Miigwetch to David Manuel or whoever took this photo.
I’ll start this by being clear. My ancestors are from Luxembourg and surrounding countries. Sometimes when I advocate that the people of the over 500 different tribal nations in the place now referred to as North America get treated with basic respect and dignity I am asked if I am Native. I’m not. I was just raised to care for and respect my neighbor. And, I’ve had the good fortune to count some great Indians among my dearest friends.
I saw the photo of the red dress this morning. It made me think. I have long believed that racism is an act of fear more than power. Somewhere in our being white folks recognize that we’ve done wrong for these many generations and we’re afraid of retribution. We’re afraid of what could happen if everyone else had homes, jobs, money, education, and a safe place to be, at the same level that we do.
I’m not talking about individual fear. Some people individually have moved past it. But, as a group, we’re afraid.
We women, we have to address that fear. It’s our to address because we are strong. I remember as a young activist standing on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol, listening to Frannie Van Zile from the Mole Lake Nation. She was talking about the proposed Crandon mine. She said “You women, you women out there, you are the keepers of the water.” Those words changed my life. In many Indigenous cultures women are respected and honored. They are recognized to carry an important power, that they are keepers of the water, bearers of life.
That red dress reminds me that Native women, in fact all women of color, are in great danger because fear attacks where power resides. It also reminds me that, as a woman, I have a responsibility to my sisters to care for them, to mourn their loss, and to do what I am able to keep them safe.