Beyond the Superhero: The Rise of the Superweaver
By The Indigenous Futures Collective
The year is 2020.
For nearly a century, superheroes have been policing the planet. In their incessant hunt for villains, the heroes have destroyed ecosystems, decimated communities, left countless dead and millions imprisoned.
As public attention and investor funds keep flowing towards the superheroes, escalating cycles of violence continue…
But from the shadows, a different lifeway is beginning to emerge, a different way of knowing…
Enter the superweaver.
Where community is thriving—
Where bellies are full and the old teachings are revitalized—
Where lush biodiversity is blooming—
You’ll often find a superweaver there.
She is sometimes hard to spot because she never works alone—she partners with communities, with nature, with seen and unseen parts of the weave. She sets about her tasks skillfully, her keen eyes focused on what she knows needs to be done, her many arms (both seen and unseen) reweaving social and ecological well-being.
Who is this unmasked woman?
Superweavers hold together the social fabric, working across communities to understand and meet their needs, building dynamic, reciprocity-based networks.
A superweaver has no need for “good and evil.” Rather, her universe is dynamic and rich, impossible to parse into neat polarities.
She has a special talent for identifying individual and systemic needs and helps organize dynamic infrastructure to address the troubles she perceives.
Superweavers aren’t always indigenous women, but more often than not, when a superweaver is standing in front of you, it’s going to be an indigenous woman.
She flexes fluency in the latest technology, even as the ancient elders whisper forgotten languages in her dreams.
Superweavers can be found across the globe doing their dynamic restorative work.
A superweaver does not hide behind masks, uniforms, or alter egos. Rather, she is radically herself, radically situated within her own culture and environment, entangled with and bound to community. At the core of her work is the process of becoming more and more herself, a process that she knows cannot happen under self-concealment.
Superweavers do not believe in “self-sacrifice.” It is from her generosity towards herself that she builds a healthy set of expectations for others. She is quick to intervene if someone is using self-denial as an excuse to deprive others. A superweaver sees self-sacrifice as a tragedy, not an aspiration.
She is skilled at holding space, at helping stories find a home, and helping the unheard feel listened to.
She is careful to avoid attracting attention to herself unless she needs it, but she also isn’t afraid to be seen.
A superweaver refuses to be transformed into a “savior,” and she knows that if this happens, she has failed in her work. A superweaver wants to be part of communities in which everyone is empowered to play many roles, meaning that no one person or group monopolizes the “savior” role. She understands that any time someone disproportionately presents themselves as a savior, it is because violence is holding their ability to play that role in place.
A superweaver will never tell you to be brave, but rather, let you know it’s okay to be scared.
As she works, she doesn’t just think seven generations in the future, she thinks seven millennia.
A superweaver knows that “A stitch in time saves nine”—that if we build sustainable infrastructure now, it will save us from great suffering in the future.
The superweaver teaches that there is no such thing as a zero-sum game. She knows it is a myth that “one person must suffer for another’s gain.” One person’s suffering is everyone’s suffering—it tears the weave. Life on this planet is a collective project, “We are all in this together, and when we weave our ways well, everybody wins.”
When things are seeming dull, she stirs the pot by bringing together old friends.
When someone is losing motivation, she knows just when to nudge them, to bring them a plate of food and check in on how they are doing, about the project they were trying to get off the ground. But she knows that if she lets herself get stressed and overburdened, her nudges will stop being helpful and become a form of harm. This is why taking care of herself is such a big priority. She understands the value of rest.
Rather than thinking she must rescue the world from some future calamity, the superweaver understands that the calamity has already happened in the form of genocide, ethnocide, ecocide, cultural erasure and colonization. Her work is about removing systems of blight that hold asymmetrical power-relations in place. Her work is to repair social relations so that what is left of the ecologies and cultures of the planet can recover and heal. In this way, superweaver narratives might be considered part of the “solarpunk” or “hope punk” movement.
She brings a richness to everything she touches.
She is someone who inhabits many spaces, who moves between worlds.
She acts from a place of mutual aid: “Your liberation is my liberation!” Those she works with aren’t “victims” to be rescued, but rather have their things of their own to teach and offer. She is likewise acutely aware of the way asymmetrical power relations are forced upon Black and Indigenous People of Color, and because of this, her most common accomplices are those who are not privilege-blind, but rather, understand the BIPOC from within.
She is constantly challenged by those with whom she works towards co-liberation, as she builds reciprocal relationships that constantly gain new layers of meaning. She understands that the process of decolonization is messy, but that you have to be present for the mess of it if you wish to truly repair the weave.
The notion of the superweaver pushes back against colonial binaries of hero/victim that privilege white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy. Instead, the superweaver recognizes that often the work of weaving is one that builds towards sustainability and resiliency through a generative structure, wherein those who have been harmed or “victimized” are allowed a path toward healing, as are those who have perpetuated violence towards an individual or community. Only in this way—through a restorative form of justice—can we truly reweave our relationships to each other, our communities, our ecologies, and our planet.
In places recovering from the most harm, you’ll find her there, doing the work to push back the disorder, making the world luscious again with the threads of her loom, reweaving the wealth of community.
In the shadow of the superheroes, superweavers do their work, tirelessly building relationships between their communities, environment, and traditions, reinventing the economy in their quest towards making a lush, prosperous reality in which everyone thrives for seven thousand generations to come.
Towards seeing and celebrating her.
We celebrate superweaversof the past, like Changunak Antisarlook Andrewuk, aka “Sinrock Mary, Queen of Reindeer,” (1870-1948) of the Inupiat people who defied sexist, racist colonial laws to build infrastructure to support herself and her community while preserving land and traditional ways.
We celebrate superweavers of the present, like Tehontsiiohsta, aka Meadow Cook, (b. 2004) of the Mohawk people, who has been building youth-led infrastructure to decelerate climate change while working to develop food sovereignty and bring attention to the superfund sites on Mohawk land that are poisoning her people.
We celebrate the superweavers of the future who will be forced to contend with the world we set in place for them.
Hear her call.
We call upon artists to lift up the stories of superweavers, to draw attention to the superweaver archetype, and to carry us into the new paradigms that emerge when we center her story and her way of knowing.
The Indigenous Futures Collective is David Michael Karabelnikoff, Laina Greene, Lee Francis IV, and Samara Hayley Steele.