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Do Wigwams have Closets?

December 30, 2015

by Geraldine King


It was the Strawberry Moon when I had my first lesbian experience. Odemin Geezis they call it in my language. The time always sticks out for me because the notion of our hearts, and therefore love, also comes from the root word Odemin. The strawberry is shaped like a heart and nourishes and feeds us in ceremony and feasts. I felt fed and nourished by her, so it all made sense to me, but not to others.

I couldn’t tell anyone about my love for her, or the way she made me feel. I couldn’t talk about the way my blood rose and private parts surged with electricity whenever I saw her. I couldn’t divulge how I felt protected when she wrapped her thick, soft thighs around my stomach that is riddled with stretch marks and the scar from an emergency c-section. I loved the man who helped me in creating our children, but that’s the only reason I loved him. I loved her because she gave me everything I had never had before. She made me feel at peace. But our love was hidden away in the shadows of an intolerant community; defying everything I had come to believe about sex and relationships.

For years, I carried on with my life hiding her in my heart…and in my home. I couldn’t face my family, or the backlash I knew we would both receive if our secret came to life. My kids called her “auntie” because she was around so much and she loved them just as much as I do. We would steal kisses and caresses when no one was looking, but I only felt truly comfortable when we were alone, out of the sightlines of society. She was braver than I was. To her, the openness of our love was more important than what might have happened if we made our relationship known. I know our secret was hard on her and tore away at her emotions and spirit, but I didn’t have the type of courage and resolve that she had. She was a fighter, and I was a weak bystander in the battleground of love and sensuality.

Years turned into decades and I never took another lover. Even as our breasts relented to gravity and our hair became speckled with salt, we continued to enjoy each other’s bodies and affections. My children had long left home by the time she was, for the most part, living with me. We were freer in our love, despite the constraint of pulled blinds and closed doors. It was the most beautiful, loving and fulfilling time of my life. It was also the Strawberry Moon when she passed. When I looked at her in the casket, it was as if the lines on her face hadn’t been erased by the makeup they put on her, but by the fact that she could now be at peace. Free to roam in the realm where there is no judgment, only love. When she was in the hospital, she told me that when she died I was to find a letter in her cookie tin sewing kit. After the burial, I forced myself to honour her wish. Her letter was short, but was filled with everything I have ever needed to know:

“In the spirit world, wigwams do not have closets. Baamaapii gowaabmin nii bazgim[1].”

[1] See you later my sweetheart.


Geraldine King is Anishinaabekwe from Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (Gull Bay First Nation). Geraldine is a Master’s student in the Indigenous Governance Program at the University of Victoria where her primary research interests are centred on Indigenous erotica as viable resurgent governance praxis. Geraldine is the Managing Editor of Intercontinental Cry Magazine, a publication of the Centre for World Indigenous Studies.

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