By: Natisha Toya
While interning at CSVANW, I got the opportunity to attend the 2ndannual Young Indigenous Queers Retreat. It is a safe space for young individual queer people to come and have discussions about topics that aren’t often accepted, or talked about from a heteronormative framework. Some presentations were on identity, gender, sex, reproductive justice and historical trauma, along with other topics. Although it is catered to young Indigenous Queer people, this is a safe space for all people and everyone can learn something here.
One of the presentations that I really enjoyed was from Tewa Women United, which talked about trauma. They used rocks to show us how we have passed down our intergenerational trauma’s and how heavy the burden is to carry from each generation since colonization.
I had known that as Indigenous people we have survived so much. Assimilation through boarding schools tried to take away much of our Indigenous identity. Assimilation went further and unsucessfully attempted to take away genderqueer identity as well. Though this was a heavy discussion, I also felt empowered. Our ancestors’ resiliency is in all of us.
Another presentation that I really enjoyed was about healthy sex. I realized that in schools there is either a heteronormative approach (abstinence only) around sex education. There is very limited information regarding safe sex and healthy ways to protect our bodies for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, Two-Spirit, plus (LGBTQ2S+) relatives. At the retreat, we discussed #sexisceremony as a concept created through the Rez Condom Tour based out of Navajo Nation. Some people have different definitions of sex. However, we agreed that it is an intimate experience between people. Safety and protecting bodies should be first and foremost at the basis of each of our collective conversations.
This topic is already a stigmatized subject, and not many people like to have this conversation. At the retreat there was awkwardness, but it felt safe. It was unlike sex education in schools. That is what made it better. I could tell that everyone present was able to take a lot away from this presentation.
At the end of the first day, I was also able to do a workshop on art. The Young Indigenous Queers Retreat as a whole is to spread awareness and help break cycles of violence against, especially against our LGBTQ2S+ relatives. So, the theme of my workshop was “Being a Good Relative.” The goal was to educate others on the way they can aid into ending violence, through art. It was also to educate others on how to support one another while also being true to themselves. During our discussion we talked about different art forms like music, painting, photography, drawing and dancing. We agreed that everything can be a form of art. The way we speak, dress, the way we act and the list goes on. With that being said, we also talked about how we must be careful in the way we use our art expression to ensure we are being good relatives.
The way we practiced being a good relative was by creating a collective piece. Each individual received a small paper with a drawing on it to use as a template for them to paint. The piece was a painting of the land, water and sky. Each individual added their own sparkle to their piece, which made it even more special. Then when everyone was doing painting their section, we connected all the pieces to see the bigger picture. Although it was part of a whole, each piece was entirely different. That made the collective painting even more beautiful.
Through sharing knowledge about art, I learned about each participant a little more. Each individual shared a little bit about their painting as it relates to the collective piece. Some shared how the colors are representative to their traditions, the meaning of symbols in their piece and how art can be used to break cycles of violence. The painting was very beautiful and I’m grateful for the experience and the knowledge that each individual gave me in return. The Young Indigenous Queers retreat overall was an experience that I will not forget. I will pass on the knowledge I have learned to others and I encourage many others to attend the retreat in the future. There is something for everyone to learn. You won’t be disappointed! 🙂