Advertising stories have normalized a perceived lovelessness in ourselves, and with our relations. I have demonstrated in the prior two parts that capitalist notions of love focus on turning towards consuming an external recognition of love as the default, rather than critiquing these assumptions, and then defining it for ourselves.
Something as small as a purchased diamond can be counterproductive to Indigenous resurgence, nationhood, community accountability, reciprocity, and responsibility because it allows us to trade money for time and relationships.
Colonial, patriarchal, and heteronormative oppression have normalized our perception of legitimate relationships, and the more we attempt to represent these advertised ideals, the more we de-humanize ourselves.
Instead of turning toward this idea of external consumption for the recognition of love – and the romanticism of this idea, we can just as easily turn inward to a sense of self-conscious traditionalism in relation to the stories of our communities and ancestors.
maskasina is the nehiyawewin word for shoes. You are probably thinking, what do shoes have to do with love?
These stories have come through nohkom, her relative’s writings, and also through my Michif nitôtem Jodi Beniuk, where moccasins were central in recognizing accountability, responsibility, and reciprocity in your relationships.
nehiyawiskwew and les femmes Michif hand-made maskasina to demonstrate their commitment to their relationship with a partner.
Translation: when you received some badass intricately beaded moccasins, that person is really saying “hey, I’m committed to some serious love reciprocity with you”… as long as you keep supplying the tanned hides.
Joseph F. Dion describes a similar tradition in My Tribe, the Crees where “the bride accompanied by an aunt or grandmother, took with her a new pair of moccasins and a bowl of food to the home of the groom” (1996, 16).
Jodi taught me how to make moccasins during this past year, and related these teachings to relational reciprocity and responsibility. Moccasins or maskasina represented the balance of roles in domestic partnerships.
Traditionally, the hunter, who practiced ethical relationship with the land, and engaged in ceremony with the deer or elk nations for the meat and the skins, provided the hides to the maskasina maker, who tanned the hides, and created a unique signature of piecework. This relationship was based on reciprocity: you couldn’t hunt without moccasins, and you couldn’t make moccasins without a successful hunt. This represents transformative praxis. Moccasins represented engaged and balanced relationships, which included respect for our animal relatives, and the relationship with the land.
Furthermore, Sherry Farrell Racette describes Métis woman as feisty, independent, and capable. With a good hand at everything, they could choose a good husband regardless of her age, because of the status that came with her piecework (2013), which stimulated local Indigenous economies.
Integrating moccasins into relationship commitment ceremonies not only recognized the value and interconnectedness of all our relations into this relationship, but also the political and economic autonomous agency of the respected partners: the governance structures and economic values of the hunt, and the value of transformation and organization from the hunt to the hides to the moccasins.
These reflections extend further than the diamond love story. Through the process of deconstructing the stories that are sold to us, we can begin to construct a more sustainable, and engaging alternative practice within a commitment ceremony of responsibility, accountability, and reciprocity that are centred around the land. These stories support affective economies, and the integration of traditional laws, such as the love law in our political governance.
Do I recommend that everyone go out into the bush and hunt a deer?
Yes! But even if you don’t, understanding that practice is a start to understand and discuss how materialism and capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism are deeply engrained within our personal and intimate relationships.
We most likely have a friend, or a friend of a friend who hunts, and a friend or a friend of a friend who knows how to make a mean pair of moccasins, so we need to start developing these networks in order to depend less on the capitalist system, especially when something as normalized as a diamond can be replaced with moccasins through what Dene scholar Glen Coulthard terms relational “transformative praxis” (2007).
These connections demonstrate the community potential of love dialogue and action, and a transformative praxis involves more than the two people engaged in the potential relationship.
Additionally, using an Indigenous feminism perspective, I am conscious and reflective of our own stories, so that we may share these stories in anti-oppressive ways in our lives and our communities, creating strong and powerful networks.
My challenge to you is to turn inward (Coulthard 2007), as I have done through this journey from selling diamonds to making my first pair of maskasina, and ask: is the diamond ring love story a form of self-conscious traditionalism or can we engage in a love praxis that integrates all our relations in our partnerships?
Through this process of self-recognition, I have discovered that centering the land in all my relationships creates space where I can learn to love truthfully.
Loving all your relations, on the land, is radical and resurgent love praxis.
Coulthard, Glen. “Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and the ‘Politics of Recognition’ in Canada.” Contemporary Political Theory 6 (2007): 437-460.
Dion, Joseph. My Tribe, the Crees. Calgary, AB: Glenbow Alberta Institute, 1994.
Farrell Racette, Sherry. “She’s a Good Woman: the Economic and Social Power of the Stitch.” Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Conference 2013 June 14-16, 2013. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.