Leaving Oppression Requires no Tears

On June 19th at approximately 2:40pm on the side of Hwy 551, I stopped to take a picture of my feet as I walked away from oppression; I wanted a reminder of this day that highlighted my strength and pride at who I was during that exact moment in time.  As I looked down, I marvelled at how my moccasins didn’t hurt my feet when I walked; they were supporting me and felt very natural on my feet.  And then I wondered why I hadn’t done this earlier; take control and walk away from the toxicity I had faced for the past 8 months.  But as usual, hindsight doesn’t come until afterwards; darn it! 
A half hour earlier to my walk down Hwy 551 towards M’Chigeeng, I was sitting in the boardroom at work across from my Executive Director (a white womyn) watching her struggle to gather up what she believed was control over me.  As I answered her accusing line of questions and  watched her write things down feverishly on her yellow lined note pad, it occurred to me that I had a choice; take control of what I knew she was doing or allow her to assert control over me.  I choose to take control and ended the one-sided, 5 minute enquiry by reminding her that I was still on probation; she could let me go.  She took it; relief at last.

Note: my 6-month work probation had been extended to 9 months just before April- not because I did anything wrong but because she stated she couldn’t accurately assess me in such a short time. I disagreed.  It was extended. I knew it was her “out” card; you don’t need a “tangible” reason to get rid of someone while on probation.  Even with an "out" card, she was still going to make it look like I did something wrong; I just couldn't see the point.
As her face gave way to surprise as she figured out that I knew what she was doing, she tried to control it by stating she had to let me go.  I could see atop the yellow writing pad that she prepared a list but I was unwilling to give back her perceived control and stated “Here are the keys to the work van; no worries. I will gather my things and leave.  I am okay with going.  I will have the admin assistant accompany me to get my things.”  She was again taken aback; I could see it on her face and pursed lips that she was angry I wasn't reacting that way she wanted me to.  In the past 8 months working for her (she was gone for two of them) I knew she had wanted to draw it out, to oppress me one last time to make herself feel good but I wasn’t giving her the chance.  I got up and left. 

Truth was I had planned on leaving a few months back but stayed because I enjoyed working with the team I supervised. I put up with the attempts to diminish my capabilities; the “you don’t know the Violence Against Women (VAW) sector and things I know”.   I tried to navigate through the micro-managing and spoke about it when it happened (which was a lot).  I dutifully went along with the constant changes to forms that didn’t require changing but required me to inform my staff at every staff meeting (making me look like  I didn’t know what I was doing).   But I drew the line at looking in my garbage and questioning why I was throwing out things and the “didn’t you know that it was important?”.   Yep, I knew it was which is why I had a good copy in my desk.    
It was hot walking towards M’Chigeeng (my car was there and soon my daughter would be too) with my belongings and for a quick  second I shed a tear.  I was moving through a trigger as I reflected on how, as Indigenous womyn, we have always been walking down some road; mostly dangerous.  This womyn who I had worked for, who stated that their organisation was feminist, didn’t offer me a ride to my car over 10kms away (I had to give back the van key which meant I had no other means of transportation but my feet – something she knew a day before).  It hurt a smidge. Yep, one tear fell until I looked down at my feet and said “fuck that; I am not shedding a tear at walking away from oppression!” and straightened myself up and continued walking.  I envisioned all the Indigenous womyn before me who walked away from oppression knowing the path in front of them might be just as dangerous; I was going to be one of them - a strong womyn.

I had only 12% battery life left on my cell phone, so I called a friend who lived nearby to tell her what happened and that I was walking and okay with that.  I was near a park by the water when she asked me to wait for her saying she would pick me up. I agreed.  As I was waiting for her, I reached into my purse and pulled out some pipe tobacco. Mmmm I love the smell of pipe tobacco; a hint of sweetness always wafts through the air for a long time when I use it.   I walked to the water, bent down at the shore, and as I offered the tobacco to the water I spoke “Creator, Miigwech for providing me this new path; guide me as I move through it. Mii wi”.  I stayed there for a few minutes focusing on the calmness of the water before I turned to the Hwy and saw my friend drive into the park.  Looking at her I almost started to cry and I warned her not to cry or I would cry too; it was all good I told her and I truly felt it was.  I told her what transpired and as she drove me to my car and daughter, I felt relieved that I had been let go.  I may not have liked how it happened but I wasn’t going to sit in it; I took control of the situation and that enabled me to feel good about it.  
Driving back home that afternoon in my car with my daughter we discussed why it’s important to walk away from people who try to oppress us because of who we are, even if it means walking away from a job, a lover or a friend, etc.  She expressed that she was concerned that I was having such a bad day (two flat tires on the car, getting fired, having to walk part of the way to M’Chigeeng, no income coming in anymore (and the tires were going to cost a lot) and burst blood vessels in my eye).  I agreed I was bummed out; so many things happening at once and some of them were major life changes.  Yet, I told her,  I am extremely grateful that we were alive, healthy and together as a family; losing a job that was oppressing me is nothing cry over and will never compare to losing someone I love.   I can always find a job; I cannot replace a loved one. I believe finding gratitude in life is so important in overcoming adversity.

It was a good ride home.  We also touched up relational aggression (she believes the Executive Director felt threatened by me – I would agree) and how it is a scary time to be an Indigenous womyn; it has always been.   As Indigenous womyn we face a Society/Government that is still trying to eradicate us and if we don’t stand up, use our voices and those of our allies, then it makes it easier for others to continue believing that we are less than they are.  If others believe we are less than they are then it is that much easier to get rid of us. 

On June 19th, 2019 at 11pm, after a day of many changes,  I sat down in the silence of the night and reflected upon what had transpired; I do that – reflect – to see if I might have missed something or contributed to something.  It is important for me to see all sides and to examine what is truth as I am not perfect.  It is one of the reasons why I blog; to help me move through and determine/understand truth.   Truth is I was glad to be let go; now I can move forward again.
In being let go and how I responded to it, I mentored and continue to mentor to my children and grandchildren how to move through oppression in way that isn’t detrimental to self - that is really important.  I don't wish for the world to be the way it is currently, oppressive and colonial, but it is.  Our children and grandchildren need the tools to move through it in a way that doesn't diminish who they are.  I am always working on ways of showing them how to move through it; some are a bit more painful than others but I am getting there. 
Wouldn't it be a great time to view strong, educated, Indigenous womyn as  gifts instead of threats, to support womyn's voices and speaking out instead of trying to diminish us? Yes it would be.  Don't cry as you leave oppression; only when you have to walk to it.  We should never have to walk to it.
Always in good thoughts.

Mi iwi

Carrianne Agawa


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