This album comes from the production of Reckoning by Article 11, and is released to co-incide with the Edmonton production December 12 – 17.
A triptych in movement, video and text, Reckoning is an incendiary theatrical presentation of three separate experiences with Indian Residential Schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the fallout that has already reverberated across the country.
The Reckoning EP is taken from the original score composed and performed by Melody McKiver for the first movement, Witness. John Ng’s powerful performance of Witness traces the experiences of a first-generation Canadian reviewing claims made by residential school survivors to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and emotionally processing those traumas experienced by children.
Reckoning EP is dedicated to the memory of Melody McKiver’s grandmother Waa’oo Kathleen Bunting-baa, a survivor of Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, Ontario.
I spoke with Alan Neal from CBC Radio One Ottawa’s All In A Day about the Honour the Apology rally I helped to organize in Ottawa. We spoke about the importance of the federal government’s full co-operation with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and my own experience with residential schools archival research. You can hear the interview here.Movie All Is Lost (2013)
Heather Anderson will moderate a conversation with Rebecca Belmore (Winnipeg), Ursula Johnson (Cape Breton), and Melody McKiver (Ottawa), in conjunction with Rebecca Belmore | What Is Said and What Is Done. Belmore is renowned for powerful works in performance, sculpture, photography, and video that through spare and exacting means examine sites of historical and contemporary trauma and injustices, in particular those resulting from history of contact between European settler and Indigenous populations.
In recognition of Belmore’s path-breaking work, and on the occasion of the National Gallery of Canada’s landmark Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, we’re broadening the conversation, inviting two rising Indigenous rising artists to join Belmore in conversation. Ursula Johnson, a Mi’kmaw artist currently residing on the Eskasoni Reserve in Cape Breton, creates performances and sculptures that frequently incorporate and transform the traditional basket weaving she learned from her great grandmother, artist Caroline Gould. Ottawa-based Anishinaabe Melody McKiver is a musician and media artist. The conversation will take each artist’s practice as a point of departure and reflect upon what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous artist today.
Rebecca Belmore was born in Upsala, Ontario, and lives in Winnipeg. She represented Canada at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, the first Indigenous woman to do so. The Anishinaabe artist’s work has been included in important exhibitions including Close Encounters (2011), Global Feminisms (2007), the Biennale of Sydney (2006), Land, Spirit, Power (1992), and the IV Havana Biennial (1991). The Vancouver Art Gallery mounted a major survey Rebecca Belmore: Rising to the Occasion in 2008. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2009 Hnatyshyn Award and a 2013 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Ursula Johnson has a BFA (2006) from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she studied photography, drawing, and textiles. Johnson descends from a long line of Mi’kmaw Artists, including her late great grandmother, Caroline Gould, from whom she learned basket making. In 2010 she curated Klokowej: A 30-Year Retrospective commemorating Gould’s contribution to the evolution of Mi’kmaw basketry. Several of her performances, including Elmiet(2010), Basket Weaving (2011), and L’nuwelti (We Are Indian) (2012), incorporate basketry as a key element, and draw on her studies in theatre. Recent exhibitions include Basket Weaving, Planet IndigenUS Festival and Material Wealth: Revealing Landscape at Harbourfront Centre (2012), and L’nuk (In Collaboration with Jordan A. Bennett), Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax (2012) and The Other Gallery, Banff AB (2010). Johnson lives on the Eskasoni First Nation on Cape Breton Island.
Melody McKiver is an Anishinaabe multi-instrumentalist, improviser, interdisciplinary media artist and researcher. As a solo performer, she explores the range of the viola’s possibilities, from minimalist to danceable, often incorporating laptop processing and looping. Within media arts, she works with digital video and photography to capture images of Indigenous resurgence, and uses this footage both editorially and within video and sound art. McKiver is affiliated with Tribal Spirit Music and plays drums with Toronto’s Indigenous hip-hop fusion band Red Slam Collective. She also records and produces digital media under the pseudonym Gitochige. McKiver is currently completing a MA in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She holds a BFA Honours Major in Music, Minor in Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity from York University (2010). She currently splits her time between Ottawa and Toronto.
I’m happy to announce that I am beginning a year-long residency with Artengine and Apartment613 as Critical Blogging Resident. I’m excited to begin this partnership with a trip to the Elektra Festival in Montreal from May 1-5, and will be using the blogs throughout the next year as creative spaces for critical discourse around the media arts and creative technological expression.
Tonight, I’ll be playing a solo set at Zaphod’s as part of efforts to raise money for the continued maintenance of Chief Spence’s camp on Victoria Island, and supplies for her helpers. I wrote this track, which debuted on January 4 on CBC Radio Ottawa’s All In A Day.
The lineup for tonight’s show was put together by Six Nation’s incredible guitarist, Derek Miller. Digging Roots and Jasper are the other musicians, and there will be a stand up performance by comedian Don Kelly. It’s a wonderful lineup for a great cause! Doors are at 8 at Zaphod’s, and cover is $20 with all proceeds going to the camp.
The National Day of Action was truly inspiring to see in Ottawa, as Indigenous Nations converged upon the colonial capital. I marched with friends before heading to the Odawa Friendship Centre with my Red Slam Collective bandmates for the post-rally feast and performances. I attempted to capture some of the spirit of the day across a variety of media.Android
Posting the screen shot of my brief appearance on CBC Ottawa’s television news on October 27 seems to have struck a chord (thanks!) so I would like to elaborate on my thoughts. First of all, a huge chi-miigwetch to my friends Jocelyn and Andrea. Jocelyn, whose comments can be read in the initial story on CBC news, got us all together to go visit the public consultation at the Museum of Civilization, and Andrea graciously drove us all to the museum. Unfortunately, Andrea’s interview was edited out of the final piece that appeared on the news, but we all shared equal camera time.
To place this discussion in context, the Canadian Museum of Civilization recently announced that its name and mandate would change to become the Canadian Museum of History. This was an announcement that has taken many people by surprise, and many are concerned that this is a ploy to whitewash Canadian history. Shortly after the announcement of the name change, My History Museum was launched. This website invites interaction from the Canadian public, and asks “What would you put in your national history museum? What stories would you tell? How would you reach Canadians across the country?”
Viewing the website, we noticed many major omissions. As Jocelyn states in the CBC article,
“I looked at this page and immediately I didn’t really see a whole lot of diverse representation … of Canadian history. I saw there were I think about 15 faces or so on the site. I think there were about four or five women on there, one indigenous person, and the rest of them seemed be sort of middle-aged white guys. I didn’t see any people of colour, I didn’t see anybody with disabilities, and I just think that’s so disappointing when I know that there’s such a fuller, more diverse history of Canada that could be represented, and people to represent those communities.”
If it were up to me, this new institution would not be the Canadian Museum of History, but a museum which attempts to portray an (in)complete history of the land upon which we all reside. I introduced myself to the CBC not as a Canadian, but as an Anishinaabe, and I far too frequently see the hundreds of Indigenous Nations which exist within the Canadian nation-state refered to in an assimilate manner as “Aboriginal” or, slightly better, “First Nations”. A history that only portrays the Canadian settler colonial nation-state is wildly inaccurate, and only a miniscule sampling of the histories and cultural achievements exist upon this land – Turtle Island, if you will – upon which we all reside.
The initial attempt at a portrayal of “Canadian” history betrays the intentions of the Museum, and starts its online timeline with “1608: Samuel de Champlain Founds Quebec City”. At the Museum of Civilization, the display of the timeline began with 1670: Establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company. I don’t have the space here to begin to describe what a sanitized version this account of the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company is, which stole millions of acres of unceded Indigenous land in the name of King Charles, but Andrea and I accepted their invitation to add to the timeline:
To me, the tactic of beginning Canadian history in the 17th century is completely bewildering. I can’t say I was too optimistic about a nuanced portrayal of pre-colonial Indigenous history – but the omission of well-known prior “explorers” – colonizers, if you will – such as JohnCabot, is simply confounding.
EDIT to add: In the comments, Dr. Alex Wilson made an excellent suggestion to begin a telling of history with creation stories. From a Nishnaabeg perspective, I love Leanne Simpson’s telling. Watch from about 9:30 onwards:
In my comments to the CBC that did not make the news cut, I expressed my deep concern that when Canada is in the midst of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), public understanding of history is vital for any meaningful reconciliation to take place. On June 11, 2008, the Canadian government issued a Statement of Apology for the Indian Residential Schools system. Prime Minister Stephen Harper concluded this apology stating,
“A cornerstone of the Settlement Agreement is the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Commission presents a unique opportunity to educate all Canadians on the Indian Residential Schools system. It will be a positive step in forging a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us.” (my emphasis added)
Most telling to me was that to date, all material presented by the Canadian Museum of History omits any mention of this major point of Canadian-Indigenous relations. Within the mandate of the TRC, one of the stated goals is to 1 (d) Promote awareness and public education of Canadians about the IRS system and its impacts;
When the Indian Residential School system is completely omitted in a public outreach campaign conducted by a Crown Corporation, how can there be any meaningful reconciliation process?