My Dearest Chubby Native Nieces,
This is a letter to you, young Native nieces with sun-kissed cheeks and many folds. My round-bodied rebels who sit in front of mirrors carefully drawing onto your eyelids a black wing so sharp it’ll slice the skin of your haters with a glance. My chubby Indigenous hummingbirds who field unkindness from all sides and lowers her eyes when the thinner cousin snags the cutest boy. This is for the full-figured sisters who cross their arms over their bodies while spitting the jokes that make the whole crew crack up. Read this letter when you’re having difficulty seeing your own power and beauty, when you feel more like a cactus than a sunflower, when this world and those around you have cursed your self-esteem and you’re too bummed to even roll your brown eyes or flip your dark hair or purse those ruby red lips in a defiant “f*ck you.” I see you.
Your body is incredible, babe. Your shit is so fire these clothing lines out here can’t even make clothes cute enough to parallel your beauty. They want to take your people’s patterns and designs, call them “Native inspired,” slap them on a thin, blonde model and sell you the notion that your art is gorgeous enough to emulate but you bodies will never be worthy. Don’t forget that there are whole industries dedicated to sexualizing the idea of Indigenous women to make a buck and drive our value down but, baby, they truly cannot handle the actuality that we are still here. When Creator molded you, they snapped with satisfaction like RuPaul, hunny. Your mere presence on this land dashes against the hard ground the hopes and dreams of powerful men. When you get your older brother’s hand-me-down tees because plus sizes are very much not affordable, you cut the crew neck out of those boy shirts and show some shoulder, sugar. Cut the neck hole into a sly little v-shape and while you’re at it, trim off the bottom seam and make yourself a damn crop top. White lady stores are selling these types of tees for $65, hunny so DIY that shit and show off that adorable belly.
Your rolls and curves are completely natural, my loves. Creator blessed you with a body that will survive hardship and that will hold within it generations of our people’s stories. I know that what you see on the internet and on tv and in magazines are a bunch of skinny women with perfect makeup and not an ass-dimple to speak of, but that’s because the people who created tv and who invented the internet and who started magazines are white men and women who make millions from your insecurity. These are the same folks who claim to “honor” our people with racist-ass mascots and who make movies about NDNs where you can count the NDNs’ lines on two hands. Girl, do not let these clowns that have no history of kindness to speak of define your beauty for you. Indigenous women have never looked like the Kardashians! Those bodies are generated by wealth, and there is no way to put a price on your existence. Resist the critics in your social circles or families by showing pride in your glorious presence on Earth. Dance at pow wows if that’s your thing, girl. Your tits feel too heavy for shawl dancing or jingle? Wear two sports bras, damnit, until we can get a shawl dancer to design athletic wear. (Native women: go to college and learn to design athletic wear!) Post that whole-body pic on Instagram, thigh meat and all, and write in the caption, “I contain multitudes, bitch,” because you are more than just a body existing on land. You are the universe. You are the pride and joy of your ancestors. You are Indigenous survivance incarnate, my dear and you have important work ahead of you.
Feed your body, sweet girl. Eating is crucial to your survival. When colonizers came onto our land just over 100 years ago and committed the kinds of atrocities against our ancestors that our grandparents have trouble forming words around, they also killed and colonized our food sources. They took us away from our traditional plants and animals and then they controlled our famine with shitty government rations. They took away our food! Do not carry out their vision for them by starving yourself of the thing that connects you to this life. As far as I’m concerned, you eat whatever you want whenever you want. If the food you eat adds a dimple to your butt or your arms, girl, tattoo a flower around that dimple and flash it to the world that you EAT. Diets are a white invention that cost you precious time and money. Diets want you to impose rations upon yourself! Learn to listen to the voice of your body and honor its needs and desires. Celebrate with food, comfort yourself with food, share your food with others, thank the creator for your food, enjoy food and work to be in good relation with what you put in your body. Don’t listen to any assholes who try to tell you that your value as a person is connected to your health. Diabetes and heart disease and cancer are happening TO our communities. That’s not our fault. We are so much more than our medical history. We are more than the stories non-Natives are trying to tell about our bodies. Instead of blaming yourself for not eating like a rich person with a private chef, write a letter to the local grocery store about what you want to be able to shop for and pressure them to provide. Support local farms and food suppliers. You deserve yummy food! Any attempt to control your eating or eating habits is a colonial act. Do not forget this.
Finally, baby girl, find the language to discuss the dissatisfaction you have with your body and speak it into the world. Your body contains a booming voice and a generous heart and talents that have yet to be tapped. I ask you to be brave (again) and to tell your story. The statistics show that Native people experience psychological distress almost twice as much as the general population, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for our people ages 10–34 (@MentalHealthAM). Therapy can be hard to find in our communities but until you find it, there are many ways to celebrate your voice and your body. Your contribution to our history is just as important as the ones who survived the massacres and the boarding schools and the family separations and the removal from their lands. Your experiences — your fears, your worries, your jokes, your traumas — have been silenced on purpose because they hold enough power to change literally everything. Make these colonizers shake in their boots by standing proud in your power. In your well-fed body. Write the song of your full-ass figure and dance to that song with glee, bish. You are the future of us. You are the universe. I see you.
Love, Your čhépa (chubby) Auntie,