Our hearts will continue beating: Reflections on Claiming Space by Crystal Smith de Molina

Our hearts will continue beating


Let me take you on a tour

Over there is our ancestors from the North

There…. Our ancestors from the South

If you walk this way…our ancestors from the East

And here are our ancestors for the West


If you are silent

You can still hear their hearts beating

They are now immortal

“Reminders of a distant past”…

That just happened yesterday

Some 50 years ago

And the majority are the fruit of theft 100 or so years ago


Living breathing beings…

Sometimes, my beings hurts

Hurts to see life without death


Museums should be translated that way

Museums mean: life without death


Though our ancestors will never rest

We are Claiming Space

Our people are still living breathing beings

And we are taking over museums

Exhibit by exhibit


No longer will the voices

Of our ancestors stand alone

We will shake the walls of colonialism

With our art

With our words

With our power

The kind of power that cannot be bought



Let me take you on a tour

Over there is our ancestors from the North

There…. Our ancestors from the South

If you walk this way…our ancestors from the East

And here are our ancestors for the West


And we are here

An Indigenous population

Alive and thriving


Creating our art to confuse

Creating our art to confide

Creating our art to confront

Creating art in new ways

Creating art in old ways

Creating in a mix of ways


And if you are silent

You can hear our hearts beating

If you won’t be silent

Our hearts will continue beating


The Invisible Sun by Crystal Smith de Molina

The Invisible Sun


Walking as ghosts

Talking as mutes

Looked through like an endless prairie

We are Indigenous woman

The ones who are not seen

The ones who are not heard

The ones invisible

We work hard

We live

We breathe and eat

We are women

We are human

The sun

The invisible sun

The star up in the sky

They choose not to look at

Are incapable of hearing the power it lashes out

We are Indigenous woman

The ones who are not seen

The ones who are not heard

The ones invisible

We are like the sun

We hold a power

A power that is chosen not to be seen

A power unheard of

A power that burns if neglected

We are Indigenous woman

The ones who will be seen

Ones who will be heard

Ones who will bring light to their darkness

Always Already by Molly Billows

Always already.


You like to label Indigenous peoples as a vanishing race,

try to erase us from the collective mind of the colonized State.

I imagine it’s easier for you, more convenient

if we have this inevitable fate hanging over us.

Easier, more convenient, to mourn for what was lost

rather than acknowledge your own role in destroying it.

Easier to hide behind your Imperialist Nostalgia.1

More convenient to continually frame Indigeneity as fragile, as

always already.


Always already vanishing.

Always already lost.

Always already dying.

Always already past.2

Always already.


Always: a strict checklist of prescribed expectations.

Always: leaving no room for unexpected behaviors, and definitely no alterations, but

always allowing for just a few anomalies– to reinforce imposed limitations.

Set definitions. Confine possibilities, so that

always already expectations become believed inevitabilities.3

Always already.


Expectations become so naturalized,

we forget to question where they came from in the first place.

Forget to question the ethnographic voice of Imperialist Anthropologists,

who whisper definitions in our ears as we sleep.

Forget that this ‘objective’ voice has mastered the art of telling dehumanized stories:

Observations void of emotions, then

we wonder where this notion of the ‘Stoic Indian’ came from, when

annotations about cultures leave no room for feelings or relationships.

Stuck in time. Snapshot definitions leave no room for malleability or transition.


And these constructed shadows of cultures still echo through history textbooks,

contextualizing the Native experience always already in the past tense:



As we become objects instead of subjects

in the sentences you create to justify your dominance.


In the same way women are objectified

so violence against us can become somehow justified in the eyes of the oppressor.


For us Inconvenient Indians,4

you use the same convenient reasoning:


Bodies inherently rapeable.

Land inherently invadable.

Resources inherently extractable.5

Cultures inherently erasable.

Whole peoples inherently incapable of being real.


But as much as you seek to steal,

our land,

our language,

our identities,


We are still here.

And that is your secret fear:

that actually, we will never disappear;

that we have always,

and will always,

be right here.





1 Rosaldo, R. (1989). Imperialist Nostalgia. In Culture & Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis

(68-87). Boston: Beacon Press.

2 Lew, J. (2014). Lecture given in FNSP 300: Writing First Nations. Vancouver, BC.

3 Deloria, P. (2004). Introduction. In Anomaly and Expectation (3-14). Lawrence: University

Press of Kansas.

4 King, Thomas. (2012). The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North

America. Canada: Anchor Canada.

5 Smith, A. (2014, January 24). Decolonizing the Anti-Violence Movement. Lecture given during

UBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. At Sty-Wet-Tan Hall, Vancouver, BC.



Molly Billows is from the Homalco Nation. She is in her final year studying Indigenous Peoples and Land Health in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. She wrote this poem last semester during FNSP 300 Writing First Nations, taught by Janey Lew. 

Don’t Call Me Indian by Anna McKenzie

Don’t Call Me Indian

Hungry eyes,
Licking your lips,
To save us from ourselves
You name big names
You all seem to know each other
You all laugh the same
And speak about us like we aren’t here
But we are, and we are listening
And we are relearning our ways
While simultaneously learning yours
I said don’t call me Indian
We need partners, not parents
Your unwanted fascination
Studying us and our losses
Repairing the damage that has not been forgotten
By us
It lives, It breathes, We Protect It,
We Remember It
We Never Forget
Your written words don’t resonate
Our knowledge runs through our veins
Pumps through our bodies
That Belong to Us
Connects to the land
That Belongs to Us
Informs our decisions
That Belong to Us
And will teach our children
That Belong to Us




My desire to lead
Is born from adversity
And personal revelations
About the capacity for an individual to change.

My faith
Is nourished
By the ever present Gitchi Manitou
Whom instills seeds of wisdom
And rainfalls of abundance.
The abundance is triggered by a belief,
A belief in the unknown,
A belief in the unseen forces that want to do good through me.

My life is a reflection
Of the infinite intelligence
That resides within each of us.
The Creator hears a genuine prayer
And seeks me out.
For I,
I beam the light of truth and compassion for my people.
The compounded efforts of my sweat, blood, and tears will move mountains,
Overcome any obstacles,
And fulfill the 7 fires prophecy.

I will lead a cultural revolution,
I will bring back the ways of my ancestors,
I will make them proud.

Shawn Shabaquay
Anishinaabe Nation

Shawn Shabaquay is Anishinaabe from Wabigoon Lake First Nation. He is a 3rd year student at UBC majoring in Sociology and minoring in FN Studies. He is also the President of the Indigenous Students Association and is currently working on bringing more culturally relevant events on campus.


Breathe Life by Crystal Smith de Molina

Breathe Life

Walkways are silence
An eerie feeling looms
I look around and see death
No worse
Life without death

You can almost hear the screams of the artifacts
Screams to mother earth
From which they were born
From which they belong

People say they are just items
But protocol
Aboriginal protocol says different
We breathe life into everything we make
Breathe life
Totem poles
Each possessing power
Each possessing life
Each possessed

Museums preserve life
Museums prevent death
Museums break the cycle of life
Break the cycle of death

Circular to

Circular to

Each step
Eyes widen
Heart slows
Thump thump    Thump thump… …thump… … …thump
As if my body
Is caught between
Life Death
Sprayed with chemicals
Or not moved
Just  always there

Just lifeless



A broken cycle
A devastating cycle
A deathless cycle
A cycle of constant
Even though the only constant should be


To recognize trickster by Crystal Smith de Molina

To recognize trickster

Trickster was a crafty spirit
Shape shifting
He took many forms in the past
Raven, coyote, …
In the past he was

In the present he is
Today we look around
His face all around
He is inside our bodies
He hides behind our eyes
Hides behind our eyes
Our eyes

We see stereotypes through our eyes
We look at others and Judge
Judge their looks
Apply the appropriate stereotype
Act according to that stereotype

It is that trickster that creates stereotypes
He creates them within our eyes
So we see nothing but them
A clever spirit ready to create problems
Ready to separate
Ready to judge
Ready to fight

However we are clever
We are wise
We know right from wrong
We know what hurts
Know suffering
Know pain
Know bad judgment

And we know that no is different than know
That we should say no suffering
No pain
No judgement
And know right from wrong
We should take it upon ourselves to know people
To love people
To cherish our lives with each other
And to walk with soft steps
To recognize trickster
To pull that clever spirit from our bodies
To clean our eyes with truth
To know ourselves

It is up to us to know trickster
And to say no more
To be idle no more
To remember the true purpose
Of tricksters actions
Which is to teach
To become knowledgeable
To say no to stereotypes
And to know each other

Crystal Smith de Molina


Untitled Poem by Anna McKenzie

Sometimes in the midst of my day to day life, I am overcome with a sadness when I see one of my brothers or sisters struggling with the life they have inherited as an Indigenous person. I wrote this piece on my phone while I was on the bus, watching an Indigenous brother struggle with alcohol. I observed the looks he received by other riders on the bus, of pity and disgust. I listened helplessly as the bus driver asked him to get off the bus, and the shame he felt. I felt my own shame for not being able to stand up for him in that moment, to explain to everyone what led this man to this place of darkness. Instead, I wrote a poem. 

He could have been a warrior

He could have been a leader

He could have been a provider

A protector of his people

Instead he sits on corners

Displaced from his land and spirit

His identity was stolen

From those who sought to possess it


She could have been a warrior

She could have been a leader

She could have had a voice

To be valued by her people

Instead she talks to no one

And struggles in her silence

Her voice and power were stolen

By those who sought to possess it

Grandfather by Ookishkimaanisii Johnston


no one would ever call you traditional

you’re not an oldschoolindian bristling with sage and sweet grass

you sing in church, sit in your chair strum your banjo smoke drink

shoot squirrels and raccoons from the porch.

But your mother wrapped you in the Indian way, and she taught your sisters

who swaddled me tight and secured, stopped my squalling

I fell asleep right away

You were in the bush when you were three years old

(did you carry a gun bigger than you)

(did you talk to the spirits then, did you walk in their world, before the priests?)

I’ve seen you hunt; I’ve seen you clean your kills. You taught me.

Mishom, Nimishomis,

I know you beat that priest up when he hit your brother

that you ran away from the residential school, that you made it all the way home

how many days, how many nights, did you spend alone in the bush, on the road

(but you were never really alone, were you?)

You joined the army then, you’re a veteran now. You carry the flags

into the pow wow grand entry, handsome in your pressed uniform, shined buttons

Mishomis, you’re a warrior, aren’t you, but no one would ever call you traditional.

Who would you be

Who would I be if they never took you? Would your low voice

burn warm with the words of our people? Would you sit next to me in ceremonies

I got my clan from you. What’s your name, the one

Creator gave you before you were born in the same room where you watch TV?

My mother reads the missionaries’ records and tells me stories

she translates to English from French from our language,

Nimishomis, those stories should come from you.

I am a casualty by Crystal Smith de Molina

I dive into the ocean

Submerging myself in beauty

The soft bed rocks beneath me

The sweet sound of songs

From whales near by

The scuttling of king crab

And chatter of school fish

I dove into Beauty…

As I opened my eyes

I saw nothing

And felt everything

I was choking

I rose from the water; which was supposed to embrace my body

Yet it entangled me

And I could not break free

I was covered in thick darkness

My whole body felt ill

The slick oil slithered down my throat

Into my lungs it crept

Every branch of air engulfed in dirty oil

My heart pumping

My heart slowing as oil reaches it

My blood flowing

My blood weighed down and blocked by oil

I am dying

My body is filled with oil

They try and save me

Cleaning my outer limbs

But how will they clean my heart

Which weeps black tears

How will I breathe?

 When oil has contaminated my lungs

I am nothing

But a casualty of blind greed

Collateral damage

Money before life

Oil before water

Country “benefits” before citizens

Growth before stability

I am dead

But at least they tried to save me?

Crystal Smith de Molina is from the Tsimshian and Haisla Nation and has been a resident of Vancouver for ten years. She is married and has two wonderful children. Crystal is a full-time student at the University of British Columbia in NITEP (Native Indian Teacher Bachelor of Education Program).