pandemic times. Extra: these things are free of internet dependency:

Walking. In the sunshine. Better in the rain. Because fun.

Reading. Anything. Including palms. Make it up if you have to.

Reading out loud to each other. Poems are fun. They quickly lead to performance. The performance of the thing you are reading to a beloved. Yes. Fun. Silly. Yay.

Blowing bubbles. If you have them. Blow them outside on a gently windy day or blow them inside while lying in your bed. Yes, you and your things will get a little bubble-wet. The magic outweighs this little annoyance. J I think bubbles can be made with just water and dish soap. How to make a bubble maker thing? I don’t know. Figuring that out will be part of the challenge.

Go outside and watch the day go by. And watch all the things in the day as it goes by. Or, do this from a window. See what you can see wherever you are. Even if you have to close your eyes to do it.

Find a natural space away from people and stare up at the sky. If there are clouds, what do they look like?


Find a place where there are people and where you can perch at a very safe distance. People watch. If you have a daaban, all the better. (This may sound odd during times of social isolation but where we live, people are still out and about down by the ocean and here and there. There are definitely enough people about to people watch).

While people-watching, make up stories about the people you see. What are their names? Where are they going? Who are their parents? Why are they together? How did they meet? Why do they wear their hair like that? Where did they get that funky hat? And on and on.

Ah. Play an instrument. Remember, spoons can be an instrument, too.

Cut your hair. Make bangs. (I think you really should use hair-cutting shears but I recently watched a person cut their hair using kitchen shears—you know, the thing you use to cut up a whole baakaakweNh, er, chicken). Braid beloveds, braid!

Paint your nails. Paint designs on your nails.

Get dolled up. For no reason.

Have a fashion show.

Do each other’s make-up. Especially if you think your gender precludes you from wearing make-up.

Write. Anything. A poem, a diary about these pandemic days, a love letter. Maybe do some therapy writing where you write letters to someone (or plural or nation) to whom you have strong things to say but can’t, or won’t, for whatever reason. Burn them, bury them, or tuck them away somewhere private.

Love your pet up.

And, your plants.

Damn—clean. Organize. Cull. Re-arrange.


Tell each other stories—like, from inside your body. Yea. Do storytelling. Make it up, pull it out of your memory, retell oral histories and traditional narratives. Do them all.

Make a play. Perform it. Record it. Watch it. Laugh or cringe at your wondrous selves.

Record yourself talking out your creative ideas. Or, ramblings. Or, processing of stuff.

Play cards or whatever other games you have.

Play hide and seek.

Make a blanket fort. Go in there.

Have a pillow fight.

Lounge around with each other and tell each other all the things you like and love and admire about each other.

Call people. Call all the people. Visit-talk. Talk-visit.

Prank call people? J No. Never.

Toss a ball around. Against a wall. At a hoop. Or, be a support to the person in your family/home who is athletic. Help them do the exercises particular to their sport by just giving them pep talks or whatever they particularly need. Or, just kick a darn ball around.

Exercise. Stretch. Meditate. Visualize.

Daydream. Make art. Make love/lust. Do it with (an)other(s). Do it solo. It’s all good.


Finally, here are some internet resources that some may find interesting for education and/or entertainment:

  • These Native You-Tubers giving a shout out to other Native-You-Tubers is a good waboose-hole to get lost in (two of my favourites who are not listed here are Siaosi and Victoria, a Samoan het-couple, and Toniajo Hall with her character Aunty Beachress). Also, since we’re here, make your own You Tube channel because why not;
  • Ryan McMahon’s Clarence Two Toes has returned to Facebook (live) to help us all out during these pandemic times and all I can say is Clarence Two Toes still makes my heart swoon in that ever deadleh way—check out RM’s facebook page to scout it out and tune in because Ryan also gives plenty of shout-outs to other Indigenous-created live or archived content that is happening at the moment such as online pow-wows and Indigenous curated playlists;
  • The National Film Board, which is only accessible in Canada, has many free documentaries and films many of which include Indigenous directors, actors, and/or content;
  • The Knowledge Network also has free documentaries and films;
  • Thirza Jean Cuthand, a filmmaker, performance artist, and writer makes “short experimental narrative videos and films about sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity” short experimental narrative videos and films about sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity”, has a wide selection of their videos available on their website, and has been recently blogging about social isolation;
  • On Netflix, “Burden of Truth” is a Canadian legal drama series whose setting is small-town Manitoba (and Winnipeg) and whose storyline includes Indigenous peoples, relationships between Indigenous peoples, and Indigenous-non-Indigenous relationships with complexity, nuance and in my mind, insight. The best part about this series is that the story includes a Two-Spirit teen whose character and role is pretty rad. Where the lead actor in this series is a mixed race Asian Canadian woman who is white passing, there is another great legal drama called “Diggstown” whose main character is a Black Canadian woman lawyer. Airing through CBC Gem, “Diggstown” is set in Halifax and has commercials (unless you want to pay for a subscription). The story hinges on power and difference across diversity (mostly racial and class); and, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous and Indigenous-non-Indigenous relationships, and indigeneity are present in ways that, to me, seem to be accurate contemporary realities in Canada and at times are quite satisfying and compelling. Finally, back to Netflix, “Frontier”, which airs in both Canada and the US (I think) is a story about 18th century trading relations in Indigenous-HBC territory. Filmed in Newfoundland, the terrain is gorgeous; set in early trading relations, the exchanges portray extreme violence bordering on what I would say is gore. Indigeneity, Indigenous actors portraying Indigenous characters, complex relationships, racial and sexual diversity, class, feminist, and indigenous feminist proclivities, exist in this series. The extreme violence unsettled me right away and had I not been reading about the contemporary violence of global trading against women and the way men prioritize economy, money, power, and ego above the well-being of women, including Indigenous women, I likely would not have endured watching the series. I think that the violence portrayed is gratuitous at times but for the most part is quite likely a reflection of the toxic masculinities and colonial-corporate economic frenzy operating at the time. I kept watching but would not watch the violent scenes. The representation of diversity and complexity of relationalities and relationships, truth of indigenous territorial sovereignty, the gender representations (aside from the toxic masculinities) and the portrayal of how capitalist economics f*cked with everything, is what I stayed for. Also, I’ve just begun reading Afua Cooper’s, The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Slavery in Canada and the Burning of Old Montreal, and the sick racist-sexist-classist brutality of 18th century settler Montreal, a place of significance in “Frontier”, affirms that the violence portrayed is likely not off the mark. (I also compared the violence in “Frontier” to the violence against Indigenous women portrayed in Joseph Boyden’s I experienced Boyden’s inclusion of violence against Indigenous women as gratuitous and therefore disturbing. When I could not reconcile why he included this in the story, doing so very early on, I closed the book and never opened it again.) Finally, for three excellent films still showing on Netflix that fall under the rubric of indigeneity in some way shape or form, watch: Roma (2018) which is set in Mexico; Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen (2018) which is set in New Zealand and has some transnational indigenous feminist connections with Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin in Canada; and, Atlantique (2019), which is set in West Africa;
  • There are many Indigenous podcasts. Closing your eyes and just listening to Indigenous voices is a beautiful thing;
  • Apparently, DJ DNice hosts darn good dance parties on Instagram; not sure when but the kid followed him so we can figure out what the what;
  • Finally, this is not necessarily Indigenous but it is not necessarily NOT Indigenous either but, learning TikTok dances can be fun and a good way to move your body. J Are there any famous Indigenous TikTok-ers or Instagrammers out there that we can follow? Let me know.


Take care. Be as safe as you can. Seek out moments of joy. Lend a hand when you can, accept a hand when offered, and ask for help if needed. And, of course, wash your hands (or, watch You Tube videos on how to wash your hands to avoid the spread of germs—they’re Totally White but oddly meditative and hey, this is another thing to add to the things to do during a pandemic list: making how-to-wash-your-hand-you-tube-vids showcasing our beautiful skin).