Our hearts will continue beating: Reflections on Claiming Space by Crystal Smith de Molina

Our hearts will continue beating


Let me take you on a tour

Over there is our ancestors from the North

There…. Our ancestors from the South

If you walk this way…our ancestors from the East

And here are our ancestors for the West


If you are silent

You can still hear their hearts beating

They are now immortal

“Reminders of a distant past”…

That just happened yesterday

Some 50 years ago

And the majority are the fruit of theft 100 or so years ago


Living breathing beings…

Sometimes, my beings hurts

Hurts to see life without death


Museums should be translated that way

Museums mean: life without death


Though our ancestors will never rest

We are Claiming Space

Our people are still living breathing beings

And we are taking over museums

Exhibit by exhibit


No longer will the voices

Of our ancestors stand alone

We will shake the walls of colonialism

With our art

With our words

With our power

The kind of power that cannot be bought



Let me take you on a tour

Over there is our ancestors from the North

There…. Our ancestors from the South

If you walk this way…our ancestors from the East

And here are our ancestors for the West


And we are here

An Indigenous population

Alive and thriving


Creating our art to confuse

Creating our art to confide

Creating our art to confront

Creating art in new ways

Creating art in old ways

Creating in a mix of ways


And if you are silent

You can hear our hearts beating

If you won’t be silent

Our hearts will continue beating


The Candy Meister

The Candy Meister 

WARNING! This film is terrifying. Just in time for Halloween, this short film was part of the Phrike Filmfest 72 Hour Competition for which Cowboy Smithx of Noirfoot Film won Best Director.

Noirfoot Film is a Blackfoot Niitstitapi style collaborative filmmakers society dedicated strengthening the skills and talents of Directors, Cinematographers, Actors, Writers, Producers, Editors, Sound Designers, Production Designers, Story Editors, and production people from every department. The Candy Meister

This film was submitted by FNSP student Reba De Guevara.

Spatial Resurgence: Reflecting on Claiming Space by Laura Mars

Spatial Resurgence: Reflecting on Claiming Space
by Laura Mars

Walking through the museum of anthropology (MOA) to reach the Claiming Space exhibit was a dichotomous and affective experience. Standing in the central part of the museum, I was in full view of the lush xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) lands that surround and house this campus, this city, myself and other settlers, and the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island to whom the land is rightfully and inherently bound. I felt that I was being pulled in two directions. In the first I was overwhelmed by the beauty of these pieces, which remained powerful in spite of their context, and of the landscape surrounding them, which I am often astounded and overwhelmed by. In the second I understood the museum—and the presence of these stolen artifacts—as part of the system of settler-colonialism from which I benefit from continually as a settler, and through which Indigenous peoples are continually dispossessed. With these things in mind, I hurried through the first part of the museum, in hopeful pursuit of an exhibit that would contrast what seemed like the overarching theme of the so-called ‘permanent collection.’

As I entered the Claiming Spaces: Voices of Aboriginal Youth exhibit, I immediately sensed a shift: this specific gallery was a site of Indigenous power, agency, and reclamation. As I walked through and observed art created by Indigenous youth, I was reminded of the work of Michi Saagig Nishnaabeg writer and scholar Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, who conceptualizes Indigenous resurgence through art as the creation of “decolonized time and space” (Simpson 96). In her book Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence, Simpson discusses her experience viewing an exhibit titled Mapping Resistances – specifically the work of Nishnaabe performance artist Rebecca Belmore:

“[The piece] reminded us that we as Nishnaabeg people are living in political and cultural exile. Yet, it disrupted the narrative of normalized dispossession and intervened as Nishnaabeg presence — not as victim, but as a strong non-authoritarian Nishnaabekwe power…Indigenous artists like Belmore interrogate the space of empire, envisioning and performing ways out of it. Even if the performance only lasts twenty minutes, it is one more stone thrown in the water. It is a glimpse of a decolonized contemporary reality; it is a mirroring of what we can become.” (98)

I felt a similar disruption of this narrative of dispossession in Claiming Space, leaving room for the powerful message of Indigenous reclamation and resurgence. In Mixed Tribes, a zine created by the 2013 Native Youth Program students, Musqueam and Anishnaabe artist Kelsey Sparrow counters the complicated location of the exhibit within the walls of the museum of anthropology in her piece “This Is Not Native (?)”: “…if you want to go to Haida Gwaii because you love all the art here you should know that I have never met anyone in Charlotte City who really gives two shits about Bill Reid. This museum is about anthropology, not native people. You can learn about a part of us but not all.”

I viewed this exhibit as an incredibly necessary physical and temporal unsettling of an otherwise colonial space. Each work carried a powerful message of resurgence—even those, such as the video performance piece by Jeneen Frei Njootli, that unflinchingly tackled the ongoing effects of colonial violence upon Indigenous women in particular. I am turned back to Leanne Simpson and this idea of decolonized time and space, and art that is transformative. The Rebecca Belmore performance piece she is referring to in this discussion took place in Peterborough, which “is a bastion of colonialism” as experienced by Indigenous people (Simpson 97). “But,” Simpson says, “for twenty minutes in June, that bastion was transformed into an alternative space that provided a fertile bubble for envisioning and realizing Nishnaabeg visions of justice, voice, presence, and resurgence” (97). With a specific focus on the new medias that Indigenous youth are engaging with and shaping, Claiming Space is an important exhibit that is teeming with brilliant works of art and a powerful message of Indigenous resurgence.


Belmore, Rebecca. X. 2010. Peterborough, Ontario. Performance.

Simpson, Leanne. Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence. Winnipeg. ARP Books, 2011. Print.

Sparrow, Kelsey. “This Is Not Native (?).” Mixed Tribes. Museum of Anthropology Vancouver. 2013. Web.


Laura Mars is a settler student and activist originally from former Yugoslavia, living on unceded Musqueam territory. A recent addition to the First Nations Studies program, she is in her fourth year of a double major in FNSP and GRSJ. She is interested in Indigenous new media studies, intentional communities, and anti-colonial feminisms.

‘rhythms’ of river grass (məθkʷəy̓)

‘rhythms’ of river grass (məθkʷəy̓)

Joey Levesque’s musical piece was put together playing on the concept of ecological ‘rhythms’ of river grass (məθkʷəy̓). Levesque felt it appropriate to compose this piece given UBC’s location on Musqueam territory. The piece was written entirely on that territory and incorporates sounds thereof (knocking on a coastal Douglas Fir and using it as a percussive element). There are several melodic elements that ‘fade’ and return cyclically, a reflection on the Musqueam name-story as detailed here. The aesthetic is not by any means ‘natural’, but I don’t see that as a contradiction.


Joey Levesque is a student of English at the University of British Columbia. He hails from Vancouver and aims to enter law school after graduation, with particular interest in aboriginal, environmental, and digital issues. Joey works in music production and as a research coordinator for UBC.

The Invisible Sun by Crystal Smith de Molina

The Invisible Sun


Walking as ghosts

Talking as mutes

Looked through like an endless prairie

We are Indigenous woman

The ones who are not seen

The ones who are not heard

The ones invisible

We work hard

We live

We breathe and eat

We are women

We are human

The sun

The invisible sun

The star up in the sky

They choose not to look at

Are incapable of hearing the power it lashes out

We are Indigenous woman

The ones who are not seen

The ones who are not heard

The ones invisible

We are like the sun

We hold a power

A power that is chosen not to be seen

A power unheard of

A power that burns if neglected

We are Indigenous woman

The ones who will be seen

Ones who will be heard

Ones who will bring light to their darkness

Spirit of Our Sisters #SOSmmiw

The First Nation Studies Student’s Association and the First Peoples Writing blog supports Blackfoot photographer Blaire Russell’s campaign to raise awareness around the over 1200 Missing and Murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Over the weekend, a group of six Indigenous women from the University of British Columbia participated in a photo series envisioned by Blaire. We participated to show our support as a group of friends who have all connected in an urban setting away from our homes.

With the emergence of several campaigns and hashtags (#n8vgirls, #AmINext, #MMIW) in response to the staggering number of missing and murdered Native women and girls on Turtle Island, Blaire and Blog Editor Anna wanted to create a platform that captures the emotion and spirit of contemporary Indigenous women and men. The feather represents our missing and murdered Native sisters. Our expressions reflect our emotions on the subject: protectiveness, sisterhood, love. In addition, photograph’s have been taken in a multitude of spaces, including the Vancouver DTES.

The photo’s create a powerful space to challenge narratives of erasure. Indigenous women are here and we are in both urban and rural spaces. Our stories are not limited to those of violence. We are diverse, intelligent and hold integral roles within our families and communities. We are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, friends and foundational leaders in our many communities. 1200 women and girls  is an appalling number. It needs to end here.

Support the campaign through reposting and following the hashtag #SOSmmiw on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter.

Follow the on-going campaign on Instagram (@spiritofoursisters).





Always Already by Molly Billows

Always already.


You like to label Indigenous peoples as a vanishing race,

try to erase us from the collective mind of the colonized State.

I imagine it’s easier for you, more convenient

if we have this inevitable fate hanging over us.

Easier, more convenient, to mourn for what was lost

rather than acknowledge your own role in destroying it.

Easier to hide behind your Imperialist Nostalgia.1

More convenient to continually frame Indigeneity as fragile, as

always already.


Always already vanishing.

Always already lost.

Always already dying.

Always already past.2

Always already.


Always: a strict checklist of prescribed expectations.

Always: leaving no room for unexpected behaviors, and definitely no alterations, but

always allowing for just a few anomalies– to reinforce imposed limitations.

Set definitions. Confine possibilities, so that

always already expectations become believed inevitabilities.3

Always already.


Expectations become so naturalized,

we forget to question where they came from in the first place.

Forget to question the ethnographic voice of Imperialist Anthropologists,

who whisper definitions in our ears as we sleep.

Forget that this ‘objective’ voice has mastered the art of telling dehumanized stories:

Observations void of emotions, then

we wonder where this notion of the ‘Stoic Indian’ came from, when

annotations about cultures leave no room for feelings or relationships.

Stuck in time. Snapshot definitions leave no room for malleability or transition.


And these constructed shadows of cultures still echo through history textbooks,

contextualizing the Native experience always already in the past tense:



As we become objects instead of subjects

in the sentences you create to justify your dominance.


In the same way women are objectified

so violence against us can become somehow justified in the eyes of the oppressor.


For us Inconvenient Indians,4

you use the same convenient reasoning:


Bodies inherently rapeable.

Land inherently invadable.

Resources inherently extractable.5

Cultures inherently erasable.

Whole peoples inherently incapable of being real.


But as much as you seek to steal,

our land,

our language,

our identities,


We are still here.

And that is your secret fear:

that actually, we will never disappear;

that we have always,

and will always,

be right here.





1 Rosaldo, R. (1989). Imperialist Nostalgia. In Culture & Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis

(68-87). Boston: Beacon Press.

2 Lew, J. (2014). Lecture given in FNSP 300: Writing First Nations. Vancouver, BC.

3 Deloria, P. (2004). Introduction. In Anomaly and Expectation (3-14). Lawrence: University

Press of Kansas.

4 King, Thomas. (2012). The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North

America. Canada: Anchor Canada.

5 Smith, A. (2014, January 24). Decolonizing the Anti-Violence Movement. Lecture given during

UBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. At Sty-Wet-Tan Hall, Vancouver, BC.



Molly Billows is from the Homalco Nation. She is in her final year studying Indigenous Peoples and Land Health in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems. She wrote this poem last semester during FNSP 300 Writing First Nations, taught by Janey Lew. 

Don’t Call Me Indian by Anna McKenzie

Don’t Call Me Indian

Hungry eyes,
Licking your lips,
To save us from ourselves
You name big names
You all seem to know each other
You all laugh the same
And speak about us like we aren’t here
But we are, and we are listening
And we are relearning our ways
While simultaneously learning yours
I said don’t call me Indian
We need partners, not parents
Your unwanted fascination
Studying us and our losses
Repairing the damage that has not been forgotten
By us
It lives, It breathes, We Protect It,
We Remember It
We Never Forget
Your written words don’t resonate
Our knowledge runs through our veins
Pumps through our bodies
That Belong to Us
Connects to the land
That Belongs to Us
Informs our decisions
That Belong to Us
And will teach our children
That Belong to Us


‘Garbage Baggage’ from Halfbreed’s Reasoning

I wasn’t going to major in Native Studies.

I just wasn’t going to.

When I came to university, I had decided that I was going to earn a “legitimate” major: economics, political science, anything but Native Studies.  I wasn’t going to major in Native Studies because I didn’t want to be that Native kid.

I came to university with four garbage bags of luggage: two were my clothes and bedding and the two others were my internalized racism and shame.

I struggled so much in my first semester of university.  I felt disconnected from my classmates who seemed to know way more than I did in these topics.  I felt disconnected from home and I desperately clung to any I could that made me feel less away and more at home where I was.  I failed two courses my first semester: French and Economics.  I struggled to grasp and understand the topics at hand, I felt nothing towards them.  I hated university, I regretted coming my second week into school.  I drank with my friends, I gossiped with my roommate, and I didn’t do my homework.  I spent nights crying, thinking that I didn’t belong here.  I was a fake, an imposter, and that my failing was just proof that I needed to go home and stay home.  I needed to just give up and realize this place wasn’t for me.

I left my first semester of university with 46% and a hope and prayer I didn’t fail out.  It was that Christmas break at home I spent crying because I thought I had let my family down that I realized that  to make it in this system, that I had to fight to be here.  So I pretended to know what the hell I was talking about.  From Kant to Macroeconomics, I pretended that I could keep up with kids who seemed to be so far ahead of me and my Northern education.  These kids from the city knew so much.  I had no Native friends, no community, no connection, no feeling of belonging.  I made friends, and to this day, my friends I made in my first year are still near and dear to my heart, but something was missing.

In my second year I took the plunge and enrolled in First Nations Studies 100 and my entire academic and personal life changed: my world was turned upside down.  I sat in lectures with students who looked like they came from where I’m from, students who were just as mixed-up in this institution like I was.  I re-learned my history, I learned things about myself and my people that I never knew.  I finally felt connected to something at this school, I felt belonging.  I felt really fucking angry. I was angry because I was feeling feelings that thus far, the education system said I shouldn’t.  I was angry because I realized that everything I have learned about my country was a lie.  I was angry because I had realized just how much I was ashamed of who I am as a Metis woman and student.

Through my degree I have learned how to be angry.  I learned to be angry at the systems that made me feel so ashamed of myself, I learned how to identify them and resist them.  I learned acceptance and the responsibility I have to this land.  But, yet, I think most importantly, I’ve learned how to love: myself, my family, and my community (in all its forms) just as they are.  I have learned that colonial trauma presents itself in our lives in so many different ways, that we have to learn to love ourselves and others as they heal.  We have to have patience and understanding for one another because we are all on a rough and complicated journey to a destination that is still undefined.

Now that I’m graduating (god willing), I look back to my first year at UBC and I realize how scared I was to be here, how disconnected, and how tough I pretended to be.  I’m not saying that every Indigenous student needs to major in Native Studies, I’m saying that there’s an obvious flaw in the education system that I didn’t learn these integral things until I was 19.

Now that it’s over, I realize that even though I have no idea what to do with my life, I have fundamentally changed as a person.  My degree has given me so much and now I want to begin giving back.

It is coming to a point in my life, in all our lives as graduating students, that we have to learn to begin a new journey.  I am thankful everyday that the knowledge I have now has taught me how to fight, love, and resist through my next adventure.

Samantha Nock is a recent graduate of the First Nations Studies Program at UBC. She assisted in starting up the Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Journal as Editor, and served as Vice-President of the First Nations Studies Student Association (FNSSA). Her personal blog, Halfbreed’s Reasoning, has been shared across Canada and engages with Métis identity politics, academia, representation, and more. Her blog can be found here.



My desire to lead
Is born from adversity
And personal revelations
About the capacity for an individual to change.

My faith
Is nourished
By the ever present Gitchi Manitou
Whom instills seeds of wisdom
And rainfalls of abundance.
The abundance is triggered by a belief,
A belief in the unknown,
A belief in the unseen forces that want to do good through me.

My life is a reflection
Of the infinite intelligence
That resides within each of us.
The Creator hears a genuine prayer
And seeks me out.
For I,
I beam the light of truth and compassion for my people.
The compounded efforts of my sweat, blood, and tears will move mountains,
Overcome any obstacles,
And fulfill the 7 fires prophecy.

I will lead a cultural revolution,
I will bring back the ways of my ancestors,
I will make them proud.

Shawn Shabaquay
Anishinaabe Nation

Shawn Shabaquay is Anishinaabe from Wabigoon Lake First Nation. He is a 3rd year student at UBC majoring in Sociology and minoring in FN Studies. He is also the President of the Indigenous Students Association and is currently working on bringing more culturally relevant events on campus.