Yesterday, I attended the annual February 14th Strawberry Ceremony and Missing and Murdered Women’s Vigil in Toronto. Like every other year, I stood out in the cold with supporters, listening to family members of the missing and the murdered.
This year, like other years, tears streamed down my face while the words of loss echoed, bouncing off the walls of police headquarters, where we were gathered. This year, like every other year, their words rattled around violently inside me until they took root in my heart. This year, like every other year, I smudged and sent up my prayers for the families who lost someone and prayed for all Indigenous peoples to rise against the violence.
This year was different in a few ways though. There were more of us this year. I am different this year too, I’m angrier. As each year goes by, I get angrier. Six years ago when I first began attending the vigils, I felt as though I was helping… as the years went by, I began to see that I must do more. That is what I am doing these days, exploring the ways I can support my people to rise against the violence and to heal.
After the vigil and strawberry ceremony, we marched to 519 Church Street. People passing by were asking why we were marching. One man asked why we were marching and joined us. I was elated – we need more of that. I think that was the first time I smiled all day.
When we got to 519 Church Street, we listened to the two spirit drum. I was so happy to see two spirit people being free in that space to be themselves. They should feel that free anywhere and everywhere. Traditionally two spirit people are special in our Indigenous cultures but all too often the colonized mindset in our communities results in exclusion or violence. I submit that exclusion is in itself a kind of violence. Sociologically speaking, we know that exclusion results in all kinds of social harms including suicide. Decolonizing means purifying ourselves from homophobia, sexism, racism and classism. Any of the negative “isms” that you can think of are not our traditional ways, we are meant to accept and support each other. The truth is, we will never be decolonized until we embrace two spirited people fully as the integral parts of our nations that they always were, are and always will be. As I listened to the two spirit drum and looked around the room, I thought to myself, “This is what resurgence looks like, this is what resurgence feels like.” I really believe two spirited people are leading us back to our Indigeneity, to our strength.