Sasha Maria Suarez

Sasha Maria Suarez (White Earth Ojibwe, Puerto Rican, Scottish), is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Minnesota where she works, research, writes, and teaches. Born and raised in South Minneapolis, Suarez's academic work centers around Minneapolis as an historic and contemporary indigenous space. Her work as a scholar, writer, and community member is rooted in upholding the legacies of community organizing by indigenous women. She has worked on multiple public history exhibitions, the latest of which examines indigenous incarceration in Minnesota. Suarez works at Birchbark Books and Native Arts in Minneapolis. 

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January 2019

Weight of Today

I plunge into lake shallows, try to reach the bottom. I try to sit on watery land, to feel each gritty grain of sand digging into the flesh of my thighs. Each slippery rock underfoot.  Every caressing weed wrapping around my calves. My eyes are squeezed tight and I marvel at a world underneath the rippling surface.

Each sound is re-understood. A recurring gurgle. Each steadily booming heartbeat lodged in my ears. The muffling of water sounds.

I feel each push and pull, each watery pulse against my skin. My lungs grow heavy.

I rise, break into air. The breeze is merely a breath and I sway with each beckoning of this body I’m in. Around me, children shriek. Somewhere music plays. It smells of lake and charcoal. I stand, watching each droplet stretch from my skin, wind carving streams on their way back home. I climb out with leaden limbs. Each step is a task and I wonder if this re-emerging is the tug of my body and the lake, telling me to stay.

***

I feel a force pulling and pushing me every day. Outside extremities yanked in directions I can’t control.

Here are the requirements of education, which must, of course, strive to be decolonial in an ivory tower that does not want indigenous bodies to refuse its rules.

There are long trips up north to visit friends and stumble through a language stolen, a language born within me that I cannot understand.

Now is the news cycle always propelling me forward even as I try to dig my fingers into ledges and remain immobile. Every day there is a new crisis. Local, national, global. Names and words slip past me as I try to gather them up, look long at them, witness.

Border[lands]. Puerto Rico. Charlottesville. Mississippi. Missouri. Minnesota. Mni Sota. Fires. Floods. Flint. Wet’suwet’en. Washington. D.C. Women missing. Missing women. Waterways.

It’s taken two years to realize that I’m surrounded by bodies struggling to keep up just the same. There isn’t a time of isolation. Somewhere nearby someone is always fighting to balance themselves. We’re so close we can catch each other, develop new plans to move within the momentum of today.

***

I sleep and wake with whispers, ancestors’ words I can’t decipher. My body knows the pulse, the beat of language searching for a way in. A hush, a hum.

I watch myself in the mirror, scrutinize my features, shape silence with my mouth. I whisper
apane apane apane
aninshinaabekwe indaaw
anishinaabekwe indaaw
apane
I hold these words as I march streets, as I walk with drumbeats, as I stand before students. As I breathe, as I exhale.

Sometimes I can hear singing, see nookomis sway, and I slip into memory, submerge in hopes and longings. I see recovery, a reclamation, an adaptation of what I’ve lost. I recreate. I swallow the present whole, feel each familiarity. I re-root myself here, in the dirt, in this land. I spread myself across my home[land] and whisper words into its belly. I feed as many mouths as I can, nourish every thought.

I breathe, I exhale. My body, every molecule, is full of words. All the knowledge is there before me, I need only to listen and see. I need only to remember.

apane
apane
apane
anishinaabekwe

Therein lies the strength.