"I am defined by my will to live"
Juane Quick-to-see Smith
"When asked what it means to be an indigenous woman in the twenty-first century, most of the women speak of their womanhood within the context of the family, community, nation. The daily lives of traditional-oriented indigenous woman vary greatly, but most express a deep sense of responsibility for the cultural survival of their people. They define what it means to be a woman as they conduct their work and live their lives surrounded by a chaotic, materialistic culture that tries to narrowly define the roles of women. Like women everywhere, indigenous women do not want others defining for them what it means to be a woman."
Every Day is A Good Day-Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Woman
This is an idea I ponder daily. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who had some pretty strong things to say about the relationship between men and women in our pueblo. She pointed out that her up bringing was limited in the sense of cultural teachings, but that she see's many inequalities in the value of women in our culture. She felt that this lateral power struggle stemmed from the men. As that certain ceremonies were only for men and could not be shared with her daughters. This very thought of power to me feels more like a post-colonial way of thinking, rather then an indigenous one. What is power? What does it mean to have power? Who gave you the idea that you had none to begin with? Powerless?? Who defines what power is? and Why do you place yourself in a lessor important role in your relationship to the tribe and your husband?
All of these thoughts came to mind in our conversation. More then anything, I could hear anger in her words. It got me to thinking about an indigenous woman's identity. We seem to be in a place in our lives where we wish to define our "womanhood" ourselves, rather then have others define it for us. In doing so we define our relationship to our surroundings and to our community. I actually brought up our cultural teachings with her, which teach us what our relationship is to our surroundings, rather then wasting our time on ownership of power. We are children of the earth and not the center of the universe. Now...respect...that is a completely different matter all together. However, I return to the question who defines the meaning of respect? In the past, women with European values and thinking back to the Victorian period defined our "womanhood." Today, more and more indigenous women are taking into account our cultural teachings and are redefining the worlds perceptions of our "womanhood." Obviously, part of that is regaining our rites of healing and birthing knowledge. However, it is not easy to remove ourselves from this way of thinking that we are powerless, unimportant, not respected, not valued, emotionless.....
As of late, I find that there are many ways to define ourselves. We each have the opportunity to pick and choose who our teachers will be. Will today's fast paced culture teach us that we are the center of the universe to consume everything in our path with little regard for our mother earth. Or....will we listen to our guiding spirits that teach us respect? This is easier said then done...I know. I am constantly wrestling with who and what will be my teacher.
It seems like my character has been tested all summer with different situations. I feel like I am constantly defining my "womanhood."
I recently decided to step away from a project that has had so much meaning for me. I had gotten so jumbled up in business and other peoples emotional struggles, that it became clear to me that the spirit of our work had been lost. It turned out as I took some time to regroup that I wasn't willing to risk my spiritual health for this venture. I realized that for such a place to arise, we each have to be healthy in our mind, body, and spirit, because our relationships were becoming interdependent on each other. Our trust was being tested. I guess I can count this as one of my teachings...knowing when to step away. It has taken me some time to be silent, then to listen, and now to finally appreciate what I have learned. I am defining my womanhood. I have decided that my teacher will not be the pursuit of power, it will not be ownership, it will not be in a place of abuse. For now it is taking the time to be a mother to my children. To cedar the space we live in to give way for positive thinking. It is making time to listen to my spirit and taking the time for cultural teachings.....