The Impact of Refusing Canadian Imperialism
This past Saturday I had the privilege of going into an SFU class and talk about my practice, today a UBC intro to Indigenous Theatre class, tomorrow a circle and feast with the Langara Indigenous caucus and then one more with UBC later this week. This is some of, if not the most important part of my storytelling practice.
This is the time to sit, share, commune, laugh, cry, criticize, celebrate and continue to bear witness. A lot of the students/learners/knowledge holders have either seen or read Kamloopa so I'm getting some incredibly insightful investigations. It's allowing me to spend time journeying into the cosmologies of the story with the community, lots of hand gestures where I can only imagine I look like some globe dancing raver as I try to convey the spherical nature of my work.
This is largely possible because of all the co-resisters out there carving space for these exchanges, discourses and ceremonies to happen. I raise my hands up to all the settler accomplices being "inconvenient" and a disrupter with me.
There are a couple intersections I want to presence about this work for community knowledge sharing and capacity building.
I'll start with sharing that there is no support for this work as an independent artist. I could manipulate it to try and get a professional development grant or fold it into a writing grant but that would require me to submit to colonial oppression to, "be a good artist" and "fit the mold" and be subservient to a state dictated model that doesn't allow me to be me. I'd have to bend or break the rules just to engage with my own practice.
I also haven't received funding as an independent artist for close to 2 years to do this type of spherical (colonists might call it multi-pronged academic, social and artistic work) and or any of my work. 2 CC grants denied and a big no from the National Creation Fund - I didn't event make it into phase 2. I was super bummed because that one was for Break Horizons, the one living in the Treaty agreement. I have this methodology of Indigenous creation I want to put in practice where I conjure a Knowledge Council with some of the worlds greatest thinkers, to guide and conceive the work that goes beyond the proscenium, an enthnospheric creation method that enlists and honours Mother Earth as a co-collaborator.
Anyways, with regards to these knowledge networks that I'm working on within the community, I get about $100 for each academic engagement because thats the allotted honorarium for most institutions and that's if they have one. Some don't and so compensating me is just too complicated but because I believe in this part of the work so deeply, I do it free of charge.
In almost every area of my work right now I'm battling funding, pedagogical and institutional barriers and that is absolutely impacting my ability to create and independently work the way that I want to. To be honest, I'm not sure how to move forward working in "theatre", I'm very afraid that this country has built a framework that has resulted in the death of the independent artist.
The colonial frameworks feel relentless and impenetrable, all designed to keep the indian controlled, understood, managed, classified. I feel like I'm being positioned for poverty in many forms, I feel that I'm under artistic duress and continued tactical state control because if I don't "fall in line" by becoming a non-profit or working with settler colonial organization I'm going to continue to be omitted.
But I just refuse, refuse, refuse, to become a cog, a complicit participant in the continued marginalization of Indigenous peoples - my people. I refuse to manipulate to just say "yes" to inherited hierarchal systems and dogmatic ways of working under white colonial hegemony - I cannot - I will not. I've been a public servant to the monarchy before but I will not injure myself for the crown anymore.
My art and my practice is all I have and if my process is the art - and it is, then in practice I have to be fighting for sovereignty to build models that elicit outcomes and environments that position the next generation to gain their emancipation from these settler systems of oppression and that is what my art works toward.
I believe the revolution will have to be or will most likely be out of state controlled systems, so maybe these denials are exactly what my Ancestors are positioning me to be experiencing. I dunno though, I think I need more time to think, to clarify.
I do know the Ancestors come visit me on mornings like today when I get to take my Indigenous spirituality into colonial institutions and share space with the next generation and see in their eyes and bodies that there is an evolution, resurgence, a continuance of Indigenous power and that brings me great peace and hope.
I just meditate on that powerful breath and the animate space we share when these knowledge networks are given the elements, support and attention to ignite. I recently read that at the centre of the universe there is this timeless essence and that we are connected to it by our hearts. It's days like today where I know and feel and see that essential connectivity, that essence reminds me that I'm in the right place.
with de-colonial love and in continued refusal of the imperial state,
p.s the Talking Stick Festival is right around the corner and they have some incredible programming that YOU, yes you reading this need to attend and or support. If you haven't been in a room with more than 5 Indigenous people for more than 3 hours in the past year than you have a fucking obligation to go! Imagine I told you I haven't spent any sustained time with any white people - go, bear witness - be an actual accomplice.
You can find out more about the Talking Stick Festival here. Also, they always need volunteers so if money's tight, volunteer and you get a free t-shirt so it's basically like a shopping spree! Gwaaaan.