Experiencing and witnessing racism or systemic racism can cause racial trauma, which is characterized by symptoms of PTSD. For me, the accumulated effects of systemic racism led to waking suddenly with a racing heart, nightmares, insomnia, loss of appetite, stomach aches, headaches, anxiety and more. When I speak up and am met with denial or ignored it can be re-traumatizing, as my counsellor noted.
Dealing with racial trauma and systemic racism requires both individual and collective healing. Some suggestions include self-care, activism or finding community. As an artist I use storytelling, public speaking, writing, dancing and creating to share, find community and act. Indigenous erasure and oppression are the goal of racism and systemic racism. We know as Indigenous people how important our silence and erasure are to colonial powers. We know that the lack of inclusion seen in all areas of society today is part of this. So, speaking up and speaking your truth authentically becomes a powerful act of both healing and resistance.
Indigenous trauma wisdom tells us that we carry the wisdom of our ancestors in our blood memory or DNA, also known as epigenetics, which contributes to our healing and survival. Therefore, self-expression is healing and powerful, it is our creativity that is the assertion of our innermost feelings, emotions, thoughts and wisdom. Creativity that emerges out of our body is the blood memory becoming visible and active. To be truly seen as an Indigenous woman you need to see both the beauty as well as the burden I carry, anything less is dehumanizing. In the hoop dance it is often said that people see the beauty, but not the struggle that the dancer goes through as they transform from one shape to another. This is life, both beauty and struggle. To expect Indigenous people to only show the beauty and positivity can feel inauthentic and oppressive.
This movement piece uses the wisdom of the land, specifically sage, which can be used for self-care such as in a tea, as a smudge, for prayer or as a hair wash. The interconnection between self-care, speaking up for the land and our own wellness are the result of using trauma wisdom for healing and reconnecting with that which colonization and systemic racism continues to dismantle. When our very existence is a threat to colonial oppression and racism to dance and live in the movement is a powerful affirmation.