When my husband and I first met there seemed to be more differences than similarities. For one he was this sexy hunk from India who was surprisingly tall and unsurprisingly handsome. I, on the other hand, am American (my dad’s side is 100% First Nation though- Shout out to the Ojibways!) and I was a single mother, which meant I could totally be cute as fuck but was usually too sleep deprived. He worked as an accomplished software engineer, and I was trying to get accepted into a Public Health program. He was a legitimate adult, with life insurance and an adult job. I was still figuring my future career out. Of course, none of this mattered once we fell in love, but there was something we unexpectedly bonded over- our family’s history of colonization. I know what you’re thinking, that’s not romantic in the least, but hear me out.
Canada’s policies of cultural genocide, from residential schools to other forms of forced assimilation and discrimination, has left many tribes trying to find themselves, including my own. The First Nation people are strong and resilient, but there is still the reality of Native stereotyping, health disparities and the intentionally forced loss of identity. I have been searching for my culture for a long time. Ankit comes from a land that is so rich in traditions, but the violence of colonization has left ripple effects of current violence. The colonization of Indigenous people has additionally left the devaluing of Canada’s First Nation people and the United States’ Native American populations. Native people in general have some of the highest rates of diabetes, and heart disease. They have the actual highest rates of death by car accidents, rape, and violence against women. Likewise, India has a rape culture that their recent feminist movement is trying to bring to light.
When I talk about colonization with anyone outside my family it makes them uncomfortable. It is a topic that school systems want to quickly skip over and erase. The largest genocide in the world was against Native Americans. Entire tribes were killed off, either by diseases, by murder or by pitting tribes against one another. I understand why it is an uncomfortable topic. When I educate people during Native American Awareness Month (November is right around the corner, prepare for me to be annoying!) it usually focuses on the culture, or on modern problems. People do not want to look at what our own countries are responsible for. People want to feel righteous in wearing “Indian Princess” costumes, or claiming their far off Native American heritage without having to experience or understand the intergenerational pain. The only person who is not Native with whom I get to discuss colonization with is my husband. He gets it. From a different perspective, but this adds beauty and a deeper understanding for myself.
My husband can draw lines of the ripple effects that India still feels. They are an incredible but young country compared to Canada and America. Their resources were depleted, and stolen. Much like our culture was. I am working on a massive project for my “Gender and Health” class about the implications of colonization on violence against Indigenous women. When I was going over some potential sources with my husband, his response was something along the lines of “I think the only reason the British did not steal our culture was because they never wanted to live in India. America and Canada however they wanted to overtake.” My response to this was “Thus the forced assimilation.”
I do not write this post to point out all the pain that colonization has caused. I will save that for another time, and use academic research to back up my points (because I am a definitely a proud nerd who loves APA). Instead I write this post to give thanks to my husband. I got into Public Health because I wanted to work with tribes to address their disparities and empathize with their pain. In my classes though it is consistently only me choosing to do presentations on Natives; it is me who wants to bring light to a band of forgotten people. My husband being here, reading my work, and understanding why these disparities exist, not to mention how colonization impacted them, helps me keep moving. Without his constant support I would probably melt into a puddle of overwhelmingly unfair data. I would hide into myself and question if I could do this. Instead I have the astonishing support of someone who is so different than me, but also has the global perspective that I need.
My husband and I might have cultural differences, and lifestyle differences, but this is one of the subjects I am most grateful we can bond over. I do not know how I would accomplish my dreams without having him hold me while I read to him the statistics about violence against Indigenous women. He quietly pushes me to be genuine to my dreams, and never give up- no matter how difficult the subject matter is to digest.
Colonization is a topic countries like to bypass, but the pain is still real. Until we acknowledge it, and pursue avenues of empowering tribes, I will still be reading this data 20 years from now. At least it is comforting to know, Ankit will still be there prodding me to never give up on social and health justice.