for my brothers and sisters – Kailey Arthurson, Guest Blogger

I feel as if the Earth shakes
Every time that I hear
A young life is all that it takes
For our bodies to be at fear

This feeling of depression
It isn’t my discretion
The 400 years of trauma
It’s a lot to take in

All of my people were once strong
Like the gusts of wind
Coming from the north
The sick and greedy
Always came with force

Terra Nullius?
It seems oblivious
These lands do not belong
For we were here all along

The inter-generational trauma
From the residential school era
The cycle of abuse
This pain we did not choose

Genocide
Rape
Murder
When does the oppression evaporate?

Our women were targeted
Our spirituality was invalidated
How do we recover
From the reigns of Imperial power

Cultural indifferences
Was the cause
Of their inferences
Our ceremonies were banned
Churches all upon crown land

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The Indian Act
We didn’t even get a say
It was made to domesticate
A form of slavery anyway

Our identities are starting to show
But English is all that we know
When will our mother-tongue
Become the common among

They used terms
To categorize
Tribes and clans
Is how we organize

How is this world running on money?
At the rate that the Earth is dying
This isn’t funny
Our waters are being polluted
How can we let them do this?

The animals are filled with sorrow
Is there ever a day
That isn’t the predicated tomorrow
Maybe their bodies will be set free
Like the way it should be

I can hear her weeps
Our lands are being degraded
While our people
Are still segregated

Our mother is sick
How can we bicker and fight?
We better do something quick
Until we do not exist

Who will she care for?
Hopefully the next generation
And more
But when there is nothing left
There will be no room for regret

Our people are plagued
With the tools of self-destruction
Our lives go missing
Without anyone rarely appearing

These systems continue to fail us
When will we learn
Not to trust
Self-determination
Has got to be a must

Our lives should be of balance
But when will we have access to heal?
To be without hinderance
We must stop and feel

How did this come to be?
150 was just celebrated
Oh when will our lives be
Reintegrated

When will the government realize
Our people are not meaningless
All of our Indigenous lives
Are plain beautiful
And limitless

Reconciliation?
Better get to it
For our young lives
Are already through it

They thought we wouldn’t survive
But take a look again
What a day to be alive
The revolution has just begun

We must not forget
Until the prayers
Of our ancestors
Are fully met

It’s time to warrior up
Our spirits have been
Revitalized
It’s time to rise

Defend the Sacred by Kailey Arthurson

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Tansi. My name is Kailey Arthurson. I am Anishinaabe & Nehiyaw from the Mikisiw clan and Ochékiwi Sípí Cree Nation in Manitoba, Treaty Five Territory. I am 22-years-old, two-spirited, a single mother, a Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Indigenous Studies and minoring in English at the University College of the North, and an aspiring future educator.

I wanted to share the inspiration this photograph series and the collaborating poem.

I am an Indigenous Youth living in Canada and right now… many of our Indigenous youth lives are being stolen from us.

I have followed Tenille Campbell on social media for a very long time. She is the owner of sweetmoon photography and author of #IndianLovePoems. When I saw that she had openings for photography sessions in Winnipeg while she would be in town, I knew she was the artist I wanted to collaborate with.

This location where we chose to shoot at, is in downtown Winnipeg. It’s just down the street from where 15-year-old Tina Fontaine’s lifeless body was pulled from the Red River, back in 2014. Tenille also comes from the area in Saskatchewan where not long ago, 22-year-old Colten Boushie lost his life back in 2016.

The verdicts of their recent cases in court and the injustices that Canadians continue to impose on my people affected me. I needed to say something. I needed to do something.

I believe it is crucial to take initiative to learn our Indigenous history and practice our culture; it is a process of decolonizing and reclaiming our identities. It wasn’t until I completed my first Indigenous studies course at the University of Manitoba in 2013 when I truly realized who I was and my purpose.

My sister and I were once in the Child Welfare System so the death of Tina Fontaine struck me personally. If it wasn’t for my mother choosing to change her life around by becoming sober, the system could have likely failed us too.

I was raised by a single-mother and grew up on-reserve with all of the poverty, social dysfunctions and addictions from colonial trauma around me. It took a lot of strength and courage for myself to make the decision to break the cycle too and change my life around for the better.

Now that I have a daughter of my own, it’s important that I do everything in my power to voice my concerns and create change for my people.

These issues need to be talked about and dealt with so my daughter – our daughters –  does not have to fear her life growing up as an Nehiyaw Iskwéw and Anishinaabekwe on these lands currently called Canada.

Not only for her but for all of our people and beings to live in harmony with our Mother Earth.

Ekosani.

 – Kailey Arthurson

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Kailey Arthurson is Anishinaabe & Nehiyaw from the Mikisiw clan and Ochékiwi Sípí Cree Nation in Manitoba, Treaty Five Territory. You can find her via Insta at @kaytothuuail

photo credit: tenille k campbell of sweetmoon photography 

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35 thoughts on “for my brothers and sisters – Kailey Arthurson, Guest Blogger”

  1. I found this really fascinating and…sad. Living in America I had no awareness of these specific issues at all. It’s amazing how you can live just one country away (though Texas is pretty far) and be completely oblivious of cases that have such an impact on a country’s awareness.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. I admire your courage and strength to speak up and let your voice be heard, to become a leader and a role model. You are so right about the unheard injustices and the suffering that continues to go on…It’s time to start healing, and to heal the planet. You are very creative, talented and beautiful and you have a beautiful daughter. I love the photography and your poetry has brought tears to my eyes, and deep sadness.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. This is SO impactful. As a social worker with knowledge of the intergenerational trauma that Indigenous people experience at the hands of our government, I can appreciate this post so much. Amazingly written.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. I am a lover of poetry and the power it possesses to effect changes. This piece is both tender and potent. It tenderly draws the heart of the simple minded thus dictating empathy and at the same time it strikes the evil and hard hearted thus dictating repentance. It is a Wonderful write up and I hope it instigates the revolution you desire.

    Liked by 8 people

  5. I love this so much. I am genuinely happy that there are people like you out there, writing about the troubles of the indigenous. I’m glad that you are going out and taking your time to educate others about the history of mistreatment on the natives. I attended a rally here in Los Angeles against the North Dakota Access Pipeline and attending it was such an eye opener. I am glad that more people are standing up to stand with the sacred. We need more people to tell the history that schools don’t teach.

    Liked by 5 people

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