A poetic manifesto
May 11, 2016
by Danielle Boissoneau
Sometimes it’s easier to sleep than to confront uncomfortable days shadowed with fearful clouds. But when those clouds bump together in all the chaos, the skies open up with a fiery knowledge of self, and thunder is born. Anishinaabe kwewok and two spirits have been asleep since our realities have been chloroformed with gendered colonial violence. The creative process of reimagining life is rooted in our ability to respond to the world with love in our hearts and minds. Before we get into the semantics of reclamation and revitalization, it is essential to acknowledge and talk about the repressive systems that weigh so heavily on our spirits.
The truth I speak is my own, written on my heart with colonial ink. To make sense of the worlds we are living in, it is necessary to identify our enemies. The more I work at erasing the detrimental and divisive desires imprinted through blood memory and historical trauma, the more I realize my own power and the power of all Anishinaabe kwewok, of all two spirits.
To make sense of our futures, it is essential that we identify our power. The power to reclaim our lives and our futures lies within the chasms of our collective imaginations. Anishinaabe kwewok and two spirits are essential parts of the larger creative process we know as decolonization and revitalization. We must act in the present, with knowledge based in the lived experience of our ancestral power, so we can decide what our futures will look like.
Indigenous futurisms are built on the graves of colonial capitalism, the burned out remnants of residential schools, and the trails of tears left by Indigenous women who never found their way home. The dichotomous and contradictory nature of destruction and creation defines our current place and defines where we are in terms of decolonization and revitalization. Destroy the old to make room for the new; abolish the Canadian government, abolish the police state, abolish the child welfare system, abolish the tar sands, the fracking, the nuclear waste. The constant struggle to erase the systems that are trying to erase our lives leaves us in a constant state of resistance; I question if struggle is the only way to recreate our futures.
I wonder how we will be able to rise from the ashes of our colonial realities if all we know is how to resist. What examples will we look to if we do not raise up the ways of thinking, loving, and living that circumvent the destructive patterns we are so used to?
When it all falls down and all we know is struggle, are we realistically prepared to live in our power? We have to believe in ourselves. We know our power when we live it.
Sitting at the kitchen table with grandmother knowledge, we remember who we are. When we sing songs to the seeds of knowledge buried deep within our hearts and minds, we start to make sense of our world. Anisihnaabek ancestors would nurture seeds with love and with ceremony so that when those seeds were buried, they would help us continue our lives in good ways.
Our spirits remember those songs, they’re on the tips of our tongues.
Somewhere between our spirit and our voice, these songs are tangled up with the need to defend sacred feminine life. Humanity will cease to exist without women, without the water, and without the land. The constant attack that sacred feminine life endures interrupts our abilities to honour life with only our songs and ceremonies. But some of us are thunder, some of us are born on the wings of thunderbirds and we glide into this realm through our mothers and our grandmothers. We are natural power.
We are the striking boom of oshkinimkiika, the first thunder we hear in the springtime. Alongside the thunder’s natural power to shake the earth awake, Anishinaabe kwewok and two spirits carry the natural power to shake the people awake. The same forces that stimulate power as the thunder and lightning, stimulate our imaginations and our abilities to transform life.
Our dispossessions must become our repossessions so that we can nurture ourselves as Anishinaabe kwewok. We must reclaim the representations of our power so our daughters will recognize the essence of the power they carry through their identity. Raise up the clan mothers who will inspire our daughters to greatness. Honour the ogichidaa kwewok that defend living bodies of land and water with the bodies that colonial capitalism would rather see dying. Like the thunder, we are sacred.
We must deliberately release the patriarchal grips on our existences by reawakening the strength and pride in ourselves as life givers and sustainers. Reawaken Geezhigo Kwe so we remember that the first person on Anishinaabe aki was a woman. Recreate spaces in ceremony for the gender non-conforming people, so that somewhere between here and there, we all have a place.
When we dream our futures alive, we actively reclaim our places in the world by directing energy towards sustaining life. With knowledge grounded in our struggles, we use our ancestral knowledge to shake the world awake. We strike at the ground to remember who we are, and to reinvigorate the power of the people so we can remind colonial capitalism that we are a force of nature. We create the future with decisive actions in the present.
I choose to relearn Anishinaabemowin because it teaches me how to relate with the world. I choose to understand the world through my dreams because I know that ancestral wisdom and communication is real. I will define my own power so that my daughters will know how to find their places in a world that was designed for our destruction. Naming the enemies, removing the sources of their strength, and then preparing for a new world struck alive by the inherent power of our women and two-spirit peoples is one way to transform our world. It’s not easy for us alone, but as Anishinaabe kwewok and two spirits, our power extends beyond the world we see.
When we celebrate the beauty that exists in our relationships with ourselves, each other, and all of creation, we remember the connections that have guaranteed our successes since time immemorial. It is better to know who we are than to be named. In order to revitalize our interrelatedness, our clan systems and our medicines must be understood through grandmother knowledge.
The colonial narrative enforces the idea that dreams, imaginations, and inherent power are mythical representations. The languages that describe these connections were beaten out of our grandmothers and grandfathers in schools that were designed for our demise. Our minds have been trained to reflect colonial capitalism’s dark and empty realities. Now we must choose to live in the light of our truth and power. Our futures are ours, but they belong to those who resist the darkness with flames of dignified rage that light the way towards righteous and empowered tomorrows.
We are the ones that will translate the remnants of the colonized world into decisive actions that embody the strength and power of our ancestral connections. Reorienting our focus from one based purely in resistance and struggle, we regain the ability to affect change in the creative process of rebuilding our nationhoods. A nationhood that centres the sacred feminine denies the destructive forces of colonial capitalism through life, love, and power.
Maybe it’s time that we create new songs that personify the lived experience of destroying the old ways to make room for the new ways. Maybe there are old songs that already embody those experiences. The seed songs that live in our spirits should be re-embodied to represent our present struggles and our future freedoms. Just like the thunder that makes room for new life in the springtime through a power that can’t be understood, we must move with the mannerisms of the thunderbirds. Quick, decisive, and powerful. Then we will become who we are again. Then we will reclaim our nationhood with a ferocity so terribly loving that gendered colonial capitalism will have no idea what happened.
Danielle Boissoneau is Anishnaabe kwe from the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Her writing is informed by her never ending love for her people, the water and the land, as well as a concurrent analysis of colonialism, capitalism, and heteronormative patriarchy. Sometimes, poetry will run through her mind while she stands on the front lines of resistance to tar sands expansion projects in Southern Ontario. Other times, her soul will remember songs when gathered with her people in ceremony. Danielle also writes for the Two Row Times out of Six Nations, Ontario. Her work has also been published in Redwire, The Peak Magazine, and The Dominion. Danielle is from the Old Turtle Clan.
Image: Thunderbird Woman by Isaac Murdoch
“Seed Songs” is from our FUTURES Issue (spring 2016).