Him: “Indinz don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day — that’s for white people.”
Them: “Did you just say, 'Indinz'?”
Him: “Yeah, I just said 'Indinz.' We’re not Indian. Indians are from India. We are Indin, from the rez.”
Two hours later…
Him: “Son, did you snag a Valentine today? Aaaaye! I bet you did!” He laughs in that wicked Indian laugh. “Did you get any candy?”
I’ve heard so many variations of this conversation that I could probably write a book. A book of paradoxes, of indigenous realities, where we exist in a space of reservation and urban experiences, where we yearn to decolonize, to achieve the wellbeing and health that our ancestors once knew, while at the same time, we struggle to let go of mainstream cultural practices that we’ve known all our lives, practices that we’ve developed attachments to, and even indigenized.
In this space of Indin realities, we are both colonized, and decolonizing. We are still pissed about our land being stolen, yet we borrow $20 from our cousin and never pay it back. And in this complicated yet beautiful reality, we just learned about the hypocrisy of the murderous holiday of Thanksgiving, yet we can’t wait to go to the Fourth of July pow wow so we can hopefully run into our old snag. We make frybread in the shape of a heart on Valentine’s Day, and we give it to our sweetheart, or, we make a Facebook post, and tag our single friends and laugh at them.
In this reality, as reservation or urban Indinz, we are ourselves — real, complicated, and often misunderstood. Some of us flex our decolonizing muscles, yet on Valentine’s Day, we wish for roses from our partner, or we wish for a new snag because we are lonely. We wish for the ideal Indigenous Man, with broad shoulders, and long hair, and he’s drug and alcohol free… and… awesome. Dammit. Where the hell is he?
We are Indinz, not Indian, and we like Valentine’s Day, too.
For a couple of different reasons, I have been somewhat anti-Valentine’s Day in the past. I know many sister-friends who are th
e same. I see you. We are “anti” when we are single, or when we’ve given up on our honey to be romantic. We call Valentine’s Day a consumer holiday, because it is, and yet we still wish for love.
You see, 21st century Indinz are complicated. We are survivors of genocide and colonialism, and yet still, we are human. We can yearn for our ideal mate on Valentine’s Day. We can shower our romantic partners with love, not just on Valentine’s Day, obviously.
As married up, or shacked up Indinz, we can gaze into our lover’s eyes, and muster up the courage to tell them how much we love them on Valentine’s Day- at least remind them, in a corny Valentine’s Day kind of way. We can buy our boyfriends or husbands chocolate, and they better buy us flowers, or at least do the dishes, for crying out loud.
We can gush over love songs, and compose roundies about snagging, or breaking up and making up. We can eat fry bread in the shape of a heart, and deer meat, and berries and wild rice. We can love like our ancestors, through action and commitment, through showing up for our loved ones, consistently. And even still, we can love and yearn like the 21st century Indinz we are, longing for romance, and decolonization, too.
Sarah Sunshine Manning (Shoshone-Paiute, Chippewa-Cree) grew up on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in northern Nevada and southern Idaho. She currently resides on the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota. Follow her on Twitter @SarahSunshineM.