I have included the academic/artist, Karyn Recollet (Plains Cree), because of her focus on decolonization through the reclamation of space and imagery in connection with grassroots artistic and activist practice. Her writings, nicely position Indigenous resistance through remix culture in context with the historical resistance against settler occupation.
The below articles, can be accessed through UBC library.
Here Recollet connects two movements, Idle No More Flash Mob Round Dance and the Walking with Our Sisters Movement to the historical usage of glyph making. In her writing, she argues that these forms of resistance are not new to Indigenous culture; rather, extensions of traditional practice. In this way, these forms of resistance through art and movement help reposition and reconnect Indigenous cultures.
In this article, Recollet uses the work of Ay I Oh Stomp as a case study to investigate the possibilities of a the remix as an artistic tool to decolonize settler identity constructions and ultimately create new identity possibilities.
Decades of oppression and forced assimilation have led to the steep decline of Indigenous languages but there is new hope as tech-savvy young people are fighting to preserve their culture. For generations, Indigenous families used storytelling as their primary way to pass down knowledge and language as elders would speak to the children in their language and the kids would naturally pick it up but that began to change in the late 19th century once the Canadian government passed the Indian Act. This law enforced colonial authority over First Nations peoples, partially to force assimilation through policies that displaced Indigenous people and removed them from their communities. Most notoriously implemented through church-run residential schools that aimed to erase Indigenous children’s cultures and connections to family, these institutions enforced a language ban. If Indigenous children were caught speaking their own language, they would face corporal punishment.
Denise Williams, First Nations Technology Council executive director, is aware that Indigenous memories of colonialism are inhibitors to the First Nations embracing modern technology. She is taking steps to change this. As part of a 1982 Canadian constitution amendment that allowed the integration of Indigenous people’s right to self-government, it also allowed for the adoption of contemporary software and information systems. These tools imposed on communities, added on top of an already imposed government structure, became a sore point for many First Nations people and therefore, is now the mandate of Denise and her technology council members to change this.
Even though the First Nations Technology Council faces resistance from some community members who view tech as a symbol of colonial oppression Denise and the council has spent four years visiting over one hundred Indigenous communities in B.C. carrying out mobile technological training programs to overcome this deep-seated resistance, her team providing everything from Microsoft Office certification to PC repair training. The enthusiastic feedback she received made her view tech as a key tool for Indigenous empowerment.
Technology councils Instagram feed
On the council’s website, she notes that they have seen the profound effects of increased access to digital communication through movements like Idle No More and Stand With Standing Rock, which both achieved mass impact and galvanized activism. The council’s next mandate is to empower more Indigenous people to build communities and drive economic development online. Because of the work of this council, the future for technology has potential as Indigenous people gain the skills to partake in digital conversations while increasing reconciliation making a better world for all Canadians and Indigenous people.
I had the wonderful opportunity when I was in Regina last week to meet with Phyllis Kretschmer who is my Mother’s good friend. She is Saulteaux and Cree and a strong activist for Aboriginal issues. She told me stories about her terrible experiences as a student at Residential school. It is very difficult to imagine self-representation or self-determination in a setting where students were strapped for requesting an eraser from a classmate. Where their braids were cut off without ceremony and where the majority of their week was spent either doing manual labour or absorbing the tenets of the Church in catechism classes, and where the idea of stockings without holes was a fond hope.
Phyllis was able to move forward from these experiences, based on strong family support and being able to find confidence in herself after years of being told by the teachers at the residential schools that she was stupid.
Now at the age of 79, she remains actively involved in educating both Aboriginals and Non Aboriginals about the history of First Nations communities.
She is involved in the Idle No More Movement started a couple of years ago (see articles below) and is a member of the Intercultural Grandmother’s Group organized through the University of Regina. This is where my Mother met her, often partnering with her when they visit Elementary and High Schools to share First Nations knowledge. Students then also see that First Nations issues are cared about by the Mainstream community as well.
Information about Idle No More and Intercultural Grandmother’s Uniting
This paper examines how Idle No More, a recent movement initiated to draw attention to concerns by Indigenous people about changes in Canada’s environment and economic policies, has been framed by discourses of inclusion and exclusion. The paper asserts that discourses of inclusion and exclusion, by way of stigmatizing and distancing Indigenous people, stall the possibility of finding solutions to the problems that they are trying to fix. The paper closes with a brief examination of how Idle No More served to broaden conceptions of indigenous participation and success.
After completing the first week’s readings, I thought about how it was that computers were at least partly to blame for transmitting the messages, images, and values which are incongruent with and degrading to traditional First Nations/Native culture. After last week’s discovery of Idle No More, decided to explore some of the other ways First Nation/Native people have co-opted computer technology and social media for their own purposes. YouTube proved to be an interesting resource for this objective.
I watched several promotional-style videos urging individuals to support the peaceful revolution behind the Idle No More movement, but one video in particular stuck out for me.
The video is a music video by Drezus for a song called Red Winter. Drezus is a Plains Cree-Saulteaux veteran hip hop artist and he presents quite an enigma with the cultural boundaries he simultaneously blurs and reinforces in this video.
A sample of his lyrics are telling:
My skins red, I bleed red, I‟m seeing red/
I’m praying for my people out there who haven’t seen it yet/
His blood is cold, tellin lies forever told/
By his ancestors 500 years ago/
Yeah I said it, got my people getting restless/
Making money off our land and we aint even on the guest-list/
Carry on traditions of a racist pilgrim/
And I know you really love it when my people play the victim/
Cause it makes it seem like we‟re folding under pressure/
But we’re up to bat now no more playing catcher/
Cause we see the bigger the picture that we have to capture/
See how quick we get together? We out to get ya!
This could be a useful piece of evidence for anyone analyzing cultural influence via computers/the media.
In recent months, Canada has loosened its regulations with regards to what constitutes “Canadian content” for broadcast on Canadian channels. Faye Ginsberg’s reading in the second week of this course prompted me to want to dig a little deeper into the topic of indigenous sovereignty in Canadian media. I wondered whether any part of this new definition of “Canadian content” reflected the First Nations/Native elements of Canada’s population. Interestingly, the first hit after a simple Google search was the Idle No More Movement.
Although I didn’t find any answers regarding the definition of “Canadian Content”, the movement is an interesting one insofar as First Nations/Native people used the power of social media to prompt the mobilization of people behind the cause.