Writer Of The Week: Jen Deerinwater

‘Collecting our stories in written form is an act of resistance.’

Let’s ponder for a moment this question: What value does writing bring to the world?

There are, of course, many ways to answer this. Writing can be a tool to convey useful information, a way to expose us to new ideas, or a means of escapism.

At its very best, though, writing can be much more — it can help change the whole damn world. And if that sounds hyperbolic, perhaps you haven’t yet experienced the work of Jen Deerinwater.

Jen’s writing on Indigenous communities and resistance, as well as the devastation caused by colonialist forces, is more than informative; it’s crucial. In reading her words, we are forced to confront truths too often overlooked, and to in turn work toward a more just and equitable future.

When not writing truths, Jen is speaking them, as she recently did at this month’s SisterSong conference in New Orleans, and as she will be doing next month as a featured speaker at the BECAUSE conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. And when Jen’s not speaking truths, she is fighting for them, through her critical on-the-ground activism work.

This passion for change is evident in every word Jen writes — and for that, the world truly can be made better.

Below, Jen shares her thoughts on capitalist consumption, cozy pajamas, and fighting the good fight.

You can generally find me writing in my PJs on a laptop while surrounded by pillows in my living room.

The writers that have most influenced my life are far too numerous to name, but Indigenous, LGBTQIA2S, and Disabled Women and Femme writers are at the top of my list.

The TV character I most identify with doesn’t yet exist. I’ve never seen myself nor my communities respectfully portrayed on television.

I think “paying writers in exposure” is exploitative and rooted in the capitalist consumption of oppressed people and our stories for white supremacist gain.

The coolest thing I’ve bought from money made writing are supplies to travel to sites of resource extraction camps and Indigenous resistance.

If I could share one of my stories by yelling it into a megaphone in the middle of Times Square, it would be “America’s Conversation on Sexual Assault is a Failure if it Ignores Native Women.”

My 18-year-old self would feel surprised and amazed about where I am today.

I like writing for The Establishment because this site doesn’t merely talk the intersectional talk, but rather walks the intersectional walk. The editors have always treated me, and my communities, with respect and fairness which I can sadly say is a rarity in the publishing industry. The readers are also fantastic.

If I could only have one type of food for the rest of my life it would be Mexican.

The story I’m working on now is about the Mariner East 2 pipeline and the brave people of Camp White Pine, who are resisting not only this pipeline, but Energy Transfer Partners (behind DAPL), settler colonialism, and the resource extraction industry.

The story I want to write next is about the larger reproductive justice implications of resource extraction on the Indigenous communities focusing specifically on Energy Transfer Partners’ projects-DAPL, Mariner East 2, Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

Writing means this to me: It’s the opportunity to share the stories and issues of my often overlooked communities. I also see it as a tool for cultural revival and survival of Indigenous people. We weren’t meant to survive ameriKKKa’s genocide, both literally and culturally. As a result, collecting our stories in written form is an act of resistance by ensuring that our ways and experiences are available for the seven generations to come, and in turn, live on forever.

Want to keep up with Jen’s critical work? Check her out her Facebook page here, and the page for Crushing Colonialism — which she hopes to turn into a non-profit Native media collective to highlight and support the works of Indigenous writers and community members — here.

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