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The Return of History

I recently had the privilege of attending one of this year’s Massey Lectures in Vancouver, all being presented by this year’s powerhouse lecturer Jennifer Welsh.

 

The Massey Lectures have taken place annually since 1961 in honour of Vincent Massey, former Governor General of Canada. Each year since, CBC has invited a noted scholar to present a five-part series of lectures that focus on a political, cultural or historical topic that focus on original research in their field. These are the biggest thinkers and most important intellectuals of our times. Previous lecturers have been Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Hill and in 2003 the first Indigenous lecturer: Novelist Thomas King.

 

By being invited to be the 2016 lecturer, Jennifer Welsh is validated as being one of these types of big thinkers. One that shapes the landscape of what follows.

 

Jennifer has an internationally impressive reputation. Regina born, she recently completed her role as Special Advisor to the UN secretary-general on the Responsibility to Protect. She co-founded the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict and currently she is a professor of international relations at the European Union University Institute in Florence and is a fellow of Sommerville College at Oxford.

 

The theme of her CBC Broadcast 2016 Massey Lectures is what Brian Bethune of MacLean’s magazine called “her sober state-of-the-world assessment” that is accompanied by the release of her new book The Return of History: Conflict, Migration and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century.”

 

Jennifer is also Métis.

 

Take that in for a minute.

 

It’s time we start paying attention to Jennifer Welsh and what she has to say as an internationally renowned expert in global politics, post-conflict reconstruction and the notion of sovereignty.

 

As Indigenous people we are slowly increasing our numbers in municipal, provincial and Federal government in the hopes of reaching a place where our people can be considered as part of a global landscape. Meanwhile Jennifer Welsh has been studying and helping shape the understanding of the world at a global level.

 

I attended her sold out lecture at the York Theatre entitled “The Return of Barbarism”. I appreciated her lecture so much. She connected the role of Western Liberal Democracy to the current state of affairs in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and explained to us “Why the West Hasn’t Won”.

 

Her lecture left me with so many questions and ready to devour the rest of her talks on CBC when they are available in October. But I was also left with some other questions. Why isn’t this making bigger headlines? Why isn’t she being profiled across the country with Métis and Indigenous leaders filling up all the seats? The lateral absence of commentary and support is stunning to me.

 

The very idea of reconciliation is rooted in the western ideal of liberal democracy. Liberal Democracy as a form of government that focuses on the protection of rights and freedoms of individuals. It places constraints on what can be done in which the will of the majority cannot overrule the rights of minorities. However the practice of liberal democracy is not cut and dry. How are those rights determined and who gets to assert them? The idea of reconciliation is that this part of our history is done now. We’ve moved on and reparations can be made. But it is Jennifer Welsh position that history is not done, it’s returning.

 

We need to increase our understanding of how liberal democracy has not worked to end extreme cruelty and brutality but has, in many cases, worked to entrench them is essential if we are to change the nature of our relationship to the nation state as First Nations people and governments.

 

Jennifer Welsh is setting the stage on an international level and we as a community are missing it. We are missing our opportunity to understand our own circumstances as they relate to the world as a whole.

 

You can attend  Jennifer Welsh’s Massey Lectures at the following dates, or
here or  the 2016 CBC Massey Lectures will be broadcast on CBC Radio One IDEAS October 31 – November 4.

 

Halifax, NS – October 5, 7 p.m.
Lecture 4: The Return of the Cold War
Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library
Presale: $27 regular
Regular price: $32 regular, students/seniors $20
Box Office: 902-422-6278 x500
Purchase tickets 
In person: at the Ticket Halifax Box Office/The Coast, 2309 Maynard Street

Toronto, ON – October 7, 7 p.m.
Lecture 5: The Return of Inequality
Koerner Hall
Presale: $45/$35 regular
Regular price: $50/$40 regular, students, $20, seniors $28
Box Office: 416-408-0208
Purchase tickets 

 

You can also purchase her new book that accompanies the lecture: The Return of History.

~Jessica Wood.

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You need to believe in yourself

Since mid August I’ve been stuck in a creative rut. I could justify my actions with many excuses and reasons but in all honesty I just didn’t have the urge to pick up my camera and take photos. Moments like this seem to come and go in my life, especially with my tendency towards episodes of melancholia. Thank goodness for this collective because it keeps me shooting. Knowing that I had a post to prepare for today, I left it until the last minute. I do this a lot. The past couple of weeks I knew the post was coming but there was a heaviness in my heart. Instead of allowing this to consume me, I decided that I wanted to make a photo series that would make me giggle and maybe even get you laughing. Because laughing feels good.

Here are a few photos I took of my sons and their friend wearing my unicorn mask. Did I mention that I love unicorns? I am a child of the 80s.

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-Amanda Laliberte

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MASKS

BDSM is an acronym for an overlapping abbreviation of Bondage and Discipline (BD), Dominance and Submission (DS), Sadism and Masochism (SM). As a 2spirit Metis/Saulteaux/Polish hard femme, it’s incredibly healing.

My name is Dayna Danger and I’m a visual artist. Prairie queer here, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. At present, I am living in the land of quality bagels and safe haven for Anglophones like myself, Montreal, Quebec. Graduate school in photography is what brought me here, but the community of folks that surround me, are what grounds me.

I’ve been precariously walking the line of empowerment and objectification through a queer white passing/mixed cis woman lens these days. The body and its representation have always been important to me. So has covering it in baby oil and having folks rock a rack of antlers, big or small. My series, Big’Uns, was all about reclaiming pornography, media, our gaze, our bodies and projecting it in a way that was challenging. For years I have been using lens based mediums to communicate my ideas visually.

It’s been months since I’ve talked about my work. Depression and unraveling the layers of trauma can really get you down. I call it my cocoon phase, except I seem to be revealing more open vulnerable wounds then getting anywhere close to a butterfly.

Last August 2015, I arrived in Vancouver with a past lover after rolling my car in a ditch filled with Sage. We carried on without a scratch. I’m quite proud of our resilience to seeing our respective families in different regions. On our only proper night in Vancouver before heading to Terrace, we hit up a punk show. I haven’t been to one of these in AGES. Like a good 14+ years. I remember feeling really uncomfortable, sticking out like a sore thumb, like they could tell I’ve been listening to other genres, and that teenager angst was not as present in my body. The positivity was dwindling.

The night was saved because this majestic babe shows up after back and forth texting, <3Jeneen<3. Something sparks inside of me. We gravitate to the mosh pit and cross hold hands like they did in that one scene in Titanic. Spinning  Spinning  Spinning! We let er’ rip! Smashing dudes in our way, like two sides of a battle axe, cutting down the dudes (who LOVED it), just like the patriarch. Jeneen Frei Njootli spoke to me about this imagery of the double-sided battle axe and I couldn’t shake it. It’s now tattooed on my body it resonated so much.

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This brings me to what I’m working on now. I’m currently in process, the ideas are there, but sometimes hard to articulate. I started beading my axe, and then my friend’s tattoos onto leather fetish masks I privately commissioned.

The beadwork is done by myself and in its first iteration, two other talented native women that I hired, Nicole Redstar and Tricia Livingston. Georgia Crane, Adrienne Huard and Kandace Price wore the masks we beaded, with 2 of them wearing masks with their very own beaded tattoos on the side. It’s ramping up again as I have four new masks, without eye holes this time, to bead.


These masks are my cocoon stage.

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To give some context on what I mean about BDSM being healing for myself, is a quote from powerhouse Lindsay Nixon, VISUAL CULTURES OF INDIGENOUS FUTURISMS, SÂKIHITO-MASKIHKIY ACÂHKOSIWIKAMIKOHK

“Indigenous peoples’ sexualities are frequently equated to histories of sexual violence, commodified and institutionalized by settlers seeking to dominate, discipline, and control Indigenous bodies. Danger’s use of the leather BDSM mask references the kink community as a space to explore complicated dynamics of sexuality, gender, and power in a consensual and feminist manner. Danger engages with her own medicine, beading, in order to mark kink as a space for healing colonial trauma. There is no shame in this action. Here the models’ gender expressions and sensual lives are integral to their resurgent identities as Indigenous peoples.”

Chi Miigwetch

-Dayna Danger

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the place of gathering

As a child, I remember spending most of nights with my friends and family at the old wooden arbour located in the centre of town. We would run around, playing hide and seek or sit and watch the talent show or participate in the drum dance. The red painted arbour held so many great memories for me. It was taken down many years ago and I truly felt like my community lacked a gathering place since.

I was happy to learn that there was a new one being built by the Hamlet of Fort Providence. The arbour can seat up to 600 people and is built in a circular shape with a fire pit in the middle, it will hosts many traditional gatherings, drum dances and special events. Arbours are pretty common now days in the North and are used as a positive place for community members to socialize.  The one built in Fort Providence was like none I’ve ever seen. It’s such beautiful piece of art; it represents the union of the First Nations and Metis’ people in the community.

So when I was asked to capture the official opening of the Fort Providence’s Arbour, I was stoked and jumped at the opportunity. I knew I would see many elders, old friends and get to participate in a sacred fire feeding ceremony. It was a well-organized celebration, with several speeches and warming welcomes, to prayers and well wishes. And it wouldn’t be a celebration if it didn’t end with a tasty feast.

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I’m relieved that my hometown now has it’s gathering place back – it’s going to be a place for many other friends and families to make fond memories, and to celebrate the culture and traditions for years to come.

 – shawna mcleod 

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Standing with Standing Rock

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, upstream from the Missouri River in North Dakota has the people of Standing Rock and many others setting up camp and uniting in protection against the Dakota access pipeline oil interests- making it the largest gathering of nations in over a century. This is an important issue to acknowledge and address, as not only has it disrupted sacred burial sites, but is also putting the drinking water for the surrounding communities of people at greater risk.

Last week, violent acts were pushed upon the opposition en masse along both sides of the the demonstration. Tribal supporters of sovereign rights were attacked through mase and attack dogs by the corporation’s hired private security guards. In an attempt to incite more Violence toward our community, the protectors remained strongly opposed to the strategy devised by the DAPL, which I believe comes from a source of weakness. Instead of drawing back from it, we are pushing forward with our voices and our protective stance in what some Americans may refer to as protest. We are proctectos with The Right to consider our freedoms from injustice, the American views are skewed because of the private intersects- a dialect promoting fear and anger in order to propel action and results

As Indigenous people, we are all decedents of extreme resistance, and shouldn’t have to keep fighting for our rights and for our lands. But here we are, again, standing up to our oppressors (that continue to blindly destroy everything and anything in opposition to its path).

And so we must stand together – nation to nation – in opposition to these corporations to protect our waters, our lands, and our rights not only for the Sioux people but for our future protectors to follow in these footsteps.

This Friday afternoon, “shortly after federal Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint statement that, in effect, temporarily halts all construction bordering Lake Oahe on the Missouri” (Indian Country Today).

Let’s remain in support.

The Water Protectors are not leaving.

For those who wish to stay informed and see how you can get involved, I strongly encourage you to visit the link below and spread the awareness – http://standingrock.org

 – caroline blechert

 

 

 

 

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teacups and beadwork, lace and birch bark

I remember snippets of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland creeping their way into my childhood. I remember dreaming about falling down a rabbit hole. I remember thinking about how delicious a rabbit tastes. I remember the eating of the cookies and the drinking of the liquids, and the shrinking and the growing. I remember the confusion, and I remember Alice meeting the Mad Hatter. Laughable, slightly off, eccentric. Doesn’t fit in. Doesn’t blend.

Only years later, I recognize a kindred soul.

Looking back at that memorable scene – that Mad Hatter Tea Party – I find myself thinking critically, more and more, on this. An outsider falling into another world and getting frustrated when the rules and structures don’t make sense, trying to implement their sense of propriety on the matters. Sounds familiar, eh.

It was with this little idea that a talented crew and I started dreaming up a creative session, featuring a Métis youth from Duck Lake. I first noticed Danitra thanks to Facebook. Her Grandma is one of my Mom’s high school friends, and she wore this stunning yellow gown for her graduation. I quickly creeped her and asked her Grandma to give Danitra my cell, and we went from there.

With an all-Indigenous team (hair by Shayla Weisbrot of The Salon 467, Duck Lake and makeup by Kacey Beaudry, MUA, Saskatoon), and with the multi-talented Alexandra George (former guest blogger) as our behind-the-scenes photographer and set designer, we managed to create a little bit of magic.

A little bit of Indigenous magic.

And I think it was from the stories and community that this session carried. Nothing I do comes without stories. Shayla tied sweetgrass from my various journey’s into Danitra’s hair as we sat around her kitchen table, sipping coffee. Kacey and her pile of makeup stood in front of the house where we would run around with our cousins, laughing as my cousin Alex jumped on the wooden table to start decorating the set. We integrated a beaded teabag from Catherine Blackburn (former guest blogger). We rocked earrings from Savage Rose, and decorated the set with beadwork from Beads, Rhymes, Life. We were borrowed a beautiful birch bark basket from Silver Wolf Trading Post. We ate local donuts and fry bread from the Beardy’s Gas Station. Alex created a faded and wrinkled Royal Proclamation, as well as planted teapots full of succulents. She put together a bouquet of wild, dried flowers and found feathers. I used sage gifted to me by the Women’s Shelter from Walpole Island, On. My late Grandma’s camera was snuck in there, as was a crystal sugar cube dish, reminiscent of the one that we used to sneak candy out of at my late Grandparent’s house. We decorated a hat with my daughter’s Métis sash and a hawk feather from a friend. We were on our land, land that my mom was raised on. My Aunt and Uncle laughed and teased us, helping us with the roses, the moving of tables, and entertaining the neighbours as they stopped in to see what we were doing. Oh, I love small communities.

And as the sun set, and the session ended, we laughed together.

“Do you feel good about this?” I asked Danitra, shooting the last image.

“I feel amazing. I couldn’t have imagined this.”

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 – tenille campbell

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The Place Where My Spirit Breathes

maskéko-sákahikanihk.

This summer, I took a four day intensive néhiyawéwin class. I’m learning my language, slowly. This class was the beginning of a commitment to push myself further towards this goal.

I live in Ottawa now, but I’m a prairie girl through and through. Going back home is a necessity in staying grounded and connected to what calms my soul. The language is in the land, in the vast prairie skies, the water. nipiy. my veins.

Don’t bother writing the words down. Just listen. You’ll remember.

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péyak. níso. nisto.

I’m in kindergarten, my favourite class is Cree class. We learn numbers, greetings, animals. Those words come flooding back in my memory.

I’m grateful to the educators that provided us with the opportunity to be exposed to our language and culture.

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Thirty years later, the class is full of eager students willing to learn néhiyawéwin. The instructors are passionate about passing on the language. It’s a beautiful and safe environment to learn and make mistakes.

Living thousands of kilometers away from my home, I have to make an effort to practice and hear the language, so I don’t forget again.

When discussing the struggles I’m having with this distance, one of my classmates told me that home is “the place where your spirit breathes”. He was right.

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