A Sweetgrass Braid and a Story

3 Dec

On December 6th I am a part of a Day Against Violence Against Women event and we have created an anti-violence medicine bundle that will stay with the educational institution where we are studying.

I am sharing my contribution to the bundle, a “Sweetgrass Braid and a Story”, before hand because I need too.

I am used to becoming vulnerable and naked in public settings, to bearing my innards and lacerations, but it hasn’t become much easier. I have spoken at several events and I still feel this gnawing notion that I am over sharing, that it’s too much, that I should pull back the reigns. I never do. It scares me sometimes and I always question my ability to make a sound decision when my heart is so wrapped up in anything that I write.

I am scared and I can admit it. I am scared that after revealing my project to my class tomorrow that I will discover that I am not healed enough to do it on December 6th. The process is much alike diving off of a cliff to see if a soft landing is where once thorns grew. It will hurt me to do a watered down version of what follows, like censoring my truths all over again.

Here’s to slackened reigns and leaving it all where the words are dropped.

sweetgrass braid (2)

I give to this bundle, a sweet grass braid and a story. The braid was made out of a shirt. A shirt that holds the story and that story is mine.

It’s almost been a year since I wore it that day and it has hung in my closet as a daily reminder since. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten rid of it. I don’t know why it made it through the clothing purges I had before I packed up all of my belongings to come here in pursuit of my bachelors of social work. You would think I would have burned it. Let it reduce to blackened ash and let the rising smoke carry my hurt upwards so that Grandfather Sky and Grandmother moon could hold my lament and lingering tears. I could have buried it, and buried the story along with it, but buried stories have a way of unearthing themselves. I believe that I held on to it so that it could be transformed into something that symbolizes cleansing, healing, change, hope.

I don’t remember it happening. It was my birthday that night and I wrapped this shirt tightly around my skin. A shirt given to me by the soft hands of a freckled friend from Toronto who told me that the world was mine, I just needed to take it. My last memory before morning and consciousness came abruptly like a forgotten lover, was of being in an overcrowded apartment just a few blocks from home and the bed I should have been sleeping in. The men outnumbered the women 5 to 1, there were only 2 of us. My body was given over to be the entertainment for the night, to fulfil men’s desires. Desires that I had never entertained granting. My body, my choices, my rights, my voice. Taken that night

I brought my sheepish questions to the girl who had accompanied me.

“What happened?” my voice cracked like the earth splitting from beneath me.

The girl who was an introduction away from being a stranger spoke of curse words crashing into each other, of lifting me off the floor where they had me, of storming out of the apartment like an angry sky ready to strike.

I asked her again, much quieter this time, “What happened?”

I watched her eyes cloud over and the truth become hidden behind them. “I can’t remember,” she said as she shifted her gaze towards the floor. She held on to the truth and left me with my questions.

I couldn’t remember, but my body bled red tears for days after from holding it’s memory. I couldn’t remember, just like I couldn’t recall how my sexual abuse started at the age of 2. Like I couldn’t remember being raped and left to die under the twinkling eyes of ancestors on the outskirts of town at age 13. Like I couldn’t remember how to fight back and was consumed by a man at age 17. Like I couldn’t remember being violated by the hunger of a middle aged man at 21. I just couldn’t remember but my body, my body held these memories.

Each night I slept with my hands over my ovaries like my fingerprints could speak memory to the woman who was dying inside of me. I wondered if I could ever have children again or did some men’s violent and sick sexual leanings steal my future children’s cries and the words I would say to soothe them.

Violence reverberates and lives long after the semen is washed away, long after bruises fade, and its darkness eats up the light like no beast I’ve ever known.

A few months later I spoke at an event to celebrate women and said that we needed to stop pretending like sexual violence isn’t happening to the women we know, to our daughters, our sisters, our friends, ourselves. Each attack is not just on the individual but the impacts can be seen in our families and in our communities.

Even though I spoke bravely I told no one about that night. I could not remember. So I stayed silent.

One thing that I learned is that violence is never okay, never. It does not matter if you are a white suburban woman or a minority sex trade worker. We as woman have the right to be free from harm at all times. It is a right that I have, that you have, that our future daughters and granddaughters have.

This is for the women who cannot remember, and for those who choose not to.

To the women who still believe that it is all their fault. To the women who have been abused and hurt, and then forced to wear the heavy garments of shame afterward. To the women who have women dying inside of them. To the women who have had the gift of life taken from them. To the women whose lines between consensual and taken are blurred by societies perceptions of them. To the women who have had heavy bricks placed upon their chest and it hurts them to keep breathing. To the women who suffer silently and slip away leaving their stories untold. To the women who feel like they deserved it. To the women who were told that they asked for it by their manor, their speech, or their dress. To the women who have been forced to forget because of others who refuse to remember. To the women who have forgotten they have the right to say no. To the women whose bodies hold tales no living creature should ever be told.

I give you this sweet grass braid made from a story. I give you this acknowledgment for your memories. I give you soft spoken prayers for your healing and courage for your spirits. I give this in hopes that you remember that you are worth a thousand horses.

I remember.

This is my offering.

7 Responses to “A Sweetgrass Braid and a Story”

  1. Connie Greyeyes December 4, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    Fuck I love you Helen, each and every unce of you!

  2. Connie Greyeyes December 4, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    That would be inch 🙂

  3. Jeff Nguyen December 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Helen K December 4, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

      Thank you for reading.

  4. Connie Greyeyes December 4, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    I had to read this again, I cried…again

  5. Alison December 4, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    I hope that you don’t edit it. It is raw nd perfectly told the way it is. I aam so proud of you. You amaze me almost daily. I am sorry for what has happened to you. You have become so strong keep it up

    • Helen K December 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      What has happened has happened its just a matter of making sure it doesnt happen to others and helping those who are hurting to heal. ❤

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