indige•zine 'issue #4: decolonize love'

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issue #4

october 2018

indige•zine issue #4 decolonize love

letter from the editor What does it mean to decolonize love? It’s taken me 25 years to arrive at a place where I’m finally beginning to understand. In the past, what I understood as “love” has overtaken my life, flooding my mind with new emotions and dreams for the future, drowning my body in warmth and hunger. I’ve moved through the world like a ghost of myself, acting solely on the impulse to stay deep in love’s soft center, or mourning the loss of love I thought I couldn’t live without. Loving myself and all my queer, non-European corners was not as easy—it also wasn’t encouraged. There weren’t any blueprints in the sappy love songs, YA novels, or indie rom-coms I consumed that showed me the importance of love that wasn’t straight, white, and romantic. So, I believed people who said my Seminole features were ugly, that boys only liked me when I didn’t speak my mind, that I couldn’t have friends if I wanted to kiss girls, that there are only “boys” and “girls,” that my family was broken because it didn’t resemble the mother-father paradigm. I had no idea what loving myself actually looked like because I was focused on making the parts of me that I learned were unlovable in the colonial patriarchy as small as possible. Turns out, those parts were the most of me and I became very lost.

Today, it has been my friendships with compassionate, outspoken, intelligent Natives who love themselves fiercely in the face of heteronormativity and white-washed America that save me time and time again. Thank you for your long conversations, your heartbreaking music, your vivid art, your sharp and unparalleled writing. Adoring and feeling proud of y’all has shown me how to start loving myself, my peers, and my family in a way outside the grasp of Western culture’s toxic limitations. This issue is a celebration of the way Indigenous peoples decolonize their love through action and language. I hope these ideas and sparks of dialogue help you as much as they’ve helped me. Shonabish (thank you), Braudie Blais-Billie

contents 7-8

James Baldwin

Quote from his 1963 book of essays The Fire Next Time


Untitled (For We’Wha)


Tomar Ninguna Mierda


Spotlight Series: Creative Distruption

Demian DinéYazhi’ Jose Dominguez

Tatiana Benally Dio Ganhdih Gwen Benaway

21-22 3 Untitled Poems Marcus Red Shirt

Excerpts From Two-Spirit Truth: A Mini-Zine About Decolonial Love


LGBT Natives Are Astonishing


Romanced Bannock


Ale Ayv Galieliga


You Should Be Grateful


What We’re Reading


Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul Emily

Dan Laurin

Tiffany Kennedy

Lauren Crazybull

Tommy Orange Bunny Michael Terese Marie Mailhot R.I.S.E. Carmen Maria Machado


37-38 Excerpts From Caro Gonzalez

the Zine Loved


Queer Indigenous Love


We Define Ourselves



Marina Perez Ryan Young






Spotlight Series: Creative Disruption Making noise, redefining language, wielding racuous imagery—these things serve an important role in our collective quest to decolonize relationships to our oppressors, our lovers, ourselves. Sometimes, you have to destroy and rebuild from the essentials. indige•zine caught up with three Indigenous creatives who use their art to disrupt the boxes that dictate the way Natives love.


Age: 24 What she does: Hailing from the Diné Nation in Shiprock, New Mexico, Tatiana lives in New York City as a working-class student of anti-colonialist practice, resiliency, and movement. When she’s not freelancing as a media artist or barista-ing in Flatbush, she’s helping to organize events like the Indigenous Creatives Festival with Manhattan’s American Indian Community House, making interdisciplinary art and music, curating the meme page Asdzaaproletariat, frequenting a Diné communist reading group, and much more.



How do you define love? Love is an organic and necessary connection between human beings. Love is also complex, powerful and is certainly not perfect. There are many notions of love, but the most important love is one that is conscious and respectful of the conditions we are living in.

A noteworthy quote by [political theorist and philosopher] Hannah Arendt addresses the power of an anti-colonial love as: “Love, by reason of its passion, destroys the inbetween which relates us to and separates us from others ‌ Love, by its very nature, is unworldly, and it is for this reason rather than its rarity that it is not only apolitical but anti-political, perhaps the most powerful of all anti-political human forces.â€? I find this quote so beautiful in recognizing the power of love in building solidarity and its nature to be anti-colonial. 13

The only thing I would argue is that love is absolutely political in our time. Destroying the “in-between” that [Arendt] writes about, things like individualism and social constructs, could be read as bi-products of capitalism and colonialism. Love is anti-colonial strength in our times. In which ways do your concepts of love and creativity meet in your life? For me, this is mostly observed in the healing process of expression. I often turn to creativity as a way to grapple with feelings of ennui or as a tool to explore the roots of my feelings in times of confusion. Other times, I am just plain happy and the art that I make is then a document of a time that I felt full and warm. The healing power of creation is medicine for the maker and hopefully for people who connect with the art. That’s love. What’s one toxic thing about romance and relationship you’ve had to unlearn? The idea that it is cute or normal to be owned by someone (i.e. “She’s mine,” “You belong to me,” etc.) Language and behavior with possessive logic are only another vehicle to integrate colonial notions of property and other outward rippling capitalist-centric lifestyles into practice. From the many recognized and unrecognized Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) cases, to everyday practices of consensual intimacy being breached in relationships. Love should be founded on mutual respect and compromise, and exist without power dynamics. The purpose of love is not to be used to cushion one’s oppression, nor as a tool of coercion into capitalism. We need to do better. What is your most potent practice of self love as an indigenous woman? Existing unapologetically. There is so much joy in embracing who I am and what I do without fear. It is wholesome and pure and everyone needs to do so much more of it.



DIO GANHDIH Age: 31 What they do: Dio is an Akwesane hip-hop artist with brash, bold flows packed with humor and wit. Born and raised on Haudenosaunee Territory in Upstate New York, they’re also an educator and speaker whose work centers their experience as a queer, gender non-conforming Indigenous artist seeking community amongst their intersections. They’ve made music with Anishinaabe electronic artist Ziibiwan, Peguis First Nation producer Exquisite Ghost, mestiza hip-hop artist Chhoti Maa, and many others. How do you decolonize your love? With reflection and accountability of my own toxic behaviors. I take my own internal spiritual temperature and sit with self to process past traumas and explore new paths of healing. The impacts of colonization are thick and dense. Without question, colonization confuses the love that I want and contradicts my intrinsic ability to love. I work to unpack and unfold the whitewashing and heteronormative culture I was surrounded with and inevitably influenced by growing up in a small town and Native community. As a queer indigenous musician, how do you protect your spirit? I protect my spirit by trusting my intuition and using my powers for good. I use smoke, sweetgrass, tobacco and prayer. I attend ceremonies and carry with me traditional medicines from my people. I work with teas, herbs and plants which offer external protection and vitality as well. 16

If you could tell your teenage self one thing about self-love, what would it be? Teenage me: Believe it or not, you have everything within you to provide yourself with the love, attention, and the validation you are seeking. You will never actually fill that void until you learn how to embrace yourself fully. Dig deeper and push past that binary— you got this! Konarronkwa!



What she does: Gwen Benaway is a trans girl of Anishinaabe and Métis descent. She has published three collections of poetry, Ceremonies for the Dead, Passage, and Holy Wild. Her fourth collection of poetry, Aperture, is forthcoming from Book*hug in Spring 2020. Her writing has been published in many national publications, including CBC Arts, Maclean’s Magazine, and the Globe and Mail. She’s currently editing an anthology of fantasy short stories by trans girl writers and working on a book of creative nonfiction. She lives in Toronto, Ontario and is a Ph.D student at the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. How have you used language and poetry to decolonize the institution of love? I don’t know that language or poetry really can decolonize love. For me, poetry and language are an embodied reflection of a living, not an artifact nor a tool as commonly used by Western mentalities. Language and poetry arises from the love and the living, but can’t liberate us in and of itself. I use poetry and language to explore and narrate my embodiment and intimacies, but decolonization happens through what you do, not what you say. I think people get tripped up on that point, thinking that their language will be their liberation, when it’s their relationally and doing/living that is the revolution. What is one misconception about desire and relationships you wish you’d known when you were younger? I wish I had known that it was possible to live inside multiple intimacies and not focus so much on monogamous intimacy as the ultimate relational bond. What I’ve learned is that non-sexual intimacies are very powerful and important, as are polyamorous intimacies. I have several intimacies that I’m present in which are love affairs, but none of them supersede each other. That feels really comforting to me. 18

I also have several deep intimacies which are nonsexual and fill a lot of spaces for me in terms of kinship and care. I think when I grew up, I just saw abusive monogamous relationships and internalized that as normal. Now, I look at extended networks of kinship, care, and multiple intimacies as my safe normal. I also wish I had embraced my bisexuality sooner but I guess some things take time to grow. What advice do you have for fellow Indigenous trans people trying to tell their story? My advice to other trans Indigenous folks is to stand in your language, traditions, and kinships, but also embrace your own sense of selfness. Transness is complex. It doesn’t have to be one thing. It can look and feel like many different paths or ways of being in the world. I think it’s important to see your ancestors in your transness, but to know that you can innovate around yourself as well. There is still a lot of transphobia around us, but we are going to find a way through it towards a different future. Never be afraid to be traditional, but never be afraid to not be traditional (or adapt traditions). Sometimes, I think Indigenous trans people get pressured to take up a certain space in the world. But like all Indigenous peoples, we’re diverse and not all of us need to be activists, writers, healers, leaders, etc. Some of us can just chill and support other folks who want to take on those roles. I want to see more trans NDN voices and bodies in the world doing a bunch of things, from every nation, and in their own ways. That’s my dream for us: a future where we are vibrant, visible, and varied.



3 Untitled Poems Marcus Red Shirt







Romanced Bannock Let him make your nookomis’ bannock—shyly tell him it won’t be like decadent Betty Crocker cakes, nothing like cocoa powder or frosting to lick off fingers. Your nookomis has hers with strong coffee. Omaamaayan had hers with bitter black tea. You eat it sticky with rhubarb jam and strawberries— our family’s recipe isn’t sweet like others, you explain. Too much salt, too much pain, too dry with absent forgetfulness and neglect in a centuries old oven. His eyes will shine blue like evening stars and he’ll kiss you, saying you’re sweet enough. You smile stupidly, happily. A newly charmed aboriginal boy weak at the knees. … You feel guilty talking about nookomisag legacies apologetically, nervously, before the bannock has had a chance to turn from gritty flour to spun gold in his apartment. To prove itself.


When it’s pierced with pinches from the fork like a petroglyph, beautifully bumpy from where the silky lard has churched crumbs into mountains, valleys, and hills. You want to break one open with him, see the steam, bite your lip coyly and dip the bread in honey, in cinnamon sugar, in cream. … He tells you jingle dresses are beautiful, that your beadwork is improving. He’ll stay with you for hours when things get heavy, when treaties are broken and memories are dusted off after long sleeps. You want to pick out ribbons with him and sew them into your clothes, saccharine colors like your onosheya’ used to wear. You want to give him presents of thimbleberries and wild mint. You want to whisper zaagichigaazo. You want to watch his hands form the wet dough while you sit ankles crossed on the counter. You want the bannock to be as intimate as his smirk. You want it to be warm inside and filling, a comfort to whoever partakes. When you eat bannock with him for the first time, it will once again be sweet.


Ale ayv galieliga when I see strawberries, I think of First Woman sharing berries with a man that had frustrated her moments before I think of her unable to keep something amazing to herself, not when she had a partner to share them with and like first woman, I run to share with you anything wonderful that I see, feel, hear, or taste I am glad I have someone to share them with



What We’re Reading: The New Native Renaissance In the past few years, there’s been a resurgence of Indigenous literature that has reached far beyond our own communities. This new wave of the “Native Renaissance” includes writers like queer Driftpile Cree poet Billy-Ray Belcourt who are building upon the groundwork laid by legends like Joy Harjo, Louise Erdrich, and Leslie Marmon Silko. For our fourth issue, indige•zine has highlighted five works from emerging indigenous and brown writers that we haven’t been able to put down.


There There, the debut novel of Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange, is already a New York Times BestSeller. The novel takes place in Oakland, California (his hometown), shining light on the complicated mosaic of tradition, trauma, and hustle that is the lives of Urban Indians. Compelling, fleshed-out characters—like the newly sober Jacquie Red Feather and veteran of the 1969 Occupation of Alcatraz Opal, Viola Victoria Bear Shield—all come together across different Nations and life experiences for the “Big Oakland Powwow.” The book’s explosive grand finale is not one to miss.


Bunny Michael is a gender-nonbinary, Samoan-Mexican multimedia artist. Their surrealist rap has landed them on tour with Fever Ray and they host Vice’s webseries “Broadly Hotline” where they’ve talked sexual health with “Queer Eye”’s Karamo Brown. They’ve also published the book Me and My #HigherSelf: A Book of Memes to Channel Your Inner Wisdom. As the subtitle suggests, it’s a colorful collection of Bunny’s “Higher Self” Instagram memes. Each image—which consists of Bunny and their “Higher Self”—is an exchange of spiritually sound advice in the face of everyday struggles. They confront everything from jealousy to staying strong in the face of systematic oppression. 33

In her 2015 memoir Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot tells her story with infectious honesty, romantic delusion, and a brilliant self-possessiveness that will leave you reeling. Coming from the Seabird Island First Nation reservation, she documents the events that lead up to her diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder, detailing the dark and hazy assaults to her personhood as an Indigenous woman that she heals through writing. Mailhot’s lucid, raw storytelling is haunting, but in the best way possible.


R.I.S.E.—which stands for Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment—is an Indigenous-founded artist and activist initiative helmed by artist Demian DinéYazhi’. Their 2016 zine Survivance Vol. II is a collection of Native poetry inspired by the online social impact game “Survivance.” Anishinaabe game researcher and writer Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée created the game based on a term of self-determination called “survivance,” which merges survival and endurance in asserting Indigenous presence in contemporary media. Featuring works by trans Cherokee author Qwo-Li Driskill and Blackfoot writer Abaki Beck, the zine also aims to bridge the gap between Nations from the colonized lands of Canada and the U.S. 35

Her Body and Other Parties is the debut short story collection of queer author Carmen Maria Machado. Her fiction snakes through the balmy, visceral cringe of horror, the cold thrill of sci-fi, and the warm, righteous assertion of feminism and queer sexuality. Each story throws you into Machado’s world and watches you work your way through its magical realism towards it’s (sometimes grim) ending. Her smooth, inventive prose keeps you reading, no matter how strange the circumstance.






contributors Tatiana Benally is a New York City-based multimedia artist, organizer, interdisciplinary artist, and self-described part-time working class bae from the Diné Nation. She creates music, curates the meme page Asdzaaproletariat, organizes with Manhattan’s American Indian Community House, and much more. instagram: @purplecatsinslacks Gwen Benaway is a trans, queer, polyamorous Annishinaabe and Mètis writer based in Toronto. She’s a Ph.D student at the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto, and has published three collections of poetry. Her writing can also be found in publications like CBC Arts, Maclean’s, and more. twitter: @gwenbenaway website:


Lauren Crazybull is a Niitstipapi and Dené visual artist living in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta). Her work is informed by years of justice organizing, Indigenous advocacy, and mentoring youth. twitter: @lcrazybull instagram: @elceebee website:

Demian DinéYazhi’ is a queer, Portland-based Diné transdisciplinary artist born to the clans Naasht’ézhí Tábąąhá (Zuni Clan Water’s Edge) and Tódích’íí’nii (Bitter Water). They founded and direct the artist/ activist initiative R.I.S.E.: Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment. Demian was a 2016 artistin-residence at the Institute of American Indian Arts and was a recipient of the 2017 Golden Spot Residency. This year, they read selections from their poem An Infected Sunset for the Whitney Museum of American Art.

instagram: @heterogeneoushomosexual website: Jose Dominguez—a non-binary, queer Xicanx/Tejanx Jotx— is a biochemistry and ethnic studies student, dancer, and future teacher. Jose is actively in the process of unlearning and re-educating in the quest to fight and subvert the colonial cisheteropatriarchal power structures on stolen Coahuiltecan land. instagram: @barbackbusboy Emily is a twenty-year-old Choctaw who identifies as bisexual. Her main interests are games like “Overwatch,” “Mario Kart,” and “Legend of Zelda.” website: 42

Dio Ganhdih is a queer, gender non-comforming Akwesasne Mohawk hip-hop artist, educator, and speaker. instagram: @tiodio.g Caro Gonzalez—whose Chemehuevi name is Guarding Red Tarantual Woman—is a disabled, trans, non-binary, Two Spirit artist. Caro makes art to navigate these identities with dreams of indigenous futurism. Tiffany Kennedy is Cherokee and based out of the Appalachian mountains. She’s disabled and likes to bead and write on her good days. Dan Laurin interns for the Smithsonian’s Public Programs and Symposia Departments in Washington, D.C. He’s a trans Manitoba Métis man who strives to revive his family’s lost history by doing traditional floral beadwork, restoring his great-grandmother’s traditional recipes with help from his nookomis, and writing. Marina Perez is a returning indige•zine contributor. She’s a second generation Xicana settler on Tongva land. Marina is part of the indigenous-led collective Indigenous Honeys, which aims to create space for Native voices and experiences. instagram: @your_comadre


Marcus Red Shirt is a young, queer, non-binary Oglala Lakota creative from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul is a Two-Spirit trans womxn from Kuskatan, the land known internationally as El Salvador. Xemiyulu lives at the EarthStar Two-Spirit Nation, a safe homestead for Two-Spirit, queer, trans, intersex, black, and Indigenous peoples on ancestral Shawnee and Cherokee land.

Ryan Young is a TwoSpirit Anishinaabe feminist activist and multidisciplinary artist from Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. They’re also the deputy fashion photography editor for Native Max Magazine. Ryan is currently studying for their BFA in Studio Art and a minor in Performing arts at the Institute of American Indian Art.