“In art, since the dawn of mechanical reproduction, the copy is understood as subversive: its very presence challenges the authority of the original...replication in storytelling, by contrast, is positive and necessary. It is through change that stories and, in turn, traditions are kept alive and remain relevant. In the practice of storytelling there is no desire or originality, as stories that are told and retold over time are individual but communal.”

– Candice Hopkins in “Making Things Our Own”, 2006

Decolonizing in the City

Indigeneity is often seen as a flicker of romanticism that many associate with the past. We see it in cowboy movies, in the idea of the “disappearing Indian”, and in museums trying to preserve and protect our culture. If we’re not stuck in the past, then we’re commercialized. Our designs and patterns are appropriated and our lands are destroyed by oil pipes and mining. Our rituals are only useful when non-indigenous people want to go in a sweat lodge or take ayahuasca in order to “find themselves.”

The reason this map is important is because it allows us to re-situate ourselves right here and right now, which is what many indigenous contemporary artists are doing. Existing in the present moment as contemporary indigenous people in an urban centre can be a form of decolonization. The showcase of work by indigenous artists in Nuit Blanche is significant because it’s not an opportunity that has always existed. We have fought for our cultural production to be considered art, and we can now utilize this platform to facilitate and take part in conversations on our role within contemporary art and its place in our communities.

Access to diverse perspectives isn’t always available outside of the university’s walls. As students of OCAD University, we are exposed to a variety of experiences across many spectrums of gender, ethnicity, age, and sexuality. The university setting can create a bubble where it is easy to assume that most carry the same basic understanding of pluralism. By creating this publication, we want people from outside our institution to access a perspective they may not have experienced.

– The Indigenous Student Association & The OCAD U Student Press

Q: What are your spirit animals?

A: We don’t have spirit animals.  Your idea of a spirit animal is generated by contemporary society’s cultural appropriation machine.

Q: What tribe are you?

A: Replace tribe with “Nation” please.

Q: Can you do some kind of labour intensive free work for us so we can check off the diversity box?

A: How about no.

Q: What’s your blood quantum?

A: None of your business.

Q: Can I see your status card?

A: No.

Q: So how do you feel about the whole cultural appropriation thing?  

A: Don’t appropriate other people’s cultures.

Q: What about appreciation or inspiration?

A: If you have respect then you have to learn to appreciate on our terms. Indigenous Peoples of Canada have the right to maintain and protect their designs, visual arts, and performance arts, as said in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 11 1, which Canada voted against on September 13 2007 and then later signed May 10 2016.

Q: Who’s your father?

A: Darth Vader.

Q: I didn’t know we had native stuff around here…how many native students go to OCAD U?

A: There is only one, we are an omnipresent being, ever vigilant and aware of your cultural transgressions.

Q: Why don’t you speak your language?

A: Systemic barriers, cultural oppression and genocide.

Q: Do you pay taxes?

A: Yes?

Q: Don’t you get to go to school for free or something?

A: Under certain conditions, some indigenous students receive funding to attend college and/or university depending on whether or not they fit certain criteria established by the student’s specific band council or by the Canadian government.

Further Reading

  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report

  • “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor’ by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang

  • “Making Things Our Own: The Indigenous Aesthetic in Digital Storytelling” by Candice Hopkins

  • Islands of Decolonial Love by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

  • “The Construction of the Imaginary Indian” in Beyond Wilderness: The Group of Seven, Canadian Identity and Contemporary Art by Marcia Crosby

  • Indigenous Aesthetics: Native Art, Media, and Identity by Steven Leuthold

  • Queer Indigenous Studies Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature edited by Qwo-Li Driskill, Chris Finley, Brian Joseph Gilley, and Scott Lauria Morgensen

  • Decolonial Aesthetics Manifesto transnationaldecolonialinstitute.wordpress.com/decolonial-aesthetics/

  • Making A Noise: Aboriginal Perspectives on Art, Art History, Critical Writing and Community edited by Lee Ann Martin

  • The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King

The Hidden Creek

Bimaadizi translates to s/he lives, is a live, in Anishinaabemowin. This word softly embodies the spirit of decolonization as it applies to both the land and people. Creeks, rivers, and streams are the veins and arteries of the earth. They carry and distribute nutrients along their path and guide the fragile back to wellness. Water is our lifeblood; giving, sustaining, and circulating our physical forms and souls through creation. As water in all its infinite forms, the creek that runs beneath the OCAD University campus is not lost and will never be lost. Though we may alter the landscape above it through rapid urbanization, the water will always remember and fight for its path