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

Kim and Kanye Name Baby Girl “Chicago West” Or, Why Famous America Needs To Know Whose Lands and Places They Inhabit (And, Whose Place Names They Use to Name Their Baby Girls)

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!


nanaboozhoo makes a second appearance this winter: ceas country in WŚANÉCwaki






“Nanaboozhoo Hops a Fence in the Middle of the Forest on His Way to Greet the Remains of Ceas at the River. Does/Does Not Understand Settler Borders, Settler Language, Settler Relationships with Land.” Selekta wo WŚANÉCwakiing a few days after Winter Solstice.






nanaboozhoo in Lekwungenwaki on the settler holiday


hanging low since solstice, nanaboozhoo makes an appearance in Lekwungenwaki on the settler holiday. gets comfortable amongst shiny bright twinkling Christmas lights; still dons treaty twine and quill necklace accrued from years past. 

town clothes



every time

indigenous women

attend the classes i teach

as quest* speakers

i do my best

to don

a town clothes 

get up


it makes me feel good

to dress 


the matriarchs

who shape

my life





*Miigwech to Dawn McKay for beautifully highlighting this brilliant truth-cum-spelling error as it exists in its’ first iteration in a Facebook status.

nokomis in Lekwungen-waki



nokomis in binaakwe + pekelanew formation (hanging with other celestials)


nokomis at the grocery store

nokomis goes to the grocery store at night


in the FAIRWAY MAF KET parking lot

“i’ll be home in a few. just stopping to get some coffee for morning. do you want a bean cake?”

our friend, Thetis

“Two Poems” in TNQ Summer Issue: The View From Here with Anna Ling Kaye




last friday evening in manoomin giizis/august. there are six people swimming across the lake. there one family swimming, one family fishingswimmingwalkingdog, there is a new friend and his wife who are leaving and going to drumming. i thought it didn’t start until next week. we are heading home. 


new specs not an offering for a friend


bears a daughter & trees: leaving 



Graham Smith, Indigenizing the Academy and Being/Doing Indigenous: Negotiating Unseen Power Dynamics

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.


summer things






friend-making in Coast Salish territory: a visual story of arbutus and wiigwaas


high resonance












 relational essence



relational essence, nuance I



relational essence, nuance II



relational essence, nuance III

Violence (between Womxn) in Indigenous (Literary) Circles

I thought this was going to be a summer of no blog entries as May seemed to suck me dry with writing. I tried to write something beautiful for odemin giizis but it seemed forced so I just let that moon cycle breath on her own with no words from me; I learned silence can be most beautiful. I considered that July would go by too, and August, as I’m busy with other responsibilities that must be met. I thought I would write  Part II Love Letter to Man of Colour but decided to wait for the right temperature. Then, I read an article online. And now, I’m here, writing this, because my heart tells me that this is the way to self-persevere. And because it tells me that I’m not the first to have these experiences and I won’t be the last. It tells me that maybe writing about it generally, will be an act of safety, accountability, and or buoy-making for someone else. And, I refuse to allow others to construct me in negative ways. It’s killing me.


Note I

In the title I use “womxn”. This word is meant to reflect diversity amongst womxn and in particular speaks against transphobia and racism. (Be sure to click on the hyperlink, “sanpaguitagirl” in the article or google for other sources. The writing with and popular use of womxn is gaining some traction including in Indigenous circles, where I first learned of it.)


Note II

In the following post I speak very generally having decided that naming names and posting links is not relevant to the discussion at the moment. These kinds of dynamics happen in various forms in other settings. Should the slander continue–or by-proxy’s be complicit in it–I will make a post sharing my argument that I am experiencing ambient violence and I will back this up with evidence. I want it to stop.



I recently had a curious social media exchange with an Indigenous writer. To make the dibaadjimowin (story) go smoother, her name will be MW. The exchange was in response to my questioning of an obvious absence/erasure/omission of a prominent text that was relative to a popularized concept which she framed her article around. In particular, I wanted to know if this writer could elaborate on this absence/erasure/omission/exclusion. (Note: I move between erasure/absence/omission in order to create open space and possibility in describing the action).

Given we’ve known each other for about a decade, I reached out informally in the social media context to invite MW to elaborate on their thinking. She did. It was great. Her response generated more considerations and thinking on the subject which to me is always a very important and awesome outcome of exchange. I noted that my question was being negatively constructed in passive ways but didn’t attend to it in that context. I was more interested in the subject at hand and respecting what she shared on the thread than teasing apart what was said bit by bit.[1]

I actually think that the subject area of Indigenous presence and presence-ing (and its opposites) in the public is one that requires more engagement, particularly since Idle No More has created a new context where there is more opportunity for presence.

Anyhow, I thought the exchange was done however another person contributed to the dialogue a day later—also very gracious in sharing her gratitude as the exchange got her thinking about citation processes in her own work and acknowledging those who contribute to her ability to do what she does. I responded heartily as this is a subject area I’ve been considering for years in respect to media and popular culture, specifically, and power, generally.

Despite not carrying the conversation further the previous day, MW literally pounced on my response to my friend and did so in awful ways: by calling in—and relying upon—a conversation they had with another Indigenous writer whose text was the one I thought was being erase/omitted/made absent. I’ll call this writer, AK. Their response was essentially stating that based on what they heard from AK, my question was guided by another agenda and therefore untoward. They stated this in various ways. Essentially, their response to me—which was disparaging—was based on what AK said to them about me.

I was shocked by their comments.

My ability to suspend my personal feelings and my assessment of a situation in lieu of other possibilities has limits. There comes a time when a person has to set boundaries. Especially when being attacked. Given MW was egregiously disrespectful, unkind, and maligning of my character and my engagement in the topic, I responded promptly, clearly, and set boundaries.

Within minutes they removed their post. My response to them remains. There is enough there to interpret the kind of things she said. She has not apologized or explained her behaviour.

I experienced this response as violent and because of the second party, AK, brought into it, I experienced it as bullying. I experienced it as juvenile and as a form of social aggression. It was defamatory. How else to describe when one person goes to another, gets fed a story and comes and maligns you based on what they heard?

And all over a question about, “Why didn’t you include this text?”

What is this? The high school version of Indigenous literary dialogue?

The whole matter prompts me to ask why my legitimate questions are being so aggressively responded to. And why my ability to ask them is being stymied with suggestions about my integrity in asking them?  And, if this is what is happening in public over a pretty basic question, what’s happening in private? Given MW’s response let all of us reading the thread know that something is happening in private, the question is to what degree and why?[2]

And here is where I decided to blog today about this matter. It’s one thing to have a tense exchange with someone in social media, it’s another to learn that there is behind-the-scenes- power operating to disparage you and that people are willing to act on what they hear rather based on their own relationship with you or based on their own decisions. And, it’s a whole other thing when this kind of story-telling is happening in various circles.

In the past three months, I’ve been told by two Indigenous women in completely different situations about slanderous things said about me. In the past year, I’ve had curious exchanges with people who don’t know me but with whom we have people in common. The social trails go in circles. I’ll leave it at that.

Story-tellers. We all have our agendas.

Not all of us are willing to be open about what those agendas are or to have open dialogue about that.

And, I’ve learned that some story-telling as a form of ambient violence is a thing.

So are by-proxy’s.

Let this blog post be a public document of my experience. Let it be evidence of my efforts to do my work, and be who I am in that, and create some measure of safety in doing it.

I won’t be silent or silenced for asking questions about areas of interest in my own work–areas I’ve been involved for a long time–longer than than the folks involved in this present matter. And I won’t stop asking important questions especially when they are linked to broader and deeper philosophical or epistemological processes that shape and impact us as Indigenous peoples. I won’t be made to feel like I’ve done something wrong. Or, that I am deficient somehow for asking a question or having a question. For thinking. For having a thought. For being analytical. For being assertive and clear. For refusing to be taken up in newly forming hierarchies that are reproductions of settler colonial realities. For refusing to witness those reproductions and saying or doing nothing.

I will continue to do the work before me with the tools that I have been given and I will listen to the people around me doing similar work. I expect not to be harassed or maligned in doing so.


[1] That said, because of the impacts of neo-liberalism on shaping discourse—that is silencing certain ideas and uplifting others to advance a particular agenda—and the long history of all women generally being constructed negatively in the public domain—in another post, I did make a general statement about the ways power and privilege operate to allow the who’s, how’s, when’s and where’s of asking questions about erasure, posing this as a question more specifically. Personally, as an Anishinaabe woman who has worked hard for my education and has experienced all kinds of consequences and positive outcomes for speaking truth to power, I refuse to have my intelligent, legitimate, and unthreatening questions be suggestively constructed as negative or diminished just because someone is defensive, lazy, or whatever it is that prompts people to negatively construct womxn.

[2] I sent AK an email in fall 2013 about another matter to which they never responded. In that email, I advised that I didn’t know what it was that I did to them to warrant how they were treating me but that I refused to take responsibility for something that is obviously theirs to figure out.

Addendum (July 11, 2017): This interesting article on mobbing came up on my feed a day or two after writing this blog. Because there is often cross-over between circles of people across contexts, I thought I’d add it here as an addendum so those experiencing it can know that what they are experiencing is an actual thing and here, here’s some language to help you name it and some knowledge to help you negotiate it and you know, so those participating in it can be more easily recognized.