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

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).



The invasion of Indigenous woman’s home, the removal of her from her house: The stuff that Canada is built on

Who was the first Indigenous woman to be removed from her house? From her home? What were the circumstances? Did she know it was going to happen? Was it a surprise?

Who removed her? Why? Who are the beloveds who claim this one who removed her? These ones who removed her?

What kind of force did they employ in removing her? Was it easy? Or, did they have to fight?

Did she contest? Did she resist? Did she fight? Did she go quietly? Surely?

Was she surrounded by rounds and rounds of people who refused to let it happen or was there a clear, easy path to her?

Did it happen in plain sight or under the cover of darkness?

Did it start a war? A revolution? Or, did it just add to a weight already being carried by her beloveds and witnesses? Did her relations mourn? Rejoice? Feel helpless to do anything? Immobilized? Did they shrug their shoulders, think, it’s just another day or it’s the will of the creator?

What did those who remove her do to her once she was out of sight? How did they treat her? What did they say to her? What did she say to them?

What did she feel? Did a song run through her head? Or, did she sing out loud? What words were whispered under her breath? Or, did she shout? Speak evenly? Stare that one, those ones in the eye?  What of the world and her home did she see as she was propelled through it against her volition? What did she hear? What last smells did she smell? What promises did she make to her beloveds as she was ushered past them?

What dance did the trees dance? The weather? The winds? The spirits? How did the earth beneath her feet vibrate with the touch of each non-consenting footsteps as she was forced to move? What messages did the birds carry to her and back out to all her relations?

Where did those beings who removed her from her house take her? What happened to her once she arrived? Did her beloveds know where she was taken? Did they have access to her, she them?

Who was with her in her house? Were they removed too? Did many people protest? Did a few? Nobody? Did everyone care? Nobody? A few? How did people care? How did people not care? Why?

After she was removed from her house, what happened to her? Was she removed from her home too? Her homeland, her territory? Where was she taken?

And after all this,

after all this

and after after after all this

after the reason and the why, after the how, where did she go?

How did she go?

What became of her?

How did she change?

How did she be in the world?

Who did she be?

What became of those who lived with her, in her house, in her home?

What became of those who protected her?

And, what became of those who removed her? What became of their beloveds? Who did they be in the world?

How did her removal change all her relations? The trees? The weather? The winds? The earth? The birds? How did they change when their beloved was forced to leave them?



What happened to her house after she was removed from it?







What happened to her home after she was removed from it?




Earlier today, I read this:

“This morning on a bridge over the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) the RCMP used a chainsaw to cut through a wooden gate painted with the word RECONCILIATION.

With sniper teams providing “lethal overwatch” and black helicopters circling, officers interrupted a ceremony for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls to handcuff longtime Unist’ot’en clan spokesperson Freda Huson. They also arrested Dr. Karla Tait, clinical director at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, and all others who refused to leave their land.

Kai Nagata”

Amidst all the bustle of supporting those who are supporting Wet’suwet’en sovereignty today I kept thinking about Freda Huson and how she was removed, by force, from her house today. I wondered about the moments of her removal and all the years she has been living in her home and living in the house she and others built in her home. I wondered about the women who were with her. All of them arrested for living in their house, in their home/her home and why? Because Canada, B.C. Premiere Horgan, CEO’s and shareholders of Coastal GasLink, the “global market”, “overseas”, international markets” and “markets”, and yes, First Nations leadership whose salaries are paid by Canada, want what they want. Everyone has a damn good reason.

This model of removing Indigenous woman and her people from her house and her home is the bedrock of Canada. You can frack its foundations and this is what will emerge. The majority find no interest in this truth. It’s one that’s easy to dismiss, overlook, deny, ignore. Canada is a force of violence and power. Maybe it looks good and performs a palatable, if not appealing, respectability but beneath that exterior, it is what it is.  What happened today to Chief Howihkat (Freda Huson), her sister, Chief Geltiy (Brenda Michell), Chief Geltiy’s daughter, Dr. Karla Tait, Victoria Redsun, Autumn Walken, and Pocholo Alen Conception is the stuff of Canada. It’s the stuff of the world. Still, there are many, many, many who want something different. We don’t have helicopters, police officers, guns, jails, judges, and war machines to back us up though, to enforce our will onto “the global market”, “the overseas”, “the international market”…”the market” or onto a Prime Minister and his by-proxy’s. In Canada, we don’t even have the numbers conscious enough to bring significant numbers to the protest lines to cause significant enough economic disruption that could possibly force a paradigm shift. Everyone is brainwashed into obtaining middle class status—a comfort EVERYONE ought to have, including the filthy rich—as though that is the end game and the fact that it rests on ^^^ kind of global and nation state political economy is not even on the radar.

Reading about Freda Huson and her long journey made me think about the first Indigenous woman who was removed from her house and her home. Who was she and who did she become? Just as the spirit of those who removed her lives on, her spirit lives in so many of us. I keep wracking my brain about what it will take to change the multi-billion-dollar global economies that have created and sustain this situation and how we are forced to be dependent on them or seduced/compelled into playing the games they offer. All I can do is fall to my knees because I don’t see a solution. It’s just never going to happen. We are never changing the hearts, minds, and desires of the uber-powerful. Never. I want to cry and rage. I want to lay fetal on the ground like a baby and bawl. I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I want to maajiimaadizi—keep the life-line going by starting over again.

And I think that’s it. I think that’s just it. We have to just keep doing what we are doing. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. Decade after decade, generation after generation. Over and over and over again.

And that’s it. I think this is it anyways. This is what I keep coming back to: we just have to keep our life-line going. Do it like it’s an art: maajiimadiziwin.


Note: I’m dedicating this post to the young Nlaka’pamux supporter who was arrested this morning. A former student from last year, she emailed me late the other night, letting me know what was happening and sharing her worries about the impending arrival of the RCMP. She asked that I reach out to students to help raise attention to the matter. I hope she is okay.

Statement of Solidarity for Wet’suwet’en (BC, Canada)

The Wet’suwet’en people who are standing in their sovereignty, laws, and governance in protection of their territories, which, in every kind of way, benefits us all, have asked for statements of solidarity.

Please see below a statement of solidarity that may be utilized in full or part for those who want to circulate in their own communities. It has been sent to Unist’ot’en website today for posting. This letter was written by members of OFAR (Open Forum Against Racism) and circulated amongst a university community. It will be effective for any community. For educational purposes, I’ve inserted hyperlinks to sources that will add breadth and depth to this matter.


FEBRUARY 7, 2020


WE ARE WRITING TO EXPRESS DEEP RESPECT AND OFFER OUR SOLIDARITY to the Wet’suwet’en people who, in accordance with their laws, while living in their territories, are carrying out their responsibilities to protect the natural world (i.e. lands, waters, plants, animals) and future generations from the encroachment of Coastal GasLink (CGL) in its effort to build a pipeline. The Wet’suwet’en show strength, courage, commitment, and vision in these acts, particularly in the face of the BC Supreme Court’s recent extension of an injunction against these acts (2019) so that industrial development vis-à-vis Coastal GasLink, may proceed. We stand with them in their assertion of their autonomy as a nation, legal authority in protecting their interests, and sovereignty of their unceded territories.

WE ALSO WRITE TO DENOUNCE THE ACTIONS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THE PROVINCIAL BC GOVERNMENT, THE RCMP, AND INDUSTRY. The historically violent incursions from the RCMP and industry into Wet’suwet’en lives and lands are unacceptable. This includes the raid at the peaceful Gidimt’en checkpoint on January 7, 2019, when 14 members of the Gidimt’en clan were arrested, and when the RCMP set up an “exclusion zone” on 13 January 2020, which has blocked media, Wet’suwet’en, and food from getting to the people. Further, these actions are in contradiction with the spirit of and recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (2015), the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry report (2019) and BC’s recent legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2019). We expect Canadian officials to prevent any future militarization against the Unist’ot’en camp. We note that the Wet’suwet’en people and their supporters remain peaceful on the front lines.

WE RECOGNIZE THE DIRECTIVES WET’SUWET’EN HEREDITARY CHIEFS HAVE ISSUED AND ADVOCATE THEY BE RECOGNIZED BY THE RCMP AND CANADIAN OFFICIALS. The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, representing all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, have met with RCMP Deputy Commissioner and Commanding Officer Jennifer Strachan to reaffirm their opposition to the CGL Pipeline. We support the Hereditary Chiefs in their directives:

  • That police stand down and refrain from enforcing the injunction order until nation-to-nation talks can occur with the provincial and federal governments to address infringements to Wet’suwet’en rights and title.
  • That the remote detachment established by the RCMP on Wet’suwet’en territory be immediately removed.
  • That no force or lethal weapons be used against Wet’suwet’en people and our supporters.
  • That RCMP refrain from preventing Wet’suwet’en people and our guests from accessing our territories. Currently, the RCMP has advised local helicopter companies not to fly into Unist’ot’en territory, endangering the safety of Wet’suwet’en people and guests at the Gidimt’en Access Point and Unist’ot’en Village.
  • That Wet’suwet’en people must not be forcibly removed or evicted from our own unceded territories.

On January 13, 2020 the Hereditary Chiefs also submitted a formal request to the United Nations to monitor RCMP, government and Coastal GasLink (CGL) actions on their traditional, unceded territory. This request follows the recent directive from the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) requiring Canada to halt the CGL pipeline project and withdraw RCMP from Wet’suwet’en territory in order to avoid further violations of Wet’suwet’en, constitutional, and international law. We support this request to the UN Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights.

WE ENCOURAGE ALL PARTIES INVOLVED TO FAMILIARIZE THEMSELVES WITH THE FINAL INQUIRY REPORT ON MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS (2019) AND THE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT ON GENDER, INDIGENOUS RIGHTS, AND ENERGY IN B.C. (2016). We recognize the significant leadership and ongoing presence of Wet’suwet’en women at the forefront of exchanges with RCMP and Coastal GasLink workers. We strongly advocate RCMP and Coastal GasLink ground themselves in education about violence and anti-violence against Indigenous women and keep this education at the forefront of their responsibilities in this matter. In addition, we express our profound concern about the direct correlation between increased violence against Indigenous women and girls, and remote industry camps that produce an influx of temporary workers of mostly young men. Concerns about the environment, Indigenous sovereignty, and violence against girls and women are interlinked, and need to be taken seriously by everyone. This is urgent given the lack of recognition of Indigenous peoples right to self-govern, the alarming rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and in-custody deaths of Indigenous men and boys, and the climate crisis. We stand in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en against colonialism, gender violence, and resource extraction that damages the earth.

WE EXPECT ACCURATE AND FAIR PUBLIC COMMUNICATION ON WET’SUWET’EN STRUGGLE AND SOLIDARITY. We urge Canadian governments and industry to stop their campaign of misinformation, especially claims or portrayals that all communities have signed on to the pipeline. This sidesteps the central question of jurisdiction and sovereignty over territories. Further, we urge Canadian media to refrain from invoking inflammatory tropes of protest which misrepresent the spirit of Wet’suwet’sen action and that of their allies and diminishes the significance of this matter. In this vein, we encourage Canadian media to reacquaint themselves with historical conflicts between Canada and various Indigenous nations such as Kanien’kehaka (Oka), Ojibway (Ipperwash), Secwepemc (Gustafsen Lake), and Mi’kmaw (Burnt Church), to ensure best practices in reporting on this matter.

WE CALL UPON ALL CANADIANS AND INTERNATIONAL WITNESSES TO ACTIVELY SUPPORT THE WET’SUWET’EN PEOPLES in their sovereignty and their struggle to protect their lands, waters, and ways of life. This is an opportunity to follow Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en law). In doing so, recognition of and respect for Wet’suwet’sn authority over their territories, according to their own ways will be demonstrated. Further, as has been stated by Wet’suwet’en citizens, the trajectory of Wet’suwet’en law in this matter secures a future for our descendants that includes a healthy natural world. We urge all communities to take up this call to action, whether through statements of solidarity, donations, fundraising, sending items to the camp, or going to the camp itself. Members of the Unist’ot’en have laid out protocols for support (see ). Additional ways to support include providing education or hosting teach-ins, engaging in critical conversations with others, challenging misinformation, and calling upon your elected officials to let Canada know that it needs to stand against conflict and for peace at home just as it does in matters abroad.

FINALLY, WE ARE AWARE THAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT POSITIONS THAT EXIST AMONGST WET’SUWET’EN PEOPLES WITHIN THEIR NATION. Much like any nation, community, family, or group of people, there are differences in visions for the future and ideas about best methods in actualizing that future. We respect that the Wet’suwet’en people self-govern who speaks for them and who represents them, without interference from corporations and Canadian governments. Our Statement of Solidarity is not a position against those Wet’suwet’en who seek to actualize a secure present and future from within Canadian governance models, legal apparatus, and economic systems that have been imposed on all Indigenous peoples and nations. We understand that these impositions have led to the extremely difficult material, economic, and social realities that the majority of Indigenous nations and peoples must negotiate today. Global economies, settler colonialism, neo-liberalism, and militarism have created and continue to sustain the situation that the Wet’suwet’sen nation and peoples are presently navigating and negotiating. We acknowledge and recognize the increasingly complex and difficult situation that is emerging for and amongst Wet’suwet’en peoples. We will continue to strive to be sensitive to and understand these complexities. In doing so, we commit to upholding and prioritizing Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty, laws, and commitments in creating futures animated by, and in relationship with, a healthy natural world which will benefit us all.

In solidarity…



As of today, solidarity from letter writing to (economic) disruption, to more (economic) disruption and more (economic) disruption continues to be needed given the RCMP continue to invade/enact the injunction. I suppose from a Canadianist perspective this is an enactment of law whereas from an Indigenous sovereignist perspective, it’s a violation of Wet’suwet’en law and in that, an invasion.


Note: Indigenous meanings of sovereignty are not meant as the same a colonial meanings of sovereignty.


Invasion and War: (Il)Legibilities of Significance in Canada: An Anishinaabe Perspective

Depending on the circles you read, bead, and move in throughout Indian country, Canada, or the United States, you may or may not be aware of the Wet’suwet’en, a people and nation whose territory is presently occupied by the province of British Columbia and the settler state of Canada. The hyperlinks in this blog post provide some information and context for the thoughts I want to speak to regarding the global, settler colonial, and capitalist invasion the Wet’suwet’en are, and have been, enduring and resisting for some time now. With a recent ruling from the settler state’s provincial Supreme Court (B.C.) that has resulted in an extended injunction against Wet’suwet’en Nation members who are preventing corporate access to their lands and waters, Wet’suwet’en are once again in active protection of their lands, waters, and life-ways against corporate development of infrastructure needed for economic and energy growth and development. My understanding is that some Wet’suwet’en have determined such development, and the infrastructure needed for it, will be detrimental to the natural world (i.e. lands, waters, animals, humans etc.) and the health and well-being of their, and our, collective futures.

The injunction, issued by Justice Marguerite Church, restricts Wet’suwet’en members from “barring workers from getting through their checkpoints along a remote logging road”. This road runs through Wet’suwet’en unceded, unsurrrended, and untreatied territory upon which Wet’suwet’en themselves have established checkpoints. The particular area of territory this road runs through is called Talbits Kwa and, based on their governance structure, the Unist’ot’ en house of the Gilseyhu clan are responsible for protecting it. Based on my reading/viewing of various Wet’suwet’en online sources and news articles, the Wet’suwet’en stand upon the authority and precedence of their own laws in protecting their territory and continue to do so in the face of the injunction.

This past Friday in my work, I recently supported students to miss class if they wanted to take time to participate in a scheduled rally in support of Wet’suwet’en who are protecting their lands. I also supported them to take time to grieve if they were connected to any of the Iranian-Canadians or others who died in the Ukrainian airplane crash. On the day of the rally for Wet’suwet’en, which was a day after Canadian PM Trudeau announced that the Ukrainian airplane had been shot down by an Iranian missile, I became alert to varied ways discourses of “war” were circulating and emerging. Regarding the downed airplane, a discourse of war had been circulating in media for days before because the attack occurred at the same time there had been much talk about an US-Iran war arising from the US killing an Iranian military leader and Iran firing missiles onto a US military base located in Iraq. Messages of “No War on Iran” had been etched in chalk on cement posts here and there on the university campus where I work, universities typically and importantly being sites of protest and agitation regarding local and global affairs. I heard students talking about these messages while moving between classes. War had been on the minds of many, including our youth. My teenage child shared with me that her social media world had been on fire with circulation of the idea about a third world war.

The second discourse of war involved Canada and Wet’suwet’en. However, this discourse was not even a discourse. It was a chant from the student rally:

1-2-3-4 Wet’suwet’en is at war;

5-6-7-8 Take apart the settle state.*

Yesterday, I read yet another headline from an Canadian online national newspaper that prompted me to track on the different ways it was emerging in regards to Iran, Canada and the US but not in regards to Wet’suwet’en. This time, the headline read, “Anti-war demonstrators rally in Winnipeg to remember victims of Iran crash, speak out against conflict”. The week before there had been other headlines signifying anti-war protest in Ottawa and Montreal, like this one and this one. The word “anti-war” and the phrase “anti-war demonstrations” made me think of cultural references to anti-war demonstrations against the US military in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s that were carried out in the US. It made me think about the motivation Canadians have to demonstrate against war and conflict abroad when it results in the deaths of innocent victims but Canadians do not view what is happening between Wet’suwet’en and Canada in the same serious light. It made me think about how we are exposed to the idea and/or fact of war by Canadian news outlets and how news outlets give meaning to what is war? It made me think about the ways Canadians signify or characterize their activism, their protest, the demonstrations, their public acts against, or for, a thing or people. In the case of the US, Iran, and Canada, as well as the case of Iranians-Canadians and passengers from other countries who were travelling and were killed by Iranian military decisions and their weaponry, Canadians position themselves as being anti-war, putting their bodies, voices, hearts, minds, spirits, and hand-made signs in public spaces to demonstrate these desires, commitments, and visions of no conflict.

When it comes to what Canada, Coastal GasLink, and RCMP are doing to those Wet’suwet’en people of the nation who uphold land-based laws, which are not commensurable with natural gas pipeline development, Canadian online national newspaper coverage is pale in comparison to Iranian-Canadian-US matters. And, media coverage definitely does not frame it as war. The one article I was able to find in my quick search that even came close to the several that gives space to the idea and practice of “anti-war demonstration” was a headline that reads, “Protestors block streets in Hamilton to support Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline camps”. Media do not evoke the idea of war in regard to the relationship between Canada and Wet’suwet’en and do not frame the people who, in this case, have a desire, committment and vision for a better world as “anti-war demonstrators”. In domestic terms, in regards to Indigenous nations, such peoples are described as “protestors”. Canadian news outlets and Canadians contribute to how war, and anti-war, is made legible or illegible, in both the public sphere and consciousness of readers and witnesses. Canadian news outlets and Canadians contribute to the meaning-making of what conflicts are significant and insignificant, creating a societal vacuum about what conflicts ought to be significant or insignificant to readers of newspapers and witnesses of demonstrations.

All this leads me to ask, “What is war”? What difference is made of  “anti-war demonstrators” and “protestors”? How does this difference shape how we see Indigenous peoples, Indigenous nations, Indigenous territories and Indigenous peoples will to assert our sovereignty and protect our worlds? What is the difference between the US attacking one group of people over there across the ocean with military weapons, Iran attacking an Ukrainian airplane with military weapons, and Canada invading Wet’suwet’en people here in Canada, doing so with legal power that is enforced with policing power, policing power that was first reported in the UK to have historically “been prepared to use snipers on Wet’suwet’en Nation protestors” and had “argue[d] for ‘lethal overwatch’…”. Canada has been known to “wage war” against Indigenous peoples before, bringing in military, paramilitary and/or fatal policing power to do so. For example, Canada enacted such violence against Kanien’kehaka, Ojibway, Secwepemc, and Mi’kmaw. While we can hope that past deaths and inquiries will prevent the repetition of such violence, who is to say Canada, it’s “workers” (i.e. RCMP) and it’s loyalties to global corporations won’t result in history repeating itself?

It also leads me to consider the difference in discourses of violence invoked by words such as war, conquest, occupation, and invasion. While the words chanted at a student rally invoke the idea of the settler state being at war with Wet’suwet’en, thereby importantly raising the register of seriousness of this matter, I have no way of knowing if that framing reflects Wet’suwet’en thought or whose thought it reflects. I do know that I have not heard We’tsuwet’en invoke a discourse of war in how they describe what they are experiencing and navigating. Most recently, a short documentary called Invasion (2019) has been produced. The title suggests how Wet’suwet’en describe what is happening to them and their territory. It signals the way Wet’suwet’en want outsiders to see this situation. It also prompts the question then, what is the difference between war and invasion?

To me, war suggests two or more groups are engaged in conflict where each group has somewhat similar or equitable power either as independents or allies. Invasion suggests that two groups are in conflict and where one group has more power than the other they utilize it to non-consensually enter into another’s territory. In this case, Coastal GasLink has the powerful backing of a settler colonial legal system which is enforced through settler colonial policing institutions and when needed, settler colonial military. Where policing institutions have the power to criminalize, detain, imprison, and physically hurt or harm both police and military also have weapons. Wet’suwet’en have their own everything except policing and military power and therefore do not have the same power as the Canadian state, RCMP, or the corporation who want access to their lands and waters. Invasion seems to fit best in describing what is happening.

Regardless of the discourse utilized, while it does matter, I feel that the Canadian popular media needs to amplify this seriousness of this situation. In my mind, they are supposed to be working for the interests of the people, not government or corporations. They need to utilize words like ‘invasion’ in their headlines to raise consciousness and critical engagement with what some Wet’suwet’en are navigating right now. It impacts us all. If the more popularized register of (anti) violence that is connoted through ‘war’ and ‘anti-war’  is the only one media is going to expose Canadian audiences to, then I think Canadians need to engage a bit more deeply with the the ideas and meanings of war and anti-war demonstration. “War” against, or more correctly, “invasion of” Indigenous peoples, nations and our territories is happening in Canada. Canada is built on both because there was a time when Indigenous peoples did have legal, policing and war power in the face of the British and French. In an article written by Zach Ruiter for NOW, Canadian “demonstrators” were described as taking part in the national day of anti-war action across North America in the action, “No War with Iran”. Ruiter quoted organizers as saying, “the protest ‘was to let our Canadian elected officials know that Canada needs to stand up against any acts of war and be a voice of peace’.” In the case of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, I think that Canadians need to do and say the exact same thing or alternatively begin to make significant the fact that Wet’suwet’en are being invaded by a corporation and it’s Canadian backer.

* miigwech to the students who rallied and marched in the cold and pouring rain on this day. And, to the two Gender Studies student allies who came trudging down my department’s hall soaking wet and who translated for me the rhythmic roaring I heard from my opened office window.

gashkadino giizis in oahu


warm winter saltwater ocean    buoyant sway     curly white foam of long waves rising, breaking, rising, breaking forever meditative sounds     sea mists + sea turtles feasting    little girls whispering about a boy in the shallow lapping waters     young one jumps off the remains of a dock while another meanders in contemplating            a man plays shark with children and i am reminded of Island Lake Northern Ontario, swimming all day into dusk, how balancing on shoulders under water and being launched off into air and water was the most exhilarating game    i remember intoxicated adults swimming at night, a woman taught me as a little girl to float, she laid buoyant beneath me, i can feel her round body supporting me and then slowly moving away      my mother? my stepmother? another?           here in this winter ocean i float in the undulating colours of sea green, light sand, surf foam and navy blue, taste salt on my lips hear myself breathing endless sky and wonder what it must feel like to paddle out to those mighty waves out there where those surfers are paddling towards right now the feel of the roar of those ten foot waves the feel of that kind of courage and trepidation and rush and freedom         here now, on this cloudy december night on the west pacific coast in Lekwungen territory     i remember how that floating in these waters and these memories brought me to shore     returning to your long lean brown back sprinkled with light-coloured sand, soaking up the medicine of that place      your spine and curve of shoulder, shoulder blade       our sun-warmed bodies breathing in rhythmic contentment   i love how your feet are bigger than mine, a cradle          i love how you love these anishinaabe feet in summer all wide and deep brown with tan lines    i loved how those teen girls rolled out at dusk in traditional skirts with their iPhones and that you felt what i felt about how special and significant that was and is          those Kanaka Maoli girlfriends having a good long visit         surfers returned safely to shore just this side of last light, apparently right around the time sharks come around for dinner    the smell of fragrant flowers in the night as we walk back to the car, make our way back to the city

‘āweoweo beach, mokuleia in gashkadino giizis      the complex mountain-to-ocean ecosystems defy understanding through anishinaabe seasonal lenses     kanako maoli womxn as generous teachers and hosts  


maaba giizhik. XP,Á TI,Á. this is cedar.

the foundations here are tended to with such precision that thick bark can be peeled clear away the height of giizhikaatigoog. exacting slices, clean angles, and textured edges make a WSÁNEĆ aesthetic that’s sure. horizontal cuts, the graceful tri-angles, the upward harvest exist right alongside trails made by “friends of” the provincial park that claims and occupies this place. these trees stand there with majestic authority witnessing visitors who hike them. how, as you turn the bend, lost in your own self, this precision, this straight up the height of the tree to the sky in front of us all, endures and in doing so holds us to account to where we are, whose where we are in. compels consideration of slices and angles, edges and shapes, the im/possibility of removing valuable exteriors away using sacred methods straight upward to seemingly unreachable reaches. forces us to face the now-exposed inner curvature of this life. hard, smooth, misshapen in places. cedar leaf shadow. vulnerable. unfazed by the vulnerability. it just grows new, beautifully hearty edges and seams to support it.


As the young folx say, “It’s been a minute”.

The minute though, hasn’t been for lack of wanting to be here.

Over the very long time, I’ve thought of “anishinaabeweziwin” often.

And been in conversations with others about this place, too. This place who I now see as a friend.

Been in conversation about a tugging.

I asked about writing pain, as I’ve done here in this place, here and there. Rarely, but raw.

I wondered out loud what it means to write pain or trauma that results in nothing different other than its’ public exposure. I suppose it wants to be healing writing. I suppose it asks for help. Or, witnesses.


Why inscribe pain into a place, a friend, into the out-open if it amounts to nothing but still feeling it, now it is just in the wide open?

I wondered what it meant that writing it out and having it here hasn’t done anything but make me feel like one or several gaping wounds remains gaping. When writing pain reveals something about what Tressie MacMillan Cottom refers to as the scab or not yet scabbed in trauma writing. Gaping wounds here, out there. Around.

Kinda like Nanabush, I suppose.

A walking wound.

A walking-around-wound.

Makes me think of how some, in the modern moment, describe Nanabush as a buffoon and I wonder if this is because he walks around with his wounds wide open. As though to say, “Here I am everybody, hurting.” The Mother Theresa’s, cult leaders, and narcissists of the modern moment love that shit: the walking around wounded. Deer. Fools.

So, I had that conversation. A few times. With the living. The computer screen animated with brilliant people. Spirit. In my brain.

I was invited to consider giving myself permission to go back and remove the painful pieces.

“You can do that.”

I mulled.

And considered.

I liked that idea. Even writing that idea into being makes me feel good. You can take out the painful pieces.

The pain about the painful pieces. Take it all away. I could.

But, what does it mean if I do? About my friend, “anishinaabeweziwin”.

I didn’t do.

Another person invited me to consider leaving it. This is life, after all. Yours. Anishinaabe.”

I appreciated having people to have these conversations with. Still, I did nothing. And still, nothing is resolved. I remain mulling. Now, writing. Trying to. Been.

Over the past few months, I have kept and keep wanting to post. I keep wanting to get caught up with an old friend. There’s been so much in public life that I wanted to write about. Things to mull over. So many stories to tell. Photo collages. Meh. Writing, mm. I have three pieces started. Semi-finished. I won’t post them. They don’t feel full up. So, I keep writing and stopping. Thinking about these colours with those shapes, edges, angles, lighting; triptychs, trips, a description. Joy. Walking away, back. Start again. Wave my hand—leave me alone, I’ll get back when the time is right. I’m thankful for this friend and contemplate how the relationship is changing. A couple of weeks ago, I edited “About” as medicine. Now a fourth iteration of the purpose of this blog which was born as a way to relief the anxieties around the expectations of academia, I took out the bit about pain and the interesting part about citational process. Pain as portal was necessary before (or so I felt); it doesn’t feel necessary anymore. Removing the pain of the pain feels good. I may put the bit back in about citational process because it’s interesting and has potential. And, this place is a good place for that bit of interesting. I’ll do that in a minute.

I want to write and post because I keep imagining there is something about me that keeps tugging on him, keeps him coming back to check on me. Segueing from his life ever so gently and briefly just to see about me. Here and there. On occasion. No one gets hurt. He showed up in my dreams this past month. The relief of knowing he still cared was everything. His entering my life, still unavailable, being torn—frustrating to read but I read him. I admit, I’d rather that than nothing. I keep thinking I can sense him here. On the land. My land. In me. Longing about. Not (yet) willing to make a move that matters in any significant way. Gestures.

I want to write because a woman is also here.

Skulking around. No judgement. It’s her nature. I contemplate giving her something to run with because her nibi seems to be receding or, repeating itself.

gii iskaabii?

Dried up?

I contemplated me as libation. Woman-as-familiar-taste-to-her.

I want to write about pronouns and identity and how in a modern global, colonial, English-speaking world “she” and “her” are legible but how really for me, I live like my pronouns are my clan and my name and the summer ceremony I have yet to do for both. Fall now, too. That’s Anishinaabe. It’s not cis or trans or queer; beyond the binary. It’s just Anishinaabe. Ojibway. How my sexuality is my clan and my name and my tobacco offered every morning, words spoken to all the directions and ancestors. Today. How my sexuality is a chemistry, a spark, time, and care-to. It’s a moment, a process, not an expectation or marking or parameter.

Pronoun: makwa. waaseyaa’sin.

Sexuality: same. More. Ceremony. Flicker.

I want to write about little bits laid on hot glowing rocks making sparks. Flying up. giizhik medicine in the air.

I’m really just trying to keep up with the rhythm of life since I hunkered down to finish my PhD last spring and into the fall. There was that. It’s been almost a year since done was reached. Then there’s been my family’s recovery from the more than a decade of graduate school. A job. There’s movement and these wholly saturated autumns. Heavy, joyful rain. My skin is dewy?

mino dagwaagi.

Happy Fall.

There’s my Dad, too. He got the flu at the beginning of this year. I was scared he would die. The last time I was scared he would die was winter 2017. It triggered me so that was a ride. This time, I was just stressed so that was good. I asked my step-mom and his neighbour to make him up some fish broth the way I was taught. I knew being from the east ocean and raised on cod, it would do something for him at a cellular level, if not deeper. I feel that way about food. Food from the lands and waters that our bodies are buried into and born out of, on repeat. It’s food that’s cellular-DNA-microscopic-spaces-deep good for us.

Dad didn’t want any broth.

He got worse.

He said, “Ok.”

His neighbour made him some.

I was scared it was too late. I really worried he would die.

I considered n’dodem and wondered what I should do. I smudged and late at night, I took out n’dewe’igan and sang. I just sang whatever came to me. I chanted, or something. I did that until it felt like I didn’t need to do it anymore. I imagined him and the vibrations reaching him. I imagined our dodem system, my mother’s land, the stories I’ve read and learned regarding makwa. I let myself put everything into visualizing him fighting that flu—the vibrations of those medicinal sounds and those intentions knocking the shit out of that virus.

I didn’t tell anybody. Not even him. The silence that comes with such statements with my white family is worse than the silence of not saying anything. It’s just me anyways. What I do. What I want. Think. Feel. Need. Do. It’s just me really trusting who we are as Anishinaabe. Nobody needs to know. I don’t need to talk about it. It’s ours. It’s what we do. See?

He got better.

It was anishinaabe mashkiki; makwa dodem mashkiki.

It was.

I went to Transylvania, Romania with a womxn who asked me to be her companion while she travelled around the region doing research for her poetry project. We travelled with a woman-friend of hers while there. A week in, we arrived in Brasov. We were all just getting settled into our hotel rooms when a text came in from my brother:

Chris, Dad had a stroke. It’s bad.


A few hours ago. I was home with him.

K. Are you ok?



Looking for the car rental place so we could leave Brasov and get to Cluj-Napoca where I could get to an airport. May 14.


Forty-eight hours later, I was by my Dad’s bedside in Ontario; stayed for ten days and slept in a lounge chair beside him the whole time. He was awake for four hours maximum a day but when he was, he knew I was there and he knew I had him. I want to elaborate on all this. It’s one of those posts that isn’t full up yet.



May 16, 5:47 a.m., Sault Area Hospital. First morning home. I forgot how beautiful the sunrises are in bawating. I remembered how I knew these days were coming.


I went back again three weeks later. Stayed for a few days. I went again in July. This time by daaban. It was my first solo drive across so many Indigenous Nations (aka Canada).



Hotel View in T’kemlups/Kamloops. Just dropped off my girl who was my driving partner for Day One. I love, love, love, love the lands here.


Well, the Fur Beebs was with me.



Fur Beebs, chillin’ like a villain. At Dad’s.


While I was super scared of driving through Kicking Horse Pass in the Rockies and of breaking down, particularly where there was no cell signal, nothing bad happened. It turned out to be a hands-raised-to-the-sky-eff-yea kind of experience that included visits with friends, family and listening to great, great, great music. It included long phone conversations through the prairies and one, two, three interesting podcasts when the music and audio books weren’t cutting it. It was seeing land-things I never imagined before, like treetops coming out of the flat, green fields; like prairies opening up into gaping ravines. Like little unexpected gift-treats of geology and colours and shapes that filled me up so good.


It included one return drive back to B.C. a month ago with my girl. I can’t describe the thrill of heading out on the road back home with her.



August 18, 2:31 p.m. Old Post No. 43, near Wood Mountain. Heading West on Hwy 18 just this side of a melt down in Southern Saskatchewan. We got lost. Yes. Over and over. That happened in Saskatchewan. This was the post-cathartic moment when we got back on track literally and relationally. I dream for that young woman before me. Reminds me of when me and my two then-sisterfriends at 16 and 17 used to take photos of ourselves on Hwy 17 North in Heyden, ON as we’d be walking to the Esso for coffee. The danger and possibility no less or more, then or today. North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Alberta were where we felt the most stressed, including the Regway Border. More on that later.


August 18, 2:32 p.m. Old Post 43, Wood Mountain. Facing northwest. I dream for nêhiyaw and Métis all the good things that come from your beautiful, beautiful lands, skies, and winds. The side-of-the-road summer flowers in deep purple and yellow, the sage,  the happy, healthy coyotes, the antelope and yes, the prairies dogs….I can close my eyes and still see all that beauty.


All this sounds rad, yes. But I was scared and stressed and had to do a lot of work to stay in a good place. On driving across the country alone:

My first teacher was my Dad. This included some things on how to be a human being: one of them was how to be with a beloved who is sick.

You go.

No questions asked.

You just go.

(Money may be tight, but you do everything you can to get there. Be there.)


You just drive 300 km when your adult kid is getting their wisdom teeth out for a day surgery. You show up after an 8-hour shift in the steel plant to be with her in the hospital when she’s a little girl and your wife just left you (for good reason). You leave your family no matter how pissed off your wife is to go be with your friend on his death bed even if the dying takes weeks. Even if she gets really pissed off.

You sit alongside your person in the waiting room, in the hallway, in the hospital room, in silence. You do it for hours.

And more.

You go.

You just sit alongside them.

Doing nothing.

Because it’s everything.

It wasn’t just him who taught me. There have been girlfriends and mother-figures. Clan mothers. Mary Jane. You just go. No biggy. You certainly don’t blog about it. Pat yourself on the back. That’s another thing my Dad taught me. Don’t.

To be honest, it kills me to think of our old ones being alone in any situation. It killed me to think of my Dad being alone. It does.

And now it’s been just over four months since he lost his ability to talk and execute basic tasks.

I’ve learned that life does not relent. But, blowing bubbles on a windy day helped. So too did trying to teach him to blow bubbles, watching him give over to just waving a big bubble-making wand around. Happy.


Day Passes from the Hospital/Nursing Home: Blowing bubbles, bubbles blowing, with willows and Dad, in the backyard. July-August 2019.


Witnessing him and my step-mom, who suffers with chronic pain but still tries to go see him (they’re just friends now), I’ve learned about life and its’ relentlessness.



Deb and Dad waiting for me out front of the nursing home. This is a few days before me and the kid left to return to BC. August 13, 1:30 pm.


I’ve learned that, as one nêhiyaw blogger writes about her Auntie’s wisdom, as you get older you don’t remember or cling to the bad stuff, you just remember the good.

This must be what was happening to me while there in the Soo, there back home, in the thick of relationships.

This must be what happened to me this summer.

Some kind of letting-go magic, because, I love to cling.

There’s something hard-earned about the glowing embers of anger in me that makes me not want to let go of it. Not now, now ever. Fuck gentle. Fuck forgiveness. Earn it. Warrant it. Give me a reason to. For instance, I clung to the memory of a white aunt calling me a squaw when I was twelve because she was angry with my step-mom. I’ve learned this about white women. We are their whipping posts when they are all come apart over anything no matter how old we are, no matter how fickle the reason for their come apart. Magic happened because I let it go when she hugged me at forty-seven. Then, she hugged me again. This time wearing a Cleveland Indians shirt. And then, her niece, my cousin. Maybe I just remembered the good for self-preservation reasons. I mean, if you have to live in a context of gas-lighting and racismsexism (never mind the deeply invisibilized coloniality of the context), then maybe it’s survival to let it go. Maybe its survival with some people to let it go but maybe for others it’s a shedding of pain and unresolved matters when other, more important ones present themselves. I think I birthed both kinds of letting go this summer. You just remember the good whatever the context, whatever the why. I felt okay with it then, there. Four thousand plus kilometres distance between me and that gives me space to think it through. Consider. Reconsider. For when I go back. And, order up that (Cleveland) Caucasians t-shirt I’ve always thought was brilliant but always wondered what context I might wear it in.

At 81, my Dad’s life has entered a new chapter and I witnessed him roll with the punches with grace and a grin. Some things of him have disappeared or receded but other things have come to the fore in a big way.

Like his spirit.

His joy.

His mischievousness.

His smile.

I hadn’t heard his, “Hey kid” on the other end of the phone up until a few days ago. That his face popped up on my phone meant that he was able to use his. That he said words that sounded like “Hey kid” was like a little gift from gizhe manidoo. I’ll likely not hear it again the way I have all my life. And, he also recently Facetime’d me at 5 am my time for the first time earlier this week using my girls eight-year-old iPad. To teach him to use it and to get Facetime going was a thing. It’s the only application on the screen other than a radio app which is too difficult for him to understand. We talked—he babbled, I grunted (it was 5 am my time after all). He called me again later that day. This time he babbled and I used English; he saw me and I saw his feet. Trying to tell him to hit the button to reverse the screen was no use. The next day, he picked up his phone and called me: “Hewo. Wha-u-yooin?” It was everything. And, this time of our lives offers so much up for the contemplating.

There was this and that and this and that. And the other day.

The other day, I ended up on memory lane with a friend. We used to go driving around a lot together when I lived in his territory. Now that I don’t live there anymore, we drive around memory lane on occasion.

Ten years ago, this month I was just finishing my MA and starting my PhD about Anishinaabeg womxn and the sugar bush. I consider the Indigenous academy-inside-the-settler-academy and think, it’s not safe to do that in any real way so

i’m working first

on a monograph

based on

my dissertation,

not a book



on lamentation

I think of Indigenous womxn of various generational locations in the Indigenous academy-inside-the-settler-academy who have engaged in complaint who have gone quiet who have documented and archived their pain and their fight in order to survive. Their life-lines inform me. Anyhow, after I got over the fact that a decade ago I started my PhD, me and my friend got to reminiscing about the things we would be up to this time of year. There’s manoominike but we were particularly remembering the duck hunting. And the bass fishing. wewebenaabii. Damn. That was good for the soul but it was hard work paddling him around the thick lily pads and tall grasses. He laughed. I’d been in a canoe growing up but only for playing around in on the lake with friends; I was no paddler. I learned from him that paddling was a skill, an art, and in particular, an anishinaabe art. I still think about how trusting he was letting me paddle around, particularly during one of the last dagwaagii (autumns) I was still living there: nodin was high and after some deliberation we decided to head out. Geezus, it was everything I could do to keep us slowed down enough to maneuver around the grasses, careful not to startle zhiishiibag (ducks) too soon. All I remember was that wind at my back, the dark blue water with waves (small but big enough to be dangerous for a canoe) and how petrified I was about the conditions, my lack of skill, and that we would tip, he would drown, and the whole community would blame me for letting their beloved Elder go duck hunting in that weather! And, the bass fishing. First, we had to go catch the little amakakiig (frogs) for bait and then we’d head to this little lake. The last time we went to get amakakiig, I remember his frog hunting technique: crouch down low, come up quiet behind them with a slow hand and then snatch! He was really good at that. He’d get them and then bloop, into the minnow bucket they’d go. Little bright greens frogs. When there was enough, off to the little zaa’igan we’d go and then into the canoe looking for the perfect spot amidst the lily-pads to ker-plunk amakakii down into it, hoping for a bass or two. You’d think that frogging isn’t much but this is the guy who went far into the court system to protect his peoples bull frog hunting rights which he was successful in (albeit there are really no bullfrogs left to hunt) and how this, decades later, had a thing to do with his people getting their hunting and spearing rights back. Settler law is a bizarre beast. The unruly ways Indigenous resistance and endurance work, a mysterious and beautiful one. Timing seems a powerful factor in the alchemy of how things work out.

We talk about all the things we did on the land when I was living over there. I openly wondered why gizhe manidoo allowed me to learn all those things with him only to make it so that I am now in someone else’s territory. Now he’s there in his home still and I’m out of my territory, and we’re reminiscing as land-based practice. He says he doesn’t go out on the land much since I’ve left—no one to take him. I’m sure he just says that to make me feel not so lonely.

I go back even further and think about some of my first teachers. I think about the first womxn I learned anishinaabe’aadiziwin from. Cedar. I think of Jules Casselman, who learned from these people who learned from these people. That was about twenty-five years ago. I’ve learned from many others over the years. Gramma Jean, Elders in ceremonies, womxn in circles and on and on. I’ve learned that cedar is a cleanser and a protector. I hear it crackling in the lodge. A hot tea. A medicine pillow, good for niibaa. A funeral. A floor for a sweat. A bath before and after a fast. Washing a lover and reciprocal. Healing a child. Blessing a baby. Something pretty.

In the spirit of honouring the power of Anishinaabeg medicines and Coast Salish medicines, I’ve taken to going to the WSÁNEĆ peoples sacred mountain called Lau’wel’new to harvest some cedar. I use this cedar for work. Specifically, I hang it outside my office door, around my desk and from a large mounted print of a photo of “Lummi Woman” taken by Edward Curtis that I have on my bookshelf. Ok, it’s literally an alter to her. She keeps me accountable. And, the relationships portrayed in this portrait keeps me mindful. The cedar is a blessing, cleanser, and protector in this case. I want folx who come to my office to be greeted with this. I want Lummi ikawe to be protected. I want her to protect me. I want to be blessed.

Going to the mountain is always bitter sweet. Sweet because it’s the Pacific forest. Bitter because this place, this sacred mountain, claimed by settlers a long time ago, is named John Dean Park. John Dean’s cabin is still there somewhere. On any day, you’ll find all kinds of hikers. On this day, Labour Day, the place was busy. The signage is settler signage except for one or two that reflect Indigenous presence. I worried about being interrogated by a settler nature lover or sexistracist for harvesting cedar. It’s happened to me and my friend in my own territory. I was annoyed with the feeling of feeling afraid. The white peoples’ ignorance, entitlement, and bliss bothers me. Wrong. It scares me. The (un)intentionally of all of it scares me. The (lack of) consciousness scares me. I hadn’t realized how deeply the matter was in my body as I was walking until I came across a sight for sore Anishinaabe eyes: WSÁNEĆ womxn’s presence in the shape of bark strips harvested from gargantuan red cedars. It felt like the womxn were right there. It felt robust, and animated, and healthy. It made me happy and relieved to witness this. Elation. Amidst the dominance of settler colonial presence, WSÁNEĆ endurance reigns:


I happened to look beyond the trail and right there was a whole other world. waatebaaga giizis/September 2019


I rounded the bend and fell to my knees.



This is not a postcard.

Back home, we call these ones, giizhikaatigoog. This translates as sky trees. The old one said we called them this because of the way they raise their arms up to the sky. The name WSÁNEĆ folx have for this one is XPÁY.



This place, a beautiful friend.

Indigenizing the Academy is like Putting Ode In

This is a story about the heart and the brain. ode and ndib.

This is a long story,


Academia is cerebral.

Most academics are settlers. White settlers.

Most academics are cerebral white settlers.

(Sweeping statements and vast leaps in logic are abhorrent, yes. In this case, true and sound. Do the stats if you must; elucidate the links if need be. And here too, an olive branch: yes, yes, inclusion, diversity, equality, equity, decolonization, indigenization …yes, yes, yes.)


Girl, cerebral-ness is like




the brain

the mind

thought, think



cold, cool, colonial

yadda yadda.

Hearts think and thoughts beat (we know this to be true. we being indigenous you and indigenous me and anyone who lives deeply in their pain while still faithful to the idea of worlds that are wondrous and possible)

But academic cerebral settler-ness

is disconnected

from the heart

and the beat.


THAT power?

THAT power is the crux

of death and despair

and dehumanization everywhere.

Indigenizing the Academy is like putting ode in

Indigenizing the Academy is like pulling a silk thread out

from our heart-beings and heart-beats

Indigenizing the Academy is like using that silk heart thread

to connect heart and mind

Like pulling out your sheshegwan (rattle) or odewe’igan (drum)

and putting vibrations into the air

Like getting that connection beating,

a pulse

Indigenizing the Academy is like resuscitation

Like having to resuscitate

Like witnessing (the descendants of) imperial/globalized subjects

resist, become unsettled by, be afraid of

the (indigenous) heart

and the (indigenous) beat.

What is indigenous to Indigenous peoples

(the heart      and the beat      and the mind,     ALL TOGETHER NOW)

is strange and foreign to cerebral-centric settlers.

Indigenizing the Academy is like

having to teach the Academy

how to be cerebral

in an indigenous way.



The Best IndigeNews I’ve Read This Holiday Season (Biased)

Treaties Between Anishinaabeg and Canada are Alive, Living Agreements and a Canadian Judge Agrees

Being born and raised in that part of Anishinaabewaki where, at the behest of the British Crown, the English and Anishinaabeg treated in 1850, resulting in the Robinson Treaties, I’ve been aware of the legal case Anishinaabeg from the Robinson-Huron Treaties launched against Canada, one of England’s off-spring, some years ago. Launched in the Canadian legal system for failure to increase treaty annuities, this case has been referred to as historic and precedent setting.

In Canada, treaties are neither a well known nor popular subject in everyday chitty-chat. (And neither are their contemporary formations, known today as land claims by some, real estate deals by others.) While I don’t get a sense that Canadian-Anishinaabe treaties are that embedded within Anishinaabeg consciousness north of the settler-imposed border, I do get a sense that they are a significant part of Anishinaabeg consciousness south of this border, nurtured in part through the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. But treaties, and their alive-and-living-ness, ought to be as embedded in Canadian and Anishinaabeg consciousness as Christmas shopping is as their existence or non-existence, impacts all of us, including our more-than-human, and dare I say, super-human relations. Some say that Canada literally exists because of them which, in certain periods of history and geography, is the case. In fact one Canadian (and likely some Canadians) says, I AM CANADIAN! (Because of treaties with Indigenous Nations) However, complicating this is the fact that Canada, through domination and subjugation, occupies Indigenous lands where they have not forged treaties with the Indigenous peoples of those lands. These are most often referred to as unceded lands. In this regard, one, or some, could say, I AM CANADIAN! (Because my government illegally occupies the territories of some Indigenous Nations). Today,  because there are so many who genuinely want to make Indigenous life in Indigenous lands better and see making a better Canada as a key step in achieving that, many position treaties, where they exist, as spectres of salvation. How it goes is that if treaties were honoured by the Crown, this would allow for better relations between Indigenous nations and the Canadian nation which will allow for better quality of life for Indigenous peoples. This is very likely accurate. And, because treaties are legally binding in both Canadian and Indigenous nations, there is an effort to hold the party that is not upholding its end of the bargain to account. Leveraging the legality of the treaty, in treaty relationship seems a fairly logical and best-outcome approach. However, in this way of salvation-making, treaties are painted in one fell swoop as mutually-desired, consensual agreements that were, or are, wanted by both parties. The fact that some treaties were made under duress (e.g. starvation) and other manipulative or pressuring strategies employed by the Crown and her representative to get what they wanted from Indigenous peoples disturbs this naturalization. These particular treaty contexts or conditions are overlooked, erased, or forgotten about. I think that such conditions and contexts need to be remembered, centered, and taken seriously in contemporary considerations of nation-state and Indigenous nation relations.

Anyhow, moving past Indigenous-Canadian Treaties 101, I was scrolling through CBC news the other day and learned that a decision was made on the court case regarding the Robinson Huron Treaty. Justice Patricia Hennessy indicated that Canada has an obligation to ensure the annuities evolve with the times. Today, Anishinaabeg leaders met in N’Swakomok Sudbury, ON on this important decision. Some see this judgement through the lens of resource revenue sharing, which, in a capitalist world that sees many Indigenous peoples suffering, is a practical way to frame this (if indeed the outcomes are meant to decrease the gap between those Anishinaabeg who have and those Anishinaabeg who do not). However, I see this ruling more broadly and in a more-breathing way. I see it, as I think many do, as a ruling that recognizes the alive-ness and living-ness of treaties between Canada and Anishinaabeg. I am very happy for all the Anishinaabeg and non-Anishinaabeg who worked diligently for years to have this treaty between Anishinaabe and Canada recognized as a living agreement that must be engaged with as such by Canada. An alive and living agreement means that what was agreed to in the past is not static and frozen in time; a living agreement means that the relationship is constantly in discussion and where needed, renewed.


News from My Mother(‘s)land

I have conflicted feelings for media and the public realm. For this post, I want to espouse my love for CBC news. I want to particularly espouse my love for CBC Indigenous. When I think of the most concrete, powerful, and lasting manifestation of INM, I think of CBC Indigenous. I think, we’re better with it than without it. 

Complicated feelings for media aside, a few days ago, some news from my mother’s lands was posted on CBC Indigenous. It was a story about how a woman spearheaded a traditional foods meal program at the hospital so Anishinaabeg patients could have their food-medicine.

Because I wasn’t raised by my mom-ban and my relationships with her family are newly forming, I appreciate news about her childhood, and our ancestral home.

I also appreciate the way we see sustenance from the lands and waters as both food and medicine, that this view is given space to be practiced materially in settler institutions that are notoriously hostile to Indigenous peoples, and that this view is given textual space in the public realm. The way we see touches me; that it persists in practice even in the most restricted spaces moves me; that it is given space in an Indigenous public space for others to hear about, witness, or be inspired by is so important. Being raised working-class rural white in a working class, rural, white community, and racialized Indian in that milieu, I didn’t know about Anishinaabeg relationships with the land other than what I experienced for myself (which of course, I didn’t know as anything other than that it was). I first learned about this idea about food-medicine from a Mushkego Elder in Fort Albany. There is no separation of sustenance between food and medicine–it is all food-medicine. Knowing how my mother, and so many Indigenous peoples have been and continue to be treated in the hospital system either as patients or employees, makes this story a bit of medicine for me. It is the exception, I know, but it is inspiring. Seeing a lot of toxic things in the public realm, this article, and the way it conveys this story, is just real gud.

The woman in the photo wearing the kerchief on her hair also made me wonder if any woman in my family wore those. I recalled a sentimental poem or story I just read written by an Indigenous woman about her grandmother wearing these. The photos I have of my mother’s maternal line don’t indicate that they wore them. I wonder about the particular history of women wearing those kerchiefs. When I see them I think about christianity. When I see historical photos of Indigenous women in skirts and/or kerchiefs, I think of imposed settler gender norms and conformity, not tradition. I also wonder about practicality in regards to kerchiefs. They would be a great thing for wiping sweat while labouring hard or keeping hair out of the way. My white step-mother (hereafter mother) and her sisters and sister-in-laws, my aunts, wore kerchiefs. They didn’t wear them tied under their chin though. They wore them over their curlers. I can still recall my mother putting her hair in curlers and covering them with a kerchief–how she tucked in the little flap and the two corners tied together in under the curlers closest to the nape of her neck. I can see her sitting at the end of the couch, smoking her Number 7 cigarette, either talking on the phone to one of the women in her life or watching soaps. I remember all the women went about their day, in town or in their houses, with curlers and kerchiefs.

Anishinaabeg affinity for attire, and distinctions amongst Anishinaabeg in a particular area, with some attention to women in particular, can be picked up here and there in Following Nimishomis: The Oral History of Debibaayaanimanook Sarah Keesick Olsen (2008).


A Winter Solstice Poem by a WSÁNEĆ Person

The name of the city newspaper where I live is awful. It’s called The Times Colonist. That said, in a holiday season where consumerism is the holy grail and being connected to the doings of the earth, seasons, and celestial beings is off the radar for the majority, I was happy to find out that this newspaper hosts “The Times Colonist Solstice Poetry Series” and has been doing so since 2006.

That’s impressive, right?

This year, the out-going poet laureate for the city, Yvonne Blomer, curated the series.

I was super happy to see the first poem by Philip Kevin Paul, a WSÁNEĆ person who is well know for his poetry and important cultural work. Having attended a public reading he gave last year, I was so moved by the intimate, sensitive portrayal of his familial relations; and, having read a collaborative project he was involved regarding WSÁNEĆ place names and stories, his work has personally and importantly helped me learn more about this place where I am in a debwewin, geget (true, real) way. Seeing a poem by a WSÁNEĆ person on the subject of winter solstice in WSÁNEĆwaki, seeing this poem positioned as the lead, and seeing this space being created by a white settler woman in a white settler newspaper called The Times Colonist that values winter solstice + poetry is one of the best little treats a die-hard Anishinaabe person who is trying to make sense of her complex occupier status in these lands can come upon while flipping online through the news. It’s “Such A Tiny Light ” but it was an amazing one that made me happy.





the shortest day of the year to be Anishinaabe

turns out, this year, to be one of the best days of the year to be Anishinaabe.

Let me explain.

First, it’s winter solstice.

That means, the light is coming back.

Yay! The light is coming back.

And in Lekwungenwaki, the dark is dark and the dark is long so the light coming back is a hella good reason to sing a song:

waaaaaaaaaay-hey-yaah, way-hey-yaaa-hey-ohhh

waaaaaaaaaay-hey-yaaah, way-hey-yaaa-hey-ohh



way-hey-yaa, way-hey-yaa


Next, this year, I was sick as an animosh the last few days and being in that not-here world made me remember some things about anishinaabe medicine. Some winter medicine things. Some hot liquid things. Some boiling bones down to get the minerals and vitamins into my body things. Broth things. giigooNh aaboo things.

Yea, that’s right. Some fish broth things.

I remembered in 2013 when INM started and shortly thereafter then-Chief Theresa Spence  embarked on her fast in protest of Canada’s dishonourable relations with her nation, the Muskego nation. I remembered how her fast only included taking fish broth daily as a way to keep her healthy and strong while fasting from everything else. I remembered how my friend and teacher, Gidigaa Migisi taught those of us with questions, about fish broth—how to make it and how it was used for it’s nutrients and how it could be used to keep people alive.

While sick and somewhat in that other world, I told myself that as soon as I returned wholly back to this world, I would make up some broths and not only start taking those in to slowly return to eating but that I would start taking in more broths on a regular basis. There has to be nothing more healthy and nutritious than hot broth, especially when you are sick or aging (or eating a lot of processed foods, [like I do since I’ve left my territory]). So I went to get some giigooNh late last night but couldn’t find what I wanted and ended up getting some beef soup bones.

Today, I ventured out again and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I did find some geget cod (not farmed) from the Atlantic and thought you know, I may not be able to get atigamek or ogaa over here but I can get Icelandic cod and b’ye dat kind of cod is sum close to Atlantic cod and dat DNA or somethin’ of it is in me and me duckies’ bones too and b’ye da lord my dad used to make sure I took a cod liver oil pill every morning as a kid so lord tunderin’ I’m gonna use sum of dat dere cod dats four dollars off —geezus dat’s a gud price lah—and duck wouldchya look at dat? Now dat’s some good lookin’ cod, lah! Dat’ll make up some real gud giigooNh aaboo, b’ye.

Before I headed to the miijim adaawegamik (grocery store) I texted up my dear niij and asked him to remind me how to make up that broth. I also asked him if I could share it here as I knew I wanted to make a celebratory winter solstice post. He said he’d be honoured (which reminded me of the kind of person I want to be when I’m in my 70s). I personally wanted to share it here so Anishnaabe can have it, in case we forgot or forget. I remember all too well the years of not having the people in my life that I do today who can do what my mom couldn’t do and that is help me be and live anishinaabe. I know too well how hard it is to build that homefire and keep it going and so I put my tobacco down everyday for it. I want to share what has been shared with me in a careful, boundaried, ethical way.  So anyways ducks, here it is—Gidigaa Migisi’s Fish Broth Recipe:


And, here it is, in practice—

… giigooNh (cod); green onion; Hawaai’in pink salt (a gift); dollar store black pepper; and, tap water (that comes from T’Souke [Sooke] and has been treated by the settlers so, instead of drinking it right from the source as T’Souke, Lekwungen, WSANEC, Cowichan, etc. folx have done for thousands of years, we can drink it, you know, treated, and straight from the tap).

And here it is, in more practice—


… in a container-cum-saved pasta sauce jar, which leads me to the third and last-to-be-discussed reason why this years’ solstice has turned out to be the best.

This little bundle of food in a recycled pasta jar was carried off for a wee solstice-seasonal-odoodem ceremony on the top of PKOLS (Lewkwungen name for Mt. Tolmie as per Cheryl Bryce, which is the same as the name for Mt. Doug).

This particular little feast offering is a first for me and it felt right and good. Making and offering a feast whose main base is a fish broth?


I thought ninodoodem would definitely like that.

This offering also included some of the boiled fish (which is yum by the way), some frozen Saskatoon berries, and some ziigamide (maple syrup).

Geez, we Anishinaabe sure know how to do it up right.

My girl and I went and did our thing and you know, it was beautiful up there in the Garry Oaks, in the dark that was lit up by Nokomis, who is full tonight and despite being behind a thin layer of cloud, was quite illuminous. Apparently, there will be meteors tonight as well. The light IS coming back.

This evening, we also both had a good helping of the fish broth. It was tasty. It was oily. The oil lingers for a bit on the lips. Joseph Pitawanakwat says that that oil in our food is called mideh; he says it’s really good and powerful medicine. I believe it. We never get this medicine in this way anymore. So, let’s make broth and feed it to our babies. Let’s feed it to ourselves. Feed it to the old ones in our lives. The ones who are ill or recovering. Lets feed it to our lovers. To those who are grieving. Give a little bit to our pets. Let’s offer it to tibi giizis, to winter solstice, to our clans, our protectors, and to the spirit of what ever season we are in. Let’s offer it to the east and offer it with a song, a smudge, some asemaa, and our amazing, enduring Anishnaabe spirits.





a kind of Ojibway love

I asked that Ojibway man once, over the phone, “Do you ever get lonely?”

I was lonely being Anishnaabe in this non-Anishinaabe world that has evolved in our territories. I was lonely, even amongst Anishnaabe, who seemed to not care anymore about being Anishinaabe, who seemed content to let our ways go with the winds of change or willing to give up. Where being famous, popular, or “of value” in the settler world seems to be more the priority than tending to our fires.

“Do you ever get lonely?” I asked into the receiver.

His deep voice, as always, resonated in my chest, “No. The ancestors are always around us. You can’t get lonely when you remember that.”

I was immediately comforted. I don’t know if it was how his words turned on a light in me or if it was his immediate and unwavering confident knowing in who we are as Ojibway, but I was comforted. It was like a puzzle piece found its place.

He shared with me some other things and while I think of him in many ways, when I am feeling lonely or scared about being Ojibway in this world that is not Ojibway, I think of him, perched in a tree looking about, observing the world, detached, contemplating it. I think about how our ancestors are always around us, perched about, watching us, whispering to us to keep on being us. I think about old teachings about healthy detachment, about how being perched on a limb smoking a pipe can be an act of self-preservation.

And I think that this is what it is to be Ojibway: to be faithkeepers is to keep that ancestral fire glowing as an ember within ourselves no matter what. No matter if we have failed or if the world around us is failing. I think to be Ojibway, to be faithkeepers means allowing ourselves to be ignited by fellow Ojibway who also live and love as deeply as they can for that fire. It means believing that maybe, once in awhile, you can also be that ignition for fellow Ojibway as well; you can do your part as a faithkeeper.

When I think about this moment on the phone with this man, his voice on the other end, I think about Ojibway love. I feel what Ojibwe love might be like. I think that maybe this is what one kind of Ojibway love is—the intimate sharing of how to keep our life lines going in this world, through many worlds, regardless if we are close to each other in proximity or far apart, regardless if we are in our territories or out of them.