I am a queer Sicangu Lakota woman living in Minneapolis. I grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and have spent most of my adult life in the Midwest. I came out when I was 18 years old, with great privilege and safety at a queer youth center in Minneapolis, one of only five in the country at the time. I grew up with a feminist activist mother; running political commentaries were common in my household. I was given books that challenged society's norms about gender, and I learned about racism growing up an Indian girl in South Dakota. I grew up in a world of aunties who were doing amazing work on domestic violence, and I grew up hearing political language and political debates about sexism and racism. I learned early that sharing the umbrella term of "people of color" does not always mean we will be allies to each other or understand issues unique to our specific communities. I grew up walking between two worlds, the world of white people and the world of my ancestors and tribe. My journey to activism was seeded and incubated with my mother, and when I was 15 years old, I undertook it as my own.
I say all this because introductions are important. It's important to know who you are speaking to and where they are from, to understand the circumstances and experiences that brought them to you and shaped their identity. I believe in transparency. I am excited to take on this endeavor of writing this blog, and I want people to know that I do it from my own experience, and to say a little of what those experiences have been and how they have impacted me.
I don't come from a neutral place about the world. I come with some core political beliefs and values. I believe that racism is about power and is structural, and deeply embedded in the fabric of our society. I will go even further to say that I believe that notions of white supremacy exist and are also deeply embedded in our society. I believe sexism exists. I believe that I come from communities that exist at the margins of society, and are often the most vulnerable.
As a First Nations person I am aware that native women experience the highest rates of violence of any other group of women in the United States. Native people have the lowest life expectancy in the Western hemisphere. We have high rates of poverty, unemployment, and chemical dependency issues.
There is a confluence of history, memory, experience, and resistance that happens in my body. I carry moments of desire, rage, thoughtfulness, patience, and hope. I love my people, and because I love them so much, I can't stand to see them suffering. When I say my people, I mean all the communities I am or have been a part of: Lakota, queer, youth, woman, feminist, bisexual, anarchist, and the list goes on. I fight for those living at the margins because if we are truly committed to leaving no one behind, then we will make sure that we all come up.
I have the honor of working with the First Nations Two Spirit Collective. We are a group of activists who identify as indigenous and are doing work in the queer community to create space for First Nations people and put forth a political analysis that better explains the relationship between First Nations people and the U.S. government. As First Nations people, our issues are not always the same, nor are the ways that issues get addressed in our communities the same. Our nation-to-nation status with the United States government means that our relationship to the United States is unlike any other group of people color. This nation-to-nation status means that we are always working to protect our sovereign status and our self-determination. Our definition of sovereignty is the ability to determine our land, resources, borders, and people. We do work with an intersectional analysis and are committed to allied struggles for liberation throughout various movements. As indigenous-identified activists, we also support all struggles for sovereignty throughout the world.
I just came from the BOLD Gathering; it was amazing, inspirational, and reflective. The BOLD Gathering brought together over 225 queer activists of color from across the country. We met to identify the issues facing our communities and to talk about strategies for continuing to build and move our communities. I hope to use this space to really engage and deepen the conversations that BOLD brought forth, and I want to be able to use it to amplify some voices that are not often at the forefront. I want to engage our community in broader conversations for all our benefit. It is incumbent upon us to know each other, fight for one another, and love each other. That can only begin by knowing who we are and what are the issues facing our communities. By doing this, we can add to a larger dialogue, built over movements and history.
According to projections, by 2040, the majority of Americans will be people of color. I don't know what our movement will look like in 30 years, but I and others are working hard to build for the future. Change is coming.
Follow Coya White Hat-Artichoker on Twitter: www.twitter.com/coyahope