Government Cheese and Truth

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” 

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” ― Audre Lorde

In My Secret is Safe with Your Secret, I wrote this:

We cannot talk about the disappearances of indigenous children and women without honestly addressing these incredibly painful things. For those  unaware of the legacies wrought by the plundering of the continent’s first peoples, these things may seem like the distant past, far removed from any modern view or experience of the world. They are not. They are right here, right now and must be faced because the intentional disappearing of indigenous women and children are inextricably entwined within these layers.

Here, ‘these incredibly painful things’ is about our own individual sexual abuse. I left it at that because it seemed enough in the moment to let it sit there alone for a bit. Even more, after the swift blowback from Indian Country when The Mystery of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women was published, I was afraid to continue speaking aloud.  However, after reading Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, I feel emboldened again. Her powerful voice and courage has shored and renewed both of mine.

Not only is keeping ‘my secret safe with your secret’ something we need to address as individuals, internally and aloud, it must happen at the community level and it must occur in the ways that allow people to be heard and for responsibilities to be acknowledged.

It requires, within indigenous communities, acknowledging a shared responsibility for effectively addressing the sexual abuse of children, leadership’s role in the trafficking of young people, the current effects of historical trauma; not in a few decades, maybe figuring it out as we go along, but now. We can’t wait another generation and hope that things return to something resembling balance without purposeful and direct intervention. And that intervention must happen within the communities themselves, not be clouded or coerced by individual or institutionalized power structures that have historically preyed upon these same communities and currently continue to do so.

We need to speak our personal truths that include our own victimizations and, in addition, to dig deeper into how the silence around how that, over time, has contributed to the harm of others.  How many times has our own silence and our own shame led to the judgment of others as ‘whore’ or suggestion that ‘she had it coming’? How many times have men and boys heard that come from a woman’s mouth and bought it as truth?  How many times have we as individuals and a collective not believed our daughters, sons, nieces, or brothers, about teachers, preachers, neighbors, fathers and uncles?  How often have we seen the signs but chosen to ignore them? How often have we claimed ‘he’s just a man’, ‘that’s how they are’, or called a man by another name if he wasn’t ‘manly’ enough, hadn’t exhibited traits associated with violence?  How have these things contributed to young people making the active choice in walking away from family? How does the culture that accompanies fear, silence and unacknowledged betrayal, that we perpetuate, combine with lack of inner and external resources contribute to the ease of predators distorting hope for the future into pimp-slave relationships?

Personal story-telling isn’t isolated to Self, it’s bound up in immediate and extended family as well as the larger community. Community, in this discussion, means more than the more obvious. It means that of the ‘near-culture’, a chapter or neighborhood on a reservation for instance, and the larger dominant culture and power-structures within both. The truth-telling is a process that is important in and of itself but there is a shared responsibility in story-telling–one that also requires active listening and a willingness to hear that which (I hope) is hard on the heart.  After hearing and responding to the stories, there must be action and it must come from a collective sense of responsibility, justice and deep compassion.

The telling and the hearing does not bring healing in and of itself. It is merely the start. It’s one of the reasons I scoffed at Senator Tester’s self-congratulatory email after I’d reached out for the sixth time about the Fuckery.

That is why I introduced the Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act (S. 336).  This bipartisan bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a full investigation of how federal agencies respond to reports of missing and murdered Native Americans and recommend solutions based on their findings.  It also directs the GAO to make recommendations on how to address economic, social, and other underlying factors that are fueling this crisis.

I wanted to shout “Bully for you! Want a gold star?!” in his ear and follow it with this:  “Are you and your colleagues actually ready to hear, really hear, the truths that need to be spoken, and accept the responsibilities that come with it?”  I wanted to say it in the Jack Nicholson tone that says, “The truth? You can’t handle the truth?”

The truth is that while there are individual responsibilities to be owned, they are enmeshed within local and federal government and religious policies that continue to perpetuate ‘out of sight out of mind’, ‘take what we want (treaties or ethics be damned)’,  ‘kill the Indian but save the man (or his soul)’ and fuel the need for young people to seek escape from inner turmoil and communities that cannot provide options for therapeutic intervention, basic health and human services appropriate for those communities.

The federal government must be willing to be an active participant in learning how the past is directly influencing the present, how the violence begat in this country’s formation was a catalyst for the violence being suffered by indigenous women now, and be willing to help heal it in a meaningful way–government cheese isn’t healing (hell, it’s not even cheese) but the government can–and, in my opinion should–play a significant role in the healing of Nations.  The truth requires current government actors, with their inherited greed, bias and privilege, not just acknowledge but apologize formally with words, funds for deep healing, and legislated (read enforceable) respect for physical, spatial and spiritual relationships with lands unceded and those agreed upon under duress and threat of death.

All of these things are so entwined together that no single thread can be separated. However, it’s not as difficult as our bureaucratized brains would like to think. Education, openness, honesty, compassion, righteous and safely expressed anger and grief, and apologies–those things of love– begin the process. In our individual homes and hearts, within local communities and the institutions that we’re each tied to.

Borrowing a phrase here, leaning into this, requires a broad scope that most American’s don’t yet seem to have the intellectual bandwidth or the curiosity enough to wholly engage in the process; it requires more than just data, it requires basic understandings of power structures, sociology, trauma, institutionalized violence and systemic oppression, resilience, restoration, medicine ways, love, and more. An expanded education on these things may not be necessary but a mind opened enough to trust that those things exist and are part of the world we share is.

If the, in any, government decides to get actively involved in eradicating sexual slavery that is knotted up in a historic past such as ours, it’s a long slow slog through bureaucracy.  It will result in a report that may or may not provide the whole truth and may, may not provide resolution and may or may not be read.

However, while governments may try to chug along, other key players have the capacity to engage, even semi-heartedly, in a way that can create immediate and lasting change; to hear, to heal, to eliminate a scourge on humanity.

I have hope, though. I have hope.

 

 

 

 

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Oh, My Darling Empath

You have no idea

You have no idea your desire to retreat is merely your fear of meeting yourself in another. You have no idea that your fear of another is merely your fear of intimacy with the one you’ve separated yourself from. Your avoidance of the stimuli that feeds your soul has led you to substitutions that are no substitution at all.

You feel because there is no separation. There is no separation. You want there to be, though. You feel the reality will split you open and the consequence will be great pain. The opposite is true. Your skin may help hold your body-bits together but it is not the thing that keeps you apart from that which you keep seeking. It is not the boundary you want it to be. You have no boundaries and there is no such thing as ‘feeling too much’, you just don’t know that yet.

You are meant to feel and those feelings are more than simple resonance. And you can learn to feel and express them, with ease and grace (mostly). You need to retrain your mind and body. And it is so, so simple. Fear not. You know more than you think you do and for decades your heart has been trying to lead you into that way of being and you’ve fought it.

This does not have to be a struggle unless, of course, you want it to be. The pain your body is experiencing is because it has been inundated with energies you have not taught it how to deal with. Because you’ve not been taught how to navigate this beyond the myths that have perpetuated fear, you have inadvertently deadened your senses and self. That anxiety? It can be managed as it vanishes.  Your ‘auto-immune’ disordered body can be re-ordered and brought back into it’s natural state but you may have to work at it. Part of the process is unlearning most of what you think you know; language, movement, food, relationship, boundaries. Though it is so, so simple, for many it is not easy.

We have forgotten over time that this way of feeling, this physical and emotional experience of connection, is a natural state. More than a ‘psychic gift’, it is hard-wired into our very being and, for some is our very essence.

The differences between how people before us experienced this connected way of feeling and now is that there are more and different energies with which to develop relationship (because that is exactly what this is about–being in relationship to all things).  In the not-so-distant past we weren’t dealing with chemical cocktails as food or in food, electricity corralled, conduits that move electrons in a concentrated and focused fashion (that we refuse to separate ourselves from as if it is the God we’re seeking); noise didn’t come from speakers or endcaps at Walmart. The relationships were deeper, in part, because there was limited distraction and we recognized our interdependence, our relationship with all things. Our Age of Enlightenment and growth from the Industrial Era have wrought consequences that bring us to where we are now.

The time has come now to relearn that way and expand it into our time and environment. If you’ll let me, I’ll walk you through the process step by step. However, I’m no longer in the ass-kicking job. You either want it and are willing to do the work or you’re not. You get to decide.

Reach out.

 

 

I Saw You at the Doctor’s Office

I saw you at the oncologist’s office. Even before then, for weeks, I’ve seen your brain, the invader and the T-cells fighting it. I’ve felt your fear. In fact, had it myself when I thought my brain was trying to tell me that I had the cancer.

I heard the words, “It’s grown” and knew what they meant. I felt your rage–at the impotence and unfairness of it–and saw your desire to throw those fucking medical files and binders and shiny tools across the sterile room; for it to rise to meet the chaos inside.

I can help. Reach out. There is no judgement here.

Those Who Tell Too Much; Ancestors and Missing, Murdered Women and Children

artist: R Blackwater

In the introduction to this series on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children, I mentioned that this unfolding of the Fuckery and I

 requires discussion of history and the repercussion arisen out of it, trauma experienced and held by peoples and the natural world, realities of misogyny, sexuality, institutionalized racism, the reemergence of what I call ‘the medicine way’ and where all those things converge in our current era.

I think the thing that frightens people the most is the reemergence of the ‘medicine way’. It means recognizing that beliefs and ways of the world are more than theoretical or ceremonial, beyond the scope of encultured ‘sacred space’, and are neither ours nor out there. It creates an inescapable ‘in your face’ expression of truth that makes beliefs true or untrue, redefines things of spirit held as personal or tribal into universal, and cuts the commodified crap connected to the aforementioned in a breath. It means that death isn’t what we’ve thought it is, that everyone really is connected beyond super-simplified popsychospiritmeme-ified oneness. It means we have responsibilities beyond what we’ve presumed revealed within sweat lodges, by the one-liners of protest signs and attention-grabbing headlines. It means prophecy can be true, cosmologies can crumble, and we really may not who or how (or why) we think we are.

It frightens lawmen, lawyers, politicians, medicine men, journalists, folks who once called me friend, and those who operate the Fuckery. It’s why a tribal historical preservation officer nearly scorched his shorts when I asked about an eagle.  Because it can’t be true but what if it is.  If it is, we have to kill her. If it’s not we have to see who is really giving her all this information, then kill her.

I was once asked by one of the more lazy cops I’ve ever met, “So, is it like talking to God?” when I went to talk to him about Jermaine Charlo. His syrupy derision was no different than the “Why are my ancestors coming to you?”  Sadly, I’m not one skilled with witty repartee and it didn’t occur to me until much later to say, “No, conversations with God are much more direct.”  They are but for all the church-going, Bible shaking, and God-loving, to tell people there are active conversations with God is a nullifying as explaining those with Ancestors.

Whether those who would like to put an additional hole in my head (or anyone else) believe this or not, these are those who ‘tell Ingrid way too much’

They are Coushatta, Cree, Muscogee, Maidu, Diné, Dene.

They are Lakota, Dakota, Comanche, Choctaw, and Apache.

They are Kickapoo, Meskwaki, Mi’maq, Tongva, and Gros Ventre.

They are Ojib, Ohkay Owingeh, Mewuk, Osage, Missouria, Potowatami, Quapaw, Quinault.

They are Rappahannock, Paiute, Pascato, Seminole, Shawnee and Chickahominey.

They are Sappony, Seneca, Waccamaw, Natchez, Niitsitapi, Cherokee, Mohawk, and Miccosuckee.

Onandagan, Cheyenne, Crow, Unitah, Calusa, Colusa, Appalachee.

Fox, Saux, Winnebago, Miami, Illini, Ioway and Omaha.

Arapaho, Otoe, Kiowa, Caddo, Coahuiltecan, Kutenai, and Pend d’Oreilles.

Nakoda, Yurok, Chumash, Yokuts and Yana.

Nahuatl, Mixtec, Mayo, Massai, and Huichol, O’odham and Tepehuan.

Guaraní, Cocopah, Dogon, Delaware, Sara, Salish, Tatar, Bua and Bantu.

Samí, Bedu, Yoruba, Ibibio, Damara, Pueblan. Altai, Mapuche and Quechua.

Abenaki, Mohigan, Wawenock, Acholi, Madu, Evenki.

Salish, Kumeyaay, Ohlone, Pomo, Skykomish, Yakama.

And more.

The sand speaks, clouds halt, rain and stag protect, horses signal, ground and eagles pull, bees direct, water leads, raven weaves with spider, snake and worm connect threads where others can’t go. Wings whisper, trunks kiss my face, Nagas sing, devas dance. Creation twins create anew.

They know. They see.

Hundreds more who trust me with their living kin whose prayers they have heard, whose cries for freedom they echo across the universe and pound through my dreams– insistent, repetitive beats of love. They give me medical advice, tell me when to run and when to be still, wait. They tell me to ‘stop with the questions’, ‘sit down and shut up’, ‘Speak, child. Speak.”

They ride the wind, thunder through clouds, beat my heart, sing my soul, cry my tears, soothe and sear my skin. They guide, they tattle on the twisted medicine men, they show the limbless torsos.

And we live and breathe and move as one.

My secret is safe with your secret….

I’ve shared before the confusion and despair felt when ignored by tribal leadership I’ve reached out to across the continent. Whether the attempted connection is with Osage, Crow, or Anishinaabe (or Blackfoot or Cree or Shoshone or Cheyenne or Pima or….), the silence I’ve been met with has been as deafening and deadening as the ‘keep your mouth shut’ repeatedly heard from the Cree contingent.

I’ve wondered out loud more than once if there is a M. Night Shyamalan-esque agreement within continental indigenous communities in which it’s been decided that a percentage of the population is expendable and sacrificed so that the larger community might be safe; where those sacrificed vanish into ether, with something resembling a tolerable amount of noise, and are never talked about again.

I’m keenly aware of the role that racism plays, the fear a white woman who works with Ancestors and Others inspires, and how spirit coming to life outside of select safe spaces threatens. However, there is something much more deep that I have tried to articulate but haven’t been adequately able to put words to.

This past weekend, though, I read an opinion piece by Garry Wills in the Washington Post about the Catholic Church. In it he expresses so well what I’ve been trying to wind words around:

The trouble with any culture that maintains layer upon layer of deflected inspections is that, when so many people are guarding their own secrets, the deep examination of an institution becomes nearly impossible. The secrecies are too interdependent. Truly opening one realm of secrecy and addressing it may lead to an implosion of the entire system.

His words, especially in the context of institutionalized sexual abuse and the attempts at covering it up, rang true to me.

The effects of colonizers ripping people from their land, the rape of women  also ‘theirs for the taking’, the forced ripping of children from their families into institutions made to ‘kill the Indian, save the man’, combined with the individual experiences of child rape within communities have created this weaving of secrets.

Layer interlaced with layer of secrets and fear; communal and individual, sexual and spiritual (they cannot be separated in the case of the Fuckery any more than they can any religious institution and its abusers), and threaded through entire lineages.

We cannot talk about the disappearances of indigenous children and women without honestly addressing these incredibly painful things. For those  unaware of the legacies wrought by the plundering of the continent’s first peoples, these things may seem like the distant past, far removed from any modern view or experience of the world. They are not. They are right here, right now and must be faced because the intentional disappearing of indigenous women and children are inextricably entwined within these layers.

Afraid to feel?

Does it feel foolish to you, impossible even, that your ‘feeling too much’ isn’t that at all?

Can you, even the tiniest of moments between the fear, understand that when you truly recognize what it is you’re feeling and from whence it comes, you’ll know it is the highest expression of love there is?

That is what being an empath is–the highest expression of love there is. The capacity, without a word being said, to say, “I feel your pain”.

Can you wrap your head, maybe even your heart, around the notion that you’ve been bestowed the honor of someone, likely without any awareness, is trusting you with their deepest hidden.

Their pain is not your memory nor will your memory relive the moments that bore it.

Feel it. Cry it. Shout at it. Love it. Love you.

Feel them. Cry for them. Shout at them “I love you”.

Love them.

Be not afraid.

Principles and Visitations from the Mother

I’m reading a book called Benediction by Kent Haruf. It’s one of those that I’m forcing myself to finish for reasons I can’t comprehend. It’s annoying. Damn-near all dialogue and not a single quotation mark.

There’s a scene in which a preacher pisses off his congregation by suggesting that loving thine enemy and turning the cheek might be literal expressions of Jesus’ teaching and not a mere metaphorical for living peaceably. He preaches, many congregants walk out, cursing him after he postulates that America, as a government and society, could do just that.

Not only does a large part of his congregation walk out on him, his wife later publicly announces she’s going to do the same to the remaining congregation. This is part of the ensuing conversation (I’m adding the quotation marks here because there’s no need for all of us to be annoyed):

“All right,” Lyles wife said. “I’ll admit he has his principles. I am aware of that. I used to admire him for his principles and his generous intentions. But what good are they, finally? You can’t eat them. You can’t depend on them. There’s no security in principles.”

Later, the preacher explains to his two remaining supporters:

“I think I’m done…People don’t want to be disturbed. They want reassurance. They don’t come to church on Sunday morning to think about new ideas or even about important old ones. They want to hear what they’ve been told before, with only some small variation on what they’ve been hearing all their lives, and then they want to go home, eat pot roast and say it was a good service and feel satisfied.”

I’m feeling that preacher in more ways than one. He’s right. The disruption isn’t wanted, but the lip service is. However, here we are. Disrupting right as we move along and no matter how many people turn away from us, in anger or fear.

I’ve been done a few times in the past eighteen months. Stick a fork in me, I cannot go on done. The first time I thought about walking away from all things Fuckery was on October 17, 2017, when Ariel Begay’s body was found. I packed up my things, drove the three hours to be with her mother, and decided half-way there that I wasn’t going back the desert. That fucking desert. Fucking hot, fucking dry, the devil incarnate hiding behind ‘medicine’, evil people doing evil things to children. What the fuck do They think one fucking person can do? I’m not that fucking person!  By the time I landed in her front yard, I realized I was lying to myself and that there was no way I was going to leave other victims behind. Who the fuck am I kidding? Don’t be fucking stupid.  I cried a lot. I bitched a lot. I found a place to rest and then put on my big girl drawers and went back.

The second time I thought about walking away was a little over a year ago. Profoundly depressed and ashamed and guilt-ridden and angry, I crawled into bed one night determined to pack up and leave the next day. Before my head hit the pillow, the room filled and there She was. In front of masses of other, Older female figures who I described as the Holiest of the Holies, Mother Mary showed herself again. This time there was no pleasant conversation in the kitchen. Without words she didn’t merely ask, she didn’t demand or argue; she beseeched and her plea was like no other I’ve felt except, perhaps, my own prayers as a child. The others stood behind her, saying nothing but Being with a strength and power that I’d not felt in a looooong time. The collective, halos aglow, prayed ‘don’t go’. What was I going to do with an ask like that? Say no? I stayed in the desert another two months until it was clear that I was under physical surveillance from 200 yards away and that not only was I in deep doo-doo but I might end up in deep sand pretty quick.

In the run-up to Christmas, I considered walking away again. With little support, multiple dangers, some masked as men in blue, a quick cost-benefit analysis seemed to make the decision an easy one. The impetus to carry on in December, though, didn’t come from another plea but in being spectacularly pissed off that another highly-regarded organization was identified as involved in the Fuckery. Simple rage and indignation fueled re-engagement. How dare those in the US Armed Forces be part of this?!!  Not that it was a real surprise. Soldiers around the world have been part of moving slaves as long as slavery has been around. The stories of rape as a weapon abound and the United Nations’ Blue Helmets involvement in trafficking is well documented. But, my country’s soldiers and seamen? And so we’ve carried on.
If I could argue with the preacher’s wife (which, admittedly, I sort of did by talking to the page like I do the GPS), I’d tell her that the only security may be in that principle of loving, of loving no matter what, no matter how much it scares other people, or confuses them. Or ourselves.
This is about the love for a little girl with a pink rose in her hair, for the Ariel’s of the world whose prayers have been heard, for the love of the Ancestors and Others for whom I work, for those whose own despair and desperation leads to the highest order of human cruelty.  It is with the deepest love as the guiding principle that we carry on.