this is not about being missing.
this is not about sexual violence.
this is not about being physically abused.
this is not about being murdered.
there is a long gap between that windigoism and the one i want to continue unpacking today.
i wished i would not have been so naive. as a 30 some year old it’s embarrassing to think about being so naive. i wish someone had of told me that windigoism exists in us as humans and to be wary of it’s presence.
maybe i knew this and i was blinded by something else.
in fact, i think yes, i was.
if i’m to be honest, i have to say yes, i was.
blinded by altruism; by commitment to decoloniality; being responsible; and, by being recognized by someone i admired.
oh, to be recognized by someone you admire.
i used to be in friend-love with this anishinaabe woman. i thought she was a friend. i respected her. i admired her. i trusted her. i gave her everything thinking we were doing community together. i never thought she was using me for her own agenda until i did and by that time, it was done and i was there shaking my head thinking what the fuck just happened.
the first time i got a whiff of something sketchy, i discounted it. actually, i didn’t discount it. i blamed myself — i turned on myself and thought that there must be something wrong with me in thinking negative things about a friend. i thought i was being arrogant. i thought my thinking was distorted. i thought there was something wrong with me.
when something happened again, again i shooed my negative thoughts, interpretations, inklings away. she was my friend, our children were friends. we ceremonied, worked, gossiped, laughed together. we had community and were a part of emergent community.
when something happened again…
finally, i decided to trust my reading of things. i decided to say something in a round-about way. i said, “i remember sharing these ideas in our conversations on a few occasions.” friend skirted and never said anything. i’ve learned people with certain kinds of power get to hide behind silence while those who have questions or are unsettled or have less power do the labour of trying to make sense of a shitty thing they’ve done.
later, when friend disregarded my needs on a project i invited her to participate in with me and then tried to advance her own agenda of advancing her friend, that was it. i had enough. i said my words and things imploded. i was the asshole. the friendship and all the community associated with it, ended, just like that.
it took me over a year to understand what happened. but things didn’t just ‘end’ like relationships do—this person was not done with me.
gossip, sharmy moves in publications, etc. etc.—various forms of ambient violence ensued.
you think you are going crazy. you wonder wtf is happening. wtf did i do to deserve this?
you realize what you did was refuse to be their compliant, unquestioning source. you realize that what you did was say no. you realize that the moment you realized your work, your thinking, your passion, your spirit is your homefire and not up for exploitation or theft by others and the moment this led to a hand up in refusal was the moment of truth—you were just a source. nothing more, nothing less. you realize that what you did was carry on living the life you were living before they came towards you performing friendship but really mobilizing an agenda and that that pissed them off. as though how dare you carry on…
when something like this happens with a person who—in a capitalist society is of more worth than you—nobody listens to you about the underbelly shit. they don’t because they are caught up in what they want, in what they want to believe. it’s easier to cast the victim-who-speaks as the crazy, jealous, competitive, aggressive, out-to-lunch problematic one. we see that dynamic play out all. the. time.
so be it.
feed the windigo but own your part in it when it gets out of hand.
or, test it: set a boundary, ask a tough question, say no. see how windigoism responds. pro-tip: wait for the performative stage to pass. just wait and see what happens when you hold to account or say no or withdraw your own light and limit access.
whatever you do, whenever someone signals the windigo to you, don’t discount it. don’t cling to whatever bit of desperate is in you to not see it. just recognize that, as a wise, tapped-in anishinaabe woman once told me, we all have that windigo-potential in us. it is evident in some but it could be me, or you, too. we need to be disciplined and aware and truly grounded–striving to be grounded–in who we are and in the homefires we come into this world as spirit burning for.
I know you all know: Kim and Kanye named their baby girl Chicago. Aaand she was grown by and birthed through a gestational surrogate (whose name I haven’t been able to determine and hope is not being erased in order to keep Kim in the light) so she’s a bit of a medical miracle.
But, did you know this? Lena Recollet did and they posted it on their public Facebook page!
Chicago, a medical miracle. Zhigaako, powerful medicine. Haha. Maybe it’s meant to be!
attend the classes i teach
as quest* speakers
i do my best
a town clothes
it makes me feel good
*Miigwech to Dawn McKay for beautifully highlighting this brilliant truth-cum-spelling error as it exists in its’ first iteration in a Facebook status.
“i’ll be home in a few. just stopping to get some coffee for morning. do you want a bean cake?”
today i had the chance to learn from Graham Smith about working with Indigenous graduate students and his most recent thinking on indigenizing the academy. i was compelled by a question he posed early in the day which was geared towards faculty and staff. he asked (and this is not verbatim), “what/how is the indigenous in what you do. you may be the indigenous faculty in your unit but what/how is the indigenous in what you do?”
this question could easily be interpreted as being about essentialism however in the context he was talking about, it was–to my understanding–a gesture about the reality that many Indigenous scholars in an institution face: being spread out and easily engulfed in the [neo]liberalism of the place. his question was meant to inspire us to think about how we keep ourselves tethered to the project of creating a mass of indigenous critical thinkers who work for the larger project of indigenous betterment through our indigeniety. there was solid inclusion and discussion about structural power and power dynamics in the afternoon conversation about indigenizing the academy. this conversation led me to think about the various experiences i’ve had in the academy that have allowed me to learn from a place of joy and forced me to learn from a place of pain and yes, from a place of just nose-to-the-grind-grindy-learning– like learning how to read, write, analyze, and organize. the power of joy; the power of pain; and, the power of self-empowerment, commitment, and discipline.
one of the things i’ve learned about in graduate school–which i was not expecting to–is that there are power dynamics in the indigenous academy. there are power dynamics with indigenous scholars. when i look back, i am embarrassed by my naïveté and the idealistic expectations i had perhaps were unfair to me and this place with these people: the fact is, we are not all engaged in decolonizing relationships; we are not all committed to refusing the reproduction of settler colonial power dynamics and hierarchies; some of us are actively engaged in–and are quite good at–reproducing the toxic relational hierarchies that characterize the academy. i’ve learned that some indigenous scholars are very evident in their commitment to support students in their research, learning, and professional development. i’ve learned that some are exploit, use, steal from, and compete with graduate students. they even undermine or threaten your career if you make them angry, say no, have an independent thought, have a boundary, a question, or end the research relationship. i’ve learned that outside-the-academy relationships with indigenous scholars impact inside-the-indigenous-academy relationships. yes, some blow with the wind of relationality and go whichever way is safest for them. i’ve learned that some are working hard to work the system and others seem to do it and climb the latter with such ease. some do it with a mind on the larger project and others in order to advance themselves within the settler colonial capitalist system. some have zero interest or commitment in transforming structural power within or without the academy. i’ve learned that others are just trying to get by and do the best they can to support graduate students. i’ve learned not to deny the possibility that maybe they or we or me are a little bit of each or can be, given the right conditions.
i’ve learned not to deny the complexity of human beings.
indigenous human beings.
in trying to understand the most painful dynamics in my indigenous academic experiences, i’ve had to learn about social aggression.
i’ve learned that sometimes, while aggressive acts are so evident to the person being targeted, they are also so subtle that people around the targeted person aren’t able to see it. this makes the person question their own judgement on what is happening. it compels those they share their experiences with to question them too because they can’t see it. or, they don’t want to see it.
in a seemingly life-giving way, serendipitously, i learned that the kind of subtle aggression or violence that is only evident to the target is called ambient aggression or ambient violence.
in learning about ambient violence, i’ve learned there are strategies the aggressor engages in. one of the strategies used are by-proxy’s.
by-proxy’s are people who are the extra or extended arms of the aggressor and their aggressive behaviour. a by-proxy can know what they are doing; they can also have no idea they are being utilized to inflict harm on another. sometimes these acts present as seemingly innocent.
this is all google search research.
even if not peer-reviewed research, it’s helped me to understand certain dynamics.
and importantly, name them.
and also importantly, it’s allowed me to stand firm in my assessment of a situation as opposed to i) ignoring my intuition that something is off or ii) undermining/denying my good judgement.
i’m just figuring out that ignoring our intuition and/or denying our good judgement, we unwittingly also become a by-proxy to the aggressor’s behaviour–we harm ourselves.
naming this kind of violence, and dynamics associated with it, is not kind.
it is not compassionate.
it is not gentle.
it is not love.
it is not about being anyway towards them.
refusing to deny intuitive knowing or turn good wit over for someone or something else–valuing self when there is so much pressure not to— is brave.
it is righteous.
it is responsible.
it is self-preservation.
it is honouring self.
it feels damn good even if it is hard.
even if it is hard because it means lifting a veil of sorts which requires living with a new truth, a new kind of reality: the person you trusted, admired, believed in is complex in ways you weren’t aware of or ready for. or, ways you don’t want to deal with. it means the end of something about you and them and relationship and expectation. it means something new that is unknown and unanticipated.
but it also means you get a chance to know yourself better. who are you?
who are you in the academy?
who do you want to be in the academy?
refusing to deny self is so indigenous.
and self is essential.
less refusal of self; more personal truth. personal truth in words and actions that match up. that’s so indigenous.
personal truth in the face of difficult, unseen power dynamics is one thing indigenous that we can do in the academy wherever we are located or however we are located. it’s one thing we can do with support or independently. it’s one way of being indigenous in the academy.