Phoetic February: Missing You

February 14th was changed forever for Indigenous communities 28 years ago. While we still share in acknowledging and celebrating love, we also use the day to recognize and memorialize our  mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, aunties and grandmothers lost to us inexplicably and/or violently.

We memorialize them in a march through town and city streets to remind all of those still missing and that despite calls for justice and formal inquiries, we have yet to receive any for those murdered. It’s a national disgrace that, as Indigenous women, we remain the most vulnerable demographic in all colonized countries.

A million smiles
Crossed our hearts before goodbyes
Home longingly waits

My cousin, Roberta Marie Ferguson, age 19 yrs, missing since August 24, 1988

RL

I Looked For You

 

 

I wondered and waited for you…

I wondered who would show up, I wondered who would stand.

I wondered if my words or calls for help would bring you to us. I worried my anguished voice would just fall flat.

I looked for you; I searched through the faces to see if there was someone, that one unexpected person to stand with me because they see and despise the injustices too.

I looked for someone to say, I heard you.

I looked for you to hold my hand while I cried about our babies being shot or strangled, then tossed away like litter.

I willed you to come to my side while we spoke about the broken promises and horrors that are inflicted on all my relations because we refuse to die off for the convenience of Canadian business moguls.

I silently begged you to show up for every possible reason I could think of, but mostly… mostly because you wanted to stand for and do, what’s right.

I waited for you to come to me to say you are part of our community and we are part of yours.

I watched for you to speak up and say, this isn’t my Canada. We will change a country that would treat anyone this way because we cannot, we will not, call a country that treats people like this, good enough.

I watched and waited and wondered about you.

…I looked for you…

RL

I Would Die For My Words, But I’ll Stand With My Superpower

i-am-my-words

“Why are you speaking out so much? You’re going to get hurt”.

Going to get hurt? I’ve been hurt my whole life, what don’t I already know about hurt?  I’ve been hurt deeply enough to have died.  Literally.  (Life skillz pro tip: I highly recommend dying near a handy defibrillator; CPR hurts like a bitch – for days).

As a matter of record, this year has been one of the most painfully tumultuous for me and yet, I’m still here and I’m still talkin’ – unflinchingly.

I wish to continue asking people to step out of what they’ve learned is ‘success’ and question if it truly makes their heart sing, keeps them at peace and benefits anyone/anything else outside of constant, immediate personal gratification.

Well known, feminist activist, Gloria Steinem said, women become more activist conscious and engaged as they grow older because they lose power. I agree with her, re: our current paradigm.  We are prized for our beauty, our ‘niceness’; especially our willingness to ‘pleasantly get along’ regardless of any inequity levels in front of us.

She also said, men gain power as they age; that many tend to become more conservative – because they become more fearful about losing that advantageous power and so will use whatever manner to constrict others to protect that cushion.

I believe her words. I’ve lived them, but I refuse to accept them for me and my son.

This year especially highlighted my weaknesses, particularly from a genetic disease that doesn’t allow me to march or dance in all the ways I love, and from profound losses that reshaped my life, but I found ways to help change old paradigms anyway.

I’ve been gifted words and words are a superpower.

My words burst or seep in all kinds of form. I’ll write statement after statement about injustices that ignite my passion or calls to fierceness.  I often confess my words can be a stream of the most colorful profanity, that I could be speaking 6 other languages I don’t even know. Sometimes my words just want to be heard in the softest tones of poetry.  Sometimes my words are filled with laughter, and sometimes my words can embarrass the hell out of me.

What my words mostly are though, are a life source; a critical part of my purpose.  It’s been said so since I first spoke (a string of 3 expletives). My family gleefully and variously confirmed it with all sort of eye-roll inducing teases.

So, in answer to my concerned friend that I may get hurt by my expanding work to speak up against injustice – yes, I may, but since when is stretching not painful? On a personal level,  I’ve turned that around. I now refuse to spend any unnecessary time with anyone over 30 who refuses to relate in a straightforward grown-ass manner. I can confirm, time is precious. As Betty White said, “Vagina up, man”. She explained, why say,  ‘grow a pair’, when testicles are really quite fragile? We’re talking about actual birth canals; talk about taking a beating”! Man, I love that woman! Anyway, maybe this’ll net me fewer conversations, but saving time and connecting with people in a more real way for purposes greater than myself seems in fact, to be the point of my life.

I know that’s not entirely the pain my friend is concerned with, but – I can speak with some fair firsthand authority now, to assure that the most painful hurt, is not harsh words or bruises, broken bones, CPR or even dying. Outside of losing loved ones, what hurts most, is indifference.

So, I’ll continue to ask, which of our success representations are truly so valuable that we couldn’t live without them?  We don’t have to die to learn most of what we fear losing is really, not so much after all, but many do die because we refuse to look at the question.

We do everything we can for the safety and comfort of our loved ones, but will we extend that to include those who have suffered on any level for that comfort? If you don’t know who that is, please, please seek to learn; we need to look beyond our own small space in this great big world. Indifference is the poison that is instantly diluted by even the simplest act of compassion.  Just do it. I know you want to.

RL

REDress Day of Recognition #MMIWG 2016

This is a day to pay tribute to those women and girls we’ve lost from Indigenous communities, and to honor those we have hope will one day return home. October 4th is chosen to honor the lives of over 4,000 Indigenous women tragically taken from their loved ones, most often with little awareness of the circumstances between 1980 to 2016.

This day is meant to raise awareness about that and of the ongoing violence, at significantly higher rates toward Indigenous women and girls than any other demographic on the continent. With awareness comes greater hope and opportunity to get to the root of all the issues that encompass these losses.  We remain diligent and attentive as a national inquiry is now underway in Canada.

It’s the 10th year of this recognition started by the Sisters In Spirit Vigil (SIS) organization which, along with an idea begun by artist Jaime Black for public displays of red dresses to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women, includes marches and candlelight vigils in many towns and cities across the country.

Last year I hung my red dress under my weeping willow tree.  This year I hung a dress in a location that holds the memory of many women. The entire effort took some interesting legwork and cost me some scratches and torn clothing, but I wanted to speak for them. I wanted them to know we remember, I wanted them to know they are loved.

I held out my tobacco offering and prayers and hung up the dress while a friend took pictures of my appeal for awareness.  He edited out the hanging stand, lending an ethereal effect. It seemed to make the dress feel free or freed.

Within this all, I send my love and hope for all our grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, and our daughters…

(click or scroll over photos to see entire picture)

Update October 6th: Photographer Darren Quarin drove by the farm and found that the chair had been thrown off the hill it was photographed on and the red dress was nowhere to be found…

RL

Photo & Editing Credits: Darren Quarin, Quarin Photography