March 9, 2023

Two Spirit Pride with Bryson Syliboy

Bryson Syliboy joins Jonathan and Britt for an illuminating conversation about life as a Two Spirit person, queer indigeneity, complex identities, kinship, and our shared histories. But most importantly they discuss all sorts of ways we can practice loving kindness in the face of cognitive dissonance, bigotry, and bias.

Join us on this wild ride, as we delve into the tough stuff and plumb the depths of our souls. You won’t want to miss it!


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Bryson Syliboy

Jonathan Beal

Britt East


Jonathan [00:00:02] Welcome to Not Going Quietly the podcast where we inspire growth, beat down biases and get into all sorts of good trouble with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Britt East.


Britt [00:00:11] No topic is off limits as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.


Jonathan [00:00:19] So get ready to join us in courageous conversation because not going quietly starts right now.


Britt [00:00:30] Hello, everyone. Welcome to Not Going Quietly, the podcast for heartbroken healers and outraged optimists all over the world where we surface life searing truths in the name of radical togetherness. My name is Britt East, your co-host, and I'm with my fantabulous co-host, Jonathan Biehl. Jonathan, how are you today?


Jonathan [00:00:48] I'm good. I'm good. The question is, how are you? You know, it's been a rocky week here, but the threat of a return of, you know, the the one we don't name. I mean.


Britt [00:01:01] I know you know, we were joking just before we started recording here that in the US, when we're recording this in mid-November, we just had an election where we just missed out on fascism, total fascist control over the US government, missed by about a vote or two. So we're going to call that a win. That's the where we are as a nation. The bar is low admittedly, but you know, it could be worse. We could have a head of lettuce for our Prime Minister like in the UK.


Jonathan [00:01:32] So it could always be like we have for the last couple years. Yeah, I know what I'm saying, Nina.


Britt [00:01:43] I know. But, you know, in a much happier note, we're here with an amazing guest today. I'm just I've been looking forward to this talk for so long. I've been following them on social media and learning a lot from all of his work. Today we are joined by Bryson Syilboy. Bryson is a Mi'kmaw (mig-mahw) activist from Tui'knek (du egg negg). His pronouns are Nekm (knee gum)/He/His. Bryson is Two Spirit and is currently attending Nova Scotia Community College Nautical Institute and the Marine Navigation Technology Management course. He has worked in the marine industry for over 20 years and is currently upgrading his marine licenses. Brian is passionate about 2SLGBTQIA+ and Indigenous issues, using his voice online to educate on these issues. Bryson is the son and relative of several residential school survivors and is also an Indian Day school survivor. He lives in the Tui'knek with his partner. Now, for those of you on YouTube, you'll know you'll notice that Bryson is wearing some pretty spiffy duds here today, rocking the epaulets. Bryson how are you? And what's with the uniform? You have to tell us what's going on.


Bryson [00:02:53] I'm doing great. Yeah. So I'm in my school uniform at the moment. You don't wear this every day, which is? Which is great because I'm stuffy. But we had our epaulets ceremony today. So honor for your program. And so like the first year, get their name tags and their their anchors or their propellers and and do engineering. So, yeah, I'm in the Nautical Institute. And yeah, so this was my last one. So now I'm official.


Britt [00:03:28] Congratulations. That's really awesome. What an achievement! We're just so thrilled to have you today. And, you know, I want to start this conversation. There's so much for us to learn and so much education and we're just so lucky to have you. I want to start by acknowledging, you know, that Europeans began incursions of what many people now call North America over 500 years ago. But at least according to the science that I've read as a layperson. So, you know, take it for what it is. There have been native people living and thriving on this land for over 23,000 years prior to contact I mean, 23,000 years. That's like beyond human comprehension. You might as well just say they've always been here, even if they came from various places. 23,000 years is so long that might as well just say they've always been here. And that means that everything that we call the U.S. and Canada exists on stolen unceded land that invaders, settlers, colonies acquired it by force as part of some genocidal campaign to eradicate people, language and culture in order to expand markets and consolidate power to feed their capitalist economies. I mean, let's just be honest about it. And while not all of us are living on this land, our direct descendants from the original invaders, we all benefit from what they did in a myriad of ways from that genocide, many of which we will likely never even understand. So it's important we start from that beginner's mind. And I encourage the audience to to go there. That place of not knowing we know that. We don't know. So, Bryson, I'd like to invite you to correct anything I've gotten wrong and and share anything you would like to about your tribal nation.


Bryson [00:05:20] You know, like I'm trying to make my nation wear here and in Nova Scotia, Canada. You know, like we're part of a Confederate states Confederacy called the Wabanaki Confederacy. So it's a bunch of different nations together. There's I think there's five of us in total. Yeah. So we've been we've had the European contact since the 1600s. You know what we say here in Lake McGee, which is where I'm from, we say we've been here for a time, a mile. So like, you know, we've always been here. You know, the earliest known settlements for for my areas were 15,000 years old. So, yeah, we've been here for quite a little bit. Yeah, yeah, that's pretty much it.


Britt [00:06:17] But, you know, it's so interesting. And again, I just invite you to correct me. Any time I get something wrong, I'm learning. And and and, you know, that will only help me to learn and help our listeners. But I suspect a lot of us are confused about the concept of a native nation, meaning a sovereign country that exists within another sovereign country because of the invasion and incursion. For instance, in the in the US, the Cherokee Nation exists as a sovereign nation within the United States. A lot of our listeners are from all over the world. And so this way of thinking might be new for them. And I know just from people I talk with in the US, it's it's tough for us to understand, you know, as well. And depending upon the aspect of the law and question, in some cases US federal law reigns and in other cases tribal law reigns. And the relationship between those laws is dynamic and uneasy and complicated. And then to further complicate matters, some nation native nations are not even recognized by the US government, while others are. And there's a lot of tension between the nations and the US. And so it's really complicated. Is this kind of how it works in the First Nations in Canada? I'm so ignorant about Canada as a good American. I know nothing about the rest of the world. And then if it resonates, if it applies to you, what is it like living with this dual citizenship and navigating both worlds?


Bryson [00:07:48] Well, you know, like for us, meanwhile, like our our territory goes from Newfoundland almost to Boston. Right. So. Well, I actually have a citizenship for for the states. But, you know, I am also a sovereign nation. So, like, you have to, like, put it out of like it's it's a hard to understand that, you know, like and that's why I'm in that complicated because like, you know, we. We just have that. But like, you know, there's like the WHO decided in New York and Ontario area. Well, they they have to deal with being Canadian, American and then have to deal in New York and. I think another one is the other state. Right next to you, New York.


Britt [00:08:41] New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Oh, Pennsylvania, probably. Maybe. I don't know.


Bryson [00:08:46] I'm from there and.


Britt [00:08:47] I don't know if.


Bryson [00:08:50] That's where the reservation is on on like four different. Provinces and states. So, yes. You know, is it really complicated? And so you have to worry about like, you know, like what's what's this province do and what's that province doing or what's this state doing? Yeah. So it's a lot of a lot of headaches.


Jonathan [00:09:14] Probably just see my eyes going well. Yeah. Yeah. That's what I was thinking in the U.K. It's like, what? How do you navigate? How do you navigate that? So. So as a citizen, you are able to navigate those lines freely because of the way that it's arranged?


Bryson [00:09:37] Yeah, because like, especially for like, for my area, we have had the treaty called the Kyoto Treaty, and it does allow us to freely move from some province to province and state to state for insemination. Right. Yeah. Yeah. You know, like, I grew up in Boston, you know? Wow. Wow. Yeah.


Britt [00:10:05] That's really cool. You know, I think when a lot of our audience and frankly, me, you know, first started learning about indigeneity, you know, in this side of the in this hemisphere, we sort of thought or think of indigenous people as being of of one race. And I think one of the big surprises to me to learn is that there are native peoples racialized in all sorts of different ways. Some native peoples have darker skin tones, some have lighter skin tones, some might identify as Afro indigenous, even, some might even be racialized as white by some people. Some might have straight hair, some might have curly hair. So citizenship really seems to be a big part of it from what I'm learning. And, you know, some native peoples have first or last names that are indistinguishable from non-native names. So you can't make assumptions or about somebody's identity based on your history of whiteness or just say or non-native ness. And so when you put it all together, it just is like, you know, wow, It's all it's really complicated. And it's like it seems like that's why the concept of citizenship is so important. But, you know, and then different native nations have different enrollment requirements, just like different non-Native nations do. It kind of reminds me of the European Union in a way from that's not a great comparison. But you know, where you have a collection of countries working with a larger whole, when you think about pan native nations and individual native nations and there's hundreds, there's like 500 or something just in in Canada, and there's at least that many in the U.S. It's not all based on a blood quantum requirement. Sometimes it is it's changing. It changes as well. Some require you grow up in tradition, while others don't. And I think the big thing I'm kind of getting at is that all of these nations have unique, rich cultural traditions, heritages, community requirements. Even if non-natives have stolen or attempted to eradicate many of those along with the languages and those those heritages still exist. And so we can't as white people or as non-native people, we are missing the boat when we think of native peoples as one collective, whole one monolith, just like not all gay people are the same. All queer people are the same. Not all black people and not all native people are the same. And racial integration has been a big consequence of colonization. It was a big part of it for all sorts of reasons. So here's my question What are we as contemporary non-native people supposed to do with all our family? Law and genetic research would suggest possible. Maybe we have some mystical, magical kinship with them with a particular native nation. We go in 23 and me, you know, Elizabeth Warren in the US, running for president was a notable example of this. You know, I'm one millionth Cherokee, and now for some reason I feel the pull to claim that identity based on that you know pop culture genetic testing that I did and then what is the difference between having a genetic connection with a native nation versus having kinship with that nation?


Bryson [00:13:34] That's an excellent question. You know, like, that's like I export a lot because, you know, I'm I didn't really grow up in the culture. I grew up on a reservation. But as as a child of residential school survivors, you know, like, I wasn't immersed in our culture of our culture because my my parents wouldn't allow it. You know, they they went through the schools, got them, and that their culture, their language, their everything stripped away from them. So, you know, like, I'm still reconnecting, you know, like I'm 41 years old. I don't know much about my. Background, even though I grew up on a reservation and. No. Yeah. You know. It's all about like just learning. I think the best thing for some of us to do is just learn from where you are, particularly in in where you live. You know, like you don't don't look at the big picture. Just look out there like little tiny area you're in because, you know, there's a lot of rich nations just in in that area that you know. You know, like I'm lucky here and make you like. We're just one nation. You know, like we do all of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I. So we're all, you know, it's easy, like in your west and there's, you know. Five or six territories in just one city. So, yeah, it's a lot of work. I'm just trying to find that local nuances, you know, and there's a lot of great websites that that show you where the nations are. I think there's one called Whose Land. That's a great resource. You know, it's not 100% way, but it's a stepping stone.


Britt [00:15:31] Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, we're going to link to all sorts of resources in the show notes listeners, so you don't have to scramble to take notes. Bryson has a wealth of information from other podcast appearances and articles he's written on sites he's referencing. So we'll make sure you get all that nationally because there's a lot to learn. And I happen to live in Seattle, which is like Bryson was alluding to, a land of great richness where it comes to native nations and, you know, some of which, again are federally recognized by the U.S. government, some of which are not, a lot of which are fighting against each other on various issues, just like other non-Native countries do. They have sovereignty issues that rise up among themselves. Like I said, with the imperfect comparison with the EU and nation states having advocating for themselves on various issues, Native nations do the same thing. And so I love that advice because there is so much to learn. You know, where I live just here, and fostering real relationships with real people. So it's not just some esoteric, arcane thing we read in a book or on a website. It's about knowing and loving and learning from each other and building relationships with people. You know, you alluded to the fact, you know, like I said, not a lot of purely international news makes it to the U.S. We're kind of into ourselves a little bit, as I'm sure you've heard. But, you know, we did hear about all that started in 2021 with the UN, you know, the finding of more unmarked graves that you were alluding to at former sites of residential schools in Canada. And that was a really great distraction from us in terms of looking at our own residential schools, in which there are obviously plenty in the United States. And we conveniently have made this a Canadian problem. Frankly, we have not in the US kept pace with even whatever meager steps Canada's taken. I'm sure we are far behind that in the US, you know, And and if our audience has never heard of this issue and again, we'll give you links there. Essentially this is my term concentration camps for native children who are stolen from their families, indoctrinated with Christian beliefs and terrorized in all sorts of ways, including murder and, you know, the least of which was eradication of culture and language and trust and identity. And it's not a distant history. I mean, I think there were some of these schools operating well into the 1990s. So some of these kids would still be alive today. There'd be elders in the community, which means there was an untold irreplaceable wisdom stolen. And it reminds me somewhat, again, an imperfect comparison of the generation of gay men lost, at least in the US, due to the AIDS epidemic where the rest of us had to grow up in the in the shadow of that loss. Without the wisdom, our birthright was stolen from us by the US government. It seems like maybe there's something similar at work here. Not only there was a human toll to reckon with, but a generation of lost wisdom. And you wrote a really moving article in the newspaper last year about this. Like I said, we'll link to in the show notes. My question is, what would you like our audiences to know about residential schools and the impact they have had on your family and community?


Bryson [00:18:58] While the impacts being still felt today, you know, like here in Canada, the last residential school closed in 1996. You know, I was I was 15 years old when the last one closed, like its impact on my community a lot because we like our reservation was two kilometers away from from the school. You know, like I grew up looking at the school out of my elementary school window, you know, and dealt with dealt with the repercussions of that, you know, like, you know, my family. Like all of my family went there, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, you know, and a lot of my older, older cousins, too. So, you know, the impacts are still being felt today because, like, I don't speak my language. I don't practice any of my culture, really. I do. You know, I'm proud of it, but I don't know it. And you know that that shows how, like successful then the residential school system was, you know, because it literally was there to kill the Indian and the child. And and that's what did you know, like, even like even today, like, you know, like. In Canada, like I wrote the Canadian Guides, which is, you know, the semblance of things was was formed by doing experiments on native children. You know, like my grandparents were actually some of the test subjects. Wow. Yeah. So, yeah, it's it's it's it's a big, huge impact that a lot isn't really well known. Like, you know, like it how or how it's scoped out is it seems like it's in the past that they only show black and white photos. They only show like records from the twenties and thirties and or the 1800s. So but that that was still going on in 1996. Wow. And. You know, like they they don't they try to, like, purposely. Push it to a narrative that they think that it needs to be. And, you know, I highly encourage people to do your own research, you know, read the actual, like, testimonials for the inquiries. You know, like that's that's where where it boils down to, you know, like survivors are still living.


Jonathan [00:21:44] Yeah. If. It amazes me the lengths that nations will go to to hide their shame via controlling narratives around history. You know, the U.K., we've got plenty of that going on. The US, Canada, I'm sure, is exactly the same. And I know that podcasts like this go some way to bridging the gap and changing the narrative and educating people. But how do we how do we overcome? The propaganda. That is. Constantly going that is trying to convince us that, for instance, the US or UK colonialism has been a good thing when it's clearly not been. How do we how do we how do we change that? I know it's a massive question. I don't know the answer, but yeah, yeah.


Bryson [00:22:59] Well, you know, like the best way to do that is to listen to the voices of the people that are affected. You know, like I, I always highly recommend reading a reading a book, reading an article, watching a program that was based like, written by indigenous people. You know, like we know, we know our stories. We know our history. We know what happened to us the best. You know, like there can be tons of people that actually it's like especially survivors, you know, like they can be experts in anything, but they don't have that lived experience, you know, like. That's that's what it boils down to. Like, you got out, you got to you got to listen to the actual people.


Britt [00:23:44] Yeah. Lived experience always trumps theory. Always lived experience always wins. That's. That's my belief. You know, very soon we started to.


Jonathan [00:23:55] They love to sell. Oh, sorry. Especially with the sort of white people. White people. White men do love to sell the narrative and be right now about, you know, all subject cycle.


Bryson [00:24:10] I be I could have a doctorate and study. I don't know how to be a woman then. Yeah.


Britt [00:24:19] You know, we started this episode we started this episode today saying that we know that we do not know. And then we have started to provide some resources. Another resource to self educate I highly recommend is native Twitter. I mean, Twitter is a shit show at the moment, obviously because of Elon, but native Twitter is really amazing. And as long as you go in there and keep yourself on mute and just listen and then maybe give a like button every now and again, you're going to learn a lot and they're going to point you to some resources, just like any vibrant community would like by Twitter. I mean maybe not great Twitter response, but other community. So I highly recommend native Twitter. But where I was going is, okay, we started at zero. We know that. We do not know now. We've provided some resources. Let's go even deeper now that we have some knowledge as we self-educated and start listening and learning, what do we feel compelled to do? And so, for instance, when we talk about residential schools, what has been done that you're aware of over the past year in terms of these schools to make progress towards recognition, reparations and reconciliation, at least in Canada and what ongoing calls to action are native peoples putting before the Canadian governments and society as a whole.


Bryson [00:25:40] Oh, yeah. That's a that's a big question. Well, you know, like I said, there is great progress and I'm not I'm not gonna lie, but. It's slow progress. You know, like, there's still like a lot of a lot of, like, prominent. You know, people in Canada that are residential schools, buyers, they're denying the, you know, the graves, the you know, that they died of abuse or like they they didn't die of genocide, you know, And that's that's our problem here right now is, you know, you got a few local people that are just flat out deniers and then, you know, that snowballs into maybe somebody on Twitter, I guess, you know, blurting out that. I don't know what I'm saying, you know, that I'm not I'm not native enough to talk about it. You know, I even though I lived, you know, I live that so like, yeah, it's it's it's like we've through all that disinformation and and. Just. Yeah, it's, it's difficult. But I like I think I think we are working towards reconciliation. But the thing is like you can't have reconciliation solution until you have the truth. And the truth is being denied every day. And you know, like that's, that's where I think a lot of white privilege can come into, into play, you know, like because, you know, having privilege isn't a bad thing at all. It's just how you use it. You know, like if you're going to use it to to quash all the all the racism, all the denying of, you know, even like homophobia and, you know, all that. Like, you use your privilege for good and you, you quiet those voices so that our voices be heard.


Jonathan [00:27:55] Mm hmm. That's beautiful.


Britt [00:27:57] And again, I keep coming back to and this is kind of. I think what you're getting at is what do you feel compelled to do once you've been gifted this information? How do you reciprocate? How do you pay it forward? What are you going to do? An ally is different than somebody with an affinity. An ally is not somebody who lives without hate and has no malice in their heart. An ally is somebody who spends their lifetime lifting up others. It's not we can't just call ourselves an ally because, hey, I don't I see everybody as equal. That's just silliness. That's baby talk at this point. We all know we've all been exposed to enough information to know that that's just patently outrageous, that it comes down what we are willing to do and often what we are willing to risk. And because this work, the work of allyship or accomplice work, if you want to call it that or comradeship is comes with a cost. As you start to resist white supremacy, you will pay a cost just like you will when you resist street supremacy or male supremacy. And that's why so few people do it. Not to mention the relentless toll of capitalism on our capacity as we were working several jobs, raising several kids. It is tough. All of the new listeners, you have our empathy and understanding and still, what do you feel compelled to do as you're gifted this information? And then, you know, my brief time sitting with indigenous peoples, a lot of times they referred to the knowledge transfer as a gift and then follow it up with Now what? Now I've given you this. What do you what are you going to do about it? You know, kind of, kind of like the land back movement. Who cares about your land? Use acknowledgment statement on your website. If you're not giving land back, you know, what does that boilerplate text help anybody? Sure. It's a beginning of an acknowledgment of some truth, but what are you doing? What is the call to action? So. Bryson You know, I guess my question to you is, you know, where do we get start started in the heavy lifting? So we've read some books, so we have talked to some Indigenous people. How can we actually start helping without looking like a tool without I mean, there's a lot of distrust for really good reasons from indigenous peoples to white people who quote unquote want to help. You know, there's a long as there's 500 years of history that's not going to be changed overnight. So if we say, for the sake of argument, somebody's heart's in the right place, they're putting they're backing that up with some beginning work, they're just starting, how can we how can we start to do some of the heavy lifting, shouldering the burden without looking like a tool or causing offense?


Bryson [00:31:04] Well, the key to that is first like learning how to be a proper ally. You know, there are certain protocols you have to have to adhere to. Not all spaces are going to be for you. You know, there's especially in indigenous cultures, like, you know, a lot of ceremonies are not for you. You know, you got to learn how to, like, step away from some places when you thought, you know, and and not get hurt about that, you know, like because it's not about you. Like, you know, if it if it's going to be about you, that means that you're being a performative ally instead of an actual ally, you know, and performative violation is is really, really, really harmful, you know, because it puts it puts. The stammer into the center of of of the issue and not the whole issue. Right. Focused on you know, it's all about me, me, me, me. So, you know, like, it's just. You know, being that being an ally. Yeah. People are going to make mistakes. That's okay. Learn from them. You know, I was huge for, like, 30 points a thing about Ally, and I just let my feelings get into that, you know? Like what I feel like an ally should be now. And it's. It's all about being humble, you know, doing your research and asking questions, not asking questions when you know when it's appropriate. Because, you know, you can't be like, hey, like, what do we do now? All right. You know, just how about, you know, just be there? You you as I said, you know, use your presence for good.


Britt [00:33:03] I think we just had a t shirt moment where Bryson was like, dear white people, it's not always about you. Like what? I can't be right. I'm all right.


Jonathan [00:33:13] Ha ha ha ha. Why am I white and male?


Britt [00:33:17] Exactly. Well, I don't know. I don't understand these.


Jonathan [00:33:19] Words or I suppose.


Britt [00:33:24] You know, as I understand it, part of the legacy of of European invaders, settler colonists was to impose Christian values through force on native people, starting with the killing and erasure of people who challenged these norms around gender and sexuality. And the genocide continued through the imposition and decimation of culture in the various residential schools that we were talking about. And that means in some cases, words, cultures, traditions of the people don't exist, they're gone, there's no record of them. And so one of the really beautiful things, as I understand it, that Native peoples have done out of a sense of need or desperation or whatever is to band together, maybe much like people in the queer community work together and and leverage their collective efforts. So like words like to spirit, for instance, there's a pan native term that was coined in the 1990s by Native people seeking to reclaim a uniquely indigenous identity separate from Western European terms like gay, lesbian, bi, trans And according to my readings, some of the First Nations did not use social constructs like gender to classify and divide people. I read an excellent book on two people recently that delved into that, and many of these nations did not even have words for genders in the way that Europeans would recognize specifically people who speak romantic languages. And so there were no gendered words, and so in words reflect knowledge. So that means their entire concept of gender was was vastly different from a different paradigm. So gendered cultures like gay, lesbian and trans may not resonate for some too, for some native peoples. On the other hand, some people might choose multiple identities and use labels like two spirit and gay rights. And I guess my question is how do you identify personally and what would you like us to know about this to spirit, identity and community?


Bryson [00:35:29] Yeah, I identify as two spirit and I identify as gay, you know, because it's it's sometimes it's easier to to say, hey, I'm gay, you know, then explain. Unfortunately, you know, for me, for the make my nation hard to separate identity has been wiped out. You know, we have zero knowledge zero word usage, zero anything about our two squared people, three contact. It's just been wiped out from existence. And, you know, all the texts, you know, were were written by European settlers, by by priests, you know, so. All of that is gone. So we're in the middle of reclaiming it. We don't have a word for it. We're going to be, you know. The closest thing we do have is, Well, I'm delsea, which means I'm out, you know? So, like. Yeah. We're just in the middle of a renaissance for. For reclaiming our true spirit people.


Britt [00:36:48] You know.


Bryson [00:36:49] That's it's.


Britt [00:36:55] You know, I think what is kind of unsaid and what you explained is that you're part of a vibrant community in an exciting time and in native peoples not live as part of some black and white photograph, as you alluded to earlier. They live with us today and they have rich lives today. And it's like just because it's simpler for white non-natives to pretend natives look like some one thing and think like one thing and exist in one frozen point in time, because then we don't have to reckon with our realities. We can mythologize our massacres. That doesn't reflect the truth. And so, you know, obviously, I'm sure there's a lot of struggle that goes with what you're describing, but but maybe there's some vibrancy in there as well and then some exciting like you you get to. I mean, that's at least for me when I think about the comparison with queer. Part of the thrill at first when I first came out in my teens was like, I don't have to live by your straight life scripts. And, you know, is that a similar feeling for you? Like, do do you feel like, you know, you don't have to live by settler colonists life scripts? You can create your own and your own identities. And is that is that does that feel thrilling and exciting?


Bryson [00:38:12] Yeah. You know, like. Yeah. Going into his field right now as a as a make my person. Yeah. I'm confused. I don't know what my place is in in my culture right now, you know, because, like, we have a lot of like, we still have a lot of Catholicism happening on my reservations, you know, like, I can't get married on in my church on a reserve because they won't allow it, you know, and and stuff like that. So I'm I'm kind of crossroad of like not knowing who I am, but I'm also, you know, I'm at that precipice where I am looking out for the next seven generations. So we're we're doing all this hard work now so that the next seven generations cannot like, have it a little more easier than we do. So our bigger picture, we're looking at the bigger picture, really.


Jonathan [00:39:10] And you're going to have to excuse my British ignorance. Obviously, we don't get exposed to indigenous cultures over here. We are ostensibly the indigenous culture. And so it's very new to me. And also there's something about. To the idea of No. Not defining gender that I find really interesting because we live in the English language in such a binary state all the time, and how we see the world, how we experience the world is how we describe it, right? And so really curious kind of from your perspective, because I really like to understand what it means for you, and I suppose by extension, what you hope, based on what you just said, what it would mean for those in seven generations time. Yeah.


Bryson [00:40:19] Well, you know, like like my language, we're a verb based language, so we describe everything. And so we never really had pronouns. I mean, well, now we have pronouns, but we never assigned by gender to, to specific objects or stuff like that. So, like. You know, like the true spirit is for me, it's all about like, you know, having that role in my community that like, I guess to be a role model to to younger queer indigenous people because like how I grew up, I grew up in the eighties, grew up in the nineties where being gay wasn't acceptable and. And being bipoc gay was even worse. You know, like you have to deal with that, you know, like, especially as I said on my reservation, you know, it's still I still stand on and, you know, clean contact and bring mattered who you loved, you know. And now I think it's hard to describe my sexuality as an indigenous person. I just because I'm still lost, but I know that we're in the process of of reclaiming it and and defining it and living it, you know, and we're. It's it's it's difficult. But, you know, like, for me, I just I just I know, like, how I want to be as a as a person is I want to leave a mark on my community. I want to leave a mark on my people. I want to make sure that they know that being who they are and who they love is all that matters. And it's going to bring them shame. It can bring them sorrow or hardship.


Britt [00:42:38] Growth happens every episode, I think. Yeah. That is so beautiful. And I think, you know, what touched me is that when you were speaking so vulnerably then, as we were getting a little window into your soul and the emotional labor that you have been required to do thanks to straight white supremacy in particular address invader settler colonist culture and why it is appropriate of for us as non-native white people to use terms like to spirit because the creation of the term was by indigenous people to consciously separate themselves and reclaim the past that we tried to eradicate. And so when we as 92 non-native say, Oh, that sounds cool, I'm going to take that. That just continues the cultural eradication and it's an act of violence that might seem innocuous in the moment, like, you know, like hanging a dreamcatcher in your rearview mirror or whatever. You know, it might seem it might feel innocuous, but it's really inappropriate of act of violence. And I think what was so poignant is like, we got a window into your labor and we can infer based on that why it is violent, you and your loved ones and your peers and you're, you know, are working so hard to reclaim these identities and for us to just immediately absorb them, that embraces all the all of the labor. And you're in you're forced to to start over. So I think, you know what? I was moved by, again, bringing this back to actions rather than just words, is that some of what we can do, as you said, is to do nothing and to listen and to create support in native spaces with our absence. You know, sometimes the greatest action we can do is nothing. And to refrain from some of these impulses, you know, the white supremacy impulse is always going to be with us. But if we can refrain from these impulses then and allow native people to flourish, they will they're going to flourish. They're leading vibrant lives today. They don't need our handouts or support. They just they just need us to to respect us, to leave them alone. They need us to they need equity under the law and all of that. But they don't need us to fix anything for them. They need us to take down the systems of supremacy, and they will thrive of their own accord like they did for 23,000 years. And so I was just so I was so struck by that. Again, keep coming back to the fact that these are sovereign nations of people. And I think that change, like we as white people, I think like to think of Native people as purely a race because it's easier then to eradicate their civil rights. But but in the same way that we would not invade Canada or Mexico, hopefully Donald Trump notwithstanding, we would hopefully not invade a native nation when we tread on native ground that's visiting a foreign country. And if we I think that switch in our mentality would go a long way to helping us understand, helping us treat indigenous peoples with more respect. And and it just really touched me, you know, when you shared, you know, your story. I guess my question to you, after all that is, you know. Part of me wonders because I'm a language geek. Part of me wonders if you know, part of the struggle. You know, you were talking about a struggle to describe what it feels like to be too scared is because you were forced to do it in English. And I wonder if you had your birthright of your native tongue, if it might be different, because knowledge, languages, knowledge is a reflection of the way our mind works. And so it's like you're trying to describe a fork with a spoon. You're trying you know, our English language is, like Jonathan said, is mired in the gender binary. And so I can understand that. It's like, does that resonate? Do you feel like as maybe as you learn, you know, your language, as you as you continue to invest in your culture, Some of these threads will be brought together. Is that is that the goal that you're working toward?


Bryson [00:47:16] Yeah. Yeah. Like, I'm. I like, I call myself like, part of the lost generation because we are directly the generation after residential school is closed. So, like, like me and my cousins and. And my kin. You know, we're all part of this lost generation that don't know what we're doing, don't have the cultural background, don't have the, you know, the knowledge to to be indigenous. But we're we're surviving. That's that's the key. We are survivors. And, you know, like, I don't think I'll ever consider myself fully. NYGMA Or like, you know, when I, when I do get older, be the elder, you know, like I don't have that cultural background to justify any of that. But, you know, like, I see, I see, ah, the revival of my culture in. Sorry I wouldn't cry. Mhm. In. I like my younger cousins, my nieces. Nephews. Sorry.


Jonathan [00:48:39] Okay.


Bryson [00:48:40] So I know I know that that Nygma culture will survive and that will get stronger and stronger, just like. My generation didn't get that because of the legacy of colonialism. You know, so it's. Yeah. Hey, I might cry for Eddie like everything. So don't worry. You know, like, it's it's it's something that. That makes me proud to see our. Our next generations thriving in our culture. You know, learning your languages, having that strong sense of me, you know, they know who they are. Yeah. And that's, that's where, where I think I got my strength. Mhm. And you know like Yeah. It definitely would be one of my easier to, to know how to speak my, my language. I it just wasn't an occurrence.


Britt [00:49:45] Yeah.


Bryson [00:49:51] Yeah.


Britt [00:49:54] He's really beautiful and just wanted to honor your tears in the heart space on the crier as well, like I said earlier. So thank you for sharing that with us. He's very generous and we really appreciate it. You know, I guess I also wanted to throw in there I forgot earlier that to remind our listeners that this is not a past struggle. This is a current struggle, an ongoing struggle. In the US, we just had a Supreme Court case hear oral arguments. It's called the Indian Child Welfare Act that was established in 1978 as a way to preference the placement of Native children with Native families. And the reason that's under attacked is because attackers because a white family adopted a native child and it wasn't, quote unquote, easy enough for them. There was some resistance in the native community and they want it to be easier. And so the Supreme Court in the US agreed to hear this case, and it was shocking, not surprising and embarrassing to sit there and listen, especially through the lens of native Twitter to the oral arguments and the questions that the justices on the Supreme Court asked filled with ignorance, a lack of even lifting a finger to learn about our shared stories, this preening and privilege and basking in bigotry and really happy to sit back with, you know, pretend the questions, frankly, you know, and decision from this court could end the practice of preferencing placements of native children's native families. And that's a big deal. That's part of the genocide. It's been a way for centuries to dilute native populations and further cement our quote unquote, ownership of the land that started 500 years ago with first contact by the invaders, colonizers and settlers. And the implications in the decision are far reaching. Like if the US government defines what they call, quote unquote, Indian as purely a race. That decision could be used as precedent to further erode sovereignty of all federally recognized native nations, which is the point. So it's imperative that all of us get educated, as tired as we are, as capacity constrained as we are, as busy as we are, again, with the relentless push of capitalism. I mean, queer people know what it's like to live at the mercy of losing civil rights at a moment's notice, you know? But non-native queer people aren't forced to grapple with the complex web of conflicting laws. Like we talk about, many of which are explicitly designed to derail sovereignty and culture. So I guess where I was going, Bryson, with this is the concept of intersectionality. We've talked about this before in our podcast, but us listeners have not heard about this. This was developed by Dr. Kimberly Crenshaw on the Black community as a way to say that people who have multiple identities, meaning all of us experience bias and bigotry qualitatively differently than others. In other words, if I'm a black woman, I experience misogyny and racism, but I experience it just not additively. I experience it since qualitatively differently the way we practice bigotry against white women. Misogyny against white women is very different than the way black women experience the intersection of racism with misogyny. So, Bryson Watts, can you help us understand what it's like to live as a two spirit person, a gay person of color, the intersection of that of the bias that you have to navigate, but then maybe also some of the joy and the magic that you bring to the world, the healing that you bring to the world because of these identities.


Bryson [00:53:56] The intersectionality is that it is important, you know like because we make as. As groups of quote unquote, groups. We have to band together because, you know, that's how how you enact change, you know, like. But even then, like, you know, there's a lot of like problems with that, too, because, you know, like, not like some people kind of use it against at the same time, too, you know, there's there's people that will uphold white supremacy, even though there are protected category. You know, like you see it all the time in in the queer community, you know, like how white, white gays will always uphold white supremacy, even though they're being attacked for their identity. Yeah. You know, and it's just like it's hard to navigate that because it's such a delicate and innocent issue. And it's just like we have to look into our communities and. And quash all of that in that community before we can work on the intersectionality. You know, so like. Yeah. And. And being a protected class doesn't negate you from being a homophobe, being racist, being able as being anything, you know, like I've had that a lot in, on, on Twitter, you know, like when I'm arguing with somebody, you know, they'll be like, oh, I'm. I'm trans. Like, you know, like you're you're. You know, attacking me for that. I'm like, No, I'm not attacking him because you're being racist. You're being anti-indigenous.


Britt [00:55:51] Yeah, Yeah.


Bryson [00:55:55] People people used to use their identity as a crutch and as well there's me. I'm being able by saying, you know. You know, they use it as as a protection. So it's with intersectionality, we have to look for those things, ideas and and actually work together like, you know, like as I say, you know, like, be humble, take takers, take the licks when when you get called up for things, you know, like I, I try to tell like. People who want to be allies. I usually try to tell them, you know, like, don't look at the bigger picture. You know, just do one little thing. You know, the whole thing is is something that really, really helps. You know, like writing your writing, the senator writing and me writing. You know, people are saying, hey, like this. This needs to be quick. You know, like, I support this idea and I want to use my privilege as good. You know, stuff like that, you know? And I can see it in my in my program, you know, like I call out, I call it our, you know, textbooks, you know, like they're written. In in male form, you know, like, you know, they automatically call the captain. Him or his you know, I tried to bring up the fact that, you know, our textbooks should be gender neutral, you know, And that's that's how I'm using my privilege to to make changes in my my own career. Yeah. So, like I always I always say look at the little picture. Mhm.


Britt [00:57:45] I think that's another t shirt moment with Bryce. And look at the little picture.


Bryson [00:57:48] Absolutely. Love it.


Britt [00:57:51] You know, we could talk to you all day. I just learn so much from you. So grateful. The show notes are going to be filled with links to other podcast appearances that Bryson has been on. He referenced to the 30 steps to being a good Ally were definitely a link to that. It is incredible. So I really encourage everybody to listen to that. It's a two part podcast, so look for those links and then also articles that he's written. So go to the show notes. It's going to have all sorts of information in it for you listeners. You've done it. You've made it through another hour of not going quietly. We're so happy you joined us and to talk and listen about this really important issue that is with us today. It's a living issue and there's so much that we can all be doing if we just focus on putting one foot in front of the other, like Bryson said, and and focusing on the little picture, I think that's really great advice for all of us. Bryson Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, it's been a joy to talk with you. I'll see you around on native Twitter and Instagram and hopefully other podcasts and, and please don't be a stranger. It's just been an absolute pleasure.


Bryson [00:59:04] I'll definitely come back if you want me to. I enjoyed this a lot. And I appreciate. I appreciate you giving me a platform.


Britt [00:59:12] Absolutely. Thank you so much. All right, listeners, that's made it through this another episode. We thank you from the bottom of my hearts. Goodbye. Have a great rest of your day and we'll see you soon. Thank you. Bye. You've been listening to Not Going Quietly with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Britt East.


Jonathan [00:59:34] Thanks so much for joining us on this wild ride as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.


Britt [00:59:42] Check out our show notes for links, additional information and episodes located on your favorite podcast platform.

Bryson SyliboyProfile Photo

Bryson Syliboy


Bryson Syliboy (sil-a-boy) is a Mi'kmaw (mig-mahw) activist from Tui'knek (du egg negg). His pronouns are Nekm (knee gum)/He/His. Bryson is Two Spirit, and is currently attending Nova Scotia Community College Nautical Institute in the Marine Navigation Technology Management course. He has worked in the marine industry for over 20 years and is currently upgrading his marine licenses. Bryson is passionate about 2SLGBTQIA+ and Indigenous issues, using his voice online to educate on these issues. Bryson is the son and relative of several residential school survivors and is also an Indian day school survivor. He lives in Tui'knek with his partner.