Tuesday, July 8, 2008

We have arrived!

Our sincere apologies for not posting anything in quite a while. Internet access on the reservation can sometimes be an interesting thing to figure out. So we are typing to you live from the Oneida casino in Oneida, Wisconsin!

We have had emotional, powerful, and life-altering experiences this past week. I started off in Santee Sioux (in Nebraska) doing some workshops for the youth on cultural empowerment and healthy sexuality which was a blast. Got to spend the next few days in Yankton Sioux (South Dakota) doing some easy work that included visiting good friends and hanging with some of the most kick-ass Natives out there! Then moved on to Oneida and I am so very happy to be here with DJ.

We wanted to do this for so many reasons, but now that we are actually here those reasons have shifted. For starters, we have received so much support from people to do this which we are very grateful for. Many of the youth in our communities feel so disconnected from their culture, but it's interesting that when you actually ask the questions, the answers are there. So much of our family have helped in many different ways, whether that was physically preparing food or talking to us about our traditions. DJ's uncle Bruce even made us a HUGE pot of the most delicious corn soup we've ever had! (which you see featured in the picture-he's definitely the favourite in the longhouse for ceremony!)

Our eyes were opened wider while grocery shopping. It was important to us to make sure the food we consumed was not only grown ON Native land, but also PRODUCED by our own people. That was not easy to find, there were several times where we had to question and probe further to see who and where the stuff came from. People would look at us funny or wonder why we "had" to know, and although we do not want to offend any of our other relations whom we love and respect, this was about going back to where we began. We're glad we did it though since it taught us how much we need to advocate for Native farming and make it more accessible. Even that sentence is one to reflect on since our people started the whole concept of food sustainability! And look where we are now!

But we are not going to lie. It has been DIFFICULT to stick to this diet. There have been several events that we had practically no time to cook food in advance for, which meant we'd show up to things and these tummies would start to growl since we knew we couldn't eat any of the yummy food there. (just so you know, these occasions included the big Oneida powwow, a graduation, and birthdays, so lots of scrumptious cake to be had!)

The strength of our people has definitely kept us going. It has been humbling to hear that our commitment to do this has inspired them to find their way back to their traditions. This is one way that neither of us have tried before, and what we know is that YOUTH CAN AND NEED to be part of this struggle to keep our culture going for the next seven generations.

We say nia:wen and yawv?ko to the Creator for all the goodness in our lives, for bringing us together, and for blessing us with life.

But it ain't over yet! We will post more in the coming days so stay tuned!!!

PS. Here's one of our running jokes:

Jessica: "DJ, how do you snag an Iroquois woman?"
DJ: "How?"
Jessica" "Make her some corn mush!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Getting to the heart of the matter

So we've been planning to do this for a little while now. Being long-distance of course means having many late night conversations, and you know, we're still really young so we're taking things one at a time.

What has come out of all these conversations is that our culture is now a big part of both of our lives. It wasn't that way until recently, we both grew up feeling kind of far away and not all that proud of our roots. We hear that continuosly from a lot of youth that we work with, so it means a lot to be at the place that we are now. We are committed to assisting other youth to get to the places they might be trying to get to, using the power of our culture.

This is more than about food. There are health reasons also, but as our talks progressed, it turned into honouring our ancestors, our traditions, and most of all our people. Youth are often left out of the picture of rebuilding community, and what is more, often forgotten in many programming structures of retaining culture. Who do people think is going to carry it on? It is so important to invest in bringing all of our youth back into using our culture, but that means we need to meet youth where THEY are at so they can do it for themselves. It might not always look conventional, it might not even be completely traditional, but at whatever level it happens at, we need to make more of an active effort to ensure the survival of all of this.

We decided the change has to start with us. With our upcoming visit planned in Oneida, we thought, why not only eat traditional foods and do as many cultural/traditional activities as possible? We know that Native people have some of the highest rates of diabetes, blood pressure, and heart disease rates and neither of us are good examples of healthy eating! So we aren't about to go out like that!

It's time to take it back, get in touch with some of the ways our ancestors kept themselves healthy and strong, and fight against oppression.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


She:kon! Sheko:li!

This is the first time either of us is blogging about anything remotely personal, so we're excited to try this out and let you into a cultural journey that's very important to us both.

So who are we anyway?

Jessica Yee hails from Toronto, Ontario. At 22, I'm what some have called a "loud-mouth Mohawk", but I take it as a compliment since I'm extremely proud of our people and I stand up for what I believe in. I can be found in the sexual health world, using our culture to empower our youth, and reminding people that many of the concepts that the Western world takes claim on are actually INDIGENOUS! (like feminism, law, sexual education....) I love to dance traditional and listen to old, Iroquois songs.

Dennis Danforth Jr. or DJ as I'm typically known, comes straight from Oneida, Wisconsin. Oh sure, they usually call it Green Bay, but that's no where near as interesting as actually acknowledging some of the Indigenous people that live here. I'm almost a quarter of a century as Jessica likes to remind me, and I'm involved in my community on a teaching and mentorship level. I also sing with Elk Soldier and The Tribe.

We met in Yankton Sioux of all places and hooked it up Haudenosaunee styles. For real.
Borders won't stop us. In fact, they've only made our plight to be together stronger.

We're Native, we're youth, and we are so very blessed to be both.

We'll post more thoughts, emotions, and other musings as we get closer to the first day of our traditional diet, which is in.......10 days!!!

We'd love to hear your comments, feedback, and anything else you'd like to share with us along the way so please don't be shy.

All our relations,