In early November 2020 I stumbled across a facebook group that had formed to help connect Indigenous women/women identifying artists/creators/beaders/chefs/writers/etc with those looking to purchase gifts with meaning for that holiday season. The name expanded from by dropping the “holiday” qualifier and is now “Shop Indigenous Women’s Market.” Covering all of Turtle Island, the breadth and scope is amazing. Beaded jewellery, moccasins, ribbon skirts (and ribbon shirts), soaps and lotions, dream catchers, horn, you name it and someone can make it for you.
It’s amazing to think I remember when there were less than 8 – 10,000 members in the group. And now there are close to 79,000!
I thought I would share some of the people I have met through the page, some things I’ve purchased and also some stuff I’ve learned. Because of my love of cross-stitch and embroidery, I’ve been quite taken by the beauty and intricacy of beadwork. So I have tried to learn a little and will be sharing some of that too.
But for now, here’s how it all started. An exchange with my mother that I posted in the group in December 2020:
Me: the bread wreath is from an Indigenous baker in Sudbury. My mother: How did you find wreath bread from an Indigenous baker in Sudbury? Me: well, I found this group on FB; and I found lots of lovely things. I bought some lip balms for our stockings (from BC), and some chocolates and a bread wreath (Sudbury) and that necklace I wear a lot now from an Inuk creator who is now in the Maritimes I think. And I bought three pairs of earrings from someone else in BC and a seal cuff from the NWT. Whew. My mom: sounds lovely dear. And like you’re broke. Me: yep! both! I hope it sticks around after the holidays.
I just fell in love with the idea of buying directly from the person who made the thing. And a little bit of knowing there were only a certain number – or maybe just one – made. Though thankfully the lip balm is still around so I can buy more! (Our friends’ kids all got a special edition Orange Shirt Day lip balm from Black Bird Holistic in their Hallowe’en treat bags)
And it also hit all those feel-good points that you need around the holidays: buying locally, buying sustainably, supporting women, supporting women-owned businesses, supporting Indigenous women, supporting Indigenous-owned businesses, knowing where your money goes, and so on. In short, I’m glad I found it and will be sharing some of things I bought and people I’ve met (some of whom I am lucky enough to now consider friends).
I always have this thing about not really getting into “spring cleaning” but there is something about the end of the year that gets me a bit excited about the possibilities of the new year.
Even this year. The second year of the damn pandemic.
I wallowed in my own misery for a bunch of December and now I feel like turning my mind to the future.
I ended up with a cross-stitching journal and planner (from The Black Needle Society‘s November “resolution” box) and a Reconciliation day planner (from Colouring It Forward) and I love my little notebook so I am going into the year planning on using all three!
Here are some of the pages from the stitching journal:
I will use this to keep track of the details for my stitching projects! I have only a couple of things that are truly WIPs to finish off; I have a few more things that need “finishing” (framing, or being made into a pillow or something!). I’d like to get one of the things in the “finishing” pile done a month. Otherwise my plan for January:
– start a full coverage piece
– start, and keep up with, the temp tracker from Climbing Goat Designs
– start a small piece
– start a kit
The Reconciliation day planner is also pretty nifty – the daily pages are undated so if you miss a day, or just have a “rest day”, then there is no wasted pages!
It begins with messages from Elder John Sinclair, Diana Frost and a bit about the artist Ashley Barclay. It also lists all the “statutory holidays” as well as other important Indigenous dates such as:
– February 10 – Moose Hide Day
– April 28 – International Dance Day
– June 8 – World Oceans Day
– September 30 – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
The suggestions are great as well. Others include attending a cultural event, consider stereotypes, follow up with political representatives about the Calls to Action etc.
And there are Q&A pages:
Others are on women and ceremony, land acknowledgements, why men wear braids, Indigenous education etc.
And finally my own little planner. This has whatever the hell I end up putting in it. Like birthdays, and habit tracking, and notes from reading or listening to podcasts. That sort of thing. Like one of my habit trackers from last year:
So there we have it. My starting to plan for 2022! Yippie. What type of planning do you do? Do you set goals – short, medium, long? easy, medium, hard? For different things (i.e. reading, movies, moving?)
I was lucky enough to have seen a post from a shop I love that I found online that is owned by an Indigenous woman (Totem Design House) about an online session tonight with different speakers giving their perspectives on taking care of yourself building from Indigenous teachings and practises. I wanted to get my thoughts down while they were still fresh and clear.
While sponsored by Lift Collective – whose goal is to amplify, celebrate and connect Indigenous peoples – it was open to all peoples. There were five breakout rooms that the participants were moved around – we each got to experience three of them.
Listening to the amazing Brenda MacIntyre (she sang at the beginning and then I was placed in her room as well) reminded me how powerful music is. This was reinforced by Andrea Menard’s singing at the end and Erin Brillion’s (she owns Totem Design House) talk about traditional practises (one of the three rooms I was placed in). I know I have felt calmer and more peaceful on days that are windy enough to set my chimes going outside my window for example. And closing my eyes and really listening to songs is just so different than when I have it on as background noise.
I was also reminded about the importance of connecting with others and with nature (my first room was with Ashley Lamothe who spoke about collective care) – as sort of contrived as that might sound. Even something as simple as how enjoyable my morning coffee is when I have the time and energy to have it on the balcony. It never fails that people will look up from the sidewalk and return my smile! (Yes, in downtown Toronto! 😉) Or even just walking around the block instead of on the treadmill.
I recognized that not everyone can do these things. I know I am lucky to live in a safe place or near a big park or have private outside spaces. But try, just for a couple of minutes if you can, to get outside. To breathe deeply. To feel connected. Love you.
Okay so a thing I am doing more than I used to is read. Sometimes I read light and fluffy things; other times grim and dark police procedurals, sometimes newly released stuff; sometimes it’s older. Fiction, non-fiction, heck I’ve even read some plays recently.
I am going to share what I’m reading and what I thought about it – while reading and when finished and then maybe in some cases (like this first one I am sure) I’ll have an update later when I’ve digested it more and maybe done a bunch of reading about what it is that I have read. I already have a tag for “reading” so I’m just going to stick with that for now.
The reason I am starting this now is that my current library book is making my brain hurt so I wanted to get my thoughts down etc.
The Colonizer and the Colonized – Albert Memmi
Memmi was born in “French Tunsia” in 1920 (he only just died in 2020 at 99 years old (link is to a NYT obituary – you may need an account). His mother was a “Tunisian Jewish Berber” and his father was “Tunisian-Italian Jewish.” Lots of divisions there. He was actually in a forced labour camp during the Nazi occupation of Tunisia.
In the preface of The Colonizer and the Colonized he writes:
…oppression is the greatest calamity of humanity. It diverts and pollutes the best energies of man – of oppressed and oppressor alike. For if colonization destroys the colonized, it also rots the colonizer.
I wonder how Memmi would have responded to a suggestion that he say “the best energies of people” or “of all” instead?
Memmi is very cognizant that in some areas he is more akin to an oppressor than the oppressed: Yes, he was Tunisian and thus “treated as a second-class citizen, deprived of political rights…” BUT he was not a Moslem [that time I learned there were different ways to spell Muslim]. “The Jewish population identified as much with the colonizers as with the colonized.” The Jewish population were just as badly off as the Moslem population but they turned to the west as saviours really so that “the Jew found himself one small notch above the Moslem on the pyramid which is the basis of all colonial societies.”
So he acknowledges that, as Jewish, he has some perch to hang his colonizer writing on; the Tunisian heritage is the perch for the colonized writing. But what about male? Are women of no concern? Well, in brief, nope: “A woman is less concerned about humanity in an abstract sense, the colonize mean nothing to her.” Oh FFS. Sigh. And on I go.
There is that fundamental idea of a pyramid – Memmi returns to that: “such is the history of the pyramid of petty tyrants: each one, being socially oppressed by one more powerful than he, always finds a less powerful one on whom to lean, and becomes a tyrant in his turn.”
This is seen so much in the US south – there are lots of books / research on the idea of driving a wedge between impoverished white and Black people in the south so as to keep the Black people oppressed and the whites constantly striving for acceptance by the rich whites – never recognizing (a) that acceptance will never come and (b) they have far more in common with the poor Blacks than they ever will with rich white Americans.
Some points truly hit home – “
…the few material traces of [the colonized’s] past are slowly erased, and the future remnants will no longer carry the stamp of the colonized group. The few statues which decorate the city represent (with incredible scorn for the colonized who pass by them every day) the great deeds of colonization.
A reminder – this book was first published in the 1950s. But people still argue today – in 2021 – that removing these statues would be “erasing history.” *insert eye roll here*
Memmi goes on later:
if only the mother tongue was allowed some influence on current social life, or used across the counters of government offices…but this is not the case. The entire bureaucracy, the entire court system, all industry hears and uses the colonizer’s language.”
I have never been good with languages – my brain doesn’t seem to like studying them and I always found other things more fun – but what joy it would have been to hear Indigenous languages as often as I heard French and (because I grew up in the west end of Toronto/Tkaronto) Ukrainian and Russian and Polish and Maltese (though I probably should have tried harder with that last one).
Most Canadians came here from somewhere else: my dad immigrated in 1968. My mom didn’t have to – she was born in August in northern Ontario only a couple of months after her mother and my oldest uncle arrived in Canada on a Polish ship. Lots of people fled war and famine and disease, seeking a better life. But a better life for us shouldn’t be at the expense of other people – there has got to be a way we can make it a better life for all of us.
We have no way of knowing what this land would have looked like had colonization never happened; but we can certainly see what has happened because of colonization. And it’s up to us now to work to make it better.
Why can’t we give back? Schools, streets, parks. Why do they all have to be named after colonizers? Why can’t we invest more time and energy into learning about Indigenous peoples and their histories and names and customs? Why are 57 versions of desperate housewives an option instead of more like First Contact or just opening up to more Indigenous creators?
Why can’t we tax churches and the wealth of the top 1% and actually collect those taxes and use that money to give clean water to Indigenous communities? Why can’t we impose term limits on elected positions so that people stop looking at that as a career that they can coast through and not actually accomplish any meaningful change for the people of this place? Why can’t we stop throwing money at police and carceral options and start throwing it towards education and health care?
This is one of those books I will definitely have to go back to in the future – I probably really should take a poly-sci or philosophy course to truly understand what Memmi is getting at. He explains the book wasn’t intended to be a work of protest or even a search for a solution – instead “it was born out of reflection on an accepted failure.” He says right at the start that it wasn’t true that he knew how impactful the book would be.
I’m including a list of online resources I found when googling the book. Like I said, I’m setting aside the book for now – returning it to the library even; but in a bit I’ll read some of these writings (and any others that come up) and maybe even re-read Memmi.