LEAVING A LEGACY: #GordDownie speaks to #Canadians about #Indigenous relations & what needs to change

Gord Downie. My kind of man. 

As a teenager, I was saving my grocery store pay cheque to get to concerts like Fishbone and Red Hot Chilli Peppers at venues such as the Concert Hall in Toronto. I remember seeing The Tragically Hip around the same time. A friend, an early and super enthusiastic fan, convinced me to go a with her. It was a local venue (The Highlands in Cambridge, Ontario) and the ticket price was dirt cheap. If I recall, it was 1989. They had just come out with their album Up to Here and were gaining lots of buzz in alternative music circles. There probably wasn’t more than 300 people in the bar that night but they played as tight as they did in Kingston at their final concert and Gord Downie moved around on stage like his pants were on fire. I was impressed. This band had presence for sure and you could tell they were about to get big. At the time, The Hip wasn’t necessarily my kind of music but I came to realize Gord Downie was my kind of man – a solid, compassionate and politically astute person who stands behind his convictions. And so, because I am a big fan of the person he is, I tuned into CBC to participate, along with so many others across the country, in witnessing an act of grace. 

Last night people experienced the stellar human being Gord is. His affection and love for his band mates came through with the closeness of their body language – the way they embraced each other at the end of each set and before yet another encore. By the end of the night it was clear to everyone, if you didn’t already know, that the Hip’s frontman is an exceptional storyteller. Sometimes cryptic, other times unconcealed, whether he takes his audience deep into a mystery or documents a moment in history his songwriting sets up a scene for the listener. All can enter in and feel the emotion he evokes with words and notes. And those emotions he sings of are complex filled with longing, doubt, courage, truth, frustration as well as joy.

And so it was fitting and symbolic that this man who has protested against corporate energy giant Enbridge (Rock the Line), donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to environmental organizations (WaterKeeper) and performed in support of an Indigenous community in crisis (Attawapiskat First Nation) would confront his audience with the complicated, emotionally loaded story of Canada at a historical moment when so much anger, confusion and shame is rising to the surface. Along with those darker emotions we are also seeing goodwill and empathy. Hearts are opening. 

Online, in real time, I watched my Facebook start to percolate with feeds of friends thankful that he took this very heightened and intense moment to drop a truth bomb onto the crowd.

Dr. Kahente Horn-Miller is one of those friends. A proud Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) woman from Kahnawà:ke she teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa introducing students to the concepts of Indigenous Governance. She is also a performer who re-enacts the Haudenosaunee creation story of Sky Woman. She “re-matriates” the ethnographic accounts of Sky Woman written down by white men recording what they believed to be a dying culture. She revives the story of Sky Woman by weaving in the reflections of contemporary Haudenosaunee women who use it as a guiding force for their lives asserting spiritual sovereignty. She shares:

His words connected us to the moment. All of us watching across the internet and television screens, the Indigenous and non-indigenous people who grew up loving the music, he brought us together. His last words to us mean so much. He knew the numbers of people that would be watching world wide and used that as a gift to bring his message home. “There are problems in this country…” he said. “The people way up north, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word on what’s going on up there. What’s going on up there ain’t good, maybe worse than it’s ever been…. We’re going to get it fixed.” I think he may be right.

Originally from Wasauksing First Nation, Anishinaabe writer and CBC journalist Waubgeshig Rice is now based in Ottawa and was fortunate to see the second-to-last Hip show here at The Canadian Tire Centre. Although he didn’t view CBC’s livestream of the final performance he caught up with the news and comments online after the show. 

It’s very heartwarming to know that with an audience of millions during what could be his last public performance, Gord Downie chose to put the spotlight on the plight of Indigenous people and the government’s responsibility to address the issues. He made few other statements or proclamations during the show, so the fact he spoke about the need to pay attention to Indigenous communities during his limited time was very moving. Hopefully Canadian leaders heed his words, and Canadian fans follow his example.

We need a different kind of land.

We need different kinds of cultural expressions and relationships to this land. So if you are a Hip fan who hasn’t considered how our environment is negatively impacted by corporate / government entanglement around natural resources or considered Canada’s complicated and hurtful relationships with Indigenous folks and the intersection where these problems all meet consider the legacy Gord Downie handed off to the audience last night. 

Change lies in the hands of Canadians. 

This is serious stuff. If this world has a hope in hell of surviving the climate change tipping point we have arrived at it will be because the Inuit elders in the Arctic are heard and consulted. It will be because Canadians decide that a road blockade that asserts First Nations governance isn’t an inconvenience. Rather, these kinds of actions will be understood as the original custodians of the land offering protection for natural resources. Canadians will be able to see that in the long term these actions benefit everyone living here as well as ensure the survival of the entire planet. 

Protection of water, trees, and air is the most critical issue at this moment.

Gord Downie gets that. It’s why he has contributed his time and talent as well as put his money where his mouth is. It’s why he’s been a strong ally in support of Idle No More raising awareness about Canada’s involvement / non-involvement with issues facing Indigenous people living within the political boundaries of Canada. It’s why he is vocal about Canada’s not-so-pleasant past and the current realities faced by everyone living within these borders.

I would not want any part in propagating, galvanizing or burnishing some of the stupid mythology in this country – that we are this clean pristine place, that we got it all figured out, that we know best for the world, that there is nothing anyone can teach us…these things I write about…the Canada I know…I wouldn’t do it if I thought I just was propping up an old stupid mythology. (Q Interview 2012)

Last night this man who has given much to Canada in terms of fleshing out Canadian identity cautioned about the nostalgic trap ‘Canada the Good’ will land this Nation in if Canadians decide to remain comfortable in this narrative. In his role as a storyteller he summoned his audience to critique as well as re-vision what Canadian identity means. Does being a Canadian include consideration of Indigenous sovereignty and support of those working towards environmental equity? He called out his audience as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be on the right side of history, to push for change.

As a fan, where on this land do you stand?

“ABOUT THIS MAP” by the Tragically Hip

About this map, here we are, here
See, this is us, the exit is here, and
We’ve come too far, to just feel like this, yeah
We’ve come too far, to be feeling like this

Certain, certain
You want to, want to
Certain, certain
You want to, want to

About this map, it’s a bit out of date, yeah
Territories shifted, and things get renamed
There’s coups, revolutions, and boundaries blur
Volcanoes and earthquakes turn words into birds

It’s certain, certain
You want to, want to
Certain, certain
You want to, want to, want to

But, oh, about this map
It goes beyond, beyond
And, oh about this map
About this map

About this map, here we are, here
See, this is me, and there you are, there, and
There’s got to be more than just to despair
There’s got to be more than just to despair

I’m certain, certain
I want to, want to
You’re certain, certain
You want to, want to, want to

And, oh, about this map
It goes beyond, beyond
Forget about this map
About this map

And, oh, about this map
We don’t live in our heads
Forget about this map
About this map
About this map
About this map
About this map

ARTICLES & RESOURCES: 

Gord Downie uses Tragically Hip Concert to spur Trudeau on First Nations
The Politically Hip Gord Downie
Gord Downie speaking on Attawapiskat (CBC Q approximately 25:00)

CBC Aboriginal (Main Website & Facebook)
CBC Radio “Unreserved” (Main Website & Facebook)
CBC’s 8th Fire
APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network Main Website & Facebook)
Environmental Defence (Main Website & Facebook)
WaterKeeper (Main Website & Facebook)
Environmental Defence (Main Website & Facebook)
Idle No More

CANADA, MY HOW YOU’VE CHANGED: Shine A Light at the National Gallery of Canada illuminates landscapes dramatically transformed

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in the Sky, 1990 (© NGC)

“Shine A Light, Cast A Shadow”

Canada is known for its tradition of depicting resplendent and majestic landscapes but the inspirational legacy passed down by artists like those in the Group of Seven aren’t echoed by the contemporary artists featured in the National Gallery of Canada’s show of new acquisitions.

The vignette of Lawren Harris’ North Shore, Lake Superior, as seen from the Gallery’s water court and framed by rose granite walls, shares with us a vision of the Great White North as a pristine place. Now the more North you go the more you experience the impact of global warming. The Inuit populations located in Northern Canada are the canaries in the coal mine of climate change. The situation is dire and artists in Canada have responded.

I entered the Shine A Light exhibit at a different point each time and each time I was confronted by works that overwhelmed me with a sense of dread. Artists used to celebrate this land. Now artists like Edward Burtynsky, David McMillan and Isabelle Hayeur scatter themselves across the globe to photograph how human populations are manipulating, extracting and polluting their environments often beyond the point of no return.

Edward’s work is by far the most familiar. His command of composition is always breathtaking, even exhilarating because of the scale of the photographs. They suck you in. They are cinematic making you feel a part of the terrain. He places you at ground zero, he’s like the Weegee of the environmental crime scene and you can’t look away.


Isabelle Hayeur, Death in Absentia II, 2011 (© NGC)

David McMillan and Isabelle Hayeur are lesser known but have equally challenging content. David photographs Chernobyl and Isabelle the dead waters of America. The discombobulating viewpoint of Isabelle’s photographs drown you. David’s work brings back the ghosts of the cold war, the stuff of children’s nightmares and threats of nuclear winters. Glasnost saved us from a global moment of disaster but nuclear technology was still devastating for many Russians. His work provides a document of disaster that irradiates how our modern material culture is forever stuck in some plastic purgatory that’s going to be hard to get out of.


David Hartt, Awards Room at the Johnson Publishing Company Headquarters, Chicago, Illinois, 2011 (© NGC)

The content of David Hartt‘s photography in Stray Light, also about location documentation, is aesthetically more palatable, you could even say seductive. Instead of cold war ghosts you feel a guilty sense of nostalgia for that time before the OPEC crisis, a time when North Americans thought there was no real harm in living large. The video component of Stray Light takes us into the building of the Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) former home of Ebony Magazine. As the video transitions smoothly from room to room, accompanied by the lush music of jazz flutist Nicole Mitchell, because of what I witnessed en route to David’s work I can’t shake off a sense of foreboding.

The African sculptures made of wood and stone seem confined in the plastic fantastic world of JPC. People move in and out of the scenes hedged in by office structures that conflict with the softer movements of their bodies proceeding through the space. Watching the final moments of the iconic Ebony in it’s place of conception is like entering a crypt in a necropolis that lures you with its beauty. It feels like the oxygen is going to be sucked out of the building and eventually the space will become a time capsule shrink wrapped for the archive and searching for its final resting place.

Geoffrey Farmer, Leaves of Grass, 2012, Courtesy of the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Casey Kaplan, New York (© NGC)

My initial response to Geoffrey Farmer‘s Leaves of Grass was “this is obscene.” After more time spent with the work my response was still “this is obscene.” His process (a team spending countless hours cutting and pasting), the content (17,000+ cut outs from 5 decades of Life Magazine) and the final presentation (100+ feet of archivally problematic paper, grass and glue) illustrate the absurdity by which we hold on to the past. We collect, categorize and create hierarchies of meaning that allow for justifications of all kinds. We trap ourselves in a constructed story from which we can no longer budge. Leaves of Grass is an absolutely breathtaking piece but as stunning as it is, the work is suffocating. There is too much to take in with no place for the eye to rest; a well executed entanglement of wicked questions. Do our strategies for classification make perfect sense? Are they nonsense? How do they really help?

Junk culture. That is what we are left with and this is the legacy that many of the contemporary artists in this show are trying to illuminate.

David Armstrong Six, The Radiologist, 2012 (Courtesy of the artist and Parisian Laundry. Photo: Matthew Koudys)

The shadowside of Readymades

“Combining found objects with a variety of materials – plaster, plywood, steel, rebar – his sculptural explorations merge the raw and the readymade into aesthetically intriguing and ambiguous compositions.” (sited from Shine A Light catalogue)

David Armstrong Six continues in the tradition of the readymade but Duchamp and the Dadaists weren’t working at a time when people had to be concerned about an impending environmental crisis. Bricolage takes on a different meaning when we are at risk of burying ourselves alive in a rubble pile of our own making. Maybe ‘l’art pour l’art’ is no longer enough to redeem the materials.

An Te Liu, Aphros, 2013 (© An Te Liu. Photo: Dustin Yu)

This is the question that An Te Liu seems to be trying to tease out as he works with casting the materials that accumulate from our post-modern predicament with packaging. Arranged like collection of Brâncușis, the five pieces are beautiful to behold but lack the life force that Brâncuși’s pieces, made of wood and stone, exhale. Rendered in ceramic and metals they give the impression of impotence like the materials they reference, materials that will persist in the environment without the capacity to be generative.

From the room with the David Armstrong Six’s readymades and An Te Liu’s towers you can look out across the Donald R. Sobey Family Gallery and view Luke Parnell’s Phantom Limbs from above. Here yet another graveyard is encountered. The 48 wood carvings laid on the ground are made to represent the homecoming of the ancestors when the Haida Repatriation project succeeded in having ceremonial objects and human remains returned to Haida Gwaii from private and public collections. Luke gave each carving a different expression. Contained under cases of plexi some look understandably pissed.

The Shine A Light catalogue, arranged alphabetically with each artist’s name, ends with the work of Lawerence Paul Yuxweluptun and a 2 page spread of his painting Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in the Sky (see above). This work hasn’t been publicly viewed for nearly 2 decades. Now seems like the requisite moment to bring it out again to remind us that in those 20 years we haven’t transitioned forward with many solutions. Instead we see a global trend to become more entrenched with ‘pie in the sky’ ways of living. Suffering with the collective trauma of watching our world come to the brink of disaster do we brush off our artists as Chicken Littles? Because the sky is indeed falling, our ozone layer is literally breaking apart into pieces.

large abstract drawing of large round shapes in a dark background

On the back wall of the 2nd floor is The Arsenal, a work by Jutai Toonoo. It is a large scale oil stick drawing of T cells. He created the work at a moment when he was trying to understand the pathology of the cancer his mother was stricken with. The helpful T cells fight against viruses, bacteria and diseases.

Our material culture is replicating faster than stage 4 cancer. It metastasizes in places as topographically different as Chernyobyl, Nunavut and India. The micro T cells, as the subject of Jutai’s work, are metamorphosed into a macro landscape that covers a large expanse across the Gallery’s wall. The allied cells shine like a phosphorescence glow in an inky black sea. After the challenging content of Shine A Light his work highlights hope. We are in need of an arsenal of solutions to push back the chaos. Encoded in the DNA of the planet are the cellular memories that can transform a landscape in crisis.

Above images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag unless otherwise noted.

WEEKEND FILM FESTS: The Toronto Palestinian Film Festival & Ottawa’s One World Film Festival

One World Film Festival opens at the Library & Archives this weekend in Ottawa. 

This weekend whether you are in the Capital of Ontario or the Capital of Canada, both cities are hosting independent film festivals with programming that offers critique to current issues, like Oil and Occupation as well as Occupation because of Oil.

In Ottawa the One World Film Festival is in it’s 25th year. It runs from Thursday September 25th to Saturday, September 27th.

THURSDAY: Above All Else @ 6:30 pm

(Includes Panel Discussion with filmmakers John Fiege and Anita Grabowski and Ben Powless of Ecology Ottawa after screening)

“an intimate portrait of a group of landowners and activists in East Texas who tried to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion dollar project slated to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. They risk financial ruin, personal safety, and the security of their families as they attempt to protect their land and defend their rights. The film is both an exploration of the human spirit and a window into how social change happens in America.” More info…

FRIDAY: Virunga @ 6:30 pm (Includes Panel Discussion after the screening)

“Africa’s oldest national park, Virunga is a UNESCO world heritage site, and the last natural habitat for the endangered mountain gorilla. None of that will stop the business interests and rebel insurgencies lurking at the park’s doorstep. Orlando von Einsiedel pairs gorgeous natural scenes from Virunga with riveting footage of the Congolese crisis, raising an ardent call for conservation as a vital human enterprise. Along the way, he spotlights the incredibly dangerous work that is often required to safeguard the environment.” More info…

SATURDAY: Watchers of the Sky @ 6:00 pm & On The Side of the Road @ 8:45 pm

WATCHERS OF THE SKY interweaves four stories of remarkable courage, compassion, and determination, while setting out to uncover the forgotten life of Raphael Lemkin – the man who created the word “genocide,” and believed the law could protect the world from mass atrocities. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem From Hell, WATCHERS OF THE SKY takes you on a provocative journey from Nuremberg to The Hague, from Bosnia to Darfur, from criminality to justice, and from apathy to action.” More info…

&

“Former West Bank settler Lia Tarachansky looks at Israelis’ collective amnesia of the fateful events of 1948 when the state of Israel was born and most of the Palestinians became refugees. She follows the transformation of Israeli veterans trying uncover their denial of the war that changed the region forever. Tarachansky then turns the camera on herself and travels back to her settlement where that historical erasure gave birth to a new generation, blind and isolated from its surroundings. Attempting to shed a light on the country’s biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence.” More info…

Full schedule on One World Film Festival’s website.

All screenings take place at the Library & Archives, Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa. View map.

black stroke

The Toronto Palestinian Film Festival opens this Saturday in Toronto. 

The Toronto Palestinian Film Festival (TPFF) runs from Saturday, September 27th to Friday, October 3rd (so in theory, you could attend both!)

Sunday includes a screening of Omar, one of my favourite movies of 2013. Along with dramas and shorts by Palestinian filmmakers, the festival also includes films about Palestine from the perspective of non-Palestinians. One example is Village Under the Forest.

“The Village Under the Forest explores the hidden remains of the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya, which lies under South Africa Forest. During the 1948 Nabka, more than 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed. The Jewish National Fund raised money from around the world under the guise of ‘greening the desert’ and built forests and parks named after different countries on the remains of these villages in an attempt to erase their dark history. Writer/narrator Heidi Grunebaum revisits South Africa Forest, the forest she helped finance with the pennies she collected as a child twenty year ago. Using the forest and the ruins of Lubya as representative of a much wider process, this compelling film explores central themes of the Nakba – forced exile, erasure of memory, creating ‘facts on the ground’, and the Palestinian Right of Return.” More info…

“Making its debut at TIFF 2013, Giraffada is a light-hearted drama inspired by a true story. Ziad, a ten-year-old boy from the West Bank, spends all his free time at the Qalqilya zoo where his father Yacine (Saleh Bakri) works as the zoo’s veterinarian. In particular, Ziad has a special bond with the zoo’s two giraffes who he helps care for. Yacine, recently widowed, is determined to preserve the zoo as a haven for animals and for the local children who play there, temporarily escaping the hardships under occupation. One night, after an air strike on the city, one of Ziad’s beloved giraffes dies. The surviving giraffe stops eating due to the loss of her mate. Yacine is determined to save her by bringing in a new giraffe but the only zoo that can help him is in Tel Aviv. Yacine and Ziad are committed to doing whatever it takes to save their giraffe, even if it means breaking the law. Giraffada, which stars Mohammad Bakri (In Attendance), is a unique portrayal of childhood under occupation.”

Last week at Beit Zatoun TPFF hosted a talk on New Directions in Indigenous Cinema with Jesse Wente (Director of Film Programmes & curator of TIFF’s 2012 program First Peoples Cinema: 1500 Nations, One Tradition) and Rasha Salti (TIFF Programmer for African and Middle Eastern Cinema). Rasha discussed the historical and contemporary context of Palestinian cinema. There is a lot to be learned! The documentary Cinema Palestine offers more insight.

“Cinema Palestine is a poetic documentary which explores the life and work of multiple generations of Palestinian filmmakers and media artists. Based on in-depth interviews with a wide range of Palestinian artists living in the Middle East, as well as North American and Europe, the film documents the emergence of a Palestinian narrative through film, the relevance of film to the Palestinian national struggle and the relationship between art, personal experience and politics in one of the most contested landscapes in the world. The film features interviews with numerous filmmakers screened at TPFF including: Annemarie Jacir, Rashid Masharawi, Mohammad Bakri, Najwa Najjar, Hany Abu-Asad, Nasri Hajjaj and Mai Masri. A post-Screening Panel featuring Tim Schwab, Mohammad Bakri and Mais Darwazah will follow the film, with our guests further exploring the role of Palestinian cinema in the emergence of the Palestinian narrative.”

Screenings for the TPFF take place at TIFF and the AGO’s Jackman Hall. For full schedule details click here.

Also find TPFF info on Facebook and Twitter.

 

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: ‘The Accidental Activists’ at Peoples Social Forum Ottawa

Poster on pole that says Defend Our Mother and has a colourful print of a woman holding a child.

Those who become environmental activists by choice and others by necessity.

There are those people that feel called to activism, like those called to religious service.

There are those people that find that because they have a certain professional skill set as well as a social conscious they have what it takes to make a career out of making change.

There are the crusaders, martyrs and wannabe saviours as well as a whole host of other self-serving archetypal personalities that show up to eat at the activist table.

There are those people who do it because there’s a certain kind of sex appeal to being a rebel.

Then there are the ‘accidental activists.’ These are the people who find themselves forced, by life situations, to take action.

Here are my portraits of the accidental activists I met at the Peoples Social Forum. These are the activists that the government would have you believe are Public Enemy #1 because they pose a threat to industry in Canada.

woman holding a shell with smoking sage, smudging with feather

When the Kokums (Grandmothers) and Elders spoke they didn’t talk about their professional credentials or their heroic acts of bravery. Their stories were crippling tales of physical pain brought on by toxic environments that lead to chronic diseases. They spoke about watching their loved ones die from cancers. They told us how landscapes that never experienced dramatic change became unfamiliar almost overnight once industry arrived on or around their reserves. They told us of forests becoming void of wildlife and water void of fish.

They have had to become activists out of necessity. Instead of living out their life on their land surrounded by their grandchildren they are caught up in legal battles, being placed in jail all the while fighting their own health struggles. Imagine the emotional drain of being an advocate for both your land and your body. Nothing is sovereign. Not even your health is self-determined.

Three women marching. One woman smiling and drumming on a traditional First Nations hand drum.

We get to forget the impact that our lifestyle choices have on communities that depend on the land in a different way than we do in urban settings.

As the Peoples Social Forum Canada ends in Ottawa I hope we can honour the stories these women and men shared and carry their work forward.

They have walked long and hard. Let’s pick up their burden.

Chi miigwetch for their relentless service to this planet.

Find out more about the Peoples Social Forum on the website.


Three women marching. One woman smiling and drumming on a traditional First Nations hand drum. Women standing on city street corner drumming and smilingWoman sitting wearing a t-shirt that says ZapatistasMan with long hair and pony tail smiling in crowd of men. One holding a video camera and microphoneMan holding a rolled up flag and smiling Young woman in an audience clappingYoung woman standing in an audience clappingwoman holding a shell with smoking sage, smudging with featherAbove images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag. 

WATER: A Human Right AND Responsibility, River Run Walk for Grassy Narrows in Toronto

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

Our culture around water shows we are entering a spiritual drought.  

We say that clean water is a Human Right. Well, some say. The CEO of Nestlé thinks otherwise and it’s this type of reasoning that has created a situation where I wonder if we have gone past the point of no return.

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in backgroundLast week I walked with those in support of Grassy Narrows and the River Run Walk. I had this moment where the absurdity of walking for water hit me. Walking in support of the right to clean water is like walking in support of the children of Gaza to live a peaceful life. It makes no sense. The protection of water, what we need to survive, and the protection of children, the ones who will carry forth our DNA into the future, should be our absolute priority. I remember my pride at one of my first primary school projects. It was about the affects of acid rain on our environment. I was 7 years old at the time and in somewhat sloppy printing writing out the facts (found in my Chickadee Magazine) about how unregulated industries were causing dirty rain to fall from the sky. In my childhood naivety I believed that if I shared this information with my teacher, an adult, people would surely change.

Former Treaty #3 Grand Chief Steve Fobister, who suffers from the effects ALS, ends his hunger strike in order to live to fight on.

Grassy Narrows is a reserve in Northern Ontario. The people have been suffering under the impact of corporate negligence my enter lifetime. Last week in Toronto many people came together for the River Run Walk in support of Grassy Narrow (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation and Chief Steve Fobister’s end of his hunger strike. The evening before, Ryerson University hosted a public forum on Indigenous Rights & Water that included Stephen Lewis as well as Anishinaabe writer Leanne Simpson.

Leanne writes in an article for the CBC:

“…for eight years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 20,000 pounds of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River, the lifeblood of local Anishinaabe people.

The impacts of this contamination are still being felt in the bodies, hearts and minds of the people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) and Wabauskang First Nations.

Forty years later, the mercury is not out of the ecosystem and it is still causing severe health impacts on the land and in the bodies of the people.

Unfortunately, this is not the only poison these communities are facing. Their territory is regularly sprayed with pesticides for new tree plantations after deforestation. Their rivers are still being polluted with pulp mill effluent, and their trap lines, hunting grounds and ceremonial spots are also being clear-cut.” Read more…

First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background

Not even a week after the walk, my facebook feed confronts me with another disaster. In Likely, British Columbia “toxic slurry from the pond – equivalent to 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools” has leached into a river.

The war the Anishinaabeg people of Grassy Narrow are fighting needs to be the fight of all Canadians. It’s the only way.

Find out how you can support Grassy Narrows by visiting Free Grassy Narrow’s website.

#FreeGrassy
#RiverRun

Join Grassy Narrows Facebook Group.

MORE RESOURCES:
Rabble:Steve Fobister Sr. ends his hunger strike to live on to fight for Grassy Narrows

CBC: Grassy Narrows loses Supreme Court logging rights decision: Top court finds province of Ontario, not First Nation or federal government, has jurisdiction over logging
First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in background
First Nations Chief with headdress walking in street with CN Tower and crowd of people in backgroundAbove images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

NATIONAL HOLIDAYS, NATIONAL NARRATIVES: The Tales We Tell Around the Celebration of Nation States

On Canada Day & Independence Day what are we celebrating? 

I spent Canada Day around the landscape of Quebec just a short drive from Ottawa. It was in an effort to escape the masses that descend upon the Nation’s Capitol for the July 1st holiday.

Many Canadians, especially Torontonians, are fresh off the high of the successful celebration of #WorldPride14 in Toronto (complete with a rainbow that hugged the skyline after the parade). A massive crowd came out to show support for diversity around sexual orientation and gender. Businesses, banks, church groups and regular folk take a certain amount of ‘pride’ in Pride because it demonstrates that Toronto is a city that isn’t just about tolerating differences but rather it has created an entire bombastic celebration around those differences!

Ottawa is no different. Canada Day on Parliament Hill draws an exuberant multiculti crowd celebrating the fact that everyone can feel safe and thrive here in Canada no matter the cultural background of their parents and ancestors.

That’s the story Canadians love to share on July 1 and in America on July 4 it’s much the same. The legends of Manifest Destiny and the enterprising people who populated the Wild West occupy a lot of historical real estate. As the story goes, both nations were built by the hard work of immigrants so in the spirit of continuing that history most people would agree there is always room for more!

The trouble and the truth is that each wave of immigrants arrived to racism and discrimination – the Chinese, Vietnamese and even the Portuguese communities in Canada, the Japanese during World War II in both countries; the Irish and Jewish communities. The Ukrainians, Italians, and Mexicans; the Pakistanis, Somalis, and Arabs…the list goes on. Everyone at some time has been the outsider and placed into the unfortunate role of the societal scapegoat.

The cult of Multiculturalism, for all its talk of inclusivity, has created its own scapegoat – the First Peoples. In both America and Canada waves of migrants have washed over the detail that North America was not only built on the backs of slaves but on the bones of its Indigenous populations.

You can see it in the comment section of Facebook, the online sections of national newspapers and blogs – the hate speak when there is an article that calls out the fashion (mis)statements made by headdress hipsters or when there is a blockade on occupied land that inconveniences the occupier.

National stories are powerful but destructive if they are, in essence, tale tells.

On July 1 and July 4 when celebrating the creation of two colonizing nations it is important to think about how those stories exclude. Multiculturalism, with all its focus on providing a safe and welcoming space for newcomers, has created a blind spot obscuring how the focus on rights for immigrants can often be at the expense of the rights of the First Peoples of Turtle Island, the original word for the continent of North America.

The Civil Rights movement was about addressing the shame of White America and calling out how the Jim Crow laws and state supported segregation created a culture of scapegoating, one result being the most ugly of human expressions – public lynching.

Scapegoating is a mechanism that allows an individual or a society to deflect shame. There is shame in making another human being your chattel; there is shame in killing off a population of people to make room for your own kind. We are spiritual beings and on some level, even if it’s buried so deep our waking minds can make peace with our justifications, the soul sees the deception.

So on days of celebrating nationalism it’s also a good time to reflect on those stories mythologies about who we are as citizens.

Anishinaabe writer and Ryerson University professor Hayden King writes:

“…thinking about what Canada could become (or, “what is in us to be?”) I think about understanding. Not the same old discourse of peaceful acquisition, armchair policy expertise, or a Norval Morrisseau on the wall, but substantive understanding among Canadians of Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee and Mushkegowuk perspectives (as well as the other 50-odd nations)…Indigenous languages can have official status, but more importantly, be seen and heard on the land and in cities, known by everyone. We can be honest about the birth, life and times of Canada. If all of this is in us to be, we might have something to celebrate.”
Read more in his article for the Toronto Star…

Great reasons for national celebrations!

The year 2014 saw the formation of the Cowboys and Indians Alliance created to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. The delegates rode onto the Mall in Washington, DC and called on President Obama to “Reject and Protect” – reject the project and protect the earth.

For more information on the Cowboys and Indians Alliance visit www.rejectandproject.org.


“This is the moral challenge of our age”

2014 also saw the formation of the Healing Walks initiative where people came together for the sake of the land, water, and air as well as the people and animals who depend on the area around the tar sands to be returned to health.

“The Healing Walk was organized by Keepers of the Athabasca, a network of First Nation, Métis, and settler communities along the Athabasca River.” Read more…

For more information on the Healing Walks visit www.healingwalk.org



Images by Leah Snyder for Mixed Bag Mag.

 

CLOSING THIS WEEKEND: Carbon 14 – Climate is Culture Exhibition at the ROM

Science meets art and inspires activism for the environment at the ROM!

“In 2001 the artist David Buckland founded Cape Farewell to instigate a cultural response to climate change. Cape Farewell is now an international not-for-profit programme based in the Science Museum’s Dana Centre in London and with a North American foundation based at the MaRS centre in Toronto.”

Now Cape Farewell has partnered with the ROM: Contemporary Culture to produce the exhibit Carbon14: Climate is Culture and ask ” how does landscape change a culture and how does culture change a landscape?”  Utilizing photography, film, multi-media and performance this question is explored with the audience.

Because of the mandate of promoting dialogue, the programming for Carbon14 has included public talks, discussions and conferences around the issues of climate change, sustainability and our cultural responses to them.

Last Sunday the ROM hosted The Changing Arctic Landscape: Day of Dialogue that brought together environmental experts along with Inuk activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier and artist Susan Aglukark. The day ended with Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq.

“Both ancient and modern, Tanya Tagaq’s performances with long-time collaborator Michael Red fuse her highly personalized throat singing style with Red’s electronic sound art. When the two perform, Tagaq’s powerful, fervent vocals enmesh with layered rhythms and melodies built from Red’s collection of natural Arctic sonic elements (wind, ice, birds, etc.). The collaboration yields a fascinating, highly improvised mix of digital effects, dance and dub-inspired beats and bass, and shape shifting soundscapes.” Read more on Tanya…

This Sunday Staging Sustainability, a conference whose aim is to “focus on ways in which performance can positively affect our planet”, begins and runs until Wednesday, February 5.

To register for Staging Sustainablity click here…

Don’t miss out on the final days of Carbon 14! For more information visit the Carbon 14 website and follow on Cape Farewell’s Facebook Page.

Image from the Cape Farewell’s Carbon 14 website.

Global Warming by Jaco Ishulutaq

“Using media from the land — soapstone, bone and ivory — Ishulutaq’s carving explores global warming and its impacts on glaciers, ice, wildlife, and weather, while encouraging the cultures of the North and South to join hands in taking care of the environment and each other.”  Read more…

Image from the Cape Farewell’s Carbon 14 website.

Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change by Zacharias Kunuk + Ian Mauro

“Qapirangajuq is the world’s first Inuktitut language film on climate change and includes the traditional knowledge and experience of Inuit elders and hunters from across Nunavut. Travelling on the land, the viewer sees firsthand the Arctic and its people, and how they are interconnected and affected by a warming world.” Read more…

Image from the Cape Farwell’s Carbon 14 website.

Deep Time by Melanie Gilligan + Tom Ackers

“Deep Time, a new multi-screen work by Melanie Gilligan and Tom Ackers, blends fiction, animation, and documentary to investigate the complex relationships between systemic phenomena created by humans (such as global warming, ocean chemistry change, and capitalism) and ocean ecosystems, the often-forgotten foundation of life on this planet.” Read more…

Image from the Cape Farwell’s Carbon 14 website.

 Beekeeping for All by Myfanwy MacLeod + Janna Levitt

“In every bee colony, thousands of individuals work in a highly intelligent, co-dependent and hierarchical manner to build hives, and in the act of doing so, provide a fundamental service to all of nature and, almost incidentally, to human survival. Without pollination, there is no agriculture. Without bees transmitting genetic information triggering the creation of new life, new food, new beauty, and growth, we as humans cannot nourish successive generations or ourselves.” Read more…

Image from the Cape Farwell’s Carbon 14 website.

The Potential Project by Mel Chin

“A collaborative presentation by Mel Chin, with the people of the Western Sahara, Ahmed Boukhari, Dr. Richard Corkish, Markus A. R. Kayser, Mohamed Sleiman Labat, Jonathan Teo, with thanks to Robin Kahn, Kirby Gookin, and Representative Mohamed Yeslem Beissat.” Read more…

FAIR TRADE: Timeraiser Event in Ottawa @ The Canadian War Museum

Trading Art for Volunteer Hours

TIMERAISER is an initiative that began in Toronto by Anil Patel, a community activator who believes that we all can improve our “civic footprint”!

Tomorrow night (Saturday, November 23), if you are in Ottawa, you can take part in a Timeraiser Event.

WHEN: 7 pm
WHERE: Canadian Museum of War, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, K1A 0M8
HOW MUCH: $20 (purchase tickets here!)

“Speed dating for Volunteers”

“Timeraiser is a volunteer matching fair, a silent art auction, and a night out on the town. The big Timeraiser twist is rather than bid money on artwork, participants bid volunteer hours.


Throughout the evening, participants meet with various non-profit organizations in the room to find available volunteer opportunities that meet their needs. Once matches are made, the bidding can begin. Winning bidders have 12 months to complete their pledge in order to bring the artwork home as a reminder of their goodwill”

Find out more about Timeraiser on their website, Facebook Page and follow along on Twitter @Timeraiser.

SCARY STUFF: Food Scarcity & Considering New Forms of Protein This Halloween at “Beer & Bugs”

Halloween in The City & what to do in Toronto on October 31st

This isn’t your typical Halloween Bash but then again Mirella Amato, founder of Beerology™, doesn’t throw a typical event.

I discovered Mirella at Pecha Kucha Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel speaking about an event she was hosting called “Hopera.” What is a Hopera you ask? Well, it is Mirella’s mashup of her two professional loves – Hops & Opera. For last year’s event “each beer was paired with an operatic aria, duet or ensemble.” Mirella says she wanted to “create the ultimate evening, by combining two fantastic things, and to open doors: introduce opera lovers to craft beer and introduce craft beer fans to opera.”

It was to share two of my passions and inspire people to look at both opera and beer in a new way. Before each pairing, Melanie[the Opera Singer] provided a description of the piece and I then guided the audience through a brief tasting of the beer, explaining why I had chosen this particular beer for the pairing.”  Read more about the event…

But Mirella’s upcoming event for the night of Halloween 2013 may just take the cake (or worm) as the most unique  Beerology™ event as well as the most intriguing (and possibly the creepiest) mashup –  Beers & Bugs.

Hallowe’en is around the corner. Why not celebrate by sinking our teeth into some creepy-crawlies?

For this eventCookie Martinez and guests will be preparing five different cricket canapés and sweets, each of which will be expertly paired with a craft beer as chosen by Canada’s only Master Cicerone, Mirella Amato.”

At a time when food scarcity and sustainable options for protein need to be explored Beer & Bugs is a fun way to introduce our culture to considering insects as a food option.

Why eat crickets?

  • They are sustainably produced, using less water, less land, producing fewer C02 emissions with a high feed to protein produced ratio
  • They are nutritious. High in protein, Omega 3 fats and iron
  • They are versatile to cook with
  • They are found everywhere on the planet, meaning that they do not pose an ecological disaster. They are also capable of being raised in home units

Why drink beer?

Can you think of a reason not to?

BEER & BUGS EVENT DETAILS:

The Victory Café
581 Markham St, Toronto, M6G 2L7
Thursday, October 31, 2013 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Tickets are $25 advance | $40 Cash at the Door
Click here to register for the BEER & BUG Event & purchase advance tickets.

Beerology™ is partnering with Aruna Antonella Handa of Alimentary Initiatives (co-host of the Future Food Salon) for this event.

FYI – DON’T FORGET TO DRESS UP!
Toronto Urban Adventures will be running a costume competition at the event. Prizes will be awarded in three categories (see site for details) and the winners will receive tickets to the fantastic Beer Makes History Better Tour.”

Find out more about Mirella & Beerology on her website, Facebook and twitter @beerologyboffin.

THANKFUL TODAY FOR WATER, EARTH & AIR: And The People Who Fight For It @ IDLE NO MORE

“The government wants an extractive economy and that will kill us all.”

Mi’kmaq laywer, Pamela Palmater gave a powerful talk a week ago today as part of Idle No More’s #Oct7Proclaim Global Day of Action and Ryerson University’s Annual Social Justice Week events. As she puts it, the Idle No More Movement “allows you to protect the people who protect the land.”

Today I am thankful for our Mother Earth, for her abundance, sustenance and healing properties. I am also thankful that at this moment there are so many people, in Canada and around the globe, fighting in solidarity to protect her and the gifts she gives.

Thanks to Ryerson University for providing an educational environment that fosters dialogue around the important contemporary issues of Toronto, Canada and the world.

Join the Idle No More Movement and become part of the support system protecting Canada’s natural resources. Click here to sign up for Idle No More.

And follow updates about Idle No More on Facebook & twitter @IdleNoMore4.