I’ve finally begun pursuing publication for my writing and lo and behold I’m actually finding success. I’ve already had one article published on Autostraddle and am currently working on another for The Establishment. Yay for finally getting off my (disabled) ass and sending my work around! Really it’s that I now have enough stamina to work for a couple of hours most days hence why I’m now able to pursue my dreams of being a published author. It is rather overwhelming though on many fronts. Presently, my current writing project is really draining me psychically, emotionally, and physically.
Without giving away the details of the article I’m writing I’ll just say that I’m digging into a lot of very heavy data on violence against Native women in the US. Most of it isn’t new to me. I’ve read, and shared publicly many times, the studies and statistics. I don’t know a single Indigenous woman that hasn’t suffered multiple forms of violence throughout the course of her life, usually at the hands of a white man. I’m no exception to this. Most sexual assault is intraracial-the predator is the same race as the victim-but we Natives are the exception. Even our men have horrifically high rates of sexual abuse and it’s also predominantly interracial. This should come as no surprise given our history of boarding school abuses and the current abuses our children, women, and men suffer in the foster care and criminal injustice systems.
In the last hour alone I’ve read that more than 1 million Native women have experienced sexual violence in our lifetime. According to the 2015 US census we only comprise 5.4 million of the total US population. This is including those that self-identified as mixed race and Native. While I don’t believe blood quantum and tribal enrollment are the signs of a true Native (these are the tools of the colonizer after all), but there aren’t 5.4 million federally enrolled tribal members in the US. According to the National Congress of the American Indian we comprise 2.9 million, 0r .9%, of the total US population. If we’re only 2.9 million people and more than 1 million of our women have been victims of sexual violence that basically means that almost all Indigenous women in the US have been assaulted in some fashion at least once in our lifetimes. From what I’ve experienced and the stories I’ve heard, from many Native women, one time in a YEAR is a miracle. If you’re Two Spirit, Queer, Bi, or a Disabled Native woman then your likelihood and occurrences of abuse only increase.
I’ve had to sit for days with this heavy data and the extremely hateful and racist rhetoric of some of our Amerikkkan leaders and try to dissect it in a way that is intelligent, understandable, and gives a heartfelt and impassioned cry to the overwhelming non-Native readers that will see this article so they will hopefully get off their privileged settler asses and be our allies and fight for our rights. Needless to say, it’s eating at me. Last night I went to the anti-police brutality march in Roxbury, MA in solidarity for the Black lives that are being slaughtered by the police, but I also used it as my PTSD wellness break from my work. It says a lot about the state of Amerikkka when a Disabled, Bi, Native woman with chronic pain who can’t stand for long or walk great distances and feels panicky in crowds and near the police goes to a protest and march that has 1,000 plus people and is littered with police so she can get a break from her research. But hey, it’s the land of the free, right?
I can understand how it would be easy for many in America, and abroad, to write off some of what I’ll bring up in my soon-to-be published article. It’s easy to brush aside the hateful and ignorant comments of some people because they behave like jackasses so why would anyone take them seriously? But the thing is, when it comes to us Natives, people do take them seriously and it’s never just one jackass in the spotlight. It’s Victoria’s Secret hypersexualizing Native women and culturally appropriating war bonnets which are sacred to some Plains’ tribes. It’s the white hipsters at music festivals that also wear headdresses or Pharrell Williams, a Black man, who posed with a headdress for British Elle. It’s the Colonial Bros and Nava-hos frat party. It’s me as the only Native in a room full of so called Massachusetts’ progressives who repeatedly ironically ask “You’re Indian? That’s so neat! Will you speak at my child’s school for Thanksgiving?” Meanwhile, I’m Tsalagi. That’s Cherokee to you colonizers. I’m a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. When the pilgrims came, my people were in the Southeast nowhere near present day Massachusetts. It’s the Wampanoags that had to deal with those British wankers.
It’s me at the Boston LGBT health center with me feet literally in stirrups waiting for my Woman Of Color (WOC) doctor to replace my IUD, which I’ve already told her is incredibly painful, and she asks me “So your last name, are you Native American?” It’s the resident at my chronic pain management clinic, who I assume is Southeast Asian, asking me as I’m writhing in pain on the table after having several very large needles stuck in my spine “So you’re Native American? What tribe are you? Tell me all about it!” as if it’s any of his business, my job to teach him my history, or that he’s not taking advantage of his power in that situation and making me feel unsafe, and that it wouldn’t cause him pain and rage when people force their racist and colonizing microaggressions upon him.
And the one that’s really sticking in my craw right now is this: It’s me on a date with a white man who calls me “exoctic” and “Pocahontas” without the slightest irony that he’s the exoctic one because this is our land and that the story of Pocahontas as he knows her is a myth. Pocahontas’ real name was Matoaka. She was approximately 10-12 years old when she had the misfortune of encountering John Smith. She was soon taken captive by the British and “married” to John Rolfe, forced into Christianity, and then dragged across the Atlantic to England where she was paraded around as the so called noble savage until she died at the age of 22. Despite all of this I’m supposed to be turned on, bat my pretty exoctic eyelashes, and be ready to open my red legs when some asshole, racist, colonizing, misogynistic, rape culture loving white man calls me “Pocahontas.”
I could really go on for months, possibly years, about all of this because sadly our abuse and injustices run that deep, but despite all of the colonizer’s best attempts to wipe us out, we’re still here. I’m still here. I, a Bisexual, Disabled, Poor, Fat, Native Woman am still here. We’re hurting, and I’m most definitely hurting, but we’re still here. I may need a lot of PTSD breaks and I may not produce the same amount of work as the colonizer does, but I’ll keep writing. I live on through my ancestors. Our voices are strong and we will be heard. I will be heard.