Can you tell us about your background and how your indigenous heritage has shaped your journey?
Ahnii! I was raised by a powerhouse single mama, who fought hard to reclaim our culture. My childhood was spent witnessing my mother teach and inspire healing within community and lead me into activism myself. I cannot separate who I am, from my culture. I am my creation story; I want to follow our original instructions and infuse my life with indigenous knowledge and teachings. That fundamentally changes how I approach everything I do, from my professional work to my family to my relationship within community.
What inspired you to become an advocate for indigenous rights and culture?
My people inspire me. Growing up watching the matriarchs protecting the land and holding the front lines for our families, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to change the world for the generations yet to come. From a very young age I was obsessed with Justice.
I didn’t see my truth represented anywhere. My teachers didn’t speak truth about the genocide that occurred in this country. We didn’t learn about residential school for treaties or the real history of settlers and colonization.
I remember when I started to use the internet, I would search for news coverage of OKA and wounded knee, Alcatraz and Ipperwash. – those visuals shaped how I view the world and fuelled my fight.
How do you use your platform to raise awareness about the issues and challenges faced by indigenous communities?
Managing my platform is an incredible responsibility. I have been using social media as a tool to amplify indigenous voices for over a decade now. In that time so much has changed. In the early years I felt like I was drowned out the mainstream. Rarely feeling seen or heard outside of my community. Then came Idle No More, Standing Rock and A Wave of Climate activists, young people rising up and taking over social media. Today, we see Indigenous people taking over the mainstream in literally every space. From film, music and pop culture, to fashion, arts, medicine and politics.
It is incredible to see the change, to know how hard my mentors and ancestors worked for us to get here, and still there so much more work to do. Places to occupy and history to change.
I have found my power in the stories of my people. In collaboration with some of the top brands I have found beautiful ways to represent my own stories and those of my peers. I have seen the power of representation and how it reaches into the hearts of the people and says “I see you, you matter. You belong here.”
So that’s my obsession, to use my platform as a tool of the revolution. Making change everywhere possible. (That’s the goal!!)
Can you share some of the impactful projects or initiatives you have been involved in to support and empower indigenous peoples?
This is a hard question!
I would say one of the most important projects I have been apart of is ceremony! I know that is not a project per say… but it is the most vital and important part of my life and the work that I do.
I believe in the reclamation of language and culture above all else. I see our young people struggling so much right now. I see the way that later violence, bullying and substance abuse have been allowed to run rampant. For many communities, a mental health crisis is occurring.
I am proud of the work I have done as a land defender. I am proud of the work I have done to listen to my elders and amplify their stores. Directing my first documentary, Inendi with my auntie Mary changed my life and is one the most viewed documentaries on CBC gem. That makes me proud and I know that it has inspired others to document their own stories.
We don’t have a lot of time left with our elders. So we are actually in a state of emergency.
So, for me the work of representation and reclamation is what I see as most valuable.
But to list a few awesome projects! My latest doc is called Indigiqueer for City TV’s Veracity.
It’s an important storytelling piece about Indigenous queer realities.
I love my work with Canada Goose and am proud to own Landback studios, which exists as a hub to share and hold space for our stories.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest misconceptions or stereotypes that people have about indigenous cultures, and how do you work to challenge them?
So often society assumes that indigenous people were not part of their own complex and beautiful communities that had governance and ways of knowing and being that go back to the beginning of time. I resist the idea that indigenous people cannot get back to that sovereignty in the future!!
I also really don’t like the stereotypes around poverty and substance abuse: people are so quick to point the finger, and fail to see the direct root of these problems. Colonization snd genocide.
The truth needs to be revealed more and more. The thousands of babies buried, loved ones lost to residential schools needs to be heard. To be amplified.
The stereotypes and grudges people hold have been designed and fostered to continue to fuel the land grab and forced assimilation of indigenous peoples in Canada.
As an indigenous woman, what unique perspectives or experiences do you bring to your work as a storyteller and influencer?
I don’t like to call myself an influencer, an infiltrator is what I prefer!
Until very recently I knew that many times I was the only Indigneous woman in the room. Perhaps the only indigenous woman who had ever been in that room. So that come with immense responsibility. Not only to represent myself l – but my community. That pressure has molded me to always think about the power of my words. To be discerning of the partnerships and relationships I enter.
As a mom I know am focused wholly on making the world she will live in a better place. So, every single decision I make holds the weight of the seven generations yet to come.