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Dancing in the rain: Land defense is ceremony

by Danielle Boissoneau (Anishinaabek)

Taken in Wikwemikoong (Unceded Anishnaabek Territory), 2015
Taken in Wikwemikoong (Unceded Anishnaabek Territory), 2015

Slowly, softly, the rain starts falling from the sky. I look up, past the branches crossing over each other. There aren't any clouds. The drum reverberates through my body and I dance. My hands begin to shake the poplar trees and my feet move in time over the ground. I hope the ancestors will hear my prayers. The rain starts falling harder, the drumbeat gets louder and I realize I'm tired. It's been a few days without food or water and I've been sleeping on the ground. I know that Anishnaabe aki is tired too, so I dance softly. The drum stops. I lay down to rest but it’s like there’s no time. Soon, the drum starts again, and although my body is exhausted, the rain invigorates my spirit so I stand up. It is here in ceremony that I am home.

I also make my home in the city. My body is still on the land here but colonial barriers present themselves at intersections, where cars honk at me to hurry up and the concrete stops my feet from touching the ground. Dignified rage fuels my existence in places where disconnection blurs the truth of who we are as Anishnaabek. Here in the city, I realize that ceremony can happen anywhere. Ceremony is a demonstration of tremendous and unconditional love. It is a focused connection with life and with humility, we offer our bodies so that the greater bodies of land and water might survive.

Whether it is in a lodge densely built with poplar trees, or whether it is inside a fenced in area, where Anishnaabek women lock themselves down to pipelines, ceremony is the direct cumulative action of songs in our hearts, semaa in our hands and moccasins on the ground. It is our responsibility to rebel against the permanence of colonial reality.

Land-based resurgence is a process rooted in the knowledge of who we are as Anishnaabek. It is power based in on a reciprocal, loving, relationship with the land, water, and all of creation. Anishnaabek Nationhood is the unapologetic centering of our spiritual and political influence over the land, water, and creation.

Despite the overwhelming colonial reality that has historically defined our ceremonies as illegal and land defense as eco-terrorism, we continue to resist their gendered violence with a persistent veracity that shatters their illusions of power, every single day. The ability of the sacred feminine to give life over and over must be protected from the ravages of colonial capitalism. We are living in sacred times. As Anishnaabek, our natural laws supersede colonial authority, and with this responsibility, we surge towards power and freedom.

Colonial capitalism has a vested interest in repressing interrelated connections between Anishnaabek and the land. Residential schools were created with the express purpose of disconnecting Anishnaabek from their spirituality and responsibilities. Now, our imaginations are recreating these connections in places that contradict ideas of what ceremony is supposed to be. We dance the new world into reality every time that we deny the authority of the colonial state over our bodies. Rising in power is ceremony.

But first, we must remember where we came from. Our mother's heartbeat is the first drumbeat we hear. Remember the sound. If we feel closely enough, we'll remember how to stoke the ashes of the sacred fire lit inside each of us. Our bodies are made of water. We make water with our eyes when we cry. Binojiinhs are carried in water. Anishnaabek, through the essence of life force, are ceremony. When we honour ourselves as sacred beings in a sacred time, we also honour creation.

Land defense is ceremony. Anishnaabek bodies on Anishnaabe aki, in resistance to violence against the land, are courageous and focused actions of love and ceremony. The same strength it takes to physically offer sacrifice of self through fasting and dancing in ceremony for days, are the same that it takes to stand in the face of the creatured colonial capitalism that manifests itself through pipelines, tar sands or nuclear waste... With clear focus, we intentionally survive the eco-genocide with our bodies, our medicines, and our minds.

I've heard it said on the streets before, “A people united will never be defeated.” In ceremony, Anishnaabek are united in connection with each other, the land, water, and all of creation. With sacred fires burning, ceremony is land defense and I know, we will never be defeated.

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