Photo by Dulcey Lima / Unsplash

๐ŸŒฑ Decolonizing Hope | Responding to Doom & Gloom

Avoiding complacency in our movements with Indigenous Queer Wisdom

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

Welcome Back! ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿผ

The majority of comments I get about the U.S. election are in the doom & gloom camp so I wanted to reflect on indigenous organizing and the lineage of two spirit people to help us in our movements today. Read on for more...

In Case You Missed It: Who's Afraid of Gender?

What You Can Expect
๐Ÿ“‹ Phase 1 | Meet Voter's Reality
๐Ÿœ No Decolonizing without Two Spirit
๐ŸŒฑ News with a Social Change Lens
๐Ÿ“Š Have You Checked Your Website Analytics?
๐Ÿ’ก The Enshitification Internet Era

I recently had a blitz of political events on my calendar. Given the political environment, most would be shocked to hear that they were exhilarating!

The majority of comments I get about the U.S. election are in the doom & gloom camp. Many pull out their hair or peak through anxious eyes lamenting that the orange guy has a real shot of making it to the Oval Office again and they feel helpless to stop it. I get it. Everyone is freaked out and worried that we could have a repeat of 2016, but this time he stays put and cements a Christian nationalist nation. The stakes are very real and it would cause anyone to react in the number of ways people are reacting to the election right now: denial, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, rage, and so on.

Phase 1 | Meet Voter's Reality

As a movement, it's important that we speak to the reality that people are experiencing. People's pocketbooks are stretched thin, the right-wing has made every effort to sow chaos in our country since they tried to overturn our government on January 6, and Joe Biden isn't perfect or capable of addressing all of the things we need solved. This is all true.

It's also real that the people coming to save us are us. We are the heroes we've been waiting for. (but no capes!) We are the people who are going to stop the MAGA agenda and the backlash to the real progress we've made towards a multiracial democracy in the last decade. We cannot rebuild and have a thriving society without a social structure that supports and listens to the diversity of our needs, not just for a small few. And that's what leads to the next step.

Anthropology Gentrified the West

Colonial powers did their best to eradicate indigenous people from Turtle Island (or the U.S.). While they did not succeed, they left a trail of destruction in their path that meets us today. We can uncover solutions for today by learning about the attempted destruction of indigenous societies whose values are held in many progressive movements.

It's not well known that one of the worst periods of indigenous genocide was after the Civil War. The United States wanted to use the West to boost and rebuild the economy after the war's destruction (yay capitalism!) and finally rid themselves of the "Indian problem." But before that, they released anthropologists into the West. The Smithsonian Institute funded Western incursions to "salvage" Indigenous art, culture, and language before they destroyed Indigenous communities for good, or so they assumed.

The only problem is that colonial anthropologists came with their own gender biases. So when we read accounts of gender fluid people being "unhappy" and their family calling them "crazy," we know that the authors preconceived biases might lead to projection. A colonizer steeped in patriarchy can't imagine it for themselves so how can they possibly accurately document a gender fluid Indigenous culture that they don't understand? They can't!

Many gender fluid people fought back against colonialism including Lozen, an Apache woman who became her war chief brother's military "right hand." That fight and resilience has stayed with native communities despite the emotional and economic abuse that has led to stubborn homophobic, patriarchal views within the community. Rebecca Nagle, a queer indigenous writer and activist, explains that native communities are often more conservative because of the continued colonial violence. Against the odds, native tribes have been rebuilding and flourishing since indigenous movements in the 1960s reinvigorated collective action.

"For me, the term queer is about my sexuality , and then it's about my political perspective of the world." โ€“ Rebecca Nagle (me too, girl!)
Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & โ€ฆ
A sweeping history of Indigenous traditions of gender, โ€ฆ

"There's no Decolonizing without Two Spirit"

Specifically, the queer indigenous movement has driven a reclaiming of gender fluid and matrilineal ways of life. In 1990, the Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference gathered and adopted the term "two spirit." This word was an opportunity to build Pan-Indian solidarity across tribes. It is a new word for an ancient knowing for queer and gender fluid indigenous people who feel called to identify as Two Spirit. I'll let Giiwedin, who is Ojibwe, explain what Two Spirit is in their own words. (Watch on IG).

Two spirit people have always played an important role in communal life before colonization and they can and should play a central role in our movements now. As the glue of their communities, they often helped to support caretaking needs, serve as spiritual centers for the community, or organize outside of their tribes. These are the exact qualities we need more of now.

"Going Forward to the Past"

Unfortunately, the gender binary still plays a sticky role in our society. The misinterpretation of gender fluid and queer identities is a way to keep us stuck in colonialist thinking. I can recognize that lineage in my own past as someone who's had many gendered questions or accusations thrown at me. Not a boy just because I'm queer! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The resilience of Native communities and particularly Two Spirit folks can be a north star for all of us to continue to uproot the harmful systems that live within us. Gender fears are sticky because the right-wing sees it as a useful tool. Since we know that, we should absolutely use our strengths and their fears to our advantage.

To close out our series on Indigenous queer wisdom, I want to offer a few thoughts on how we can learn from our Indigenous siblings who survived the same forces that we are fighting today. Indigenous communities remain resilient despite the odds, because they know who they are.

  • Reject the binary โ€“ Most things in life are not based on only two choices. The idea that there is man and woman and nothing in between is a bit of a fantasy. As we see in nature, our world is diverse and that diversity helps us all thrive. Nature has always been a guide for our growth. The greater the diversity in our movements, the more creative solutions we can find.
  • Free yourself โ€“ In response to a question of what do we need to do first to create the lasting change we want, my partner reminded me that it always starts with the inner work. The more we are learning about ourselves and building our inner resilience, the more we are able to see just how connected all of our issues are. We cannot have clean, plastic-free air without an end to the War on Gaza, because both issues are deeply embedded into the harmful belief systems that we have to eradicate.
  • Know yourself โ€“ The work of therapy and particularly somatics is a journey to freeing yourself, you begin to feel what freedom is and what it is not. You get to know who you truly are away from societyโ€™s demands. Through knowing ourselves, we can truly be rooted in demanding our ability to choose for ourselves. The more we recognize what freedom feels like, the more weโ€™re tied to the collective need for freedom.
  • Empower others โ€“ Many shy away from therapy and healing because it's hard. It doesn't take a 10-minute tutorial to fix the inner biases that are still reinforced in our culture. It takes time and a lot of vulnerability, but when we do our work, we are stronger. We have a wider base beneath us so that when we fall, we've got ourselves.
  • Build the movement โ€“ But the other part of inner work is that we don't just need to rely on ourselves. We can restore in community. For us to heal the social ecosystems that have been so harmed by the 2016 and 2020 elections, we will only get stronger if we do it together.
  • Seek liberation through joy โ€” Indigenous matrilineal cultures values both the brain and the heart. Through the undoing of binary thinking, we can build more creativity and joy into our movements. People want to join movements where they can feel hope and the connection for what is possible. Thatโ€™s how we can stay resilient to achieve change.

While the summer heat might be heating up your anxious thoughts about the election, we know what the path forward is despite the noise from the right-wing. The political events Iโ€™ve done to have been exhilarating because of the energy in the community. Voter outreach volunteers and communicators alike are fired up for this election.

Dallas Harris, Nevada State Senate candidate speaking at San Francisco fundraiser in a backyard with plants
Dallas Harris, Nevada State Senate candidate appearing at San Francisco fundraiser

My vote in November is not a binary choice between two white men, it's a choice of what kind of world I want to live in. The majority of U.S. voters want to live in a country with progressive values, we just need to have hope that we can shape the future! Explore voter outreach opportunities at the Bay Area Coalitions.

Enjoying our newsletter? Subscribe for the full monthly series, learn how to navigate ๐Ÿงญ social change activism in our digital world, and support our 100% reader-supported work.

Getting to the roots - evaluating the news with a social change lens
  • ๐Ÿ“š Old Secret Queer Language Drives Popular Slang Today - This piece in LGBTQ Nation walks through terms and phrases gay people have historically used to identify other queer people. Phrases like slay, work, shade, itโ€™s giving all came from the New York ballroom scene in the 80โ€™s. Highly recommend Paris is Burning on HBO for your Pride streaming list.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - Letโ€™s not forget why gay slang was used. These phrases were also used to remain safe and unseen in a straight world, especially for Black gay men and trans women. Slang was a matter of life and death for many and still is today. So thank your queer elders and fight for LGBTQ rights like someoneโ€™s life depends on it, because it does.
  • ๐Ÿ“ธ Suppressing Abortion Content on Your Feeds - The 19th reports on the suppression of abortion related content on our news feeds. TikTok, Instagram, and Bing search have all been flagged for flagging or removing content about abortion services or support. Meanwhile, Google is filled with misleading anti-abortion โ€œhealthโ€ clinics.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - Itโ€™s interesting that abortion, an election issue that has driven Democrats to midterm and special election victories since 2020 is being suppressed by Big Tech. Media and tech have a lot at stake in this election. And theyโ€™ve been much bolder about tipping the scales. (NYT article)
  • ๐Ÿ“š Chiquita Brands Funded Colombian Paramilitary Group - to maintain the brandโ€™s profits and sow disorder in the country. The largest U.S. banana distributor was ordered to pay $38.3 million to the families of victims in Colombia killed by the violent group they funded.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - This is an example of how U.S. corporations have become the face of colonialism and U.S. imperialism abroad. When decisions are made by white male CEOs far away from the reality, profit leads to cruelty and the destabilization of the region. Oh, this also impacts immigration!
getting to the roots - navigating tech, media, and communications

Have You Checked Your Website Analytics?

With AI coming in, the SEO landscape will be profoundly impacted. Many organizations are already seeing the results.

  • With AI, searchers will no longer need to click on a website to get all the answers. Google will feature AI responses in the results.
  • The challenge is that AI is pulling answers from so many sources that your website might not be credited or seen despite having given Google the answer.
  • Many organizations are already seeing dips in their website traffic due to Google's AI search product.

We covered this in more detail last week. Make sure your preferences are updated to get our newsletter for communicators!

๐Ÿ“š What Does AI + SEO Spell for Communicators?
SEO Considerations in the Time of AI

let's grow together - reflections, ideas, and curiosities of the week

The Enshitification Internet Era is here. Are you prepared? ๐ŸŽจ Download our Social Media Care Pocket Zine! Find our latest videos on our ๐ŸŽฌ Quick Bites page or follow us on TikTok.

And that's a wrap on this weekโ€™s newsletter! We hope you found this helpful in your work. Forward this to a friend and help democratize communications! If you have any topics you want covered or have any questions, please reach out and let me know.

In Solidarity,
Sam Chavez
Roots of Change Founder

About the roots of change agency โ€” Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support organizations and activists ๐Ÿฅต avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change. Donate to support our work.
๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€๐ŸŒˆ Queering Life๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter๐Ÿ‘‘ Defeating White Supremacy๐Ÿ—ณ Democracy๐Ÿšฎ Defeating Patriarchy

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.