It’s strange to me how people always want me to be an “authentic Indian” when I say I’m Haudenosaunee. They want me to look a certain way, act a certain way. They’re disappointed when what they get is…just me. White faced, red haired. They spent hundreds of years trying to assimilate my ancestors, trying to create Indians like who could blend in. But now they don’t want me either. They cant make up their minds.
They want buckskin and face paint, drumming, songs in languages they can’t understand
recorded for them- but with English subtitles, of course. They want educated, well-spoken,
but not too smart. Christian, well-behaved, never questioning. They want to learn the history
of the people, but not the ones who are here now, waving signs in their faces,
asking them for clean drinking water,
asking them why their women are going missing,
asking them why their land is being ruined.
They want fantastical stories of Indians that used to roam this land.
They want my culture behind glass in a museum.
But they don’t want me.
I’m not Indian enough.
They say I’m fake, but they don’t realize that every time I have to write and speak to them in English, the language of the colonizer, I am painfully aware of what I’ve lost. So I sneak around quietly, gathering pieces- beads here, a word there, a dance, a song, until I’m strong enough to stand tall and tell them who I am.
They tried to make Indians like me who could blend in.
My great grandmother moved her children out of their community into the big city of Toronto to try hid in plain sight.
I will break the silence.
I am clinging to every piece of my mom, my grandma, my great grandma that I have. I am clinging to any bit of tradition that found its way through the cracks, like a plant growing towards the light.
I have always been in love with these small pieces of resistance.
My great grandmother told my dad to bury my umbilical cord in the dirt behind my home, Now a trees grows from that piece of me. I am connected.
When my aunties gather around tea I will absorb every story they tell.
I will stare at photos of my Akshotha until they speak to me.
I will scavenge all the bits of knowledge from here and there and pull them together.
Close to my heart.
I will knit with my grandma’s needles. The only piece of her I have.
I will knit until I know her.
I will forgive. Forgive my mom, her mom, and her mom, for what they couldn’t teach me. They
always did the very best they could.
I will hold on for dear life.
I will dig my hands into the dirt.
I will let them drag
and pull on me
until the earth is embedded under my fingernails.
But I won’t let go.