Focus On Our Womb
Native American Heritage Month may have come to a close, but all the realities and experiences of being NDN and womxn in America will never cease. Last month, I made sure to have more of a focus on my community with constant check-ins, talks, tea, and lots of self care work that included smudging up my whole house among other things. How did you spend your month? Today, I want to talk about women, the very backbone of our communities and society at large.
This post deals with talks of sexual violence, sterilization and womb violence. It also speaks of hopefulness, community and the intersections that bring womxnhood together. If you’d like to scroll through the rough part, I’ll leave a little note where to catch up. Please practice self care!
In many of these posts, I use the “x” in talking about women’s experiences. I do this because it is inclusionary to all womxn’s experiences. Not all womxn have vaginas, uteri, vulva, etc and not all who have those specific body parts are womxn. I truly do believe that if we are to speak about rematriation, that is the reclaiming of our ancestral ways and healing with womxn at the center of our narratives, then we must be inclusionary.
Pre-Contact, many Indigenous communities in the Americas focused in a matriarchal sense, meaning, the womxn and the ways of womxnhood included balance between masculine and feminine energies as the societal structure. Now, we live in a dangerously patriarchal society. This shows itself in severe aggression, rage against womxn, misogyny, abuse of all kinds, intimate partner violence in heterosexual and queer relationships, strict gender roles, sexual violence and more. In all this, how do we find ways to radically practice rematriation? How do we retain our truth as matriarchal people with respect for womxn’s power?
Forced sterilization and the abuse of the bodies, minds and spirits belonging to Womxn of Color has been in this countries narrative since its inception. It seemed to me when I first learned about the extent to which it affected black and brown womxn that the state just can’t keep its hands out of the wombs and lives of womxn of color.
Dr. J. Marion Sims, known as the “Father of Gynecology”, came to his conclusions of the functionality of the human womxns’ uterus by “renting” enslaved African womxn and experimenting on their wombs with no anesthesia. If they died? Well, just pay the “owner” what they were worth and get a new one. If they were sterilized in this exploration? Even better, now they were literally worth less AND he could experiment more!
In the 1970s, Puerto Rican, Black American and other Indigenous womxn “paved the way” for sexual advancement by being guinea pigs to the government in the perfection of the birth control pill. I remember being in a “Women's Studies” course in college and that was how it was termed. “Paving the way”.
Through the 1960’s to today, Native American and First Nations womxn are being forcibly sterilized through coercion as well as other insidious tactics. Womxn go in for abortions and come out sterilized. In the HuffPost article that can be found below, Senator Yvonne Boyer elaborates on the happenings resulting in the forced sterilization of First Nations womxn through author Kristy Kirkup.
#MMIW has become not only a hashtag, but a movement. Young Indigenous womxn all over Turtle Island go missing and murdered every day. Though the public outcry began in Winnipeg, it has spread all over Indian Country like wildfire.
#SayHerName has been a public outcry for the Black women that are killed not only by Police violence, but by domestic and intimate partner violence as well.
I became familiar with the process of forced sterilization against Native American womxn personally through my Great Aunt “Shug”, as we called her. As a young girl, Aunt Shug lived in rural Georgia on a farm with her family. The oldest of 6 and the matriarch after the death of her mother, she had little to no time for herself, but when her appendix began to hurt “som’n awful” she went to the nearest hospital that would serve colored folx and came out without an appendix or a uterus. She had not given consent for the removal of her sexual organs, but nonetheless, she was sterilized from the time she was a young teenager. She died when I was only 5 but I still remember the story. I remember the care and love with which she helped to raise so many children. All of us became her “lil chillrun” and she raised us with a loving but stern hand.
I became aware that my body wasn’t considered my own when I was sexually assaulted at 12 years old and the response by my gynecologist was to go on a birth control pill called YAZ to ease my shocked system back into a regular cycle. I was on YAZ for a year and so were some of my friends, when it was found that YAZ had begun to cause cancer, blood clots and even death in young black and brown womxn. My mother fought and I was put on another pill, but my hormonal cycle has never righted itself.
In addition, there is this idea that womb/sexual health only extends to one area of life. All of life is influenced by the world around us. This is why “access” is so important. The denial of access in communities of folx of color leads to imbalance in the self and the communities that need healing. If communities are denied basic rights, living becomes a difficult, if not impossible experience. How do we work around these constraints? The outcry that “Water is Life” is crucial to survival of humanity on this planet. At this point in time, Womxn of Color are rising up to challenge White Supremacy in all of its ugliness. This is specifically happening in large numbers in government organizing. To explain more of this, I invited Rachael, Co-Founder of IWR, Activist/Abortion Advocate, and my dear friend, to say a few words.
The media has called 2018 the Year of the Woman- I disagree. This year’s election has been a culmination of innovative women and their communities, organizing for something better for this country, knowing full well the racist history of the country.
Some amazing wins across the country are:
Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation) (KS-3) & Debra Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) (NM-1) are the first Native women to serve in Congress; Sharice is also the first openly gay Native woman in Congress
Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Ojibwe) is the first Native woman to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota
Ilhan Omar (MN-5) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) are the first Muslim women in Congress
Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) is the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) is the youngest person to ever serve in Congress
Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is the first openly bisexual person to serve in the Senate
Emerge New Mexico had an 88% win rate this election- 37 of the 42 Emerge alumnae on the ballot across New Mexico won their seats and for the first time since 1966, the Court of Appeals, the second highest ranking court in the state has a female majority.
New Mexico will send an all person of color Congressional delegation to Capitol Hill
Stacey Abrams is the first black woman to ever be on the gubernatorial ticket for Georgia
Kathy Otterson is the first transgender woman to serve in the Fairbanks City Council (Alaska)
Liz Lyke is the first transgender woman to serve in the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly (Alaska)
This is about being a part of the system that was forced upon our most marginalized communities and working within this system to change it for the better. Again, we know that this country was built on the backs of our ancestors, with our blood in imperialist wars. But the fact remains- Indian Health Services needs protection and to be fully funded, housing needs more funding, our Native peoples need access to clean water, and we need renewable energy to build our economies and save the land from fracking. Our tribal economies cannot solely rely on Indian gaming. Our youth desperately need behavioral healthcare, as we have the highest suicide rates in the country. Voting matters- these are the resources our people depend on to be well and thrive.
*Tune Back In HERE*
Native womxn deserve autonomy over our own cycles. We fought and continue to fight for our health and that of our children. There is a belief that these happenings occurred in the past and only womxn like Aunt Shug, who are now dead, understood that pain. But what is past is very much present. There is a belief that we are not present for our communities. Let no one make you believe this lie. We have always been here. We have not gone anywhere. We are strong. We are resilient. We have bright futures. We are sacred. Our womxn are under attack. We womxn are under attack and we must continually decide how to reclaim our lives, our traditions and even more, our wombs. In my true fashion, here is a self care exercise that I have found helpful in getting in touch with my womb.
Sit in a comfortable position, and imagine you are going inside of yourself.
How am I today?
Scan down your body asking each individual part how it is today.
Imagine that there is a cave around you. The cave vibrates with life. It is your womb. It can be whatever color, rhythm, taste, touch, and smell that you like.
How is it here?
Build yourself a nice home, before you say farewell.
You will be back
You gently flow back through your body, asking each individual part how it is.
When you feel ready, gently flutter the eyes open.
Sending you love and smudge smoke always
More Readings, If You’re Interested:
J. Marion Sims
Sterilization of First Nations Womxn
Birth Control Article