Makwa ododem. Waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy n’dizhnikaaz. I’m Ojibway Anishinaabe and Canadian from Bawating (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada), Robinson Superior Treaty area. My maternal ancestral ties (kinship & Indian Act band membership) are with Obishkikaang (Lac Seul First Nation, Northwestern Ontario), Treaty 3 area. My paternal ancestral ties are from Belle Island, Newfoundland and Sault Ste. Marie, ON as well. I reside in Lekwungen territory with my family.
Getting Particular (4th update, manoomin giizis [ricing moon] 2017)
This past sugaring moon I had the experience of being in the same space as a person who has exploited me and caused me and my family a lot of pain (i.e. intellectually and socially). I witnessed them weave tales; I experienced their seemingly endless social aggression against me. In the aftermath of recovering from what would come to be understood as being triggered from past trauma from this hostility, I dug deep and imagined how I might respond to this person in public space–that being with witnesses to my behaviour and value system. In that digging deep I found something that allowed me to recover, newly restored and stronger for it. It was a deeper way of understanding myself in the world and in relationship.
This most recent update in “About” is not about this person. It’s about me, and pain, and digging deep to make sense of how to recover; how to do so with integrity to myself, my child, my relations, and to the unseen philosophical and spiritual ways of Anishinaabe being. In doing so, I am just a human—no better and also no worse than anyone.
This most recent update illuminates an evolution in Anishinaabewiziwin–one that gets particular. It celebrates that while “anishinaabeweziwin” is all the elements that make up Anishinaaabe life, this life is always nuanced through the particular lens of the creator/writer/speaker/doer. We are diverse, the same, different, on the same page, and at odds with each other all the time. We are a reflection of the universe. This is healthful. In the case of this blog, the writer is me — ojibway (faithkeeper); makwa ododem (bear clan); ikawe — one whose body changes as a matter of carrying life (see Helen Roy’s theories about language); and, anishinaabe feminist — an anishinaabe person who is interested in transforming the gendered ways settler colonial structural, ideological, and social power impact Indigenous peoples; and, in practicing/restoring/regenerating Anishinaabe life-ways through Anishinaabe philosophies despite the present dominant settler colonial, heteropatriarchal/paternal, capitalist and white supremacist system we live in. I am everybody–seen and unseen, flesh and spirit–who has influenced me. All the discomfitting things I contribute are mine and if I must theorize the things that are uncomfortable about me for others, they come from my name, waaseyaa’sin — a particular kind of glowing rock. Let’s just say it’s very hot and well tended.
Some will find what is here warm and welcoming; and others will find it too hot to handle and may want to keep their distance; others will be suspicious or rejecting of it all together. It’s all good. Being able to sit in our respective locations at the fire and be with each other in the sameness and the difference–and to do so for the interest of our ancestors, the worlds we live in now, and the future–is what is important. I can sit at the homefire of Anishinaabe life amidst the domination of settler colonial life and be who I am while my relative across the fire or to my left or right are who they are. I sit at my homefire from where I am and offer my tobacco. Experience has taught me to ask that nobody exploit or steal from the heart work that has gone into this homefire and my tending of it–come, get warm and ask if you can share in it, or borrow from it and also acknowledge it if you benefit from it and all from whom you benefit. There is no room for capitalist social climbing or competing here; no space for performing for men or popularity politics. This is nose-to-the-ground, (liminal) boundary living, history (re)making, and yes, a little star-gazing.
Nogdawindamin–achieving a state of well-being by caring for each other is such a significant insight into Anishinaabe mindset about the world and each other. So simple, or, not. Minaademowin–speaking straight up in order to achieve a state of well-being is also significant. Also, simple, or not. Sometimes “caring” and “speaking straight” are experienced )or constructed) as polar opposites; in my understanding of anishinaabe’aadiziwin (“the culture” according to nozhe dodem, Gidigaa Migisi Doug Williams), caring and speaking straight are in harmonic relationship with each other. In neo-liberal times, where even asking a question can unsettle people and where even the asker can be constructed as hostile, it’s important to think deeply and be deep with anishinaabewiziwin. It is important to not be fragile– as in male or white fragility. Our teachers who were once children in sanitariums, residential schools or other awful places were not fragile. Let’s have strong hearts, minds, spirits and spines. We ought to be able to speak straight up to each other, ask a question, talk how we talk , in order to get to a place of safety, health, vigilant comfort, and yes, playfulness and joy. Be it by force or by choice, we may take on some of the accoutrements of settler colonial life, but we must value above all, Anishinaabe bimaadiziwin, lived and regenerated as best we can through anishinaabe philosophy in all the places we live, work, and play. We must be able to sit across the fire from each other and have the heart-y conversations and dialogue about how we want things to be in our own worlds and the worlds our beloved navigate. We need each other and we need to be strong for the natural and spiritual places we call home. hiy hiy!
Creation and Re-creation Stories (3rd edit, aanshin giizis [February] 2014)
I created this blog in August 2012 as a place to grow in three areas of writing: discipline, skill, and confidence. Back then, I felt the need to be more productive in writing. More specifically, I felt the need to clear away a lot of brush on the path of writing my PhD dissertation: lack of focus; ineptness; and, general fear of not being good enough.
In thinking what I would write about, I thought my heart has not yet done me wrong and so, in this vein I decided to write those things that resonate with my heart. It was also important for me to write about matters that may be meaningful, helpful, and/or interesting to readers. After all, a blog is part me, part influences, and part you. I also wanted to reflect and impinge upon Indigenous life and living. In this spirit then I decided to write about, from, and for anishinaabewiziwin—all the the elements that make up Anishinaabe life (Helen Agger, Following Nimishoomis: The Trout Lake History of Dedibaayaanimanook Sarah Keesick Olsen, Penticton: Theytus Book, 2008: 286).
For those not familiar with Anishinaabe peoples, a brief geographic and relational marking: we are an Indigenous Nation whose ancestors migrated from the mouth of Chi-Ziibi (popularly known in English as the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, Canada) thousands of years ago and made our Nations’ home around Gichi Gaming Za’igaanan (the Great Lakes, which is now divided by the imposed international Canada-United States border). We are comprised of similar yet distinct groups of Anishinaabeg including Ojibway, Odawa, Pottawatomi, Mississauga, Chippewa and ?Algonquin?. We share borders with several Indigenous Nations including the Haudenausonee, Mushkegowok, Nehiyaw, Dakota, and Menominee, to name a few. The (accent missing) Metis Nation includes, but is not limited to, Anishinaabe lineage; as well, the Anishinaabe Nation includes Metis peoples (as an example see negotiations for Treaty 3 which ensured inclusion of Metis relations). Further west, in Nehiyaw (Plains Cree) and Metis country, Anishinaabeg are also known as Saulteaux. I think I’m safe in saying, without providing any source, that we’ve been forging ties–socially, intimately, and economically–with peoples outside of our borders, and with peoples non-Indigenous to Turtle Island, for as long as we’ve all been intermingling.
“Anishinaabewiziwin” was created to promote life within a contemporary world that is i) Anishinaabe-non-Anishinaabe and is informed by the thousands of years old knowledges and practices of peoples that make up the Anishinaabeg Nation; ii) informed by Anishinaabe negotiations with and resistances to more than 400 years of colonial-nation-state/neo-colonial mentality, policies, and practices; and, iii) heavily influenced by the dominating knowledges that have been and continue to be generated by culture that colonizes land and life. Promoting Anishinaabe life specifically through Anishinaabewiziwin and promoting life generally through Anishinaabewiziwin, within the present context, as a life-line for future generations, is my primary thematic concern with this blog.
Early into blogging I admitted that my heart didn’t just want to be translated into words, structured sentences, essays, or traditional formality alone. As it turns out, n’ode (my heart) speaks in photography, poetry, spoken word, prose, short story, sketch, diagrams, dibaadjimowinan (personal stories), interviews, hyperlinks to other publications, news commentary, and guest submissions (one to date) and this is what you’ll find here.
At this time, I’m not concerned with clearly organized, easy access to subject matter. I experience a great deal of satisfaction following the meanderings of my heart, tempering any lackadaisy-ness with an anchor here and there (e.g. moderate editing, sourcing, attention to presentation, or wanting it to be helpful). In turn, I hope readers of “Anishinaabewiziwin” might find some joy in moving through it with only the Homepage or the links to monthly entries to facilitate the way.
Sharing Knowledge and Acknowledging Knowledge Sources
I like to think that it’s my fathers’ generosity without expecting anything in return, the working-class ethos of my family and friends, and my mothers’ Anishinaabe dna paired with Anishinaabe cultural teachings that cause me to feel really good about sharing knowledge relevant to Anishinaabe life, whether it be resources, how-to’s, information, or my interpretation or analysis. Much of what I’ve learned and continue to learn has come from the no-money-attached generosity of fellow Anishinaabeg from all walks of life. It’s also true that much of what I’ve learned has come through years and years of schooling in the university system, which we know in Canada, is expensive. This education, in turn, has opened up pathways to people and cultural knowledge that I would otherwise not have access to given my upbringing in a non-Anishinaabe, Canadian social world. Western legal concepts and processes like intellectual property and copyright are often talked about in this academic world. In fact, in any world that publishes.
My experience with intellectual property and copy right have been limited yet interesting in that I’ve experienced a range of situations. For example, quite haphazardly in community settings some years ago I learned of how my research ideas were used by others in their own work (they were advised to make changes); there was a story floating around for a very brief time that I utilized a peers intellectual property in a presentation without permission or acknowledgement (upon following up with this story with the person, I was told, that there were no issues re: misuse of intellectual property); I’ve seen my cultural material, cultural analysis (oral and written), and parts of my research framework reflected in three non-academic publications without reference (this story was given back to the person who created it because after all, it’s their story, not mine); and, I’ve also had my work, ideas, or influence properly acknowledged in publications.
As much as I’d like to live isolated in the Anishinaabe theoretical world of sharing and exchange of ideas etc., I also get that we are collectively living in a world where western legal concepts such as intellectual property and copyright are important aspects in publishing in a neo-colonial word. I also get that claiming intellectual property and copyright are connected to social-economic growth and maintenance, as well as professional accruements in a nation-state economy that is ruthless, particularly to Indigenous peoples and lands, even more particularly to Indigenous women. I get that this economy fuels notions of superiority, competition, and fear and that this can lead to the use of material and/or ideas that may not be those of the writer or publisher.
I get all this.
My intuition tells me that going the way of intellectual property or copy-right somehow feeds the neo-colonial beast I am hoping to undermine, if only a little bit, during my momentary time as star-dust in this world. However, I also do not wish to be exploited; having been so, feels yucky. I also do not wish to see people using my ideas or work to further themselves without acknowledgment. At the end of the day, I’m an Indigenous woman with a family living in this capitalist, patriarchal, misogynist neo-colonial world whose default tends to be the erasure or marginalization of all things Indigenous woman. It isn’t easy. So, taking the cue from some Anishinaabe women whose blogs and/or websites I’ve visited over the past several months, women whom I really respect for their pride in working-class or community oriented ethic, who do the work they do from the heart and love with seemingly no interest in the fame game, I would like to state this:
If there is anything you engage here in “Anishinaabewiziwin” that you would like to quote or that informs your thinking, please use it, use it, use it! This is about promoting life after all and if anything can be put to use that that is honouring the spirit that lives here then the purpose has been met. In this vein though, if utilizing something from here in publication, please acknowledge that you obtained it from “Anishinaabewiziwin”, with my full name (as stated above), and a link to the source. Further to this, I try my best to acknowledge sources in what I publish here (in one blog entry, I invite you to contact me if you would like to know about the sources that influenced the piece). In the case that you see yourself here and think, “Hey, we talked about that idea and you don’t cite me” or “Hey, I talk about this in my article/book/social media etc. etc. and I’m pretty sure got it from me but you don’t cite me” please let me know and we’ll definately talk about it. I believe that knowledge generation and sharing is built by many and this ought to be reflected as best as it can in publications; I may need your assistance in making sure I get it right here in “Anishinaabewiziwin”.
For now, a few final thoughts about “Anishinaabewiziwin” that are best expressed through words articulated by other Indigenous artists and scholars. First,
I walk out of genocide to touch you
~Qwo-Li Driskell, “Map of the Americas”, Walking with Ghosts
“Knowledge is made up of networks of shared cultural metaphors stored in the memories and thoughts of interconnected individuals. No one person knows the whole story. Unlike the western scientist, we never expect to know all that there is. Nevertheless, totality exists.” ~ Deborah Doxtator, “Godi’Nigohi’: The Woman’s Mind and Seeing Through to the Land,” (n/a).