Vera Manuel devoted her life to encouraging others to free ourselves through the use of our personal voices. Telling the truth is disarming, speaking your truth is a generous and healing gift.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Three poems by Vera Manuel


Brown-skinned people are enslaved
To add colour to white people’s lives
To create bureaucracies to administer
Poverty, grief, delinquency, and struggle,
To give white people a worthwhile cause
To carry forward in the next century
All those Indigenous, Aboriginal, natives
Who dared survive life inside
The boxed-cage created by grief.

Brown-skinned peoples’ true history erased,
Title and rights set aside
To make way for
Vivid, romanticized, more appealing
Convenient tales of the noble savage
Who fought and lost valiantly
To the great white founding forefathers
Of this stolen land;
“Indians” as backdrops to the grand exploits
of explorers, discoverers, colony-builders
of a history that only just begun in 1492
on this ancient land of our ancestors.

Brown-skinned children stolen, stripped,
Torn-down, ripped apart, emptied out
Fashioned into colonizing tools of self-hatred,
Taught to be ashamed to be brown
By a brown-skinned colonial education
That ensured the belief that white is right,
That brown-skinned people
Belong at the end of the line
To ensure privilege
To colonizers, settlers,
And future generations
A sense of entitlement
in their colonized world.

Brown-skinned people’s sacred ceremonial
Beliefs, objects, medicines, rituals
Stolen, filtered, processed, packaged, sold,
Swallowed up by a New Age Movement
Of lost souls searching for something better
Than Christianity to believe in;
Waya waya waya ho,
Twist and shift its spirit to fit
Waya ho, waya ho, waya ho,
With explicit instructions of how to,
For a high price, even if you’re white,
Become a medicine man, pipe-carrier, shaman,
They adorn mantle places and makeshift alters
For white people to comment on and play with.

Brown-skinned peoples’ lives
Bound to its’ history and the earth,
Thrive on resisting the evils of genocide,
Become more resilient, determined,
Refuse to die,
Makes supreme life sacrifices
In prisons across the land,
Birth activist babies
Who in turn
Raise up their fists in recognition, to the sky,
In unity give the warriors’ cry,
There is no end to resistance
And that is the truth about colonization.


I am a product of colonization
In this land called Canada
I am the result of cultural oppression
By church and government
I am a survivor of forced assimilation
And genocide
I am First Nations, Aboriginal, and Indigenous
Person of this land.

Yet, I do not speak the language
Of my ancestors
I know little about the customs and traditions
Of my people
I have never fasted up in the mountain
I have no song, nor dance
No Indian name to define me
And for most of my life
I could honestly say
I don’t know who I am.

When I look around my world
I see my people
In this land of riches
Confined to small spaces
Forced to fight every day to protect
Traditional territory
Living lives of poverty
Similar to third worlds
I find my rage stirring inside me
I feel robbed
A sense of injustice.

When I look around my world
I see the hearts and backs of my people
Breaking beneath burdens
Of unresolved grief
Nightmarish memories
Of childhood trauma
Residential school, foster
And adoptive homes, TB sanatoriums
Physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual
Abuse and shame
I feel the rage stirring inside me.
When I allow my ears to listen
To voices of other people of this land
Who have no mercy
No love, no compassion, no understanding
Of its’ unjust history
Who come for freedom, opportunity,
Adventure, riches,
I feel my rage stirring inside me,
Who stand on the graves of my ancestors
And carelessly say:
“why can’t those Indians get it together?
They live off our tax money you know.”
I feel my rage stirring inside me
Camouflage for powerlessness and shame
Anaesthesia for grief
A sense of injustice.

I feel unsafe in the white world
To speak my views out loud
Or to share my culture
Uneasy, mistrustful,
Afraid those white people
Will steal the very words I speak, steal the
The sacred circle, sacred stories, songs and dances,
Wear our names
Copy our art and sell it
I get nervous when they write things down
So I tell them straight
“you can’t write it down.”
I fight hard inside myself
To see the human beings that they are.

I am a product of colonization
The result of cultural oppression
A survivor of genocide
I carry the burden
Of all the unresolved grief
Of my ancestors
In my heart, on my shoulders, in my gut.

In this lifetime
I have committed myself
To fight for Justice.
My brother tells me
It is injustice that is our enemy, not white people,
remember we are fighting on the same side as
Geronimo, Mandela, Ghandi and King.”
We take responsibility for our rage
We fight on the same side
For justice.

When I See Injustice

When I see injustice
In this world
When I see child abuse
Women violated
A fire rages inside
That wants to burn free
That wants a voice
Loud and

Aches to break through fear
Break through every fist
Every cruel word, vile look,
Every panting evil sin
That crawled inside my soul
To silence me

© Vera Manuel
Selected by Emalene Manuel &
shared with permission

Resonating Reconciliation in Secwépemcul'ecw

Resonating Reconciliation in Secwépemcul'ecw is a Documentary by Amy Jones and Chris Albinati featuring Garry Gottfriedson, Arthur Manuel and Ryan Day discussing: "how the law the language and the land are all connected. We will consider how the constitution of Canada and the residential schools system tried to sever our connections to the land. We will tell you how the colonial state of Canada's attempt to complete its program of genocide on Secwepemc people has failed. We will tell you what reconciliation means to us as Secwepemc and how it is different from the meaning our colonial oppressors would like to impose." (Amy Jones)

Thanks to Emalene Manuel for image & documentary links.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Conspiracy of Truth

All Nations Canoe Gathering 

Members of the Musqueam Nation Darryl Dyck photo

Truth & Reconciliation events, ceremonies, gatherings 
taking place all this week





this is my conspiracy
the breaking of our silences
the speaking of their names
the naming of our secrets
the calling forth of change

this is my conspiracy
the memories no longer hidden
the upheaval of what was swallowed
the movement created in our stomachs
the impossibility of returning in our wake

this is my conspiracy
the bringing to a halt the violence
the re-arrangement of our inheritance
the creation of new songs in original tone

the breaking of our silences
the speaking out loud of our names

Monday, January 21, 2013

Idle Know More: making art, sharing thought

30 jan 2013 update:

For those who'd like to "Idle KNOW More," here's an excellent panel to attend:


Idle? Know more!

A public panel on Indigenous issues 


Tuesday January 22 2013 

Venue: Alice MacKay Room, Vancouver Public Library
Address: (Georgia and Hamilton)

» More information
This panel is open to the public. All are welcome to attend, especially
non-Natives to understand the long history of racism and colonialism in
Canada against Indigenous people that has given rise to the current Idle
No More movement, to highlight and lift the voices of Indigenous peoples
resisting across these lands, and to think through how to be more informed
and responsible allies.
Please spread the word - encourage your friends, your family, your
co-workers, your faith group, your community/student group to attend.
    * Territorial opening by Cease Wyss: T’Uy’Tanat-Cease Wyss is
Skwxw’u7mesh ethnobotanist, media artist, educator, and food security
activist. She has stood up with other Indigenous Peoples to fight for
native peoples’ rights to hunt, gather, and fish in their traditional
    * Arthur Manuel: Art is a spokesperson for the Indigenous Network on
Economies and Trade and Defenders of the Land network. Former
chairperson of the Interior Alliance of BC First Nations, Manuel has been
a leading voice of opposition to the Canadian government’s agenda to
“extinguish” Aboriginal and Treaty rights and assimilate Indigenous
peoples into the Canadian body politic. Active locally in Secwepemc land
struggles, and at the national level, he has also taken the
struggle international at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,
following in the path of his father, the late George Manuel, President of
the National Indian Brotherhood and founder of the World Council of
Indigenous Peoples.
    * Darla Goodwin: Singing Thunderbird Child-Twice Standing Woman is a
Cree Ojibwa from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan. She is a
knowledge keeper, carrier of the Sacred Correction Pipe for the
Desecration of the female side of life, starting with our mother the
Earth. She is a ceremonial First Nations woman and an organizer for Idle
No More.
    * Glen Coulthard: Dr. Glen Coulthard is a member of the Yellowknives
Dene and a scholar of contemporary Indigenous politics. He is an
Assistant Professor in First Nations Studies and the Department of
Political Science at UBC. He is a founding member of the Camas Books &
Infoshop in Victoria and the Dechinta Center for Research and Learning in
Yellowknives Dene territory.
    * Jerilynn Webster: Jerrilyn is a Vancouver based female hip hop
artist, beat-boxer, performing artist, aboriginal youth educator,
single mother, award-winning actor, and member of the Nuxalk and
Cayauga Nations who is "using [her] words to go upwards/not
backwards." She is an Idle No More organizer.
    * Khelsilem Rivers: Khelsilem is a community organizer and language
revitalization activist. Influenced heavily by his grandmother, he always
believed in the importance of being Indigenous, despite
encroachment of a foreign culture, society, and civilization. In this
regard, Khelsilem has pursued avenues where he can strengthen all
aspects of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw ways. He is an Idle No More
    * Lisa Yellow-Quill: Lisa Yellow-Quill is Nehiyaw, Nekaway, Dakota
from Treaty 1: Long Plains, Manitoba. She has many years of experience
providing advocacy, support and counseling to women and families
living with multiple-barriers, oppressions, and experiences of
violence both in crisis situations and in complex long-term processes.
This foundation has supported her ability to be a noted spokesperson on
behalf of Turtle Island’s Murdered and Missing Girls and Women. Lisa is a
Pipe Carrier, Sundancer, and Keeper of several Ceremonies.
For more information contact Harsha Walia at


Andy Everson

Aaron Paquette

Dwayne Bird

one of the first responses

Andy Everson
Some of the art & the artists participating in the grassroots movement, Idle No More:

Andy Everson

I learned a new word today: ḵ̓wa̱laga̱lił. It means "coming to life again" and can be used as one way to translate IdleNoMore into the Kwak̓wala language. [from his microblog]

Aaron Paquette

7 January 

Feel free to share and use this image :)

Dwayne Bird
 January 18, 2013 NationTalk speaks to Birdwire Media Owner Dwayne Bird about his recent work for the Idle No More Movement. Dwayne was the first artist to share his work in solidarity with the Idle No More Movement. He created posters, graphics for both Facebook and Twitter and shared his work since December 7, 2012.

Christi Belcourt
The point is Idle No More has inspired me to dream big.  And to see that really the first obstacle we face is overcoming our disbelief that what we want and need from Canada isn’t possible.  Well if Ghandi didn’t dream of “home rule”, India may yet still be a colony of England.  If MLK didn’t dream, segregation may still exist.  First we dream, we imagine, we envision – and we discard any voices in our head that tell us it isn’t possible.  That is always the first step. ~ CB, from "First we dream" on Divided No More
Poets are also contributing, see Janet Marie Rogers' "Giving a Shit," an Idle No More Poem, which reads in part (excerpt):

crossing the line – getting close
closing the gap – moving in
finding the light – standing in it
making the sounds – painting in colour
getting it right – taking names
planning for the future – re-claim
releasing the medicine – pounding the drums
staying connected_ stepping forward
rooted in humanity – giving a shit
reproducing history – recognizing equals
slam dancing  - gathering
letting the answers find us
saying your piece – providing
helping the cause – craving
stealing home – forcing the point
attending to details – walking together
shooting craps – taking it with you

Read the full poem:

Big media tends to blur things into endless oppositions, but the allies of indigenous people are neither invisible nor silent. Of course, there are posters for them, too!

& poems, like Laiwan's 2013, poems for a new era
~a little more about some of the people making the posters~


Personally, I was a bit troubled to see the Four Founding Women and Chief Spence somehow represented by a group of men on the major media outlets: what they had to say was not so much the point, as the fact that it was all men, representing in Ottawa.

Redwire Native Youth Media have their two cds available online,
Our Voices are our Weapon and Our Bullets are the Truth Vera speaking her poem "Justice," track 13 on disc one, is one of many voices of all ages and both genders, and that particular poem has been coming to mind of late. [links no longer available]

When I'm organizing an event, I always strive for a balance of voices, but I guess that's a bit retro, a bit 1970s, to ask that women be given the mike at least half the time: that the cameras reflect back to us who we are in a more encompassing way.

Happily the organizers of tomorrow's event are retro in the same way... all welcome!