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I'm going to tell you something.
I'm proud to be Native/Aboriginal/First Nations.
I'm proud not only because I have a legacy of ancestors who have stood up against some of the truest tests of time so that this great culture of ours still remains today, but because I need look no further than in my own culture to do the work that I’ve wanted to do my entire life: sexual health.
Before the invention of clinics, anatomy textbooks, or even this fantastic website, my people were practicing sexual education, living as feminists, and utilizing reproductive justice to live as a healthy, strong, autonomous nation.
We might not have called it sexual health, or labeled it with any sort of clinicized connotation, but we sure as hell have always believed in our rights over our own bodies, and how foundational that is to our continued existence.
I mean, what do people really think we used to do? Wait for the colonizers to come and teach us about sex?!
You would think however that we would get the recognition for starting the concepts and frameworks that many non-Native academic movers and shakers have been internationally hailed for, but alas, we do not. In fact my people have been so far removed from practicing our authentic ways that a lot of us don’t even want to identify with any of our former sex-positive existence.
It’s a sad but true reality that defines the work I do each and every day, that I’m not about to give up on doing, no matter how much people want to willfully forget, both in and out of my community.
Sex was upheld in our culture as not only a sacred and powerful part of human life, but as a very normal part of it, too. Sexual education began in the ancient huts, longhouses, and teepees of our ancestors, where young people would learn from selected family or community members all about their body, how to care for it, and the inviolability of their sex. Many of our ancestral teachings show us that many of our societies were matriarchal and this included healthy, educated decisions over matters of childbearing and sexuality. We have different ceremonies and traditions that we’ve been practicing for centuries to back this up.
Our long history of genocidal oppression whether through colonization, Christianization, residential/mission/boarding schools, or just blatant racism has drastically severed the ties where traditionally we might have received the knowledge that would enable us to make informed choices about our sexual health and relationships. The fact is that many of our communities are reluctant to go anywhere near the topic of sexual health because it is now viewed as “dirty”, “wrong”, or a “Whiteman’s thing.”
We have also carried a long history of being sexually exploited; which can be seen anywhere from the early Pocahontas and Squaw days (that we'll definitely be talking about later), right up until the modern over-sexualization of “easy” Native women, which still permeates much of the media.
But things were different for me. As a young Mohawk woman, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family where I received these teachings about the power of my sexuality; my mother, grandmother, and aunties were always the first to answer any questions I had about sex. I was encouraged to get as much information as I could to protect myself, and it was not until later on in my life did I really draw on the connection between my culture and how much it related to the very principals of healthy sexuality.
So in the coming weeks, I promise to fill you in on all of these stories and much more, because I truly believe that this is the way we’re going to take it back and put it out there as it once was: strong, sexy, powerful, and unapologetic.