The air between us is thick; it’s palpable and heavy as the news anchor relays the story of how a fifteen year old Nish girl drowned in the Red River. Our pho sits untouched on the table, congealing, as we both watch the TV and refuse to look at each other. She drowned in the river my people fought for, was abused in the city my blood comes from, and murdered by this country we are supposed to call home. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I feel like you’re watching me for my reaction out of the corner of your eye.
Is this what Indigenous intimacy feels like? Bone crushing sadness felt between two friends when we learn of one of our relation’s murders?
I can still feel you watching me out of the corner of your eye, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. I’m struggling for something to say, this silence is becoming too tense and the heaviness of the situation is beginning to hurt my heart. I want to know if you feel this same electricity, if you’re choking on this same stale air. I want to know if your heart hurts as much as mine whenever they show her baby face on the screen.
I want you to understand that her death is the symbol of how Indigenous women in this country are devalued, how even our baby girls aren’t safe. I want you to understand that when you have a daughter, she is going to be in danger, that you have to raise her to understand that this country doesn’t want her. But her people do.
We can’t raise our daughters to be curious and free like other mothers raise their daughters. Our daughters are always guarded. They are always on guard. My mother raised me to be erect impenetrable walls. She taught me that gentleness begets violence and unwanted passes by strange men on the street.
This silence between us as they drag her body out of the river is the most intimate thing I’ve experienced in years. Making eye contact with you while I fight back tears is the most I’ve let someone touch me. Consensually.
Sometimes I wonder if my generation of Indigenous women, if we can love. Sometimes I wonder if those of us who came to consciousness in a classroom, who are so inundated with decolonial theory and buried under highlighted copies of Unjust Society and Wretched of the Earth, I wonder if we are ever going to be able to give our love without us constantly thinking it is an act of resistance. I wonder if we are ever going to be able to depoliticize every touch and caress. I wonder when every kiss wont be a secret message.
I want to know what it’s like to love without my love being a tool of decolonization. I want to know what it’s like to look into a white partner’s eyes and not wonder if deep down, they hate my core. My blood. My being. I want to know what it’s like to feel safe when you tell someone that your ancestors are of this land.