Our Hair

Trigger Warning: This post talks about domestic violence.

Today was a slow day for me. I didn’t really do much homework, just watched some television, went for a bite to eat, went down to the pool, and now I am back in my hotel room.

I am kind of missing home right now. All I see are families every where in my hotel.

I am writing this post after some reflection about this past week and I just say that I want to do more public speaking whether it is motivating or sharing my story. During this past week I had the opportunity so share my journey through the criminal justice system. Police contact didn’t begin with formal laying of charges. Just like many youth, police contact began with a warning. Then again, police contact was in relation to my first contact with psychiatric care. In my presentation, I used the terms “criminal justice system survivor” and “psychiatric care survivor” because I wanted to emphasis that these are not systems of justice and health. Rather, from the standpoint of an Indigenous woman, these are systems of injustice and violence, and I am a survivor of both systems.

I discussed in detail some of the instances that led to my first formal laying of charges, and like most women who enter the criminal justice system, it was a domestic dispute. I shared my experiences and after the talk that day, another Indigenous women had come up to me later and told me that she felt the same way when I talked about once incident. In that incident I shared that my ex boyfriend at the time wouldn’t let me cut my hair, and that he said to me, “it is too long and too beautiful to cut.” Little did I know that he would use my hair to pull me out of bed whenever he wanted, or pull me back into bed whenever he wanted. This lady shared with me that talking about her similar experiences was always the most hardest especially the parts about hair pulling.

After thanking her for having the courage to share with me her story, I told her that it’s okay to cry about it and that when I cut my hair, it was a part of grieving for me. I had a lost a bit of myself in the relationship and I was willing to let go of it to grow into a new person. Our hair, as Indigenous persons, also connect us to our past especially the sad part of the forced removal of children from their homes to residential schools. At these schools, children had their hair cut off to remove the cultural importance/connections to them. Whenever I hear about these stories, it makes my heart heavy because even today as Indigenous peoples we experience violence connected to our hair. These stories connect us. Our hair is important to us and for Indigenous women, when it is used against us, it hurts us, and that hurt carries over to next other generations when children see it, experience it, and cannot escape from it. So when non-Indigenous people don’t understand that our hair is important and that when it is used against us to commit acts of violence whether in the past or present, it frustrates me because only a few understand and only a few will help make a change. I wish more people understood and I wish more people would want to help make change.

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