Nehiyo-paskwa-itsimowan Pow-wow at UBC – The role of the Drum and my Experience

In witnessing the Nehiyo-pasqua-itsimowan Pow-wow at UBC I focused on the dancing and the dancers. What the regalia means and how each style of dance differs. When reflecting more on the powwow I became curious about the role of the drum. Since this event was my first pow-wow I was able to learn many new things about the dancing, styles and protocol. In learning that the dancing is a celebration of life I was interested in what the drum meant. As Steve Teekens states
the drum has a spirit inside of it and should be treated well. …[the] drum came to the Anishnabe people during a difficult time, to help remind the people of the heartbeat of Mother Earth and to get more in tune with themselves and treat each other with respect. (2015, p. 178)
Therefore I view the drum as a strong connection to the land and the people that are in your life. In addition respect and humility are always something we can continue to work on and practice. This is a common value that I’ve seen in many Aboriginal traditions.
As known in Anishnabe culture you pretty much do not have a powwow or any other ceremony if the drum is not present; without the drum there would be no powwow (Teekens, 2015, p. 191). In other words the drum was a central part to the powwow on March 26th. The drums provided the rhythm for the dancers to move to and enables both the drummers and dancers to express their connection to Mother Earth and respect for others. The drum working with the regalia and dancers further illustrates the importance of celebrating life and being respectful; to live life in a good way.
In addition to the roles that I was curious about, my own role was mostly as a witness. I sat down and watched the drumming and dancing but also walked by each vendor and had some food that is known to be at powwows such as Noras sxusum (Indian icecream). I also joined in a round dance where we danced around the drummers and where it really felt evident to me that the powwow formed a community, one of which I was thankful to be a part of and hopefully will be a part of again in the years to come. The formation of a community can also be viewed in the circles of the pow-wow with the men and the drums, sometimes the women circling them singing, then the dancers and finally the ancestors (Teekens, 2015, p. 183-185). Though it is not my place to go further into this as I am just learning about the four circles around the drum I feel as though it is yet another example of creating community is a respectful and humble way. Where each circle works together and is given respect in order to form the pow-wow.

Taylor, D., H. (2015). Me artsy. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.

Attached below are the slides where my my critical questions, reviews etc. are present.

2nd Annual Nehiyo-pasqua-itsimowan Pow-wow @ UBC

Cutting Copper: Recognition, Refusal and Refusal

On Friday March 4th, I attended the Cutting Copper practice on Recognition, Refusal and Resurgence at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. In particular this event was in dialogue with the Lalakenis/All Directions exhibition currently showing at the gallery. Specifically, I witnessed Dana Claxton’s performance, along with the panel discussion held with Linc Kesler, Leanne Simpson, and Taiaiake Alfred.


The curators of Cutting Copper commenced the event by first acknowledging the unceded land of the First Nations people. With other opening remarks and thanks, Audrey was introduced on to the podium.

Audrey was involved in the cutting copper journey with Beau and other people from her community. She proudly introduced herself as individual doing work first for her ancestors, elders, the earth, and then for others.

To conclude the opening remarks of the event, Andrea sang the women warrior song as it was dedicated to women. She encouraged anyone who knew the song to sing along. When the song was sung, a strong aura filled the room and uplifted people. Proud voices rang through the gallery as I felt an immense connection with the women who were standing around me. The commencement with the women warrior song set a positive tone for Claxton’s performance and panel discussion as it “rejuvenated the seeds of feminine power”. (Smith, Me ARTSY)

Claxton’s Performance

Everyone in the gallery was asked to step outside of the gallery for Claxton’s performance immediately after the opening remarks.

Claxton entered the exterior space with a digitalized Indigenous song that had a similar rhythm to the women warrior song. The speakers were hidden in red blanket that was tied to her body. She had in her hands red twine. She began the performance by taken one end of the string that was attached to a chopstick and stuck it right outside of the gallery where the grass had begun. Claxton started to move along the grass while unraveling the string laying it gingerly on the ground. The big crowd too would follow behind her while intently observing her moves.

It was interesting to watch the UBC community collectively walk with Claxton as she led the large crowd. Particularly, I was engaged to how diverse the demographic was ranging from different faculties and backgrounds. I felt interconnectivity amongst the visual artists, art historians, anthropologists, and First Nation. Even though people observed Claxton, they too were engaged in conversing in dialogue with the people they were walking with. With such, we were all a part of Claxton’s performance where there was collective interaction in walking the perimeter of the gallery together but also engaging with our surroundings. In a way, I felt Claxton’s performance was the “UBC’s” or “our” journey. The red twine mimicked the Awalaskenis journey map.

After circling the perimeter of the Belkin, Claxton entered the gallery space. She began to wrap herself in a red cloth and later bobbed her body to the sound of the music. Claxton then unraveled herself, took the cloth by one arms length and she would rip it until there was nothing left. The ripping action was another element that Claxton has used in her pervious work in “Indian Dirt Worshipper”. She would fold them gingerly and give them as gifts, to the audience.

Panel Discussion

The panelists included Linc Kesler, Gerald Taiaiake Alfred, and Leanne Simpson.

Kesler is the director of the UBC First Nations House of Learning and Senior Advisor to the President.

Taiaiake Alfred is an author, educator and activist, born in Tiohtiá:ke in 1964 and raised in the community of Kahnawake

Simpson is an indigenous gifted poet, academic and musician.

In reference to the catalogue, “the panel would [spoke] of the theoretical interventions at play when considering the ways in which Indigenous people have sought to overcome the contemporary life of settler-colonization and achieve self-determination through cultural production and critique.” In particular, the panelists spoke of recognition, refusal and resurgence. They specified for the country’s futurity, Canada needed to be more indigenized for the better of the future.

“Refusal to be erased, Resurgence enactment, Recognition of the land.”

Overall, I felt a strong presence of First Nations women at the event – from Claxton, Audrey, Simpson and the people who were adding on to the dialogue from the panelist discussion which felt empowering.

Discussion Question: What do you think the procedure and process was for the protocol of the masks in the Lalakenis exhibition?

Google slides Presentation:

Nehiyo-paskwa-itsimowan Pow-wow: responding to protocol

On March 29, 2016 I attended the 2nd Annual Nehiyo-paskwa-itsimowan Pow-wow Celebration at UBC, hosted by the First Nations Studies Student Association (FNSSA). The Nehiyo-paskwa-itsimowan Pow-wow began as a small conversation between Salia Joseph and myself. We both understood the value in pow-wows and recognized a need for an inclusive cultural event on campus. Not thinking too much about it or knowing the amount of work involved, we decided to go forward and begin the planning process. Two years later, FNSSA and the Indigenous Students’ Association hosted the first annual pow-wow in 2015.

The way I was taught, is that pow-wows are a celebration of life through song and dance. It is the intention of the pow-wow to celebrate the resiliency, diversity, and vibrancy or Indigenous people. The name ‘Nehiyo-paskwa-itsimowan’ is cree, “nehiyo” meaning Cree, “paskwa” refers to the plains area east of the Rocky Mountains, and “simowan” means the way she/ he dances. This name recognizes that the pow-wow celebration and the dances originate from the plains people and acknowledges the relationship and responsibilities we have to the Musqueam people and territory by highlighting that it is not a Musqueam celebration or ceremony.

One of the goals of the pow-wow is to revitalize the teachings and practices that were seen at pow-wows between 1950-1970. Many Nehiyaw pow-wow teachings have become dormant. It is not my place or that of the committee to bring back these teachings as we are all still young and learning, rather it is our goal to create a space for teachings to be shared, learned, and practiced. To do so, we invited several Nehiyaw elders to be the head staff, including the whipman, the emcee, the head male dancer and the lead singer of the host drum. Together and in consultation with others, they decided how the pow-wow would be run regarding protocol.

I would like to briefly discuss how protocol was negotiated at the pow-wow and how people responded to certain protocol. It is not for me to discuss in depth the role of the whipman or for me to write about it so it will be a basic overview. The whipman has a complex role within the pow-wow and has a lot of teachings and training that he must go through to have the right to fulfill that role. One of his roles is to invite dancers onto the dance floor and ensure they are dancing when they are supposed. It was shared at the pow-wow that if a dancer refused to respond to this protocol and did not dance when the whipman told them, they would be fined. This is something that I have never witnessed at other pow-wows but have heard stories about happening in the past. At the Nehiyo-paskwa-itsimowan Pow-wow, dancers were only fined $5.00, whereas in the past they would’ve been fined a horse, a tipi, a buffalo robe, etc. This fine demonstrates the seriousness of the role of the whipman, the importance of following protocol, and dancers’ responsibilities and roles within when they make the choice to participate as dancers.

What I witnessed was a range of responses and reactions to this protocol. There were some people who appreciated that the whipman ensured dancers were dancing and said things like “otherwise, I usually just sit there.” Some people appreciated that these teachings were being brought back and being acted upon rather than remaining a memory held by a few of the older ones. Some people were grateful for what was shared and donated $5.00 out of appreciation for what was happening. Even some dancers who were fined took it in a good way and respected and upheld the teaching. However, other people were not so happy with it. A dancer who was fined got upset with the whipman (details of the situation will be left out).

The situation with the dancer being upset brought up questions about the role of witnesses and participants to learn, listen, and respond to protocol. I understand that protocol and practice is something that is always changing and needs to be reflective of who we are today. However, there are many events, ceremonies, and gatherings that have strict protocol. My mother, grandma, and aunties always explained to me that I need to have respect when I attend an event as a witness or a participant. This respect comes first and foremost. Part of this involves respecting the laws that are in place in that space. It is not up to me to decide what parts of an event I take part in or what protocols to follow. When I am invited and choose to participate, I take on the role of respecting what teachings and practices are to be followed in that time and place.

Ultimately, it isn’t about who is right or wrong but rather about how we as guests and participants listen, learn, and respond to protocol when we are invited into a space that is led by teachings and practices that may be unfamiliar.

Two Ways of Seeing at One Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion for Dana Claxton’s exhibition Made to Be Ready  February 27, 2016 / SFU Audain Gallery

As part of the public programming for Dana Claxton’s exhibition Made to Be Ready, a panel discussion was held that featured three speakers in the location of the actual exhibition space. It was neat in this circumstance to be surrounded by Dana’s work while conversing about it. It was a full house with a mixed audience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, curators, artists, MFA students, and local scholars in the Vancouver contemporary art scene.  I recognized a majority of people from my involvement in contemporary art, most of whom I haven’t previously seen at other Indigenous related events we’ve been going to as part of our course.

The speakers were:

Monika Kin Gagnon, a Professor of Communication Studies at Concordia University who “has published widely on cultural politics, the visual and media arts since the 1980s.”

Richard William Hill, a curator, critic and art historian and is a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. “His research focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on historical and contemporary art created by Indigenous North American artists. As a curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, he oversaw the museum’s first substantial effort to include Indigenous North American art and ideas in permanent collection galleries. His essays on art have appeared internationally in numerous books, exhibition catalogues and periodicals.”

Tania Willard, who is of Secwepemc Nation and is a curator who “works with the shifting ideas of contemporary and traditional as they relate to cultural arts and production, often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Aboriginal and other cultures.” Her curatorial projects have included Beat Nation: Art Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture and BUSH gallery, a conceptual space for land based art and action led by Indigenous artists.

The Moderator:

Catherine Soussloff, a Professor of Art History at UBC, in which I had the pleasure of taking her course on Performance in Art History (Fall 2015). “She is known for her comparative and historical approaches to the central theoretical concerns of European and North American art and aesthetics, including photography and film, from the Renaissance to the present.”


Melanie O’Brian, the Director of the SFU Galleries, opened with an acknowledgement of the panel taking place on unceded Coast Salish territories. Amy Kazymerchyk, the curator, presented some of her questions and approaches she has been considering in her curatorial practice, one of them being: “How can contemporary art fit with Indigenous practices as acts of doing, becoming, and worldmaking that emphasizes the liveliness of presence?”

My overall experience of witnessing:

I felt like I went in to the panel with two ways of seeing, that is through the knowledge I have gained through my experiences of being in the contemporary art scene, and the knowledge I have gained from Dr. Dangeli and our class discussions. As a result, I was able to apply these two ways of thinking to realize that the discussion overall was both productive and lacking in the elaboration of certain points made.

Overall, I found that there were many contrasts between the panel discussion and the way we had approached discussing this exhibition in class. The panel focused more on the theoretical side of applying certain theories and notions to Dana’s work instead of also reflecting on how we may be personally witnessing Dana’s work through our own individual ways of responding in relation to the backgrounds we come from. The majority of the audience was reluctant on expressing the specific meanings and kinds of narratives occurring one may individually draw from the works. Instead, the panel centered around how Dana provides an alternate framework for challenging dominant ways of seeing in the space of a gallery and inverting narratives, which brought out many important points, but also felt lacking. I found that there was little commentary or elaboration on specific cultural belongings and their ceremonial and sacred relations (especially compared to our class discussion), and most of the time, the works were not addressed by their actual titles, and only through their mediums and physical locations. The speakers mostly addressed Uplifting in all of their presentations.

Key topics & terms addressed:

Monika’s Presentation: Monika talked about her personal experiences she has had with Dana in the 90s, a time when Dana began to strongly influence the starting up of creating space for Indigenous works and performances in Vancouver through the Pit Gallery.

Vocalization:  Where complex narrative structures in which multiple perspectives can arise as being unstable and unfixed. Monika stated that the narrative in Uplifting pulls us through to this direction, and that Dana brings a strong positionality that we’re not used to seeing dominantly, in which she uses vocalization as a strategy.

Richard’s Presentation: Richard spoke about associations of Claxton’s work as being inconclusive and indefinite.

Bodies of Matter: As in Uplifting, he stated that the body is both bound and spiritually transcended, oscillating between the two. He described the video as taking on a poetic expression of song and dance, moved by the pace of abstraction. With the video having a quick loop, he asked if the woman in it at the end has either transcended or fallen, has overcame struggle or not, stating that the way of tradition can be both a blessing and a burden.

Audience response: In response to this, an artist I recognized (who is based in Vancouver of Chinese origin), spoke up to say that there’s also many other layers in between the video to consider in relation to how it ends, in which she stated that the end is not affirmative and we should consider the in-between acts of what happens (this made me think of Recollet’s discussion on ‘in between’ spaces). This audience member also stated that she is not to speak to specific Indigenous content coming from her own background, so she does not go into further elaboration on what these in between spaces could mean to her, even though it was nice to hear her point out that there’s something more happening in the video than just whatever the ‘outcome’ of it might be.

Location of art & art made for location: Richard states that Dana plays with tensions of the gallery space, questioning what it can be and what it has been. He asserts that landscape is present in gallery’s space through the horizontal axis of film, which allows for it to be a space of speculation on a connection point that is between the earth and sky.

Tania’s presentation: Tania spoke about Uplifting in relation to Indigenous women and principles of living in beauty. She emphasized the insertion of Dana’s generosity in the exhibition space, which is filled with provocation and beauty. She has previously worked with Dana on curatorial projects before.

Intuitive navigation: Tania states that Dana helps us to arrive at an intuitive way of navigating relations between culture and institutions, but also denies us. As we consume her work, her work consumes us: it has obstacles that interrupts how we usually consume materials and beauty.

Internal ways of seeing: In reference to this, she also states that Dana makes us rely on internal ways of seeing through her cultural belongings, as they carry things that which we remember ourselves and our families in.

Space of slowness: Another point Tania makes is how Dana gives us gift of time, stating we’re gifted to be here and exist with its recorded performance for a period of time, to understand it as a ‘tool of way finding’. She discusses how Dana offers us spaces in-between that we start to fill ourselves with and read into these subtleties so that we can begin to see other paths and avenues that are filled with dignity and potential. But again, I found that these possibilities of ‘potential’ are not elaborated on in terms of how we can take action of our responsibilities as witnesses.

Side note: At this moment when talking about space of slowness and reflection, a little girl sitting in front of me who was playing a video game during the discussion looked up for the first time and took a moment to pause and watch the crawling woman in the video. It was a neat moment to see this happen at this time when we were all silent and really giving our attention to the struggling pain the woman was undergoing in the video.

Catherine’s discussion: Catherine began by introducing herself as an outsider (has been living for 6 years in Vancouver), and describes Dana, her colleague, as an art warrior for her people, being on the inside (of her Lakota culture) while operating on the outside (the art world). She states that Dana is made to be ready to teach meanings and ways of knowing the world from both sides.

Towards the end, she asked us how do we find the right kind of language to use that justifies this work? She stated that to her, the theoretical is the right kind of language for herself to use as an outsider.

Strategies of indirection: Catherine referenced Gerald Vizenor’s notion of ‘indirection’, of which she stated that Dana uses the gallery space indirectly by having an active presence asserted in it, but without having a live performance happening. The idea behind having this indirection is to mean that there is no direct way of knowing.


Reading Relation: Monique Mojica, “Verbing Art” (Me Artsy)

“Indigenous cultures recognize the need for performance and repetition.” (17)

In addition to Dana’s intentions to disrupt ways of seeing in the gallery space and inverting standard narratives, I feel that she is also reminding us or making aware, especially to an audience who who may be unfamiliar with, of how much performance and repetition has always been and still has a profound presence at the core of Indigenous cultural practices. I think this point Mojica makes could have contributed nicely in thinking about performance in the panel discussion.

Mojica’s notion of ‘auto-biological’: the performances Mojica creates “lives organically in her body”, “as a continuum of embodied stories (from her immediate elder generations, her ancestors, and from ancestral land) is what “connects her to the temporal space of performance”, which then “evaporates, held in memory until it is repeated”. (17)

Without having the temporality of a live performance, I think that this idea of the ‘auto-biological’ can be lost a bit through the mediated representation of the woman’s movement in Uplifting, but the idea of repetition is emphasized to remind us of ancestral continuation. Perhaps one of the reasons that this discussion may have lacked consideration of a personal way of responding and internal witnessing of the exhibition is because it exists as a space of performativity without having the temporal experience of moving bodies performed live.

I thought this quote (below) from Mojica’s piece of writing is a nice way to end this post off with. I feel it reflects the other way of seeing I have come to experience through our Indigenous performance course that could help to bridge the discussions that took place in the panel and our thinking about how we each can relate to the living force in the exhibition space that Dana generously presents us with:

“Living as an artist has required me to be fearless in search of cultural recovery and to reclaim those missing pieces with fierceness in order to put unspoken language in my mouth and unpracticed rhythms in my feet, to literally put myself back together.” (16)


Thanks for reading on, see more on our presentation slides!


Circadia Indigena’s “Resolve”: Hidden clear messages

“REsolve is a courageous perspective of an individual, exploring thoughts and feelings, emotions and actions confronting corporate corruption and the destruction of our biosphere. In this dance we are observing from political cultures the perspectives and personal experiences of hopes, dreams and fears; exploring the thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions when confronted by an increasingly authoritarian system. However, with peace we share the insight of the internal thoughts and decisions of the individual forced to confront losing, one’s human rights and freedoms; participating with nature and fighting back or becoming the oppressors’ to death. But, also REsolveis to be at peace to overcome our present slavery physiological bondage; where you have no choice but to stand up for freedom; inspiring and moving at many levels, politically, culturally, regionally and intercontinental. REsolve inspires to address issues of de-colonisation of self, our tribal dances of spirituality, enhancing the bio connection to landscapes, plants, wildlife above and water, shape shifting and confinement, sexual abuse issues, racism and classism, and the codification of slavery, consumerism, and rural lifestyles, incorporating traditional and contemporary dance in solos, duets and quartets and original music for 30 minutes.” (From the Vancouver International Dance Festival performance catalogue.)


On Thursday the 3 March, I witnessed a 30-minute contemporary dance performance by the Ottawa-based Indigenous dance group Circadia Indigena, entitled REsolve. The piece was the opening performance for the 2016 Vancouver International Dance Festival (VIDF) and the preceding piece for the performance of Compagnie Virginie Brunelle (which played around 30 minutes after REsolve finished). The performance was held at the Roundhouse Exhibition Hall in Yaletown at 7.00 PM.

At around 6.30 PM my partner and I arrived, paid the $3 membership fee for the VIDF and entered the Yaletown Roundhouse Exhibition Hall. Blue lights illuminated a raised stage, in front of which were around thirty little round tables covered by black tablecloths and fake candles. Sushi, vegetables and dip, crackers and cheese, and profiteroles were available for free consumption. I observed the audience: they were mainly Caucasian (as far as I could tell) and over the age of 40, mingling and chatting as one would at an art gallery opening. I wondered how this chic soirée setting, surrounded by the VIDF’s annual art and photo exhibition, would contribute to how the witnesses were to view and absorb REsolve.

After introductions by Amanda Parris (host of CBC’s Arts & culture Program Exhibitionists) and the Co-producers of the VIDF, Barbara Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi, the performance began. Byron Chief-Moon* slowly entered onstage and faced away from the audience, holding a position that resembled shooting a bow and arrow and, twitching, crumpled to the ground. Jerry Longboat*, Luglio S. Romero*, and Olivia C. Davies* slowly entered from the sides of the audience and crept upon the stage. All four performers were wearing zombie-like make-up (white faces and dark eye sockets), and the men sported ripped business suits while Olivia wore a dress with red fabric cascading down the front. Olivia, Jerry, and Luglio squatted whilst Byron made motions of picking things up and dragged himself across the stage by his hair and clothes. The others then rose to join Byron in a circle dance, which was followed by a catwalk-like segment in which the dancers seemed to impersonate monster-fashion models. During most of the first half of the piece, the music was overlaid with a creepy voice performing an often-unintelligible monologue about exercising control over others. At one point, one of the dancers assumed the position of the standing cross, and the other three laid him down on the ground. This was repeated by two more of the dancers. At this point I could hear snippets of the monologue saying “we will guide them” and “we shall extinguish them”.

Soon afterward, Byron ran upstage and stared at the audience. The music stopped, and Byron proceeded to make a speech. He was echoed visually on a screen at the back of the stage on which was projected a live video of him (the cameraman of which was positioned in the audience)—this was reminiscent of the multiple-angle videos of people performing speeches on television. Ironically, the essence of Byron’s speech was “Turn off your TV!” “Television is not the truth,” he exclaimed, it is a circus, or rather a freak show. He advises us to “go to yourself; there you will find truth.” Throughout his speech the other three dancers approached Byron slowly, looking incredibly annoyed and threatening, whispering viciously. After a while Byron noticed them and yields his cause: “Okay. I said okay!”

The music resumed with a fast tempo and the dancers resumed their dance, this time echoed visually on the background screen, which multiplied their images and outlined the dancing figures with radiating colourful contours (perhaps reminiscent of the sensory overload of television). The lyrics of the songs spread clear messages: “We want your soul” and “America, your government is in control again”. Suddenly, each of the performers revealed some sort of sparkly or otherwise outrageous garment or accessory, and guest artist Su-Feh Lee entered the stage. She was dressed in a sparkly corset, fishnet stockings, and high boots, and she whipped an enormous bullwhip. Jerry longboat held out a large dark feather (as one may imagine a Medieval priest held out a cross to a person assumed of witchcraft). Nevertheless, all of the performers made beckoning movements accompanying the lyrics “We want your soul”. All of a sudden, the four dancers slumped to the ground. The music stopped and the lights turned off, and only the repeating crack of the bullwhip remained. When the lights were raised, the four dancers rose quickly and scattered to the opposite end of the stage from the bullwhipper. The five dancers then reassembled in center upstage and, smiling, took a bow.

REsolve was an incredibly confusing piece to witness, riddled with metaphorical imagery and hidden meaning. Possible interpretations that I had were as follows:

  • The crosses laid on top of one another may symbolise the indoctrination of Christianity upon Indigenous Peoples and the consequent deaths of some Aboriginal cultures, traditions, and communities.
  • “Turning off the TV”, in addition to an act of rebellion toward the accelerated and over-crowded superficialities of contemporary society, is also an act of decolonisation and Indigenous resurgence.
  • The “circus” imagery painted in Byron’s speech is reminiscent of the old act of turning Indigenous people into side show attractions. This phenomenon inspired Monique Mojica’s play Side Show Freaks & Circus Injuns (produced by Native Earth Performing Arts), which she discusses briefly in her essay “Verbing Art” (in Me Artsy, page 27).
  • The violent hushing of Byron’s speech by the others is an act of oppression against movements of resurgence and decolonisation.
  • Su-Feh Lee’s bullwhip figure may represent an authoritarian system; this is emphasised by the others slumping to the ground, jumping up and scattering toward the opposite corner as they become overrun by the oppressor.
  • We can spot small acts of resistance throughout the piece, such a Jerry Longboat’s feather and Byron’s more-or-less constant spirit of defiance.

As the audience was left to ponder over the meaning of REsolve, my partner and I exited the Exhibition Hall. Although confused and still digesting, we were certain that we had just witnessed a strong act of Indigenous resistance toward oppressive systems.


*Byron Chief-Moon is a Two-Spirit dancer and actor and a member of the Kainai Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Southern Alberta. He was born in Carlsbad, California and now lives between Vancouver and Los Angeles with his family. His dance choreography combines traditional Blackfoot stories, dances, and songs with contemporary themes, dance, and music.

Jerry Longboat is the artistic director and founder of Circadia Indigena. He is Mohawk-Cayuga, of the Turtle Clan, from the Six Nations of the Grand River in Southern Ontario. He is a visual artist, graphic designer, actor, storyteller, dancer, and choreographer and has performed with professional dance companies across Canada.

Luglio S. Romero was born and raised in Costa Rica and studied Dance &Latin American Studies at Simon Fraser University. He has performed as a professional member of ballet companies in Costa Rica and BC, and he now teaches Zumba in Vancouver.

Olivia C. Davies is of Aboriginal heritage and studied dance at York University. She co-founded the MataDanZe Collective, a project aiming to empower women through movement. She is an Apprentice with the Dancers of Damelahamid and has choreographed performances for numerous festivals around Canada.

Su-Feh Lee is a Malaysian dancer/choreographer and the founder of the Vancouver-based dance company battery opera.

Visit Circadia Indigena’s website here:

Read the horrible review that I discussed in my class presentation here:

Lastly, here are some questions that witnessing REsolve provoked for me:

1)How might the setting (the tablecloths, fake candles, sushi and profiteroles, etc.) have played into how the attendees witnessed the evening’s performance of REsolve?

2)In her essay Verbing Art, Monique Mojica discusses “playing Indian” as a perpetual stereotypical role for mainstream Indigenous performers. She writes, “Our choices are either to put ourselves at the mercy of the artistic vision and politics of non-Indigenous directors, playwrights, artistic directors, designers and public relations machines and to stalwartly try to affect change from within those institutions, or to struggle to create [our] own theatre where our Indigenous artistic visions are in control and we unapologetically hold power over our voices, our stories and our images” (from Me Artsy, page 23). How does Circadia Indigena communicate this issue in REsolve? Additionally, how does the group maintain power over their own artistic visions and voices to change the common view of Indigenous performance art?

Dana Claxton: Made To Be Ready

On January 14th, 2016 I had the privilege of witnessing Dana Claxton’s Made To Be Ready Exhibit opened at SFU’s Audain Gallery. When going through this exhibit I tried to keep in mind what I had just read in the exhibition statement but also what Karyn Recollet discusses in her piece For Sisters regarding layering, and the ways Indigenous peoples and their art have been categorized in “overly simplistic ways.” For my reflection, I will be specifically speaking to the two pieces in Made to be Ready, called Cultural Belongings and Headdress.

As a beader myself, I always feel like I have an extra appreciation and understanding of the time and precision it takes to finish a piece. Often however, I feel like beadwork specifically is incredibly tokenized as simplistic Indigenous garb. Also, mainstream representations of Aboriginal fashion are often grotesque cultural appropriations that do little to represent any actual representations of Indigeneity and lack the recognition of these ‘inspired’ designs.

In Headdress, Claxton is able to move away from this cultural presumption and display beadwork as more than garb, in the form of a headdress. Typically when you see a headdress, one commonly imagines a full eagle feather warbonnet complete with, beaded bands and ribbon, and more often than not, placed on top of a male chief. I am not of Lakota decent and I cannot speak to protocol or teachings around the headdress but when I see this photo, I noticed that it’s quite feminine. Also again, I cannot speak to Lakota headdress teachings, but this headdress hangs in the face of the woman rather than down the back of her hair.

You also see the woman wearing the headdress in Claxtons relating piece, Cultural Belongings. One of the first things I thought about while looking at this piece was the juxtaposition between the contemporary aesthetics along with the representations of Indigenous culture and arts. My eye first drawn to the woman’s dress, her shoes, her buckskin shawl, and I wonder how long it took to make that hide, and where I can find a pair of shoes like that. The woman, mid-step, is lead or guided by a horse staff and following her, on the ends of her shawl are belongings and teachings she physically trailing behind her. Of these items I noticed the beaded barrets, purses, pouches, and what I think might be an arrow quiver. What I hadn’t noticed at first is there seems to be a separate piece of buckskin that show symbols of pictographs, representing a connection to ancestors that claimed space by painting stories, and events on rocks structures.

Immediate news coverage responded to this exhibit were positive in that many of the writers were using interviews with Claxton to promote a narrative that challenges dominate discourses that have sought to dehumanize Indigenous women.

Today Dana Claxton claims the spaces of these gallery walls by placing works of beautiful beading across that space that reclaim Indigenous expressions of past, present and future while centering the image of strong Indigenous women. She displays these items as pieces of identity rather than items created for the purpose of resale as commodities. She centers these pieces as everyday items of contemporary Indigeneity expression rather than relics of an Indigenous past.