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Wounded Warrior: Struggles from the other side of the Frontline
By: Johnny Hawk
“Here we were historically speaking where we couldn’t be who we were and we didn’t want to be what our oppressor wanted us to be. So I think that whole period of time after the Reservations were created and during and after the Residential Schools is where the stereotype of the so-called drunken Indian developed, where the drunken Indian said, I’m not going to be who you want me to be, so I’ll be nobody but this was the Indian that saved us. They made it possible for us activists who came later because if they didn’t take that route, they would’ve had to adopt the white mind or be destroyed; I am a human being, you will not recognize me as a human being as I truly am so I will hide that behind this, so that you don’t kill me. They protected the identity of who they really were through this mask and disguise.” – John Trudell
In our Anishinabek Way of Life we have a so-called Clown Society who live their lives and behave in a contrary way from the rest of the community deflecting outside threats and acting as a societal mirror to keep our own excessiveness in check. This is one small teaching of what we call the Windigokaan; who are not Windigo but disguise themselves as such. In our so-called Resistance Movement the roles of our Spiritual and Warrior Societies seem to be the only ones being acknowledged on the frontlines while the role of the Windigokaan is limited only to ceremonies where they are paraded around like a circus attraction once a year.
I have been very much engaged in our Anishinabek spirituality since I was an adolescent. I have a College education in Journalism and can make a good living participating in the mainstream and have had successful employment in the past but choose to assert the responsibilities of my spirit name, clan and role in my society. I have also been active in the defense of our Territories, Rights and Waters and the so-called resistance movement for some time. I am not part of a Warrior or Medicine Society however this way of life is very much who I am. Some people also call me a hypocrite or a clown.
I am writing this article as a healing process for myself and as a reflection to unmask some of the disguises we wear on both sides of the frontline through the eyes of the Wounded Warrior in the spirit of the Contrary.
OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR
It is not the intent of this article to write how to be a clown but I am sharing just a small bit of these contrary teachings just to give some of you a context of where I am coming from to demonstrate the equal importance of this society plays in our Nation and how it is being marginalized by the holy rollers who only want to be in the spotlight. Some may feel offended that I am sharing such things that are considered taboo in our spiritual circles and if you feel so, I really recommend that you keep reading.
Some feel that people use being a Contrary as an excuse for their behaviour; although this is true, Clowns also have a responsibility to deflect and not become what they reflect. When I travel around ceremonial circles I’ve noticed an explosion of contraries where it seems like the hip thing to be but when it’s time to dish out some balance to the masses these ceremonial clowns vanish. Another misconception is that clowns or contrary’s are comedians because of their trickster nature but with everything in existence there is a balance. There are a lot of funny people in Indian Country but that doesn’t mean every one who is funny is a contrary.
Living this lifestyle is to be the black sheep of the community because Windigokaan question things most are afraid to ask or go places to dark for most. So many who I’ve met that identify as contrary live a life within the constraints of mainstream society or imprisoned in their own darkness or light that they forget about the medicine they claim to have and the role they claim to be. One of the greatest misconceptions is that one “chooses” to be a Contrary. This is not true. Who in their right mind would willingly choose such a life of hardship and sacrifice? Okay enough secrets of the sacred.
TWO WINDIGO SIT DOWN TO EAT A CLOWN: DOES THIS TASTE FUNNY TO YOU?
During the times I’ve struggled I sought out our medicine and warrior societies and our grassroots relatives who have made sacred vows with Creator or with each other or made by their own Self Righteousness. They commit their life through these oaths committed to abiding by protocol, virtues and self-discipline. Some of these relatives often times get caught up in elitist, egotistic, hierarchical and colonial behaviour and preach discipline to others when they themselves are hypocrites. A Contrary Cousin of mine calls these people, Clowns in Denial.
It is the Windigokaan role to expose such behaviours within our communities so the people can see the imbalance of their ways. I wanted to create a balance and use humour in this article for the unpleasant things I am writing about but my humour is something you need to experience for yourself, like most of the things that I am sharing here.
Rez Life is not only life on the reservation but it is a mentality that the oppressor has tested and perfected on us and has exported across the globe; it is thug life, the AmeriKKKan and KKKanadian Dream. Rez Life benefits those who control and who are behind the banks and media, those behind the church and state, those who were behind making our ceremonies illegal, the same ones who were behind our genocide here on Turtle Island.
For my own wellbeing I need to live separated from this way of life keeping my home base out on the land or constantly in battle mentally and physically because when I am on my so-called down time, I slip. This does not mean though I give up on our people in our reserves or cities because the rez and cities are just as much the frontline as the tar sands are or any blockade. Some people, contrary’s and warriors have the ability to shapeshift back and forth from the cities, rez and bush, in between such dark and light realities, without tripping themselves up and feeding into the temptations and self- destruction. I am not that strong yet.
Living Rez Life I’ve always struggled off and on with alcohol but unlike the “drunken Indians” of the past we are not in those same situations, so using alcohol to cope and as a mask to hide who we really are in a desperate attempt to keep hidden, we cannot use today. We cannot use this because today we have regained a little bit more space to be who we really are but alcoholism and addiction still exist.
Again Rez Life is a global mentality and in our global world whether you live on a reservation, or you’re a white or black person living in the city we all struggle with so-called leadership who are mere puppets for the people pulling the strings and this is reflected in the many institutions and attitudes within our communities.
After attempts of using my education to create change in mainstream I found I would’ve had to eventually sellout and kiss ass to where I needed to be in order to make that change, eventually adopting those values. My education, talent would only go to benefit the enemy. I decided to bring my talent and education back to my own community where I found that there is no difference than working for mainstream. The Leadership and most of our community are also afraid of change and find who we really are as a threat so I found I had to take my vision and spirit elsewhere. These are key factors why there is so much addiction and suicide and no change in our communities.
Aboriginal Industry Profits of our Misery
Our cultural identity is being tokenized by bureaucrats and a select few of our own people for their benefit where the Aboriginal Industry is profiting off our misery.
From frybread, gangs, products made from exploitation of our resources to band leadership, lawyers, policing, social workers, educational institutes and current healing strategies that are in our communities we believe these are ours but they are being used to assimilate us into the consumerist, capitalist and imperialist world to keep us locked mentally and physically in our current diminishing.
We tend to mask the enemies tools with artifacts of our culture trying to make it our own which then the enemy sees and takes to its advantage. This strategy can be observed in popular culture where it is ironic that the Music and Prison Industry both profit off of Gangster Rap. Gangster Rap and the Capitalistic Idealism is often seen as hijacking the spirit of Hip-Hop, where Hip-Hop developed out of the merging of music, art, fashion and entrepreneurship to help raise consciousness of those oppressed to create social change.
I’ve also noticed people who are initiated within our Medicine Societies use their priviliage and state that for their benefit on their resume’s when applying within the Aboriginal Indsutry’s Healing Sector. My Girlfriend and I was once councelled by a Sister who is in our Medicine Society for Relationship Councelling seeking services from our community Health Services and our sister who herself was struggling in her own marriage was telling us how to be in a relationship. Many people make commitments through marriage or spiritually with Creator and break them. This is why I am not married or in the Medicine Society, I know I struggle and wouldn’t make such a commitment to help others when I can help in other ways, still being truthfull to myself.
As we return to being Anishinabek in our collective resurgence our own ideals and traditional institutions goes against so much of what exists in our communities today whereas our people do not want to change. The majority of our people only want to be Anishinabek to the discretion of the enemy.
Warrior Society and the Grassroots Community
I have always had a Warrior Spirit since I was a child and discovered and researched our own Resistance History on my own which was not taught in school. I never grew up with Warrior people as well.
So with knowing I can’t live Rez Life I followed my spirit and found myself in the countless blockades, sacred fires, ceremonies, reclamations across Turtle Island. Although I found a community that I belonged to, I slowly became disillusioned. I fell in love with the spirit of a tribal community that is invoked when we are on the frontlines however when a blockade, reclamation or whatever direct action is over that tribal spirit packs up and the people return to the way of life that we are so against at those frontlines. The Movement becomes almost like the powwow circuit. We go back to our homes, cars, technology, rarely do we see campaigns where people fully living on the land, remerging our own governance and confederacies and traditional trade economies becoming self-sufficient, living a life of real resistance.
I also was taught by many people within our Warrior Societies and Grassroots Circles of many protocols and virtues and precautions that they preached to others but never really followed themselves only a select few, the strong ones do. I found that people are eager to get their faces on the news or social media as righteous warriors and ego is often a motivator. I also experienced woman who many people see as righteous spread gossip of others in the movement and men who beat woman. I come across much jealousy, woman and men using each other and sleeping around. People who claim they are Hereditary Chiefs, Clan Mothers, Medicine People who have no actual position given to them by the people they claim to represent. I see this shit and people call me the contrary. Contrary challenge the rules and don’t live by any and if people want to devote themselves to protocols and initiations, they should follow through.
It also is obvious that where we need to be as a Nation is taking a back seat to “activist” organizing, where direct action now means, a protest, march or vigil. With the creation of Facebook it has created an explosion of instant activists or “slacktivists” that pose at their actions and post their pictures all over facebook, masked up, with arms in the air. There are many who rather take these steps to commit their lives to what many have always been doing, sacrificing their life to actually fight for our Lands and Water.
Also the Warrior Image looks appealing for many youth and promoting what we stand for sometimes get lost in the romanticism and stereotype our own people and the media create. Often times we victimize ourselves through Hunger Strikes or going to Jail or getting Shot and Killed. Sometimes we need to do these things but we’ve been being killed for too long and put in jail where we are playing right into the enemies expectation. It is the Contraries who are also a Warrior Society that does the unexpected fearlessly to confuse the enemy for success.
In our Resistance Movement there are also many allies that align themselves with our struggle. Many of these allies are Eurocentric Leftists who come into our communities with a messiah complex to tell us how, where, when and why do to things. Maybe if these allies who come to save the poor Indian want to be a martyr maybe it is them who should be martyr’d
“Whites who are sincere don’t accomplish anything by joining Negro organisations and making them integrated. Whites who are sincere should organise among themselves and figure out some strategy to break down the prejudice that exists in white communities. This is where they can function more intelligently and more effectively, in the white community itself, and this has never been done.” – Malcolm X
I am not tryna be divisive between allies or in some form promote segregation within our collective movement but in our Indigenous understandings of well-being it starts with the self. We work on the spirit us as an individual, then the family, community, nation, which then effects global change. As an Anishinabek I always hear allies, asking what they can do to help, which is only up to them to figure out. I don’t go asking around what I can do for them in their homes, family, community and society. That is their responsibility. Self Determination is not only a right but a responsibility.
At our Reclamation Camp one weekend, some allies came to visit. In a discussion about who would lead the revolution and about our own beliefs and politics this one ally arrogantly says “I only call myself an anarchist to get other anarchists to get up and do shit I think needs to be done” and then mockingly told me I should tell this Warrior Sister of ours from another Indigenous Community of Resistance who believes in dream messages, which is common for many grassroots spiritual people, that I should tell her I dreamed about them helping us so they could believe in coming to help at our camp. Many feel some allies are masked opportunists. The greatest trick the devil pulled was convincing the world he/she didn’t exist but their devils can’t trick a trickster because our mirrors are more sharper made of obsidian
The Third Degree within our Medicine Societies
What I have encountered in my struggle is a lot of people want to holistically help our people spiritually and those wo become initiated within our Medicine Society or are in our Spiritual Circles are most times not healthy themselves, exhibiting an egotistic, hierarchy who belittle others.
Some of the reasons for the initiation process within our Medicine Society are to protect our knowledge from negativity and to make sure those who want to become a Medicine Person are of good heart where they their good heart and commitment are constantly being tested by spirit. There are also degrees of knowledge which are there to make sure those are being taught fully understand the properties of medicine and how things came to be and to know carefully know what they are doing. At the same time though our enemy has infiltrated our Medicine Society which is obvious in such people’s oppressive behaviours and through the Christianisation of some of our stories and pacification of some of our beliefs and ceremonies. Some of our people stay far away from our Medicine Society because of this.
Some of our people though choose to just be spiritual and not become a medicine person but there are some who think they are medicine people who are jut spiritual. The difference between both is Spiritual People ascribe to our collective beliefs, medicine, ceremonies and teachings, while Medicine People are well educated in these things that they can prescribe. Just because a person goes to the hospital and undergoes surgery and then gets medication and believes in this process does not give them the authority to practice surgery and prescribe pills to others.
I am a spiritual person who struggles and this is why I do not belong to a Medicine Society, I know I wouldn’t be able to uphold my human commitment I made to Creator besides I already made a spiritual commitment in the spirit world with Creator and that is to come to Earth and a part of that includes struggling. Making commitments with Creator on Earth or in Spiritworld and breaking them has consequences. We know we are not to take our own life that is part of our deal we made with Creator, so why would we make such a foolish vow with Creator to help others
TEARS OF A CLOWN
Most solid Warriors and Contrary’s live a life mostly alone on the edge of society and sacrifice many comforts and pleasures of society because of their role however this does not make them holy nor is celibacy a practice. In Warrior virtues for our protection I have been taught that one must never get involved in a relationship with someone from the community they are helping or allow relationships to interfere with their focus on the task at hand or get involve with other people in the movement. Contraries on the other hand challenge what is accepted by the status quo to intentionally or unintentionally reflect hypocrisy and extremities in such accepted virtues and sometimes they just need love too.
I always wanted to find love and to know love and although I have had girlfriends before I have never experienced real love in a relationship. I have always loved who I am and what I do and love helping our people where I have sacrificed my own needs for the movement. I was always told to be careful what you put into your prayers because you will be given a test in ways to see if you can handle what you seek. Many times I’ve experienced this for truth and knowing this I would still ask for Love in my prayers.
In 2012 I and three of my brothers proceeded in a Direct Action to reclaim our traditional territory on Disputed Lands and Crown Lands in opposition of the illegal land surrender and settlement of our traditional territories involving our community, we eventually established an ongoing Camp in a provincial park.
During this time a friend was calling me every night on a cell phone. She was said that she didn’t have custody of her three children. She was from a community known for their long standing resistance. She was struggling with many issues and was self- destructing. She wanted to escape her community and wanted me to bring her to our Camp and Action, so she could work on dusting off her spirit. She wasn’t always one who struggled for she was a strong organizer for youth and part of the resistance to environmental destruction from industry that affected her community.
So I left my brothers while I went many miles to go help my friend. When I got to her community, she was going through spiritual attacks, where I never left her side. I ended up staying and we didn’t return to camp for many months. At first we began going to ceremonies, creating art, helping her community, and staying sober and learning more about ourselves and how much we had in common, where a strong relationship developed. I was looked at by many in the “movement” as just looking to get laid and was warned not to get sidetracked from what I started but I honestly we both fell in love with each other and I came to struggle but accept being a step father to her children.
During our time in her community though we both struggled off and on with alcohol where we would lose our focus. In no disrespect to her community whereas I have struggled with alcohol before but never have I experienced such an epidemic along with the horrible affects it has on a community. To be fair though we all have our struggles in all our communities and this community is respected for their resistance.
During our drinking we would emotionally abuse each other and I started becoming a person I didn’t like and on two occasions, pushed her. I did mean things like cutting up her clothes. This was neither her or my fault nor her communities, we allowed ourselves to become consumed by the Rez Life mentality.
I felt a constant guilt abandoning my brother, the action I help start and they camp. I made my new found love feel guilty that I was sacrificing the fight to help her, which was wrong. I eventually felt like I didn’t belong in the movement because of my behaviour and I should distance myself from who I really was. We would come back and forth from my community to hers falling off and on the wagon. When my community accepted the settlement and surrendered, I decided to go against all my beliefs and what I was saying and accepted the $10,000 per capita distribution of the settlement. I disappointed a lot of people and lost the people’s faith and belief in me but these were my own decisions which I still feel the effects.
In 2013 my Father found out he had cancer and I had to return to be by his side during his fight in early 2014 for his treatments. She would stay behind to be with her children but would continue to struggle. I was away from her for six months and eventually she admitted that she was sleeping with someone else when she would drink, since I left. I started drinking hard to erase these feelings and betrayal but I guess I pushed her to do that for how I was treating her when we would drink. Currently as I write this it has been Six months a part while I support my dad who is cancer free. Me and her still talk and are going to work on our relationship, we both love each other unconditionally, however I still get those phone calls though where she is still admits to being with that guy when she drinks and I am allowing myself to accept this where I feel my heart, mind, body and spirit are suffering but I will overcome this and am praying she will help herself too. I pray things work out for us.
This year was my third year sundancing and I put all my prayers for her and my dad, I dragged buffalo skulls for her healing. I managed to find pipestone and sent her a pipe and hand drum. I cry every night for her and our relationship. I am sad and hurt and miss her so much but also need to strong back up.
Creator has blessed me with the gift of finding love along with tests to see if I can handle what I was seeking. I’ve come to know that love is not something you just jump into it is something that is unconditional. Through this teaching of love in this relationship I’ve realized with her help and by remaining with her in her community that the movement, the fight, our camps and issues will always be there but it is our people or one person who may not. As a greater community we forget about that one person in our communities who is struggling who may need just as much energy as we put in to a Direct Action. As well the people who are struggling are just as important as anyone else and who can teach us things about our own self that we fail to see.
Also some of our Communities are known for their Colonial and Industrial Resistance but still retains a lot of destructive behaviours and as we resist the many outside threats we also need to give the same energy internally. When we march and blockade against oppression we must equally march and broadcast the oppressive patterns within our community that we do unto ourselves.
Most times Warriors sacrifice love and their own life to fight for our Nation but equally we need to sacrifice the fight to help internally, one person is just as important as the whole Nation. The Frontlines is also our communities where must first work on ourselves in our community so we can fight back even stronger and united.
The Tears of Clown can become the Nation’s Strength.
I may have come of as arrogant and egotistic but being a Clown I am afforded this privellage but at the same time it comes with its reprecussions that we still deal with. In closing Clowns, Windigokaans, Heyoka’s or Contrary’s have been an integral part of our survival as a People. Some people marginalize this society greatly. There have been many people in our history who were Clowns such as Crazy Horse. Also sometimes we forget how important the people who are wounded and struggle play an integral role in our Communities just as those who we hold up with high regards. I am struggling my relatives and have been wounded but sometimes my weakness is my strength.
Where we need to be is not just a Resistance Movement involving Warrior and Medicine Societies, we are a Resurgence Movement that involves re-establishing our own institutions. I am just a Clown and I struggle, I am not a Warrior or Medicine Person, I struggle but this is very much in my heart. I at times can be a hypocrite. What ACTION and Oshkimaadiziig is, involves us all, we are not Activists, we are Anishinabek with a Way of Life. We need you to be our Leaders. I am just a dreamer and a clown.
“The Windigokan or Contrary’s were believed to be inhabited by terrifying spirits called Thunderbirds, which appeared in the form of giant birds. That made them somewhat inhuman. On the battlefield they were disruptive and unpredictable, and in raiding parties downright terrifying. In one such raid, witnessed by an outsider, they gathered first in front of the Ojibwa chief’s lodge and yelled “we are not going to war! We shall not kill the Sioux! We shall not scalp four of them and let the rest escape! We shall go in daytime!” They left the camp that night, wearing customes of rags and scraps, their bodies plastered with mud and painted with splotches of weird colour, their faces covered by frightening masks with giant, beak like noses.
They made their way through the darkness, stumbling over themselves – it was hard to see through the masks – until they came upon a large Sioux war party. Although outnumbered, they did not flee, but danced into the enemies centre. The grotesqueness of their dance made them seem to be possessed by demons. Some of the Sioux backed away; others drew closer, curious and confused. The leader of the Windigokan shouted “Don’t shoot!” The Ojibwa warriors then pulled out guns hidden under their rags, killed four of the Sioux and scalped them. Then they danced away, the enemy too terrified by this apparition to pursue them. After such an action, the mere appearance of the Windigokan was enough for the enemy to give them a wide berth and not risk any kind of encounter.”