Category Archives: Traditions

I Always Hated My Arms


Written by Emily

Yesterday I made bread with my mom. She sprinkled the counter with flour and dropped a wad of yeasty dough at my fingertips.

“Knead it for at least 7 minutes,” she instructed. “Do you know how to knead?”

I did. I’ve seen my fair share of Food Network shows.

I pushed the dough forward with the base of my palms and pulled it back with my fingertips. Push. Pull. Push. Pull. I fell into a rhythm.


As I watched the dough move and change, my arms worked. I could feel them tense and tighten as the dough loosened. Those arms. My arms.

I always hated them.

I coveted lean, toned arms in a way that should have made me run for the nearest confessional. I was convinced there was something in my genetic make-up that made it impossible for me to achieve a sculpted shoulder–short of buying…

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Fish Broth & Fasting


Fish Broth & Fasting

Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Opinion | 33 Comments


A year ago, after the community of Attawapiskat had been dragged through the racist lens of the media for more than a month, I began to write about the situation.  I wrote two pieces.  One that was published in Briarpatch magazine that was political, and one that was a spoken word piece using the music of Cree cellist Cris Derksen. I am not from Attawapiskat and I’ve never been there.   I wrote because I felt a strong sense of solidarity with community because like most Indigenous Peoples, I have personal connections and history that links me to all of the same issues.  I felt a sense of responsibility to speak out not only in the way the issues where playing out in the media, but in the response of Canadian society. I feel the same way again this year.

I am not going to correct all of the slander designed to discredit Chief Spence and her hunger strike – my friends and colleagues have already done a fantastic job of that.  Check out the work of Chelsea Vowel and Alanis Obomsawin’s The People of the Kattawpiskat River if you haven’t.

The past few weeks have been an intense time to be Anishinaabeg.  There is a lot to write about and to process.  I felt overwhelmingly proud on #J11 with tens of thousands of us in the streets world wide, with the majority of our Indian Act Chiefs standing with us in those streets.  I also felt the depths of betrayal on that day. But it was during the local #J11 actions in my community that I started to think a lot about fish broth.  Fish broth and Anishinaabeg governance.

Fish broth has been cast by the mainstream media as “the cheat”. Upon learning Chief Spence was drinking tea and fish broth coverage shifted from framing her action as a “hunger strike” to a “liquid diet”, as if 32 days without food is easy. As if a liquid diet doesn’t take a substantial physical, mental and emotional toll or substantial physical, mental and emotional strength to accomplish.  Of course this characterization comes from a place of enormous unchecked privilege and a position of wealth.  It comes from not having to fight for one’s physical survival because of the weight of crushing poverty.  It comes from always having other options.

This is not where Indigenous Peoples come from.

My Ancestors survived many long winters on fish broth because there was manitou giigoonnothing else to eat – not because the environment was harsh, but because the land loss and colonial policy were so fierce that they were forced into an imposed poverty that often left fish broth as the only sustenance.

Fish broth. It carries cultural meaning for Anishinaabeg. It symbolizes hardship and sacrifice.  It symbolizes the strength of our Ancestors.  It means survival.  Fish broth sustained us through the hardest of circumstances, with the parallel understanding that it can’t sustain one forever. We exist today because of fish broth. It connects us to the water and to the fish who gave up its life so we could sustain ourselves. Chief Spence is eating fish broth because metaphorically, colonialism has kept Indigenous Peoples on a fish broth diet for generations upon generations. This is utterly lost on mainstream Canada, as media continues to call Ogichidaakwe Spence’s fast a “liquid diet” while the right winged media refers to it as much worse.

Not Chief Spence, but Ogichidaakwe Spence – a holy woman, a woman that would do anything for her family and community, the one that goes over and makes things happen, a warrior, a leader because Ogichidaakwe Spence isn’t just on a hunger strike.  She is fasting and this also has cultural meaning for Anishinaabeg.  She is in ceremony.  We do not “dial back” our ceremonies.  We do not undertake this kind of ceremony without much forethought and preparation. We do not ask or demand that people stop the fast before they have accomplished whatever it is they set out to accomplish, which in her case is substantial change in the relationship between the Canadian state and Indigenous nations.  We do not critique the faster. We do not band wagon or verbally attack the faster. We do not criticize because we feel she’s become the (unwilling) leader of the movement. We do not assume that she is being ill advised. We do not tell her to “save face.”

We support. We pray. We offer semaa. We take care of the sacred fire. We sing each night at dusk. We take care of all the other things that need to be taken care of, and we live up to our responsibilities in light of the faster. We protect the faster. We do these things because we know that through her physical sacrifice she is closer to the Spiritual world than we are. We do these things because she is sacrificing for us and because it is the kind, compassionate thing to do. We do these things because it is our job to respect her self-determination as an Anishinaabekwe – this is the most basic building block of Anishinaabeg sovereignty and governance.

“We respect her sovereignty over her body and her mind. We do not act like we know better than her.”

Fasting as a ceremony is difficult.  It is challenging to willingly weaken one’s body physically, and the mental and emotional strength required for fasting is perhaps more difficult than the physical. So when we fast, we ask our friends and family to support us and to act as our helpers. There is an assumption of reciprocity – the faster is doing without, in this case to make things better for all Indigenous Peoples, and in return, the community around her carries the responsibility of supporting her.

A few days ago I posted these two sentences on twitter “I support ‪@ChiefTheresa in her decision to continue her hunger strike. The only person that can decide otherwise, is Chief Spence.” Within minutes, trolls were commented on my feed with commentary on Chief Spence’s body image, diet jokes, calls for “no more special treatment for Natives” and calls to end her hunger strike.  One person called her a “cunt”.

I understand we need to be positive, I do.  We also need to continue telling the truth. The racism, sexism and disrespect that has been heaped on Ogitchidaa Spence in the past weeks has been done so in part because it is acceptable to treat Indigenous women this way.  These comments take place in a context where we have nearly 1000 missing and murdered Indigenous women.  Where we have still have places named “squaw”.  Where Indigenous women have been the deliberate target of gendered colonial violence for 400 years. Where the people who have been seriously hurt and injured by the back lash against Idle No More have been women. Where Ogichidaakwe’s Spence voice has not been heard.

IMG_18852-1024x768Ogichidaakwe Spence challenges Canadians because no one in Canada wants to believe this situation is bad enough that someone would willingly give up their life.

Ogichidaakwe Spence challenges me, because I am not on day 32 of a fast. I did not put my life on the line, and that forces me to continually look myself in the mirror and ask if I am doing everything I can.  This is her gift to me.

Idle No More as a movement is now much bigger than the hunger strikers and Bill C-45, but it is still important to acknowledge their sacrifice, influence and leadership. I want my grandchildren to be able to live in Mississauga Anishinaabeg territory as Mississauga Anishinaabeg – hunting, fishing, collecting medicines, doing ceremony, telling stories, speaking our language, governing themselves using our political traditions and whatever else that might mean to them, unharassed.  That’s not a dream palace – that is what our treaties guaranteed.

We now have hundreds of leaders from different Indigenous nations emerging all over Mikinakong (the Place the Turtle). We now have hundreds of eloquent spokes people, seasoned organizers, writers, thinkers and artists acting on their own ideas in anyway and every way possible.  This is the beauty of our movement.

Chi’Miigwech Theresa Spence, Raymond Robinson, Emil Bell, and Jean Sock for your vision, your sacrifice and your commitment to making us better. Chi’Miigwech to everyone who has been up late at night worrying about what to do next, and then who gets up the next morning and acts.  I am hopeful and inspired and look forward to our new, collective emergence as a healthy and strong Anishinaabeg nation.


DividedNoMore » Fish Broth & Fasting.

Oracle of Directions

Oracle of Directions

This section will expound upon the basic nature of the directions and the role they play in Mayan calendar astrology.

Like most native cultures of the Americas, the Mayan sacred calendar, the Tzolkin, integrates the concept of the four directions in it’s foundation. All the Native American indigenous cultures have a color assigned to each of the four directions. It seems that each Native American tribe usually has their own take on what color represents what direction. I am honoring the information that Ian received from the shaman that he worked with.

It is my understanding that the color assigned to each direction on the chart is the same as the colors the Kiche’ Maya use. From the research that I have done I can say that the majority of Maya, including the Yucatec Maya, also adhere to these same colors for the directions.
Mayan Oracle

The Directions

EAST/red is represented by the color red. This stands for the colors of the sunrise. It is the place where the day begins, so red represents initiation of activity. The direction of the east is where galactic light energy is expressed through emotions, passions, and activity. I use red to represent beginnings and birthing of new projects. It is the start of new experiences or journeys. The day signs that are ruled by the east are energizing, stimulating and full of movement and vigor. Depending on the day sign, energy, passion and intensity will be expressed in the physical, mental or emotional arenas of life. The day signs of the east are Crocodile, Serpent, Offering, Reed and Earth. Crocodile, Serpent and Offering express passions in a down to earth fashion. Reed and Earth express passions with their ideas and ideals.

NORTH/white usually represents wisdom that comes with experience. This theme of wisdom coming from the north is why many Native American traditions feel that their departed relatives and wise elders reside in the north. The wise ones will come to the service of mankind, like a helpful grandfather or grandmother, when they are asked for guidance.

Due to the insight and perception the elders both alive and dead can communicate, the north is believed to be the source of mental activity and communication. The north represents teachings and knowledge as well. Therefore the mind and thought that does travel through the air have become the qualities that are associated with the direction of the north. Four of the 5 day lords from the north communicate spiritual information. Wind communicates on the surface of the earth. Dog, Transformer and Jaguar are conduits for communication to the underworld. Flint carries the energy of the priest or priestess through which galactic light energy speaks and brings communications from the center of the galaxy to humanity.

The day signs that are under the sway of the direction of the north are usually very mental, analytical and communicative.

WEST/blue has been assigned the color blue. The Kiche’ Maya sometimes use the color black for the west as well. Due to the fact that the west is where the sun sets for the day, the west is associated with endings. At the time of death, many native cultures believe that the soul returns to the realm of the west when it leaves the body.

The direction of the west is associated with water. Many primitive societies understood the fluid, symbolic nature of the subconscious. I feel that is why water is associated with the subconscious and the west. This association of water with the direction of the west also comes from the awareness that the deep darkness of the ocean and large bodies of water hide what is below the surface. Ancient spiritual knowledge relates that the psyche, the human sub conscious, also hides much of each person’s nature and experiences.

Those day signs that are linked with the west usually have a strong connection to the subconscious and imagery. It is from this connection that galactic light energy communicates through symbols and other creative manifestations.

Most indigenous cultures have a great understanding of what the Maya call the underworld. The subconscious or underworld is where healing takes place. Even though the Maya practiced human sacrifice and were primitive in many ways they also understood the commanding role that the sub conscious plays in the life of every person. Those born into the day signs of the west are the doorway to express the power of the psyche. Galactic light energy works through the day signs ruled by the west by having them be the conduit to the hidden parts of humanity.

The west ruled day signs also have a strong connection to healing and intuitive abilities. The day signs that are ruled by the west are Night, Deer, Monkey, Eagle and Storm. Night and Storm have the strongest intuitive abilities of the west ruled day signs. Monkey and Deer express this connection to the intuitive through creativity and art. Eagle can see the future through its connection to the sub conscious.

SOUTH/yellow is thought, by many tribes throughout the world, to represent physical endurance and focus about material life. In many Native American societies, the south typifies the playful, childlike qualities of humans and all other creatures. The south is connected with the body and the physical aspects of life. Therefore, the south represents the concept of a child starting out on their road of life, looking for understanding and exploring life through experiences that involve the five senses of the body. Many of the day signs that are connected to the south have strong connections to the physical body and material,daily life.

The association of the body with fertility plays a key role in the energy of the south. The day signs ruled by the south have a major theme of growth, death and rebirth woven within them. Galactic light energy works through those linked to the south by having them manifest spiritual energy in a tangible, material way. The day signs of the south are Seed, Star, Road, Wisdom and Sun. Seed and Road are concerned with manifestation on the material level. Star works with moving and regulating manifestation. Wisdom is concerned with cleansing and purification of the physical and releasing or transforming what is not immortal from the world. Sun is concerned with being the ruler and example to others, the top of the pyramid, the pinnacle of what humanity can be.

Oracle of Directions.

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