I find myself considering the parallels between erasures – especially of late, given the recent ‘scandal’ to rock Parliament. The tried and true argument that “we didn’t know” that runs through this moment ( and the various forms of pushback that insist “it wasn’t that bad” or “it didn’t happen” or “show me the proof”) are the voices of those invested in the status quo: in the continued silencing of those voices that speak truth to power, and to the system of settler-colonialism that permeates every aspect of the dominant culture in this country.
I wonder at the blindness. I wonder at the cruelty. I wonder at the refusal to listen, let alone acknowledge our continued collective culpability … for so many things. And to actually ACT – to expect and insist that those in power do better – seems more difficult by the day.
Time to think and consider (yet again): What more can we each do to create lasting change here? This is a question that has motivated me for many years, and motivated the work I did for my MFA. It will continue to motivate me to try to do better, to be a better neighbour and be in genuine relation.
As a settler and uninvited guest wherever I walk in this country, I recognize that many people will be sporting Orange Shirts tomorrow. This action, like the (now ubiquitous) Land Acknowledgment, risks becoming a perforative gesture that assuages guilt temporarily, or (as bad or worse) is seen simply as ‘proper’ to do.
My choice is to step back, shut up, and make room – on September 30th, of all days. Yes I will wear an orange shirt; as a mother and grandmother, I can think of nothing more traumatic or horrendous than to lose a child. As a human being, I feel deeply my responsibility to learn and understand, so that I may better assist in appropriate ways to make things better where I can. As a settler, I cannot make a move to claim innocence, when I live within and benefit from the ongoing harms the Settler-Colonial systems in play in this country are still operating.
I am a deeply imperfect work in progress, trying to find the best way to live better in relation. One day at a time.
I leave the following here, as I feel Paulette Regan expressed my thoughts better than I ever could:
For me, Canada’s apology [11 June 2008, then-Prime Minister Harper] was a call for settlers to take seriously our collectivemoral responsibility for the systematic removal and institutionalization of Native children, some of whom were abused and most of whom were deprived oftheir family life, languages, and cultures. Although the debilitating impactsof sexual, physical, and psychological abuse upon children are self-evident, andCanadians condemn such practices, the problematic assimilation policy thatgave rise to such abuses is less understood by the Canadian public. To those whoargue that they are not responsible, because they were not directly involved withthe residential schools, I say that, as Canadian citizens, we are ultimately responsiblefor the past and present actions of our government. To those who say thatwe cannot change the past, I say that we can learn from it. We can better understandhow a problematic mentality of benevolent paternalism became a rationaleand justification for acquiring Indigenous lands and resources, and drove thecreation of prescriptive education policies that ran counter to the treaty relationship.Equally importantly, we can explore how this mentality continues to influenceIndigenous-settler relations today. Failing to do so will ensure that, despite ourvow of never again, Canada will create equally destructive policies and practicesinto the future. To those who argue that former IRS students should just get overit and move on, I say that asking victims to bury a traumatic past for the “greatergood” of achieving reconciliation does not address the root of the problem –colonialism.
Paulette Regan, Unsettling the Settler Within, p.4
To those whoargue that they are not responsible, because they were not directly involved with
the residential schools, I say that, as Canadian citizens, we are ultimately responsible
for the past and present actions of our government. To those who say that
we cannot change the past, I say that we can learn from it. We can better understand
how a problematic mentality of benevolent paternalism became a rationale
and justification for acquiring Indigenous lands and resources, and drove the
creation of prescriptive education policies that ran counter to the treaty relationship.
Equally importantly, we can explore how this mentality continues to influence
Indigenous-settler relations today. Failing to do so will ensure that, despite our
vow of never again, Canada will create equally destructive policies and practices
into the future. To those who argue that former IRS students should just get over
it and move on, I say that asking victims to bury a traumatic past for the “greater
good” of achieving reconciliation does not address the root of the problem –
FROM Unsettling the Settler Within, Paulette Regan, UBC Press 2010, p.4
I have compiled some resources here that I hope are useful in thinking about Settler responsibility and the ongoing harms of Settler-Colonial structures in so-called Canada. All of this material was useful to me in doing the research for my MFA. Wherever possible, I have provided online links to information; I think it is important to eliminate barriers to information wherever possible. While I recognize this page still requires being able to access to the internet, at least more people in more places can use these tools if I offer them here than could otherwise.
If you are interested, please feel free to investigate the project 40 Chains a Sideas a whole.
I have listed resources with web links first in each subject area; all links were current and active March 1 2022. Articles and books that follow these first listings may be accessible through local libraries or through university/college library systems.
Devine, Heather. “J.Z. LaRocque: A Métis Historian’s Account of His Family’s Experiences during the North-West Rebellion of 1885.” Finding Directions West : Readings That Locate and Dislocate Western Canada’s Past, University of Calgary Press, 2017.
Land and Territory
Native Land (digital interactive map of traditional Indigenous Territories)
Multiculturalism Cannot Contain Multitudes: Towards a Lateral Relationality and Undoing of Settler Colonialism
Despite claims to the contrary multiculturalism operates as the inheritor of official and unofficial policies both cultural and economic that are specifically designed to assimilate newcomers into the white supremacist settler colonial state, thereby ensuring the continued existence of Canada. While effort has been made recently to pay homage to Indigenous peoples as a singular founding people alongside the French and British, we continue to represent an existential threat that cannot be reconciled with the stated purpose of multiculturalism which centres awareness and celebration of diverse cultures. This presentation offers as an alternative, a lateral form of relationality based on the Métis/Cree concept of wâhkôhtowin or expanded kinship, with the purpose of undoing white supremacist settler colonialism.
Links to Articles in the Press and Elsewhere, and Talks of Interest:
A Documentary Film, Lana Gets Her Talk – This brief study of an artist and her work helps us come to some understanding of the trauma experienced by Canada’s Indigenous people in the Indian Residential School system, of its enduring effects on the children of survivors of the IRS, and of one woman’s journey to recover what was lost: dignity, identity, and voice. A story of resilience, Lana’s journey speaks of the power of Indigenous “ways of being” in our time.
Articles and Books (check with Public Libraries or University/College Libraries for copies):
Alfred, Taiaiake. “Foreword.” Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada, by Paulette Regan, UBC Press, 2010, pp. ix–xi.
Battell Lowman, Emma, and Adam J. Barker. Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada. Fernwood Publishing, 2015.
Decter, Leah, and Carla Taunton, eds. Beyond Unsettling: methodologies for decolonizing futures. Public Journal, Fall 2021. vol. 32, no. 64.
Greer, Allan. Property and Dispossession: Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America. Cambridge UP, 2018.
Henderson, Phil. “Imagoed Communities: The Psychosocial Space of Settler Colonialism.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 40–56.
Mann, Geoff. “Settler-Colonialism’s Anti-Social Contract.” The Canadain Geographer, vol. 64, no. 3, 2020, pp. 433–44.
Morgensen, Scott Lauria. “The Biopolitics of Settler Colonialism: Right Here, Right Now.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2011, pp. 52–76.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. “Introduction: White Possession and Indigenous Sovereignty Matters.” White Possessive., University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
Murphyao, Amanda, and Kelly Black. “Unsettling Settler Belonging: (Re)Naming and Territory Making in the Pacific Northwest.” American Review of Canadian Studies, vol. 45, no. 3, 2015, pp. 315–31.
Strakosch, Elizabeth, and Alissa Macoun. “The Vanishing Endpoint of Settler Colonialism.” Arena Journal, vol. 37/38, 2012, pp. 40–62.
Steinman, Erich. “Unsettling as Agency: unsettling settler-colonialism where you are.” Settler Colonial Studies, vol.10, no. 4, 2020, pp.558 – 575.
Tuck, Eve, and K.Wayne Yang. “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeniety, Education & Society. vol. 1, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40.
Veracini, Lorenzo. “‘Settler Colonialism’: Career of a Concept.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 41, no. 2, 2013, pp. 313–33.
Wolfe, Patrick. “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native.” Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 8, no. 4, 2006, pp. 387–409.
Back in Edmonton now, doing some post-performance and post-Thanksgiving work: the “get yer ducks in a row” for the next work to be done.
Much to be thankful for, as always – being able to make work with talented collaborators, the opportunity to share ideas and approaches here and in person, the tremendous support I receive from my family and friends (without whom none of this would be possible).
So – a brief moment to take stock, and to share a link to the video of the performance shot for Livestream on October 5th.
Click on the IMAGE BELOW to go to the UBC School of Music’s video:
A HUGE Thank You to everyone that came out on a busy evening, with less than ideal weather!
We all had a busy night; lots of lovely conversations, and thoughtful comments. The best way to launch new work into the world.
I was also really happy that the lovely humans that have supported this project from the outset – and on whose land the original living installation sits – were able to attend and see this first foray into taking the MAKE=BELIEVE project into a different context! looking forward to lots of chats and feedback from them on this exhibition!
For those of you who weren’t able to be there last Friday: Archived Terrain – Terrain Archivéis up until 5pm September 29th. Regular hours are NOON – 5pm, Saturdays and Sundays – other times by appointment.
I will be gallery sitting on Sunday, September 23rd, NOON – 5pm, if you want to visit!
Some images of my installation/room below:
photo montage of animals in the installation on the farm
tail of an old windmill from the farm; what we do to bend the land to our purposes never lasts
a sun and compass from found objects
the windmill tail again
digitally manipulated photo and found object installation … the immigrant/homestead experience is part of this work
3 digitally manipulated photographs; human use of raw materials becomes camouflage
I am very happy to say that I will be presenting some brand-new work in a group show coming up very soon!
Details below – I look forward to seeing anyone in the area who cam make it to the Opening Reception.
Exhibition hours after the Opening are listed in the invitation, or by appointment.
Some information about the exhibition:
ARCHIVED LAND : TERRAIN ARCHIVÉ at Jackson Power Gallery, Edmonton September 15 to 29
2ndfl, 9744 60 Ave, Edmonton, AB
Opening reception 7pm, September 14, 2018
Exhibit hours: Noon to 5pm
Saturdays and Sundays, September 15 to 29
Or by appointment: 780-499-7635
Jackson Power Gallery presents Archived Land : Terrain Archivé, the final exhibit before the gallery closes its doors.
Land holds memory: layered, fragmented, buried, or strongly etched. It represents identity and connection to our own history and to those who came before us; a narrative landscape that intersects human experience and the natural world.
The gallery’s layout of separate but interconnected rooms forms an environment for individual artist’s interpretation of the theme, providing the visitor with the perception of movement through time and place.
Une initiative par collaborateurs/a collaborative initiative by:
Patrick Arès-Pilon & Conor McNally
BELLE//MONDO vous invite à rentrer dans un assemblage de photographie tirée de vrai pellicule diapo Ektachrome datant de 1997. Cette oeuvre place un regard sur les environnements naturels et bâtis captée sur le territoire du traité numéro 6 incluant à Edmonton, Spruce Grove et La Sapinière en 2018.
BELLE//MONDO welcomes you to enter an immersive photography installation using vintage 35mm Ektachrome slide film (frozen since 1997). This collaborative work features layered sights of natural and built environments captured on Treaty 6 land in and around Edmonton, Spruce Grove & La Sapinière in 2018.
Paddy considers himself to be a Canadian, Irish, Ulster Scots, Quaker, Huguenot, Celtic, Proto-Indo-European citizen of the world. His painting, drawing, and installation work acknowledges the role of landscape as a repository for our history, culture and collective memory, exploring the imprint of society on nature and how we form deep and lasting attachments to the land. His work is also a form of self-examination – a search for alternatives that continue to define his ‘sense of place’.
Sydney’s multidisciplinary practice explores the complicated position the individual inhabits in relation to ideas of place, land & ownership, and the ways in which both people and spaces are ‘written upon’ by larger social-political-cultural narratives over time. She is interested in the realities exposed by branches that only bend so far and how newer growth offers much more flexibility, but less strength for supporting weight.
Ultimately, her work is about how we understand and make sense of the land and the space between us.
As a long-time archivist and now Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, Marlena Wyman’s art practice is informed by history, and her rural Alberta upbringing provides her with a deep connection to land.
We interpret our memories and identities in part through traces of past lives, whether of our ancestors or others. A haunting photograph or a handwritten passage in the diary or a letter of a long dead stranger can create a profound personal connection.