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

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.


Funny, That White Woman in the Mayfair Mall Food Court Who Loves the Environment …

and Hates Indigenous Woman and Black Girl

It’s fitting that this experience happened by the garbage can, the trash, la poubelle, ziigwebinigan

Because that’s the white woman in a mall food court who loves the environment and who came up to ziigwebinigan to discard their trash.

And who,

Standing beside my girl

Standing beside me

As I discarded my trash,

Reached across her

To get to my garbage;

Tried to take it out of my hand

Because apparently,

I was putting it in the wrong trash bin;

Who failed to grab that garbage


Successfully grabbed the food tray I was holding

–grabbed it right out of my hand

So she could put the onion and paper that was on it

Into the “correct” bin

Shaking her head, grumbling all the while

Reaching across my girl

To me

Back across my girl

So she

Could love the environment


In the Mayfield Mall Food Court,

Mumbling and grumbling and shaking her head

As my girl and I stood there


What was happening,

Looking at her

At each other

At her

At each other

At her whisking off–

 Job done!

Environment saved!

White-woman-(maternal)-authority-over-Black girl-and-Indigenous-woman-established!

Self-righteousness rejuvenated!

We stood there momentarily, still registering, watching her walk away, beyond the food court border

And we moved too, still within the food court, in a slightly different direction, and as her walking trajectory veered gently back to the border, I called out to her, over the people in the food court:

“What you need to be worried about is the fact that you are living on stolen land.”

To which she responded with a look, a shrug, a buoyant gait–her back and long salt & pepper hair setting off in the distance

My girl and I keep walking, Anishinaabe formation; she participates in this resistance, too, says:


I affirm her resistance, chuckle, and yell out a few decibels higher (but not so high as to draw attention: “Yea. VEGAN.”

We laugh.

We looked at each other walking beside each other:

“That just happened!”

Shook our heads.

That just happened!




On Moral Courage and Heroes, (anti) Racism, and Beauty

Last week, Dr. Cindy Blackstock was in my neighbourhood giving a talk titled, “Spirit Bear’s Guide to Reconciliation”. The day before, she was conferred with an honorary PhD in Law and celebration was in the air. Aside from Odawa Elders and Drs. Edna Manitowabi and Shirley Williams, Dr. Blackstock is the only other Indigenous woman I know of who has been conferred with an honourary PhD. A social work scholar and well known human rights warrior for Indigenous children in Canada,  I knew her talk would be in a field that I’ve had little to do with for over a decade. Admittedly, I was feeling a bit unsure about the significant presence of a teddy-bear as front-line in her talk and in the lunch I had prior to her talk (not with Dr. Blackstock but with another person who is a part of the “Spirit Bear” movement). I quickly checked myself on my epistemic arrogance regarding “the teddy-bear” and pushed myself to move outside my disciplinary boundary. Also, prioritizing learning from Indigenous womxn is a form of self-care. I know the important work that Dr. Blackstock has and does do and how vital and important Indigenous social work in a settler colonial context is to Indigenous peoples–all of us.

I’m so glad that I went.

So, so glad.

Aside from being an amazing speaker, Dr. Blackstock’s words, energy, and method were inspiring and rejuvenating. I was moved by her message of “moral courage” that everyone of us must have if we are to attain any kind of justice for our babies, children, and youth.

She called in her hero–Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, MD–who generations before, in the early 1900s, had informed the government of Canada of their discriminatory health care practices against Indigenous children (then in residential schools). He had been hired by the state to examine the health care of Indigenous children in residential schools as a result of the high rates of death. When the state ignored his recommendations to provide the same level of health care, he persisted in advocating for an end to the discriminatory practices and suffered economic and professional consequences. Dr. Blackstock emphasized his moral courage despite the consequences and indicated we all need to have this today in our work for creating a better reality for Indigenous babies, children, and youth which will be founded upon equitable treatment with all other children and ensuring all babies, children, and youth are treated well.

She shared wisdom from an Elder who told her to never fall in love with the institutions we embed ourselves in. The danger in doing so is that the values and ethos of the institution we work for may come into tension and conflict with our own values and morals. This may result in a displacement of our values and morals in order to be commensurable with our institutions. Suddenly, we find ourselves doing work that is very distant from who we are and what is right. In fact, this seems to result in what I have witnessed as being a kind of professional legitimation to being anti-social. How many times have I heard, “It’s my job” being used as a reason to do wrong. You know, like when RCMP, police, or security guards use physical violence, dogs, and the legal system against Indigenous peoples who are protecting their lands and water or non-Indigenous folx who are allied in such actions. Falling in love with our institutions (and the social dynamics that animate them) is something I have experienced in my professional and student life. Coming to grips with the reality that the institutions that we are embedded in may not reflect our values and morals is a tough one, especially if they provide us the resources we need to survive or sur-thrive. Yet, as Dr. Bryce’s and Dr. Blackstock’s lives show, having the moral courage to act true to what is right–in this case, fighting for equitable health care for Indigenous children no matter the consequences–is absolutely necessary.

Over here in the west coast nations, the Lekwungen and WSANEC folx raise their hands to those whose actions are deemed courageous, righteous, and reflective of being a good human-being who looks out for others. It is a fitting gesture for Dr. Blackstock and her message.


This week,  Dr. Robin DiAngelo is giving a talk on  white fragility from her latest book entitled the same. As a way to engage more deeply with the subject, a pre-seminar discussion was had last week which included reading three articles: “White Fragility” by DiAngelo (2011); “Tracking Privilege-Preserving Epistemic Pushback in Feminist and Critical Race Philosophy Classes” by Alison Bailey (2017), and Comforting Discomfort as “Complicity: White Fragility and the Pursuit of Invulnerability” by Barbara Applebaum (2017).

I want to bullet-point some quotes from these readings that I found helpful, validating, empowering, and rejuvenating. Thinking that others might also find something of this helpful, I wanted to share:

  • “‘Racism is especially rampant in places and people that produce knowledge.’ – Anzaldúa, 1990, xix” (Bailey, 876)
  • “We know injustice when we feel it.” (ibid.)
  • “In general, white fragility triggers a constellation of behaviours that work to steer us back to epistemic terrains where we feel whole, comfortable and good. Consider how white folks repeatedly bolster our metaphysical wholeness with stories about our good deeds, merit-based accomplishments, immigration stories, or the long hours we’ve worked. These narratives keep us whole.” (Bailey, 880)
  • “White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility.” (DiAngelo, 54)
  • “Although mainstream definitions of racism are typically some variation of individual ‘race prejudice’, which anyone of any race can have, Whiteness scholars define racism as encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources and power between white people and people of colour …. Whiteness itself refers to the specific dimensions of racism that serve to elevate white people over people of colour. This definition counters the dominant representation of racism in mainstream education as isolated in discrete behaviours that some individuals may or may not demonstrate, and goes beyond naming specific privileges… (ibid., 56)
  • “Whiteness is a location of structural advantage, of race privilege. Second it is a ‘standpoint,’ a place from which White people look at ourselves, at others, and at society. Third, ‘Whiteness’ refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed.” (Frankenburg in DiAngelo, 56)
  • “White Fragility” yields “a range of defensive moves” that “function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.” (DiAngelo, 57)
  • “A large body of research about children and race demonstrates that children start to construct ideas about race very early; a sense of white superiority and knowledge of racial power codes appears to develop as early as pre-school” (ibid., 63)
  • “Whites who positions themselves as liberal often opt to protect what they perceive as their moral reputations, rather than recognize or change their participation in systems of inequity and domination. In so responding, whites invoke the power to choose when, how, and how much to address or challenge racism.” (ibid., 64)
  • “While anti-racist efforts ultimately seek to transform institutionalized racism, anti-racist education may be most effective by starting at the micro-level. The goal is to generate the development of perspectives and skills that enable all people, regardless of racial locations, to be active initiators of change. Since all individuals who live within a racist system are enmeshed in its relations, this means that all are responsible for either perpetuating or transforming that system. However, although all individuals play a role in keeping the system active, the responsibility for change is not equally shared. White racism is ultimately a white problem and the burden for interrupting it belongs to white people.” (ibid., 66)
  • “White Fragility doesn’t always manifest in overt ways; silence and withdrawal are also functions of fragility. Who speaks, who doesn’t speak, when, for how long, and with what emotional valence are all keys to understanding the relational patterns that hold oppression in place….(ibid., 67).
  • “Comforting not only alleviates white discomfort and preserves white innocence, but is also constitutes feminists of color as the offenders. Feminists of color who offer antiracist critique are labeled as ‘angry’ and carry the burden of being blamed as the source of white discomfort.” (Applebaum, 865)
  • “Srivastava underscores not only that white tears terminate the conversation but also that white “calming techniques” provide absolution from guilt. In fact, white women’s professions of weakness serve ‘as a buffer from consciousness, responsibility, and struggle’ … When white discomfort is comforted, white women are relieved from all accountability. In other words, white comforting becomes the mechanism by which white women can avoid confronting their complicity in racism and whereby power inequities in the organization can be maintained.” (ibid.)
  • “Whiteness is … a doing: less a property of skin than an enactment of power reproducing its dominance in both explicit and implicit ways.” (ibid., 868)
  • “Rather than relying on the exclusively negative conceptions of vulnerability, Gilson suggests reconceptualizing vulnerability as encompassing as openness to change, dispossession, and willingness to risk exposure. … Gilson maintains that vulnerability is a common human capacity that, first and foremost, involves the capacity to be affected and to affect in turn. … ‘Being vulnerable makes it possible for us to suffer, to fall prey to violence and be harmed, but also to fall in love, to learn, to take pleasure and find comfort in the presence of others, and to experience the simultaneity of these feelings. Vulnerability is not just a condition that limits us but one that can enable us. As potential, vulnerability is a condition of openness, openness to being affected and affecting in turn.”  (ibid., 870)
  • “…epistemic vulnerability is not just about being willing to challenge one’s ideas and beliefs but, even more significantly, it is about a constant vigilance and willingness to change one’s self.” (ibid., 871)
  • “Critical hope, first and foremost, acknowledges that systemic oppression exists, and such hope entails responsibility to challenge what Boler refers to as ‘inscribed habits of emotional inattention’ and involves ‘a willingness to exist within ambiguity and uncertainty’ …. [It] does not obstruct purposive and critical reflection around one’s complicity in systems of oppression but instead encourages a ‘willingness to be fully alive in the process of constant change and becoming’…. [It] aims to encourage openness toward continued struggle and forefronts discomfort as a signal to be alert fro what one does not know about others but also about oneself.” (ibid., 872)

Today, UnSettling America published an important essay, “Settler Fragility: Why Settler Privilege Is So Hard To Talk About”, by Dina Gilio-Whitaker. Here, Whitaker transposes the concept of racial fragility to relational fragility with place and people (i.e. settler colonialism). Another important transposition would be on the topic of sex/gender (i.e. male fragility, baby men) and class. The concepts of vulnerability and critical hope could be also easily applied.


Last night I attended a dual book launch of two Canadian literature texts. It was held in this quirky old building in a neighbourhood known as James Bay; the building known to be haunted, re-tooled into a pub known as The Bent Mast. It was located on a triangular block, on the triangular tip of a block that I’ve driven by a few times and was always curious about. It’s get dark here at 4:30–and dark here is not like dark back home. It is DARK. As in DARK DARK. As in layers and layers of thick blankets dark. Add the cloud, rain and dim street lights that characterize this city. Anyhow, as I walked up, I smiled. Ok, grinned. A curious place that I had been curious about, now a place I had a reason to be in. I was reading and happy to be meeting friends–some who value poetry and others who value friendship and jet as soon as you are done. ❤

On “meeting”, Amanda Jernigan, advisor editor for The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2018 and contributor to What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation (and whose long blond hair and whose unabashed love for literature reminded me so much of my first creative writing teacher, Alana Bondar-ban) gave a beautiful reading, quoting Dionne Brand and Souvankham Thammavognsa in conversation. I fell into it and am going to remain here for awhile:

Brand: … We met, you and I, in poetry. What an ordinary and strange place to meet. We didn’t meet on a dance floor or in a factory or in a store or in a line waiting for a bus, but in the structure of nothing, of ambiguity, and of malleability, of air and sound. I find that amazing.

Thammavongsa: Like someone working to connect people to other people and then listening in, caught by some urgency in the voice asking.



On Words and Tugging

So the phrase “Indigenous assholery and windigoism”, which I used in my last post, has been tugging on me.

Tugging in the way of,

hey, christine, are you sure about using these words?;

Tugging in the way of,

these words sit uneasy, sit uneasy in my stomach;

As in, mmmm, these words. thesewordsthesewords. hmm. *squinty eye* hmmmmmm;

Tugging as in, are these the words I want to use?;

Tugging as in, these are the words I want to use, wanted to use and did use, and now hmmmm, tugging, tugging

As in, could you have done better?  

As in, hmmm. the energy invoked now, with words; these words. to do and not to do, undo. re-do. more do. hmph. 

Assholery is such a serious word, such a fun word. Cutting. Not fun. Rhythmic. Deadening. Windigoism, an ism. Both verbs. Actions. Movements. Ways of being. So, it’s not so much the words as the unpacking of them; the making-meaning of them in this ground I threw them into, pulled them up from. My lack thereof. My own assholery in opening a door fast and slamming it shut just as fast. Stories don’t dig this. Stories deserve more.

There are things to unpack, theorize, document about being Anishinaabe feminist in the academy and community and, communityacademycommunity. However, not feeling it right now (it being blogging about it). For now, I’ve attended to this tugging using the super power of asterisks, strike-outs, the replacement words of exploitation and extraction, and addendum. Maybe this softens the energy. Makes it more live-able, more able to do what it needs to do.

The tugging is gone.

And this addendum-as-post is just healing through words and art and opening up space to let the thing breathe.




Anishinaabe Knowledge Production in Anishinaabewaki + Lekwungewaki

Back in the early days of this blog which I started in August 2010, I promised myself to make monthly posts on “Anishinaabewiziwin”. As a new PhD student, I wanted this blog site to be, in part, a place where I could work on my anxieties around having my writing in the public realm (which I quickly learned  was going to be an aspect of being an academic). Since that time, with the exception of a few months, I have have made monthly posts. Over the past year, I have made only a few. It turns out that getting down to the wire of finishing my PhD thesis resulted in having to take a hiatus from “Anishinaabewiziwin”. I simply did not have the intellectual, creative, or emotional energy for moving between, and participating within, more worlds than my immediate worlds which consisted of  home-work-thesis-bear-cat-grocerystore-coffejoints-anishinaaberesponsibilities.

I’m just coming off the high and shock of being able to say that, FINALLY, last month, during binaa’ikawe-giizis (falling leaves moon), I defended my PhD.


As in, “no revisions” successfully.



So now, it’s done.


My girl is ecstatic.

And, in disbelief.

She now gets me, and us, in a way that she hasn’t had for most of her life. We’re looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to being a mom without treading the water of all things PhD.

My dad called me daily for a week just to say, “Hi. Is Dr. Sy there?” which was always followed with a chuckle. I appreciated his sense of pride but admittedly, I prefer, “Hey, kid!” Friends email and text, “Hey, Dr. Sy!” and then laugh, saying “I just had to.” My heart is big; they make me feel loved. It is an accomplishment; a kind of one. Injustice prevails, the work continues.


Let’s see if I can mobilize this settler power effectively to benefit Anishinaabeg, Indigenous peoples and whomever else might benefit from Anishinaabe feminist work.

My chiropractor and decompression doctors woot-wooted me; Grant from Tim Horton’s celebrated me in the only way he could–by typing in my name as Lady Christine on the prompter and asking to read the thing and then sharing with some of his friends who in turn reached out. He read it and one morning taking my coffee order, “You are a storyteller. You wrote straight from your heart. You gave it everything.”

A bouquet of flowers graced my desk for a few weeks; a spa and fancy dinner was had with fellow Indigenous scholars. More.

It has been an indulgent ride.

It feels good to be cared for and celebrated by people who know me and know the ropes of this place, this thing, this process; who know my particular journey.

I’m proud of myself for being able to do it.

For doing it.

I think of a recent someone I just learned about a few years ago–Argentinian feminist, María Lugones. I wished I would have had the wisdom of her words before entering into this world in 2009. Written from within her conceptualization that women of colour in white dominant U.S. live in “worlds”, worlds they travel to and between, she says,

There are ‘worlds’ we enter at our own risk, ‘worlds’ that have agon, conquest, and arrogance as the main ingredients in their ethos. These are ‘worlds’ that we enter out of necessity and which would be foolish to enter playfully.

I entered into my PhD in Indigenous Studies fuelled with anti-colonial, decolonial, Anishinaabe feminist intelligence, heart, and spirit. However, that fuel did not prepare me for my failure in entering into this field, and some of the social relations that animate it both inside and outside the actual academy, playfully. Or to be more correct, naively and assumptively. In my experience with Indigenous Studies in Anishinaabewaki, it is not a place that is ready for anti-colonial, decolonial, Anishinaabe feminist intelligence and practice. If it is, it isn’t ready for the way I understand, practice it, and have been cultivating it in my body and relationships since the mid-1990s. In my experience, there are ways of being in some Indigenous academic circles (which are made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples) that can be detrimental to Indigenous students well-being–emotionally, spiritually, psychically, psychologically, socially, and career-wise which impacts economic and material well-being. I refer to lived and witnessed experience. I will sit with this and try to make sense of it over the coming years.

The days of waking up and crying because I couldn’t believe that the awful things that were happening were really happening, and hanging on from a place of dark oblivion because I did not know if I would ever be able to get out are over.

I did it.

And while I want to say that nobody will ever again treat me the way I was treated over the past few years because I won’t allow it–I won’t let my Anishinaabe ideals, empathy and compassion for the ways colonization and colonialism has shaped us, and loyalty to Anishinaabe relational practices get in the way of refusing the a**holery and windigoism exploitive, extractive behaviours of some Indigenous peoples–I know that this university world, being a part of the global, settler colonial, capitalist society that it is, is filled with the makings of a**holery and windigoism exploitation and relations based on extraction. Awful things could happen again. I have no control over this though. However, now I know that awful things can, and do, happen. And, whereas I entered into this world in 2009 unafraid to speak, and unafraid to speak back, I did break from the hazing that resulted in my heart-thought-speak and my setting of boundaries. I flinched because reflex, survival, and self-preservation. Sitting back, recovering from it, I am no longer afraid to take the blows that come with my heart-thought-speak and setting boundaries. I’ve taken the blows over and over by some of the most celebrated people and while emotionally, psychologically, and physically altered by this behaviour and the way it is allowed, I’m unafraid to take the blows that come with speaking. I now know these ways of being are a part of this world and I know I can survive the blow-back of being Anishinaabe feminist in Anishinaabewaki. This energy comes also from knowing I am not the only one who feels this way or has experienced these things. There are many Indigenous womxn in many Nations who have, and do, and will speak, speak-back, and who have survived the disciplinary blows from both settler and Indigenous worlds, and who keep speaking and doing.

I am processing certain elements, or circles, of the academy. I have been, and will continue to work hard to makes sense of several things that have occurred in my own path. My heart is broken; I am angry; and, I am grieving. I know, and have heard of, other Indigenous womxn academics who have been brutally treated by fellow Indigenous academics–and not just men. I’m privy to their coping strategies. I’m grateful our paths have crossed, overlap and that we can call upon each other. Being cognizant of, grateful for, and always looking towards the many other circles in the Indigenous and non-Indigenous academy which are working towards decolonization and Indigenous endurance and re-generation in genuine ways will be, and is, a great part of acceptance, healing, and staying mobile.

When I was a teen, what I needed was a safe place and I got that. When I was a professional, what I needed was another career option out of the toxicity of that world and I got that, albeit in a tricky kind of way. When I was a wife with a child, I needed enough money in my account to start over and I made sure I had that. When I was doing my PhD, after several years in, I realized that the only way I was getting out of the culture of abusive dynamics that shape the culture of academia as a broad structure, system, and sphere of being (not just an institution, program, or people), was to write myself out. Keeping my eye on the human-buoys that mark my life and that live in this culture allowed me to. I raise my hands to them.

I wrote myself out of that sinking place I was in, that place of oblivion. I wrote myself out. Out to this point anyhow.

I did it.

The support from many human beings, more-than human-beings, and supernatural beings, and the on-going celebratory nature of this, has been a joy. Based on my experiences and witnessing, I never imagined my defence would be wonderful. It wasn’t a defence. It was a rich conversation of a beloved subject with other Indigenous and non-Indigenous women who share similar passions. I wish this kind of experience for all Indigenous academics who embark on the same journey. I wish this to be the experience for upcoming Indigenous graduate students for their entire journey to that moment. I’ve been accused of being idealistic; rather that than apathetic and accepting of the status quo. I hold the moment of my defence experience very close to my heart. Very close, like a blanket, a medicine.






The Who’s Who of Who Was in the Room



After the Defence: Gidigaa Migisi Doug Williams, Seth Medema, Paula Sherman, Aja Sy, Keegan and Cherylanne James, Brigitte Evering, niin, Brend Child, Carol Williams, Suzanne Bailey, Joan Sangster, Lesley Belleau,  and Gabriel. Photo taken by Brenda O’Toole, Oct. 3, 2018



makwa sister, Tasha Beeds, skyping in from nêhiyawowaki


sugar for pre-defence fire:feast:give-away

Making naase’igan in Lekwungenwaki. Or, “Sugar for Thesis Defence Fire, Feast, and Give-Away Ceremony in Michi Saagiiwaki”


hanging with this guy in his IK class

Hanging with this guy in his IK class



Jeff Beaver, Trapping 101 in Doug Williams’ IK Class



Post-Defence Dinner: Indian food, of course.



Here are some preface parts of my thesis. I still look at the Table of Contents and can’t believe I wrote this. Lol. I wrote this. If you would like to read it, please let me know. I would be honoured to share it:

















From “Dissertation Kitty” to “Dissertation Done Kitty”. Meeoow. *licks paws and preens whilst sitting on desk, in the light*



makwag Love Apples. These Grow in the Yard to our Apartment Building. Made Apple-Getter and Got Apples from High Branches. Made Apple Sauce. Made Home-Cooked Meal which included Apple Sauce. On, “First Post-Defence Saturday”.




1st Pre-Game Warm-Up Post-Diss: Pre-Game Floating.  Or, Mom-ing Sans Yoke and Albatross of Un-Done Diss. Yes. YesYesYes.


Next blog post: six weeks in dagwaagi. Coming soon.

Addendum, Nov. 12, 2018: So the phrase “Indigenous assholery and windigoism” has been tugging on me.

Tugging in the way of,

hey, christine, are you sure about using these words?;

Tugging in the way of,

these words sit uneasy, sit uneasy in my stomach;

As in, mmmm, these words. thesewordsthesewords. hmm. *squinty eye* hmmmmmm;

Tugging as in, are these the words I want to use?;

Tugging as in, these are the words I want to use, wanted to use and did use, and now hmmmm, tugging, tugging

As in, could you have done better?  

As in, hmmm. the energy invoked now, with words; these words. to do and not to do, undo. re-do. more do. hmph. 

Assholery is such a serious word, such a fun word. Cutting. Not fun. Rhythmic. Deadening. Windigoism, an ism. Both verbs. Actions. Movements. Ways of being. So, it’s not so much the words as the unpacking of them; the making-meaning of them in this ground I threw them into, pulled them up from. My lack thereof. My own assholery in opening a door fast and slamming it shut just as fast. Stories don’t dig this. Stories deserve more.

There are things to unpack, theorize, document about being Anishinaabe feminist in the academy and community and, communityacademycommunity. However, not feeling it right now (it being blogging about it). For now, I’ve attended to this tugging using the super power of asterisks, strike-outs, the replacement words of exploitation and extraction, and this addendum. Maybe this softens the energy. Makes it more live-able, more able to do what it needs to do.

The tugging is gone.








6 weeks in niibin



“just coming in for a wee drink, sugar” ~ aamoo