|Content Warning: This letter includes references to the loss of loved ones, addictions, and colonial violence. Please read with care and respect to your needs.|
way’ xast xusalt,
To my Indigenous Sisters, to the Two-Spirit kin, the femmes, the non-binary and gender-fluid folks, and all of those who are gifted with the power to walk in many worlds. Yesterday was International Women’s Day (IWD), and I’ve written you a love letter.
I see you.
I see you caring for our children. I see you when you braid your baby’s hair. I see when you teach your nieces and nephews how to say greetings in their language. I see you when you give yourself a little less food so your kids can have more. I see you when a rez kid falls off their bike outside your house, and you rush to clean his bleeding knee. I see you when you tell the Youth, ‘good job, I’m proud of you.’ I see you telling them family stories that remind them of the strength in their roots.
I see you caring for the land. I see you when you pick berries for your Elders. When you tell the land your name before entering its space, so it will know you’re there to visit. I see you singing songs to the water and thanking it for its medicine and power. I see you standing in the kitchen at the community gathering, laughing and washing dishes.
I see you being brave and courageous. I see you when you go to work and hide in the closet to cry because you feel invisible. I see you when you cry under street lights on lands far away while your heart aches for home. I see you when you get that lump in your throat because you are afraid to speak up for yourself and your people, but you do it anyway. I see you when you lie awake at night on a tear-stained pillow because you don’t feel like you’ll ever be enough. I see you when you’re sitting in government offices, feeling the walls closing in. I see you when you stand in front of your closet and want to have the courage to wear your ribbon skirt in spaces that won’t recognize its power, but you do it anyway.
I see you caring for our communities. I see when you wipe your sisters’ tears when they are down, and you are holding space so beautifully. I see you when you light your smudge and start to pray for the people, even when you feel like no one else is praying for you. I see you when you call your cousins for help when you’re in danger because you know it’s safer to call them than the police. I see you when you cry out in pain because your loved one has gone missing. I know that you understand what happens to one, happens to all. I also see you searching the streets for your loved ones who are living with addictions, and I see you praying that they are still alive. And I see you standing by the graves of your loved ones, weeping and dreaming of a life that should have been.
I see you because I’ve done all of these things before. I see you because you are me and I am you.
I want you to know that you are powerful, you are loved, and you are beautiful. That you are strong, you are worthy, and that your body is here on these lands because those who came before you were thinking of you. If your Ancestors hadn’t eaten the berries from the land or drank the water from the river, you wouldn’t be here.
Not only are you sacred to me, you are sacred to the land. We are both connected to our lands through our bodies, and because of that we are siblings.
I use this space to share our stories, and it’s a vulnerable act. It’s okay for you to be vulnerable. But it’s also okay for you to do the opposite, and protect yourself. At times when you need protection, take your worries to the land and the land will care for you, because the land needs us too. It will hold our bodies, take care of our worries, and regenerate our energy so that we can carry on. In turn, we give that energy to others, and raise our babies to do the same.
Our Ancestors made our spirits sacred, and filled our hearts with love. We are whole, even when we don’t feel like it. We are everything we need to be, at all times.
Since the 1970s, women of colour from all walks of life have used IWD to draw attention to how racism, gender oppression and economic exploitation have affected them. I cherish their work, which has had a positive impact on my life as a sqilxw (Indigenous) woman, mother and aunt.
In honour of IWD, I invite Indigenous women, Two-Spirit and non-binary folks to show up in your lives, and for each other, just as you are. You are enough.
Editor’s Note: This has been republished from a newsletter, sent out on March 9, which you can subscribe to by following the link.