Slowing Down In Urgent Times
A conversation with Samie Blasingame, Timimie Märak and Heather Milton-Lightening
Transcript of the conversation
Part 1 was recorded on the 17th of January 2023. Here follows the transcript of the first part of the conversation between Samie, Timimie and Heather. Introduced by Pao and Flo:
Pao: [00:00:04] Hello everyone. My name is Pao. I use they/them pronouns and I'm calling from Stockholm in Sweden. I'm one of the organizers in Cloudberry Collective. Cloudberry Collective emerged as a community that came together to challenge colonial relations in Sápmi. We move together to engage with multi-front anti-colonial struggles. We dream together for visions rooted in centuries of resistance and kept alive in practices of the present. This collective is quite new and besides this event, we are trying to set up a mutual aid fund to support anti-colonial or decolonial work. This is the first public event organized by the collective, and we are super excited that Samie, Timimie, and Heather followed our invitation to join us here in this space. The first part of the conversation is the recording that you are listening to right now. Some of the topics that are covered include: an introduction to the particular organizing context of each of them; contemporary colonial reproduction; the importance of critique alongside practices of joy; and the potential of community organizing in harbouring different collective visions for our futures. We will add links of the work that is mentioned throughout this conversation in the event description. And then in a few days we will have the second part of this conversation that is a continuation to follow up on what is talked about here during a live call. And it will include a Q&A session. So take a note of your questions, thoughts, anything that emerge when you listen to this recording and bring them to the live event.
Flo: [00:02:04] Hey, I'm Flo. He/him. And I'm calling in from Florence in Italy. And I'm also organizing with Cloudberry Collective. We want to take a brief moment to share a few thoughts with you that have shaped how we put this event together. We think this is important so that people can hold us accountable for what we are doing. At the end of the day, this is a collective struggle and an ongoing learning process. So hopefully this transparency might also help some of you grow inspiration for your own organizing practices. Over the last years, thanks particularly to the organizing of black, indigenous and people of color, as well as LGBTQ+ organizers, more and more people in a European context chose to engage with multi-front, anti-colonial struggles, social justice, anti-racism and queer and trans organizing. Unfortunately, in our own experience, we have often found ourselves pushed into engagements with these issues that ended up being performative and or self-centered. For example, the organizing spaces we were part of usually didn't prioritize the nurturing of long term engagements, often promoted Eurocentric agendas, and were usually driven by a misguided sense of urgency. These aspects are problematic because they fuel new issues like the emerging green colonialism. In addition, they also fail to nurture the types of radical solidarity needed for collective liberation. So with this event, we wanted to create an intentional space that allows for slowing down towards a reparative mode of engaging in conversations that more generously portray the work that our guests are doing. There are a couple of people we would like to highlight who have very much guided our thoughts in putting this together.
Flo: [00:03:56] We grew inspiration for this format from our own experience organizing alongside frontline communities, as well as the work of people like Bayo Akomolafe, who on his blog writes, among others, about the need to slow down in urgent times. There is also Prentis Hemphill, who hosts the podcast Finding Our Way and whose opening question is also our starting point for this conversation. Lastly, there is adrienne maree brown, whose call to move at the speed of good relations is always close to our hearts in the organizing we do with Cloudberry Collective. We recognize the importance of changing the structures that shape our organizing spaces. As such, a great advantage of having a recorded session is that you can easily re-listen, skip around and take breaks as you like. We invite you whenever you feel a connection or discomfort with whatever has been said to pause and sit with those thoughts and feelings for a moment. Lastly, we want to encourage more thinking about reciprocity in our organizing spaces in general. How can collaboration be meaningful for the people we invite or host in our communities? What traumas are we asking them to re-experience? Is our format based on the expectation to be taught? Or have we maybe done some homework in advance? How do we compensate the very real work that those guests are bringing to the table? Do we just compensate travel and accommodation, the time of the event, or do we recognize all the preparation and work to deal with the aftermath too? With that, we will now hand over to Samie, who will guide us through this very nice conversation. Looking forward.
Samie: [00:05:44] Thank you. Thank you, Flo. Thank you, Pao. So, hi, everyone. My name is Samie, Samie Blasingame, and I am a facilitator and community focused activist. I also work a bit in communications, doing some educational media work around food systems mostly, and workshops to do with food sovereignty and environmental justice more generally. And it is an honor to be invited to be here and be part of this conversation. I'm joined by two incredible artist, activists as well, who introduced themselves in just a moment. And yeah, as was said, this conversation is really meant to be a space to, as I'm interpreting it, to kind of ground ourselves again in where we're at and what's kind of going on around us individually, but also collectively; as we continue to push for a world that is more just and acknowledges the histories of harm that have created the oppressions we are still struggling against today. So yeah, we have a lot of thoughts I think, to share in relation to that and kind of the work we are contributing to bring about a hopefully new era of the struggle that is leading us more and more to, yeah, what we're dreaming of so. Yeah. With that I'll say I'll pass on to the other two people on the call and who you'll be hearing from who would like to go first. Timimie I pass to you then because I see you looking at me, so that's great.
Timimie: [00:07:36] Yeah, I'm just trying to give space because I usually end up talking so much that I try to just give space. So if you want to talk, Heather, that is absolutely fine. If you want to introduce yourself first. No, you're just going to sit there and be beautiful. Fine.
Samie: [00:07:54] Nice snacking, but that's good.
Timimie: [00:07:57] Yeah. Introductions. I always think introductions and also when people is like, "Can you can you send a bio, like a picture and a bio?" The way I'm raised, where I come from, my culture is that you can't joik yourself. Joik is our traditional way of singing and you can't joik yourself. It's people who interpret you. When you joik you don't joik about something, you joik what they are or what it is. So introducing myself is always weird. If you want to know who I am, you will have to ask someone else. So who I am is also... shifts from person to person, in context to context, I suppose. But what I do, as I recently said when we said hi, is mostly being a professional homosexual and indigenous person. Professional Sámi. I've been introduced once as the "Lappish homosexual bulldozer" by a very white, not at all indigenous, also super straight man, in a suit and a tie. So now I'm sort of kind of claiming that: the indigenous gay bulldozer. Only that I don't want to pave way, I would more like to find ways. I write poetry. I've tried to explain to my grandmother every time she asks me what it is that I actually do. And what I try to do is what feels good and what feels like it's needed.
Timimie: [00:09:35] I think that the sense of urgency is a very interesting topic, because I think that the sense of urgency is today part of the grind culture. So when it's actually needed, we can't really reach it. And use it. So. Sometimes I do what I feel is needed because I want to see change. And sometimes that means being the sort of kind of rude person and loud mouth, because I know that I have like this social capital, like to take that space. And I've never really been afraid of losing my platform, because I think thinking about yourself as a platform is thinking of yourself as a product. And I don't want to do that. So if I would lose work or followers for speaking my truth. Then that would be it. But a lot of people aren't able to think like that. They don't have the capacity or the, I don't know, community for that. So I am the loud mouth. Other times it's having more fun. I think we should celebrate more things in general. So I would like to, if I could be like a professional celebrator of... stuff. Having that said, I also sometimes get awkward around like my birthday, but I think we should celebrate more stuff, because one of the main things I come back to is that, call it allyship or activism or feminism, it has many names of just being a decent ass person towards yourself and the place you're in, the time we're here. I think there is a difference between warfare and having a struggle. And when we are doing activism or living life, it has to be not just against something, not just against fascism, but it has to be towards something because one day I might be burnout again, and then I need people to remind me why I am doing what I'm doing. I want people to go out and pick blueberries and drink wine and make out and like wear their first crop top when they've had their mastectomy or just wear their traditional outfits and just be. Celebrating in their everyday life. If that is like ditching school or having a super long breakfast or just, I don't know, celebrating stuff because I think we need to remind each other of what we are doing it for. So we don't forget. So we don't just get caught in the struggle. I think one of the best resistance is not just rest, but celebration. Hmm. Very long introduction (laughter).
Samie: [00:13:00] Yeah, but also really beautiful points that I'm sure we'll return to. So thank you so much. So thank you so much for that. Heather, how are you?
Heather: [00:13:15] Good morning. I guess it's lunch time, which is why I'm snacking. My name is Heather Milton-Lightening. I'm from Treaty 4 Territory. I'm registered to a community called Pasqua First Nation. And our territory kind of spans southern Saskatchewan, part of Manitoba and part of Alberta. And it looks very similar to North Dakota (laughter). We have the same oil deposit that was fought over during the Standing Rock DAPL struggles, the Bakken deposit. So north of us here is one of the biggest uranium mines in the world. And we do a lot of coal and all kinds of other extraction industrial farming in this region. And I think we only have two lakes left in the territory that you can actually drink the water from. The rest of it polluted. And a lot of the communities here have water advisories like my grandma's community can't drink the water out of the taps. You probably shouldn't shower in it. But that's just the way things are around here. So, yeah. I'm from here. I like my territory. I travel a lot. A lot of different work with different folks. One of the things that I didn't mention is that we're doing this contract with Mozilla Firefox Foundation, and we were in Berlin in the fall, and one of the things we were doing was talking about climate justice and digital rights, which I thought was really interesting, leading into some of the work that we're doing at COP.
Heather: [00:14:55] And so one of the things that we're tasking ourselves to do is do some visiting with different climate justice leaders globally around some of this work. So I'm super excited about that. I do a lot of random things. I'm a consultant, so I write curriculums. I do trainings. Building programs and organizations and things like that. I used to do a lot of things on the front lines. I used to do a lot of like public speaking. I don't really do that anymore. It's not really my thing. And I feel like there's a lot more people out there that are highly skilled in those areas and I don't need to. And that's really nice to step back and kind of do different things. So I'm super excited about that. Yeah, that's me.
Samie: [00:15:38] Nice. Thank you, Heather. I think that's a valid point of like the way we move through our activism and a conversation I've been having a lot with different people in different spaces is the many different types of activism and that there is not one type of activist, right? So that we move through different phases of how we contribute to the movement, different movements. I think is so important to recognize. I don't know what you both would think about that, but I think it allows people more space to find themselves in the movement, too. And there's not one way. So that just made me think of it when you said this. Because, yeah, I think a lot of things you can find of you, Heather, sometimes on the Internet is you speaking in these public spaces. And so to hear that it's transitioning into different avenues, I think is also important to recognize the importance of. So yeah, we we've been invited here from, like, different spaces. And both Heather and Timimie have shared a bit about the projects or initiatives that you're part of, but I know, Heather, you also sit on the board of the Cloudberry Collective, and I don't know if you want to say a little bit more about that. But generally, I thought we could start kind of with where we're at. There's lots to be said. I feel there's been a conversation about how the last couple of years have been a bit of an eye opening for many people. I don't know if that's the same in all communities or as strongly felt around the world as it is talked about in some parts. But when this conversation kind of was first brought to me, I'm like, okay, yeah, taking stock of where I'm at right now, what I've had to deal with, including like family health issues and things in the last couple of years and what that means for how much I'm engaged or not with the "movement" or "movements" that I'm part of. Would either of you like to share a bit about that and kind of like your thoughts on where we're at. And when I say where I'm saying like the global collective, and then we can kind of get maybe more into what that means for our day to day kind of contributions.
Timimie: [00:18:15] Speaking from the Swedish side of Sápmi. First of all, so many more people realized how tired they were. Two of the most interesting things during the pandemic that happened was... Well, I guess that we're not post pandemic like that. But in Sweden, like Sweden in general is a fucking joke. If Sweden had been like a partner or friends would have hopefully asked us to break up like yesterday because Sweden is a narcissistic sociopath that just pretends to be a feminist, that is like the guy that never leaves bruises and people are like, Oh, Sweden is so nice. So. To take like a more recent thing is when like Twitter exploded because the world all of a sudden realized that Sweden was a racist place, because it's such a common thing for a lot of us to go to normcore white friends' house to play, and then they say "We're going to eat. Could you wait outside or could you wait in my room? Could you wait like in the hall?" It's like... And I didn't know that this was the thing that happened in Sweden, but, like, the world was just like "Oh, what? You can't do that. That is fucking rude". Because when people came to my place, my mom was like, "You have to eat. Of course you have to eat". And we didn't like I never grew up with a lot of money. Also, I would never have traveled this much in my life if I wasn't doing what I do for a living and also to stay alive since activism and work. So having that one of the most interesting things and also TikTok baby gays. It's amazing how many people that realized they were queer when they were not perceived by their everyday reality. What happened during the pandemic was people stayed at home and realized that they were comfortable in other clothes, like masturbating to different things, maybe realizing that they didn't want to have sex at all. So many baby gays and lesbians. So after, like the first opening up, the first pride, and I realized that shit, I'm seeing so many faces that I have never seen before. And I was so afraid that the queer communities would just, I don't know, come back very, very tired. But instead, instead, we came back to to one of the first prides in so many years, and there were baby gays like which faces I had never seen before. So the pandemic has been been hard. It's hard, but. The fact that like differently abled people for a fact got to know that: "Okay, so you are able to work from home and you do not have to stress you can actually you can work from home and you do not have to be perceived". What happens when we when we get to rest just a little from the everyday grind culture, having to, like, entertain made me also realize that sometimes I say that I'm too tired to hang out, when I actually realized that I am too tired to perform hanging out. Which is something that I have have had to remind myself of during the year that was. Because I have been working like I've never worked before and I am tired to the fucking bone. But I have had taken many breaks because I was just going from performing on stage to performing in different social constructs and. Hmm. A lot of shit is going down. So, I mean. When the Black Lives movement exploded and actually got some some real attention for a while, like in the rest of the like, non black normcore world. There were so many movements that were like: "Yeah, but what about us? What about-us-ism?" I don't know. I just like... A lot of acquaintances that I just had to back away from. So coming out from the pandemic, seeing all of these baby gays was a bit soothing. Because when you realize that shit, so many of my friends are not actually my friends. I don't even know if I know them. But seeing that if kids are actually allowed to rest for a little while, they can maybe at least come out for themselves. They can get online community, and that's cool. I'm going to stop talking for a while now because I feel like I'm just going on and on and I really want to know what Heather thinks. But yeah, I try to embrace the positive stuff. The world know that Sweden is shit and more gays are blooming, hurray.
Samie: [00:23:52] I mean, first of all, I love this term baby gays. It's so endearing and, like, you know, exciting, I feel.
Timimie: [00:24:01] And it's not about age. It's just about.
Samie: [00:24:05] Yeah, no, it's just.
Timimie: [00:24:07] Now I love it.
Samie: [00:24:08] Exactly. This, like, excitement of finding themselves and, yeah, figuring out what their needs are. And I think what you said about the ability to have some rest allows people to kind of check in with themselves again. And for many people that was possible. Obviously, the pandemic was not an equal experience for everyone and many, many people had to continue surviving through it. And some of us were able to rest a bit during it. So yeah, that just to acknowledge that the experience is different. But for many people they've also expressed the ability to have more time in many ways allowed them to see the needs that they were seeking more strongly. And I think that's really important. But what about-us-isms and the many, many struggles we're facing as a "global community", I put that in quotes, maybe that's something we can return back to, because how are we moving forward together?
Timimie: [00:25:08] Yeah, but thank you for pointing that out, that it's not equal. I think that was the point that I lost, that being afraid that the community would have just like, evaporated. But then seeing all of these baby gays and being like, okay, so there's people that we can actually not just talk to, but show them like, how do we need to take care of each other? How can we take care of each other? Because the more space you are given, the more you have to actually be aware of how to use it. Mm hmm. How to share it.
Samie: [00:25:41] Thank you.
Timimie: [00:25:42] So thank you for pointing that out.
Samie: [00:25:48] Sure. Heather, I don't know. Would you like to share a bit of any thoughts on... Were the last couple years significant in the work that you're doing? Has it shaped the work you do and the needs you're seeing significantly in any way? Or does the struggle just continue?
Heather: [00:26:11] I don't know, because I haven't really... I don't know that there was ever time like... I'm a consultant. I mean, to be honest, like my grandma... I was traveling, I was in Montreal on the East Coast, and she called me home. And like, my grandma is the boss. So I went home and I was living on unemployment and it ran out. And like in Canada, we were lucky because there was a government benefit that was handed out to everyone. And a lot of people took advantage of it. And it was like way more than welfare. It was like a real living wage. And I was just shocked. Like, you know, it launched this whole discussion around living wages in Canada and like all this stuff around economics and, you know, blah, blah, blah. And that was important because, you know, people were able to to live off that money. It wasn't like counting pennies for food and going to the food bank. And like all the things that you do to try and make ends meet, right. So I think there was that we lost a lot of people, like we lost so many people. And I don't even think that like... You know, I was talking to my friend from the Navajo Nation when I was down in Arizona last month, and he was saying he lost 22 people in his family, you know, they have big families, but like the Navajo Nation was hit so hard and a lot of the communities were. And I just think it's interesting that Canada for once actually got us like first in the lineup from many communities for like the COVID shots, etc., etc.. My community that I'm from was one of the first that went into lockdown in the country. They were pretty strict about it, kind of was intense, but they hardly had any COVID cases during the first years before the vaccines even existed. And so they were kind of the model community that was on the news across Canada about, like, the way they were reacting to it. It's really interesting, though, like I was saying, we have chiefs and councils here. A lot of them are men. There's a few women, but a lot of times it's the men that get credit for things when it's really other folks that do things behind the scenes. And I know the woman that wrote our emergency plan that created that whole like "our community was one of the best leaders in responding to COVID". It was it was a team of women that wrote that. But of course, like, they don't get credited for it. Right. And I just kind of find it ironic. But I think the other thing that I was seeing a lot is just like there was just so much different things around Community Aid. And when I think about, like this whole thing about my passion around just transition, it's like we don't actually see the resources in our communities as real resources and we don't see like the aunties that show up with tea and the people that make soup for our funerals, and come and volunteer for community gatherings as a resources. We don't see them as valuable within a capitalist system, right? And we don't evaluate like as communities, like what kind of resources, what we're able to mobilize on our own. You know, what knowledge of wealth we have in our communities. And I think it's we've been so disempowered for so long that I think it's that. But it's also just like we don't even think about it. We've been so ingrained to think about what's wealth, what's important and what matters. And so I think that was the one thing that I was reflecting on, like irregardless of all the crazy shit that happened because there was a lot of it, our communities really did good jobs of taking care of themselves with very little resources. And I think I was just really blown away by that. And it also speaks volumes to me though abut this idea that we don't... I'm glad there's grants, I'm glad there's all these things, you know, this nonprofit system and foundations and everything else. But we really are responsible to save ourselves. And we have the power to do that. And I think that's really what COVID showed me. I don't know that it showed other people that in the same response, but I definitely like... All the crowdsourced funding was another way that we leveraged money to get supplies, to get things to people that needed it the most. You know, the one thing I will say is like there's been this whole battle in the province about like harm reduction and like safe spaces for using drugs and needle exchange programs and things like that. And those have kind of spawned out of this COVID period, too. And that's huge. That's a huge deal. You know, I have my sister recently passed away, and it was due to addiction issues. And that's just another part of like colonization...
Timimie: [00:30:46] I'm sorry to hear that.
Heather: [00:30:46] And the harm reduction approach and safe spaces for needles is a huge thing. You know, and our communities are still grappling with it. And I think that was one of the challenges with COVID is like we've seen an influx of meth in our communities and it's crazy what it's done to our people. And we don't have the ability to actually take care of them in the way that we should. And I think all of these things are challenges, but I really think that there's a lot of people behind the scenes that are making things happen that are trying to organize and try to figure things out. And I really appreciate that. And that's something that I feel like going back to: "What do we value?" Questions around values and indigenous communities and how that's changed over the years is a really important discussion because I really value those people that are out there doing those kinds of things, you know, in our communities, ensuring that everyone's fed and that people are going to survive when it's -40. You know, all of that hard work is really important. And so, you know, it's just the kind of thing that I've been thinking about. We still have like all these different COVID strains here. It hasn't really gone away, but people are acting like it is. So that's also really interesting. Like our hospitals have been full of little tiny kids, a lot of flu, RVs and COVID. Our health care system in Canada is free to some degree, but it can't handle all of the people. We've had small communities where the hospitals are completely shut down. There's not enough nurses. There's just not... There's not enough. And so I think those are the things behind the scenes that we're seeing that aren't really talked about in the public domain because like... You were saying about Sweden and about all these countries, like, yes, they're patting themselves on the back, but we still don't have the resources we need. We still don't have access to good water, like basic things, right? And so I think there has to be another way to do this. There has to be some some solutions that exist that we can move forward with. I was really appreciating the thought process around like. You know, this is a critical time. I feel like in the climate community in particular, like there's always this like "the world is ending, the sky is falling". And that's probably true. But I also think like... Empires come and go. Things change over time in history. We know that. And I think one of the things that I think about, it's like, well, what's my responsibility in all of these things? You know, as an indigenous person, you know, where I come from. And I would argue that my responsibility is to ensure that generations continue to thrive. So what does that mean, knowing that climate change is going to move forward, whether or not we are at COP trying to intervene in the system or whether or not we're trying to fight fossil fuel companies and things like that? I really believe that that's important. I really believe that that work has to happen. But it also at the same time and balance, like if you take something out of system, you have to put something back, right? And so it's the idea of what's that balance? What are we doing to ensure that we're going to exist in future generations? What is my responsibility as an auntie to 28 nieces and nephews to ensure that they exist in the future? Right? And what do they need to know? And those are the things that I think about. You know, because I'm older, I'm not a youth any more. I don't have the same the same thinking, I guess, in the same way. It's more about like, "what's my responsibility?" And I think that goes back to this idea, like, I've always hated that word "activist" because it's not... it doesn't sit with me. I feel like this is a responsibility as a person, like I'm supposed to do these things. I'm supposed to think critically about the world around me. I'm supposed to, like, ensure that I'm thinking about the future. And I think the other part to it is that when I think about, like, why I like this broad definition of just transition, because, you know, we don't ever take the time to actually just sit in our communities like we're so crisis orientated like scarcity models, like that's what we come from. So it's like "we have to survive". Like we're not thriving yet. There's some communities, I would argue, that are in that position financially, whatever. But we don't actually sit envision about what we want the future look like. And I think one of the things that I always mention is just adrienne marie brown and some of the work that she does and one of the things that she does really well that I really think is cool is this idea that she brings together writers and artists and different folks. And they sit in a room and they write and they come up with science fiction about the future and about different ideas about what the future could look like. And I think in a baseline way, like I wish our communities could do that, because how are you going to know what we're working towards if we have no clue of what that vision is? Right? And, you know, our responsibility looking back was to survive. It wasn't necessarily to thrive, but it was to survive and ensure that our people still exist right through colonization to all these horrible, horrible things. So how are we going to adapt? And I think that's the thing that I've been thinking about a lot, is like what needs to be in place to adapt? Because the change is going to happen. We're seeing it happen in different ways. And I think the other thing is just like... Maybe it sounds hippy dippy, but just to accept what is, you know, and be okay with it and to be present in accepting what is and what's coming because we don't really know. But instead of the sky is falling, it's just accept that this is this is where we're at. And we have some hard choices to make. We have some really difficult decisions to think about as communities and how we're going to move forward as families and as just people and what our responsibilities are to the future. And so I guess that's the way I think about things, which I think is probably a lot different than a lot of the folks that I work with in some ways. And that's not to dog it. I just think that like as an indigenous person, we're supposed to think indigenous. We're supposed to think in our language, we're supposed to think in those modalities, in those morals, and we're supposed to exemplify them. And yes, colonization had a deep impact on those things. But that doesn't mean that we can't bring those things back to life. You know, my friend was saying the other day, like... He's a community leader, but he was like, "you know, some days I just I make sure I keep my word to my kids, you know, so that they know that I'm always going to show up for them". And I thought that was a really important teaching, you know, about like being honorable and keeping your word and having integrity. And those are kind of teachings that we don't see in our communities anymore. But they were everything back in the day, like honor was everything. And it was just funny because, like the first contact with Europeans, we thought they had honor. Like when they made agreements with us, we thought they would have honor like we do. Even with our enemies, you know, we had honor. We understood there was a code, there was a way of doing things right. And so, you know, it just made me think about, like, how do you bring back these old things in a modern sense and in a context that makes sense, You know, and I think about it in terms of like when you look at this valley, you know, with climate change, is it going to fill full of water? How do we exist in our territories and build houses and provide food for our communities in a way that exists with the land rather than like the rez houses that we have that are falling apart? Like it's just like trying to reactivate that relationship, I think, in a much better way, you know, because the reality is in this territory, like I said, there's only two places that can get fresh water, like from a lake or from a river system. You know, there's not enough wildlife to sustain the amount of people that live here, you know. So when it comes to like we sat and we thought about it, like we thought about this idea about like creating a whole new territory, you know, and like the sovereign idea of creating a community that's not in the band council system, that's not municipality, that's not Canada that would just reclaim this territory. And we looked at all the whole province and there was really nowhere that could sustain people in a mass amount. Right. And I think that's just some thinking, like how do how are we going to feed ourselves? What does that look like? You know, and I think the one thing that a lot of folks have said, like globally, like it's this idea of decentralization instead of being global, it means really like coming up with community based solutions that empower communities. And I think that's really perfectly aligned with where we're at. Like, we really need to see our people take their power back in so many different ways. It's really a struggle here because like I said, there's patriarchy just like reigns supreme here and there's a lot of people fighting that and showing up in different ways. But it's just very intense. In our own communities, like that's not like general society, right? You know, and this is this kind of a scary place to organize. You know, up north was where Colten Boushie was shot by a settler and got away with it. He didn't do any jail time. They said it was self defense. What's crazy, though, is like they had a crowdsource fund for this guy who shot one of our people in the back of the head. But he made $150,000 on that crowdsource. So basically he got paid for shooting one of our people like it came through the court system and all this stuff but he got away with it and you know like that's the mentality here. Like the KKK was big here. There was, I think 40 or 50,000 members, 100 within the last 50 years. You know, like that's the reality of like a lot of the rural settler communities. It's a much different mentality. Like the cities are much different, they're much more liberal and there's little pockets of liberalism throughout the prairie regions. But it's a place that, like... It's hard to organize here, it's hard to move people, even our own people. So it's just it presents a lot of challenges. And that's why I'm kind of like, well, what does it mean to be an auntie of those 28 kids? Maybe that's the way that I pick to move forward. You know, maybe I can't convince all the settlers and maybe I can't do all the things in the city because I don't live there anymore. But maybe it's just figuring out how to move forward in the future. So I guess that's the thing. Those are the type of things that I ponder, those kind of deep thoughts. But yeah, that's kind of where that.
Samie: [00:41:30] Thank you, Heather. Yeah, I mean, lots to consider, and I feel well, one, I want to say condolences for your sister and your family and all of the people we lost in the last couple of years because we lost so many. And I don't feel like the amount in certain communities was communicated as strongly as it should be. So that's one thing. What I'm hearing is there's still a lot of struggles and different struggles that you're facing. I feel like I'm not sure how widely understood it is, how hard it may be to to organize within just one community like this. And so recognizing that, I'm glad you named it. But as you were speaking, I mean, you also said that you saw some positives of how people came together during the pandemic and in ways that we can take back our own power as people, individuals within a community and contribute to forward movement in whatever ways that means. And I thought that was an important point to maybe stick to a bit. It reminded me of something Timimie had said as well about wartime versus the struggle. I don't know if you remember saying that Timimie, but you said something about this which I feel like I'm also hearing and a lot of my circles as well. And so, like I tend to describe myself as a huge advocate of people power in general, people coming together and dreaming together what the future could hold or what their needs mean in sort of a collective imagination. That's what I try to elicit in a lot of the workshops I do. So I resonate with that very strongly. Also, this idea of kind of nodes of change, You know, when people talk about, as you said, Heather, this like decentralized power, communities focused solutions. I'm thinking of groups of people who may be in many cases trying to achieve similar things, but they are focused on their group and in connection with others. So it forms this kind of network of change. I think about that a lot in the food and agriculture work I do, but I think it applies just generally in how we are pushing for social change. And so yeah, I don't know. I think I just wanted to pull out that part of like we did see a lot of people come together and how can we cultivate that more so people feel more engaged with how they as human beings on this planet can contribute to whatever social change they deem necessary. I brought this up with a friend last night also, and she questioned me: "Well, do you think everyone should have that moral sort of alignment? Is it important that everyone has that? Or, you know, is it okay that some people just contribute to their personal relations like an auntie does with their nieces and nephews or just in your personal relationships?" I guess. And, I don't know, I was a little stuck. I was like, maybe that'll come up in this conversation today, because... Is it the responsibility of everybody to feel like they must contribute? Or are there some of us who take the lead there? And what is the distribution of work in social change in that way? Another... A lot of thoughts. So Timimie, what are you thinking? Any thoughts on all of that?
Timimie: [00:45:15] Again, coming back to that activism is just another word for being active in something, and sometimes it's like being on the forefront of change or being the face outwards, or just like being the poster child of something. After the year that has been, I feel like... I feel like I have done so much background work. But I also feel super disconnected from both the Sámi, the queer and the queer Sámi community. And I have met other Sámis, other queers, other queer Sámis, indigenous peoples in general, amazing artists and activists. But having to email like my whole family, and there's a lot of us, to say I won't have time to hang out because I will be so busy with everything, that anybody who wants to do anything with me will have to come to where I am and just take what they can, because my energy resources are at capacity. And I have been doing so much fun work and so much intense work. So I think that it's it's important to remember to keep inviting each other, to keep lifting each other's work up, to remember that the collective is also a collective effort. Self care is community care. Community care is self care. So again, if I need people to remind me of why I am doing this, making out, sucking dick, drinking wine, having parties, painting pictures, holding hands with my grandma, making coffee, standing on a stage. It's... Part of colonization is this fairy tale history of doing something once and then being done with it. We're not in a post colonial time anywhere. Fascism is like growing even more, like Italian fascist parties are like looking towards Sweden saying: "Oh wow, they have done amazing work", like the transphobia, the homophobia, like all the phobias. That is also a bitch ass move to use language to say that it's a phobia. Like it's not a phobia. You're you're, you're just fucked up and it's not your fault. None of us in in all of our positions in life. It's not your fault. But the second you become aware of your position and your privileges, because it's not if you have them, but when you have them because it's all depending on context. It's not your fault, but it's always from there on your responsibility to use it. And if that's being a good mom, whatever that means, since that's also a discussion in itself or being the one that is a loud mouth or applying for money, we need to remember that the community is all of it. It's not one way of doing it. It's there's so many components to all of this. I, I think it's super important to remember that there is never just one way of doing anything. Ever. This black and white binary, yes or no thinking, I'm super provoked by ending up... Myself ending up in it, like it's this or that, but it's so many gray areas in it as well. Just like saying "not to sound hippy dippy" like, you know what? sound hippy dippy and call it whatever you want.
Samie: [00:49:40] You both use that term now and I think that's really funny like this, not to sound hippy dippy or like cliché. But just do it.
Timimie: [00:49:47] Exactly, that's my point. To say not to sound hippy dippy like that's just one way of expressing that: "Now I'm going to talk about emotions" and one of the biggest lies we've been forced fucked with is that emotions are bad. The other one is that we only have one choice that we can choose only one: like one partner, one party, one work, one education, one thing, one way. It's just a one way to do things. No, be a good mom, be a good aunt. You have to do... Kate Bornstein... If you look at It Gets Better, it's a whole series of them where people were just talking about "it gets better" and then just talk. And Kate Bornstein is one of my favorites. She also wrote the book 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Freaks, Teens and Other Outlaws, which is amazing. And she says that some of them are illegal, unethical, self-destructive. But they're all in the book, because you are allowed to do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. And there's only one rule, and that is: don't be mean. And that will also be, like, changing depending on the context and depending on the person. It's a discussion in itself. But if you want... If you are having a bad day, you're going to take it out on someone and then you hopefully have someone who loves you enough to say: "just maybe should you eat something, Have you slept? Do you need a hug? Do you want space?" I can't explain myself. I cannot introduce myself, only what I do. And I can only do what's best for me so that I can show up as the best person for myself and for other people and for the place that I'm in. The most indigenous thing I know is that the knowledge is in the hands as to use what you have or whatever you have to create what you need. So what do I need to not be just like a sourpuss towards the people around me. So they will be like: "Why? Why? Why are you being mean to me?" I don't know. Maybe I'm hungry, maybe I need a nap. Maybe I'm on my period. I don't fucking know. So we need... We need all of it. I need people who stand on stage. I need my mom to hug me. I want people to take pictures because all of that comes down to love. Capitalism exists because we think that we can buy ourselves happiness. But if you start creating something... if you become a photographer, you're going to spend hours taking pictures, realizing that you haven't eaten during the whole day, because you got that energy from somewhere else, or you're talking to your grandmother realizing that, shit, I have to pee. And you forgot about that because you got that energy from somewhere else or you fell in love and it's so cold, and your biggest problem right now in the whole world is that I can't kiss your face and look at it at the same time. Then you want me to buy that new jacket or that new bed cover or a new hat or I don't fucking know what. Like having a thermos with coffee and going for a walk with your friend instead of going to, I don't know, Starbucks. The need to consume something is because we don't think we are enough. So we need all of these roles. But we also need to remind each other that they all fill a function. So we don't think that we have to become something else through education or work or consumerism. We need all of these roles. You are good as you are and what makes you happy, what you are good at, is good enough.
Samie: [00:53:47] Yeah. So is that the way. Because I was, you know, just like...
Timimie: [00:53:52] It's a way.
Samie: [00:53:54] How do we get people to reconnect with that, I think is what I'm thinking. Right? Because I feel like coming back to all the things that have happened in the last couple of years, the pandemic, the multiple political shifts and continuations, the Black Lives Matter movement reigniting in a way. And yeah, multiple indigenous land struggles around the world. So many things are happening and I feel like there was a time and space where people were, like I said, recognizing that there are needs that are not being fulfilled by the current system as the way that it is. But ultimately, I do feel in many spaces it's become overwhelming and people don't really know the path to take and some of the things you were just saying, I think, really speak to that, like reconnecting to the value we have and just our relationships and what we can give to people just in and of ourselves. But what else are any other ideas on on how to help people lead themselves out of the confusion?
Timimie: [00:55:11] Appreciation and self defense, I think are two ground rules that I'm brought up with. You have to understand... Understand and know with your whole body that you are allowed to say yes and that you are allowed to say no. When people say that you don't like violence. That's all very well and dandy, but that's mostly usually said by people who I can afford to lean back on the violence monopoly, like calling the police if something happens, being able to say no because like a broken wrist will heal way much faster than having to heal trauma, being able to say yes to something, being able to say no to something and not being cut off. Not to be left alone anywhere, and to know with your whole body that that trust will always be there, that I will be able to get myself in and out of situations. And if I cannot, someone else can. And I think that self defense and appreciation. Or just to basic saying "good work". I mean, if we're going to talk about roles again, people being like the face out for struggles, no matter how much or how little work they do, I see a lot of them becoming more and more disconnected from their communities. And of course, that's grind culture and like putting people on pedestals. And we create heroes and monsters in the same way. But seeing them walk into a room... And it's again, the binary. Either people are just like flocking around them and not being community, but fans, or leaving them alone because they should have space. Instead of just being. The queer world, the indigenous world, the artist world. One of the best things about my life is that my friends are also my idols. To be able to go to a show and be like: "That's my best friend, that's amazing". To read a book and be like: "someone I know fucking wrote this. This is amazing". To show appreciation and to be able to say no and yes, it's like, it's such a...
Samie: [00:57:31] So you're saying lift people up. Lift people up. Like be curious about what they're working on. Support them. Is that what you're saying?
Timimie: [00:57:43] Yeah, But sometimes you will feel fucking alone. And you just have to know that you are never as alone as you feel. Like there's so many people in this world. You will never be as lonely as you feel. There will always be someone always feeling shittier than you. I mean, so remind people of working towards something. If we're going to talk about again, like consumerism, we're not just consuming things, but we're consuming energies and call it like indigenous, hippy dippy, or New Age, I don't really care. But everybody knows what it's like to walk into a room where like it's the emotional equivalent of just like breathing in someone's fart at a dance floor. Because emotions also fill a room. And we have to be able to talk about the bad stuff, to be able to relate to each other. But I really, I really think that we need to remember that the sadness and the frustration, the anger comes from what we are not having. That's the reason why we need to remember what we want to have. So, we want to feel good. We want to be able to hold the hands of the person that we love or whatever we want to.
Samie: [00:59:10] Having this vision, as Heather was saying, like, how do we get somewhere if we don't have a vision of where we're going? And that's why I connected it to this kind of wartime or struggle thing. Because often in our movements, we are fighting something. We're saying no to something, but we need to shift towards saying: "okay, this is happening and this is really fucked up, but this is what I want to build for me and my community. This is what I believe we need and should have. So I'm going to focus on building this rather than fighting that. Although we have to continue fighting, we should be continuously building".
Timimie: [00:59:48] But that is also fighting. But also to celebrate the things that sometimes look very much like violence. I mean, if you look at everything happening in Iran right now, like the feminist movement that is happening there and the videos and pictures that people share of them like just smacking the headpieces off, something that can look super fucking violent to someone and in a completely different context is something that others today are celebrating and lifting, something as easy as cutting your hair. And I think everybody in this conversation knows that hair can have a lot of power. The things that can look so violent, it should also be lifted up. Like we need to have pride parades, we need to have revolutions. We need to remember that this is something that will continue. It's an ebb and flow. It's not something that we will fight and stop. And that's why we need all of these roles, because we are still not in a post-colonial society. We are in a society in a time that we need community. And the normcores they have had society for such a long time that they don't even know what community is. And they have been schooled instead of taught. So we need to teach them. And people don't do what you say. They do what you do. So we need to do what is good. And sometimes that's going to be a bad thing. I mean, violence is not good, but I will smack you in the face if you're a Nazi, if you try to erase someone. And that's violence and that is an act that should be celebrated. Someone should say: "good fucking work" and you should not be alone. Anti-fascism is always self defense, always self defense. Sometimes the violent act to someone will be kissing your girlfriend if you look like me. Sometimes it's wearing your traditional outfit instead of the "normal" clothes that I'm wearing right now. It will feel very... There will be a lot of feelings and people are afraid of them.
Samie: [01:02:10] I like that. I like that sentiment of like sometimes the fighting or the violence is also a celebration of something at the same time. And it's, again, not an either or.
Timimie: [01:02:24] Yeah, because we also need people to say that violence is not good. We need to have people that punch you in the fucking face. We need to make fascists afraid again. Because the difference again is that I am fighting for people to be able to have a life. They are fighting to kill people because we are apparently less. Yeah, but I still think that people need to be able to say that, you know, that there could be a different way to solve this. Yeah, because otherwise my way would become the only way, and that would suck.
Samie: [01:02:59] Ok. Continuously having space for the different ways to achieve different goals.
Timimie: [01:03:09] As long as they're not fascist.
Samie: [01:03:11] As long as they're not fascist.
Timimie: [01:03:13] No, no, I'm super serious when people say that they are like... I'm not a pacifist, I will punch a Nazi.
Samie: [01:03:21] But I hear you now that, like, there also needs to be someone who's saying that's bad, and they attempt the same goal in a different way, and that's okay that both exists. I also really liked what you said about... We've had society for so long that we forgot how to be in community. I thought that was a really great quote. But yeah, I'm curious, Heather, what are you thinking? What sort of ways do you envision getting people to lead themselves or leading people towards. Yeah, towards some of the things that we've been dreaming or talking about here as well.
Heather: [01:04:01] A couple of things. I think a lot of the folks that I work with are in the nonprofit sector. And one of the things I tell them is like, well, if you really want to organize from a decolonial practice, if that's your word, like decolonisation didn't exist like ten years ago, right? We have all these words. But that being said, I think it's just like there's no roadmap out of colonization that we can say like, this is the way to do it because everybody's historical relationship with their country, with their colonizer, is different. We have different territories, we have different ways that we were treated. There are similarities. There are so many things like... When I went to Palestine that was like to me they took all the best parts of colonization and the practices of it and put it into a machine. And that's what it was. And we know that, like what was done here in North America was a practice that existed in part of South African apartheid. Right? Like there's just all these this web, right? So it looks different in different places. And the way we heal it is going to look different. And I think... What I tell people a lot of the time is just being able to try things but also be willing to fail. Because the failure is the lesson, right? The failure is figuring out how to get out of all of this shit, because it is shit, and there really isn't a perfect practice. I think the thing that I look to is there's a lot of communities that are doing interesting projects. They're bringing back different parts of their own governance systems. They're bringing back their language. Like, to be honest, like midwifery was outlawed here and those laws were just recently changed. We've had two babies in the whole province of Saskatchewan that were born on their own territories with midwives. That's huge. To me, that's still Just Transition, right? And that's us taking our power back. But I think it's that being willing to fail. I think it's also the idea of like: "what if you didn't have to work? What if we abolish work?" Like, there's so many people that are talking about: "well, we need a four day work workweek and we need a living wage". And all of these things. But what if we didn't actually even need those things? I mean, that's the thing that I think about with my own people, my own history, like. We didn't work. We collectively worked to ensure that we had the things that we needed, but we didn't work all the time. It was really interesting because one of the tribes on the coast was saying, like, we had so much food. We had we were so rich in resources in terms of like our housing, our food source, all of these things that we were able to have such vibrant cultural practices. Art was like a big, huge thing for their people. And of course you can see it when you go to these communities, right? And it's just really interesting to hear these different stories and practices about the way people were. And so it's really kind of thinking about like: "what is the realm of possibility? Is it possible or not to take apart these systems?" And the thing that I was thinking about, like when you all were talking was just that there's this practice that is done in the roundhouse and it's like a traditional building. It's 13 sided, like a turtle. So of course, 13 is important in terms of like the spots on a turtle's back. 13 moon cycles, menstruation cycles, they're all thirteen's, right? So there's a whole bunch of teachings that I don't want to get into it. But I think one of the practices that they do when they do problem solving, it's like if you see the roundhouse is 13 sided, there's an entrance and there's a middle to it and it's kind of go around this way, but there's also a tall part to the building or an opening on the top. And it's similar to like, if we were looking out here and you were watching like an eagle or predator flying around fishing, looking for food. It's going to circle and then it's going to find what it's going to was going to eat. It's going to target that. And so the practice in the roundhouse is similar. Like everyone acknowledges... They talk about the first round, they'll acknowledge what is the problem. And we all talk about what we understand the problem is; because we're relational. Like we're always... In our language, we relate. We don't talk about... Like we're not as individualistic. It's always about like: "how are we relating to something?" How we're relating to the earth, how we're relating to each other. That's the way our languages flow. And so in the same respect within the roundhouse, it's like: "how do we relate to that problem? What have we seen it do? How is it impacting us?" And everyone will talk about that and then they'll go around again and they'll talk about like the impacts of it. They'll totally digest it and by the end of it, everyone's made a personal commitment to solving the problem. They're each going to do something about this problem. And that's the whole collective and that whole room. And like we say, the reason why it's a teaching with the eagle is because the eagle will go down and that's the problem and it'll circle and then it will leave. And so if everyone takes personal responsibility in some way, the problem ceases to exist. And so when I think about like individual versus collective, I think like it's a little bit bigger than that because our communities could be that roundhouse. But the larger collective is like many communities, right, in a region or a nation, and we're definitely not there yet. But I think there's a bridge between those two things, right? And I think one of the things that is talked about a lot in Canada is one of our famous leaders said that our artists would lead us out and would lead the way. And I really believe that. Like I look at all the different art forms, I can follow all these artists on Instagram, but they really are leading this thought process around indigenous futurism, right around like some... Even like the politics is interwoven into beadwork. You know, there's just so many different ways that our artists are really leading us. And I think that's also really important because it goes back to that idea around being visionary and thinking outside the box. Like we can't.... It's so funny, I get so frustrated because I work with a lot of folks and a lot of young people, and I see a lot of people reiterating tactics from the seventies because it was glamorized here by American Indian Movement. But you know, all of these different things. But those tactics didn't work back then. Why are we reusing them now? They're not going to work. And so we really need to think outside the box in terms of solving our own problems. Right? And I don't see folks like me who aren't that creative being able to do that. That's why we need all of these different people, because they all play a different role. And that goes back to that idea around collective problem solving, right? It's because everyone needs to be there because we have a lot of this like glamorization around, like folks that are on the front lines doing direct actions like: "that's the only way to do things". But it's not, you know, we need people that are the midwives that are birthing these babies. We need people that are collecting and holding our language and teaching others. You know, there's so many facets of our lives where we need people. I just think the missing piece is like, we need to think further into the future and be more responsible about the choices we make, you know, because...
Samie: [01:11:24] Definitely.
Heather: [01:11:24] I'm not talking about the impact to Canada. I don't really care about that kind of stuff as much as I used to, because I don't think it's strategic. Like, I don't know that Canada will be here in 50 years and I kind of hope it won't. I don't know that they're going to survive the adaptation to climate change. They may not. And the only people I feel like are really going to be really successful at these things are folks that really have a deep relationship with the land. And I think that's really critical. And and to me, that's also like something that we don't... It's really kind of, you know, stereotyped by indigenous people and by others looking at us. But I really think it's important that people rethink the way they relate to the natural world. Like, there's such a disconnect with everybody.
Samie: [01:12:11] Definitely.
Heather: [01:12:12] And even our own people are really disconnected in some way. And that just is unfortunate. You know, it's something that a lot of people are organizing around in terms of like maybe rewiring those connections. Right? And so I think those are things that are really super important. I forgot the other things that I wanted to mention...
Samie: [01:12:34] No worries. You know, we're actually coming up towards the end of our conversation for now. You both have shared so much. And the idea is that we can sit with this conversation, allow others to sit with this conversation and come back in a couple of weeks to pull out questions, to dissect some of it, and continue the conversation in some ways next time we meet. So I think it's okay for us to kind of come to a close then there. This idea of reconnecting to the needs of our communities and what it means to be in community and to vision together collectively what it is we need and how we are going to get there. I hope to see many, many, many more people doing in their own right just with their friends and then with the people they work with or their family. And to do that in the little ways that they can. Because, I think we do need this vision that we can all align to. And work towards. At some point Timimie also mentioned that to be able to be this loud voice is because of who you have around you. And I wonder if people can relate to that. So as you're listening to this, maybe think about how much you can relate to what you're able to do because of the people you have around you and what you can do together with them also. And maybe that's where we can somewhat pick up next time.