We have been called to look at bias and as a white-bodied woman this is an important call. None of us want to be making mistakes. Racism, prejudice, bias can happen without intention. My ancestors came from parts of Europe, England, Scotland, France. They colonized many countries including Canada where I was born. My family now is white-bodied, brown-bodied and black bodied. The people I love come from many heritages, with differing physical abilities, different religions, different lifestyles. I know that I carry biases taught when I was young, some given to me as unasked for privileges, not yet all seen and recognized as I continue to learn and grow.
I have a lot to undo, having absorbed the history of my country, and the history of the world in schools taught by white-bodied teachers, with books written by white-bodied people telling what I now know was a biased and inaccurate account of what took place, intentionally hiding the truth.
To undo this I am committed to listening and learning. Two books I am currently reading are: White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, subtitle “Why it’s so hard for White People to Talk About Racism, and My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, a book which takes you deep into self reflection and understanding how to be active in undoing racism and the damage it has been doing to all of us.
The history we have been given in Canadian schools is woefully inadequate still. What I have learned, I have learned by listening and paying attention. In the 1980’s I was asked by some Indigenous sisters here why white-bodied women felt the need to appropriate Indigenous women’s culture. I wrote this poem after my meeting with them, and have read it to open discussion with my white-bodied sisters here. I still have a lot to learn, and am paying close attention to all of you here, my World Pulse sisters.
Search for Roots
When I look to my heritage I find
My ancestresses gone
The moon calendar destroyed
Medicine taken over by men
Matriarchies and amazons
Hidden behind a wall
The single woman
Who met with her sisters in the woods
Shared knowledge of the earth
Tortured and burned
Her memory defiled
Called a witch for knowing healing herbs
Called evil, opposite of life, to be feared
As I am today,
A wild and independent woman
Free in my thinking,
Free of what I have been told is the way it was,
Searching for my roots in these wise, ancient women
Who followed earth traditions
Scorned for questioning
For refusing to believe
That my ancestresses were wrong
To each find her power, as a woman
In the woods.
I refuse to ignore
That there always has been
Another way, a different story.
And so, in our searching, we white women,
Descendants of murdered women
Have searched, and in searching fallen prey
To borrowing and taking, in our psychic famine
Without realizing that this cannot be the answer
To this void that we inherited.
Sweetgrass from the Earth but it is not ours
Though we have been offered invitations to take part
Sweat Lodges are not ours
Though we have been given kind invitations in
We can find ourselves again
Through the woods
And the wild animals
By gathering sweet smelling herbs
Watching the skies change
Taking in the energy of the sun
And the moon
Through our dreams and visions
Trusting the memories that we glean
Confident in ourselves when met with disbelief and hatred
That we are the orphans of wise women
Who were murdered for their knowledge.
We are the granddaughters
Of the women called witches who were not burned
And look with courage into this void forced upon us
Into this void that we inherited.
We can find ourselves
And trust that
Deep in the Earth.
We can find ourselves
And our original integrity
Then join hands, with respect
With our sisters of all nations
In changing the world
To the way it was always meant to be.
*Reflection following questions from Mi’kmaq women on why this happens and what can be done 1988