The #ItEndsHere: Confronting the Crisis of Colonial Gender Violence series originally ran on Indigenous Nationhood Movement.
On March 7, the Harper Conservative government released a special commission report that rejected the call for a national inquiry into violence against Indigenous women. Instead, they listed 16 recommendations in a report, which said “that the status quo is fine…things should continue as is.” Although we are not surprised, our outrage at the continuing violence remains. In the #ItEndsHere series, we affirm our collective effort to look for strategies, dialogue and action within our own community. We appreciate your support and participation as we continue to pursue truth, justice, and freedom from colonial oppression and gender violence. In solidarity and with respect.
I’ve been in a building rage. I am outraged at the status quo, at the overwhelming rate of gender violence and murder suffered by Indigenous women and girls in this country. I am disgusted with the lived experience of that; of gender violence as a pervasive experience that the majority of Indigenous women and young girls face in various forms throughout our lifetimes.
I am fed up with living in a sexist, racist, exploitative society that ignores this crisis of violence or passively accepts it. I am tired of nobody knowing what to do, and the way it becomes an excuse for not doing anything. Many of our family members and close relations get stuck at not knowing how to support those of us who have been targeted. Maybe they’re overwhelmed at the frequency of violence within our communities or they just lack the personal resources to deal with it. Whatever the reason, the failure to take action means that Indigenous women and girls continue to be assaulted, exploited, and murdered. It’s not like anyone who has been violated knows what to do or how to handle the trauma and its terrorizing effects on our lives. But we are forced to find a way.
Barriers that keep us from directly addressing this crisis of violence seem endless. One point I hear debated is whether violence perpetrated against individual women who happen to be Indigenous is ‘racially motivated.’ Splitting hairs over women being targeted because of their skin colour, class or political views minimizes and distracts from the severity of the crisis. Whether each instance of violence is an overt act of racism is, to some extent, beside the point. The fact that society sees Indigenous women and girls as violable, as eligible targets of assault and domination, as “less than human” or, as weak, isolated and defenseless is, to my mind, the heart of the issue.
This is a systemically enforced perspective. Canada was built on the forcible theft of Indigenous lands and the destruction of our societies, and through the disempowerment and desecration of Indigenous women, it continues to condone gender violence and genocide by failing to take action to end these epidemics. Men, regardless of race, economic class or educational background continue to exercise their privilege to abstain from directly engaging the issue of gender violence. Indigenous women’s voices continue to go unheard. We remain both targeted and unsupported.
I am furious, disgusted and outraged, and I refuse to remain silent. I am tired of the rampant pacifism, willful ignorance and inaction that is prevalent in western society, in our families, in our own minds. “That’s just the way it is” is not good enough. I refuse to accept that the majority of Indigenous women and girls will continue to experience sexualized violence both in childhood and repeatedly throughout our lifetimes. I refuse to accept that we just have to find ways of coping with all forms of violence, and that many of us cannot depend on the men in our lives, our relatives and partners, to stand alongside us, hear us, support us, and help to ensure our safety through their words and actions.
Perhaps the crisis of gender violence points to the need to redefine what an Indigenous woman and girl is today. The dominant (and dominating) perspective toward Indigenous women — filtered through racist, sexist, colonial lenses — does not suit me and has nothing to do with who I really am. I do not know a single woman who is accurately depicted within these frames.
None of us deserves to be dominated, oppressed or violated.
Indigenous women and girls are strong, powerful, intelligent, beloved human beings. We are sacred. And we deserve to be treated with the utmost honour and respect. My sisters embody all of this and so much more — and we will continue to redefine ourselves because we are dynamic and complex, creators and reflections of creation.
The dialogue we have generated together this week through the #ItEndsHere series has deeply moved and inspired me. It has challenged me to think harder, to reconsider my priorities, and to commit myself to moving past the barriers that prevent me from actively creating change.
The more we talk about gender violence, the more I recognize how important an issue it is. Gender-based violence is a nexus, a concentration point that encompasses the full spectrum of colonial oppression. As Leanne Simpson says in her wise and eloquent piece posted earlier, “this is why resurgence is about bodies and land.” She rightfully insists that “we must build critically around gender violence in the architecture of our movements.” Indigenous resurgence necessarily includes the revitalization of healthy interconnectedness between all genders; the restoration of balance, mutual support, and accountability. This must be our starting point.
Because we live in a society that normalizes violence, injustice and dysfunction, it might be difficult to imagine a reality based in systems of respect and mutual well-being. However, as Indigenous peoples we must remember that we actually come from such societies. We have laws that ensure respect and reciprocity, and we have ways of restoring balance. Protocols. Stories. Ceremonies.
Love and respect are the currencies of our relationships.
Indigenous societies are built on love that lifts up, that replenishes and acts to strengthen the vitality of our relations, including ourselves. Intentional relationships of mutual care, respect and nurturing are intrinsic to our values, laws and protocols, and I advocate that we draw on these in our collective efforts toward decolonization and ending gender violence in our communities.
I advocate for love because it is the most powerful, life-giving force and it is our greatest strength. Love is the reason our people have survived, the reason we fight to protect our lands and our future. Love is the source of our courage, it is what that enables the most disempowered to stand against genocide and destruction, though outnumbered, outgunned, and largely unsupported. Love is our life force. It is the most healing, regenerative, empowering resource we have to draw upon. And, even more, it compels us to action.
If we paid close attention to how deeply interconnected we are as a community, none of us would suffer in isolation. We would affirm the value of one another’s lives, and find ways to care for one another — all the way along — in dialogue, support, solidarity and action. We would see that actively facing this reality would make us stronger, clearer, more supported and more capable of eliminating all forms of colonial destruction in our communities and our homelands. It’s time for us to step up and do that. Many of us are taking a stand together, creating a line to put an end to gender violence. Will you stand with us?
Siku Allooloo is an Inuk/Taino from Denendeh (Northwest Territories) and also a member of a large Dene Sųłiné family. She is part of a lineage of strong leaders and activists on all three sides, and she has a BA in Anthropology and Indigenous Studies from the University of Victoria. Follow her on Twitter: @quietninja_
This piece originally appeared on Indigenous Nationhood Movement and is reprinted with permission.
The Indigenous Nationhood Movement is a peoples’ movement for Indigenous nationhood, resurgence and decolonization. They are committed to eliminating all forms of violence within Indigenous communities, including violence based on gender and sexual identity and orientation.