GRSJ Culture Jam

The image I would like to address today is a 1902 ad advertising an Indigenous basket weaving kit. In it, the title is depicted as: How to Make Indian Baskets: The Latest Society Fad. This advertisement offers to teach women how to make Indigenous baskets through an instruction booklet and materials with everything they need to make said baskets. From the very start these baskets are advertised as a cultural fad and commoditised into something that any person can easily make at home.


‘Indians wove the story of their life and love in baskets’ the ad reads ‘the making of them today is as much as an art as ever.’ It should be noted here that this ad is not aimed at Indigenous women themselves but at white women wishing to try and replicate these baskets as the ads picture displays not an Indigenous woman but a white one in period clothing working away at making a basket. ‘Many women find it a lucrative employment; others a delightful and satisfactory pastime,’ the ad continues. Advertising as fetching anywhere from 5-50$’ it promises the potential for earning money through the appropriation of the work of another culture. What this ad fails to acknowledge is the absurdity of colonial people making Indigenous baskets as art pieces for colonial homes. From the start this ad looks to monetize a ‘fad’ that is actually another groups culture and then it promises that you can cash in on it too. To end with the ad asks you to send away to the ‘Apache School of Indian Basket Weaving’ in an attempt replicate authenticity as if Indigenous peoples themselves were sending you the materials. While reading this I drew a lot of parallels between the urban outfitters smudge kit that they tried to turn into a commodity


The overall theme that I tried to draw in my culture jam was to turn attention to the commodification and appropriation of Indigenous culture. Because a lot of this ad already does the work itself I tried to highlight the areas where it was most blatant by actively changing the text into wording that was a little more obvious of the intentions of the ad.


I started off by changing the text ‘Indians wove the story of their life and love in baskets. The making them today is as much as an art as ever,’ to ‘Indians wove the story of their life and love in baskets. Now you can pretend to do the same,’ to highlight the ironicism that a basket making kit could do the same. I then changed the text from ‘many women find it lucrative employment’ to ‘many white women find it lucrative employment,’ to draw attention to the fact that this ad which is geared towards white women was telling them—and not indigenoys women—that they too could cash in on this fad. To finish I changed the ‘Apache School of Indian Basket Weaving,’ to ‘The Apache School of White Basket Weaving’ as a way of highlighting that Indigenous people were not part of this process in any way shape or form.


Overall in this culture jam I looked to take away the romanticized aspects of this ad to show how in fact it was white people commodifying and appropriating Indigenous baskets by romanticizing and turning them into a fad and then promising other White people that they too could cash in on this fad as well.

Indigenous Futurism

Indigenous futurism is kind of like unfreezing a whole generation and telling it that it can be what it wants to be. It gives Indigenous peoples a freedom to create whatever they want and to imagine it in whatever parameters they imagine. The word futurism itself sounds a little bit far off however it’s actually a lot more closely intertwined than we would think, as I believe that it encompasses everything from the futuristic Pow-Wows that Skawanatti imagined, to the new concepts of indigeneity we are conceiving at this very moment. In todays blog I would like to take a look at the different types of Indigenous futurisms that exist and how they’re currently impacting the way that we look at Indigenous Culture.

Wendy Red Star. Thunder Up Above.

Wendy Red Star. Thunder Up Above.

When we close our eyes and think of futurisms, the first thing that usually comes to mind is shiny chrome. I tend to think of the Jetson’s with their hover cars and shiny chrome robot maid. Whatever it is that you imagine, the concept is usually fairly far removed from the reality we currently live in. These images however can mean a lot more than you think. Let’s look at the image above us that was made by Wendy Red Star. Red Star’s met critical acclaim for the artwork that she’s produced often poking fun at the way colonialists interpret aboriginal imagery. In this photo: Thunder Up Above a non-identifiable person is covered head to toe in some kind of dancing regalia with tassel like ribbons adorning them, this is completed with a barren, space-like landscape. Red Star has developed a series of these sci-fi themed photographs and she has stated that she’s wanted to capture the feeling of ‘first-contact’ in them, questioning the way we look aliens vs. indigenous peoples.



Indigenous futurism can be seen the act of imagining indigenous peoples in situations different from where they are now but also as interacting with new technologies. The way that the artist Skawanatti Fragnito interacts with technology as well as the art, which she has produced, can definitely be seen as a form of indigenous futurism. Having pioneered indigenous Machinima, as well as created multiple web-based digital art galleries, Skawanatti has truly moved her art into the digitial format. The concept of Machinima can be defined as creating stories/movies in ‘graphics engines’, these graphics engines are often seen in videogames, like the Sims and World of Warcraft. In these videogame settings artists set off to tell a story with pre-existing character models that usually have some sort of customizable options and they use these models and settings (sometimes customizable) to tell the story that they want to be heard. The interesting thing with Machinima is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, and not every story has to have block buster levels of detail.


Skawanatti, however, has gained a lot of attention to her Machinima: Timetraveller, as it has explored through indigenous futurism, both issues that aboriginal peoples have faced in the past, and imagined a future for them as well. Timetraveller, follows the adventures of Hunter, an aboriginal man from the future who explores history through a pair of Timetraveller glasses. About half way through the character Karahkwenhawi is also introduced, a young woman from our present day who also manages to get a hold of a pair of glasses as well. The importance of plot which is covered in her series, varies from the stand off of the Oka Crisis to imagining what future Pow-Wows will look like.

TimeTraveller. Oka Scene

The power which Skawanatti gives to her piece actually revolves around the concept of indigenous futurisms as the future which her Machinima takes place in is actually a future which indigenous peoples have prospered and taken back their own rights to both their culture and land. The explanation in the plot for this is that after Quebec separated from Canada, Indigenous peoples started separating as well. In the future Karahkwenhawi is transported to a Pow-Wow in a Stadium that is packed to the gills and which jingle dress dancers dance for huge cash prizes. It is at this Pow-Wow that an announcer (with fabulous hair!) reflects on the far past in which Aboriginal peoples were denied the right to have such events—He states that it is because that the Aboriginal people stood strong that they were able to hold onto their rights and prosper. The power that Skawanetti gives to Indigenous peoples is actually something amazing because it imagines the outcome of all the hard work that aboriginal people are doing right now to reclaim their culture and rights.


From a colonial perspective indigenous peoples have been have long since been stuck in the past and Skawanetti’s work is the perfect example of Indigenous futurism as it unfreezes indigenous culture and it places it somewhere in the future. This act lends a power to indigenous peoples because it moves forwards into the future instead of the past. Something that I would really like to see if Skawanetti ever picked up Time Traveller again would be getting to look at some big moments that have happened in Indigenous Women’s rights in our present. I imagine that this would be portrayed a lot like the flashback (flash forward?) scene in which Karahkwenhawi explains how Indigenous peoples separated from Canada. This would be done through a series of scenes from the 1900’s to 2000’s like the origins of indigenous peoples matriarchal society to the fight for women’s status in the Lovelace case and later the Mcivor case. Indigenous women’s artists would also be featured like Wendy Restar’s works as well as Skawanetti’s galleries herself.


The way this episode would be introduced would be in the future, when Hunter and Karahkwenhawi have their own little girl. Karahkwenhawi would introduce the stories of back when she was young, opening with going back to the Oka Crisis and would talk about how strong indigenous women have always been and how they come from a matriarchal society.

TimeTraveller. Oka Scene

She would talk of how strong her mother was during that time and would then talk about how Indigenous women had lost their rights and how they had to fight for them. Cue: Lovelace case and Mcivor case.

Second Life. Courtroom

Second Life. Courtroom

Karahkwenhawi would highlight the importance of both legal and cultural influences, highlighting indigenous women’s artwork in galleries as well. The episode would end with her and her daughter putting on their pairs of TimeTraveller glasses and setting off to look at more events with Indigenous women in them.


The power that Skawanetti and other Indigenous women give to Indigenous futurism is something amazing as it gives us ways to reimagine the past and to imagine the future in ways that allow us to challenge our ways of thinking. The impact that they give to indigenous culture lends itself well to forward thinking and moving into the future away from past trauma.

Screen Sovereignty and Isolation

Hello everyone!

In today’s blog I (along with everyone else) will be addressing the concept of screen sovereignty. In aboriginal studies screen sovereignty can be described as the act of creating insiders and outsiders via media. As Kristin Dowell says in her book Aboriginal Media on the West Coast Screen sovereignty is ‘an act of cultural autonomy that reclaims the screen to tell Aboriginal stories from Aboriginal perspectives.’ In the past, outsiders as a way of explaining our ways have often created media covering indigenous peoples and because of this, like a game of telephone, the true story can often be misinterpreted. It can be said from this, that indigenous screen sovereignty can be viewed as an act of creation of indigenous stories with no outside influence and no one to interfering with how the story is supposed to be told. Because of this, we often get a feeling of alienation from outsiders, however this media is meant for indigenous peoples specifically, so perhaps this is a feeling that is meant to be felt. In today’s blog I’d like to take a look at the First Voices typing keyboard app, as well as Burtons God’s Lake Narrows and talk about why they’re examples of screen sovereignty.!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_1180/indigenous-language-keyboard-app.jpg!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_1180/indigenous-language-keyboard-app.jpg

To start of with, the concept of screen sovereignty doesn’t have to be taken literally as just film that you see on screen. In can be in any form of media, from videogames, to books and even cooking recipes. An interesting piece of screen sovereignty, which was released back in May of 2016 is the First Voices typing app which gives access to over 100 indigenous languages across Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. From an indigenous persons perspective I find this an act of screen sovereignty as it gives the power to indigenous peoples to write in their own languages, on their keyboards. My language Gitxsanimaax, the language of the Gitxaan people is actually in this keyboard and it has allowed by grandmother to text in our language on a keyboard that is built for her, instead using an English keyboard to try and say what she wants in our language. Since we come from a society that typically only uses English keyboards I think that this tool really is empowering as it gives indigenous peoples a chance to decolonize their own space on the Internet by starting with their keyboards. Indigenous keyboards naturally give a feeling of outsiders versus insiders. The chances of a colonial person using an indigenous keyboard are slim and if you did you would immediately get the feeling that this keyboard wasn’t built for you. Even for me, look at say the Cree language I get the feeling this language isn’t mine.


The feeling of screen sovereignty specifically belonging to certain people is definitely one of its main components and when we look at Burtons God’s Lake Narrows project we definitely get this feeling as this image is the first one he introduces us to:





‘All these houses might seem the same to you’, he says. We immediately are recognized as outsiders from this reserve. He says that he feels God Lakes been misrepresentated in the media and he’d like the change that. Typically in the media God’s Lake Narrows is representated as a fishing and camping destination with no mention of the reserve:


Gods Lake, in Northern Manitoba is a fishing paradise that offers something special for all those who visit. With its pristine shores and deep water, Gods Lake is an incredible natural wonder that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated,’


Reads God’s Lakes website. If you go into their gallery you can see some pictures of white people smiling holding fish.



However as we go through Burtons piece we see the actual people who call this place home.





In this virtual tour we first see the homes, then the people, I feel like an intruder as I go through these pictures as I feel like I’ve stepped into someone’s home invited but not necessarily welcome. This feeling of isolation really does change the way we go into this tour, however it still does show us what Burton wanted us to see, which is the Reserve of God’s Lake, it’s even the top thing that pops up now on Google instead of the tourism website.

Overall I feel like isolation plays a key role in screen sovereignty, however I think it’s an after-product of the process of the creation of a piece by a different culture. With indigenous media, we sometimes do want to share with you what we’ve made—like Burton’s piece—however sometimes we don’t—like the First Voices app, however it’s clear that neither of these pieces were produced by colonial peoples and I think that’s important as it get’s the message across: this doesn’t belong to you.