So I am pushing myself to bring up a topic that causes great angst in my life, and the lives of many aboriginal people - "lateral violence". What is it? It's known by a number of names:
• work place bullying
• horizontal hostilities/violence
• internalized colonialism
• relational aggression
I have included a link to a very short, but totally valuable commentary on the subject by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC):
Here is another comment: “ When a powerful oppressor has directed oppression against a group for a
period of time, members of the oppressed group feel powerless to fight back and they eventually turn
their anger against each other.” – Jane Middleton-Moz
I have worked for private corporations, provincial ministries, hospitals, corrections, the literacy community, and ultimately for no one but myself. The perpetrators of lateral violence have most often crept up in the public sector jobs we've had - by both our staff peers and management. I am still recovering emotionally from physical and emotional abuse experiences that happened in childhood, but also from the extreme personal devastation of experiencing this lateral violence in the workplace. It actually emanated from aboriginal employees who live within the community, and 2 local aboriginal agencies which coveted the contract we received... Everything was questioned - our "nativeness", our spirituality, our teachers, our traditions, our lifestyle, and even the fact that we are Elders. This went on for almost 5 years - we gave up the farm and our animals to come here for the contract we were given, and are forever grateful for the experience of living here... We worked hard to create a great home for our daughter, and not sacrifice too much of what we are intrinsically, as individuals. The financial reward was wonderful. The friends we amazing resilient people.
Neither Brian nor I consider ourselves victims. Not at all. From a spiritual perspective, we bring to us experiences we need to learn from, and can possibly be "agents of change'. In this instance, I think we were not agents of change at least not at the local level. One of our chaplain friends very succinctly put it that "the dark side won". The lessons were ours to learn - we shone in our job and got exemplary reviews, but we were too "nice" and did not always build clear boundaries. We did not want management to see us as the same "nasty Indians" they were used to working with - so we were people who pretty much always turned the other cheek. Nice guys often do finish last. However, I would NOT stoop to the level of the agencies and people who were purposely hostile. It is important to acknowledge that while we have been plunged into unemployment, we still have our spirits and souls intact. The bruising has not yet gone away.
So we are looking at spiritual institutions and other public agencies who do "good" work. These are the people savvy in the ways of working with employers who don't know how to ameliorate lateral violence. I do not want a pound of flesh - I just don't want this to continue happening to us personally, and the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people of Canada. I have asked for divine guidance, and my gnostic conscious self knows that some how, some way, the right thing will happen and ultimately the dark side will have lost this one... I have enough Mohawk in me to still be a spiritual warrior, albeit a tired one.
In the meantime Brian and I are having a great time refocusing on our art and spiritual careers. Our open houses are looming and I will be in the company of my spiritual peers in a couple of weeks. it's all good and I am mostly at peace.
Sleep well friends.