Honouring Indigenous Women: Heart of Nations, Vol. 2

by waaseyaa'sin christine sy

Honouring Indigenous Women: Heart of Nations, Vol. 2

This collection of poetry, prose, very short non-fiction, and art is a powerful statement about Indigenous women’s lives in Canada today. Wow. I have only just begun reading through it but have been so moved by the pieces I’ve read or viewed so far.

Chi miigwech IPSMO (Indigenous People’s Solidarity Movement of Ottawa) for seeking out, gathering, and beautifully putting together and disseminating Indigenous women’s knowledges, experiences, perspectives on life. Miigwech for including critical and compassionate thought from men as well.

My poems “this, her swagger” and “giizhigaatig nibi” (spelled as gizhikaande nibi in publication) live in this collection with the others.

“this, her swagger” was inspired by a number of women who are somehow in my life and represent varying Indigenous Nations. These women not only give me a rush with how they posture, how they carry themselves out in this world, but they also give me a mirror so that I do not have to worry about how I, as Anishinaabe woman, hold myself in the world They define the movement and form of Indigenous women and affirm that in our homeland we don’t have to carry ourselves out in accordance with Western (occupying) standards of (white) womanhood, femininity, or propriety. “we gots our city/and this, our swagger”. This poem is for all Indigenous women whose postures carry some always-knowing, vague memory, or reclaimed knowledge of our sovereignty, our righteousness, our relentless, and our beauty in our homelands. It is also for the Indigenous woman sitting in her living room with a CAS worker; the one standing up to her abuser–be they a love(r) or police officer; the woman in the doctor’s office taking on all those attitudes; the woman sex-working; the one looking the judge in the eyes or leaned up against jail-cell bars; the one sitting across the room from the social worker who never once asked about PTSD due to colonization or pondered how their  privilege is contributing to the depression; the one at intake in the women’s shelter; the one at the bank trying to get a cheque cashed; her there walking down the street or through the perfume section at Sears; the one sitting on a cement curb being with the day…

“this, her swagger” will be included in my poetry manuscript called, “City & Cedar” which explores Anishinaabe women’s decolonization, resistance in & against the (colonial) city, and coming to consciousness about self through Anishinaabe women’s knowledge and medicine. It resolves itself in and through Anishinaabe meanings of the city, odenaang–the place where we bury our placentas, the place where our hearts are.

“giizhigaatig nibi” is a poem that reflects a nuance of Anishinaabe love: it is about two people who honour their own individual sexuality and that of their partner/lover, enjoy expressions of gentle caring between each other, and share a kind of intimacy that nurtures loving lust. They are immersed in Anishinaabe life. As a matter of recovering from and thriving while living occupied lives, I wish this poem for myself, my family, and all Anishinaabeg as much as possible.

“giizhigaatig nibi” will be included in a dossier of creative explorations called Anishinaabe Love. This body of work is inspired by my dissatisfaction of dominant (colonial, western, canadian) meanings of ‘love’. More specifically, my upset with having colonial meanings of love being imposed without even knowing it and simultaneously eroding Anishinaabe meanings of love. I feel robbed of something beautiful; invigorated by the potential of learning about something that is life-giving. This project is me wondering out loud what Anishinaabe love looks, feels, tastes, smells, touches, moves, works, etc. like. It illuminates lived and imagined Anishinaabe meanings of love by intersecting contemporary reality with Anishinaabe knowledge, oral history, cosmology, and aadisokaanan (sacred stories). Zaagidewin–the art of exposing your heart, or letting it emerge–is the starting point for my exploration of Anishinaabe love.