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Indigenous Women Using Art-Space Activism

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Krista Carlin

on 3 December 2014

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Transcript of Indigenous Women Using Art-Space Activism

Our Community
Indigenous Women activists that are using art-space in connection to The Native Women's Association of Canada and Sisters in Spirit.
Faceless Dolls Project
Last month, Holly Jarrett, launched a social media campaign to raise awareness and call for the Canadian government to make a public inquiry into the murders. Jarrett’s campaign has resonated with women around the world who have expressed outrage over the disconcerting trend by Tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagramming photos of themselves holding up signs bearing the hashtag #AmINext (Hannaford, 2014).

Holly started the hashtag after seeing initial AIN online – reminded her both of "ain", an Inuit term of endearment, and "Am I Next" - her feelings after the death of her cousin and 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, a First Nations woman who was found in a Winnipeg river early in August (BBCTrending, 2014).

In this project community members are using photography as a means of expression, inspiration and communication, in a “alternative, non-hierarchic structuring” (Lee, 2011 p. 69).
Setting the Tone:
Grandmother Moon
Grandmother Moon
You know all women from birth to death
We seek your knowledge
We seek your strength
Some are STARS up there with you
Some are STARS on Mother Earth
Grandmother, lighten our path in the dark
Creator, keep our sisters safe from harm
Maa duu? Mussi cho
(NWAC, 2010)
Indigenous Women Using Art-Space Activism
“The REDress Project, created by Jaime Black (an emerging, metis multidisciplinary artist based in Winnipeg), focuses around the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada. It is an installation art project based on an aesthetic response to this critical national issue. The project seeks to collect 600 red dresses by community donation that will later be installed in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada as a visual reminder of the staggering number of women who are no longer with us. Through the installation Jaime Black hopes to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence” (Black, 2014).

Grandmother Moon teaches us about our sacred role as the life-givers and the heart of our nations- for without women our nations cannot go on.
(NWAC, 2010)
Thank you Creator for gifting our Universe with our GrandMother
Thank you GrandMother for

Your reason for Being

Your teachings to the Responsibility and Gift of Fertility

Your gift and power of 'Life-Giver' to women
Your perfect Creator-given Right to Women to be respected, cherished, Loved, protected

Oh-Ho! All my relations....
(Sacred Circle Wisdom, 2011)
Full Moon Prayer
The Native Women's Association of Canada is a network of native women’s organizations from across Canada. Much like a “Grandmothers Lodge,” we as aunties, mothers, sisters and relatives collectively recognize, respect, promote, defend and enhance our Native ancestral laws, spiritual beliefs, language and traditions given to us by the Creator.

Sisters In Spirit began in 2005 as a research, education and policy initiative which was driven and led by Aboriginal women from the NWAC. The goal was to conduct research and raise awareness of the high rates of violence against Aboriginal women and girls in Canada. This initiative has grown to create a community of people that work towards the common goals of: raising awareness through a number of pathways (art, vigils, demonstrations); educating and ensuring effective access to justice for families of missing Aboriginal women; and increasing the safety of Aboriginal women in Canada (NWAC, 2010).
Sisters In Spirit
The Native Women's Association of Canada
The Faceless Dolls Project is an art project which allows community members to create a representation both visually and physically of the over 582 known cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada. Thousands of Canadians have participated in Engagement Workshops from coast to coast. Each doll created has its own story that is told by the person who created it.
Community: Indigenous Context
Power and Process:
Leadership in Indigenous Community
Art-Space: An Innovative Approach

An innovative approach to building communities, community development, and campaigns for justice is to use creativity and the arts (Nickson, Dunstan, Esperanza & Barker, 2011; Shepard, 2005). As Shepard (2005) explains, challenging systems that are rooted in oppression require shifts not just in intellectual attitudes but in emotional attitudes as well. Using culture (music, art, dance) makes emotional and visceral breakthroughs possible. Culture provides a focal point around which to build relationships and connection, and also functions as a stepping stone into political activity. Our community uses creativity and cultural activism to come together and campaign for justice, utilizing culture to involve people and to build a community and raise awareness about missing and murdered Aboriginal women (Shepard, 2005).
Doing work that pursues social justice within Indigenous communities must be guided by Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies (Johnston‐Goodstar, 2013). Wesley-Esquimaux & Calliou (2010) teach that Aboriginal leaders, regardless of gender, are driven by spirituality and a long-term egalitarian perspective with a focus on the good of the community. These translate into particular practices and activities, grounded in the Seven Sacred Teachings (bravery/courage, respect, humility, truth, honesty, love, wisdom) that make Aboriginal organizations excel in bringing together all the elements necessary to set up culturally-appropriate ideal leadership structures.

Aboriginal leaders see the world in a very different way than many non-Aboriginal leaders. It is a cultural ideal that leaders show a lack of ego. There is a lack of hierarchy in how leaders view others and how decisions need to be made (which are based on the impact on the whole community and not just a narrow individualistic perspective).

The practices of leaders should always be wise. Wise practices are defined as locally-appropriate actions, tools, principles or decisions that contribute to the development of sustainable and equitable social conditions. Wise practices begin from a position of internally generated and culturally appropriate knowledge and must be tailored to the capacity building and cohesion needs of each individual community based on their common understandings and historic practices.
Wisdom in Community Leadership
Encompassing traditional values of inclusiveness, appreciation for local knowledge, and respect for all relations, this approach is based on pre-contact social environments in North American native cultures that were both reflective (giving people time to internalize choices and reach consensus about what needs to be done) and integrative (giving voice to everybody). It also allows leaders to bring culture back in as a foundation for their community leadership (Wesley-Esquimaux & Calliou, 2010).

Silent Awareness Project - The REDress Project

Walking with Our Sisters
"Walking With Our Sisters is by all accounts a massive commemorative art installation comprised of 1,763+ pairs of moccasin vamps (tops) plus 108 pairs of children’s vamps created and donated by hundreds of caring and concerned individuals to draw attention to this injustice. The large collaborative art piece will be made available to the public through selected galleries and locations. The work exists as a floor installation made up of beaded vamps arranged in a winding path formation on fabric and includes cedar boughs. Viewers remove their shoes to walk on a path of cloth alongside the vamps."
(Walking With Our Sisters, 2014)
The project was started by the idea of an artist named Gloria Larocque, she was the creator of the “Aboriginal Angel Doll Project.” This was a project where a visual representation of strong and beautiful Aboriginal women who have become faceless victims of crime would be used to create awareness on the issue. The Faceless Dolls Project was launched in 2012.
Workshops are organized by families of the missing & murdered Indigenous women, community members, teachers and allies. During the facilitation of the workshop the Haundenasaunee teaching of the corn husk doll is shared.

Anyone who wishes to commemorate our missing and murdered Indigenous women may participate in the workshops.
REDdress Project at McMaster University

The REDdress Project at McMaster University took shape in the form of a “Silent Awareness Campaign” held on Friday, October 3, 2014 in the Nina DeVilliers Rose Garden. An Indigenous woman ‘K’ who is a student at McMaster and part of the Indigenous Studies Program (ISP) felt that she wanted to do something on campus to “raise awareness on the growing pandemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada” (Indigenous Studies Program, 2014). The REDdress project was selected as the action to take as it spoke to her interest and creativity. Information about the project was originally obtained through groups with a focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, that exist on social media.
The REDdress Project at McMaster University
‘K’ spoke with a fellow student and friend ‘E’ (also part of the ISP) about the project and ‘E’ agreed that the project should move forward. Together they decided that they would put out a call for donations of red dresses for the project. Realizing that perhaps individuals did not want to donate their red dresses, they agreed to also ask for people to lend their red dresses for the project.

Requests for donations and lending of red dresses went out by ‘E’ through a facebook post to her friends. ‘J’ another Indigenous woman who studies at McMaster and is part of the ISP saw the post and made a commitment to spread the word amongst her networks about the collection of red dresses. As dresses were collected ‘J’ would drop them off to ‘K’ and talk about how the project was turning out. By supporting the dress collection and checking in ‘J’ organically became a project member with ‘K’ and ‘E’. The poster for the project was beautifully made by a fellow ISP student ‘C’ who is also an Indigenous woman.

→Here we see that all three women were in relationship through commonalities: they are Indigenous women; they study at McMaster; they are part of the Indigenous Studies Program.
Decisions in this relationship were made collectively by the three women. There was no hierarchy in the relationship. Everyone was equal and working towards the common goal of putting the awareness project on.
The Nina De Villier Rose Garden was suggested to the project members as a good location for the project to take place by the Aboriginal recruitment and retention officer at McMaster who was discussing the project with the members. The members discussed the suggestions and thought it appropriate since “the rose garden was named after the young McMaster student who was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1991” (Bugailiskis, 2005). The link between the rose garden and the project was clear.

Power dynamics came into play in an institutional setting. In order for the project to be held on campus in the Nina De Villiers Rose Garden, the university required forms to be filled out to assess risk management. The institution also dictates that for events or projects to happen on campus said project must be officially supported by a body of the University. Luckily, the ISP was glad to support and endorse the project.

The REDdress Project at McMaster University
Location & Power
The REDdress Project at McMaster University
The project was held on Friday, October 3, 2014 during Sisters in Spirit Week. October 4th is the day of Sisters in Spirit, where “we honour the lives of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls” (NWAC, 2014). Dresses that were donated for the display were donated to the Hamilton Native Women’s Centre. On October 4th, across Canada and some parts of the US, Indigenous women and communities took up the REDdress project and applied it to their Sisters in Spirit vigils and events.

For information about The REDress Project, see http://www.redressproject.org/
A community “has the potential to unleash creative energy for work that will humanize our lives in the economic and political spheres.” (Lee, p. 58)

“The folks with whom organizers work have often been marginalized and hurt by society’s negative attitude and even discriminatory treatment” (Lee, 2011, p. 141)

“As I view the thousands of photos I can't help but think, "please not you, and not you, and not you." I don't want any of these strong and beautiful sisters, daughters, aunties, mothers, and grandmothers to be next. None of us should be next.” (Hansen J. , 2014)
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Use of Internet
Lee states that in the context of community organizing, the internet can “promote culture of collaboration & openness and transcends divisions of history, gender, race, religion and national boundaries” (p. 10)

Jarrett says, “I think it’s going to spark change in other people…to want to dive into an issue and say, “Hey, let’s Google that.” (Thomson, 2014)

One of the characteristics of the use of the internet to create a community is that participation is integral to internet usage being effective (Lee, 2011, p. 71) . This connects directly with a primary goal of community empowerment. This participation is active, meaningful, and provides a place to participate in growth of skills and decision-making. Further, it allows this marginalized and ignored community to develop its own sense of power.

Power in the Context of Strengths and Challenges:
This is a permeable community; members can participate or not (Lee, 2011 p. 71)
As Lee (2011) says at p. 68, “Power is active, the ability to make something occur or not occur.”
“mutual emotional identification” is key aspect of participation (Lee, 2011 p. 95)
Self-initiated by members of the community; grassroots
Accessible; however, if one cannot afford the technology this can be prohibitive
As noted above, by using social media, the community is not limited by geography; all who participate will be seen and ‘heard’
Can be individualized; using Twitter, while limited by text words, is flexible as there is no limit to how the idea is expressed. This can be seen in the variety of ways the slogan is written and the photographs are taken (i.e. the slogan can be written on the body, or on a piece of cardboard; there are no limits to the artistic expression)
Transparency [all can see what decisions can be made (Lee, 2011)], openness and flexibility is evidenced by the shift from #AmINext to #ImNotNext.
Since many marginalized and oppressed communities have to organize themselves as they cannot trust others to do it (Lee, 2011 p. 58)
“According to her (Chief Elk), the reason native women are going missing and being murdered at a much higher rate than other women is that Canadian society doesn’t value their lives as much.” (Hannaford, 2014)
Lack of political/governmental influence
Another problem, Chief Elk says, is that the mainstream media doesn’t give nearly enough coverage to the problem. (Hannaford, 2014)
Canadian press: missing or murdered white women receive three and a half times more coverage than Aboriginal women
Stories are shorter
Stories less likely to appear on the front page
Stories contain scant detail of Aboriginal women as people (Rolston, 2010)
Saunders’ cousin Jarrett says the #AmINext campaign illustrates a real fear among native women–that they will be the next woman to silently vanish. When she leaves her house with her kids, Jarrett says, she does so knowing that as a native woman she’s almost ten times more likely to experience violence just because of her ethnicity. (Hansen J. , 2014)
Power in the Context of Strengths and Challenges:
Get Involved
What can you do? View the "Am I next?" photos. Stand in solidarity with your Indigenous sisters by sharing the photos on your social media feeds. (Hansen J. , 2014)

Download Twitter here: https://twitter.com/download



Interactive Map
Holly Jarrett (Hannaford, 2014)
Gabrielle V Fayant @GabrielleFayant
RT #AmINext #AreWeNext Imagine if we went missing, the impact it would hv on a community! Now imagine over 1000 #MMIW
10:04 PM - 11 Sep 2014
Frankie @Cunntessbathory #AmINext #IdleNoMore #missingsisters #MMW Justice for First Nations missing and murdered girls and women.
6:59 PM - 7 Sep 2014

Bennyhatescake, Instagram
September, 2014
Poster advertising the Silent Awareness Project at McMaster University.
Explanation of why the colour red was selected for the dresses.
Project member prepares the space for the project by smudging while giving thanks and stating what will happen at the space and why.
Dress beside dedication on bench located in Rose Garden.
Individuals stop to look at the dresses.
Dresses on display.
Project member secures education pieces / pictures of missing and murdered Indigenous Women on the dresses.
Project member hangs dresses around the Nina DeVillier Rose Garden at McMaster University.
Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards
Musicians chose to dedicate the stage to “fallen sisters”
Rappers Winnipeg Boyz wore t-shirts “Where are our Women”
The group of artists stated they felt compelled to speak out about social issues
Audience members sported cloth butterflies as a tribute to the missing women
Challenged all other rap artists to stop making music that demeans and disrespects indigenous women
“As artists we have to stand up and say something. If we don’t then what is the music good for?”
each artist who came on stage used the time to bring light to the issue
“The are our sisters, our mothers, our aunties, our friends….they will always be loved and never be forgotten.

At Polaris Gala 22/09/2014
During her performance she had 1200 names scrolling behind her on a screen
Unfortunate controversy due to a comment about PETA in her speech overshadowed her message about missing aboriginal women
“I want things to change, that’s why I’m talking about it” - Tanya Tagaq

Tanya Tagaq
No Stones Unturned Awareness Concert
Awareness concert for Manitoba’s missing and murdered women put on by Manitoba Music
Mission to develop and sustain the Manitoba music community
Have an aboriginal development music program
Founded by Claudette Oslorne Tyo’s family
Live performances throughout the day followed by candlelight vigil
Free concert for community
Bernadette Smith is one of the organizers
Sister went missing
Organized a vigil and the community did not attend
Organized the concert to have support of the community and to ensure her sister was never forgotten
Paintings are also auctioned off to raise money that goes to the families efforts to find their missing loved ones
“Strong Woman Song” - Lisa Muswagon and Raven Hart-Bellecourt
Aboriginal artists honour missing, murdered women at awards show
“We are trying to get answers. We all want answers,” “We got strong voices so we’re trying to use them.” - William Pierson, Winnipeg Boyz

“As artists we have to stand up and say something. If we don’t, then what is the music good for?” -Charlie Fettah, Winnipeg Boyz


Missing, murdered but not forgotten: Annual concert lets families grieve together
"Music is a non-threatening, open, free and safe way for people to commemorate" -Bernadette Smith, Organizer

Media Coverage
Charlie Fettah, one half of the hip hop duo Winnipeg Boyz, wears a t-shirt asking "Where are our women?" backstage at the Aboriginal People's Choice Music Awards, Sept 2014.
No Stone Unturned Concert Poster - July 2013.
Andrea Dunning performs at a concert Sunday to keep the memories of murdered and missing women alive. The concert was followed by a candlelight vigil.

MM interview with Metis artist Christi Belcourt on Walking with our Sisters WWOS
Upwards of 1700 pairs of vamps (moccasin tops) have been beaded by 1200 artists
Exhibit is ‘crowd sourced and crowd funded’ led by Christi Belcourt, Metis artist from Ontario
As a simply visual experience the show is powerful, and in its presentation, with the viewer embodying the mourner, with 1,200 artists mindfully preparing the vamps for these disappeared women, the quiet, understated content becomes a massive chorus of justice.
“I continue to be overwhelmed by the commitment and courage of people who have come together to support this vision. I have seen a lot of work happening in communities across Canada that speaks to the strengthening of relationships among community members, which is an important part of ceremony.” -Christi Belcourt

Currently booked in over 31 locations in North America over the next six years

Media Coverage
Media Coverage
"There's just a sacredness in that space and that sacredness was created in ceremony and it all goes back to the guiding principles of everyone being equal and everyone doing this out of their hearts," - Leanna Sigsworth, one of the lead coordinators.

Beading Vamps: Walking With our Sisters
Police beading hearts, an extension and organic growth of community. From the concept of the beaded vamps, they hold community ‘bead-ins’ where everyone is welcome to bead hearts:
Edmonton Walking With Our Sisters Showing
BBCTrending. (2014, September 10). #BBC Trending: Why are First Nations women being killed? From BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending- 29136748

Belcourt, C. (2014, June). Scoopnest. Retrieved from http://www.scoopnest.com/user/christibelcourt/481098528672849920

Black, J. (2014). ABOUT The REDress Project. Retrieved from http://www.redressproject.org/?page_id=27

Bugailiskis, J. (2005, October 4). Hope Blooms among the Stones. McMaster Daily News. Retrieved from http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/article/hope-blooms-among- the-stones/

Ecoffey, B. (n.d.). Native women speaking out against violence. From Last Real Indians: http://lastrealindians.com/native-women-speaking-out-against-violence-by- brandon-ecoffey/

Hannaford, A. (2014, October 20). Who's killing Canada's Aboriginal Women? From Vocativ: http://www.vocativ.com/usa/race/am-i-next-canada-aboriginal- killings/2/

Hansen, J. (2014). Am I next? Conversation with Holly Jarrett . From Amensty International: http://www.amnesty.ca/blog/am-i-next-conversation-with-holly- jarrett

Hansen, J. (2014, September 9). Am I Next? From Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.ca/blog/am-i-next

Hunt, S. (2014, September 18). #ImNotNext: Indigenous women use social media to demand change. From Rabble.ca: http://rabble.ca/news/2014/09/imnotnext- indigenous-women-use-social-media-to-demand- change?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A +rabble-news+%28rabble.ca+-+News+for+the+rest+of+us%29

Indigenous Studies Program. (2014). Silent Awareness Project. [Flyer]. Hamilton, ON: Indigenous Studies Program.

Johnston-Goodstar, K. (2013). Indigenous youth participatory action research: Re- visioning social justice for social work with indigenous youth. Social Work, 58(4), 314-320

Joyce, M. (2014, October). Walking With Our Sisters. Retrieved from News: www.walkingwithoursisters.ca/news

Lake Superior News. (2014, September 22). Sacred Bundle Honouring the Lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Retrieved from Lake Superior News: http://www.lakesuperiornews.com/Arts/SacredBundle.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Lee, B. (2011). Pragmatics of Community Organization (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: CommonAct Press.

Muldoon, A. (2006). Environmental Efforts: the next challenge for social work. Critical Social Work , 7 (2).
Native Women’s Association of Canada - NWAC. (2014). October 4th SIS Vigils. Retrieved from http://www.nwac.ca/october-4th-sis-vigils

Nickson, A., Dunstan, J., Esperanza, D. & Barker, S. (2011). Indigenous Practice Approaches to Women, Violence, and Healing Using Community Development: A Partnership between Indigenous and non Indigenous Workers. Australian Social Work, 64(1) 84 – 95.

Porter, J. (2014, October 10). Walking With Our Sisters installation 'more than beautiful artwork'. Retrieved from CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/walking-with-our-sisters-installation-more-than-beautiful-artwork-1.2794381

Rolston, A. (2010, June 1). Highway of Tears Revisited. Ryerson Review of Journalism .

Shepard, B. (2005). Play, Creativity, and the New Community Organizing.
Journal of Progressive Human Services, 16(2), 47 – 69.

Thomson, A. (2014, October 4). Woman behind 'Am I Next' movement thinks campaign has staying power. From CTV News: http://www.ctvnews.ca/mobile/canada/woman-behind-am-i-next-movement- thinks-campaign-has-staying-power-1.2005478

Wesley-Esquimaux, C., & Calliou, B. 2010. Best practices in Aboriginal community development: A literature review and wise practices approach.Banff, Alberta, Canada: Aboriginal Leadership and Management, The Banff Centre. Retrieved from: http://www.banffcentre.ca/indigenous- leadership/library/pdf/best_practices_in_aboriginal_community_development.pdf
On March 21st, 2009 all across 'Canada', Indigenous peoples and their supporters gathered for the 8,000 Drums Sacred Ceremony. On Coast Salish Territory, more then 200 people attended to celebrate Indigenous culture and life. In memory of the 3000+ women murdered or missing across the country, Indigenous woman lead the group in an amazing version of the Women's Warrior Song. Dedicated to all the missing and murdered woman, 80% of whom are Aboriginal, justice now!
Background Music:
Women's Warrior Song
Want More #AmINext Images?
To create your own Faceless Doll view the Faceless Dolls Template at
Building on the Legacy of the Faceless Doll Project
Full transcript