National Indigenous Peoples Day: Supporting Indigenous artisans with Indig Inc

It is National Indigenous Peoples Day! At Sarjesa, we aren’t only celebrating the diverse history and culture that Indigenous people bring to our lives and country, but we are acknowledging reconciliation in real, tangible ways. A lot of what we do at Sarjesa is to be better and do better for Indigenous women who have been mistreated; we are working towards a better, safer future for those who need it.

How are you celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day? What are your Calls to Action?


To me, a large part about being an activist is making sure that I’m making necessary lifestyle changes to support communities that have been brought down by oppressive systems and to step away from the things that aren’t serving me or those communities.

Lately, this lifestyle change has emerged in one main form: shopping. There has been a TON of dialogue surrounding shopping and sustainability lately, and rightfully so. But I’ve found that throughout this dialogue, one major detail is missing — a focus on supporting small Indigenous and POC businesses. One of my (many) other projects outside of Sarjesa is creating a racially conscious shopping guide for the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, a non-profit in Calgary with the goal of ending racism through education. Through this work with CanadianCMF, I learned a lot about the importance of being mindful when shopping, having truthful and meaningful conversations surrounding race and consumerism, and supporting Indigenous/POC businesses and artisans.

This is why I am so thrilled to introduce Indig Inc to our audience at Sarjesa! Indig Inc is an online marketplace for Indigenous artisans to sell their work without being exploited or discriminated against. Indig Inc was created by Heather Abbey and Samuel Tipewan, two artisans who saw the potential of Indigenous artisans’ creativity and business goals, but recognized the absence of a platform to support them.

“Our inspiration was to create an online meeting place for artisans and buyers looking for that authentic experience and storyline connection. Indig Inc is a space where the stories of the artisans is weaved into the very fabric of platform, offering an authentic experience in a new way, and connecting people across the globe.”

Indig Inc has a wide variety of products, including art, apparel, home decor, skincare and dry meat — all sold by Indigenous artisans! A few of my favourites are this “We Are Still Here” bracelet by indigenousintentions, this Matriarch Panel Dress by Tammy Beauvis Designs, and this Desert Everyday Blanket by MiNi TiPi.

If you are an Indigenous artisan looking for somewhere safe to sell your work or if you are simply looking to support small businesses and artisans, Indig Inc is exactly where you should be looking.

At Sarjesa, we are strong believers that you can make an impact through small, everyday actions, and this is one of them.

With solidarity,
Karina

Karina Zapata
Welcome Karina!

Hi all! I am so excited to be writing this post. My name is Karina Zapata and I’m the newest team member of Sarjesa. I’m joining the team as Marketing Coordinator, meaning you’ll be seeing a lot of me (or, at the very least, a lot of my work) on social media and at community events.

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I initially connected with Alexandra through one of my projects, Femme — a platform that empowers and celebrates women through the creative expression of our contributors across Canada. Alexandra attended our launch party and has been such a huge supporter, even before she could truly understand what Femme really was — she just wanted to support women. Immediately, I knew we shared the same vision and had the same mission — to break down oppressive systems, create, and support women in whatever way we can in our work.

As an upper-year journalism student, my passion lies completely in collaborating with and writing about minority communities. Above all, my personal and professional goal is to support marginalized individuals through providing them platforms to share their strong voices that have been stifled by systems

Months after meeting Alexandra, my Femme co-founder and I produced a video and wrote an article about Sarjesa’s work, which can be found on the Calgary Journal. We had an incredibly honest conversation surrounding domestic violence, particularly against racialized communities. In the process of working on the Sarjesa article, I learned that Sarjesa’s funds that go to Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society help women in crisis in smaller yet extremely impactful ways that are oftentimes overlooked, like milk for the babies at the shelter. This is exactly why I love this company.

I can say it again and again, but I am so excited to be joining the Sarjesa team. It’s easy to forget that the purchases you make and the companies you support affect the lives and safety of others, and Sarjesa transforms lives of women in crisis. There truly is nothing better than having a delicious cup of tea, knowing that you’re helping women not return to domestic violence, and engaging in meaningful conversations that can change systems for the better.


Alexandra Daignault
Looking Back
Picking up our first box of inventory in 2017

Picking up our first box of inventory in 2017

It’s been two years since we launched our very first Solidariteas pilot – wow, time has flown. In our pilot, we ran for four months and sold over 1000 units of our product. After taking the summer to rebrand and plan, we launched Sarjesa in December of 2017. A little over a year has gone by, and my oh my have we had some adventures.

We’ve had many good moments like: launching two new flavours of tea; providing our customers with a new biodegradable teabag option; and expanding into many new retail stores. We’ve also had many tough and teachable moments, where we have learned to stand firm in our truth and follow our heart even in moments where it would be so much easier to give into circumstance. It is these moments, ultimately, that have made all the difference. 

We are continually blessed by the love and support of so many people in the community – primarily the women running and accessing the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society. Yesterday, I dropped off a donation from our holiday sales of $1300. Our donations are used to support women coming out of domestic crisis, and I am always blown away with how the team at Awo Taan can make single dollar stretch and have an impact.

So this is me reaching out to say thank you. Thanks to all the mentors, coaches, allies, and accomplices who have helped steer us as we grow. Thank you to the farmers and communities who help us make amazing tasting, high quality product. Thank you to the designers, artists and supply companies who have worked hard to help us create our beautiful packaging. Thank you to the amazing community of women standing behind this work, and creating space for us wherever they go; thank you to our retail partners for continuing to advocate for us!  Most of all thank you to our customers for continuing to support us on this journey.

Our “minimum viable product” which was sold in our pilot project at community events, markets, and on our etsy store

Our “minimum viable product” which was sold in our pilot project at community events, markets, and on our etsy store

Our dream at Sarjesa is to create a world where each woman is respected, supported and empowered – living a life free from fear and violence.  Thank you to all those who continue to show us that this is their dream too.

Love & Solidarity,

Alexandra

Alexandra Daignault
Racha El-Dib

My name is Racha El-Dib, and I have started a page called Nadia’s Hope in honour of my sister Nadia who was murdered in a very violent case of domestic abuse in Calgary on March 25th 2018. I have worked with the Calgary Emergency Women’s Shelter to raise funds in honour of her memory, as well as Gems for Gems who has created a scholarship in her name that will be awarded to women who are fleeing domestic abuse situations to help them break the financial ties with their abusers. I have also started a podcast that details my journey since her death, and creating awareness of abusive relationships as well as taboo topics including grief, sexual assault, and body image. My goal is to work with all cultural communities to team together to fight to end the cycle of domestic abuse and bring awareness that this is a fight for every community, and that it doesn’t discriminate regardless of cultural or racial backgrounds, financial status, sexual orientation, age, ableism, and that it is something that can happen to anyone. To create a safe environment for discussions as well as breaking the taboo, is something I will fight for in order for women to have that confidence and ability to leave, knowing they will be supported and helped as they are strong women that need our love and understanding. I am so excited and looking forward to working side by side with Sarjesa and embarking on this journey.

Listen to her podcast here

Alexandra Daignault
ALEXANDRA LAZAROWICH
Photo Credit: Alex Mitchell

Photo Credit: Alex Mitchell

I was sitting with a very successful colleague a few weeks back we were sharing stories about the industry and she said something that summarized exactly the feeling I couldn’t describe, “most people who are in the industry think it’s me, not we!”. As two indigenous women who are trying to navigate this tree filled path together, she so succinctly put into words how I feel about the work I create with communities, and how hard it can be to sit in a room, or have a meeting, or be at a film festival and listen to someone who makes art with only themselves in mind.

Being able to be an artist, being able to work with my friends and being able to do what I love makes me who I am and brings me so much joy and happiness but as the late Stan Lee says, with great power comes great responsibility. I think it is more then this, when you grow up in am indigenous community whether it is on a reservation or in a city there is something that is instilled in us from a very young age- something that I just assumed everyone else did also. This comes from my mother, my aunties, my older cousins, my Kookem and Moosem: when you have something you share, you offer to others, you welcome people at your table. I have taken this message to heart in all things within my work and how I act.  

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As someone who is incredibly privileged to do what I do – we all rise together. We have to because there is enough room for all of us, this means kindness, this means extending opportunity to others, this means hiring indigenous or POC filmmakers, this means trying to expand our circle. I have said and will say it again that we have more then enough talent out there, we have more then enough directors but what we need are people in positions of power. We need indigenous female executive sitting at the table making choices about who gets the green light, about who gets funded, about how gets picked to premiere at Sundance. Until we are allowed access into these spaces, and are given at rightful seat at the table no matter how much talent we all collectively have we will still be held back.

You can watch Alex’s latest film FAST HORSE below

ALEXANDRA LAZAROWICH is a Cree Producer, Director and Screenwriter whose work has premiered at film festivals around the world. She is passionate about telling indigenous stories. Her most recent film FAST HORSE best Short Form Documentary at imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival and can be watched in full at CBC Docs  . Alexandra’s body of work as a director and producer include Indian Rights for Indian Women, Out of Nothing, Cree Code Talker, Empty Metal, INAATE/SE/ and Alvaro. She was also the Creative Director for the new Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Alberta (open October 2018). She directed thirty-one unique audio and video elements for the museum’s new Human History wing illuminating the cultures and histories of the Blackfoot, Cree, Denesųłįné, Dene Tha’, Métis, Nakota and Stoney Nakoda.

You can watch Alex’s latest film FAST HORSE below


Alexandra Daignault
What can we do, as men, to support our sisters?
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My name is Joseph Plant. My black foot name is Aisah pi poom mawa (A Saw Be Boom Mawa), which translates into One Who Plants Seeds and was gifted to me by Roy Bear Chief. I’m an Indigenous man: Cree from the White Bear First Nations and Salish-Kootenay from the Flathead Reservation in Montana. I was raised on Treaty 7 land in and around Lethbridge, AB. In my mid-teens, I moved up to Calgary and for all intents and purposes, have become a proud Calgarian and resident on Treaty 7 territory.

At eighteen, after graduation, I had the opportunity to move to Norway, where I lived in the capital, Oslo for a year. After I arrived back in Calgary, I started a few projects. A pseudo famous band called Anything Goes; helming events for different bars down Seventeenth Avenue; became a bartender turned Internet (Insta-famous) craft cocktail bartender. And finally I landed at Mount Royal University. Here, I was studying Anthropology with a double minor in English and Business, but have since switched Anthropology into the minor slot and my new focus is marketing.

I was able to start a few projects here as well: two clubs called Classic Novels Club and Anthropology Club respectively. I also started Generation Indigenous after receiving a few grants. My work on campus through a program run through the Iniskim Centre and through GENi got me noticed by the Trico Changemakers Studio, where I’ve been working for most of the year (2018). Being at Mount Royal has given me so much opportunity.

This includes meeting the wonderful Alexandra Daignault as well as Sarjesa.

I remember my first meeting with Alexandra! A mutual friend, Hanna, connected us. And the two of us sat down to meet and get acquainted. It was through these meetings that I learned about Sarjesa and the wonderful things they are doing.   

I’ve known Sarjesa’s tea for a long while now. I remember when it used to be called Solidariteas. I’m very proud of what Solidariteas was and what Sarjesa is today. I’m a huge supporter. I drink the brand “Prairie Wilds” nearly daily - the Trico Changemakers Studio has three large jars! I also have my own personal stash of PW at home, but I try not to use it, only on special occasions.

I’m still going through the process of decolonizing myself and learning what it means to be an Indigenous man as well as what it means to be a male in a male-dominated society. Once I arrived at university, I found out that I had very sexist language. And I didn’t know that prior to someone pointing it out to me. So, I’ve learned about my language and realized, there are most likely other parts of me that may be affecting others around me.

Am I a part of those that are creating spaces that are more equitable for racialized women? Or am I a part of the problem?

Yes and yes. Our identities are complicated. And my identity is no exception.

When I think of this mandate, I see support groups coming together, especially support groups for women and girls, and drinking Sarjesa. This tea is for them and it’s also for me.

When I think of Sarjesa, their mandate and Alexandra, I’m reminded of my Kokum (grandmother) and my mother. They’ve done so much for me and treated me so kindly. These lovely Indigenous women protected me from the horrors of poverty and shielded a young boy from the chaos that generally ensues within the lower class context. Though they did their best, they did not escape harm themselves. These women have the strongest shade of resiliency and have braved many storms. They saw some good in the world and have protected it with everything they have.

I want to correct my past behavior; I want to change my language within the areas I enter; I want to treat my fellow human beings with love and respect. I want to do what I can, so that people like my mother can walk in this world freely, without fear. I want her to feel the love I know the world is capable of.

What men can do is firstly, acknowledge that racialized women are at a disadvantage and that there are many spaces in our society where these women are being taken advantage of. The next step would then be to look inwards at ourselves. How are we affecting these spaces and those within it? How are we socializing? Are we trying to gain leverage over people? Are we taking advantage of vulnerability?

If yes to any of these, some work on ourselves is definitely necessary.

Finally, how are we supporting these racialized women? How are we supporting those trying to make a positive change?

More specifically, how are we supporting the amazing women around us?

Everybody has their own way to answer this question, so I’ll leave that for the reader to decide.

For myself, any support I can give to Alexandra and the communities she works with, I’ll be there if it makes sense. I’ll continue to stand in solidarity with these individuals while working on myself to be a better man, as well as a better ally to my fellow people.

Thank you, Alexandra and thank you for Sarjesa. The world will be forever grateful and may my stock of Prairie Wilds be always full.

Joe Plant


Alexandra Daignault
Introducing Two New Teas To Our Collection

It feels like fate, writing this post today – as Facebook tells me it has been exactly one year since the rebranded packaging for our first three flavors arrived! Wow, how time has flown and how much I’ve learned in the process.

Well, they are here – two new beautiful Sarjesa flavors. It took a long time to get these blends out to consumers. When I first started making tea, I had no idea that you need to go through so much design and regulatory work to get your packaging retail ready and picture perfect.

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Right away you will notice that the artwork is different than our previous blends. We’ve had a couple of questions about why so here is my best attempt at answering. One of the things that are really important to this brand is the concept of cross-cultural solidarity – specifically between communities of women.

Can you imagine what it would look like if we brought different marginalized communities of women together into a conversation about how we can overcome existing and intersecting legacies of domestic violence? I feel like there is so much that could be accomplished over a cup of tea!

We want our tea packaging to reflect the range of women in Canada who also carry intersecting legacies and experiences of marginalization – as gendered violence is a large and complex issue. Sometimes I think that, as a marginalized woman myself, it can be easy to build silos in our communities where we don’t talk to other communities about their experience with this issue. This becomes a problem because, to my mind, we will need a full range of perspectives and experiences to overcome this multifaceted issue.

The community donation generated from these boxes will continue to support the Awo Taan Healing Lodge – an organization grounded in Indigenous teachings that has been an advocate and support for women across different cultures, borders, and spaces. The work they do is truly shifting paradigms.

Now, let's talk a little bit about these two teas.

1) Dappled Sunlight is a blend of black tea and aromatic spices. It’s quickly giving my morning London Fog competition, as it makes a BEAUTIFUL Chai Tea Latte. I love waking up to the notes of cinnamon and cardamom. The artwork is representative of women within my own community – painted by Natalie Darwent-Lynem.

2) Forest Floor is a tea for all of our green tea lovers (you’ve been asking me for so long, I just had to.) A fragrant blend of jasmine, green tea, and a hint of Alberta wild mint – this is definitely an all-day tea. I like it cold, with a little bit of lemon. The beautiful artwork was the result of a 2017 community art competition we co-hosted with Talia Murchie of Ad Artis, the winning piece was by Hugo Dubon.

As always, I’m completely humbled by the love and support you have given to this initiative. It fills my kettle and keeps me going to hear your kind words, and to connect with you all. I am grateful that you are sharing this journey with me and the tea!

Don’t forget to enter our social media draw to win a new tea of your choice!

Love always,

Alexandra

Alexandra Daignault
Decolonial Mean Girl
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Even as I write this I am scared of what you will think. This topic can be very uncomfortable.

Right now, there is a real push to fight patriarchy by empowering women – standing in friendship and straightening each other’s crowns. This is AWESOME, and I’m in total support. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that sometimes we must say difficult things to each other – critiquing and questioning. 


What I’ve noticed is that often, Indigenous, Brown, Black, Women of Color, and other marginalized women face pushback when we have difficult things to say – especially when we are speaking about racial violence and exoticism we face FROM OTHER WOMEN. 


Often, we are told that we are overly loud, aggressive , etc... This happens to me – and it happens to many of the women I admire, love, and respect. 


The flip side of this is: I have also been the girl who, in my own ignorance, felt excluded or hurt when I was called to task on taking up space in ways that were inappropriate – when my tears became manifestation of my own fragility. I felt decentered in a conversation where I had become accustomed to being centered – although I often didn’t realize it at the time. 


I get it. No one likes to hear that they are reinforcing a problematic attitude or system – but its necessary to hear these things if we are going to move forward. 

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We cannot escape the system under which we live. Part of overcoming violence towards women is understanding and changing the violent behaviors we have learned and internalized as a means of protecting ourselves. If we want to live decolonially we have a responsibility to work through these pieces of ourselves. The irony is that sometimes we have normalized these behaviors to the point where we might not even see them as hurtful, and it takes another person telling us for us to see.

I had this shirt made because I am tired of being told that I am too much, too assertive, too sassy, too angry, too radical – a mean girl - when I have difficult things to say. At first, these sorts of comments would bring me to my knees as I tried to frantically stuff back my unpopular opinions. But, the more I read about other women facing the same issue – the less I want to do that. I don’t want to hold my tongue, and to my fellow decolonial mean girls: I don’t want you to either.

Instead, I think we need to get better at hearing difficult things, actively listening and asking better questions regarding how we might do better. 
This work is messy – and all of us are still learning.

Alexandra Daignault
Guest Post: Wynter Ducharme
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I grew up hearing stories whispered by my older cousins on our trips to the pas for Christmas.  During the long ride they would talk about everything and one time, the story of a girl who was killed by some white guys came up.  Being 7 or 8, the grisly details stayed with me. That girl was Helen Betty Osborne who was kidnaped and murdered in the Pas in 1971.  Later on in my life, I was reintroduced to this issue when the Robert Pickton case broke and when I did a research paper on this issue in university.   I was shocked at how many names had surfaced in my research. How many places were known for Native women to just vanish – the Highway of Tears, Vancouver and Pickton’s Farm, the international waters of the Great Lakes, and the human trafficking routes in all the major cities in Canada.  I myself was warned to be weary when I was on my own in the cities I lived in. I could not understand why this was happening and why there did not seem to be any one important doing anything about it.

Statistics state that 1,200 indigenous women and girls have gone missing in the last 30 years. This number does not include unreported cases, cases not within RCMP jurisdiction, Two-Spirited/Trans people who were not listed as women, deaths from domestic violence, this list could go and the number would definitely grow larger.  Our government and larger society refuses to listen to those that have been left behind, those who continue to fight for justice. They just want to be heard.

In 2012, a Michif artist from Lac St. Anne area, created what would become a travelling commemoration to honor the lives that have been lost, create a space for their families to grieve, and continue to raise awareness about the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women.  Her project is a collection of 1,600+ pairs of moccasin vamps, each to represent an indigenous woman who has either been declared missing or murdered. Many of the families affected by this issue have not seen justice and continue look for answers about their loved one. Two and half years ago, I wanted to see this brought to Calgary and Treaty 7 area and thus began my journey with WWOS Calgary.

For months, we came together to share ideas and teachings and fundraise to host this bundle in this community.  On April 29, 2018, we opened our viewing lodge to the public and welcomed them to visit this space and learn about this issue.  Mount Royal University came alongside us about half way through our planning and we were able to create the lodge in their brand new Riddell Library and Learning Centre.  For 2 weeks, anyone was welcome to walk the path we created with the vamps. Often visitors entered a little hesitant as they did not know what to expect but as they made their way around our lodge, it was touching to see them take in the full magnitude of the issue behind the space.  I watched as our Elders and committee members would comfort those who needed it, answered questions and just thanked each person for coming. I loved hearing our Grandmothers’ speak and share stories. I enjoyed our firekeepers’ teachings, gentle reminders and support at our closing circle each night.  And I enjoyed watching our volunteers and committee members grow and voice their concern by being a part of this project

It was a very busy, very emotional time for me.  We had spent many hours together trying to get all we needed in place and all that time did not prepare me for how powerful this would be.  One night in particular I was asked to smudge down the lodge and the vamps. I made my way around the space and was told to smudge as though someone was standing there.  It was not until that moment the fullness of this space and issue hit me. The little pieces of art, decorated with beads, lace, hide, quills, pictures – they each were someone’s daughter, sister, mother, cousin.  They were a person and not just a number in some statistic, each had a goal and dreams. They had memories and relationship with family. They were a human being first and foremost and it saddened my heart to think that our cities, our leaders, do not see this tragedy as important.

Photo by Jessie Loyer @Walkingwithoursisterscalgary

Photo by Jessie Loyer @Walkingwithoursisterscalgary

The month before was crammed with meetings, recruiting and scheduling volunteers, driving repeatedly to the fabric store, a million phone calls and emails, and lots of hard word. We had spent the last two and half years preparing and planning for this lodge and it still seemed chaotic at times. As each day of install completed, I was reminded of how important this time was going to be. Every person who gave their time, be it half an hour or an all-day commitment, did so with such compassion and willingness. Every layer of the lodge was handled with love and care and lots of graceful teaching.

On mother’s day, at our closing ceremony, I stood in a room full of people singing with my committee and I was overwhelmed with the honour and pride I felt for each of them and what we had accomplished.  .We had reached our goal of creating a loving space for families to grieve, we were able to raise awareness of this issue in and around Calgary and we were able to help educate those who wanted to know more.  WWOS Calgary closed on May 13 and the bundle was transported and passed on to the next community 5 days later.

What I learned most from this whole experience was how just one voice, one question could spark a little bit of change.  The committee members and volunteers who helped make this event possible came from all sorts of backgrounds and education.  They had families and jobs and other commitments, yet they still found time to share a bit more of themselves to speak out against the injustice our people are subject to.  I was also reminded how resilient and strong our people, but mainly our women are. Hearing the stories of those who have been lost, watching the grief and tears spill down their faces, even those who were taken years ago, having a glimpse into their family’s pain broke my heart.  But each of them stood there, with almost a fire in their eyes and told us that this needs to stop. They gave voice to the whole reason we carried this bundle. They continue to fight for justice and they continue to work towards a goal of bettering life for all indigenous people in our city.  I am very honoured to have been a part of this whole movement and to share a little bit of hope in our City.

“The Old Ones say the Native American women will lead the healing among the tribes.  Inside them are the powers of love and strength given by the Moon and the Earth. When everyone else gives up, it is the women who sings the songs of strength.  She is the backbone of the people. So, to our women we say, sing your songs of strength; pray for your special powers; keep our people strong; be respectful, gentle, and modest.” ~ Lakota

Alexandra Daignault
Ku Kia'i Mauna

 

I promised I would keep our tea family updated while I travel on the Big Island, in search of tea and learning. So here is an update.

For those of you that might be new to following Sarjesa – we (as Sarjesa feels like a living entity distinct from myself) are a lifestyle brand that raises awareness for the missing and murdered in Indigenous women (in Canada and across the world.) We help to fund violence prevention programming for women in crisis at the Awo Taan Healing Lodge in Calgary. This shelter is led by Indigenous women and grounded in an Indigenous framework and teachings – but the shelter is open to all women, and is frequently accessed by many marginalized communities of women.

The tea rose out of a deep frustration and anger that marginalized women continue to face greater rates of violence across the world, often resulting in death. Why is this so? Who does this benefit? How can we make it stop? These questions, at times, made my whole body ache – as I saw the women and communities I love (both mine and others) struggle under the weight of this oppression. This was my “why” – the reason I stood, and still stand; and it was the reason why I made tea.

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Running a business is not an easy thing – I have had to learn the intricacies of systems that were never built for me, and that I was never really supposed to be a part of. At times, it has been so hard to navigate. I am blessed to be surrounded by Elders, Coaches, and community members who have been far more experienced than I. Even so, it can still be easy to lose hope when you are standing at the bottom of the mountain looking up, knowing that we have so far to go. That is why being in community, and stepping out onto the land, is so important to me. When we isolate from our roots, our communities, our home – we inadvertently lose our strength and lose sight of our why.

I have been on Hawai’i for three days – I am working alongside other students engaged in similar research and community service projects as I am. Despite having different “whys,” we are linked by a desire to stand in respectful solidarity – to lend our voices, bodies, and supports in ways that don’t take space away from these communities, but hold space and strength with them.

The past two days, we have been working with Aunty Pua on learning about Mauna Kea and how we can stand in respectful solidarity with the protectors of this sacred land. Walking through an exhibit, set up by the grassroots community, on the protection of the mountain – we heard stories from the youth who were arrested for protecting the mountain. We heard stories about the community members, Elders, farmers, regular people who have been educating themselves on the law and fighting court cases against large corporations. Their words were both humbling and devastating, humbling in that they are an example of the changes that can come about when a strong, committed group of community members stand up for the land and it’s rights. Some days are better than others; they have seen both victory and loss, but they have researched and prepared for all outcomes and will continue to move for their Mauna.

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Aunty Pua taught us how to say: Ku Kia'i Mauna (someone who is a guardian, protector, steward of the mountain). She then had us formally introduce our ancestors, our Mauna, and ourselves so that her ancestors could greet our ancestors. This was a powerful moment and reminder.

Physically and geographically, my Mauna is my island (even though my island does not have a mountain – Aunty Pua said this is okay). But, perhaps my Mauna is also the women who form the heart of Sarjesa – those that have been disappeared, but who walk beside me in my work everyday. As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that I will have to check my understanding of this with some of the women I’m working with – just to make sure I am accurately understanding.

We all have places and people that we must stand with and for. This is not a practice of activism, it is a choice to live your life on purpose, making intentional decisions each day to continue to guard and protect the land, people and practices that are sacred to you.

It is only day three and I am learning so much.
Grateful to be learning from Aunty Pua for the past few days.