One Thing: Bundles
by Dayna Danger
Aaniin, Dayna Danger ndizhinikaaz, Métis – Saulteaux ndaa. waabi-mukwa dodem niinda’aw, Wini-nipi ndoonjibaa.
My mother, Debbie, was the first one to teach me about what a bundle is, what its role is in Anishinaabeg and Métis protocols of care, and what it has meant in our family. Each bundle is different, but they all carry deep significance. It’s a gathering of precious and sacred medicines and objects. In mine, you will find one braid of sweetgrass, Redbird matches in a Ziploc, empty pill bottles full of ground lavender and weekay, an abalone shell for burning medicine, red broadcloth, a leather- bound goose fan, and a red pipestone pipe with an eagle engraving, wrapped in soft blue fabric. My mother taught me to care for my bundle like you would a small child. Without you, they are defenseless. They rely on you to take care of them and activate them when the time is right. When we do, we engage all of ourselves: our emotions, our spirituality, our stories, and our teachings. We give to them, and they give to us. My bundle has taught me how to nurture my relationships to my kin, my spirit, my body, and my ancestors.
• • •
When I was 13 years old, I would sneak onto the home computer after dark, when everyone had gone to bed, and start up the 56K dial-up modem. Growing up in the freezing Prairie city of so-called Winnipeg, many complicated feelings about my sexuality arose. Not only did I not have queer elders then to look up to, no one in my world talked openly about sex, let alone queerness. I felt isolated and lonely at times, but my young spirit was mischievous and curious to find others like me. It wasn’t long until I found my favourite on- line chat room. My intention was not to meet anyone in person; I just needed a small pocket of the internet where a group of role-playing freaks from different parts of the globe could come together and escape our current realities. What I lacked in experience, I certainly made up for with imagination!
I became obsessed with tales of vampires, undead immortal beings, and mythical beasts. In church, I used to sneak Anne Rice’s novels inside the middle crease of the bible during mass; through them, I was introduced to imaginings of romantic relationships beyond the heteronormative binary of man and woman. Rice’s vampires were attracted to each other’s minds; gender and genitalia were inconsequential. As they aged, they lost their ability to procreate as humans, but would seduce their human lovers in order to feast on them. Vampires enjoyed single or multiple partners, both undead and alive, and these relationships were of- ten sexual without physical intercourse, which opened up a whole world of possibility. These stories became a way for me to express myself through characters that, at the time, I could only dream of embodying.
Back in the 2000s, at the old gay stomping grounds, Gio’s, knowledgeable kinksters in the community hosted monthly informative gatherings aimed at providing young, experimenting kinksters proper play techniques and toy usage. I had longed to enter play dungeons and Black and Blue balls hosted by local, well-known kinksters, and wanted to know how to play, while keeping myself and my culture safe. However, I felt uncomfortable right away in these spaces; while BDSM is seen as an alternative to monogamy, heteronormativity, and vanilla sex, it is rife with tired, cis-hetero, binary-affirming dynamics (“male” dominants and “female” submissives). And there was another glaring disparity: there were virtually no QTBIPOC in attendance, who have many hurdles in the BDSM scene to overcome before they even walk in the door including racial violence, triggering dynamics (such as master/slave) without care or consideration, and overt sexualization and fetishism of race and culture, just to name a few.
While colonization has done its best to erase Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer realities through forced performative gender roles and segregation, we push back by defining our own practices and making our existence visible. In my work, Anishinaabeg and Métis culture intersect with BDSM aesthetics materially—such as leather fetish masks adorned completely with black beads, or up-cycled bike tire tubes turned into floggers, with black beaded handles. I carry these handmade items in my bundle, right next to my prairie sage and bootleg tobacco, along with all my multiplicity—being queer as fuck, loud, energetic, kinky, smoked-hide obsessed—and stories, imagined and actualized. Indigiqueer zaagi’idiwin (which translates to mutual love) and kin-making shifts the dominant, normative, Western scientific conception of relationships toward an embrace of reciprocity, fluidity, and possibility.
The community—the Indigenous ancestors seven generations back ’til present day, the matriarchs, the tough-love sweat lodge conductors and elders, waiting for the youth to come knock on their door, the ceremonial people, the fierce aunties and tattooed uncles, the Indigiqueers and Two-Spirits, the cousins (blood or not), the gookums, kookums, and those who carry and give life—has the responsibility of passing knowledge to the next generation, our children. Indigenous cultures have an intimate way of being given through oral traditions such as storytelling and listening, which requires reciprocity between the giver and receiver, much like in healthy BDSM circles. When I found my Two-Spirit elders, with whom I went to sweat lodges conducted by queer and trans women—gender outlaws sweating and healing together—I felt my heart explode with gratitude and relief. With this in mind, I was compelled to share a scene from my bundle between two Anishinaabe lovers, to inspire the next generation of Indigiqueers.
• • •
how do you say “consent” in Anishinaabemowin?
close your eyes
an expanse of white pine flooring
unravelled prairie bison pelt, golden brown fur facing the sky lay your body down
slide your belly along the coarse expanse
stretch your limbs like a star,
reaching arms, grasping fingertips, where hooves used to be press your face, where shoulder blades used to be
I can weave my hands through your sea of hair
clenching strands between fingers
pulling tight to scalp
pushing gently, coaxing down
a mound of musky fur, curling into flared nostrils
breathe in rotten birch turned into smoked magic
little dad, how do you say “can I continue?”
thick, rubbery buffalo sinew—
laid out long and wet
harvested from tawny legs
I’ve been waiting
to wrap around your tiny fox wrists
round and round your ankles, too
pulling taut to four directions
we use everything, nothing goes to waste
every last drop
auntie, how do you say “safe word”?
I’ll scrape your rump with my moose bone tool
like a fresh skinned hide ready to be fleshed
decorating your expanse of flesh
speckles of purple, red bruising
black and blue constellations
connecting to form close bonds
a cycle of the moon
Elder, how do you say “open your mouth”?
a flowery black hanky
balled up and stuffed
a sacred teaching of respect