About Me

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I am a sweet, loving woman with a family. I am a musician, writer, and dreamer. I am also in the pursuit of happiness and healing, and talk much about that aspect of my life and my spiritual journey in order to help and inspire others. I am aggressive about what I'm passionate about. Consider yourself forewarned.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Tribute to Indigenous People Lost to Violence (also #MMIW/G)

To honor the Indigenous of the US and Canada, we must honor the resilience that gave way to our survival. We remember purposeful tactics created to divide us from our families, our communities, our languages, our homelands, and to intrinsically devastate our connection to our identities. We recognize the tactics of parent-child separation, White-claims to Indigenous children and being able to provide better welfare, and the separation of different Indigenous ethnic groups that kept us from knowing about the plights of one another (for example, displaced Indigenous Africans and their descendants and US/Latin American Indigenous). To honor the Indigenous of the lands we are standing on today, we recognize that many of us survived. And that is a testament to our will to endure through the violence that intended to subdue us in order to allow invasion of our resources and ways of life to benefit another, European settlers and their descendants.

As we reflect on ways to honor our dead today, we cannot overlook images we have seen in books, online, as described by our Elders and family members, and read on pages of newspaper articles, of how our dead were treated by White people. How our children at residential schools were murdered, mistreated, abused, and beaten, and often their deaths were not recorded by the schools. How our people were subjected to Indian Removals all over the US/Canadian nation, and walked to death, exposed purposefully to elements that would certainly kill many of them en route to their new locations, and tricked into believing resources would be available to them, then denied those resources and essentially starved to death because of this. We have names of events, cities, and battles in our heads where we were tricked, ambushed, subdued and murdered like animals. We remember empty treaties forced to be made and hard decisions made by tribal leaders to try to save their bands’ ties to their homelands. We deal with the grief of these purposeful acts of genocide, to remove us from culture, land, those who taught us about ourselves, and from our parents, as ways to eventually de-Indianize us so that the White settlers could deal with us, even ignore that we were Indian as long as we didn’t act like we were Indian. Some of us denied or did not speak about our Indigenous identities, assimilated for survival, and didn’t teach the languages to our children because the memory of what happened when the language was spoken traumatized our Elders so that they did not pass this on for fear of the same trauma happening to their loved ones. When we honor our deaths, we also mourn and grieve what was taken by force, and by circumstance, outside of our control, outside of recognizing and respecting our humanities.

Yet Indigenous people are still alive and working to maintain resiliency and reestablish healthy identities and decolonize our understandings of our very selves with the help of Elders and the cultural community dedicated to help us continue pushing through this very racially violent society. And at the same time we are bombarded by the reality of the normalized ongoing murders and disappearances of our Indigenous communities, in particular violence by police brutality and targeted violence towards women, often committed by intimate partners and non-Native men.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (#mmiw) and Girls is a phrase and action movement that brings visibility to the ongoing terrorism that targets Indigenous women and girls, many on reservations, and leaves their cases unresolved, uninvestigated thoroughly, and frequently dismissed as “no foul play”, leaving their families with heartache, despair, and frustration. These heartless responses to disappearances and drawn-out "attempts" at solving murders and charging murderers continues to reinforce the colonial-settler ambivalence towards us...that our women and girls are so devalued and dehumanized that the effort to see our cases as worthy of being solved is not apparent in the legal systems that are supposed to bring everyone justice.

May 5th is the National Day of Awareness for MMIW/G. Indigenous women are valuable. They are important. They have passed down amongst themselves the knowledge, spiritual strength, and literal life-giving gifts of future generations, each carrying the bloodlines and histories of the former generations inside of them. Yet the statistics show that Indigenous women are murdered at ten times the national average, 88% of crimes are from Non-Native perpetrators, 80% of rapes are by Non-Native men, and Indigenous women are four times as likely to be raped than other ethnic groups. Many of our cases go unresolved and get lost in a thicket of jurisdictional mazes, with many legal systems using the boundaried creation of jurisdictions to bounce cases around until eventually they become lost in gray areas, leaving their families to conduct their own searches and be in a perpetual state of mourning their loved one. Our legal system and law enforcement investigations are largely complicit in this form of our genocide, being recorded as not launching investigations during critical beginning hours of being notified of the missing person, storing information but not sending it to be reviewed by experts, and quickly ruling there is “no foul play” when family members insist the things assumed about their loved one in the reports are inconsistent with their knowledge of the individual.

To address these victims, I have to acknowledge that I do not have the words to speak to their spirits. I do not have the ability to verbalize the massive despair their absence from this side of Earth has caused to our communities and their families, and to their children. I can only cry, and allow my heart to ask the Creator “nadamoshin, meenwa daga nadamoshinaang” (help me, and please help us) and allow the grief to be felt as I reflect personally on the losses to my family and to our ethnic groups internationally as Indigenous peoples. I will, in the manner of the Black sister movement of #SayHerName, (which brings visibility to the violence against deaths of Black women largely by the hands of police) speak the names and circumstances of a handful of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Please give respectful silence/reflection during the namings to pray for their families and address them in your heart. The suffix “bah” is added to acknowledge their ongoing existence in the spirit world.

  • Felicia Velvet Solomon-bah, from Winnipeg, Manitoba-16, 10th grade, disappeared Mar 2003, remains found June 2003, family notified about her found remains in Oct. 2003

  • Tina Fontaine-bah, from Manitoba-15, disappeared July 2014, found wrapped in material in a river in Aug 2014

  • Patricia “Trish” Carpenter-bah, from Toronto-14, mother, found Sept 1992 at a Toronto construction site, head-down in a small hole and expired from asphyxiation

  • Savannah Hall-bah, from British Columbia-3, hospitalized Jan 2001, died two days later, a foster child who was in a coma with massive brain swelling, hypothermia, and multiple bruisings on the body, death ruled a homicide in 2007

  • Olivia Lone Bear-bah, from the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota-32, mother of five, disappeared Oct 2017, found submerged in her vehicle in July 2018 after search led by brother, in a lake a mile from her home, overlooked by law enforcement water searches

  • Ashley Loring-Heavyrunner, from the Montana Blackfeet reservation-20, disappeared June 2017, still missing

  • Jermain Austin Charlo, from Missoula, Montana-23, missing since June 2018, feared to be human trafficking victim, still missing

  • Aielah Saric-Auger-bah, from British Columbia-14, disappeared Feb 2006. Found on Highway 16, known as the “Highway of Tears”.

  • Savannah LaFontaine-Greywind-bah, from Fargo,ND-22, pregnant woman, lured to neighbor’s upstairs apartment to model a dress they were sewing, had fetus cut from them, then was killed and wrapped in plastic and duct tape and disposed of in the river. Biological father attained custody of infant who survived, named Haisley Jo as planned by Savannah and her boyfriend. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced “Savanna’s Act” to legislation to ensure ND tribes have the information needed and access to databases allowing them to proactively protect women and girls from violence, abduction, human trafficking, and to solve crimes of those missing.

Please take a moment to add names from your family and loved ones of those missing, murdered, and taken by violence to Indigenous people. Speak aloud using the suffix “bah”,  or speak it in your heart.

To our missing and murdered of all genders and identities, I say firmly: “You are NOT FORGOTTEN. You are IMPORTANT to us. You are HONORED by us. We miss you and your presence in our lives. Miigwetch for being there for us in the spirit world. We grieve that you were taken in violence and in hate. We love you.”

Aho, chi miigwetch.

With respect,
Monica Washington Padula
Unenrolled Saginaw Band Ojibwe (Wheaton Family)

Links:

https://www.heitkamp.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/10/heitkamp-introduces-savanna-s-act-to-help-address-crisis-of-missing-and-murdered-native-american-women

https://www.cbc.ca/missingandmurdered/

https://www.indianz.com/News/2018/08/06/nine-months-of-looking-olivia-lone-bears.asp

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/nation/why-are-native-american-women-vanishing-and-whos-looking-for-them/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/28/a-pregnant-woman-vanished-her-baby-was-found-alive-while-her-body-was-spotted-in-a-river/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4feecda195e7

Facebook- "Missing and Murdered Native Americans"

Facebook- "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA"



Monday, March 21, 2016

Mothering

It is a sacred rite
It is a sacred right
It is a maddening career
It is a controversial choosing
It is an extension of your woman-hood
It is a teaching of the totality of Life in too few semesters
It is a heart-wrenching loss of control
It is a seething curse of protective urges
It is a withering of hope with age
It is a longing for timelessness
It is a longing for less time
It is unsettling
It is grounding
It is everything
It is separate
It is pain
It is grief
It is light
It is life
It is love
It is hurt
It is silent
It is deafening
It is hard
It is hardening
It is softening
It is soft
It is.
Mothering is mine.


-Moni Padula
copyright 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Calling America: Ban Racial Mascotry and the R*skins Slur


                   (My proposal to a local school board near my town)

I am a woman who is a descendant of the Saginaw, Swan Creek, and Black River tribes of Ojibwe. I am a mother of five children, I have a college education, including a graduate degree. I work professionally in the community in a role that adds diversity to the institutions I occupy. I am a self-professed lover of urban culture, coffee, popular music, dancing, and an information and book-collecting nerd.

One thing I am not, however, is a mascot. I am also not a redskin. I belong to a racial and ethnic group who was admittedly, by the US government, an experiment for forced assimilation, which enabled Hitler to gain inspiration from America for the disgusting self-declared supremacy that resulted in the annihilation of innumerable Jewish people. I am a member of a group of racial and ethnic people who were forcibly removed from their lands, the lands that still bear indigenous names, the lands of Kalamazoo, Mattawan, and Paw Paw, especially noting that my own city has a majorly disrespectful statuesque fountain in the middle of downtown in Bronson Park, celebrating colonialist conquering of Natives in the local and surrounding areas.  I am a member of a racial and ethnic group that is the last group in America to have an inaccurate, inappropriate, and demoralizing racial images of themselves plastered across athletic billboards and donned on football helmets.
In my research, I've come across the "controversy" to ban racial and cultural images of native people, that are usually also accompanied by pejorative and discriminatory terminology and slurs (Braves, Indians, Chiefs, Redmen, Redettes, and the utterly detestable Redskins).I must personally see myself misrepresented by fans of athletic teams with mocking face paint, feathered headdresses, and blow-up tomahawks proudly exhibiting and flaunting their privilege by assuming my cultural identity for just a few hours; the cultural identity of an entire former nation of people that white American forefathers did everything to erase, including but not limited to the cardinal sin of tearing children away from their parents under the guise of providing them with education at boarding schools. While the children were under their care, white American forefathers assumed the right to colonize the natives, which meant they beat, raped and psychologically damaged them by forcing them to speak only English and forbidding them to speak their own language while forcing them to abide by the new religion of Christianity. They were exposed to contagious diseases spread by close contact in the schools (namely, tuberculosis) which wiped out numbers of the children. They were even murdered, many of them never returning home.

Natives have been repeatedly betrayed by white people, who took full advantage of the poor English spoken by the Natives, and stole their land out from under them while pretending to befriend them and be kind to them. After decades of intergenerational abuse and trauma, the native community to this day struggles to cope and to heal from the unimaginable abuses they endured and many succumbed to. Their culture, their language, their very existence was openly unwanted (search: Civilization Regulations),  looked down upon, and forbidden (No Injuns) in English-speaking environments before America federally agreed to cultural pluralism. By then, damage had been done and even now any smidgeon of trust between Native groups and white America is very shaky. This is a very small set of examples of how indigenous history with white people in America has shaped our present-day reality.

With the literal native blood on America’s hands, it is a further detriment to our healing, and literally a slap in the face as a people, to see the racist term redskins, which although perhaps centuries ago was intended as a matter of civil address of the natives (i.e. Redmen), eventually became a violent reminder of the intense hatred of the white man towards natives. Redskins became referred to as a racial slur that represented native genocide. The Governor of Massachusetts offered handsome rewards on a sliding scale for scalps of native men, women and children, and when that was not sufficient to differentiate whether the product was from a male or female, the practice turned into the full skinning of the Native people, including children, in order to determine the sex of the deceased. These skins were often turned to leather that could then be worn.

To the Native american, Redskins is a pejorative term that holds no respect, and has no place in our current day institution of American education. To encourage the privilege institutionalized racism affords of claiming “ownership” over the rights of others is unacceptable and inexcusable in a nation that has grown to this present-day. The use of racial mascotry and racial slurs inhibits the basic civil rights of native children and their cultural communities to feel safe, respected, and recognized literally, not figuratively or objectively as a racial group. To use a racial group as mascotry when you are not a member of that group is illogical at least, and most of all, unethical. It uses grandiose ego to insist that it has a right to use the imagery of a racial group and to tell that group what it is doing to it and require them to view the actions as honorable. It is a typical form of psychological abuse to brainwash (or "whitewash", which is a term that describes the replacing of colored people or their associations with whiteness and  supreme ownership) and attempt to replace the history Natives already know and have experienced to be true through cognitive distortion. To use racial mascotry and racial slurs against Natives asks them to overlook past “discomforts” and accept the “honorable” act of attempting to desensitize overt racism, a heart condition which is deplorable in and of itself. Today I am asking you, as the school board and representative of the city of Paw Paw, MI, to follow the lead of California in banning the use of racial mascotry and racial slurs towards the Native American group, and find a more honorable representation for the traits you wish to attribute to your school’s population, as many other schools have done for decades. Names that arouse valiant imagery could be the Titans, the Spartans, the Panthers, the Jaguars, and more representations of powerful and mighty mythical or representative ancient groups and animal species. Natives are not a mythical group or a wild animal species.


Below is a list of questions to ask when embodying the importance of having an anti-racist initiative in your school towards any ambivalence of having the right to use Native mascotry and racial slurs:

1.Is this mascot best representing a people, when one considers the trauma they have endured and are enduring?

2. Is the use of the mascot representing the racial demographic  of the education offered? (Are Native American children and adults involved as students and teachers at your school, where native traditions, customs, spiritual beliefs, and language are actively taught?)

3. Is this mascot an insult to the rich, long-standing traditions of the people? (Does your mascot embody who native americans are as a whole, not what has been seen of them on old Westerns or in textbooks, depicted in the middle of battle?)

4. Would you yourself be comfortable with using another racial and ethnic group of people or their cultural symbolism, (African/African-Americans, Asian/Asian-Americans, Mexican/Mexican-Americans, Middle-Eastern/Middle-Eastern Americans, Latino/Latinas) along with the racial slurs describing them as your mascot and representative of your school? If not, why is it appropriate to use the Native American racial and ethnic group? Would you be comfortable seeing an image representing your own race along with a defining racial slur in a school in a city you live in or near, and would you send your child there proudly?

5.  How is using this mascot empowering the native people and encouraging native+non-native relations ? (Are native people asking to come and visit your school and become involved with your educational efforts?)



6. Does the school teach the documented and oral history of the native people's traumatic experience in America, including the history of the removal of natives in this area? Where are the native tribes of this territory today that are represented by the mascot? Is an “Indian” just an “Indian” with no tribal name, location, unique customs and traditions as opposed to being one tribe out of many other tribes, still in living and breathing existence? What does your school teach about the relevance of native americans to current-day society?



7. What are the positive contributions both of the natives in this area to the school, and the school’s contributions to the natives in this area, besides using their imagery as a mascot and presuming their honored feelings as a whole?


It will be hard to come up with affirmative, ethical answers to these questions if the school board is honest, because America has no schools using the native mascot that is providing this type of positive exchange with the local native communities their school is established in.  The truth is, native lives are relevant in present-day.  Native lives matter. They are not invisible, nor are they ignorant to how they are portrayed by non-native America.  They are still in existence, they are still as valuable as they always were, and they are not so unintelligent that they don’t know what is and isn’t representative of honor to themselves. The decision of honor lies with those it is offered to. We, as a whole, refuse.

 The question becomes then, will the school of Paw Paw do the right thing for racial and social justice, and make a turn in the tide of allowing natives to be used inappropriately, against their will, and in a way that is damaging to the safe emotional and psychological development of cultural identity for both native youth and their tribal communities in Michigan? Racial mascotry and racial slurs are offensive because we are people, not symbols. We are the only group of racial peoples being used as mascots here in America and asked to accept the “honor” of seeing historically-impactful racial slurs for us, but yet against us. This will not go away until we do no longer see these appropriated images, until they are done away with and the racism erased from our own former native lands.

To honor the native is to honor their wish to be left peaceably with sovereignty to their own racial images and sacred traditions, including using the headdress and face painting for special ceremonial purposes that pertain to our race and culture, not to stand on the sidelines and helplessly accept an empty honor while we grieve the cultural stripping our imaging has been subjective to. To honor the native is to restore them to a place of cultural pluralism, where we work alongside one another together, and where the indigenous language of the area is welcomed, taught in the schools, and listed along with English, like English/Spanish/French translations. To honor the native is to invite them to your assemblies to give their historical accounts of occupation in the lands your school sits on. To honor the native is to refuse to celebrate in any way, shape or form, Columbus Day, and to ask Congress to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, and spend that day with your school attending a pow-wow and observing actual native traditions rather than using a westernized, romanticized depiction of what it means to be an Indian. To honor the native is to respect the trauma they have endured that is not representative of your historical reality in America, and to vow not to participate in any institutionalized forms of racism, that objectifies living groups of natives or formerly-living groups. To honor the native is to invite them to tell you what is honoring to them so that you may do it.

My vision is to live in a country where I don’t have to explain to my children why our country still tolerates blatant forms of racism and racial stereotypes. My vision is to live in a country where I don’t have to watch my aging native elders weep about or share their pain from an abusive relationship with white America and where they can smile about anti-racist initiatives that care about honoring their stories and experiences, not causing them further relive and mourn traumatic events because of a basic lack of humanitarian care. Dr. King said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and that “We are not wrong in what we are doing… If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning.”

My suggestion is for the school boards and school staff of the USA, including my home state of Michigan, to attend anti-racism training and offer as extra credit for receipt of certificates for their high schoolers, the attending of racial healing services in the community to offer a proper education on how to deconstruct a society built on ingrained racist perspectives and stereotypes of other racial groups, and to learn how to take the steps to construct a more healthy, diverse, and inclusive one that this and the next generation’s children and grandchildren will occupy. It’s time to re-build the social construct of America to phase out the racism it has entertained and supported since its conception, to be a society that is respectfully inclusive of all people and acknowledges their rightful existence and assists in keeping the integrity of their cultural sovereignty intact. Today's children are our future leaders, and they will grow on what we feed them. Let's demand that institutionalized racism start to die the death to which it is overly due.

Miigwetch (thank you)

To view more helpful links about native mascotry and the national initiative towards removal, visit www.changethemascot.org
To view a link by the American Psychology Association urging the removal of native mascotry and identifying racial slurs, visit http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots.aspx
To view a link of a historical written account of the forced removal of natives from the current area I live in, please visit http://www.migenweb.org/kalamazoo/history/history3.htm#INDIAN%20TREATIES%20AND%20%20REMOVAL