Thoughts and reflections by Casey Desjarlais
TW: Domestic Violence, MMIWG2ST+
What comes to your mind when you think of Valentine’s Day? Do you picture roses, love letters, romance, pink and red hearts and date nights? In a “perfect” colonial world, so would I. But instead my focus shifts to the countless number of Indigenous and BPOC womxn* (inclusive term for those who live beyond the gender constructs) who experience the highest rates of domestic partner violence and abuse here on Turtle Island in so-called Canada. I think of the high percentage of women who do not get to experience the cliché “Valentine’s Day” activities, rather they are faced with another day of denied healthy and boundless love. As tragic and exhausting this conversation is, I will refuse to stop talking and sharing about it until the world wakes up. MMIWG2ST+ is an international crisis that is evident at every corner of the globe; a crisis that continues to be silenced and shoved under the rug as an “Native People’s problem”. No, this is a global problem, this is the direct outcome of colonialism and colonial violence. This is all of our problem, and we all need to shift our focus so that we can find appropriate and effective solutions to counteract the violence womxn are faced with.
Indigenous womxn* and non-binary folks; whether you’re a mom, auntie, kokum, cousin, sister, daughter, or single individual are the leaders of the growing MMIWG2ST+ movement. We spearhead the raising of awareness on this crisis, yet we are the subjects of this crisis. The bodies of Indigenous womxn* are subjected to sexualization and objectification by society yet our bodies are on the front lines of justice. I’ve heard many times over how “resilient and powerful” I am when I am speaking on the Indigenous women experience, but like, do I have a choice? Resilience is in our DNA that is passed down from generations, from my kokum to my mom to me. We have babies to raise, communities to build, families to heal and love to spread, resiliency is survival.
All the while these thoughts are travelling through my body, I also think of those who are challenging the status quo and actively reimagining and experiencing what healthy Indigenous love can look like. I think of the Indigenous men that dedicate themselves to learning and unlearning the harmful patterns in how they show up in the world, for themselves and for their counterparts. I think of the ways in which we express and show love in our relationships and to our partners. Indigenous love is an act of resistance, it is revolutionary. Indigenous love needs to be honoured and nurtured. Indigenous love shows the next generation what love looks like and what healthy connections look like. Indigenous love can change the world.
Because these topics are so intersectional, I hold space for every avenue that Valentine’s Day falls under, from Indigenous love to domestic violence - this is my true and authentic experience when I think of Valentine’s Day.
33rd Annual Women’s Memorial March and Supporting DTES Womxn
The last several years, I have spent my Valentine’s Day at the Annual Women’s Memorial March in the DTES led by Indigenous womxn. February 14th 2024 marks the 33rd anniversary. I encourage those who are actively looking to decolonize the colonial holidays and support the Memorial March to attend and if you can, donate and volunteer.
Here is a link to donate to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre: https://dewc.ca/donate-online/
Information on the 2024 Memorial March:
“March for the public starts at 12 pm from Carnegie (Main and Hastings) until 4 pm. All are welcome as the march takes to the streets and proceeds through the Downtown Eastside. We make many stops to commemorate where women were last seen or found.
Speeches by community members are made at around 2 pm, followed by a healing circle at Oppenheimer Park around 3:30 pm.
Community feast for all at Japanese Language Hall (487 Alexander Street) from 4-5pm.”
Stay updated about the march: https://www.facebook.com/events/334561112830693?active_tab=about