Founding statement of the Indigenous Women Warriors of the Hothouse Squat
We are a group of poor Indigenous women from the Nuu Chah Nulth, Gitxsan, Cree, and Mi’kmaq nations. We have been displaced from our home territories by colonization and want to be good guests on the territories of other nations where we live. We acknowledge that the Hothouse Squat is on the unceded and occupied territory of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Qayqat, and Kwikwetlem nations.
We want to begin by saying that the colonization hasn’t stopped; COVID-19 is just the newest crap on the block. It’s not just one virus, it’s one more virus that Canada has brought to us.
We were clean. We were healthy. We were indeed warriors. The food we ate wasn’t tainted. And now the colonizers come in here and mess up our lives. As poor Indigenous women, our lives and bodies are etchings of how Canada rips us apart: by poisoning our blood.
When settlers moved west, they brought viruses that killed us and then their doctors quarantined us so that our genocidal sickness would not inconvenience white Canadians. Today Canada is again isolating us because of a virus that they brought to us.
Look how the government responds to the virus: their response is to break up our communities, not to help us. The Health Authority says that we must isolate, but for Indigenous people, isolation is death. They say we must stay in our homes but we don’t have homes.
We’re supposed to have interaction; we’re supposed to be with each other. But our people live on the streets where police roll up and move us along if they see a group of Indigenous people together. We live in so-called supportive housing where we’re not allowed visitors, not allowed to see our children.
Our street family is our kin. When we talk about family and blood, we don’t mean the white nuclear family, with just 2 parents and children. Our family is not an inventory of possessions a man has as the head of the household. Our family includes all our people. The colonizers are always trying to break up our families, to cut us off from everything: from our heritage, from our kin.
BC Housing says that because of COVID-19 we can’t have visitors, but what colonizers call visitors, we call kin. Our unhoused relatives live on our couches and floors. When they ban visitors it hurts us. It hurts us to sleep on the streets, and it hurts us to know our relatives are on the streets.
The cops are telling people to go isolate. But if we listen to the police and run and hide in abandoned buildings all on our own then we will die alone there from overdoses.
We help each other. We don’t isolate. If you need help, I’ll help you. We don’t go mine-mine-mine-mine-mine. Our survival depends on our kinship networks, our kin. They say it’s necessary for our survival of COVID to be alone, but being alone is threatening our survival as poor Indigenous people.
To survive COVID-19, we have to keep on protecting Indigenous spaces. We have to protect our physical spaces where we can see and care for each other. We have to defend all our relations against being controlled by building managers, surveilled by police, and killed by colonizer violence.
The Warrior Women of the Hothouse Squat are holding down COVID safe space for Indigenous people because our struggle for health and survival is our struggle for sovereignty against Canada’s colonial invasion.
One month ago, we were planning rallies in defence of Wet’suwet’en sovereignty. We were defending the land against mining companies. Today we are rallying for the sovereignty of our people and our people’s bodies again. We are defending our kin against another virus that Canada has brought us.
In the Hothouse Squat, we can create sovereign Indigenous space, space for our family to be together and support each other, while also being safe from COVID-19. We need to have native space to survive. Canada is refusing us that space.
COVID-19 is frightening. To fight it, we want to stay together as family and friends; to be there for eachother. We want homes now for all our family. We want no surveillance. We want health care in Indigenous ways, without the racism and colonial paternalism. We want to sit in the sun.
If you have your family beside you when you pass away, you are free to move on with no bad feelings. It’s good to be together to the end. Being together is the medicine we need. Family is medicine.
The decolonized world we imagine is where we can be with our family and kin, with our people, safe, and healthy. Some of us feel like a life where you’re safe and happy and have everything you need is the afterlife. But our spirits are the most powerful. Our spirits are here and in the spirit world all at once; with those we have passed and those still here. With our spirits we can change the world.