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

niiwan ishkodewag for n’niijkiiweNh | four fires for my friend

nitaam ishkode

Years ago, we asked if he would come to Anishinaabe Saswaan to teach us. He did. We learned how to make ishkode. Anishinaabe Saaswan was for Anishinaabeg only and so were the teachings. One day, after everyone left the sugar shack and it was quiet, n’daanis, ikawewizeNhs, said it was lonely and asked if she could try to make a fire. Using what she learned, she did. Witnessing her from inside the sugar shack, I could see she was so impressed. I hoped she learned that ishkode is a friend, can be a friend when you are alone, or lonely, or when everyone leaves and the quiet is too much. Since that time when he taught us his way to make fire, this is how I do it. It’s been about twelves years using his method and it’s never let me down. Over the years, I realize that making a fire the way he taught it is about making fire for the people. When it comes to the wood, you start with the kindling which represents the babies.


i was heading into a meeting here in lək̓ʷəŋən territory this past Wednesday morning when my friend called so i didn’t pick up. later, heading to my car, i saw Kachina in my FB messenger and wondered what was up she never messages me. before checking it i called Tasha back expecting our banter would be what it regularly–just some regular banter.

i was wrong.

with kindness and gentleness, she told me Doug had passed that morning.

sitting there in the parking lot on a beautiful sunny day amidst the arbutus, the art buildings of U Vic, the black asphalt and green green of these lands, i think i may have been surprisingly unsurprised. “Ohhh.” was all i could say. my friend.

we had just texted back and forth the week before and it was no where in my mind that this would be the last time we chatted. he had texted so early that morning, 6am ish my time and 9 amish his time; my Dad’s friend had also called at 5:40 am and then my brother. it was a strange morning with all these early calls coming from Ontario. we had texted back and forth briefly as i was in the midst of still-sleeping and his last text was: “Are you travelling?”. i didn’t respond to it as i dozed back to sleep. he face-timed about twenty minutes later which made me a bit curious but because i was still sleeping i didn’t pick up. i knew i’d follow up with him later. when i got up and my day started i texted him back about travel plans asking if he’d be around for a visit in August. he read the message and didn’t respond. i didn’t think anything of it. later that evening, my sister-friend Brigitte, in southern Ontario, texted to say she and her partner were having fire and the fireflies were out! it made me happy to know this and also grateful to have her in my life–to have a friend who knows the things that light up your heart and reach out to bring a little joy is a gift. B and I were in the same PhD cohort together and have many beautiful memories of our first course, much of which was with Doug. After getting that message from her, i texted Doug later that evening: “I hear the waawaatesiwag are out!”. He read my text the next day but didn’t respond.


The day of Doug’s passing was spent talking with others back home and dealing with this reality. My heart goes out to his family and community. He was well loved and his circle was wide. There are a lot of Anishinaabeg out here in the Victoria area, including Michi Saagiig. There is community here and I’m grateful for one Mississauga, Carmen, for letting me use her fire pit to have a fire for Doug and to do so for four nights.

Doug always said that ceremony is strongest at sunrise, noon, or at sundown. So four fires at sunset it was. While he was an intellectual and open to learning from younger generations, he thought it was more important for us as Anishinaabeg academics to put the cultural things that we learned from Elders to use. With this in mind, on this first night, I sang one song that Edna Manitowabi taught us at the Anishinaabe Saaswan and shared with Carmen how Doug taught us to make fire. It was good to be able to have this space and to have one of Doug’s family members attend.

It was late by the time we wrapped up. On my way home I saw Nokomis and remembered that this week saw the lowest tides in a generation and that it was a full moon. For Anishinaabe, it’s miskomin giizis, raspberry moon. For WSÁNEĆ peoples, it’s CENHENHEN, humpback salmon returns to the earth. I read elsewhere, that for some, this moon is also known as Buck Moon. I drove around to some sweet spots to visit her and to be with this loss. As I was driving to a lookout point along the meandering southern coast hoping to see Nokomis reflected off the ocean, one streetlight amongst the row of streetlights, right at Monterey Ave and Beach Dr. was flickering off and on, off and on, like a waawaatesiwag.

He didn’t always get back right away on text but he always did eventually:

“I hear the waawaatesiwag are back!”

A week later, a streetlight flickers as if it’s him saying, “Yep, chum. The waawaatesiwag are back!”


“Doug’s First Day Travelling Home”
eyaabe giizis, Saturn (and possibly one of Saturns moons) amongst the grasses & Garry Oaks at P’kals | Mt. Tolmie.
July 13, 2022. 10:54 pm.

eko-niizhing ishkode

After the babies come the children and the youth. The pieces of wood for them are a little bigger.


Doug taught me so much. It doesn’t matter what season he began his return home, I’d find something about the land to associate him with.


One time, Doug said, “Let’s go get some nuts.” He went poking around in his shed and came out with this long pole with a nail nailed into the end of it and bent to make a hook. That was the tool he used to go harvesting nuts with, I guess. I no longer remember where we went but I think it was somewhere in Curve Lake. I also don’t remember what nuts he wanted to harvest but when we got to those trees/that tree, there were none. “We’re too late in the season. The damn squirrels got them.”

“How do you say ‘nut’ in the language?”


“Ah, like pecan.”



Doug was super flexible and open to learning from younger generations. We could talk to him about the most controversial things going on about culture and he’d try to figure a way through a problem with us. For instance, while he thought it was beautiful for men to make fire and women to wear ribbon skirts to ceremony, he didn’t think that only men could make fire for ceremony and he didn’t expect women to wear skirts; he also made effort to understand gender diversity and make space for it. He also had a serious side about ceremony which was more about the need to recognize not only that it was powerful and needed to be respected but that our ceremonies are powerful for us as Anishinaabe as in, they can do a lot of us. For most things, whenever there were hesitancies about doing Anishinaabe things–as in having worries that whatever the thing was wouldn’t be done “right”–he said, “What’s most important is that you just do it.” He didn’t want to see Anishinaabeg stopping ourselves from being Anishinaabe because of fear of not knowing how to do it perfectly; he always wanted Anishinaabeg to get out there and “Just do it.”


Thinking about honouring my friend for this second fire, and in the spirit of just doing it, I went to my storage unit and pulled out the tool I made for harvesting fruit from trees which was a replication of the one Doug had. I don’t particularly like doing Anishinaabe things in view of settlers but this time was different. As I was harvesting from the cherry tree that exists in the courtyard alongside two different kind of apple trees, I was thinking of Doug and how happy he’d be to know that his knowledge was being put to use.

“Rainier Cherries for Carmen, after Doug’s baacan harvesting tool.”
miskomin giizis 14, 2022.


Tonight there were Dakhóta/Lakhóta visitors and stories around the fire. Our worlds are big and beautiful. I sang the song Edna taught us and a song Doug taught us, quietly, while the womxn visited.

eko-nising ishkode

“And these bigger ones, the adults of the community, they go around the children and youth.”


It’s Friday. My girl Facetimed me first thing in the morning, sobbing. It was her first day off since she found out our friend passed away. While she cried when she found out and had been processing, the reality of Doug’s passing hit her hard on her first morning off. She saw so many posts honouring Doug and recent pictures of him online and I think it just made it so much more real for her. She thought she’d see him again. Capitalist structures dominate our lives and shapes our grieving and our ability to grieve. I’m glad my girl took some time to feel her feels and that I had the space and time to help her process and reminisce.

“Mom, he was so kind and good to me. He never made me feel like I wasn’t important.”


Tonight, another Michi Saagii person came to the fire to honour Doug. Carmen also made the fire for me because my back was hurting. I think Doug would be happy to know that his fire-making method was being taught and put into action by other Michi Saagiig. I sang the song that Edna taught us and one that Doug taught us. Carmen sang a song one of her teacher’s taught her. She has a beautiful voice; it was a beautiful song. I imagined her teacher is a powerful singer; I imagined my friend Tasha is too. Vibration and song–strong singing–is so much a part of Anishinaabe life. I hope he hears all the songs being sung for him. I look forward to the day when I can get in a sweat again with some strong singers. I appreciate our singers because I am not one myself. Doug let me record him singing some songs here and there; one of them is a lamenting song that he himself sang around a fire. I haven’t listened to any of them in the space of his passing as I think it messes with his travels. I’ll do it next year though.

eko-niiwining ishkode

I don’t know if this subtitle is written correctly for “the fourth fire”. The “Ojibway Online Dictionary” does not provide a word for ‘fourth’ so I’m just applying the pattern from the previous subtitles. You know, just doing it.

And about that fire too, he said, “Then, the biggest pieces of wood goes around the whole community. These ones are the Elders.” With that, he struck his match and started the ishkode. So many fires have been lit since then.

This fire for instance, this fourth one, it was just me and Carmen. We made it together; her partner chopped the wood this time. Every night he brought out a new fresh kind of herbal tea and cared for us in this way; one night it was smoothies. Tonight, I offered odeminan to the fire and read the words to creation that Doug helped me with in June 2011, words that he wanted me to prepare to help in a sunrise ceremony. He shared so much knowledge; he encouraged and mentored so many to pick up our ways and live it. Tonight, Carmen and I sang the first same three songs and then I taught her the song that I always loved because it has zaasaakwe’s in it, giving us a chance to sound out to the spirits.

I’ve always been kind of neurotic about older people I care for dying. When I was a child I always worried about my Dad dying and even now, at his old age of 84, I can’t imagine not having him. When I left Anishinaabewaki for work, I felt a lot of sadness about the inevitable changes that would come in my friendship with Doug. I struggled with not being able to keep living the Anishinaabe good life I was living with my girl in Nogojiwanong. I was both excited and scared about our lives changing and I wondered what life would be like in another territory. My girl says that being in Nogo was the happiest time of her life and as she grows, the meaning she is making about all those Anishinaabe memories is helping her navigates life out in the world as a young adult. Doug and I kept in touch regularly and I visited him whenever I went back to Ontario. These last days with the fires honouring Doug’s travel through the western door and his return to anangwan, have been up and down but mostly ok. He lost a lot of people over the years and whenever I asked how he was doing with the loss of a friend or family member he’d say, “I’m doing ok. It’s good to let ourselves to feel pain but it’s important to not sit in it for too long.” I hope his family and all those who love him have solace in each other and through their ceremonies for him. It has been such good medicine to be connecting with others in our memories of Doug.

Closing this fire, I feel unafraid to walk knowing Gidigaa Migizi is no longer there on the other end of the phone. I will miss receiving his random calls and facetimes and just “shooting the shit”. My girl and I will always celebrate him and he will always inform my thinking and the way I want to be in the world as Anishinaabe. I would want him to be proud of me. Knowing him, n’daanis and I are left as stronger and more capable Anishinaabeg; we are better in our ability to live anishinaabe’aadiziwin. Besides justice, I think that’s all he wants for our people.

“Telling Doug a Joke While Harvesting Manoomin in Michi Saagiig Country.”
August/Sept. 2010.

naasana weweni niijiikiiweNh.

Doug’s Obituary

Note: The Anishinaabe knowledge shared here is not shared in its entirety. Even though I know that the sacredness and power of our ways comes from its embodiment and practice, leaving bits and pieces out is a method I employ to foil any attempts at appropriation. If any Anishinaabeg would like to visit over anything I learned from Doug that is shared here, please do contact me. chi miigwech.

A Love: Hunting Asiniig

this may 5th: revisiting forty seconds in The Revenant

Content Warning: references to rape, description of physical violence

There’s forty seconds of a scene in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant (2015) that for me, as an Ojibwe womxn, felt right…and righteous. These forty seconds are the first time I recall viewing a film where there is an exchange between a settler man and an Indigenous womxn that portrays him acting in the ways he’s supposed to. Disturbingly, the scene I am referring to is a sickening, and seemingly gratuitous, rape scene. I say “seemingly” gratuitous because it is the case that most pop culture that includes Indigenous peoples, and womxn specifically, portray Indigenous womxn as objects to be violated upon or acted through/against. And yet, in The Revenant, with these forty seconds, I leave the film thinking, if Hollywood insists on portraying Indigenous womxn being raped, let Hollywood also portray Indigenous womxn as having some power between her hands on the other side of rape. I walk away thinking this forty seconds does this.

The sexualized violence is instigated by an un-named French trapper (hereafter “rapist”) against Powaqa, a character who is mostly known for being the “daughter of a Chief” and whose storyline being “kidnapped” and “in need of rescue”. The writers definitely repeat old, tired themes through Powaqa. The main character, Hugh Glass, also a fur-trapper, stops the rapist by stealthily coming up behind him and, picking up his gun which he’s laid on the snowy ground behind him, places it against the back of the rapists’ head while covering his mouth with his other hand. Pulling the rapists’ head back and his body away from Powaqa, Glass whisper-screams at him to be quiet so as to not rouse the camp. Powaqa steps out beside the rapist and Glass, speaking in what is presumably Powaqa’s Arikara language, proceeds to tell her that there is a knife on the rapists’ belt. Powaqa reaches across the man’s torso, grabs it, and repositions herself directly behind him, alongside Glass. She grabs the rapists’ hair and raises the knife seemingly to exact her revenge—or as I view it—to bring things to balance. Glass, in turn, withdraws the gun, removes his hand from the rapists’ mouth, and steps away to the sounds of Powaqa speaking seething words in her language to the rapist. Her rage. Her dignity. Her power and her empowerment. Her, balancing of things. All of this is portrayed in those seconds.

While Powaqa speaks her words, the camera follows Glass as he unties a horse, preparing to flee. With that pan away from Powaqa and on Glass, we are left to imagine what she will do with that knife, with those words. The camera then pans out for a wide view of the fur trappers camp which, now alerted by stirring horses, is in gun-firing upheaval. We see Powaqa running across an open field away from the camp, the rapist, and Glass, the interceptor. As Glass darts away on horseback in the other direction, the camera pans back to the rapist to briefly show him standing weakly by the tree where he committed the assault, with blood streaming down the front and inner parts of his legs, before falling to his knees. In that moment, it becomes clear how Powaqa restored balance.

For me, as Ojibwa womxn, I know and understand—like many, if not most of us do—that there are forces greater than ourselves as individuals and as a people. In old time Anishinaabe worlds and today, we know these greater forces are gizhe manidoo, chi pawaaminag, the supernatural, and the more-than-human. In global and settler colonial worlds, it seems we are always petitioning the strength of our forces to work for us while petitioning the non-Anishinaabeg ones to stop their myriad forms of violence against us. In movies and in life, in the present historical moment of our lives, the latter forces generally have more power than us. They have powerfully greedy thoughts. They have the power of big guns, big networks, big governments, big budgets, big jails, big plans. Sometimes, they kidnap us away from our families and communities. We as individuals are often helpless to stop that; our beloveds, our communities, our people sometimes are, too. Sometimes they take, by rape and other ways, deeply and violently, from us and, we are helpless to stop that as well. Sometimes, a man comes along—settler, Indigenous or arrivant. He intercepts, he rescues, he protects. He behaves right by trying to find us when we are kidnapped or missing. He uses all his might and force. He behaves right by intercepting, even at risk to himself, in a violent act being enacted upon us. He stops it. This is right.

The forty seconds of The Revenant that catch my attention could have portrayed something we are deeply conditioned to expect and even reproduce in life under the settler gender expectation of man-as-hero-rescuer-protector and Indigenous-woman-as-in-need-of-hero-rescuer-protector:

the settler man, behaving right, intercedes and stops the rape. so as not to raise the alarm of the camp, he drops the gun and, seeing the knife on the rapists’ belt, takes it and silently stabs him to death slits his throat. [by enacting violence upon the man, by taking the man’s life, he not only has intercepted the sexual assault, he’s now not only rescuing the Indigenous womxn but he’s protecting the Indigenous womxn from further violence.] having been rescued and protected, the Indigenous womxn follows the settler man to the horses. she rides on the horse with him [show her to be strong post-rape] she gets her own horse and rides beside him ahead of him.

Instead, in forty seconds, the writer(s) of this scene of The Revenant break from the kidnapped- daughter-of-Chief-who-needs-to-be-rescued storyline and give us something profoundly different:

the settler man, behaving right, intercedes and stops the rape. he speaks the Indigenous womxn’s language and as such his behaviour matches the fact that being able to do so means he might be familiar with her peoples’ ways–not just the material but the unseen as well. his behaviour shows that he obviously understands something about her power, her dignity, her law; the power, dignity, and laws of her people. In the seconds where Glass pulls the rapist away Powaqa, he seemingly tells her through word and gesture, “there’s a knife on his belt”. It’s as if Glass knows that not only is the restoration of balance hers but it is she who has to restore it. He doesn’t seek to be a hero or a protector or perform some kind of protective masculinity. He just does what is right—what would be expected of anyone—and then steps back allowing the space needed do what Powaqa self-determines what is right from her body, her position, her being, her ways. The writers do no give us a Powaqa who performs a rescued or beholden femininity. They do not portray her as divesting of her power to restore balance for herself or by way of expecting the man to do it, in her honour. The writers give us a Powaqa who enacts her will for herself upon this man who committed violence upon her; she enacts this through her self-determined word in her language and through her action. Despite Glass stopping the assault and recognizing her self-determination to address the matter, the writers do not give us an Indigenous womxn who is obliged to another because a decent thing was done in her regard; the writers give us someone who is discerning. they give us an Indigenous womxn who, away from her people, forges her own path to safety. in this precarious and uncertain situation, the writers give us an Indigenous womxn who counts on herself to get herself to safety. she is her best rescuer. she is her best protector. it is after all, her land. she knows it better than any of them.

Indigenous womxn are allowed to self-determine how to respond to or deal with violence enacted upon us–in all situations and contexts. My own interpretation of these forty seconds here is not intended to silence or shame any approach or to suggest one way is better than another. My intent is to make space for what to me is the portrayal of a brief but profound exchange that I have not previously, or since, witnessed in film. To me, the development of these characters and their interaction in these forty seconds provides a powerful example of how men can practice indigenous feminist ethics in relation to Indigenous womxn, particularly under the duress and trauma they may endure while witnessing and/or intercepting violence. We cannot expect men, particularly Indigenous men, to be immune to the impacts of violence or to reproduce it on the behalf of others. We cannot assume that men are not at risk of violence when they undermine patriarchal violence. These forty seconds also demonstrates that Indigenous womxn are at risk of forces greater than themselves or their people and, in those cases, do require our people, our family, our kin to look for us, to be looking out for us, with all their resources; we need people to intercept in the myriad forms of violence enacted upon us. It also demonstrates that once the immediacy of safety is obtained and the power dynamic levelled, our will, desire, and ability to self-determine how to restore balance when violence has been enacted upon us must be recognized and the space to allow our self-determination to happen must be made. We cannot assume that Indigenous womxn do not have this capacity and that it is Indigenous men who must restore this balance.

It is right for men to intercept in all forms of violence being committed against Indigenous womxn. It is righteous when they do it out of recognition and respect for our dignity as full human beings unto ourselves and not as performance of their own masculinity, patriarchal power, goodness, or gender “role” expectations.

Righteousness is acting right in response to the indigeneity of our being and our lifelines. It is recognizing we are worlds-more than the violence enacted upon us and treating us as such.

Note: For Indigenous womxn filmmakers’ portrayals of Indigenous womxn’s self-determination in the face of various kind of violence see Christine Welsh’s Keepers of the Fire (1994) and Finding Dawn (2006), Shirley Cheechoo’s Backroads |Bearwalker (2000), and Ella-Máijá Tailfeathers’ A Red Girl’s Reasoning (2012) and The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (2019). I’m sure there are many more films made by Indigenous womxn on this topic. These are just the ones that quickly come to mind.

Summer Rumbles

Over the next six weeks I’ll be uploading short posts about my travels home to (and in) Anishinaabewaki from Lekwungenwaki. The party, in all its precarity, starts Aug. 21.


18 manoomin giizis 2021 | 10:11 pm | Lekwungenwaki, P’kals (Mt. Tolmie) foothills

Dear Travelling-ikawewag, Anna, Jack, Sissy, Norval, Michael, and Jamaica,

Heading home soon—gizhe manidoo willing. Prep includes but is not limited to asemaa for persons on the side of the road, nibi for libations of drought and fire-raged lands, double vaccinations (of the same vaccination) and vaccination card and mask, a pocket knife, playlists, and podcasts. Packing my ricing sticks and paddle, fixings for tobacco ties, and sources for a chapter due Sept. 1st. Happy to be travelling with Daabaan, Gaazhak, Miigwaanag, and ElleDoubleU. Trying to get all the visiting and work done here before I leave but pretty sure I won’t be able to. Getting gifts for everyone—being able to get gifts for everyone—is my favourite part. Stressed, excited, faithful.

Fishies for Beloved Nishies (Aug. 14, Sne-Nay-Muxw)

i like that we meet here now

and i like that you listened to me.

i like that you respected my boundaries even though i miss your random showing up in my dreams or on my social.

there are different kinds of fires —those that blaze wildly, fast and furious, can cause damage, burn quick and then out. and there are sacred fires. fires started in ancient times and are ignited again and again with care and discipline. boundaries. care. respect. slowness. long hauls. i’m glad i had the wherewithal to avoid building the first kind of fire with you. and, that you let it be so. because of that, here we are. and to me, it feels good. i value you in my life and it feels good to have the door open; to have niibin flowing between us.

i like that we meet here now, that you listened to me. it makes my heart burn stronger. even as it means less of you in a kind of way, it means more of you in another kind of way that runs deeper in me. i can respect you. i can think of you righteously. i respect you. i think of you righteously. miigwech for letting that happen. and mostly, it means you care to let me know you know i am not a plaything. you will not do that even as i poked at your ego. taunted. tested. i understand full well that this may actually not be a listening, a caring, a boundary-respecting; that it could be a great retreat born from a “idgaf about this or you” and yet my heart tells me different. the great thing about meeting here is it’s safe for both of us. so, let me continue down the path of what my heart tells me:

i’m coming home soon and i wonder if the vibrations of our Ojibway world change frequency when we’re in the same territory. i will think of you when i’m there. sometimes, in this life at the beginning of the ocean, i steal away to think of you, to recall that beautiful fleeting moment of us. i close my eyes and recall some of our beautiful moments. oh.

and, i like to imagine that you steal away from your beautiful life once in awhile to think of me, too. i like to imagine a song reminds you of me or feelings we had. i like to think that you might, on occasion, want to be with your own quiet thoughts of me, alone, overlooking the lake or somewhere just in your daaban. that maybe on occasion you want to remember me. to feel the memory of our vibration.

you know, it’s not common for a man today to see a warrior in a woman and to love that about her. to see it and know it and still walk towards her. to see it and know it and be unwavering in his own warrior self, to know that combined it would just make more Ojibway beauty. you made me stronger in so many ways. and your kindness in that humbles me even as you were looking for something back i couldn’t give. i hope that the feelings were enough to ignite you. to make you want to live more fully, more vibrantly, more within yourself and accepting of yourself.

i like that we meet here now.

i wonder if we’ll ever see each other again.

deep like winter, stirring like spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe he’s a scaredy cat.

Maybe he’s fishing

            to have his ego stroked,


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

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

Beyond the games, he feels there is something here.

I want to believe that.

What else can this be but Ojibwe love?

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

Maybe he should read Kim Tallbear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odoodis. Odoodosh. Odoodem.

Belly button. Breast. Clan.


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

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

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

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

Orange Shirt

today, the white lady is wearing orange.

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

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

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

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

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

i’m almost back.

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



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

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

purring. gazing. breathing.

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

my body is back together again.

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

i do.

i sleep.

Summer Solstice

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

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

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

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

The Ways IBPOC People & Allies are Challenging Racism and Colonialism

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Additional Links:

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

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

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

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